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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    jason goldberg

    In July, Fabthe online high-design goods store, raised a $116 million Series C round at a $600 million valuation.

    Like its shoppers, its investors got a really good deal: Fab had initially planned to raise less money at a higher valuation, giving away less of the company to new investors.

    Yesterday, Nicole Perlroth wrote in the New York Times that ", a daily deal site for design, raised money at a lower valuation than it had planned because of Facebook’s troubled I.P.O."

    That confirms what we've consistently reported since last summer: Facebook's IPO flop didn't just cast a pall on companies hoping to go public. It also made things harder for startups raising money in private markets.

    Two people involved in the financing confirmed Perlroth's report to us.

    One source told us that Fab had been looking to raise money at a range of valuations between $500 million and $800 million. It had received offers to invest at a $700 million valuation—but opted to cut that down to $600 million and raise more money than planned.

    Fab CEO Jason Goldberg's fundraising strategy, according to one person familiar with it, was to make it a "feel-good moment" for investors, and the decision to cut the valuation was his.

    The immediate cost for Fab, like its valuation, is more notional than real. It has a large amount of capital for expansion, but gave up approximately 20 percent of the company, rather than the 14 percent it had planned.

    If Fab ends up being hugely valuable in a sale or IPO, then its most recent investors will have a stake that's 43% more valuable than it might otherwise have been.

    Because of the complexities of venture-capital deals, those numbers could vary greatly depending on the specifics of any outcome for Fab, but they give a rough idea of the advantage Fab's investors gained.

    Fab is an e-commerce store for unique products and designs with more than 10 million members.

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    Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. 

    After having a rough year, entrepreneur Brenden Mulligan needed some time to process what happened and find a way to come to peace with it. 

    "The most important relationship of my life came to an end and dealing with the pain and grief around that consumed most of my mind for the second half of the year," Mulligan writes on his blog.

    "This created great challenges for me in my career and I was less productive than I’ve been in a long time."

    So he decided to go on a retreat, which prohibited the use of technology, to clear his mind and try to figure out his next move. 

    Along with about 90 other people, Mulligan spent five days in almost complete silence practicing meditation and mindfulness. 

    "We live in a very loud world, and being able to shut up for 5 days felt like an enormous gift," he writes.

    But Mulligan had the most trouble practicing mindfulness, which is about living in the present and being aware of your surroundings. 

    "For me, this was the war," he writes. "I’ve always had trouble concentrating and never been good at sitting still and focusing."

    But he admits that it's not supposed to be easy, and wants to keep trying. 

    "Because the few tiny moments of freedom I had felt absolutely amazing," he writes. "Though they were practically over before they even began."

    Ultimately, Mulligan says he was overwhelmed with the experience.

    "I didn’t clear my mind," Mulligan writes. "I didn’t solve all my problems. I’m still in pain and I still have a lot of work to do this year. But I feel like I was given a new set of tools to grow and thrive in the life that I have."

    SEE ALSO: 16 Startups Worth Risking Your Career For

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    TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen

    In just a few years, TechStars has become one of the world's leading startup accelerator programs.

    But as it heads into its fourth cycle in New York City, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. 

    Founded by David Cohen in 2007, TechStars incubates startups, offers mentorship, and coaches founders on scaling companies and raising capital. The competitive program accepts between nine and thirteen startups per class, and it runs in multiple cities: New York, Seattle, San Antonio (TechStars Cloud) and Boulder.

    Although the program was founded in Boulder, its most popular city seems to be New York, where former Managing Director David Tisch helped attract more than 1,000 applicants per class from all over the world.

    Last summer, Tisch resigned to focus on his own fund, Box Group. TechStars hasn't picked a permanent replacement and it's unclear if the program can run successfully without Tisch and his contacts.

    In addition to Tisch's departure, startups are experiencing the "Facebook Fallout" -- the negative effects of Facebook's underwhelming IPO on new companies. Fewer startups are being founded and funded, which could hurt accelerator programs like TechStars.

    Finally, TechStars has yet to see billion-dollar startups arise from its program, the way Paul Graham's Silicon Valley program, Y Combinator, has. Can Cohen's company compete at the same level and produce companies like Airbnb or Dropbox?

    We met with Cohen and Nicole Glaros, who will be running TechStars NYC's Spring 2013 program. Here's what they had to say about the future of TechStars NYC.

    About 1,100 startups have already applied to the spring program. Last spring, the TechStars NYC program attracted more than 1,600 applicants. There's always a surge in applications during the final week, and TechStars could easily see the same number of applications this year as last year, despite Tisch's departure and the Facebook fallout. About 30% of the applicants are international startups. One of the applicants is a 3-time Emmy nominee and another is a New York Times best-selling author. (Startups can click here to apply)

    Many of the mentors are back, and more mentors are on board. TechStars has built its brand on the quality of mentors it attracts. Fred Wilson, Brad Feld and Dick Costolo have all mentored its startups. This year, impressive entrepreneur and investor mentors are still on board. Joel Spolsky of Stack Overflow, Alexandra Wilson of Gilt, Ben Siscovick of IA Ventures, former Associated Content CEO Patrick Keane and Jay Levy of Zelkova Ventures are just a few who are participating.

    TechStars has narrowed Tisch's replacement down to 5 candidates from 35. TechStars takes founding teams very seriously when selecting startups for its program. So naturally, Cohen wants to make sure he finds the right replacement for David Tisch. Cohen says he's already met with 35 people about the position, most from New York and a few from California. He's narrowed the search down to five candidates. No offers are currently on the table, but Cohen says he hopes to announce a new hire soon.

    There some TechStars companies that could soon be worth billions. Most people believe ThinkNear, which was acquired for $22.5 million, is TechStars' most successful portfolio company. But it's just the biggest exit to date. Cohen believes one TechStars company, SendGrid, could be worth $1 billion soon. It isn't a sexy consumer company like Airbnb, but it's a fast-growing transactional email business that's used by companies like Pinterest and Foursquare; it has more than 150 employees.

    Yes, the Facebook Fallout could mean trouble for startup accelerators. But TechStars is a survivor. There are now about 700 programs like Y Combinator and TechStars that incubate startups. But Facebook's botched IPO and Zynga's struggling stock have spooked investors and founders alike. Many accelerators will take a hit. But Cohen says accelerators aren't actually that expensive to run. The TechStars brand has grown big enough that it's attracting applicants from all over the world, and it's one of a few programs you can bet will survive. 

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    Mike Abbott, Kleiner Perkins

    There's a war for engineering talent in the tech industry. And yet, companies trying to hire top engineering talent continuously shoot themselves in the foot when recuriting.

    Mike Abbott, the brilliant engineering leader who helped turned Twitter around before joining Kleiner Perkins as a VC, shed some light on engineer hiring practices in an interview with Startup Grind founder Derek Anderson. 

    Here's his list of do's and don'ts:

    • Don't meet in your office. Instead, pick a more informal place for instance, get coffee with potential hires, and (this should go without saying) always pay for it. 
    • Turn the employee recruitment process into an internal competition where existing employees help find candidates. 
    • The smaller the company, the more each hire will influence company culture so plan for that: do you want someone who understands design? Who is self-taught but ambitious?
    • Impress engineers with a difficult interview process. 
    • Train current employees how to interview and give them a list of questions to ask potential hires for the sake of consistency.
    • Play up the kind of experiences the potential hire will have that could be of use later in his or her career.

    Here's the full interview on TechCrunch.

    SEE ALSO: Best. Startup. Perk. EVER.

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    At small businesses and startups, there can be a clear division between what the founder knows and what his employees do, even if they spend all day working in close quarters. Often, there's not a leadership team, but just a leader, someone who unilaterally makes decisions about hiring, salary, and the direction of the business.

    That can create problems, like when people start comparing salaries, and even reduce employee motivation because they feel undervalued and disconnected from the company.

    One big idea that a number of companies are trying is going in the opposite direction entirely, becoming completely, radically transparent.

    One example is Boulder, Colorado based Namaste Solar, a solar panel installation company, which keeps all salary information transparent and available to employees.

    "Usually, salary is an emotional and sticky situation," co-founder and CEO Blake Jones says. "They have an emotional impact on all of us and in the end, people actually waste more time and energy wondering how much Bob or Jill is making and thinking the worst."

    Every employee at the company has the opportunity to become a co-owner, to buy stock and a voting right. Changes to company policies, including compensation, have to be approved by a unanimous vote of the whole board, which consists of almost every employee.

    "We're all employee owners, and we love it," Jones says. "We wanted to have an elite team that's going to contribute. When you have different people weighing in with different decisions, you create this team-oriented, open environment." 

    New York based startup SumAll, which provides data analytics for small businesses, does something similar. 

    They also reveal everybody's salaries, and take it a step further, revealing the company's entire capital structure. Everybody knows how much of the company is owned by each employee, and how much is owned by investors.

    "When you hide your cap table, it's one of the easiest evils to do in your life," Atkinson says. "You can tell an employee that they have a huge amount of value and options but you don’t tell them the total allocation of the company ... and it hurts somebody else."

    It means you have to explain salaries and equity stakes, and collaborate on those decisions. But once you explain it, it's over. You don't run into situations where somebody finds out a peer has a higher salary, is angry or confused, but has no open way to communicate about it.

    Founder and CEO Dane Atkinson told Business Insider that transparency and shared decision making have helped him hold on to top talent.

    "Most of our team has refused offers from Google and Facebook and whatnot in the last few months," Atkinson says. "They are unshakable because once they get that sense of being part of a family and that openness in a company, it's really hard to go away from it." 

    "We just want to be the counterpoint to the corporate culture that’s out there. We want to help people understand that there are other ways to build successful organizations," Atkinson says. "You don’t have to fight over information and be overly protective. If you are open and you do take this route, it can work and it’s been working very well for us."

    It's an idea that can apply to pretty much any decision or strategy, and saves a great deal of time. When people know why something's happening, and have all the information they could possibly want or need, they don't waste time repeatedly going back to their boss with questions that they could have answered for themselves at a more transparent company. 

    In The Collaboration Imperative, Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese write: 

    When you’re open and transparent about the answers to three questions — who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real — people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made. Think of how much time is wasted ferreting out details when a decision is made and communicated because the people who are affected don’t know who made the decision or who is accountable for its consequences.

    People that know why something's being done perform better than people simply told to carry out a task.

    That doesn't mean this is easy, or that transparency's like a switch you can flip on and instantly motivate employees. When new information's revealed, there's going to be a flurry of questions and a lot of necessary explanation. When decision making is collaborative, it sometimes takes longer.

    "It's very, very different than anything else. I have to spend a lot more time selling things to people," SumAll CEO Dane Atkinson told us. "I have to explain things because it's not just me making the decisions. So sometimes it takes a bit longer for me to get things off the ground. That's especially true for things like cap tables, accretion and dilution, the sort of venture capital stuff I usually would have handled on my own."

    It's a hard decision for a business, and one that requires a lot of sacrifice and effort from those at the top. But there are few things more effective at making people feel like part of a company and able to talk about concerns and frustrations, rather than keeping them secret.     

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    If you’re stuck in a job you hate, you’re (unfortunately) not alone. In fact, an astonishing more than 80% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs.

    I, too, was unhappy in the corporate job I took right after college. Like many people, I’d put more thought and effort into getting the job than into figuring out if it was something I actually wanted. There’s plenty of research and advice out there on how to write the perfect resume and ace that interview. But when it comes to figuring out what you want to do with your life, the strategies aren’t so clear.

    I realized that, although I could predict and pontificate about a career path that might make me happier, I would never actually know until I was into the thick of it. I had an idea that I might like to do something related to entrepreneurship, but I didn’t exactly know what that meant. Did I want to join a start-up? Start my own? Try to get into venture capital? Join or start a non-profit? Do international development work abroad?

    More importantly, I didn’t know how I could figure it out without a huge investment of time, like starting another full-time job with a new company.

    But then I had a different idea. I decided to enter a competition to shadow Dave McClure, who runs the accelerator 500 Startups. Being selected as one of the top six finalists gave me the kick I needed to quit my job, fly down to Silicon Valley, and begin what I call a “self-education program” on something they don’t teach you in school, but is arguably the most important thing of all: what I wanted to do with my life.

    Over the next few months, I began cold emailing anyone I could think of who I was interested in meeting and learning from. To my surprise, I had a shockingly high response rate. I got to meet with the founders of Airbnb, Square, Kiip, Mint, Color, and many more, and also various investors and professors in the Bay Area. I asked them about their career path, how they’d come to where they were now, and what recommendations they had for figuring out my next move.

    And I didn’t stop there. I also volunteered at major conferences, such as DEMO and Founder Showcase, so I could meet more people and attend the talks for free. I checked out various events and talks in the region, and even sat in on classes at Stanford (which the professors were kind enough to let me observe). Finally, to get a full holistic experience, I lived in a co-op in Palo Alto and had an amazing time learning about cooking, co-operative living, and alternative lifestyles.

    One of the most important conversations I had was John Krumboltz, an international career expert who teaches career coaching at Stanford. He advocated an idea that stuck with me: testing out the different career experiences I was interested in, in the most low commitment way that I could for each option. I had just been introduced to the entrepreneurial concept of “minimum viable product”—an interesting parallel, I thought—so I decided to apply these same principles to deciding what to do next with my career.

    I began “prototyping” the different work experiences that I was considering—dipping my toe in each—so I could figure out which I liked best. Again using my favorite tactic of cold emailing, I reached out to and secured “shadow experiences” with companies including Launchrock (a 500 Startups company), Dojo, Causes (started by Sean Parker), Kiva, the Stanford, and Ashoka (a non-profit that supports entrepreneurship). I spent 1-5 days with each company, not only learning from them, but also helping them out wherever I could. At Causes, I helped produce success reports for clients and sat in on strategy meetings and interviews with potential hires. At Kiva, the CEO Matt Flannery let me follow him around for the day (the literal definition of a shadow) and experience “a day in the life,” complete with accompanying him on his daily walk in the park to clear his head.

    So, what did I learn through all of this? I realized that I wanted to pursue my own business, as soon as possible. In one of the classes I sat in on at Stanford, the professor asked the students how they wanted the world to be different when they died. I knew then that not only did I want to be passionate about what I was doing—I wanted others to be, too. I wanted my business to do something that helped other people find and pursue career activities that they were passionate about.

    Since then, I was accepted into an incubator called Startup Chile and an academic program called Singularity University (started by the founders of Google and based at NASA), which have helped me to work towards that objective ever since.

    But looking back, I’m so happy that I took the time to prototype my different career options—and am grateful for the fact that it was nearly free to do so (much cheaper than say, an MBA, which many people say they take to figure out what to do with their lives). I learned more in those few months than I had in years.

    And whether or not you can take a few months off from work—you can learn like that, too. If you’re not quite sure about your career path, pick a few things you think you’d rather be doing, and then prototype them yourself by setting up experiences where you can try out your different options. Find companies you’d like to work for and individuals whose career paths you admire, and then reach out to them to see if you can shadow with them for an afternoon, a day, or a week. Try informational interviews, volunteering, even internships, and more. And don’t be surprised when they say yes, or even if many of these experiences lead to job offers—without you even asking for them.

    One thing that really surprised me during my experience was how easily approachable, open, and helpful most people are. Cold emailing has become perfectly normal, as has saying “I saw you on Twitter and thought you seemed interesting, so I wanted to reach out.” This is the first time in history that people’s career interests and hobbies are listed online and are easily searchable—and it’s an amazing opportunity to create your own network beyond just the people you meet in person.

    Take it from me: If you’re trying to decide on your next step, it’s an opportunity you can (and should) take advantage of.

    Want help deciding on your next steps or prototyping your own career? Get in touch with me about my career coaching services at

    More From The Daily Muse:

    3 Job Search Lessons from Food Trucks

    10 Networking Conversation Starters You'll Actually Use

    What to Wear to Any Job Interview

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    For all of the lip service that gets paid to promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology, the government can be surprisingly slow to take steps that could help the companies and people that create it. 

    One of the most telling examples is our immigration policy. According to a new paper from Darrell West, Allan Friedman, and Walter Valdivia of the Brookings Institution, it's one of several barriers we maintain that keep us from taking full advantage of the digital economy.

    This chart, which shows the proportion of foreign born tech founders in Silicon Valley and the United States from 1995 to 2005, is a clear illustration of how we're holding ourselves back: 


    We should be doing everything we can to encourage people who have the capacity to create tech companies to stay. Instead, we make it difficult with things like per country visa caps and limited student visas.

    The paper suggests a couple of solutions, namely that we give visas to foreign born students that get graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math, pass the DREAM act so young people can stay in the country, and take steps to make it easier for entrepreneurs to stay here.

    Right now, if you invest $1 million in a new startup and create 10 new jobs, you can get a green card. The authors argue that that's too high of a threshold, and that lowering it to $250,000 would create more opportunities. 

    Crisis management may have been the only policy we could manage during the recession, but we can and should be more ambitious now. 

    Find the paper here

    NOW READ: The Growing Skills Gap, Explained In Three Charts

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    ryan hudson

    A coupon company for the web is not a new idea. But Ryan Hudson, who has spent over a decade building companies, has found a way to wow investors.

    In 2005, Hudson was featured in Businessweek's "Top Young Entrepreneurs Of Tech" alongside Mark Zuckerberg. He's been creating businesses for nearly a decade including four in the past year or two. But he says he's never seen one take off like his latest venture, Honey.

    Honey is a Chrome extension that surfs the web for discounts at the exact moment you're checking out of an e-commerce store.

    Before you blow it off, let us explain.

    Upon check-out, most e-commerce sites ask if you have a promo code. That's when you realize you're getting ripped off. Many people open a second browser window and hunt for a discount code before making the purchase. The first search result is usually RetailMeNot, a coupon code site. Then they have to dig through a list of suggested codes, many of which no longer work. Most come up empty handed and they may be so discouraged, they never complete their purchase. 

    But if you install Honey, Honey does that extra coupon-hunting work for you without ever leaving the store's site.

    Next to the promo code bar, a golden Honey bar will appear that says "Find Savings." It surfs the web for discount codes and tries multiple ones in just a few seconds.


    If it doesn't work, you know you're not missing out on anything. And if it does work, then you're happy you tried.


    Honey launched just before Thanksgiving. One of its bug testers on Mechanical Turk was so excited about the product, he leaked it to Reddit in advance. It took off and Hudson's team held its breath, hoping Honey wouldn't crash.

    Now Honey has 125,000 installs, all on Chrome, and 97,000 of those are actively using it every week. Honey works on more than 400 sites, and it has hundreds of other e-commerce companies back-logged (there's only so much Hudson and his one other full-time employee can do). Hudson says it's one of the Chrome store's top ten apps with little to no marketing support. His Chrome extension has already saved users more than $108,000.

    "The type of traffic we're seeing is hugely organic," Hudson says. "It's actual word of mouth marketing. People are typing in our url directly."

    Hudson is currently raising a round of financing and investors seem to be impressed. Hudson says he was in San Francisco last week and nine out of nine investor meetings were successful. As in, each angel or institutional investor either committed money on the spot, or scheduled a second meeting with other partners in the firm.

    Investors might like Honey, but we're not sure e-commerce sites will. They're probably happy to have their discount codes hidden. But Hudson thinks there are enough benefits that they might like Honey. For one, it keeps people from leaving checkout pages. In addition, sites pay coupon sites to refer traffic to them. But very few people actually start their shopping experience on sites like RetailMeNot. So the lead-generation fees e-commerce sites pay are often unnecessary.

    While Honey is busy saving people money, it isn't quite sure how it will turn a profit. It doesn't take a cut of any of the money people save. Maybe someday it will. All Hudson is sure of is that he should be putting gas on this fire.

    "Nothing I've launched has ever hit like this," he says.

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    “It’s very polarizing when we say that we’re married and work together,” says Keith Shepherd of his partnership with his wife Natalia Luckyanova. The couple founded Imangi Studios, a mobile gaming company, back in 2008; their app Temple Run is iconic, having garnered over 170 million downloads, with a sequel out today. “It’s always either, ‘Awesome, that sounds great,’" says Shepherd of reactions to their working arrangement, "or ‘Oh my God, that sounds like the worst thing ever.’”

    For Shepherd, 33, and Luckyanova, 31, it’s mostly been awesome. Indeed, without having their life partner also be their business partner, Shepherd and Luckyanova wonder whether this journey would have even been possible. The two met as software engineers in Washington, DC; when they married a little over five years ago, they found themselves continually scheming about how they could work for themselves. When news came out about Apple opening up its app store to independent developers, they decided to take the plunge.

    Click here to read more >

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    David Karp, Tumblr

    Tumblr founder David Karp dropped out of traditional high school after his freshman year and was home-schooled for three years. 

    Now, he's worth more than $200 million. 

    But in an interview with Forbes' Jeff Bercovici, he says he that he doesn't recommend kids today drop out of high school. 

    "There's a lot that I feel like I missed out on," Karp tells Bercovici. "Just a whole lot of normal, social, childhood kind of stuff that I definitely missed out on."

    Karp says that he dropped out because he knew exactly what he wanted to do: work with computers and do web development. 

    "If somebody else had that opportunity...well I wouldn't not encourage them to take it, I don't know that I'd be the one rooting for them to drop out of school."

    Check out the video interview below. Karp starts talking about kids dropping out of high school around the 2:23 mark.

    SEE ALSO: David Karp Is Taking His $200 Million Net Worth And Splurging On A $1.6 Million Loft

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    attached image

    A new enterprise technology called software-defined networking is still in its infancy. But it's already created some billion-dollar success stories, capturing the imagination of Silicon Valley's savviest investors and inventors.

    Consider the $1.26 billion acquisition of Nicira by VMware last summer.

    Or the $176 million acquisition of Contrail Systems by Juniper Networks last month, a mere two days after Contrail came out of stealth.

    Software-defined networking, or SDN, changes the way companies build their IT networks. Instead of buying expensive routers and switches with a lot of fancy features from the likes of Cisco, companies can buy simpler, cheaper hardware, and less of it, and those fancy features are handled by a new layer of software.

    SDN will continue to be a hot area for startups for years. The market is projected to grow from $360 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion by 2016, according to market researcher IDC.

    This has led to a whole crop of startups ready to take on market leader Cisco and cash in. 

    Before we get into the startups, let's take a look at the old world of networking that's getting replaced ...

    Here's a look at how a typical small network is designed today. The routers and switches are at the center and everything hooks directly to them.

    If you change your network, you must reconfigure your routers and switches — a sometimes difficult process.

    ... and the new world SDN is creating.

    SDN adds a layer of software between the network hardware and the applications. If you want to change your network, you just change the software.

    This creates several areas where startups can play: the "control plane," which is the new SDN software, and the "data plane" which is the hardware, like routers and switches.

    On top of the control plane is another area of opportunity: networking apps. These weren't previously possible to write for proprietary networking hardware and software, but SDN opens things up for developers.

    The main enabling technology today for the control plane is called OpenFlow. It was created by the founders of Nicira, a startup bought by VMware last summer.

    But there are alternatives to OpenFlow, too, and startups are making money creating them.

    Now let's look at the top upstarts in this market.

    Big Switch Networks

    Big Switch Networks was generally considered the No. 2 startup in the SDN world after Nicira, before VMware bought Nicira. It offers SDN software and switches.

    Cofounder Kyle Forster was formerly a rising star at Cisco.

    In October, Big Switch landed a $25 million financing round from Redpoint Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Index Ventures, and Khosla Ventures. That brought its total funding to $39 million.

    Forster has close ties to Index Ventures partner Mike Volpi, who sits on the company's board. Volpi hired Forster at Cisco when he was a top executive there.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, then you only need to do one thing: Invent, develop, and market a product or service that customers really need or want. There are, however, a few caveats:

    It has to be an innovative solution to an important problem and far better, cheaper, or easier to use than competitive solutions.

    You must be able to make enough money doing it to justify the investment in time and capital.

    You have to have a laser-like focus on making all that happen.

    That's all way easier said than done, I know. One of the reasons for that, and a big issue that holds most people back, is that last part, the need to have a "laser-like focus." The good news is it also happens to be the easiest hurdle to overcome because it's entirely within your control.

    To that end, here are 10 things you absolutely need to quit doing right now if you want to make it as an entrepreneur:

    You live online. Wasting time on Facebook. Playing with apps. Emailing and texting. Buying every stupid little gadget ever imagined. You quit doing all that, you'll have more time to actually get things done than you know what to do with.

    You look for a lottery ticket. If you're after an easy way out, a quick fix, a silver bullet, an overnight viral success, I can tell you one thing for sure. You won't find it. Ever. That's just not how this sort of thing works.

    You're building your "personal brand." If you're in the self-help genre and you want to be the next Tony Robbins or Tim Ferris, then promote yourself. Be my guest. Unless you are the product, focus on the product and its customers, not you.

    You play small ball. Successful entrepreneurs don't do things halfway or half-assed. Focus on one thing, go all in, get it done, and do it right. What about serial entrepreneurs? Most people who call themselves that aren't. Also, the key word is serial, not parallel.

    You network randomly. Relationships are critical to business success. Networking and schmoozing are key to forming relationships. But randomly connecting with thousands of strangers online won't help one bit. Be focused about it. And remember: one real, reliable relationship in the real world is worth a thousand online connections.

    You troll for Twitter followers. If you're Ashton Kutcher or Kim Kardashian, that's great. Otherwise, it's nothing but a distraction--a complete and total waste of time.

    You want stuff. Hopes and dreams are great, but one thing that successful entrepreneurs have in common is that they're lean and mean. They're willing to sacrifice. That's what helps to keep them focused. Necessity is the mother of invention. Wanting and owning lots of stuff is not.

    You ask people how they can help you. Instead, ask them how you can help them. Believe it or not, that's the door opener for opportunity. WIIFM (What's In It For Me) isn't really about you, it's about understanding the motivation of the other person.

    You have useless ideas. Yes, I know the story of 3M's Post-It Notes. It was an accident. Whatever. If you're paid to do pure research, that's great. Otherwise, start with a problem or a need, not a solution or an invention. Mark Zuckerberg wanted to rate the looks of female classmates. Shallow as that may be, it had a purpose.

    You search for inspiration and positive reinforcement. If you're lost, that's fine. That's a very good way to find something. When you do, just make sure you're passionate about it. If not, keep looking. But if you have a low tolerance for obstacles and challenges, that's not a good sign. It helps if you're a self-driven problem solver, as opposed to a whiner who needs a lot of handholding.

    One more thing. Stop trying to be more productive. Our obsession with personal productivity is, ironically, one of the biggest timewasters ever. The only productivity tips you need are on this page. If doing away with any of that stuff amounts to a big sacrifice, join the club. That's just how being an entrepreneur works.

     This post originally appeared at Inc.

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    ping fu

    Ping Fu hasn't had the most traditional path to entrepreneurialism.

    When Fu was only eight years old, Mao Zedong's Red Guards took her from her home, forcing her to be a child soldier.

    Fu had to work in farms and factories, while taking care of her younger sister at the same time, Noalee Harel of The Huffington Post reports

    While growing up in the midst of China's cultural revolution, Fu was also repeatedly raped and beaten by the Red Guards, Fu describes in her recent book, Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds.

    Around the age of 25, when she wrote her thesis on China's one child policy, the international media's outrage led to her imprisonment and exile.

    Now, Fu is the co-founder and CEO of 3D software company Geomagic. She is also a member of President Barack Obama's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

    In a HuffPostLive interview, Fu shared her thoughts on China and 3D printing technology.

    Regarding 3D printing, Fu says that 3D printing technologies "will be everywhere" in consumer production within a matter of years.

    Head on over to The Huffington Post to watch the full interview. 

    SEE ALSO: Steve Jobs Told Me Why He Loved Being A CEO

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    niantic project ingress

    Google's Niantic Labs—one of the many ways CEO Larry Page is trying to get employees to break out and try bold, risky experiments—has been a bit of a mystery until very recently. 

    So what is it, exactly?

    Niantic Labs quietly released a local-business-search app, Field Trip, in September. 

    But it really drew notice in November 2012, when it started posting monthly "investigations" on its very cryptic website about a "Niantic Project."

    The postings feel a bit like "The X-Files" and "Lost," TV series which drew readers in by constantly dropping clues to complex, interwoven story lines.

    The first one was called "The Sphere of Weirdness." It featured an introductory video that offered very few details about what the Niantic Project actually is.

    Here's the gist of the video: "There's more to the world than you can truly see. You've sensed it but you cannot tell ... something is very wrong. Strange occurrences. Visions affecting us. Are we being watched? I'm a truth seeker with many questions. The most important is: What is the Niantic Project?"

    While the video didn't actually answer that question, we now know that Niantic Labs is a separate team within Google that makes products to help people interact with the real world. 

    "I've done as much as possible to really set it up like a startup," team leader John Hanke told Fast Company's Sarah Kessler.

    Before Hanke set up Niantic Labs, he ran Google's Geo team—a group embracing most location-based products.

    Hanke said he wants the Niantic team to feel free to think about and actually build future products. 

    So far, the lab has released two very different products—though location is at the core of both.

    Niantic Labs' first product, Field Trip, is essentially a personal tour guide that runs in the background and alerts you when you walk by places that might be of interest to you.

    Niantic Labs also recently partnered with Scoutmob to bring free local deals to Field Trip. So when you walk by a local business currently offering a deal, Field Trip will ping you.

    The app is only available on Android for now, but is coming to Apple devices soon.

    Shortly after launching its website in November, Niantic Labs introduced a multiplayer, map-based, augmented-reality game called Ingress. It's supposed to take about a year and a half to complete.

    The game's plot revolves around a powerful energy force, and requires players to pick a side — either pro-energy or anti-energy. Depending on which side you choose, your goal is to either spread or stop the energy.

    You play the game in the real world, but Niantic's app overlays information and visuals on top of real-world locations—in San Francisco, they're often local landmarks like the Cupid's Span statue on the Embarcadero or the Castro Theater.

    As Hanke told Fast Company, Niantic's goal is to build products that help people interact with the real world. In order to that, Hanke says it's best to start from a blank slate without any preexisting responsibilities.

    How will Google fold Niantic's discoveries back into its regular products? That map is far from clear. But it shows a fascinating path Google is pursuing for innovation.

    SEE ALSO: Here's Proof That Wearable Tech Is The Next Big Thing

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    Asana Office Tour

    Task management startup Asana has a pretty strict "No Meeting Wednesday" policy.

    That's because it wants to give its employees ample time to work on projects without any disruptions.

    Asana co-founder Dustin Moskovitzrecently shared the company's internal doc regarding No Meeting Wednesday on Quora

    "The gist is that makers suffer greatly from interrupts in their flow of time," Asana 's internal doc says. "Managers are generally used to having a schedule-driven day, so it's easy for them to throw a disruption into somebody else's calendar." 

    There are some exceptions to the rule, but it mostly comes down to judgement. Read the entire memo below.

    Read Quote of Dustin Moskovitz's answer to Asana: How does Asana approach No Meeting Wednesday? on Quora

    SEE ALSO: Scotch, Chocolate, Gourmet Food: Check Out The Over-The-Top Perks At This Facebook Cofounder's Startup

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    paul graham making it rain money

    Y Combinator's Winter 2013 class is putting their money on hardware startups. 

    They recently voted on which of their peers were most likely to succeed, and the top two were both hardware companies, YC founder Paul Graham tweeted yesterday.

    Unfortunately, Graham didn't specify which companies they were. 

    "That's actually fascinating...," serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanissaid in response to the tweet. "The hardest things to pull off sometimes have the biggest upside i guess."

    Y Combinator is one of the most prestigious and important startup incubators in Silicon Valley. Twice a year, it invests a small amount of money in a hand-picked selection of startups. 

    But YC's W13 class is much smaller than its last batch. In its Summer class, YC produced more than 80 companies, but decided to limit its Winter class to less than 50 startups. 

    That's because in Summer 2012, YC grew too fast and "more things than usual broke" when it increased the number of startups from 66 to 84, Graham wrote on the YC blog in December

    SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley's Most Important Startup Factory, Y Combinator, Is Shrinking

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    christina wallace, alex nelson, quincy, clothing manufaturing, factory, march 2012, bi, dng

    When Quincy launched last spring, it held a splashy Cupcakes and Champagne party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel with Uber car service home for members of the press.

    It was founded by two 20-something Harvard Business School graduates, Alex Nelson and Christina Wallace, and Quincy quickly stole headlines. The apparel company, which promised to create great-fitting clothes for women that fit perfectly in the chest area, was featured in NBC New York, New York Times, InStyle, People Magazine, Lucky, Cosmopolitan, WWD, Marie Claire, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, All Things D, Forbes, Crain's and Business Insider.

    But today, the company is closing up shop. It sent an email to its members offering 80% off on all remaining merchandise.

    "On January 30th, Quincy is closing its online shop," it read. "We want to thank all of our customers for your support over the last year and a half as Quincy grew from an idea to a full collection."

    In December its former CEO, Christina Wallace, departed. In an earlier Daily Muse article titled, "The Perfect Match: Finding the Right Co-Founder," the two said they met in 2008 and became fast friends. But going into business together can be tough. 

    The pair raised a seed round of financing. We've reached out to the company for comment.

    This isn't the first startup we've seen shutter, and it won't be the last as investors become more skeptical of e-commerce and consumer businesses amid the Facebook fallout. A few months ago, desk-sharing startup Loosecubes closed its doors just weeks after reportedly raising $7.8 million.

    UPDATE: Here's a little more color on why Quincy shut down. The obvious reason, other than a disagreement among co-founders, is the Series A crunch. While a lot of investors are willing to fund an early idea (a seed investment), fewer are willing to commit a few million to a Series A round without significant traction and proof of concept. While Quincy was able to raise the seed round, we've heard it was difficult for it to land that next bit of money to accelerate its growth. 

    In addition, a source tells us the company had issues fulfilling its core promise: producing better-fitting clothes. In other words, Quincy's number one selling point, which was that it could tailor clothing specifically to a woman's chest size, didn't deliver, and it received a good amount of returns stating as much. It's also hard to scale a business that's so customized.

    Here's the email Quincy sent to its users:


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    There are a lot of little problems in life.

    You lose your car keys. You're craving peanut butter but can't reach the last glob. You have one more slot on your power strip, but your cord is too clunky to fit.

    None of these are big problems, but they're all really aggravating.

    Thankfully, a few startups are working to make the little things in our lives better.

    It's a big pain when you can't get every last drop out of a jar. MIT students have found a way to make even the stickiest substances glide to the top of containers.

    Startup that's working on it:LiquiGlide

    What it is: Founded by a few MIT students and their professor, LiquiGlide is a coating that can be put on most surfaces to repel even the stickiest liquids, from jelly to mayonnaise. It minimizes waste because you can literally squeeze every last drop out of a bottle. See it in action, here.

    Soon, you won't have to shell out $30 for a new charger because your old one doesn't fit in your new device.

    Startup that's working on a solution: uBeam

    What it is: A device that wirelessly charges multiple devices at once. The devices don't have to touch the charger or be plugged into anything. uBeam uses ultrasonic waves to "beam" electricity through the air to the devices, and it works across multiple brands. Right now it's just a working prototype, but fingers crossed it comes to market soon. In the meantime, you can try the Duracell PowerMat.

    Losing your car keys feels like losing your mind. Luckily, there's an app for that.

    Startup that's working on a solution: GetAround (Zipcar has a solution like this too, so does Viper SmartStart)

    What it is: GetAround is a car sharing service that lets you loan your car for cash to a neighbor when you're not using it. Since it's a little difficult to physically exchange keys with someone you don't know, GetAround is working on a mobile key exchange app that can turn on cars and unlock doors instead. Right now though, you still have to meet the car owner in person for the keys.

    Zipcar has a similar mobile feature that lets users can lock or unlock doors and even honk the car's horn via mobile app. Viper SmartStart is a pricier alternative that lets you lock, unlock, locate and even start your car from a mobile app.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The other day I received a direct mail piece from FreshDirect, the online delivery service based out of New York.

    What struck me is that the service has been around for years in NYC, and it is now getting out to some of the suburbs in New Jersey.  In fact, after having done a little research, FreshDirect was started in 2002 and now, eight years later is delivering in New Jersey. 

    This is in stark contrast to WebVan, which was the first online grocer. What brought WebVan down is the fact that it tried to build an empire overnight.  And yes, we should all know from our history books that empire building leads to empire destruction eventually. 

    It is pretty evident that FreshDirect took its time to understand how to enter a market, serve it well, and make it profitable. In other words, FreshDirect spent its time to build a repeatable sales and market entry model before moving on to other locations. In addition, its expansion is still local-based, close to its distribution point in Long Island City, NY. You don't see the company going out to San Francisco — rather, it is slowly expanding outside of its first core market, NYC.

    As an entrepreneur, you should take the same approach before expanding too quickly. Whether you are hiring a sales force for the first time or expanding territory for your product or service, make sure you have a repeatable sales model before conquering the world. More often than not, I meet entrepreneurs who raise too much money too fast and expand way too quickly before having a product that is fully baked and ready for primetime and before the company knows who it is selling to, how it is selling to them, and what the core value proposition is.

    Get everything right in your first market, like FreshDirect, and you will build a great company and avoid monumental disasters like Webvan.

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    Nest Thermostat

    In late 2011, a company called Nest Labs launched a product the tech world couldn't stop talking about. But the product isn't something that normally gets people excited.

    Nest is perfecting the thermostat. And it's been such a big hit, investors have decided to pour a boatload of money into the company. According to GigaOm's Katie Fehrenbacher, Venrock, Google Ventures and others have given Nest $80 million at an $800 million post-money valuation. Fehrenbacher says Nest is shipping between 40,000 and 50,000 thermostats per month. A good number of those items are being shipped to Europe, and Nest's devices are sold in Lowe's, Best Buy, and on Apple's website. It retails for $250.

    Nest is a smart thermostat that learns when you wake up, when you go to sleep, and what temperature you like the room during the day. Each time you twist the dial, it remembers and adjusts itself accordingly. The temperature can also be adjusted from a smart phone app. Nest was built and designed by the same man who built Apple's iPod, Tony Fadell.

    Is it all it's cracked up to be? A lot of gadget reviewers say yes. From Wired's review of the second-generation Nest, which was released a few months ago:

    Did it live up to the hype?

    Oh, did it ever. First, installation was incredibly easy and within just a few minutes of taking it from the box, it was controlling our heat. Second, it looks really cool. It’s a slim, unobtrusive dial that’s been trimmed down a bit from the first generation. It glows red when it’s heating, blue when it’s cooling, and has a cute little leaf that appears to let you know you’re using it in a way that conserves energy, or empties your wallet.

    ...What I loved most, though, is the ability to adjust the temperature from anywhere. If I turn up the heat and then forget to kick it back down, all I have to do is pull out my phone and I can change the temperature. I can also turn up the heat from my toasty warm bed if I’m up early so I don’t have to freeze first thing in the morning.

    Not sure how a thermostat company could be worth so much money? Watch the video demonstration of Nest, below:

    SEE ALSO: 12 startups that are brilliantly solving very annoying problems

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