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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Chris Dixon

    Bitcoins have become all the rage lately as its value has skyrocketed this year. 

    Bitcoins are a form of decentralized, digital currency. Today, Bitcoin is trading around $118. At its peak, it reached $266. In January, it was trading at $15.

    Chris Dixon, a partner at Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz, is making a bet on Bitcoin and has invested a significant amount of money into Bitcoin startups. Last month, Andreessen Horowitz invested an undisclosed amount in a seed round for Bitcoin startup OpenCoin. 

    Dixon envisions Bitcoins becoming a legitimate, mainstream "payment mechanism,"he said at a recent PandoMonthly event in New York. In fact, he believes Bitcoins can completely revolutionize e-commerce as we know it. 

    “You go to a payment company, half of the staff is anti-fraud,” Dixon said. “You talk to a commerce company… you have to block 40 countries in the world from buying stuff from there.”

    With Bitcoins, you don't have to deal with issues of identity fraud and global verification. Like cash or gold, Dixon says, Bitcoins are a financial product where when you hand it to someone, they can look at it and know for a fact that they received it. That's the true power of Bitcoins. 

    But it's not without risks. Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security seized assets from Mt. Gox, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange. The government says it has reason to believe Mt. Gox is guilty of transmitting money without a license. 

    SEE ALSO: The Most Important Early-Stage Investor Of The Last 10 Years Just Made A Huge Bet On Bitcoin

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    Rehan Choudhry - Vegas

    Rehan Choudhry had a great job managing events for Las Vegas' hottest new hotel, the Cosmopolitan, when he decided to tour Zappos' corporate headquarters in January 2012.

    It happened to be the same day the e-commerce company was massively hacked, affecting 24 million customers, and keeping its employees working around the clock.

    It also happened to be "Pajama Day" at Zappos.

    "I went there because I was trying to do an office re-model — which my team was pushing back on — with large, communal, creative spaces," Choudhry tells Business Insider. "They happened to be in the middle of a security breach. It was the worst day in the company’s history, and everyone is wearing their pajamas, working 72 hours straight, but they could only focus on the culture, on pajama day. The best day at any other company usually feels pretty bad, with someone trying to overtake you for a promotion. But at Zappos, on their worst day they focused on how it was pajama day."

    And that made all the difference. "The event pushed me off the cliff," says Choudhry, who quit his job just a few days later. "I couldn’t be happier. The happiest day of my career was my last day of work, but I had no idea what I was going to do. Nobody was telling me what I could do."

    A friend, Ryan Doherty, recommended The Beat Coffeehouse in downtown Las Vegas as a place to "find inspiration," so that's where Choudhry ended up spending a lot of his time. "I tried coffee shops on the Strip, but it's like trying to find peace in the middle of Times Square. I needed the intimacy and energy that only a neighborhood coffee shop can provide."

    During those months, he started a marketing strategy company, Aurelian Marketing Group, "what I know best," he says. "I have a passion for human interaction and bringing large groups together. It could be an intimate or large festival; figuring out our how brands integrate into larger social cultures."

    "The brand is meant to inspire people to take bigger risks with their lives and pursue careers and life passions that they had when they were six years old. I challenge a six-year-old to say they want to be a car dealer or cocktail waitress when they grow up."

    One of his ongoing side projects was planning a huge festival for Las Vegas, called "Life Is Beautiful," along with partners Planet Entertainment and MAKTUB Marketing. Through a mutual friend, he met Tony Hsieh, who's investing $350 million to transform downtown Las Vegas, and the Zappos CEO came on board as a partner. 

    The "Life Is Beautiful" festival is happening in October, and Choudhry is expecting 70,000 guests — 50 % Las Vegans — making it competitive with any large festival, like Coachella or Burning Man. 

    But Life Is Beautiful is essentially four independent festivals — food, learning, wine, and music — in one. "Each festival could stand up on its own," he explains.

    They'll have 60 to 65 bands and DJs, street art, and a TED-inspired learning series, where there will be everyone from social entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 CEOs talking about how they found success and happiness.

    "With the learning series, the brand is meant to inspire people to take bigger risks with their lives and pursue careers and life passions that they had when they were six years old. I challenge a six-year-old to say they want to be a car dealer or cocktail waitress when they grow up. It’s a mantra that will inspire them back to their roots. We're specifically focusing on the arts, and the learning series is really driving that home."

    And Choudhry knows all about taking big risks to succeed. His own career path has been zig-zagged. A few years before he started working at the Cosmopolitan, Choudhry was an IT consultant for the Department of Homeland Security.

    "The work I did there was specifically around developing emergency response tools, designing and maintaining a system that prevented failure during 9/11. I realized I didn't like IT. So I went to [Vanderbilt] Business School in Nashville, then got recruited by Caesars in Atlantic City to help stop the bleeding in Atlantic City. There I found a passion for doing large-scale events.

    "Then I got a call from the CMO from the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, and I moved there and opened an entertainment program there for two years. I left my job in April of last year."

    Now he's pouring everything into making his new venture, and Life Is Beautiful, work.

    "It's 99.9 percent of my life right now," he says. "It’s every minute, every dinner, social interaction, everything is all around the festival, so many people are catching onto the idea and are inspired by the idea."

    What's his best advice for success? "Increase your risk tolerance. Embrace fear and uncertainty. Know that you’ll be in that state, knowing it’ll exist regardless. Now I find myself coming to work hours earlier than I used to, and staying hours later than I used to."

    As for what's happening in downtown Vegas, he says, "You’ve got one of the most well-known cities in the world. There's a huge gap between what the world knows is Las Vegas and what we’re living in (downtown). We’re coming from a raw place, which is exciting. The amount of incredibly intelligent and experienced people has created a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity."

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    throwing money party happy dancing

    Advertising is hardly ever the right answer to building a sustainable, profitable startup.

    Yet so many do it.

    Instead, startup founders and CEOs need to focus on what they could charge for that people would actually pay for.

    The Board of Innovation — a startup consultancy — recently posted a great deck detailing 17 money-making techniques every startup should know.

    The common theme is that companies need to understand the emotional context of its customers. 

    Any smart, digital revenue model will combine at least few of the forthcoming techniques, according to the Board of Innovation.







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    sidecarI'm in Philly for the weekend, determined to prove I can have a great time for less than $100. 

    So far, I'm having a blast and I've still got 80 bucks to play around with.

    One of my biggest concerns in planning this trip was figuring out how to get around in the cheapest way possible. Luckily, Philly is very pedestrian-friendly, so I've been getting away with walking just about everywhere.

    But last night, I really needed a ride. It was after midnight, train service had stopped, and I didn't want to fool with buses without knowing which line to take or how to get back to my host's apartment. 

    It didn't help that everyone at the downtown bar where I was hanging out gave me those big "Oh, girl, NO!" eyes when I told them I was thinking about legging it home. 

    So I decided to take a gamble on a free ride-share service called SideCar I heard about. It's supposed to be the anti-taxi. Launched in San Francisco less than a year ago, the SideCar app hooks up willing drivers with people who need a cheap ride, kind of like Uber. But the difference is that SideCar lets ordinary car owners sign up to drive passengers—whether or not they're licensed.

    It's an awesome concept, but there's just one problem –– city governments hate them.

    SideCar has expanded to eight cities, and Philly was its first location on the East Coast. They've been battling the city's Parking Authority (PPA) ever since launching earlier this year. The PPA, which regulates taxis, thinks they're a rogue service passing themselves off as a cheap cab service. In fact, after a "sting" operation in February, the PPA impounded three vehicles driven by SideCar drivers and shut the whole operation down. 

    Or so they thought. 

    SideCar is still going strong in Philly, operating its service for free to riders until it convinces the PPA that it's legal. 

    It's faced similar kick back elsewhere, but the company has been sending fleets of drivers into cities like Philly, Boston and even New York anyway, offering free rides on Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m..

    Apart from the legal troubles, my guess is that by offering free rides, SideCar is hoping to get enough people hooked on the service to kick up public support and help them pass muster with local governments. 

    Is it safe? 

    SideCar maintains that they're simply a "technology-based platform that enables peer-to-peer ridesharing." The drivers own their cars and SideCar vets them individually, running "more checks on our drivers than taxi or limo services," it says, "Plus, all matched rides are recorded and GPS tracked for safety."

    This all brings us back to last night, when at 12:30 a.m. I logged into the SideCar app and punched in my location. A driver was nearby, luckily, and once he confirmed his availability, I sat back and waited.

    Within 10 minutes, I got a phone call from the cordial driver, who even offered to drive a couple of blocks further to pick me up when we realized I'd given him the wrong address. I didn't have to wonder where he was or when he'd arrive. I could watch his car inch along via the SideCar app's GPS tracker, which also gave me his ETA. 

    From there, it was like hitching a ride with a friend. I hopped in, he drove along to my destination, and we shot the breeze for the 15-minute drive. I don't want to get him in trouble, so I won't describe his car, but it felt brand new, very clean, and didn't have a meter. 

    According to their website, SideCar doesn't consider drivers "employees"— but they have indeed been paying drivers an hourly wage to pick up passengers until they can start officially charging for rides. 

    My driver, who has worked for SideCar about two months, said he gives about 25 to 30 rides per night on the weekend, and he works at a bakery during the day to earn extra cash. 

    When he dropped me off, I offered to tip him and he turned me down. I felt that familiar pang of doubt whenever someone offers something for free, a little voice in my head that whispers, 'This is weird! Why are you being nice?'

    But I just shrugged it off, scooped up my bags, and headed home –– safe and sound. 

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    adeoressi tbi

    There's a common misconception floating around Silicon Valley that ideas mean nothing, and execution means everything.

    But the reality is much less binary and much more nuanced, The Founder Institute maintains.

    Founded in 2009 by serial entrepreneur Adeo Ressi, The Founder Institute is an early-stage startup accelerator that works with companies from the idea stage to fruition. 

    "What we have found is that if an early-stage founder can check off the ten items below, they have a solid foundation by which to start a company," Jonathan Greechan, a partner at The Founder Institute, tells Business Insider. "You are absolutely not assured success if you can check off these items (nor are you assured failure if you can’t), but your chances of success are much, much higher if you can."

    Here are some rules to keep in mind when brainstorming ideas for a startup.

    10_rules_final

    SEE ALSO: A Silicon Valley Insider Actually Has A Plan To Get More Women In Tech

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    rachel david karp girlfriend

    New York startups are proving that Silicon Valley isn't the only place where monstrous tech companies can be made.

    In the past twelve months, three tech companies in the New York area have exited for more than $1 billion.

    Connecticut-based Indeed, a job search site with a big Manhattan presence, was acquired by Japanese company Recruit Co. Ltd. for an estimated $1 billion. Travel search site Kayak went public then was acquired by Priceline for $1.8 billion.

    Now Tumblr, a true New York City company, has been acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in an all-cash deal. It's staying in New York post-acquisition, so the talent won't be departing for Silicon Valley.

    Other recent, sizeable New York exits include Buddy Media, which was acquired by Salesforce for ~ $690 million and OMGPOP, which Zynga purchased for a ~ $200 million. 

    The exits mean more capital to spawn companies and retain talent in New York. Tumblr was the result of an exit its founder, David Karp, was a part of in 2006. He was Head of Product for UrbanBaby when CNET acquired it and he used the capital to launch Davidville, a hub for his creative projects.

    Tumblr won't be the last big exit New York sees either. Other valuable companies that are growing quickly include 3D printing company Makerbot and project funding site, Kickstarter.

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    David Karp, Tumblr

    Tumblr founder David Karp never finished traditional high school.

    He dropped out after his freshman year, was home-schooled for three years and then eventually got his General Educational Development certificate (GED).

    Now that Yahoo has announced its $1.1 billion acquisition of blogging site Tumblr, Karp could be worth north of $220 million.  

    Even though Karp has found great success without attending college, yet alone finishing traditional high school, he doesn't recommend kids these days drop out of school.

    "There's a lot that I feel like I missed out on," the 26-year-old Karp told Forbes' Jeff Bercovici in an interview earlier this year. "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," Karp said. "I don't know that I'd be the one rooting for them to drop out of school, but that was the very fortunate and very unique situation I found myself in of knowing that I wanted to work with computers, knowing that I was excited about web development, having this opportunity to work with incredibly talented developers where I just wasn't able to get that out of high school at the time."

    Karp's decision not to go to college was driven by the same thing. Though, he admitted that he's worked with a lot of talented engineers who have gone through traditional computer science programs.

    "But for what I wanted to be doing, I was able to learn a lot of that stuff on my own and in the field, where the programs weren't really set up in school for that just yet," Karp said. "It's different today. If you want to learn how to build websites, build technology, build apps, they have terrific programs and some incredibly talented professors who are able to teach you that stuff in school today."

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

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    Tumblr CEO David Karp

    David Karp, 26, just sold his company Tumblr to Yahoo for $1.1 billion in an all-cash deal.

    What's the founder really like? 

    According to close friend and Tumblr's first employee, Marco Arment, Karp is a lot like Steve Jobs was.

    Karp is his product. He's design-focused, and he's stubborn when it comes to his vision for the company.

    "David has a lot of Steve Jobs-like qualities, and like many people who worked for Steve, I look back on Tumblr’s crunch times with mixed feelings: I don’t want to return to that stress level, but David pushed me to do amazing work that I didn’t think was possible," Arment writes. Arment is also the founder of Instapaper, a read-it-later app that Betaworks recently acquired.

    "I’ve only seen one other 'product person' as good as David, and that was Steve Jobs. (Believe me, there are many parallels)," he continues. "David has an impeccable sense of what’s best for Tumblr, and he doesn’t need anyone else telling him what’s best for the product. Many people, myself included, have tried to convince him to go different directions, and we’ve been proven wrong every time."

    Screen Shot 2013 05 21 at 1.01.40 PMLike Steve Jobs, Karp can be stubborn. It's something he's cognizant – but not proud – of.

    "If there are moments I've been stubborn in my life, it was because I was really, really believing in something that I wanted to see become a reality,"Karp told Forbes in January. "I've been rewarded a few times for being stubborn. It's not something I necessarily appreciate about myself."

    Friends and colleagues also describe Karp as "polite." And anyone who reads Karp's tumblr, Davidslog.com, can see a deeply caring person with a keen sense of humor.

    Here's just one of many humorous entries, below.

    tumblr karp

    How do his parents describe him? Karp's father went on CNBC yesterday to discuss his son. He referred to David as "thoughtful and down-to-earth."

    "It's never about the money with David," Karp's father said. "It's always been about doing what he loves doing. And creativity and passion."

    SEE ALSO: The Fabulous Life Of David Karp, 26-Year-Old Founder Of The $1 Billion Tumblr Empire

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    Maptia employees in Morocco

    The difference between a job you love and a job you hate is usually one thing: the company's culture.

    These days, lots of tech startups have adopted cultural perks like free food, pool table/games, and beers on tap.

    But others have come up with new ways to make their companies great places to work. They've "hacked" their culture, according to this discussion thread on Quora.

    Maptia's founders moved the whole company to Morocco

    Jonny Miller, cofounder at Maptia and an avid surfer, has the best culture hack we've ever heard of.

    He and his two co-founders moved their company to Morocco, a low-cost way to have an office on the beach.

    Maptia's graduated from the TechStars Seattle program at the end of 2012 and then the founders' visas expired. Instead of going home to London, they wanted a cheaper place where their $100,000 in seed money would last until they launched their beta. They are building a travel discovery site.

    So they "spun the globe and found a cheap apartment only ten meters from the Atlantic ocean in the Moroccan surf town of Taghazout." (It's the second floor of the white building, pictured.)

    All five Maptia team members live there. They stop work when the surf is up and the cost of living is so low, they can feed themselves on $10 per person week, Miller says.



    Commerce Sciences has the last person to join create a welcome kit for the next person to join

    Commerce Sciences has a cool tradition for an employee's first day at work, says Oren Ellenbogen, an engineer at the Palo Alto, Calif., startup.

    "The last person to join the company is responsible to create a 'starter kit' for the next one to join. Each kit is totally different and personalized (depending on how creative the last person is :)), ranging from funny jokes, interesting books to Nerf Guns and coffee capsules," he says.



    At Expertcity, hearing the bell ring means free breakfast

    A lot of companies have bells in their offices that people ring when they sign a new customer contract or have announcements.

    But at Expertcity, there was a unique rule about the bell: If you rang it without a good reason, you had to buy breakfast for the whole company the next day, says John Greathouse, who was CFO at the time.

    Expertcity was the startup that created GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC and was sold to Citrix in 2003.

    Greathouse was originally opposed to the bell because he felt employees would think it was "a cheesy, faux motivational tool" but people loved it.



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    girls, women, gen y, millennials, happy

    Understanding why people are actually using your product is one of the most important metrics for startups to measure.

    "Founders don't spend time identifying what their users are gaining from their product and what their core product value is," Alaister Low, director of customer experience at Freelancer.com, writes on his blog

    You could do this in a few different ways: surveys, cohort analysis where you study what your users are actually doing with the product, or just talking to them in real life. 

    The first step is to identify your most engaged users. Set up a simple survey with the following question and answer options: 

    How would you feel if you could no longer use this product?

      • Very disappointed
      • Somewhat disappointed
      • Not disappointed
      • N/A - I no longer use it 

    After you run the survey, ask the people whom selected "very disappointed" to answer the following questions:

    1. What is the primary benefit you received from [insert product name]?
    2. Why did you select that benefit as your favorite? 

    SEE ALSO: Kim Kardashian's Once Successful Startup Is Struggling For Survival

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    GRAND ST TEAMNew hardware companies are one of the hottest trends in the startup world. 

    Instead of building apps and Web services, companies are building real physical hardware that you can buy and use. 

    A lot of these find life on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where the community votes with its wallet on what gadget they want to use. Most notably, there's Pebble, a company that makes smartwatches, and Ouya, a company that makes an Android-based video console. Both companies have raised millions in regular VC money after seeing success on Kickstarter.

    But they're not alone. Check out some other cool hardware startups you need to know about.

    Grand St. helps hardware makers sell their products

    Startup:Grand St.

    Founded: 2012

    Location: New York, NY

    Founders: Amanda Peyton, Aaron Hendhsaw, and Joe Lallouz

    Concept: An e-commerce consumer electronics marketplace.

    Why you should care: Grand St. is an online hyper-curated boutique that sells creative technology. Grand St. is a great way to discover new products because the site only stocks gadgets that have been tested by someone on staff. 

    Funding: $1.3 million



    Pebble makes a smartwatch that connects to your Android phone or iPhone

    Startup:Pebble

    Founded: 2012

    Location: San Francisco, Calif.

    Founder: Eric Migicovsky

    Concept: A fully customizable e-ink smartwatch.

    Why you should care: Pebble was one of the largest Kickstarter campaigns ever, raising over $10 million in about 30 days.

    The watch uses sports and fitness apps, allowing you to get notifications from your smartphone. Pebble also lets users wirelessly control music without having to remove your smartphone from your pocket.

    Funding: $26.1 million



    Ouya is a $99 game console that challenges traditional systems.

    Startup:Ouya

    Founded: 2012

    Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

    Founders: Julie Uhrman and Yves Behar

    Concept: A $99 open-sourced video gaming console based on Android.

    Why you should care: Ouya is re-imaging how we consume video games. Traditionally, consoles cost upwards of $300, but this device is tiny and cheap. The Ouya runs its own version of the Android operating system and is in the process of developing exclusive content.

    The platform is completely open, meaning any Ouya owner and gamer can also become a developer.

    Funding: $23.6 million



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    splash teamWhen you think of event planning and ticketing services, companies like Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Ticketfly, and Ticketleap probably come to mind.

    But event planners often times need more than just ticketing services. 

    Enter Splash, a one-stop shop for planning events, selling tickets, and engaging with attendees after the event. 

    At South by Southwest, the one-year-old startup powered nearly 200 events and collected 384,000 RSVPs, Splash CEO Ben Hindman tells Business Insider.

    "It's clear, the "winner" of SXSW13: @splashthat,"Union Square Venture analyst Brian Watson tweeted about a week before the festival started. "Splash this event, splash that event."

    For comparison's sake, 7-year-old company Eventbrite powered 778 events. It also just passed two major milestones: 100 million tickets issued and $1.5 billion in ticket sales on the platform. So Splash still has some ways to go, but it seems to be on the right path, nonetheless.

    spotify's sxsw event page on splashSince launching a little over a year ago, Splash has attracted 25,000 event planners to its platform, including representatives from Spotify, Wired Magazine, Columbia Records, Vevo, Funny or Die, and Buzzfeed. 

    Meanwhile, former Eventbrite NYC Evangelist Staci Perkins recently left the company to work for Splash. Perkins is also the COO at CatalystCreativ, a socially conscious experience agency that helps brands create meaningful communities.

    Even though Splash is creeping into Eventbrite's territory, Hindman says it's not their intention to wage war with Eventbrite. 

    "I think that they are the best in the business at tickets," Hindman says. "They're a ticket portal and they are so good at it. That said, that's not what I need as an event planner. What I need is an event website. And often Eventbrite, to me, because the way it's structured, they don't allow you to make events look beautiful."

    Still, Hindman admits that Eventbrite inspired many aspects of Splash. 

    "The fact that we copied them, we copied almost every single thing we could from them, because they were so good," Hindman says. "But to me, they're ticketware and we're eventware. There are so many things that go into an event that we really wanted to help people with and that includes email, that includes contact management, that includes picture storage."

    Each Splash page comes with a dedicated drop space for photographers. So once the event is over, the photographer can quickly upload photos directly to the site. Then, the event planner can make beautiful galleries to feature on the event page.

    In Splash's early days, Hindman says the company thought about doing a revenue share deal with Eventbrite, but ended up not working with them.

    And it looks like that decision is about to pay off. Now, Splash is about four months into its ticketing service and has already processed $650,000 in gross sales. Earlier this week, Splash processed $25,000 in ticket sales in one day. Hindman says the company is approaching profitability, with a burn rate of less than $10,000 a month. 

    Hindman has vast experience in the event space. Before Splash, Hindman worked as director of events at Thrillist, where he realized the need for a full-fledged events platform. He's also one of the founding members behind the super exclusive Summit Series retreat for entrepreneurs and innovators. 

    "A song is a song is a song," Hindman says. "But, the way that you package it, the way that it looks that's what's important. And it's kind of the same with an event. It's all just about a space, but it's the way that you present it, and start that event from the second that person hits the page. That's what we're pushing here. Really extending the life of your event both before the event and after the event."

    While Eventbrite would not specifically comment on Splash, its senior public relations manager Vanessa Schneider tells Business Insider that there is certainly value in capturing shared live experiences.

    But at Eventbrite, the company is currently focusing on making it easier for people to discover events and receive personalized recommendations. Later down the road, once Eventbrite has mastered the discovery element, they may then look into chronicling the events.  

    SEE ALSO: How One 'Epic Failure' Led To A Massive Hit In The App Store

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    texting while drivingYesterday, rumors re-surfaced that Waze might be acquired for $1 billion.

    Google and Facebook are both reportedly interested in the social navigation app. Earlier this year, Apple was said to be interested in owning Waze for a similar price.

    What's the attention-grabbing navigation app all about?

    Check out how Waze works, here >

    Waze is an iOS app with more than 40 million registered users. It's headquartered in Israel and was founded in 2007 by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine. Noam Bardin is the company's CEO. It has gone on to raise $67 million from investors.

    Waze is like Apple Maps and Google Maps in that it lays out directions for drivers on a street grid. It also has voice navigation. In addition to providing users with directions, it lets users scan real-time traffic information provided by other Waze users who are driving on the same roads.

    A Waze driver a few miles ahead of you, for example, could report an accident and that cars aren't moving. Another might tell you where a cop is hiding around the bend.

    I tried the app last weekend while driving up the east coast. While I enjoyed Waze, I ultimately found it more distracting than helpful. If your head is down scanning the highway ahead for traffic alerts and accidents, your eyes aren't on the road. I slammed on my brakes more than once while trying to figure out why I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic (I swear, I'm not the stereotypical bad female driver. I haven't gotten a ticket since college).

    In addition to being visually distracting, Waze also makes distracting sounds by default. There's a game element to the app that lets you rack up points based on tips you leave and the number of miles you drive. But it's startling to hear a loud chime play whenever Waze feels you've hit some sort of driving milestone, which is often.

    Waze has some safety features in place. For example, the app won't let you type while you're driving. It asks you to pull over first before you can type a destination. You can also turn yourself "invisible" on the app, if you don't want others (like Facebook friends) to be able to locate your whereabouts on Waze. And sounds can be turned off.

    After my first experience with Waze, I'd recommend only letting a navigator, not a driver, use the app while you're on the road. Otherwise it could cause more harm than good. Also, make sure your phone is fully charged. Waze drains your battery quickly, like most other navigation apps, so you have to remember to turn it off after each use.

    Thinking about trying out Waze and seeing what the fuss is about?

    Welcome to Waze!



    Waze realizes you're new. It helps you get started.



    You can plug in your home and work addresses so you don't have to constantly type them in.



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    To create something entirely new--something that the world has not seen before--requires contrarian thinking.

    Peter Thiel, a co-founder of Paypal who's now one of the world's best-known venture capital investors, says you know you're on the right track when you can explain what you're trying to by saying: "Most people believe in X. But the truth is "not X."

    When Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nate Blecharczyk at Airbnb set out to build their company, the world was a different place. The generally accepted truth was that normal people would never be willing to rent out their place--or a single room in their place--to strangers. Nor would they be willing to stay with people they didn't know when they're traveling to other cities.

    But the founders of Airbnb believed "not X," and then built the service to prove it. Thus was born a multi-billion-dollar business that is one of the most meaningful new start-ups to emerge in the past decade.

    We've seen hundreds of proposals for marketplaces of all kinds at the start-up incubator at which I'm a partner, Y Combinator. They are pointed a broad range of industries, types of services, and price points. The commonality, however, is their contrarian nature. Two companies in particular we've seen in the last few years that nail this sort of contrarian thinking are Tutorspree and FlightCar. Let's take a closer look at the innovation in each idea.

    Tutorspree: More Software Doesn't Always Mean Less Friction

    Tutorspree came through Y Combinator in our Winter 2011 batch. Initially, the company's proposal was simple: expose a hard-to-find supply (tutors) to demand (parents of students who need tutoring). Install messaging and payments, sit back, and watch.

    To some extent, the team saw success there as parents sought tutoring for their kids. However, as they analyzed messages between parents and potential tutors, they saw communication frequently break down during the early phases of interaction. The right pieces of information simply weren't getting through.

    Common wisdom among marketplaces is that by building software, you can make things scale quicker, and that people will be able to work together better. But in this case, software was getting in the way. Software helps connect people, but right at the moment of booking a tutor, there's no substitute for having a real live person get in touch.

    So that's what the team did. It's all software up until the point someone wants to book a tutor, at which point a Tutorspree rep gets on the phone and walks people through the next steps. It makes sense--hiring a tutor is a big commitment for a parent!

    Having a human being on the other end radically reduced the time needed to set up tutoring, and quintupled the average sale for the start-up. It may not have been code, but some problems for Web start-ups paradoxically cannot be solved with code alone.

    FlightCar: Cease and Persist

    FlightCar joined the most recent Y Combinator Winter 2013 batch, and when the founders touched down in Silicon Valley, they set out to do what nobody had done before: give people free airport parking by renting their cars out while they're away.

    Travelers get a free car wash, and don't have to pay $18/day for airport parking. People who want rental cars can get higher quality cars for less money than Hertz or Avis. And both renters and parkers get direct curbside pickup and dropoff with no waits for shuttles or vans. Anyone who travels knows avoiding that wait at the end of a long plane journey is a godsend.

    Initially they were mired in the permitting process of local government--they needed a parking lot to store cars while travellers were away. But it turns out they could just rent spaces from existing licensed lots, so that's what they did.

    The company got up and running in February, and were giving customers incredible door-to-door service, picking up and dropping off passengers curbside. New obstacles emerged immediately. When San Francisco International Airport sent them a cease-and-desist for being unlicensed, they ended up hiring black car limousines to shuttle customers back and forth instead, both persisting and bringing the service to a new level of luxury. 

    The FlightCar idea itself is a very profound "not X" that is proving itself to be true right now. As you read this, FlightCar has just opened its second location in Boston, at Logan Airport. Just as at SFO, there will be a huge swath of new obstacles in their path. The team pursues it no matter the obstacle because this is an Airbnb-sized contrarian idea--so much so that Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, decided to invest in FlightCar. The story continues to unfold, but these 19 year old founders are doing the right things. 

    Airbnb, Tutorspree, and FlightCar have all shown that a contrarian nature is necessary to succeed. Marketplace companies face real resistance, both at the idea level (will it work?) and at implementation (will the "powers-that-be" let me do it?). But it is through implementing and building software and getting customers that they overcome the resistance of what the world believes and show that rather than X, it is "not X".

     
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    Anastasia Leng

    Last year, Anastasia Leng decided to leave her secure, cushy job at Google and venture into the land of startups.

    Leng spent a little over five years at Google, where she worked as a product marketing manager. Before she left the tech giant to start Makeably, Leng was living in London where she worked as Google's new business development manager.

    Google asked her if there was anything they could do to keep her, but there really wasn't. It wasn't about the money, Leng tells us. It was either about striking out or succeeding on her own. 

    "My parents fought for everything we’ve ever had," Leng says. "Everything. So I just felt like in some way, I could have this very comfortable life and it would be amazing, but it would almost be the opposite of my parents.”

    But as glamorous as Silicon Valley might seem, it can be tough for first-time entrepreneurs to get their footing. Even for serial entrepreneurs, there's no guarantee that your new product will be as successful as your first.

    Needless to say, there's a huge risk in launching a startup. 

    "I was so scared to leave Google," Leng tells Business Insider. "I was doing well. I had a great manager. All through Google, I had a series of absolutely incredible managers. But then I got the point where I felt, if I don't do this now, I will never ever have the guts to do it again, so I just had to throw myself out there and do it." 

    At Google, anything Leng needed to do, she knew would get done. If she was working on a deal, a marketing campaign, or negotiations, people would always get back to her. But not because of her, Leng says, because of her affiliation with Google. 

    "And now I feel like you're on your own in this big, bad world and you have a lot less appeal because [you] don't have the power of Google," Leng says. "And yet, I've never felt more accomplished because the mistakes you make are yours and the victories you have are yours, too."

    It's all about having that tangible sense of building something, Leng says. But that doesn't necessarily make running a company any easier. The first couple of months, Leng says, were like a rollercoaster.

    "You would find all this emotional energy being spent on it," Leng says. "Which is a good thing. This is our baby."

    Leng, alongside fellow former Googler Ryan Hayward, beta launched Makeably last September. Makeably is a marketplace for custom goods that connects makers with consumers.

    Makeably aims to help makers utilize their underlying skill set to further expand their product offerings and range, and take the risk part of it out. At the same time, it's enabling everyday people to purchase one-of-a-kind items. 

    Potential buyers browse through site's various sections — home, apparel, kids, hobby, and weddings. Once you see something you like, you can request to get a custom version made.

    Let's say you see a pair of leggings, for example. You could upload photos and designs, select your size, and the type of fabric you prefer and get those custom made. You could also get a custom-made vintage TV that you can plug your laptop into, and watch videos in black and white.  

    But over the last few months, Leng says they realized there were two very distinct ways people were using Makeably. There are those who know exactly what they want and are willing to spend an arm and a leg for it. Then there are those who want to remix products and make it their own. The latter group makes up for the majority.

    The desire for personalization has never been so strong, Leng says. Today, people are growing accustomed to personalized products and features, like Facebook's news feed, Pandora and Spotify's playlists, news readers like Flipboard and Zite, and much more.

    “It’s only a matter of time before that goes analog, and we want to be there when it does," Leng says. "That’s really one of the biggest bets that we’re making.”

    SEE ALSO: Meet The CEO Who Lived In A Taco Bell Parking Lot And Now Runs A Cool New Startup

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    Paul GrahamY Combinator is one of the most prestigious startup accelerators in Silicon Valley. 

    It has an acceptance rate similar to that of an Ivy League school, and a track a record for producing billion-dollar-valuation startups, like Dropbox and Airbnb.

    Over the weekend, YC founder Paul Graham tweeted that 37 companies out of the program's 511 startups are either worth at least $40 million, or have sold for that amount. 

    We first saw the news over on TechCrunch.

    The most surprising success story for Graham: Rap Genius, the startup that annotates rap lyrics, literature, and poetry. 

    But what is it actually like once you get accepted into Silicon Valley's most prestigious accelerator? 

    Last year, we compiled thoughts from several Y Combinator founders about the incubator.

    Tikhon Bernstam, cofounder of Parse, says you have to get a year's worth of work done in 10 weeks.

    The best parts are, one, the YC founders support each other. They help with recommendations and suggestions for lawyers, fundraising, testing your product, help through the inevitable ups and downs of startup life, help with setting up payroll, hiring, leads on hires (like engineers), partnerships and deals.  Intros to whoever you need—you could ask for an intro almost anyone and someone in the group would have it (or one of the partners would).

    The Y Combinator partners are top-notch. Their help was critical to almost everyone. They helped with fundraising, constantly pushing you to launch early ("if you're not embarrassed when you launch, you've waited too long").  

    We demoed Parse (and Scribd the last time around) every week at dinner to our classmates, and that really helped push us every week to have something new to show.  The deadline of Demo Day forces you to get a years worth of work done in 10 weeks, and is a great motivator in general.



    Ryan Mickle, cofounder of Yardsale, said the finish line is already in sight as soon as you join.

    One of big advantages to being part of Y Combinator was the unfiltered advice. The partners and alums are exceptionally candid in helping founders navigate around easily avoidable mistakes that could waste time or come back to bite you later. Stuff like financing documents are standardized (and founder friendly) so you don't waste cycles and can focus on building your company. 

    That's not to say that you won't make mistakes—you will—but at least you dodge many of the avoidable ones, without needing to build a network of trusted advisors from scratch. The Y Combinator experience itself is a pressure cooker, as the countdown to Demo Day begins the moment you get in. So you're forced to stay focused and work as hard as you can with the time you have. It seems to work to effectively "reset" your work/social life. At least it seemed like the case for us, since we were one of many who moved down to Mountain View for the summer, leaving many of the things that would have distracted us in the City [San Francisco], so we could work hard to get into the groove of being productive.

    Finally, the support of alums was invaluable. They always seemed to make time when you needed help and the network is large enough that the problems you face are rarely if ever unique. And there definitely seems to be a spirit of indebtedness toward Y Combinator itself, so past founders look forward to helping future founders, because it wasn't that long ago when someone, perhaps an alum or YC partner, did the same for them.



    James Beshara, cofounder of Crowdtilt, says Paul Graham has turned Y Combinator into a "flight control center."

    During the program, I would say that the constraints of 90 days and weekly conversations about your product and growth are invaluable for focus and productivity.

    And since the more recent your batch, the larger the network you graduate into—the network of other founders and companies has become the single biggest factor in why I tell every tech entrepreneur I know that they should apply to Y Combinator.

    In their own words, PG et al. have almost turned into more of a flight control center ... "Oh you're having this problem, talk to these founders. Oh you're selling this solution, these guys need that." It's pretty incredible.



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    andy dunn

    Andy Dunn, founder and CEO at clothing startup Bonobos, recently wrote and posted a pretty harsh letter to "dumb" venture capitalists

    Dunn argues that "dumb" VCs are going out of business. He compares them to retail stores, saying that many of them won't be there in the long-term. 

    Here's the criteria of what makes a "dumb" VC, according to Dunn:

    • "You don't realize you are going out of business." Dunn admits he doesn't know the exact math, but from what he's heard, roughly 2% of VC firms generate 98% of returns in venture capital. 
    • "You think you can help entrepreneurs." Dunn says investors from the top 2% of VC firms never sit down and strategize with their entrepreneurs. 
    • "You spend a ton of an entrepreneur's time before deciding." Dunn argues that VCs should be able to quickly decide whether or not they want to invest. 
    • "You have lots of advice about what entrepreneurs should do." Dunn claims that the top 2% of VC firms never talk to their entrepreneurs once they have already invested. 
    • "You never tried the product." If VCs want to get the deal, Dunn says, they need to show that they care about the mission.
    • "Your portfolio sucks." If at least two companies in a VC's portfolio haven't reached $1 billion in enterprise value, Dunn says, it's not very good. 
    • "You are late." Only top-notch investors can be late to meetings, Dunn says.

    SEE ALSO: Why Y Combinator Is The Hottest Startup School In Silicon Valley

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    Everyone knows that starting companies — and investing in startups — is a risky way to earn a living.

    But few people appreciate just how risky it is.

    Thanks to a recent tweet from Paul Graham, the founder of "startup school" Y Combinator, we now have a better idea.

    Graham says that 37 of the 511 companies that have gone through the Y Combinator program over the past 5 years have either sold for, or are now worth, more than $40 million.

    Most entrepreneurs would probably view creating a company worth more than $40 million as a success (unless the company raised more capital than that). And, on its face, the "37 companies" number seems relatively impressive.

    In fact, however, the number tells a scary and depressing story.

    This number suggests that a startling 93% of the companies that get accepted by Y Combinator eventually fail.

    (Not all companies that sell for less than $40 million are "failures," obviously. Assuming a company hasn't raised much capital, a sale between $5 million and $40 million could be considered a success. But a high percentage of Y Combinator companies likely end up being worth zero. And for companies that are hand-picked by very smart investors, the 93%-below-$40 million rate is still surprisingly low). 

    A company accepted by Y Combinator, therefore, has less than a 1-in-10 chance of being a big success.

    More alarmingly, the companies accepted by Y Combinator are only a tiny fraction of the companies that apply.

    Some have estimated that Y Combinator's acceptance rate is 3-5%.

    If we use the 5% rate, we can estimate that Y Combinator has received about 10,000 applications for the ~500 companies it has chosen over the years.

    Assuming Y Combinator has even a modest ability to pick winners, therefore, the odds that a company applying to Y Combinator will be a success are significantly lower than the odds of success of the companies accepted into the program.

    If only 37 of the companies that have applied to Y Combinator over the years have succeeded, this is a staggeringly low 0.4% success rate.

    Put differently, only one in every 200 companies that applies to Y Combinator will succeed.

    The reality is that Y Combinator probably misses a few winners, so the actual odds are probably slightly higher.

    But in case any entrepreneur or angel investor is deluding themselves into thinking that startups are an easy way to cash in, they might want to think again.

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    Andy Dunn

    Cash is king, so venture capitalists often have the upper hand when it comes to meeting with early-stage entrepreneurs.

    But when startups become big and awesome, the tables turn. Some venture capitalists get that. Others don't seem to.

    One frustrated entrepreneur, Andy Dunn, has met with a number of investors for his clothing startup, Bonobos. He wrote a rant that described "dumb VCs" he and other entrepreneurs have dealt with.

    Bonobos is an e-commerce company that has raised more than $70 million. Its clothing is sold online and nationwide in Nordstrom stores. Dunn raised $30 million in March, and that fundraising process may have inspired the rant.

    Dunn described one "dumb" investor he met with six times. That person never offered to invest but he also never turned Dunn down. Instead, he just wasted Dunn's time. Later, when Dunn didn't inform him about his funding round, the investor acted confused.

    "Dear Dumb VC, it’s not my job to call you. It’s your job to call me," Dunn writes. "And the fact that we spent all that time together, and you never got me a term sheet is a strong indicator that you’d rather do what’s in your worst interests than what’s in my best."

    Jeremy Lieu of Lightspeed, however, wowed Dunn. Lieu came into his first two meetings visibly prepared.

    "One of the reasons Jeremy Liew from Lightspeed is an investor in Bonobos is he showed up in our first two meetings wearing my pants!" Dunn writes. It proved Liew had tried Dunn's product.

    Dunn concludes his post with another anecdote from a fellow entrepreneur. The founder is now working on a billion-dollar startup, but early on, he was blown off by a VC.

    "This VC was seventy-five minutes late to meeting with me. He never called to say he was running late. When he got to the office, I wouldn’t meet with him. He groveled to get into meeting with me, and my team was pressuring me to just take the conversation, but I told them to politely tell him that he missed the meeting. That night, as he had flown into town to see me, he kept offering drinks or dinner to make up for it via email. He then went so far as to say his partners would be livid with him for screwing this up. I never took the meeting with him and I never rescheduled. I’d never get another meeting with him if I blew off his time like this, so why should he get another meeting with me?"

    "Dumb VCs" aside, even good VCs have botched great startup deals.

    Here are some of their biggest regrets.

    I BLEW IT: 11 VCs Regret The Huge Companies They Said "No" To >

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    woman girl mouth eat cheeto

    There's a growing number of startups focusing on the food market. 

    That's likely because, as VC Dave McClure says, the market opportunity for food technology is huge.

    Last year, investors poured in roughly $350 million into food startups, according to CB Insights.

    Last month, Food Hackathon hosted its inaugural event in San Francisco with the goal of teaming up entrepreneurs, developers, and designers to create products geared toward the food ecosystem. 

    And just last week, Seamless and GrubHub announced a merger, bringing even more attention to food startups. 

    HealthyOut helps people find meals at local restaurants that match your diet.

    Startup: HealthyOut

    Founded: 2012

    Location: New York, N.Y.

    Founders: Jonathan Hironaga, Wendy Nguyen, Dan Myers

    Concept: HealthyOut helps you find dishes at local restaurants that match your diet criteria. Once you select your diet restrictions, HealthyOut plans out your weekly meals (lunch and dinner) for you and delivers them right to your door. HealthyOut is currently available in New York, lower Manhattan to be exact.

    Funding: $1.2 million from 500 Startups, Bradley Harrison Ventures, Peter Horan, Jan Brandt, Dave Kassling, Josh Knowles, and others. 



    UNREAL takes the junk out of candies and eventually snacks.

    Startup: UNREAL

    Founded: 2012

    Location: Boston, Mass.

    Founders: Nicky Bronner, Michael Bronner, Adam Melonas

    Concept: UNREAL offers a line of candies that are just as delicious as their mainstream counterparts, but without all the junk. 

    UNREAL doesn't use any corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, genetically modified organisms, or preservatives. Instead, it uses all natural ingredients and is made with 40% less sugar than candies from major brands. 

    Funding: Undisclosed amount from Khosla Ventures and Raptor Consumer Partners.



    ZeroCater is aiming to make office-wide lunches easier.

    Startup: ZeroCater

    Founded: 2009

    Location: San Francisco, Calif.

    Founder: Arram Sabeti

    Concept: ZeroCater aims to prevent Sad Desk Lunch by helping companies coordinate family-style catering for their employees. It turns out that half of all adults who eat at work (47%) do so at their desks, which carry 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, according to a study last December.

    ZeroCarer only works with the best local restaurants and accommodates any dietary restrictions. ZeroCater is currently available in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.

    Funding: $1.5 million from Keith Rabois, Paul Buchheit, Yuri Milner, SV Angel, Start Fund, Stewart Alsop, Justin Kan, Emmett Shear, and others. 



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