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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Peter has been been a part of building companies like Photobucket and was responsible for driving growth to 61M users, leading its $300M acquisition in 2007. Peter then turned his energy in helping people save money as CEO of BillShrink from inception to their 1st Million users in a little over a year.

    Continuing the journey of building early stage companies Peter was the Co-Founder & President of Color exploring the future of mobile and social interactions through proximity. Now at Science he helps build alongside CEO’s companies like Dollar Shave Club, DogVacay, Uncovet, Ellie and Let’s Date. 

    Q: You grew one of your first startups Photobucket to 61m users which in turn got it acquired for $300M. You then launched BillShrink and quickly grew it to 1M users. What was your strategy in acquiring users?

    Customer acquisition has changed a bit over the years as a great product will continue to have channels such as Facebook and Twitter to accelerate through word of mouth. For both Photobucket and BillShrink we definitely had a product that was differentiated, but in both cases some big business development deals made the difference.

    For Photobucket we embraced the ecosystem and jumped on the backs of other social networks like MySpace, Bebo and others by providing the utility of uploading/sharing photos and videos. For BillShrink we partnered up with T-Mobile who then ran national television ads. In both cases the key was to find partners that you could help fill a need for.

    Q: What was some early advice you received when trying to close business deals/pitches and who was it from?

    Well, I have a motto, which if you watch the Glengarry Glen Ross clip on youtube, you know that you should ABC:

    Always Be Closing

    But the best advice is that it takes a long time to build up genuine relationships and friendships. I’ve been lucky over the years that the friends I’ve made went on to jobs at companies and it became easier to start because I at least had a foot in the door. Even on cold calls, the important thing to find is how you can help them. Most people look at sales and business development as a one way street. You really have to paint a picture on why it’s going to help them out.

    Q: As president and co-founder of Science you have been instrumental in the launch of some successful startups including Dollar Shave Club, Wittlebee, DogVacay and Eventup. What is your greatest challenge in building a startup?

    Greatest challenge is I always feel like we aren’t moving fast enough. The world is changing at such a fast pace, competition and consumer mind share rapidly shifts. So focusing on doing one great thing and then getting there quickly is what I find helps in pushing companies towards success.

    Q: What is one piece of advice you usually offer to startups out there struggling to raise capital?

    Above I said ABC, but I also have a motto:

    ABR – Always Be Raising

    Startups need cash, consistently to build their company. Always be in pitch mode, refine the pitch over and over. It takes a hundred pitches to get to the right story. The key is always telling the story with passion, but also with clarity. Don’t get discouraged by no’s. Last year I had 1,300 no’s. However, I also got 80 yeses which translated into $80M. Surround yourself with smarter people, get smarter advisors and always ask for help.

    Please follow War Room on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Foursquare Office Tour

    James Somers, a Web developer in his mid-twenties, planned to quit the field and become a freelance writer.

    He had a sweet first assignment lined-up too. He was going to write a profile about Douglas Hofstadter, and magazines were already lining up to pay him $10,000 to $20,000 to publish it.

    But then he got a job offer to go back into Web development.

    These were the terms:

    "$150,000 in salary, a $10,000 signing bonus, stock options, a free gym membership, excellent health and dental benefits, a new cellphone, and free lunch and dinner every weekday. My working day would start at about 11am. It would end whenever I liked, sometime in the early evening. The work would rarely strain me. I’d have a lot of autonomy and responsibility. My co-workers would be about my age, smart, and fun."

    Somers took the job.

    In an article for Aeon, Somers reflects on his own experiences and explains why people like him get paid so much.

    He writes:

    These days the cost of finding out whether a start-up is actually going to succeed isn’t hundreds of millions of dollars — it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s the cost of a couple of laptops and the salary you pay the founders while they try stuff. A $100 million pool of venture capital, instead of seeding five or 10 start-ups, can now seed 1,000 small experiments, most of which will fail, one of which will become worth a billion dollars.

    And so there is a frenzy on.

    You can see why I’m in such good shape. In this particular gold rush the shovel is me. We web developers are the limiting reagent of every start-up experiment, we’re the sine qua non, because we’re the only ones who know how to reify app ideas as actual working software. In fact, we are so much the essence of these small companies that, in Silicon Valley, a start-up with no revenue is said to be worth exactly the number of developers it has on staff. The rule of thumb is that each one counts for $1 million.

    It helps that there aren’t enough of us to go around. I’m told by a friend at Bloomberg that they missed their quarterly tech hiring target in New York by 200 people. I get at least two enquiries a week from headhunters trying to lure me from my current job. If I say that I’m actively looking, I become a kind of local celebrity, my calendar fills with coffees and conversations, reverse-interviews where start-ups try to woo me.

    It’s as if the basic structure of this sector of the global economy has been designed for my benefit. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    namely matt straz

    Namely, startup that helps organizations manage their data and employees in the cloud, has raised a $3.35 million Series A round of investment.

    Investors include True Ventures, Lerer Ventures and Bullpen Capital; clients include Gary Vaynerchuk's Vayner Media, Birchbox, Buzzfeed, and advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

    Unlike Yammer and other enterprise social networks, Namely's core function isn't communication. It's data. Namely organizes company data in the cloud and makes it accessible to everyone across multiple devices, all the time. It offers mobile apps and allows organizations to access employee performance reviews, meeting schedules, synced calendars and more. Even in organizations with tens of thousands of people, every employee can be easily searched and found by another.

    "Prior to Namely we were running our company on more than a half dozen different spreadsheets." VaynerMedia COO AJ Vaynerchuk says of the service. "Namely has centralized all of our company's important data and is helping us to manage our people and teams far more efficiently."

    Namely launched in January 2012 and was founded by serial entrepreneur, Matt Straz. Straz sold his last company, Pictela, to AOL in 2010.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    ellie cachette

    There were so many times our start-up almost failed, we joked it was a cockroach, a life form in its own right that, simply put, would never die.

    There were times when we barely could pay our Rackspace bill, and one time I distinctly remember our blog being down because we forgot to pay that bill. There was also the time one of our investors cut our credit line in half, unexpectedly, right as we made a huge payment. And then the time our lead customer, two days before integration, committed suicide. Then the time a few weeks after that when our CTOs wife committed suicide.

    There are so many things privately and publicly known about ConsumerBell that its nearly a miracle that we’ve made it where we are today. Any person close to us will say we have had no shortage of miracles and most startups that really make it far have similar stories; years where founders did contract work, or full teams were let go. We even moved my full apartment into the office hallway for a day while I was 24 hours between a lease, and experienced two hurricane blackouts in NYC and an earthquake that rocked our Park Ave office one summer.

    Many of these things happened in our first year as a startup when our sole focus should be product. I remember after a trip to D.C, a water pipe exploded above our printers. We just went around the corner to a cafe. There’s always a wifi spot, a cup of coffee or an employees apartment to stakeout. ConsumerBell just would not die.

    Similarly to a recently engaged couple and the way grandparents always ask, “When are you having kids?” there reaches a point where for a startup people are wondering, when you are going to IPO or raise the next round? Or have rocket ship growth? And sometimes it just never happens or even worse, sometimes like with Pandora or Tumblr it takes a while. There is this correlation between staying alive and rocketship growth. To get there the first part is staying alive and many other variables added to rocketship growth. Simply put just breath.

    Yet at some point something changes: the founder gets bored, the company starts making money in a pivot that wasn’t part of the original vision or even funds run low but not low enough to justify shutting the doors - especially when there's revenue involved. Sometimes a startup is well funded but just can’t seem to see a path of success like it thought and returns its money to investors, sometimes the market changes or the industry changes and now what was a “big” idea is only a feature but something need and so is true for the opposite when what was once a feature in time becomes a company.. Not every startup becomes a huge success like Facebook but not every startup fails either. There are plenty of startups in the middle, in purgatory of success waiting for the right VC or new CEO or market environment to change.

    In the meantime what is a team or founder to do?

    1. Sabbatical

    From what I have heard, founders who take sabbaticals or vacations actually come back refreshed and with a new sense of balance. There's a couple reasons for this: after massive sleep deprivation and zero separation between work and personal life, taking a step back often reminds a founder of the things that they want in their personal life and gives motivation to the work life and while in a lull this can upset investors or look like avoidance, its in almost every case helped the company and lets be honest, if a company is going to die it isn't going to die in one week but be surprised at how much sleep a founder might need and you probably wouldn’t want many friends around. Stories of founders sleeping for days straight are not uncommon.

    2. Reflect and Document

    Having a lull or time for reflection can also be inspiring, its a good time to document all HR files, product road maps, organize digital assets, clean up email boxes and media content accounts like YouTube, upload missing content, re-share content on twitter. In many cases potential acquirers will be want to know many of these things like how many digital assets (files and images) to taxes and press lists. It never fails that when the acquisition opportunity arises founders are usually too busy with other things so doing it when possible is not only therapeutic but efficient. Also in the process you might find a gem or two of inspiration.

    3. Help Other Startups

    Dedicate a portion of time to help other startups in different phases. This will be refreshing to transfer knowledge and also help spread the word of what you are working on in a way that could spark new ideas or allies. When all seems lost helping others often reminds a founder of the world outside its own startup and can give perspective.

    4. Do Something Different

    One thing founders certainly give up is their personal lives and can albeit even forget what a personal life is making decision one sided. Take a class, do something random, spend a week with family somewhere far. Do something totally different and step out of the founders role.

    5. Don’t shut down

    airBnb had to sell cereal at one point to keep their company alive, in the early days of FedEx their CEO gambled his money at blackjack to win and make payroll. Evernote the night before closing its doors received a $500k investment from a user in Sweden and Blogger (which sold for rumors between $20MM and $50MM) to Google had to lay off every single employee before finally getting acquired. That founder, Evan Williams went off to start what is now Twitter today, so the greatest thing a founder can do when their startup isn’t failing is to make sure it doesn’t die. Timing is everything.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    4353148011_3581772615_bToday, an app headquartered in Israel called Waze was acquired by Google.

    The price: $1 billion, plus $100 million in employee retention and incentives.

    Waze is an interactive navigation app for iOS and Android with more than 40 million registered users. It was founded in 2007 by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine. Noam Bardin is the company's CEO. It previously raised $67 million from investors.

    Now you know what it is. Here's how it works.

    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 enter them.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Eugene Chung

    Eugene Chung, who was hired to replace David Tisch as Managing Director of TechStars New York in January, is no longer with the startup accelerator program.

    The personnel change comes just two weeks before Demo Day, when 11 startups out of 1,700 applicants will present to a room full of press and investors.

    David Cohen, founder of TechStars, confirmed the news via email stating that Chung wasn't "a good fit." He added that TechStars is built for these kind of swift changes.

    "We have full redundancy built into the model and Nicole Glaros has been here all along," Cohen says.

    Glaros founded three startups and was Managing Director of TechStars' flagship program in Boulder, Colorado before being named interim Managing Director for Tisch in November. Chung worked for venture capital firm NEA before he was hired by Cohen.

    The change is surprising because of the close proximity to Demo Day, and because TechStars was diligent when hiring Chung. Tisch resigned from the position last August and Cohen spent months hand-picking his successor. Chung was selected from a pool of 35 candidates. It's not yet clear what led to Chung's departure or who will replace him.

    Chung could not be reached for comment.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    snapchat founder evan spiegelWhen consumer startups like Foursquare, Snapchat and Instagram raise millions of dollars without generating much (or any) revenue, people tend to flip out.

    "But they don't make money! How will they ever make money?!" critics want to know.

    If you've ever wondered that, Greylock Principal Josh Elman says you've been demanding an answer to the wrong question.

    "The primary challenge with building a large consumer company is not 'how will you make money,' but 'how do you get to be a long-standing durable network and define a new set of behaviors or verbs?'” Elman writes on Medium.

    In addition, he asks the following four questions to make sure a startup isn't just a "flash-in-the-pan":

    1. Is there a new behavior here that you can see 100M+ people doing?
    2. Is the product evolving in a way where people are getting more and more engaged and committed over time?
    3. Will the growth be sustainable?
    4. If the product succeeds at scale, can you monetize the key behaviors?

    "If you believe that the behavior can be big, and can grow big, then you’ve answered the biggest questions," writes Elman. "But once you have that, it is a good idea to gut check whether at scale there will be enough of the primary use case and behavior that can be monetized in a meaningful way."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    fueled office tour bi dng 8980The Fueled Collective is a 18,000 square foot co-working office space in New York City's posh SoHo neighborhood.

    The Collective was started by Rameet Chawla and Ryan Matzner as a new business to complement the company's lucrative app development firm, Fueled.

    Chawla has been involved with the tech industry since 2004. His primary company, Fueled, makes gorgeous apps for heavyweight companies like Porsche, Ducati, Proctor & Gamble, Hallmark, and the Chicago Bulls, to name a few.

    Chawla envisions The Collective as a place where his company can work alongside like-minded startups to further collaboration and community. He spared no expense designing and hand-crafting many of The Collective's staple pieces.

    What has resulted is an extremely luxurious, comfortable, and classy office space that would make even the top office designers jealous.

    A single desk will set you back $650 per month and they are all gone ahead of today's big reveal.

    For companies that want to secure a spot in The Collective, all hope isn't lost. There is a waiting list you can sign up for. But if you're dying to see The Collective in person you can always arrange a personal tour.

    The Fueled Collective is a brand-new co-working space in New York's posh SoHo neighborhood.

    As soon as you enter the 18,000 square foot space you feel comfortable. This is the office's "Moneypenny" Chelsea Bingham.

    Each of the desk areas is broken down into different sections. If your group needs peace and quiet you'll be placed in a section that's away from those that are more animated.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    adam huieTinder is one of the latest crazes in the mobile dating space.

    It's a simple way to let someone know if you think they're hot. If they think you're hot, too, then you can start chatting.

    Adam Huie, the new CEO at dating startup Let's Date, co-founded Hatch Labs, the mobile incubator that launched Tinder. 

    That's why he's arguably a great fit for the CEO position at Let's Date. 

    Here's how the app works.

    Everyone on Let's Date has a dater card, which features basic information like age, sex, and interest. It also has more interesting information, like your "kink factor," and willingness to have sex on a first date.

    Once you're in the app, you swipe through dating cards and if you like what you see, you can click "Let's Date." If that person hits "Let's Date" on your profile, the two of you will be able to chat and plan your first date.

    Let's Date also tracks dates and their outcomes. In order to improve matches and offline relationships, Let's Date is employing a dating expert to help its users find love. Huie likens it to Loveline, the call-in radio show that offers relationship advice to listeners. 

    There are, of course, numerous dating apps and services out there. In fact, it almost seems like there's a new one every day.

    "People like to have options and each app's kind of known for it's own thing," Huie says. "Tinder is a very easy way to get that initial spark and it's really fun to use. But Let’s Date is a destination to actually go on a real date, and have serious relationships. It kind of and it depends on what people are looking for that day or that week."

    But Huie says the space is hitting an inflection point, and there's only really room for maybe five or six key mobile apps.

    "I think that a lot of those ones coming out now are going to get weeded out," Huie says. 

    Update: An earlier version of this story mistakenly called Huie an ex-Tinder developer. That is not true. Rather, Huie led co-founded Hatch Labs, the mobile incubator that launched Tinder. 

    SEE ALSO: A Dating Startup Is Giving Bored Couples A Way To Live Vicariously Through Their Single Friends

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    shutterstock founder ceo jon oringer

    New York's Silicon Alley startup scene just got its first billionaire. 

    Shutterstock founder Jonathan Oringer officially became a billionaire today when the company's shares hit a record high this morning, Bloomberg's David de Jong and Max Raskin report

    Shutterstock, a stock photo and video site, went public last October.  

    The 39-year-old owns about 55% of Shutterstock. His 18.5 million shares were valued at $1 billion earlier this morning. 

    There are, of course, other tech billionaires from New York, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But Oringer is the first to come out of Silicon Alley's Internet scene, according to RBC Capital Market analyst Andre Sequin.

    Earlier this month, the New York tech scene got a major bump when Tumblr sold to Yahoo for $1.1 billion. 

    After news of the deal went live, people were quick to call Tumblr founder David Karp a billionaire. But Karp raked in an estimated $275 million from the deal. 

    SEE ALSO:  It's Pretty Stunning How Many Billion-Dollar Startups There Are Now

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    dan portillo

    Greylock Partners is a pretty impressive venture capital firm. 

    The partners there bet on massively successful tech firms Facebook, LinkedIn, DropBox, and Airbnb back when they were tiny, risky startups.

    The firm tells us one reason it's had so many startups do so well is that Greylock helps its portfolio companies hire.

    What kind of help does it offer? What kind of insights into hiring does it provide?

    Ordinarily, you'd have to be a brilliant entrepreneur willing to sell a portion of your fast-growing startup to find out.

    Not today.

    Today you get to see the PowerPoint deck Greylock's "VP of Talent," Dan Portillo, uses to coach up portfolio CEOs on hiring.

    Portillo is famous for being the guy who staffed non-profit Mozilla between 2005 and 2010 – back when Mozilla's browser, Firefox, was kicking Microsoft's butt.

    "I created this deck to serve as a resource not only for founders and hiring managers, but anyone who is part of the interview process."

    Want a peek?

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    arrington huffington conway

    It sounds impressive when a founder sells a startup for tens of millions of dollars.

    But it sounds really impressive when a company sells it for hundreds of millions of dollars.

    As a founder, which option is better? For many, a smaller exit should be the desired outcome.

    The short reason: lower-valued startups take less time to scale and less venture capital to fuel which means founders will likely own higher percentages of their companies when they sell.

    There are also fewer acquirers as the price of your company increases. And when an acquirer does come along, there's more due diligence which means sealing the deal can take much more time.

    Unless you have a hot company like Instagram. Then you can forget all of that and close a billion-dollar acquisition in 48 hours. 

    Let's look at some examples.

    • Bleacher Report sold to Turner for a little more than $200 million five years after it was founded. But between four founders and more than $40 million raised, each was diluted to 5-10% stakes. That means each founder walked away with about $10 million after the sale.
    • Arianna Huffington, Ken Lerer and Jonah Peretti also sold their startup, The Huffington Post, to AOL six years after it was founded. Their price was a lofty $315 million. Each owned different percentages, with Ken Lerer earning significantly more than Huffington. Huffington reportedly owned less than 14% of the company and took home an estimated $18 million.
    • But look! Michael Arrington sold TechCrunch to AOL for about $30 million five years after he founded it. He reportedly owned 80% of the company when he sold it because he never raised any venture capital. That means he took home about $24 million before taxes – more than Arianna Huffington.
    • For a non-media example, there's ThinkNear, a TechStars company founded by Eli Portnoy. It sold to Scout Advertising for $22.5 million 18 months after its launch. It had raised $1.63 million. At the time of its acquisition, it had a Series A term sheet for $4 million. If ThinkNear had turned down the acquisition and taken the Series A investment, Portnoy says his share of the company would have been diluted an additional 25-30%.
    • Jeff Richards, who is now an investor at GGV Capital, tried both kinds of companies. Early in his entrepreneurial career, he founded a company that was valued at $250 million but Richards says he walked away with nothing. In 2003 he started another company, R4. Two years later he sold it to VeriSign for less than $20 million. That time, Richards says both the founders and investors were "thrilled" with the outcome. 

    So who would you rather be, a Portnoy and an Arrington? Or a Huffington? All made roughly the same amount of cash but for Portnoy and Richards, the smaller exits took significantly less time.

    The decision to go big or stay small is one entrepreneurs shouldn't take lightly.

    Arrington says he nearly accepted VC money for TechCrunch four times. He initially didn't raise money because it wasn't an option. In 2005 investors were less willing to write checks. 

    "When I started my first company, Achex, we raised $18 million in venture capital in 2000 from DFJ," Arrington wrote to Business Insider in an email. "The company later sold for $32 million, but due to a 2x liquidity preference (common in those days), the founders essentially got nothing, just a few hundred thousand dollars to not block the deal."

    Arrington says he raised so much then because it was nearly impossible to build that kind of business without a lot of capital. "These were the days when you had to buy Oracle database stuff, and there were no easy hosting options like Amazon and Google offer...Today, most startups don't have multi-million dollar infrastructure costs just to get the service launched. So there is less need for capital to get to market."

    Raising a lot of money at a high valuation has its benefits.  It can mean overtaking competitors, which are prevalent in early stages (GroupMe had to battle Fast Society before selling to Skype, Foursquare had to beat Gowalla, etc). It can also make a difference in hiring. 

    It's easier to attract engineers and other talent when you have brand-name investors tied to your business and you can offer attractive salaries. Arrington recalls his difficulty luring his business partner, Heather Harde, away from News Corp where he says she was making $1 million. All he could offer was a $150,000 base and stock options.

    Arrington sometimes wonders how much further he could have taken TechCrunch had he taken funding. "I often wonder if we could have grown faster, expanded in other ways, if we had raised money and were less frugal," he wrote. 

    For Portnoy, the pros of staying small and selling early outweighed the risk of raising a lot.

    Portnoy had a family to support and no nest of cash to fall back on. An acquisition would make his financial situation much more comfortable. In addition, one of his board members had run a company that took a lot of funding and eventually went public. Even though that board member's company had an exit 30 times larger than Portnoy's, he ended up with about the same amount of cash.

    Lastly, Portnoy knew most entrepreneurs only get one shot at a startup. If they fail, it's the end of the road. But if they're able to get an exit under their belts quickly, more opportunities present themselves later. Investors are eager to back founders who have successful track records. And obtaining personal wealth means a different, sometimes bigger mindset the next time around.

    It's important to note that while smaller exits may benefit entrepreneurs, it doesn't always benefit investors.

    "As a VC, I am now investing in companies shooting for outcomes >$200M, but it’s not the right model for every entrepreneur or every company," Richards says. 

    Arrington, another entrepreneur turned investor, referred to a startup his firm CrunchFund backed that sold early against investors' wishes.

    (Side note: When an investor's and entrepreneur's exit plans don't align, investors occasionally offer to let founders take money off the table. Then, even if they go for a big exit and the company fails, the founders have a financial cushion. Snapchat's founders just did that; each was given $10 million in addition to the $60 million their startup raised.)

    Although Arrington doesn't see himself founding another company, he says he'd always opt to raise as little money as possible. "In general I'd only raise venture capital if I absolutely had to. I'd raise it opportunistically based on market conditions to take as little dilution as possible. And I'd spend that VC money the same way I spend my own money in business - extremely frugally," he said. 

    Jonah Peretti, who co-founded The Huffington Post and now runs another high-valued company BuzzFeed, offers different advice.

    "My advice is you shouldn't do a startup for financial reasons," he wrote via email. "Most startups fail and there are easier ways to make money with less risk...And if a company is successful, which is very hard to achieve, the money comes whether you build a fat company or a lean one.  Mike [Arrington] and Arianna [Huffington] both did great financially.  So did Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Systrom.  How many yachts can you water ski behind?"

    SEE ALSO: 12 Common Mistakes Startups Make In Their First Year

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    This past Sunday I was visiting a friend. She had a bag of popcorn on her kitchen table and I asked her if I could have it. 

    I took the bag of popcorn home, but realized I didn't have a microwave. I had been meaning to buy one recently, but just hadn't gotten around to it.

    The weather was bad and I didn't want to go out and get one so I decided to try out a new app called WunWun.popcorn wunwunWunWun stands for "Whatever You Need Whenever You Need It." The 24-hour fulfillment service was born from CEO Lee Hnetinka's idea to create an on-demand service for anything. That was late last year.

    Fast forward to today: Hnetinka has a six-person staff helping him run the startup.

    And it really does work. WunWun employs real people who will run errands for you. It's only available for Manhattan residents right now.

    On Sunday, I entered my request through the app and within minutes I received a text message from the WunWun helper that was assigned to me, Zora:

    wunwun mix

    Because I didn't specify a type of microwave or a place to get it from, Zora suggested Best Buy.

    I looked up a a microwave online and asked her to see if she could find that one.

    About 20 minutes later, I got a text from Zora with a photo of the available microwaves. I selected the one I wanted, she bought it, and Zora arrived at my house about 20 minutes later with my new microwave. 

    Overall the experience was seamless. I didn't leave my couch but got exactly what I wanted, and fast.

    microwave wunwunWith WunWun you download an iPhone app, enter your credit card information, address, and a few other pieces of basic information, then you enter a request.

    (WunWun is currently invitation-only, but if you're itching to try out the service, WunWun is giving Business Insider readers a way to jump the waiting list. By clicking this link, you'll get instant access and a $15 credit to try WunWun out. Remember: WunWun currently only works in Manhattan.)

    WunWun is a hat tip to the buzzy-but-failed startup, Kozmo was a web courier service that shuttered in 2001, four years after it was introduced.

    Kozmo promised to deliver just about anything you wanted in about an hour. The company sold brand-name products from its own distribution centers (something WunWun doesn't do). Kozmo's then-CEO cited expanding too quickly into too many markets as one of the biggest reasons for its failure.

    That's a lesson Hnetinka is taking to heart.

    "Our plan for expansion is to own Manhattan," Hnetinka said. "Once we are at a point where we feel Manhattan is ours and sort of ubiquitous we'll move to other places."

    WunWun takes the best from Kozmo and another popular service called Postmates, which is available in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. But Hnetinka is making sure he avoids Kozmo's mistakes by slowing his expansion.

    "We're more into the fulfillment business rather than just a delivery service," Hnetinka said.

    You're charged a $15 flat fee for any delivery, plus the price of the merchandise.

    room service
    Users can also request helpers to stand in line for concert tickets, clean up after a party, or put furniture together. 

    For other services that don't fit into the above parameters but require time, you are charged $2 per 5 minutes or $24 per hour. Helpers get $15 out of thr $24 and WunWun banks $9 per hour. Helpers are paid contractors; they are not employed by WunWun. 

    The company is always looking for new helpers and you can check out job opportunities at

    WunWun is available for iPhone for free. If you want to check out the service for yourself, the company is letting Business Insider readers skip the waiting list plus a free $15 credit. Sign up for the app by clicking here

    SEE ALSO: 15 Apps Everyone Is Talking About Right Now

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    Whisper girls

    Need a hookup buddy?

    There's an app for that.

    Want to thumb up or down pictures of women's cleavage?

    There's an app for that too.

    Yes, people have created every offensive and controversial thing you could fathom.

    Lulu is a girls-only app that lets women anonymously rate and objectify men.

    Who created it: Alexandra Chong

    Where you can find it:

    More about it: On Lulu, men aren't allowed in, and women can anonymously rate them without their consent.  The men, who are all guys the women know via Facebook, are rated on a scale of one to ten. Their profiles are automatically pulled in when the women they know access Lulu. Hashtags women are encouraged to use to describe men include #Big Feet and #OneWomanMan for pros, and #ObsessedWithHisMom and #NapoleonComplex for cons. It is a venture-backed startup that has raised multiple millions from investors.

    Bang With Friends helps you turn friends into hook-up buddies.

    Who created it: Colin Hodge and Omri Mor

    Where you can find it:

    More about it: Bang with Friends (BWF) is a Facebook app that does exactly what you're thinking it does. It helps people on Facebook find friends to hook up with rather than date. It pulls in profile pictures on a single page and you can click on the friends you'd like to "bang." If that friend wants to have sex with you too, your intentions are made clear and you can message each other. It's gained so much traction that a few investors have decided to give it some funding.

    Tinder lets you scroll through Facebook profile pictures and judge people's looks.

    Who created it: Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, Jonathan Badeen, Christopher Gulczynski

    Where you can find it:

    More about it: Here's how Tinder works: Tinder shows you someone nearby it thinks you should know, who's single and about your age. You can anonymously like this person or skip to the next suggestion. If someone you like happens to like you back, then Tinder makes an introduction& lets you chat within the app. It may be controversial to judge people's looks, but the app has already produced more than 50 engagements and 75 million matches.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    beachmint party sxsw

    UPDATE: We have now spoken with both Beachmint's CEO Diego Berdakin and its board member, NEA Pete Sonsini. Both say the initial PandoDaily report is inaccurate. Specifically, Berdakin and Berman have not been fired, and no money is being returned to investors. The updated story with comments from Berdakin, Sonsini and insight from PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy can be found here.

    The original Business Insider article, which was based on the inaccurate report and titled "Richly-Funded Startup Beachmint Has Flopped And It's Reportedly Returning $20 Of Its $74 Million To Investors*, is below.

    Original Post:

    Beachmint, a celebrity-endorsed e-commerce startup in Los Angeles, is toast.

    According to PandoDaily's Michael Carney, both BeachMint's CEO and President have been ousted by the board. Investors, which include NEA, Goldman Sachs and Accel Partners, will receive $20 million of the $73.5 million Beachmint has raised since its founding less than three years ago.

    The news comes after Josh Berman and Diego Berdakin, the company's cofounders (CEO and President respectively) spent significant time trying to raise a new round of financing. Carney says the pair were making frequent trips abroad trying to round up "dumb money" to save their struggling business. Competitors ShoeDazzle and JustFab have emerged as category leaders although it isn't clear those businesses are sustainable either. Carney says only two of Beachmint's brands, JewelMint and ShoeMint, ever showed significant traction signs and they weren't enough to keep BeachMint afloat.

    Last year, BeachMint was in talks to merge with ShoeDazzle but the discussions fell apart.

    Beachmint isn't the first over-hyped and over-funded startup to fall. Recently Viddy, another NEA-backed company, raised at a $350 million valuation. It was a fast-growing video sharing app that emerged on the heels of Instagram's ~$700 million exit. In May, Viddy returned $18 million to investors following an overhaul of its management team.

    Beachmint's Diego Berdakin has not returned a request for comment.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    wine glass shatter shot explode

    Update: Contrary to an initial report in PandoDaily, Beachmint board member and NEA investor Pete Sonsini says Beachmint is not returning any money to investors.

    If you follow the world of startups, you know Beachmint, Lot18 and Viddy have all made headlines over the past few years.

    Initially, they were recognized for raising big rounds of financing from notable investors. Each has raised more than $35 million (and in Beachmint's case more than $70 million) to date. Now, they're suffering management changes, layoffs, and some of their products are shutting down. One of them, Viddy, is reportedly returning close to $20 million to investors.*

    Beachmint is a celebrity-endorsed e-commerce company, Viddy is a social video app with filters, and Lot18 is a wine sales platform.

    The common factor in all of those companies, besides their initial hype and struggles, is one of their investors, New Enterprise Associates (NEA). NEA invested in Lot18's Series B and Series C rounds totaling $40 million. It invested in every Beachmint round of financing totaling $73.5 million. And it invested in Viddy's $30 million round.

    NEA also invested in Loosecubes, a startup that went belly up just as NEA was joining a $7.8 million round of financing in it last summer. Then there's SAY Media, another NEA investment which recently suffered significant layoffs.

    Battery Ventures is also paying the price for similar investments. Battery Ventures was invested in Viddy prior to NEA's $30 million round as well as Loosecubes.

    That's not to say either firm is in trouble. It takes years to know how a VC's portfolio will fair. NEA has a giant $2.6 billion fund that it raised in July 2012 to keep it running for a long time. All it takes is one or two home runs to return an entire fund. And NEA has gotten its hands in a number of promising startups, such as 10gen, Duolingo, BuzzFeed and Braintree.

    But it's hard to ignore that over the past two years, a few of it's biggest picks have gone south.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    BeachmintJosh Berman Diego Berdakin

    Early this morning, an article was published on PandoDaily: "BeachMint board ousts founders, company returns $20 million to investors."

    In it, Michael Carney reports that Beachmint, a celebrity endorsed e-commerce startup that has raised $73.5 million, has flopped. Specifically, Carney writes that the board ousted Josh Berman and Diego Berdakin, the company's co-founders, from their positions as CEO and President, respectively.

    We republished the news on Business Insider after reaching out to Beachmint for comment. Shortly after we published, we heard back from Diego Berdakin, the company's supposedly ousted president.

    Berdakin wrote that the "entire story was fabricated" then followed up with a call.

    Berdakin says his company has more than $20 million left in the bank. There was no board meeting or discussion that ended in a decision to oust him. He says his company is doing "very well" with over "50% year over year growth" and not a "single quarter of down growth in 2012" (note: that does not mean Beachmint isn't burning cash or that it's even necessarily in good shape). 

    Berdakin has been known to stretch the truth about how well his company is doing in the past. Through reports of executives fleeing, money pouring out of the company, and potential roll-ups with competitors, Berdakin's responses have remained suspiciously positive.

    But one thing is certain: If there are any plans for Berdakin and Berman to be ousted, they don't know it. And neither does their biggest investor and board member, NEA's Peter Sonsini.

    Berdakin maintains that neither his company nor his board was asked for comment prior to the article's publishing. He also says he still has a job and not a single penny is being returned to investors – certainly not $20 million.

    After receiving 50 or so worried texts from friends and family this morning about his alleged job loss, Berdakin took to Facebook to set the record straight.

    Dear Beachmint Employees,

    Prominent analyst [sic] wrote that amazon was going out of business in 2000 so maybe this is a good omen. We're still one of the best companies around imho, have north of the reported $20m in the bank which will last us for a very long time. Only problem is that you are stuck with me, Josh & Greg for a long time ;)

    Diego Berdakin

    cc# our awesome board members Pete SonsiniDamon MintzerSharon WienbarPatricia Nakacheand Greg Waldorf

    And one that has since been deleted:

    For everyone who is emailing/curious... the story about Beachmint is 100% made up. To all
    the beachminter's we still have well over 20M in the bank and everyone has a job. — feeling confused.

    We spoke with Sonsini who also doesn't understand the initial PandoDaily report at all. If either executive was going to be ousted, he would would know since he's been the longest-standing investor and board member. It's the board's job to hire and fire CEOs when necessary. NEA has participated in every round of funding in Beachmint.

    "The article is kind of craziness," Sonsini says. "Diego and Josh are doing great with [former eHarmony President and current Beachmint COO] Greg Steiner." He also says that while one of his other portfolio companies, Viddy, is returning money to investors, Beachmint is not.

    Sonsini doesn't paint quite as rosy a picture of the company as Berdakin does and admits Beachmint has had to overcome some hardships.

    "Beachmint went through a time where it had to figure out its model," Sonsini says. He doesn't deny fundraising efforts which were outlined in Carney's article but said any meetings that have happened in the past few months were to line up strategic investors, not "dumb money" abroad.

    While not all of Beachmint's brands have done well, Sonsini says it's always been the model to launch many and see what works.

    We reached out to Sarah Lacy, founder of PandoDaily, for comment about the initial report. She disputes the allegations that Carney's report is "entirely fabricated" and did not specify whether or not her publication had reached out to Beachmint for comment prior to publishing.

    She will be following up shortly with an official comment.

    In the meantime, she just tweeted this:

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    When start-ups want skin in the bricks-and-mortar market, they turn to Storefront

    The San Francisco-based start-up helps small businesses find short-term retail spaces for rent, usually for three to four weeks.

    Cash-strapped companies swear by it, and co-founders Erik Eliason and Tristan Pollack estimate they've helped over a hundred brands.  

    Of course, Storefront isn't Erik Eliason and Tristan Pollack's first business venture. The pair founded  SocialEarth, a social network for eco-minded millennials, in 2009. However, Storefront is their most successful company and raised $1.6 million in seed funding last week. 

    Eliason chatted with Inc. about how the start-up is transforming retail. 

    What inspired the idea for Storefront?

    Tristan and I are both from Minnesota, which has huge retailers like Target. Some of our friends were selling online but got frustrated when they transitioned to physical stores. We just saw how easy it was for retailers and artists to set up stores online and thought, "There there's got to be an easier way to do that offline." 

    Why are pop-up shops so hot right now?

    Offline, there are certain attributes that aren't online. It's a tactile experience -- "I can feel the clothes, the furniture" -- that increases trust with the brand or with the maker. Second, there's a conversation -- "I can meet the person who made this and understand their concept with the business." It really becomes more about the experience offline. It's evolved from these 20,000- 30,000 sq. ft. stores to a 2,000 sq. ft. store with a more engaging experience and better customer service.

    So, who are your customers?

    We work with brokers and landlords, but also individual boutique storeowners in the neighborhood. They might want extra foot traffic, and a lot of customers are finding us through outreach. Artists are finding us through searches and online channels. It's like Airbnb, but for retail.

    What's been the most exciting part of launching Storefront so far?

    We did our first pop-up last December here in San Francisco. It was at the Westfield Centre and it wasn't a small place. We actually signed the lease ourselves for an entire month on December 4. And then December 5, it was like, "We have no idea what we're doing." Some of the team slept there overnight and we ended up getting about 12 other merchants doing sustainable clothing, candles, and footwear. It was a trial by fire -- we're mostly software folks -- so we were very much out of our comfort zone. But it was a great way to learn what our customers are going to be thinking.

    What's next for the company?

    We'll be moving, making it easier to find a space, and expanding to New York. We're thinking of what products work in a certain space. And we're making it more personal, depending on what kind of events you're setting up in your store. So if you are a jewelry maker, then you can find a space that best fits what you're selling.

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    dollar shave club michael dubin

    Dollar Shave club, an online subscription service that sends men shaving gear and other toiletries, told AllThingsD this week that it's sold 20,000 of its latest product: One Wipe Charlies. 

    One Wipe Charlies are butt wipes. They launched last month, and it looks like a few thousand people were intrigued enough to give them a go.

    Business Insider's Jay Yarow got to try Dollar Shave Club's new butt wipes shortly after they debuted. Here's what he had to say in his review:

    The One Wipe Charlies are peppermint scented. The peppermint adds a slight tingle to the area you're wiping, not that unlike what spicy food can do to that area. It's not as strong as spicy food, but it's enough to give you a bit of a tingle. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on your tolerance.

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    Plumgrid Awais Nemat

    A group of former Cisco engineers who worked on some of the network giant's most important technology just came out of stealth with a product that could unseat their former employer.

    The company is called PlumGrid. It's part of a brand new market called software-defined networking (SDN) that will completely change how companies build networks.

    With SDN, instead of buying expensive network hardware with a lot of fancy features from companies like Cisco, enterprises will buy cheaper hardware and less of it, with all those features handled in the SDN software. SDN networks are easier to setup and modify than traditional networks, proponents say, and work well with cloud computing technologies.

    There's a whole bunch of SDN players, but PlumGrid is worth watching for three reasons:

    1. The Cisco pedigree of its founders.
    2. It is challenging the SDN market leader, VMware's Nicira, with alternative technology.
    3. It has already signed on a bunch of big-name partners.

    PlumGrid's cofounders have worked on some of Cisco's most important networking products. For instance, CEO Awais Nemat worked on Cisco's flagship Catalyst 6500 and Nexus 7000 switches. CTO Pere Monclus, a Cisco Distinguished Engineer, worked on handfuls of Cisco's top products and even created an early prototype of an SDN product for Cisco.

    PlumGrid's claim to fame is that it doesn't use the same open-source software called OpenFlow invented by the SDN leader, VMware's Nicira. In fact its founders have some sharp things to say about OpenFlow calling it "a demonstration of a concept. It's a demo, not a production-class system," Nemat told Business Insider.

    Instead, they wrote their own software and included tools enterprises need like management and troubleshooting apps. PlumGrid's software is not free and open source like OpenFlow is, however developers can still write apps for it which are distributed through PlumGrid's app store.

    Perhaps the best reason to watch this startup is because it has already attracted some big-name companies to support its initial product, the PlumGrid Platform, most of them from the ranks of Cisco's biggest competitors. Its partners include: A10 Networks, Arista Networks (run by another prominent ex-Cisco engineer Jayshree Ullal), Broadcom, Check Point Software, Citrix,  F5 Networks, Palo Alto Networks, and others.

    PlumGrid also part of AT&T's Foundry program, a proving ground for new network tech.

    PlumGrid has raised nearly $11 million from investors Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and US Venture Partners.

    AT&T Foundry
    PLUMgrid Platform is impressive.

    Cisco plans to defend itself against SDN in general, and PlumGrid in particular, with its own SDN technology. Word is that this tech is being created by a Cisco-funded start-up called Insieme but Cisco has been very tight-lipped about the technology. 

    PlumGrid's Monclus isn't worried about Insieme. "We don't care. Cisco is very weak" in this new "virtual networking" market, he tells us.

    There's a lot at stake. SDN promises to gut the $23 billion networking hardware market where Cisco dominates. It will be replaced by a brand new SDN market expected to generate $4 billion by 2016, according to market researcher IDC.

    And, even though these SDN products are very young and enterprises aren't spending a lot on them yet, SDN startups have already had some spectacular exits. This includes the year-ago purchase of Nicira by VMware for $1.26 billion,  the $176 million acquisition of Contrail Systems by Juniper Networks a mere two days after Contrail came out of stealth and F5 Network's acquisition of LineRate in February for millions, 10 months after it came out of stealth.

    SEE ALSO: The 50 Most Powerful People In Enterprise Tech

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