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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Meb Keflezighi 2009 London Marathon

    The truth is: Startups are hard but doable.

    But really, don't discount the "hard" part.

    Paul Graham, an influential investor who runs a startup school in Silicon Valley, gave Inc magazine a quote on this point in a interview published last night.

    He said:

    Everyone is surprised by how difficult it turns out to be, because it's not the kind of difficulty people have experienced before. That's one reason you want to have something like Y Combinator, because not a lot of money or time is at risk. So we're totally OK with funding people who seem promising and earnest, and then, if it turns out to be too hard for them, that's all right. Nobody knows what they're capable of until they try it. Maybe half a percent of people have the brains and sheer determination to do this kind of thing. Start-ups are hard but doable, in the way that running a five-minute mile is hard but doable.

    Graham's quote reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from a successful person.

    That person is my colleague, BI executive editor Joe Weisenthal.

    In a meeting with the entire Business Insider newsroom about a year or so ago, our editor-in-chief was reminding everyone that while the pace at Business Insider can seem really fast, everyone should be wary of burning themselves out because "this is a marathon, not a sprint."

    That's when Joe couldn't help himself.

    He kind of blurted out: "Of course, world-class marathoners run faster for 26 miles than most of us could sprint."

    His point was: you probably shouldn't burn out, but yeah, you're not going to become world-class without hard work.

    Joe was speaking from experience. He gets up a 4 A.M. writes a gajillion super smart posts per day. Because of that he has fans around the world. The New York Times profiled him and his work habits.

    Joe's right about marathoners, by the way.

    My favorite world-class marathoner, Meb Keflezighi, ran his personal best in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 29 seconds. That's about 5 minutes per mile. 

    Totally doable!

    2 hours and 11 minutes wasn't a world record or anything – and literally hundreds of people finished only minutes after Meb that day.

    But yeah, running that fast is really hard.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Ezra Callahan

    Bearded, friendly foodie Ezra "Fuzz" Callahan joined Facebook in 2004, right when the company was starting. He stayed for 6 years. 

    During that time Facebook grew to become a copmany worth many billions of dollars. Because of that, Callahan's net worth grew to many millions of dollars.

    When he married another Facebook employee in 2012, Modern Luxury covered the ceremony.

    "The ceremony took place in a garden at a private Malibu estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The couple wanted their wedding to bewarm and elegant, but not over-the-top."

    "The cocktail hour reflected the couple’s passion for food and drinks, as guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres like lobster corn dogs and spicy poke tuna on wonton crisps. Tables made from vintage wine barrels served as charcuterie and wine tasting areas."

    Because of all those billions and millions and the fabulous wedding, you might imagine Callahan joined Facebook in some glamorous fashion. Maybe some top recruiter picked him up in  a limo and took him out for steaks.


    Back in 2004, Facebook was still a tiny little startup with a few million college kid users. It's employees were basically the same age – sometimes younger.

    They all worked out of a house in Los Altos. Out back, there was a pool with a zipline running over it.

    One night around 11pm, the doorbell rang.

    Facebook's first COO, Dustin Moskovitz answered.


    There stood Ezra Callahan. 

    He said, "Hi."

    Then there was an awkward pause.

    Ezra: "Uh, I'm Ezra. I work at Facebook now. Sean hired me."

    Sean was Sean Parker, the Napster cofounder who had become Facebook's President after befriending Zuckerberg.

    Moskovitz said, "Oh, hmm. He didn't mention that. Welcome, I guess..."'

    Ezra: "Yeah."

    Another awkward pause.

    Moskovitz said, "Ok, well I guess I'll see you on Monday then?"

    Ezra said, "Oh, also I live here now."

    Moskovitz: "Oh."

    Moskovitz recently re-told this story on question and answer site Quora, and that's where the dialogue above comes from.

    To me, the story reminds me of how dingy, strange, and bizarre mammoth Internet companies can be at their beginnings.

    It reminds me of how, during her first few days on the job, a young Marissa Mayer bumped into Larry Page, quivering in the corner of Google's first kitchen. Netscape was sending too much traffic to Google and it had brought the site down.

    "It's all gone horrible wrong," he told her.

    Sometimes the beginnings of great things can be very humble – and a little weird!

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Lowe Campbell Ewald's Iain Lanivich

    Ad agency Lowe Campbell Ewald wants to make Detroit — yes, that Detroit— the latest hub for young professionals in the creative and digital technology fields.

    But could a city that declared bankruptcy less than a month and a half ago become the next Austin or San Francisco?

    Touting the opportunities offered by a less crowded market and the enthusiastic support of a long-downtrodden city, Lowe Campbell Ewald creative director Iain Lanivich put out a video last month asking innovators to join him in the Motor City. LCE is moving its 600-person Michigan headquarters from a nearby suburb into the city's downtown this winter. The company has branches in Los Angeles and San Antonio, too.

    Now, he's asking the public to help him take his message directly to the people he hopes to evangelize.

    South by Southwest allows the public to vote on which speakers will lead its panels. Lanivich is campaigning to lead a discussion highlighting why young creatives and entrepreneurs should move their businesses to Detroit.

    The technology and arts festival allows the public to weigh in on which speakers address the conference by considering an online vote alongside the opinion of its staff and advisory boards. Lanivich wants to present a panel outlining all Detroit has to offer young creatives and entrepreneurs.

    "What I like is to work with people to create ideas and see them come to life," Lanivich told Business Insider. "We're hoping to bring in talent that can come up with ideas or help those ideas happen."

    Lanivich, who grew up in the Detroit area and lives in nearby Bloomfield Township, wants to use the campaign to introduce himself and his agency to the fledgling Detroit tech scene and add more creative talent to its ranks. Already, the city's downtown area is home to Dan Gilbert's Detroit Venture Partners and the veteran viral sensation Texts From Last Night.

    Even so, the Vote for Detroit pitch is ambitious, to say the least. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 40% of the city's residents lived below the poverty rate as of 2012. Even more financially stable residents suffer from a broken infrastructure that fails to provide adequate police coverage and public transportation.

    Sarah Cox, who founded the real-estate blog Curbed Detroit when she moved to the city two and a half years ago, told Business Insider that Detroit will not be able to lure startups from hotspots like Austin and San Francisco until the city itself becomes a more hospitable place to live. For this to happen, she said, the city will not only need new businesses, but new residents to generate the tax revenues the city needs to fix everything from broken streetlights to understocked fire-safety equipment.

    "It's an interesting time, and I think the city will ultimately be better, but I think all these sort of quick-hit changes are shortsighted," Cox said. "These problems took decades to create, and we weren't just waiting for 600 office workers to show up so we could say 'Oh, everything's good now. We're fine."

    Lanivich acknowledged the reality of the city's many predicaments, saying that a family hoping to move within the city limits would first have to figure out where to shop for groceries and whether that location was in a safe part of town.  

    He said that he wants innovators at SXSW to look past the flaws of a city with a dangerous reputation and instead embrace the opportunity to grow a business in an environment devoid of Silicon Valley's cut-throat competition and New York's rigid corporate hierarchies.

    "When you read about Detroit, there's not much here that doesn't need help," Lanivich said. "It doesn't really matter what your idea is, you can probably try it out here." 

    Detroit resident Sebastian Jackson said it was these qualities that helped him develop the Social Club Grooming Company, a beauty salon that aims to bring together Detroiters of diverse backgrounds and uses the hair it cuts as fertilizer to plant trees around the city.

    While Jackson admits the city's public education system and police department are in need of a lot of work, he said an influx of entrepreneurs would be a step in the right direction toward fixing some of the problems that have plagued the city in the 14 years he's lived there.

    "All the social capital you need is in Detroit right now," Jackson said. "I perceived the Vote for Detroit campaign as showing people that they can actually help rebuild one of the nation's greatest cities and, at the same time, make money doing it."

    "I'm not saying Detroit is perfect right now," Lanivich said. "But it's at a point where maybe the right people can make it great."

    SEE ALSO: Greenpeace ruined Shell's PR moment with this brilliant prank

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    travis kalanick uberTwo San Francisco Uber drivers have opened a national lawsuit against the popular cab service, as reported by GigaOm, claiming that Uber pockets half of the 20% gratuity that is included for the driver in the fare.

    Uber, which makes hailing a cab as easy as tapping your phone screen, takes your credit card information when you register the app and charges you each time you take a ride. It prides itself on a frictionless service where money never exchanges hands. In fact, Uber's website specifically states: "there's no need to tip." Because of this, drivers employed by Uber especially rely on the company to get their fair share.

    In a statement to Business Insider, an Uber spokesperson said the company plans to fight the lawsuit:

    The allegations made against our company are entirely without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously. Uber values its partners above all else and our technology platform has allowed thousands of drivers to generate an independent wage and build their own small businesses on their own time. Frivolous lawsuits like this cost valuable time, money and resources that are better spent making cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and providing more business for drivers. 

    However, the Uber spokesperson declined to comment on whether or not the company has a tipping policy or if it pays its drivers part of the gratuity. Earlier versions of the Uber app said a 20% gratuity was included in every cab fare.


    Join the conversation about this story »

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    tahiti soccer team celebrates

    I just had a really frustrating meeting with a friend that just moved to the Bay Area.  He had the ever-so common request of wanting help finding a great job, working with awesome people in disruptive technologies blah, blah, blah…

    This guy knew the right things to say, was clearly very smart and was networking in an honest attempt to find a great fit.  I was having a really hard time because I wanted to help him but I couldn’t get around my gut feeling that he just sounded uninteresting.

    He was doing that thing that lots of people do where they talk abstractly about what it is they want.  So he was saying things like, “I really want to get into digital media and specifically data-based analytics.”

    And all I’m thinking is what the hell does that mean?  I mean, literally, what the hell is he talking about?  And the funniest part is he used the word “specifically” as if one abstraction layered on top of another abstraction was a route to being more understandable. I’m thinking about what it would be like if I introduced him to someone at another startup.  Would they really want to hire a guy that talks like this?  And the answer is clearly no.  I mean, maybe he would work really well at a large company where it seems like this sort of businessy speak is more welcome, but I know startups don’t like it.

    And finally in the midst of going back and forth where he was trying to describe what it is he actually wanted to do and I was continuing to struggle to understand him, I finally said, “Dude, you just don’t sound passionate about anything and no one around here likes to hire people that aren’t passionate.”

    And that hit him like a ton of bricks. 

    Was he interested in digital media? Yeah, probably.  Was he interested in data?  Yeah, probably.  Was he passionate about it? That’s probably a stretch.  And at large companies, it’s probably okay to be really interested in something, really good at it and receive a paycheck.  But startups don’t work that way.

    My company, 42Floors, is trying to solve the way people search forcommercial real estate.  My cofounders and I have risked everything to do this.  Two years ago we had no money, massive credit card debt, no one believed in us, and yet we kept building because we knew this was possible. And now we have a site that looks good, we have investors, we have users, we’re growing.  We need people on our team who could push us forward.  We’re looking for people that are just as passionate as we are.

    And I think that’s what every founder wants.  Every founder I know has taken unbelievable risks and made incredible sacrifices in order to get their startup off the ground; and they want people that are just as passionate as they are.

    And so my friend, though incredibly intelligent and well educated, simply wasn’t passionate enough to even get to the first interview.  So our conversation kind of ended in a weird way because he was sitting there knowing that my observation had struck true and not knowing what to do about it, and I similarly felt bad because I felt like I was leaving him hanging without a rope.

    But I’ve now had some time to reflect upon it and I’m going to go back to him with a few pieces of advice because the reality is, I still think it’s true that you can’t teach passion but you can certainly help them search for it.

    So here you go, 6 tips for finding your passion:

    Hang out with passionate people

    Passion is by its very nature contagious and when you’re with passionate, you get inspired.  You start to see what it’s like to truly be engaged in something.  In a way, this is what accelerators like YCombinator provide.  It’s a community of unbelievably passionate people and it is unbelievably motivating to be around them.

    Stop generalizing

    It’s really, really hard to be passionate about something in the abstract.  Passionate people are always obsessed with details.  At 42Floors, we’re crazy obsessed with the angle at which we take photos of an office.  If you shoot an office from the corner, slightly high, using a wide-angle lens, the picture just comes to life.  We love people who care about details.

    Be a maker

    It’s really hard to be truly passionate about something when all you’re doing is critically analyzing it.  All of my friends that went into consulting – virtually all of them – have complained about how, in the end, they were frustrated that their end product was a PowerPoint deck.  Several of them have now gone into entrepreneurship and they have been amazed themselves about how passionate they are about building something real.  Making stuff is liberating.  It taps at your creative potential.

    Experiment with different niches

    One of the common things I hear whenever I encourage someone to take a really deep dive into one thing specifically is that they don’t want to close off their options. But doing a deep dive into one specific job track doesn’t preclude you from also doing deep dives into other areas.  Think of your job search as an in-depth survey course in startups where each week you spend time diving really deep into one type of startup so that you emerge from that week passionate or not passionate.

    Be patient with your time

    It’s really hard to find something deeply engaging so you have to give yourself the opportunity to search for it.  If all you are looking for is a job as quickly as possible you’ll be less likely to find it. And probably less likely to find a job that’s right for you anyway.

    Be willing to learn

    What I found with my friend is that he had learned a particular set of skills at business school and needed a place to apply those specific skills.  As if the learning process had ended.  But every super passionate person I know is constantly learning, so if you want to find your passion you should assume that it will involve learning new things.

    And finally, don’t settle.  Just flat out don’t settle.  And that’s kind of, in the end, what it felt like this guy was doing.  He was just looking for a job and was kind of willing to settle for anything that wasn’t miserable.   In the end, if he had a startup that paid him a salary, was located in the Bay Area, and had reasonable people around him he was going to be content.

    Aspire for much more. In fact, demand much more.  It’s okay if you’re not feeling the passion right now.  Just go out and find it.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Moving can be quite an arduous process.

    A couple of days before my move-out date last Saturday, I received a couple of startling text messages from my then-roommate.

    Some of those messages seemed to to suggest that if I were to leave my room in the current shape it was in, I would not get the bulk of my security deposit back. That worried me.

    So I had to act fast. I logged on to MyClean and set up a one-time appointment in a matter of minutes.

    MyClean, a relatively new housecleaning service out of New York, will help you get your entire security deposit back with a deep clean. For those who don't need as intense of a clean, MyClean offers two other cleaning tiers to just tidy up, or a basic cleaning option called "Get it Clean."

    Even though $124 to clean a very dirty bedroom and bathroom may sound steep, I would say it was worth it. That's because what I had to lose surpassed that sum by a long shot. 

    I opted for the "Get it Clean," but the housekeeper assigned to me appeared to do the work of a "Deep Clean." In fact, she said she could even do a "ghetto clean." I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but it sounded like she knew what she was doing.

    Within three hours, the place was spotless. In fact, it looked better than it did on the day I moved in, in my opinion. 

    Of course, this is based on my one-time experience with MyClean. So just because my appointment went smoothly, it doesn't necessarily mean that yours will, too. 

    It depends on, among other things, which housekeeper you get and also how reasonable your expectations are. 

    But based on some Yelp reviews, it's clear that not everyone has a great experience with MyClean. Recent reviews range from positive to absolutely terrible

    Here's a look at one not-so great review from August 22, 2013, in which a customer claimed the cleaners did not bring the right equipment, and left the place "filthy." Be sure to read MyClean's response below the review.

    If MyClean doesn't fit your fancy, there are a handful of other comparable services out there. There's Hipstermaid, Handybook, and Task Rabbit — to name a few.

    SEE ALSO: Bankers With Messy Apartments Started This Brilliantly Simple New York Cleaning Service

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    cronuts from dominique ansel bakery

    There are a gajillion tech companies trying to become "the operating system for local businesses."

    Three big ones off the top of my head: Square, Groupon, and Yelp.

    But what do the local business owners think?

    Venture capitalist and ex-YouTube executive Hunter Walk decided to find out. He interviewed Emily Day, a local business owner and wrote a blog post about it. 

    People in the startup industry keep tweeting about it.

    Here's what Walk learned from Day, the owner of a bakery called Flour & Co:

    Interoperability between store tech is still a mess: Emily uses ShopKeep as her tablet point-of-sale system because it’s the easiest and most flexible in her opinion. Some of the other systems she tried had fatal flaws, such as an inability to print order tickets into the kitchen. She’s also really sensitive to minimizing the number of finger touches it takes to complete transactions. They’re a high volume business and during peak hours need to still provide quick service.

    Enter once, re-enter everywhere: Given POS as center of a retail store, you’d imagine that it would link seamlessly with all her other systems. Nope. Across the different providers there’s still a real lack of interop – sometimes because tools are new, sometimes because no API exists. Flour & Co wanted to use LevelUp but it doesn’t integrate with ShopKeep, so nope [edit - it does integrate!]. Similarly there was a preferred vendor with an app which allows users to order ahead before they reach the store but no ShopKeep integration so, again, out of luck. There’s so much other work to do that once Emily’s made a system choice, she doesn’t want to go back and reevaluate so since POS came first, compatibility with ShopKeep drives a whole bunch of other decisions. Emily wants to find a loyalty program but so far none of them work well with her other platforms.

    No one ever got fired for buying IBM: The large well-known guys still have lots of customers. She knows about Xero accounting and the wave of online pay systems but uses Quickbooks and Paychex for now. It works for her and that’s good enough.

    Startups, your competition is sometimes a spreadsheet: At La Boulange they used shift scheduling software but for now at Flour & Co, Excel working just fine. Thankfully though, customer mailing lists have migrated out of the xls and MailChimp powers her communications.

    Wants to do her own research before talking to a salesperson: Technology recommendations come from her own research and other store owners. Easy, simple comparison charts and good clear sales marketing pieces are what Emily wants to see; not a salesperson trying to get on her calendar for a 30m demo. What comes next for Emily? Probably an online store via Shopify for some of her more popular items that can transport well.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    ben kaufman, quirky, march 2012, bi, dng

    Quirky, Ben Kaufman's New York-based invention startup, has laid off a few members of its sales team, including its CRO, and postponed pre-planned time off for all employees in October.

    Quirky takes ideas from its community, like bendable power strips and money straps for mobile devices, and brings them to life. It helps the inventions find their way into big-name retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond. Quirky has raised more than $90 million to date.

    In June, Quirky let go of its Chief Revenue Officer, Bill Lee, citing performance reasons, the company confirms. It also fired a few members of the staff who reported to him along with a designer and community team member who weren't "fits for the brand," according to a company spokesperson. 

    Kaufman says there's nothing wrong at Quirky despite the turnover. Sales are easy to measure. Employees either hit their targets or they don't. 

    "I have the highest regard for Bill, the work he did prior to Quirky, the work he did at Quirky, and the work he will continue to do after Quirky," Kaufman says. "We agreed it was best for him to move on. He remains an advisor to the business."

    Lee declined to comment for this story.

    Quirky is also in the process of becoming its own retailer, like its competitor, which may account for some of the recent sales team turnover. It's creating an entirely new brand and e-commerce experience for itself. 

    Quirky is a vertically integrated shop that uses the community for its research and development. People can submit ideas for gadgets to the site and Quirky will execute them. If you come up with an idea that Quirky ends up making, you get a cut of the sales. Quirky only makes money when tens of thousands of its products are sold, so it makes sense for Kaufman to buff up Quirky's e-commerce experience and become less reliant on other retailers. 

    In addition to the turnover, Quirky recently delivered some disappointing news to employees. In an August staff meeting, Quirky told employees their pre-planned week off in October was being postponed. 

    Every quarter, Quirky offers a one-week blackout period where the entire office shuts down and employees are paid to be scarce. It's the company's most shining perk.

    "[It's a time where all of us as a team can all relax simultaneously and know that there is nothing to worry about," Kaufman wrote when he announced the perk in January. "A time for us to reflect on the successes and failures of the prior quarter, and prepare mentally for the one to come." He also wrote that he had a right to take the perk away if necessary.

    A company-wide memo told employees the Q4 blackout would be moved to Thanksgiving week, which is a short week to begin with. They were told if they had already made plans, to tell the company "what they were up against" so it could help them make alternate plans to work.

    Kaufman says he isn't going to cancel blackout periods altogether. Next year's blackout calendar has already been created. 

    "It seems weird to take time off when it's our largest shipment time of the year," says Kaufman.

    Quirky's HR boss Rochelle DiRe said in an email that the company had to take away the Q4 blackout week because there's too much work to be done. Quirky is on the hook to deliver a ton of products for a partnership it has with General Electric called WINK. WINK encourages Quirky's community to submit ideas for smart products, ones that utilize mobile devices and the Internet to make them work better.  

    While Quirky may be ahead of schedule right now, its business model is generous to its community of inventors and may not be sustainable. Quirky offers a lifetime royalty to whomever comes up with the idea on its platform. It gives the person 30% of online sales (wholesale) and 10% of retail sales (in Bed Bath & Beyond stores) if Quirky decides to turn the idea into a product. That's a lot of money to be giving away, especially when hardware companies already have thin margins.

    Here's the email Quirky sent to its employees on August 28th informing them of the postponed blackout week. Emphasis was added by Quirky, not Business Insider.

    From: Rochelle DiRe 
    Date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
    Subject: following up on today's staff meeting
    To: nyc <>, SF <>

    Hello team, 

    For those of you who weren't able to listen in to this morning's meeting, I wanted to send a note around reiterating Ben's message.  

    Because of the aggressive holiday delivery schedule for WINK products, we need to delay October's blackout until the week of Thanksgiving. 

    We appreciate that this is not a casual thing to ask of you. 

    If you have already made plans for October that you cant easily be changed, please reach out to the People & Culture team today.  We would love to hear what you are up against and help figure things out. 

    I also wanted to let everyone know that we will be throwing a damn good party (and talent show!) on October 4th to celebrate all the amazing things we have accomplished this past quarter. Our quarterly Townhall will now take place on October 9th. Stay tuned for details on each.   

    We thank you each and everyone of you for being flexible and putting your all into Quirky. 


    Join the conversation about this story »

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    maya uber"Road rage" takes on a whole new meaning as two car-sharing services are battling to make a name for themselves in new cities. 

    Lyft, the ride-sharing service that markets itself as "your friend with a car", has begun offering its services in St. Paul and Indianapolis. Lyft lets normal people act as taxi drivers and earn a few extra bucks by picking up people who hail them with a smartphone app.

    Uber, a rival service that employs regular taxi drivers, has responded by launching in the same cities in an effort to undercut the competition. But Uber has taken it one step further and is offering free rides in St. Paul and Indianapolis for free through the end of September. We first saw the news on PandoDaily.

    The free Uber service comes from Uber X, a cheaper version of Uber's premium service. Uber X drivers mostly use normal sedans, not fancy black cars.

    Uber can afford it. It recently raised a $258 million round of funding from Google Ventures and is valued at $3.4 billion.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Matthew CordleThe video opens with a blurred-out face and an eerily distorted voiceover: "I killed a man."

    Matthew Cordle, 22, goes on to describes the events of June 22 this year. After an evening of heavy drinking and barhopping with his friends, Cordle got behind the wheel of his truck. Blacked-out, he drove the wrong way down the highway, into oncoming traffic, and struck the car of 61-year-oldVincent Canzani, who died in the crash.    

    About halfway through the video, which Because I Said I Would posted before Cordle had been charged with any crimes, Cordle comes into focus, and regains his normal voice. He stares directly into the camera and admits his guilt, vowing to take full responsibility for what he's done. That's his promise. (Video below.)

    This harrowing video isn't just a powerful testimonial about the consequences of drinking and driving: it's a promo for the new Ohio non-profit startup Because I Said I Would.  The startup touts itself as "a social movement dedicated to bettering humanity through the power of a promise." The idea is that you think of something you want to promise to yourself or someone else, and ask Because I Said I Would to mail you a "promise card." Write your promise on the card and give it to someone.  You can only get it back once you fulfill the promise.  By publishing the video of Cordle on YouTube and its site, Because I Said I Would wants people to use its method to make the promise "I will never drink and drive." 

    The startup's founder, Alex Sheen, acknowledged when he posted the video that it could be controversial, and Because I Said I Would responded to comments on Facebook with a post that said it was not praising Cordle as a “hero” for his decision to confess.  

    Emotional posts seem to be a theme: for another heartwrenching video, watch Sheen talk about how the death of his father inspired the company on Because I Said I Would's "About" page.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Oren Etzioni announced on Friday that it was being acqu-hired by eBay and would shutter its service at the end of the month.

    The entire team of 26 people will now go work for eBay. predicts the prices on electronics and helps people pay less for them. It's not surprising eBay would want to buy this company. had been using eBay's data to help with its predictions, CEO Mike Fridgen said in a blog post.

    But one of the most remarkable things about this deal is that it marks the sixth-in-a-row successful exit for cofounder and CTO Oren Etzioni.

    Etzioni helped invent the concept of big data back when the Web was young, way before the term "big data." We're talking even before Google.

    Etzioni is a computer science professor at the University of Washington (and these days, also a partner at Seattle's Madrona Venture Group). In between teaching and publishing hundreds of technical papers, he keeps creating valuable tech.

    In 1994, four years before Google was born, he created one of the web's first search engines MetaCrawler, bought by Infospace (and still running today). In 1995, he cofounded the first shopping comparison engine, NetBot, bought by Excite. Then he created ClearForest, which summarizes text documents, bought by Reuters.

    In 2003, after he learned that he paid more for an airline ticket than the guy sitting next to him, he created a program that scraped travel sites to predict airfare prices. That became FareCast. It sold to Microsoft in 2008 for $110 million and is now a part of Bing.

    In 2011, he took what he learned at FareCast and launched to predict electronics prices. It was backed by Madrona (naturally) but also early Google early investor Ram Shriram and Rich Barton (cofounder of Zillow, Expedia, Glassdoor).

    Now, two years later eBay bought Terms weren't disclosed, but we know that it raised about $17 million including a recent $8 million round in March that included Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen's VC firm Vulcan Capital.

    Given Etzioni's history we're willing to make our own prediction. He'll be back with another successful startup and soon.

    SEE ALSO: The Business App 50: The Best Apps To Help You Do Your Job

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    Startup Office

    Silicon Valley is the most famous place for startups to thrive, but it's far from the only one. A recent report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation took a look at what areas of the United States had the highest density of high-tech startups. 

    It broke down which metro areas have seen a rapid rise in the number of startups, and which are coasting on a strong base. Silicon Valley's dominance isn't surprising, but perhaps more so is the rapid rise of places like Kansas City, Portland, and Salt Lake City. 

    Interestingly, the strongest influence on startup density isn't a strong research university in the area, but a concentration of established companies that help spin them off. 

    20. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.

    1990 rank: 15

    Top companies: Qualcomm, Illumina, Isis Pharmaceuticals

    San Diego's particularly well known as a hub for biotech companies, driven by UC San Diego and its medical center, but there's a large telecom and technology presence as well. 

    19. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La.

    1990 rank: Outside of top 20

    Top companies:, Kickboard, Entergy

    In the aftermath of Katrina, there's been a flood of young, ambitious, and driven people hoping to help reinvent the city. As a result, many more people are starting companies there than ever before, and an increasing infrastructure is being built to support them. There's still a long way to go though. 

    18. Kansas City, Mo./Kan.

    1990 rank: Outside of top 20

    Top companies: Sprint, Cerner, Perceptive Software

    Kansas City was the first city to get on the ultra-fast Google Fiber broadband network, which has brought a flood of startups to the area. It has a long history of companies spinning off other innovative companies, as this massive map tracing its tech scene's development shows.  

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    aaron harris, tutorspree, office tour, bi, dng

    The hardest decision a founder can make is knowing when to throw in the towel. Tutorspree, a company that was founded in 2011 and raised $1.8 million, just did that. 

    Tutorspree was a platform that connected local tutors to students in need. It graduated from the prestigious startup accelerator program, Y Combinator and was founded by a former Wall Street worker, Aaron Harris, along with Josh Abrams and Ryan Bednar.

    "Ultimately, we learned about the challenges of willing a company into existence, of building an incredible and unique team to tackle constantly shifting challenges," the founders wrote this morning on the company's blog. "And finally, we learned about how to make the toughest decision of all - to shut Tutorspree down, not because it was not a business, but because we could not make it the company we wanted."

    Tutorspree is one of a few startups to close recently in New York City, but PandoDaily's Erin Griffith says it didn't shut down for financial reasons. It was able to secure $800,000 from earlier this year. Griffith says the trio will be returning remaining money to investors. 

    Instead, the problem may have been what the founders wrote: that they were "willing a company into existence." And sometimes, businesses can't be forced. Griffith says the company was too reliant on Google traffic, suggesting the founders failed to build a loyal user base and a go-to brand. 

    Here's the letter the founders wrote this morning:

    When we started Tutorspree, close to three years ago, we had a vision for how private education should work. As we worked towards that vision, with the help of thousands of tutors and customers over the course tens of thousands of hours of lessons, we learned quite a bit. We learned what constituted good one-on-one tutoring, what a good relationship looked like, and how badly people need great tutors.

    One of our tutors taught a six year old about science with a robot LEGO claw that picked up cookies. Another helped an 11th grader pass summer exams to make it into 12th grade. We sent tutors to private homes in LA, hotels in NYC, yachts halfway around the world, and coffee shops in San Francisco. Through it all, we kept learning new lessons.

    Ultimately, we learned about the challenges of willing a company into existence, of building an incredible and unique team to tackle constantly shifting challenges. And finally, we learned about how to make the toughest decision of all - to shut Tutorspree down, not because it was not a business, but because we could not make it the company we wanted.

    Thank you to all of our friends, mentors, advisors, investors, tutors, and customers for making this the best thing any of us have ever done. And thank you to Chung-Yi, Georges, Zach, Rebecca, Thomas, Julia, and Paul for helping us come so far.

    Thank you,

    Aaron, Josh, and Ryan

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    Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel TechCrunch Disrupt 2013Snapchat has never received a formal acquisition offer, its CEO Evan Spiegel told TechCrunch yesterday.

    Snapchat is a popular app that lets users send disappearing photo messages. There are 350 million photos shared per day on Snapchat.

    Given that Spiegel says he's spoken with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg multiple times, the statement is surprising.

    It's well known that Spiegel and Zuckerberg met in 2012, right before Christmas and just a few weeks before Facebook came out with a direct Snapchat competitor called Poke. Poke sat on top of the Apple App Store for a day before it was brushed off as a Snapchat clone. It'd be easy to think that Zuckerberg had offered to buy Snapchat then, but Spiegel says that wasn't the case. (He also says that while he and Zuckerberg have talked, they don't Snapchat with each other).

    "It's certainly scary when a giant enters your space," Spiegel told TechCrunch writer Jordan Crook about the Poke launch. "It really showed that the Snapchat community is special. It was fun to see all the Snapchatters around the world be like, 'Come on man!' So that was great. We now talk about [Poke] as the greatest Christmas present we ever got."

    The fact that Snapchat hasn't had any formal offers is also surprising given that it recently raised a $60 million round of financing. It's often the case that when startups raise money, acquisition offers roll in. That's what happened to Instagram. Immediately after it closed a $50 million round of funding Facebook swooped in with a formal acquisition offer.

    During Snapchat's last round of financing, the founders reportedly took multiple millions off the table too, making them independently wealthy despite what happens to the company in the future. Investors let some founders do this to keep them focused on building a long-term business rather than a buy out with an immediate payout. Acquisition offers sometimes prompt investors to do this.

    Spiegel's statement doesn't mean Snapchat has never had buyout discussions. It might just mean Spiegel hasn't been given any paperwork to sign or turn down.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Terence Kawaja

    We love Terence Kawaja's LUMAscapes, the crazy-complicated diagrams of the tech and media worlds. For many people, they're the starting point if you want to make sense of adtech.

    And Kawaja's record as CEO at LUMA Partners is unparalleled — he's had a hand in Google's acquisition of Admeld and Invite Media, and Yahoo's acquisition of Interclick. LUMA has been involved in $300 billion worth of transactions, the company says.

    And then there are Kawaja's little-seen comedy videos.

    On YouTube, Kawaja has a cache of 31 different videos, many of them parodying various tropes and memes of the world of adtech.

    His most recent effort casts himself as "The Most Interesting Banker in the World," and is a spoof of the Dos Equis commercials. They feature Kawaja wearing a "summer beard"— and he actually looks a little bit like the real Dos Equis brand icon.

    Previously, he's done a riff on bitcoin, and a satirical interview with WPP CEO Martin Sorrell put together from edited snippets of Sorrell's actual TV appearances. In another, he auto-tuned Google Neal Mohan

    His biggest hit was "Mad Avenue Blues," a spoof rendition of "American Pie." It's been seen by 178,000 people.

    Most of the videos have audiences in the low dozens, however.

    We are forced to conclude that Kawaja should not yet give up his day job.

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    startup pitches

    Enough with the excuses.  Either start your company or don’t, but at least don’t lie to yourself.

    YC applications for the Winter 2014 are now open.  The deadline is Oct. 21st.  Get going.

    There has never been a better time to start a company.  All the software you need is now open source.  It wasn’t like that ten years ago.  Fortunately, the entire technology world has created this incredible software stack that you get to use for free.  It didn’t use to be that way.

    The Cloud has abstracted away the need to build your own infrastructure.  To put it bluntly, you don’t need to know anything about servers anymore, at least not in the beginning.  If you can get code that works, you can pay Heroku or some other platform as a service to host it for you.  It didn’t use to be that way.

    Social media has created the potential for viral distribution.  It used to be that you couldn’t get anywhere without raising tens of millions of dollars in venture capital in order to help you strike a deal with AOL or Yahoo! so you could acquire your initial users, and even then you would use expensive offline marketing. It’s really true that you can now build an incredible product and people will find out about it through word of mouth.  It didn’t use to be that way.

    There are now built-in business models. If you want to charge for your product, you previously had to setup a complicated billing structure.  Now, you can sell your app on the app store for a $99 developer fee, or you can use Stripe to implement payment right into your web app with almost no hassle.  Never before has it been so easy to sell your products world-wide.  It didn’t use to be that way.

    So, I ask you, again. What the hell are you waiting for?

    See this moment for how precious it is.  The world has basically gotten together and made it so that anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur can.  There really is no excuse left.  If you are one of those people who say you want to start a company, do it.  Do it right now.  Make it happen.  Now is the perfect time.  There are no excuses left.

    Faulty Excuse Number One:  “I don’t have a technical cofounder.” 

    This is just bullshit.  And, hopefully, by now you know it.  Just get started.  Whatever you do, please don’t ask me to help you find one.  But, I can say with no uncertainty that it is possible to start your company right now, just you.  If you can make some progress on your own and validate your product, you will be able to find a technical founder in due time. 

    Faulty excuse Number Two:  “I don’t have any technical expertise.”

    Yes, it may be true, you don’t.  But that doesn’t have to stop you.  You could teach yourself how to code using Code Academy, General Assembly or any other number of emerging platforms.  Sure, you might not be that good at first, but it doesn’t have to stop you from getting a startup off the ground.  And, if your idea is simply too complicated, here’s a very real startup lesson you can take hold of right now— Make it less complicated.

    Faulty Excuse Number Three:  “I can’t quit my job.”

    Well, it’s not that you can’t, it’s that you won’t.  And that’s okay, but it’s also never going to change.  Startups involve risk.  The fact that this is the least risky time ever can’t help you take that next step, you have to do that yourself.  Go all in.

    Faulty Excuse Number Four:  “I don’t know how to raise money.”

    That has fortunately been solved for you.  You can apply to a bajillion incubators that will teach you how and provide the intros and necessary hype for you to execute.  And, with Angelist as an emerging alternative, you can hustle your way some investor demand and raise your seed round without any preexisting connections. 

    A quick footnote since I just know I’m going to get hammered on this post.  No, you can’t build a successful company having just 10 weeks of hobby-like technical ability.  No, you can’t just assume Heroku will solve your scaling problems.  Growing a company is really, really hard for hundreds of reasons.  But relentlessly resourceful founders figure out ways to solve these problems when growth is actually occurring.  You’ll never get there if you don’t at least start.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Two of Silicon Valley's biggest venture capitalists are madly investing in tech startups that could soon make health care better and more affordable.

    Health care is the "most screwed up" industry in the nation, said John Doerr, a longstanding partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer known for backing companies like Google, Amazon, Intuit and Zynga.

    The U.S. spends $2.6 trillion on health care and "everyone agrees that about 30% of that is wasted," he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Wednesday in San Francisco.

    He thinks the problem is that doctors are charging per procedure, which encourages more procedures and general inefficiency. Doctors can change that by using iPads and cloud apps, he believes.

    "Two or three years ago there was more technology in Safeway than in some physicians offices," he quipped.

    Low-cost consumer health care apps on smartphones will be what really makes health care better, said another legendary VC, Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, at the same conference.

    "80% of what doctors do can be done at a fraction of cost at substantial better quality," by using smartphones and low-cost sensors Khosla said.

    He showed off a number of smartphone apps that he's invested in that could replace expensive diagnostic procedures.

    • AliveCor: An iPhone app that monitors your heart electrocardiogram (EKG). He's trying to convince the founders to give it away for free, he said.
    • CellScope Oto: Takes a photograph of the ear and ear temperature to diagnose ear infections and other illnesses.
    • Monitors how you use your smartphone to track your mental health. Watches emails, phone calls, app usage. If you're normal behavior changes, it can alert you or your psychiatrist.

    SEE ALSO: Here's How Steve Jobs Helped Invent Cloud Computing, According To Marc Benioff

    SEE ALSO: The Business App 50: The Best Apps To Help You Do Your Job

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Incubating a Company Graphic_03Incubating a company is one of the most interesting things that I do as a venture capitalist. It’s not only a lot of fun, it also puts me in the entrepreneur’s shoes which gives me perspective on how to provide the right kind of support and advice for my portfolio companies.

    Every few years, I see a great opportunity that no company is addressing and I help assemble a team to charge headlong into the market. This year, I incubated a company called Shake which creates concise, plain English, legally binding agreements on your mobile phone. I learn so much from the process of incubating companies that I decided to write a short series for Business Insider about the experience in order to help potential entrepreneurs understand the events that go on inside a startup that hopefully lead to that moment when after months of research and soul-searching, the co-founders look around the table at each other and say, “let’s do this.”

    The idea for Shake was the brainchild of Jon Steinberg, a long- time friend and the President of BuzzFeed (an RRE portfolio company) and Jared Grusd, the General Counsel for Spotify and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School where I have taught a Venture Capital Seminar for over 10 years. Jon and Jared sat in my offices and told me that they thought they had a great idea but weren’t sure what to do with it.

    shake iphone appJon and Jared met at Google in the mid 2000s where they worked on lots of negotiations together. They were frustrated that the complexity of the legal documents often got in the way of deals that had strong commercial benefits, especially when dealing with SMBs who didn’t have access to expensive legal counsel. The legal documents were simply too convoluted to get deals done without endless rounds of edits and discussions. Working together, Jon and Jared cut out all the extraneous “legalese” and found that two page documents were more efficient, more easily understood, yet equally binding. It was just a better way of doing business.

    Since working at Google, both had moved on to senior roles at great companies where they were personally and professionally satisfied. Neither had the time to start a new company in addition to their day jobs, but both of them saw a real opportunity. Startup companies, freelancers, and most people participating in the collaborative economy needed basic legal documents like NDA’s, loan agreements, consulting agreements, and bills of sale. Most of these needs are perfectly satisfied with boilerplate documents, yet lawyers still charge significant sums to customize these highly standardized agreements. Why not offer simple, legally binding documents, available over a mobile app, instantly executable and available for free? The goal was not to replace lawyers, but to provide a fast, cost efficient supplement for less complicated, routine agreements.

    Every year that I have taught at Columbia, there are one or two truly excellent students that I know I want to get involved with, either as a VC or an entrepreneur. When Jon and Jared approached me, I was finishing up another year of teaching and one of my students, Abe Geiger, really stood out to me; I just knew this guy was going to do something special. Coincidentally, Abe had been working on a legal tech idea of his own — simplifying the fund formation process for Private Equity, VC, and Hedge Funds — and was highly interested inthe consumer driven enterprise (Dropbox, Evernote, Google Apps, etc.) as well as collaborative consumption trends (Airbnb, Taskrabbit, etc.).

    After working on the fund formation idea for a while, he realized that impacting change in the legal industry wasn’t going to happen from the top down, and it needed to happen from the bottom up. So when I told Abe about the opportunity I was considering with Jon and Jared, he said he would be very interested in co-founding Shake with us. He also believed the industry’s raw size, extreme inefficiency and lack of transparency made for the ideal disruptive conditions. We all shared the same vision and philosophy for approaching this opportunity, something that is critical amongst a founding team.

    The more we learned about the market, the more excited we became. We surveyed all of the RRE portfolio companies and saw a real need for simple documents and a better way to customize and manage them. When we looked at the competitive landscape we saw online DIY providers putting confusing legalese online without a mobile presence, and mobile signature products with no content. With a great entrepreneur, an interesting space, a big market opportunity, Shake had the makings of a great venture investment.  Next we needed to really dig into the market and the competition.

    Stuart Ellman is a founding General Partner of RRE Ventures. He also serves as a board member of Shake, a mobile application that allows you to create, sign and send legally binding agreements in seconds.

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    take your dog to work day startups foursquare

    You are the helm of your business. When you're not making big decisions, you're managing employees, projecting revenues, and planning expansion. 

    We're looking to find out what keeps you up at night. Are you thinking about local, national, or global expansion? What apps are best for productivity? Which business credit cards make the most sense? 

    Whether you're an entrepreneur with a great idea that became a great business, or you're running an up-and-coming startup, we'd like to hear from you.

    We know you're busy. 5 minutes of your time is all it takes. Click here to take the survey.

    Thanks in advance for your honest and candid responses. 

    SEE ALSO:  Announcing Business Insider's Startup 2013 conference on October 24, 2013

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    two women starting at an iphone and taking a selfie

    When it comes to startup success, it's not always about being original.

    In many cases, success is about finding a niche and working to do the very best job possible within that space.

    Back in June, Valleywag had an article about the "Stupid Startup Clone War." In it, the writer laments that so many companies in the tech startup scene are merely "half-baked" takes on other startups.

    In particular, he points out the many startups are simply "X company but for Y," such as Vine, the "Instagram for video."

    He then proceeds to list the many examples of such startups on AngelList, a site that aims to bring together startup teams and potential investors.

    While the point of the post is that many of the ideas are silly at best, a closer look reveals that some of his examples are actually quite clever.

    Nudge is Klout for healthy living. Instead of scoring the social media reach of its users, it encourages better living by making it a competitive game. Unlike Klout, people will actually be happy for you if your Nudge score increases.

    Check out Nudge on the App Store.

    HomeStars is Yelp for home improvement. It lets you read reviews of the experiences that people have had with local contractors. For bigger renovations, this app could be the difference between a job well done and a sleazy contractor doing shoddy work on your home.

    HomeStars's website.

    Pixplit is "a collaborative Instagram." By letting users mix and combine their photos, it offers a fresh take on the photography app that doesn't simply rely on fancy filters.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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