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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Hampton Creek

    If there's one thing Silicon Valley is doing better than anywhere else right now, it's optimism. 

    The success of companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Instagram, Nest, Tesla, and others, have pushed people in the Valley to start trying things outside of the typical purview of the Valley. 

    San Francisco-based Hampton Creek is one of those companies. It's trying to replace eggs with a plant-based substitute that's cheaper, but just as tasty and just as good for you. It's backed by Bill Gates, Peter Thiel (who co-founded PayPal, was an early investor in Facebook), and Khosla Ventures.

    When I first heard the idea I scoffed because eggs are plentiful and cheap. You can buy vegetarian fed, free range eggs, so it's not a huge ethical consideration. This seemed like another Silicon Valley company trying to find a solution where there is no problem. 

    After I made some snarky comment on Twitter, Hampton Creek reached out to chat. As a former vegan I was intrigued, so I met with the company's CEO (and current vegan) Josh Tetrick at our office. 

    Tetrick quickly changed my mind.

    I asked him about readily available cage-free eggs. He said, "1.8 trillion eggs are laid, 99% come from these places," pointing to a photo of chickens in cages, "In America, 1/3 of them end up in mayo, and muffins and things like that, we absolutely want to create a model that ends this system because we're cheaper and better."

    In other words, only a sliver of the eggs consumed in the world come from free-range, fairly treated chickens.

    Optimism from a Silicon Valley startup can sound like arrogance, but with Tetrick it sounded like confidence. 

    His company has a research and development team filled with biochemists. "These people know nothing about food. They know about protein structure," says Tetrick. They've looked at 1,500 plants on a molecular level. They then break down the proteins in those plants to replicate what eggs can do. 

    The benefit of this approach is that Hampton Creek can be iterative. So, it can make a plant-based mayonnaise 1.0, then mayo 2.0, and so on, just like Apple does with iPhone software. 

    Animal products like eggs, on the other hand, Tetrick notes, are what they are: "They're good, but they're not getting any better, there's not an iterative process."

    Right now, Hampton Creek sells plain mayo. Chipotle and sriracha flavors are coming in 2014. All three are good. I tried them on pretzels. It also sells an edible cookie dough, which is also tasty. Sure, you could eat raw cookie dough with eggs in it, but it's risky because of salmonella. 

    Its mayo is used for pre-made chicken and tuna salad in some Whole Foods. "It has nothing to do with tasting vegan, or being vegan, it just has to do with being a good mayo," says Tetrick.

    Hampton Creek PricingHe's also focused on making his product low-cost. "We have no interest in being looked at as a premium product, we always want to undercut the competition." He says his egg substitute is 48% cheaper than eggs. He also says he's profitable at current prices.

    As for why Silicon Valley investors are interested in Hampton Creek, Tetrick says, "they look at the inefficiency of [the egg industry], it's like, I'm investing in iPhone technology where I can monitor my heart rate, and these f--king eggs are coming from rusty cages with chickens shitting all over each other?"

    He adds, "For some reason, innovation decided to pass food along the side of the road. And yet there is this incredible innovation — at least in some part — in energy, in software, in mobile, across the board, and we're still getting our eggs from chickens crammed in rusty cages? Savvy investors like Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and Vinod Khosla look at this and they think it's f--king bizarre. They think it's antiquated 19th century technology for a world that requires more."

    Hampton's next major product under development is going to be its real game changer. It is working on making an egg substitute that scrambles up just like normal eggs. It's working on the taste of the scrambled egg right now. "We're going to get there," says Tetrick.

    Once that happens, it's a major shift for Hampton Creek. 

    "For what ever reason our society has gotten stuck on this notion of animal protein the paradigm by which we do things," he says. "Selecting plant proteins isn't a vegan thing, it can be, let's save some money and demolish a rotting industry thing."

    His big vision is to get his Dad, a non-vegan, to not feel weird about picking a plant-based egg: "I want my dad to walk into Piggly Wiggly and see a dozen eggs for $1.50 and see ours for $0.49 and say, 'Give me that.'"

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Atish Davda Equityzen

    If you work for a hot startup and you have an equity stake, it's just money on paper until the company goes public or gets acquired.

    But what if you're an employee with a growing family and you need to buy a bigger house now, not after an IPO? Or you want to angel invest? Or you want to spend your money in another way?

    Today, more startups are trying a new thing to help employees: buying their shares from them, or in some cases, helping them sell shares to other investors.

    Square is said to be raising a round of financing that would give it the cash to buy employee shares, Jessica Lessin at The Information reports. When it raises that round, it wants the company to be valued at $5 billion.

    Square isn't alone. At SecondMarket, a popular private market exchange, the number of transactions between owners of shares in private companies and investors is on the rise, Lessin reports.

    Then there's EquityZen, a startup launched earlier this year specifically devoted to helping employees sell their shares. It's still in beta but says it already has nearly $12 million of equity shares available for purchase on its platform.

    We asked Atish Davda, c0-founder of EquityZen to tell us more about the trend of employees cashing out:

    Business Insider: Are private companies now encouraging employees to sell their shares back to the company before an IPO?

    Atish Davda: More and more progressive companies are more upfront with their employees about what their shares are worth, when and how they will materialize into cash.

    BI: How unusual is it for companies to raise money to buy employees' shares, such as what Square is reportedly doing?

    AD: $5 billion is what Square is saying they're worth. They'll likely raise a small amount, say, $30 million to pay out early employees.

    BI: Is that one of the bigger pre-IPO share buyback programs you've ever heard of in tech? If not, who's bigger?

    AD: Palantir has been doing this for a while. A gaming company called Kabam raised a $38 million offering a couple years back.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    dennis crowley

    Foursquare seems to be making a comeback as users are using the app a lot more lately, Wired reports

    Ever since it updated its app this fall, Foursquare users were interacting 60% more often than they did on previous versions of the app. Foursquare users also now spend 30% more time on the app. 

    Here's how Foursquare accomplished the feat: The team discovered it could use a technique called “geofencing.”

    Geofencing means Foursquare can send your phone a notification about a venue you'd might like to go to whenever you're near the place.

    It seems to be working so far. But some people are quite skeptical. Ben Lerer, the CEO of Thrillist, isn't quite convinced that this new hack will be a game-changer for the startup.

    “It’s a really compelling technology that [could] help them get bought by Google or Facebook or somebody else,” Lerer told Wired. But he still doesn't think it “will explode their numbers.”

    Get more details on Wired >>

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    evan spiegel snapchat founder

    More than 400 million messages are received on Snapchat every day. 

    That's a stat the company likes to use to show off how popular it is without revealing exactly how many people actively use the app.

    Business Insider has gotten a little more color on the numbers Snapchat doesn't want you to see.

    One source with insight into the company's figures told us the following:

    • Snapchat has about 60 million total installs, making it larger than Instagram when it sold to Facebook for $1 billion.
    • Of those 60 million installs, Snapchat has about 30 million monthly active users.
    • Fifty-five percent of monthly active users use Snapchat daily. That's 16.5 million people.

    We checked with another source who wouldn't give exact numbers, but said the absolute figures (60 million installs and 30 million monthly active users) are "much too low."

    From that, we can infer that Snapchat is indeed a monster app with at bare minimum 60 million installs and 30 million monthly active users. That makes its multi-billion-dollar valuation seem reasonable. 

    It doesn't make money yet, but we hear it's looking at popular apps in China like WeChat to monetize. It will likely go the route of charging users for extra items, like stickers and emoticons, before showing you ads.

    Even in Snapchat's early days, engagement was through the roof. In July 2011, just days after Snapchat launched, its CEO Evan Spiegel texted a friend:

    "This thing is a rocketship...Our 7-day retention is 60% right now (target is 30%) and we're growing."

    Snapchat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    clinkle lucas duplan

    Clinkle, a stealth payments startup buzzy for raising the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history, has laid off about 25% of its staff, according to Fortune

    Earlier this year, we counted about 19 employees who had already left Clinkle–including two who dished some major dirt on the company and it's very young founder, Lucas Duplan.

    Although the names of the 16 employees hasn't been released, Fortune reports that they largely come from the business, rather than the engineering side. 

    Two months ago, Clinkle hired Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy as its COO, and he told Fortune that the layoffs do not reflect troubles within the company. 

    "Some young people are leaving, and some very seasoned executives are joining," he said. "It's reasonable to assume that these execs wouldn't be joining if something was chronically wrong or broken."

    Clinkle reportedly plans to launch its product on college campuses early next year. 

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    mark suster vacation

    I've spent the past few days in Los Angeles visiting dozens of startups and investors in southern California. I met with fashion startups, social startups, video startups, and incubators.

    Los Angeles — specifically Venice Beach — is also where Snapchat is located.

    I asked a dozen startup people there the same two questions:

    • "What is Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel like?"
    • "What do you think about Snapchat turning down Facebook's $3 billion offer?"

    Before we get into their responses, there's one thing we should note:

    Not everyone believes Snapchat actually rejected a formal $3 billion offer from Facebook. One person with vague knowledge of the situation believed there was some level of rejection between Snapchat and Facebook, but it wasn't clear how serious talks were. It probably depends on how you define the word "offer." A few months ago, Evan Spiegel claimed he had never received a formal acquisition offer, despite having met Mark Zuckerberg to discuss his business nine months prior.

    But let's assume Snapchat did turn down a formal $3 billion acquisition from Facebook. Here's what people in LA think of Spiegel and his decision to reject billions of dollars.

    For being the startup man of the hour, Evan Spiegel is elusive in LA. Even some of the most prominent people in the tech scene there have never met him. That's because Spiegel doesn't attend many of the tech parties, chat it up with investors, or attend local events. Some feel it's because he looks down on the startup scene and isn't a big supporter of the community. Others say he's just a busy guy who's trying to focus on his startup.

    Whisper CEO Michael Heyward, 26, attended the same high school as Spiegel. His sister is about the same age as the Snapchat CEO. Heyward says he and Spiegel are on friendly terms: they say hi when they see each other but otherwise they don't have much communication. They're both focused on building their businesses.

    Whatever his reputation, most people we spoke with felt Spiegel was crazy for turning down billions of dollars.

    "Does anyone not think it's crazy?" One person asked. Another startup executive attributed Spiegel's "crazy" decision to the fact that he's young. This person wondered if Spiegel, who is only 23, had any concept of money. Spiegel's father is a very successful lawyer who gave him a hefty allowance and his mother caved to Spiegel's demands for a BMW in high school.  

    We also found three people who supported Spiegel's decision to reject Facebook.

    Mike Jones runs a startup incubator in Los Angeles, Science Inc. Science Inc has produced startups like DogVacay and Dollar Shave Club.

    Jones formerly ran MySpace and he has met Spiegel. In fact, he was invited to Snapchat's offices to present the MySpace story to Snapchat's team. So Spiegel definitely understands that startup success can be fleeting.

    Jones didn't call Spiegel's decision crazy. Instead, he applauded Spiegel for trying to become the next Mark Zuckerberg.

    Tinder CEO Sean Rad said he occasionally communicates with Spiegel and thinks Snapchat was smart to reject Facebook. Rad says if he were Spiegel, he wouldn't have sold Snapchat either.

    "Facebook is about permanence," Rad rationalized. "Snapchat is about impermanence." Since the companies are fundamentally different, and because Snapchat has so much momentum, Rad doesn't believe selling to Facebook makes much sense. Selling to Google, which hasn't had luck in the social media department, makes even less sense.

    Mark Suster, a Los Angeles-based VC who is not a Snapchat investor, also believes Spiegel was wise not to sell. Here's Suster's logic:

    No matter how you slice it, Evan Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy are rich. Even if Snapchat fails, the co-founders will be worth at least $40 million, Suster estimates. That's generational wealth and more than enough to buy houses, toys, and support their families.  

    Here's where that $40 million figure comes from:

    • During Snapchat's $60 million Series B round of financing, Spiegel and Murphy reportedly swapped equity for $10 million in cash, each.
    • Spiegel and Murphy could make $10-20 million more on secondary markets. Sources say they currently own more than 50% of Snapchat, which makes sense since they were able to reject the reported multi-billion-dollar offers.
    • Even if Snapchat's exit is a fraction of its current valuation, Spiegel and Murphy could pocket a few million. Suster estimates each could make $20 million in a worst-case exit scenario. 

    Suster's logic: If you're young and you're already set for life financially, what risk are you really taking by turning down billions?

    Sure, $1 billion is a lot more money than $40 million. But in the words of BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, "How many yachts can you water ski behind?" If Snapchat sold now, Spiegel might always wonder what could have been.

    So the decision wasn't to accept or reject billions of dollars. It was to either settle for being rich, or try and create something legendary. Spiegel chose the latter. 

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    sheila marcelo care.com ceo

    Care.com, a company that connects you to service providers like nannies, babysitters, and pet sitters, filed for its IPO today. It's trying to raise $80 million.

    Here are the most important numbers from its IPO filing:

    • It has 9.5 million members and the site gets more than 6.4 million unique visitors per month.
    • Care.com generated $59 million in revenue this year through September.
    • It had $48.5 million in revenue for 2012 and a net loss of $20.4 million.
    • Investors include Matrix Partners (owns 22.24% of stock), Trinity Ventures (owns 14.39% of stock), New Enterprise Associates (owns 13.36% of stock), Institutional Venture Partners (owns 10.21% of stock), and USAA (owns 9.29% of stock).

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    circle ceo

    This week, a local news network app called Circle sky-rocketed to the top of Apple's App Store charts. 

    But, as Valleywag pointed out, the app was incredibly spammy in the way it asked you to invite all your Facebook friends to try out the service.

    In response to the mass annoyance expressed by people getting dozens of invites to try the service on Facebook, Circle CEO Evan Reas vowed to revoke the app's spam-blasting behavior on Circle's blog.

    Circle will now only send a maximum of three of invites through Facebook and two through text messages per user. It won't let you invite any more than that. You can now rest assured that the number of pointless Facbeook notifications you receive will be going back to normal.

    Check out the letter from Circle's CEO in its entirety:

    Hey Circle Community!

    We are constantly listening to our community feedback and made a couple of recent changes. We really appreciate all your support so far in strengthening your local community and hope you will keep providing us awesome use cases in the app. We also very much appreciate the nice reviews and are so excited to have a 4.6/5 rating on iOS and 4.4/5 on Android.

    Thank You!

    First, we totally heard your feedback about being unsure about the new layout and design, and specifically not being able to find your friends. We need to make this more obvious. For now, TAP on the city name on the home page (New York, Chicago etc) and it will open up all the categories and tap them to add. Many of the posts are going into "Random" or other categories so make sure to add them to see all the recent posts!

    Secondly, over the last few months we have been constantly experimenting with ways to share the application with friends and build your local network. We know that the app is much more useful when your local network is bigger, just like LinkedIn or Facebook. It can be a tough balance to strike to allow people to share the app with their social network but making sure it isn't too much. We do want you to be able to share the app with your friends, but not bombard them with invites so after experimentation we have settled on sending a maximum of only 3 total invites on facebook and 2 invites through SMS. If they are sent more than that, we won't deliver them to the recipient.

    This seems like a good balance to us but as always we would absolutely love to hear your thoughts and feedback and you can get in touch with us any time at circleappfeedback@gmail.com. Just yesterday, a member emailed me to tell me that he loved how it felt like Circle is like the old community boards that are in small town cafe's and we absolutely love hearing that.

    Thanks for all the support.

    cheers,

    evan

    SEE ALSO: How to use Circle

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    phil libin evernote ceo

    I've tested dozens and dozens of phones over the years. And while the experience can vary wildly from device to device, there are still a handful of services and apps I always make sure I have right off the bat.

    Twitter. Gmail. And Evernote.

    It's the latter that has increasingly become the most important thing I use day to day. For those of you unfamiliar with Evernote, it's a primarily a note-taking app. You jot something down on your iPhone, and that note syncs over the Internet to all your other devices. Your laptop. Your tablet. Even your refrigerator.

    It goes beyond that though. Evernote has a suite of apps like Skitch, which lets you annotate images with arrows and text, and Hello, which lets you scan business cards and sync them with your LinkedIn account. (Hello is about to be spun into the regular Evernote app.) And there's another, new part of Evernote's business: physical products. Evernote now sells items ranging from messenger bags to notebooks, all the non-digital stuff people would need to remain productive.

    I keep everything in Evernote. Transcriptions of interviews with my sources. Story ideas. Photos of receipts for lunches or trips I need to expense. And all that stuff is instantly available on all the gizmos I use every day. 

    If you don't use Evernote, you should.

    I had a chance to sit down with Evernote's CEO, Phil Libin, a few weeks ago to dive a bit deeper into what's going on at the company.

    When I met Libin, he was wearing an Evernote t-shirt under his blazer, like a proud geek dad wearing a t-shirt from his kid's college. Libin is soft-spoken, but has a lengthy, intelligent answer for just about any question you throw at him. And he doesn't get flustered when I asked him annoying business reporter-type questions like "When are you going to IPO?" or "How much revenue do you bring in?" 

    In an era when it seems like many startups are striving for a quick exit, Libin says Evernote is in it for the long haul. He uses the line the line that Evernote is a "100-year startup" in just about every interview he's given, but if you dive a bit deeper, you can tell he really means it. Evernote is more than just a company that helps you jot down notes. The long-term goal is to be the company that provides everything productive people need. You can already see that in the diversity of its products today, and Libin says he feels like Evernote is well-equipped to handle whatever changes technology may bring to the way we work.

    That's part of the reason why unlike most app companies, Evernote has a version of its service on just about everything that runs on electricity, from household appliances to smart watches. The idea is for Evernote to be omnipresent, even if only a few people adopt a particular product.

    "We're not in the business of predicting who's going to win and who's going to lose," Libin says. "We get a lot of knowledge designing for everything. It's an intentional decision to stretch people as much as possible."

    The next logical step, of course, would be an IPO, which Libin says is two to three years away. Evernote has raised over $250 million in funding so far and is valued at well over $1 billion. Libin wouldn't give me specific revenue numbers, but there is growth. Revenue for 2013 is up 2.5 times what it was a year ago, Libin says. That revenue comes from people signing up for the paid version of Evernote, which costs $5 per month or $45 per year and lets you use the service offline and upload an unlimited number of files. The products business, which is available on the Web and through the Evernote apps, has also exceeded revenue expectations, Libin says. There's also a paid product businesses can sign their employees up for. Evernote has 80 million registered users.

    But an IPO isn't at the forefront of Libin's mind.

    "I think it's morally right for us to be public," Libin says. "An IPO itself is not a goal. I think for most companies at our scale or beyond, the day of the IPO isn't that special. We're trying to make something bigger."

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    whisper app michael heyward

    If you open mobile app Whisper, it looks like a collection of Internet memes. Each entry is a picture with bold text on top, created in seconds by users.

    Unlike memes, Whisper's photo messages aren't often funny.

    They're thought-provoking and serious; the kind of secrets only best friends reveal to each other.

    "That moment in the locker room when all your teammates are making fun of gays and you're just sitting there like 'glad you don't know about me…'" one popular Whisper reads.

     

    whisper

    There are some light-hearted messages on Whisper too.

    "Snow, the only time a girl gets excited over three inches," is one example.

    Reading Whisper is like "watching a trainwreck," one user told Business Insider. It's hard to pull your eyes away.

    The two-year-old app is rapidly gaining popularity. Millions of people use Whisper and it is approaching 3 billion monthly pageviews. On average, people spend more than 20 minutes per day with Whisper, checking its content 8–10 times per day. Whisper has raised $25 million from early Snapchat investor Lightspeed and others.

    The people who are spilling their guts on Whisper fall between ages 17 and 28. Heyward says fewer than 4% of his users are under the age of 18. The vast majority of its users — 70% — are women. 

    The reason Whisper gets so many people to share things they'd never say out loud is because everything is posted anonymously. In the past, anonymous social networks have been nasty places. Just look at the comments on YouTube, or at failed startups like Juicy Campus, which were sued by people defamed on their sites.

    Michael Heyward, the app's 26-year-old founder, has gone to great lengths to keep Whisper's content respectful. He never wants anyone to read Whisper and feel like they need to shower. He has 92 people moderating content and comments in the Philippines in addition to the 32 people Whisper employs full-time.

    whisper house

    "You are who you are when no one else is looking," Heyward told Business Insider at his Santa Monica headquarters in early December. "Anonymity is a really powerful tool. But we think about it like that Spiderman' quote: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' Think about all the things you can do with a hammer. You can build something great ... or you can kill someone."

    Heyward occasionally teaches at USC. In a recent class, he asked students to raise their hands if they were virgins. No one did. Then he blindfolded them, turned off the lights, and asked the same question. Half of the hands went up. Think of the first scenario as Facebook and the second as Whisper.

    Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are social networks tied to identities. Because of that, people only share things they're proud of, like engagements, articles, weddings, vacations and pregnancies. Heyward, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to the same high school as Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, says he's innovating loneliness.

    Anonymity is a really powerful tool. Think about all the things you can do with a hammer. You can build something great, or you can kill someone.

    Heyward's mission is to make sure people only use anonymity on Whisper to protect themselves and not to hurt someone else. The result is something that looks like an open-source diary, with supportive comments from people who understand the intense feelings being described.  Often, users will respond to one Whisper with another.

    Not all of Whisper's content is real. A few posts are dreamt up by imaginative users. But for the many that are, Whisper acts like a therapy group that connects people based on intimate, shared experiences. Some Whisper users say the app has saved their lives.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    YPlan

    When you work for a startup, chances are you're going to get your hands dirty doing a lot of different kinds of work. 

    Well, the employees of New York startup YPlan did exactly that. 

    The company, which makes an app that curates nightly entertainment in NYC and London, sourced all its desks from Hurricane Sandy debris. And the employees helped make them. 

    (Take a closer look at the app here.)

    A few months before YPlan opened its new offices in Manhattan, employees road-tripped to a workshop north of the city to work alongside Robert Rising, a man who calls himself "The Black Lumberjack."

    Sandy Wood Rising collected hundreds of felled trees after Hurrican Sandy to turn them into beautiful furniture.All-in-all, the employees helped him create 25 desks from this reclaimed wood.

    Jessica Hack, YPlan's operations manager, said the team knew that it wanted to locally-source all of the furnishings for its new office to support the city (the company first was founded in London). Using Sandy debris was the perfect fit. 

    "We thought that it would be really cool to have something in our office connected to an event that was so huge for the city,"Jessica Hack, YPlan's operations manager, told Business Insider. 

    By helping Rising build the desks, YPlan also kept costs down and gave its new employees the opportunity to grow closer through team-bonding.

    YPlan Desks

    YPlan raised $12 million this summer for its international expansion, and it launched in New York City in September. 

    "Since then, we've been growing at double the pace as we did when we launched in London," co-founder Rytis Vitkauskas says. YPlan is available of iPhone or Android.

    YPlanTables

    The point of YPlan is to help you make last-minute plans. It lists about ten interesting events, which are often discounted or exclusive.



    You can read more details about each individual event.



    Before booking tickets though, you have to sign-up.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Mark Zuckerberg

    Facebook has acquired SportStream, a San Francisco startup that analyzes mentions of sports on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It sells that data to media sites or sports teams to use on their websites, or simply to track what people are saying.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed but we know that SportStream raised at least $3.5 million when it was founded in 2012 and was backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's venture firm, Vulcan Capital.

    Neither the announcement by Facebook, nor the one by SportStream explains what Facebook plans to do with the technology, except that it will use it to better connect Facebook with sports fans.

    According to LinkedIn, the startup employed about a dozen people. Facebook's post says that its welcoming the SportStream folks to its Menlo Park campus.

    Here's the full announcement from SportStream:

    Joining Facebook

    We’re excited to announce that Facebook has agreed to acquire SportStream.

    We set out 18 months ago to help fans better connect around all the best moments in sports. We made it our mission to deliver them the best social content, stats, news and more around games, favorite teams and players in real-time. We’ve made significant progress, especially through our relationships with major sports media companies and teams. The tools and services developed by our small team have helped some of the biggest names in sports leverage social media in exciting new ways for their fans. Joining Facebook provides an amazing opportunity for us to greatly expand on our original vision.

    Facebook sees the value in our technologies and team, and we’re excited to be a part of their continued investment in their platform. With this next step for SportStream, we’ll have greater resources to continue to do what we do best. We expect to make an impact on the more than 1 billion people who use Facebook as well as the many valued sports media businesses and professionals, teams, leagues and players that use Facebook to better connect with fans. At Facebook, we will continue delivering great experiences with our existing partners and actively work with them on transition planning. And we’ll be scaling and further developing tools and resources to help many, many more partners going forward.

    We’re incredibly grateful to those who have supported us and been a part of the SportStream story. We’re especially appreciative of the ongoing support from our families, the team at Vulcan Capital, our partners and all the friends of the company that have been behind us along the way. We’re looking forward to the road ahead at Facebook!

    SEE ALSO: The 22 Best Tech Companies To Work For, According To Employees

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    overcrowded subway indonesia

    Moovit, a social transit and mapping application, just closed a $28 million round led by Sequoia Capital with participation from its existing investors BRM Group and Gemini Israel Ventures.

    Like the social mapping app Waze, Moovit helps you find the fastest, least crowded route by tracking the movements of its users and then syncing that up with official transit data.

    Moovit is currently live in 100 cities. It plans on using the funding to improve its existing service in those cities and expand into additional markets.

    As part of the deal, Gili Raanan of Sequoia will join the Moovit board. 

    The transit and navigation space has been heating up lately. Back in June, Google bought Waze for a reported $1 billion. This year alone, Apple bought HopStop and Embark, two public transit apps.

    Waze doesn't affect Google's public transit offerings, but it's still a great option for accessing accurate public transit schedules and times. Embark is superb at working underground to let you know how much longer you'll have to wait for an unreliable train, such as the notorious G train in Brooklyn. And HopStop works great for planning trips. 

    Moovit faces some stiff competition, but it does have the advantage of pulling in reports of delays and other data from its user base.

    Each day, Moovit's 3 million users generate more than 10 million reports. Users can report things like how crowded a train is, its cleanliness, driver competence, Wi-Fi, air conditioning problems, etc.

    The app, which is available for iOS and Android, and has raised $31.5 million to date. 

    SEE ALSO: Waze CEO Explains Why He Just Sold His App To Google For ~ $1 Billion

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    cornell johnson edited

    Cornell University's Johnson School of Management is seriously rethinking the MBA.

    Starting this May, the school will launch a one-year MBA program at its New York tech campus that aims to bridge the gap between tech skills and management ability. If the program proves effective, it could reshape the way leaders emerge in the tech industry.

    "The goal is to produce leaders for the digital economy," says Doug Stayman, the associate dean of MBA programs at Johnson. "Organizations desperately need people who are true leaders but also understand the business needs and the technical needs."

    To accomplish that goal, the program hopes to break down a longstanding barrier between the tech community and business school grads. Experts say that startups are often reluctant to hire the average MBA, whose skills they see as unsuited for the culture and work of their companies. 

    The MBA was developed in the mid-20th century and designed to prepare students for work in a specific type of company, explains Stayman. It was a lynchpin for places like Procter & Gamble and McKinsey — big companies known for their thorough approaches to analyzing data, solving problems, and implementing solutions.

    But business grads trained in those skills aren't usually the candidates tech startups are looking for. "These things are not just content, they're cultural," Stayman says of the divide. More often than not, he explains, startups see the MBA style of thinking as clashing with their approach and culture. 

    To address that, Cornell consulted startups and tech companies when drawing up plans for its new degree, the Wall Street Journal reported. The program will mix classroom learning with a heavy dose of hands-on, entrepreneurial skills and experience. Students will learn skills valued by today's startups, such as consumer insights, planning, and product development.

    So far, the program has more than 70 applicants for a target class of 35 to 40 people. The degree's hefty price tag, while not finalized, is expected to run in the low $90,000 range. By comparison, two-year tuition tends to cost between $100,000 and $120,000 for most top-10 business school programs. Stayman says the program will offer some merit-based financial aid, and he also expects a number of students will be sponsored by companies and employers. 

    Despite its tech-business focus, graduates aren't exclusively meant to work for startups. Stayman sees it as an open-ended certification. On the one hand, it could help the business-minded cross into tech, but on the other, it could give students an inroad to traditional management jobs.

    "We want them to go to places who hire MBAs — to Deloitte, to Amazon, and to other recruiters who hire MBAs — but also to people who don't traditionally hire MBAs," Stayman said.

    SEE ALSO: People Who Use Nicknames Earn Bigger Paychecks

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    Startup

    A year ago, just before the New Year, I wrote on Business Insider about 10 business practices that would lead to profitability in 2013. Out of my predictions, perhaps the best forecast was the rise of the micropreneur and the emergence of the share economy.

    Companies such as Airbnb and Uber have created their own economies by empowering individuals to rent out their excess-capacity assets in return for additional streams of income. These companies have proven through their business models that they are fixtures of the new economy as they earn substantial revenue and create value for those that are plugged into their infrastructure — patrons and contractors alike.

    In a similar vein, I predict 2014 to be a year of rapid change, tireless innovation, and officially the year of the startup, in which it will seem nearly as likely for individuals to wake up every day working on their own venture as it will for the collective workforce to work for a corporation. But technology, democratized information, and open-source platforms aren’t just changing the way we make money; they’re revolutionizing the ways we learn, how we meet people — from dating to business lunching — interact with one another, and function physiologically. 

    Here are my top 10 strategies to maximize your professional impact in 2014 — and beyond. 

    1. Integrate the share economy into your income stream. Businesses such as Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit have shown in a big way that you can supplement your income — even derive your full salary — from utilizing the spare-capacity economy. With projected gross revenues of over $1 billion in 2013, Uber is showing that excess use of taxis is a real business.

    It is only a matter of time before more goods and services are used for their full productive value such as clothes, boats, planes, and who knows what else. If you’re looking to earn extra income, think about how you might be able to turn your home into a bed and breakfast when you’re not in town or your car into a taxi when it’s sitting in your driveway on a weekend afternoon. The reputation you build online and through mobile applications as a provider of credible services and a lender of goods could earn you more than you ever thought.

    2. Meeting people online or through an app is no longer taboo. Real relationships are being started and stoked online and through smartphones. Proximity is power. We want to meet attractive and professionally compelling people in our area right now. The advent and increased popularity of apps like Tinder, which has made over 50 million matches, and less known but still prolific apps like Between now make it easier than ever to meet people in an instant. 

    3. Geek is the new chic. The days of high-school-quarterback hallway domination are over. Now the guys pulling in all the girls are those who can write Ruby (software programming language) and hardwire a circuit board. Innovation and intelligence are the new sexy.

    With mere teenagers and 20-somethings making millions (or even billions) starting tech companies, (think David Karp of Tumblr) the new age of popular youngsters will be more likely to speak PHP than French and get a workout from searching the internet on their phablets than to bench-press 225 in the gym. These are the guys and girls you want to pay attention to when looking for the next big thing, and who you’ll most likely hear about as VCs invest in the next generation of businesses.

    4. Part-time hires and testing employees before they start will save companies millions. With an increasing portion of the workforce becoming freelance (predicted to grow to 70 million by 2020) and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more workers will become accustomed to working part time than being bound to one employer.

    If you run a company or are a project manager looking for technical support, tap into freelance resources that can help you get important projects done in constrained timeframes without needing to pay them benefits or worry about bureaucratic red tape. If you do need to hire, then have them work on a project first to see how you get along with them. Perhaps they are best suited for a project-oriented role rather than a full-time position. 

    5. Instagram is the new Facebook. Privacy is a real issue, and the ones driving the growth of social media sites — youngsters — prefer more and more to upload photos than anything else. Privacy and photo-sharing is the reason why Facebook offered Snapchat $3 billion for the company, where users exchange more than 400 million photos a day on the ephemeral photo-sharing app. Photo is where it’s at.

    Ask any 16-year-old to name their favorite social media app, and they unequivocally choose Instagram. In fact, many have even deleted their Facebook accounts altogether professing that they’re tired of getting stalked by their parents and family, and view it as a liability in the college admission or job search process. Luckily for Zuck, he bought Instagram as a great move of defense against the loss of his own users. 

    6. Video will be the new photo. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then how many pictures is a video worth? As video players become better integrated into smartphones, cloud technology reduces strain on bandwidth, and apps such as Cameo, Vine, and Ocho gain increasing popularity, video will become a mainstream way of communicating and presenting one’s self. Youtube recently announced that it receives 40% of its traffic from mobile, up from 6% just two years ago, and it has been reported that as much as 10% of Google’s revenue comes from Youtube.

    Over $1 billion has been invested into video companies in 2013 alone, and dedicated outlets such as VideoInk and Newmediarockstars.com have sprung up to track this booming sector. There is a massive shift occurring in the way we view videos, and the more that people move to smartphones, the more that video will be a persuasive and compulsory form of marketing and communication. 

    7. Legal contracts and deal terms will be simplified. Y Combinator recently released the anti-convertible-note called Safe, which is essentially a financing structure that eliminates debt and simplifies the conversion process of an early investment into equity. As more people raise angel, seed, and venture capital, keeping terms simple and economics advantageous to both founders and investors becomes ever more critical. No more coupons and complicated conversion calculations, just simple conversion to equity when benchmarks are made.

    Equally, a startup called Shake, founded by Abe Geiger, is injecting the spirit of a handshake into simple, yet iron-clad legal agreements. Say goodbye to expensive legal fees and pages of uninterpretable jargon. Shake makes the legal process simple by providing boilerplate templates that cover the majority of transactions that take place, which can be signed via your finger on your smartphone screen. With over 80,000 downloads and $15 million in legal agreements in a mere three months since its launch, Shake could change the legal game.

    8. Retargeting via mobile phones. Up until recently, the process of showing an advertisement for a product or service that someone viewed on their smartphone but didn’t buy — otherwise known as retargeting — was not a possibility. Twitter, however, recently cracked this code by allowing the cookies on your desktop computer to interact with your smartphone, “tying the identity of a mobile user to what they do on the computer.” As more commerce is done via mobile, the early entrants to the intelligent, data-driven advertising market on mobile devices before it gets oversaturated will likely be the ones to bank the most buck.

    9. 2014 will be the year of the startup. Whether you’ve been in business for 10 years or 10 days, it pays to act like a startup. The economic environment is replete with innovation and change, and the importance of being nimble and adaptable is heightened. Whether it’s in attracting new clients, capital, or employees, customers want to know that you have the foundation of a company that can last but the flexibility of a startup.

    What does this mean? Show that your business is made up of real people. Tell your company story and interact with people as if you want to teach them about who you are and what you do, not merely what you can sell them. Don’t be afraid to show the human side of your business. Take Actifio for example, the radically simple “copy data management” company. They’re solving a $46 billion problem, but if you look on their customer reviews section, you’ll see the human side of the technology, enabling organizations to invest less on infrastructure and more on innovation.

    10. Customer service is crucial to success. Customers are tired of being treated like numbers. Quick, professional responses to real problems will go a long way in further building customer loyalty and raving fans. The founders of 37Signals explain in their book “Rework” that when starting their company, they responded themselves to every customer service inquiry immediately, and only hired a separate team when they couldn’t do it any longer.

    This doesn’t mean that you have to respond to everyone. You should know who your customers are and which ones you want to keep. But once you do, make sure you respond to them with sensible solutions and in a reasonable timeframe. Often, the opportunity to fix a problem and show your care will create a longer relationship with a customer than it would have had you just provided the solution upfront. 

    Bonus: Life is short. Make it count. The ever-increasing pace at which technology advances our lives, the quicker life is sure to feel. Life is too short to not do what you love; to not take risks to be your full self; and to not leave your positive mark on humanity in the form of giving back through creation and contribution. Channeling the ethos of the late Steve Jobs, we only get to do so many things in life, so the things you choose to do, make them great, and always have a sense of urgency about getting them done. Never underestimate the power of creation and how creating is the fullest expression of being alive. 

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    buzz words tech startup

    If you watch "30 Rock," you’ve undoubtedly seen the scene in which Jack Donaghy spouts off the importance of synergy, followed by about 10 other buzzwords that just don’t make any sense at all. That’s the joke. 

    Industries love their buzzwords, but perhaps none as much so as the tech business. There are tons of buzzwords new startups will use to market themselves. Sure, some are necessary: they’re a more efficient way of conveying what you mean.

    But others don’t mean what you think they mean, and in fact, might even convey something other than what you’re hoping to say.

    Innovative

    If you’re calling your startup innovative, you’re being redundant. Most startups are at least kind of innovative, but there are really two kinds of innovation. You can either be breaking through a wall, or you can take a path that someone else has already taken. Take Palm, for instance. When Palm introduced the Pilot, they had to spend a lot of time and money explaining what it actually was. After that, though, there was an explosion of new companies releasing Pilots. Palm was the true innovator — the others made a few tweaks they thought made it better. Stop saying you’re innovative and show us why you are.

    The Next Big Thing

    Sure, your new startup project is certainly your next big thing, but the odds are really against it being the next big thing. Your startup, try as you might, will most likely not explode in the proportions that Facebook did. You just really aren’t being realistic or honest with yourself if you believe this. Stop saying it, and put the work behind it to make it big. Don’t rely on people to just take your word for it.

    Mission Critical

    I hear a lot of entrepreneurs talk about their startups like they’re an army going to war against the big guys. They’ll call certain aspects of meetings or development “mission critical.” You’re doing it wrong. Look into "The Art of War," an old military treatise written by Sun Tzu. Learn the real tactics behind war, and figure out how they actually apply to what you’re doing. You’ll realize the points you’re focusing on aren’t all that mission critical after all.

    Market Fit

    Sure, I can take your word on the fact that your product is a market fit in my market, but I would much rather see hard data — data you should collect in the initial phases of starting your business — and make my own decision. As a start-up, you should know where you fit in, what your wheelhouse is. If you tell people you’re a market fit and don’t provide some kind of white paper, it shows that you didn’t do your legwork.

    Sexy

    Hiring good user interface people has become the new thing, and it’s all about making a product look and feel good. Unfortunately, because good UI people are hard to find — there just aren’t that many of them — some start-ups have taken to mimicking another design. When they talk about it, they say, “sexy.” Yeah, it’s sexy, but is it new or different? Doesn’t the style speak for itself? Do you need to label it? More often than not, “sexy” is just referring to another design that has been copied, and isn’t unique. When you produce something with a UI that’s unique, the only word you’ll hear is, “Wow.”

    SEE ALSO: The 15 Most Overused Business Words Of 2013

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    new snapchat logo 2013It's interesting how much or how little a company's logo can tell you about the company itself.

    In tech, a tiny app logo is often the first and only exposure millions of users will have to your company. Think how they look scrolling by in Google Play or the App Store.

    And then there is Apple. Its early multicolored logo set the tone for how people felt about the company: it was whimsical and approachable, just like the Mac's graphical user interface.

    The flat, monochrome Apple logo of today also reflects the values that we associate with the company, simple but sophisticated: it's trimmed down to the bare essentials while still retaining its form, like the incremental updates we see to the company's gadgets each year (at least, that's how Apple would like us to see them).

    That's why it was amazing to see so many companies change their logos this year. From startups to the biggest players in the tech industry, a number of companies have altered the very image that most people associate with them in their minds. Sometimes such changes are a mistake, while others can change how people see a company. 

    11. Google has demonstrated an across-the-board improvement in the design of its apps and services over the last few years. Their new logo reflects that, as it is simpler yet seems more professional than the one it replaces.



    10. Yahoo is going through a vastly transformative period under the leadership of Marissa Mayer. As part of that change, the company unveiled an intriguing (if polarizing) new logo that feels both eccentric (differently sized "O"s!) and engineered.



    9. While not a major change, removing the "gloss" effect and changing the font ever-so-slightly made Facebook's logo cleaner than ever.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Snapchat

    There were a lot of startups that broke out of obscurity this year.

    From Uber to Tinder to Snapchat, a few companies got millions of mainstream users to download and use their products. In Uber's case, the company is generating tens of millions per week.

    But the startup that won 2013 has to be Snapchat (Runner up: Uber).

    Sure, Snapchat generates no revenue. But that doesn't mean it isn't building a great, massive business.

    Let's go over the year it has had.

    In early 2013, Snapchat defeated Poke. Poke was an app launched by Facebook that ripped off Snapchat's entire premise just weeks after the founders met with Mark Zuckerberg. Poke sat at the top of the App Store for a few days before falling off the charts completely.

    In February, an ousted member of the founding Snapchat team, Reggie Brown, filed a lawsuit against founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy for one-third of the company. At the very least, the lawsuit validates Snapchat. If the app wasn't something special, there'd be no reason for three people who used to be friends and fraternity brothers to sue each other.

    In June, the company raised a $60 million round of financing at an $800 million valuation. The fundraise also made Murphy and Spiegel rich; the pair reportedly swapped equity for $10 million in cash each.

    At about the same time, people started to realize how ginormous Snapchat had become. A lot of reporters compared the app to Instagram in terms of photos shared per day.

    Although the app is still smaller than Instagram in terms of total downloads and monthly active users, and it's smaller than messaging competitor WhatsApp, Snapchat users now send and receive an impressive 400 million photo messages per day.

    That brings us to November, when Snapchat reportedly turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook and a reported $4 billion offer from Google.

    At that moment, CEO Evan Spiegel decided he didn't just want to become rich. Ironically, he wanted to build a lasting product and become an entrepreneurial legend. Instead of joining Mark Zuckerberg, he wanted to become Mark Zuckerberg.

    Investors rewarded Snapchat in December with a new $50 million round of financing at a $2 billion valuation.

    Perhaps what's most impressive about Snapchat is that it has completely turned social media on its head. From Facebook to Twitter, there's been a long-standing assumption that people want their lives recorded forever online. Snapchat firmly believes that shared content is best when it's ephemeral.

    Congrats to Snapchat's team of 30 and its CEO Evan Spiegel for one heck of a year.

    *Note: Startup of the year is completely subjective. The decision was based on user adoption, social validation, general achievements and overall growth from 2012 to 2013. That doesn't mean Snapchat is the most innovative or world-changing startup of the year. If you disagree with our choice, feel free to leave a compelling argument for another startup in the comments.

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    bill gurley benchmark

    From early Pinterest investor Shana Fisher to Snapchat's first investor Jeremy Liew, a few venture capitalists have had dynamite years.

    But which came out on top in 2013?

    He might be ranked #33 on Forbes' annual Midas List, but Benchmark's Bill Gurley is our clear #1.

    Gurley has been investing for over a decade. Two of his firm's investments became multiple billion-dollar companies this year, Snapchat and Uber.

    Benchmark invested in Snapchat's 2012 Series A round of financing. Now the disappearing photo app is worth $2 billion.

    Gurley is also on Uber's board of directors. Uber's leaked revenue figures show the company is generating $20 million per week. Gurley invested in the company's 2011 Series A round of financing; now Uber is worth $3.4 billion. Benchmark was one of three investors in Uber's most recent round.

    Benchmark has also invested in Quip, a tablet word processing application founded by former Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, Instagram, and Twitter. Twitter went public this year; Instagram was previously acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.

    In addition to his Uber and Snapchat investments, Gurley has backed local social network Nextdoor, content personalization startup Sailthru, and Airbnb for dogs, DogVacay.

    Gurley shed some light on his investing strategy at this year's Fortune Brainstorm conference.

    His first bit of advice is to never back an entrepreneur who is afraid.

    "You want a ceo who's not afraid to play at the next level," Gurley told Fortune's Dan Primack. "I always like to point to Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff and Reed Hastings. They never complained about going public...You never want to back people who are afraid to be out there."

    As for the investment thesis that lead him to Snapchat, Gurley explained:

    "The thing that I would say that has become fundamentally true in the venture world is that these social network type plays have taken off and generated immense viewership very quickly, it has typically been associated with a higher probability of a higher price at a later stage outcome and that's happened over and over and over again. You combine that with what I would say with what I would say is one of the loosest and most active late stage finance environments and that's the answer to you equation.

    "We have some fundamental beliefs about why Snapchat's working. A lot of younger people feel like Facebook's — what we heard from younger people is that Facebook is LinkedIn to them. And what they mean by that is the permanence of it and who can see it — their mother and teacher and their neighbor, and they just wanted a place to communicate that didn't have that element that lack of privacy. It's one of the fastest growing companies we've seen or been involved in." 

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    Evan Spiegel

    Mark Suster, a venture capitalist who lives in Southern California, is helping his child apply to local high schools. One of his top choices is a private school called Crossroads, which costs tens of thousands per academic year. His child will have to compete for one of 48 slots; most openings are given to children of the school's 3,000+ alumni.

    Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences is a private, K-12 program that was founded in 1971. With just 1,159 students, it has become one of Santa Monica's most prestigious high schools — so prestigious that it has been profiled in Vanity Fair. It's an artsier alternative to Harvard-Westlake, a local high school that is so academically challenging, it's said to make any college feel easy. Harvard-Westlake alumni include actors Jason Segel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tori Spelling.

    Crossroads, however, values music, drama, visual arts, film, writing and dance as much as it values typical learnings like math and history. MTV stars Spencer Pratt and Whitney Port have walked through Crossroads' corridors. Better-known Hollywood alumni include Kate Hudson, Jonah Hill, Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow and Zooey Deschanel.

    While Crossroads is well-known in the celebrity circuit, it's also starting to gain recognition in the startup world too. The school has produced some of today's top entrepreneurs.

    whisper ceo michael heywardSnapchat CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel, 23, was a student there just a few years ago. So was Michael Heyward, 26, who founded popular secrecy app, Whisper. Viddy co-founder Chris Ovitz went there too. Whistle, a startup that has raised $6 million to track pet activity and health, was also founded by a Crossroads graduate.

    At Crossroads, Spiegel honed the design skills that have helped him build Snapchat into a business worth billions of dollars.

    A fellow classmate tells CNET that Spiegel was always "adamant" about his ideas; Crossroads prides itself on helping students gain self-confidence.

    One of Spiegels' high school teachers recalls him being critical of the way math was taught at Crossroads. To prove his point, he wrote a paper on the topic and interviewed students about the curriculum. During his reporting, Spiegel softened to the school's teaching philosophy. 

    "He looked into whether kids were successful learning math that way," the professor told CNET. "It just became this unbelievably good article...It was one of the best articles we had that year, by far."

    Spiegel also wrote for the school's paper, Crossfire, and helped it sell ads. His two sisters attended the high school as well.

    Spiegel's memories of the school weren't all fond, however. In grade school, Spiegel was the subject of bullying by his Crossroads peers. His father, a well-known lawyer in Los Angeles, formed a group called Dads Council to help diminish bullying at the school.

    Crossroads consists of 124 full-time faculty members. It includes typical high school facilities such as a library and a pool, but it is also privileged — the school is currently implementing a $20 million renovation for a new science facility that will be finished in 2015.

    Attending Crossroads is expensive. An application costs $150 to submit. Tuition for grades K-5 costs $27,500 per year. Middle school and high school tuition costs $33,500. There's also an additional $2,000 deposit plus a $2,500 new student fee.

    Part of the reason Crossroads alumni are successful is the powerful status many of the families have when their children head into the program. Another reason is because of the school's curriculum, which fosters confidence in its students and challenges them to be creative through its "human development program."

    “[Crossroads] definitely encouraged individuality—almost to the point of people being competitive about being so individual,” actress Zooey Deschanel says of the school. 

    Individuality, and appreciating it, is something Whisper's Michael Heyward learned there too.

    "I'm definitely a big fan of Crossroads," Heyward says of his high school. "At the risk of sounding overly cheesy, I think the most important thing I learned from my time there is the importance of being compassionate, patient and tolerant to other people regardless of how different or weird they may seem."

    crossroads

    crossroadscrossroads

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