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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    While the obvious locale for startups these days is often Silicon Valley, an infographic from makes a good case for why you may want to look elsewhere.

    They suggest looking at places like Bangalore, India, for its entrepreneurial culture and diverse workforce, and Boston, Massachusetts, for its proximity to MIT.

    Here's the full infographic:

    Launch Your Startup4 (1)

    SEE ALSO: The 9 hottest up-and-coming startups in South America

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    evan spiegel snapchat

    A good logo can help skyrocket a company's name-brand recognition and success. (A bad one, on the other hand, can embarrass it). 

    We've put together this list of the best, most beautiful logos, spanning from startups to more-established companies. 

    Let us know in the comments if we skipped any other great ones.

    Let's start with some startups. Hotel Tonight's logo doubles as a bed and an "H."

    We like Jelly's logo not only because it's bright and recognizable, but because it cleverly doubles as a jellyfish and a brain.

    Pinterest's logo (often seen as just the iconic "P" in a red circle) captures the crafty, creative vibe of its users. Plus, take note of what the bottom of the "P" looks like ...

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Boris Wertz

    As we all know by now, the tech industry is overwhelmingly male. And when it comes to women entrepreneurs running VC-backed startups, the numbers are even more abysmal.

    While about half the small businesses in the U.S. are founded by women, in the tech industry women founders represent less than 7% of startups that get VC funding, according to research from MIT.

    Business Insider recently looked at 26 of the top venture capital funds in Silicon Valley and found that the percentage of female-founded startups in their portfolios ranged from 19% to a paltry 4%.

    That creates a spiral effect. With so few women-led startups, that means fewer women-led companies exit with a big acquisition or have a big IPO. VCs like to bet on experience and success. And that leaves fewer women with that kind of background ... and so the wheel turns.

    But, just like we're seeing signs that more women are entering college to study computer science, math, and engineering, we could be on the cusp of a new age in VC funding of women-led startups.

    So says early-stage tech investor Boris Wertz, a founding partner of Canadian Version One Ventures (Flurry, Indiegogo), board member of powerhouse Valley venture firm, Andreessen Horowitz, and founders of startup accelerator GrowLab.

    Wertz says he's seeing a "drastic increase" in women-led startups, with half the companies he's invested in in 2014 led by women. To be fair, that big 50% number is a bit misleading. It's not a high absolute number: three out of six companies. Overall 25% of Version One's portfolio has a woman founder, which adds up to a mere five companies.

    But he's convinced we're on the tip of a much bigger iceberg because of a couple of factors:

    •  More women are pitching a broader range of startup ideas.
    • The costs of creating a startup are lower for everyone, giving women a better shot of getting their startups off the ground before they ask for investment.
    • Women are proving to be better at managing their investment money once they get it.

    Business Insider: What are you seeing in the U.S. with female founders?

    Boris Wertz: We, at Version One Ventures, have seen a pretty drastic increase in the number of female founders. Over seven years of investing in 50+ start-ups, the share of female founders in our portfolio has risen from 5-10% in the early years to 50% in 2014.

    BI: What kinds of startups are women pitching and are they different then all-male founded startups?

    BW: In the past, female CEOs were largely limited to those areas where they have a distinct advantage over their male counterparts, i.e. selling primarily to a female audience. But today we’re seeing women building companies across all sectors and areas. Some of this trend might be due to the favorable environment for first-time entrepreneurs. The rise of the cloud computing and software-as-a-service has eliminated many of the upfront expenditures needed for a tech start-up, creating opportunities for a more diverse range of entrepreneurs, including women, to bring their ideas to market.

    BI: Do the women tend to be coders/programmers/engineers ... the ones developing the products?

    BW: We see an increasing amount of female founders that are engineers by background. Probably still fewer compared to their male counterparts but an encouraging trend. Having said that, you don't need to be an engineer to develop a good product  and/or be a successful founder.

    BI: Do you think we'll soon be at 50% women-led tech startups ... or what's the indication of how long this might take?

    BW: I think it will take some time to get there (despite the encouraging data point of the Version One portfolio in 2014 with 50% female founders). This is a very positive development, as the broader the entrepreneurial base the better.

    Gender diversity, as with diversity of any kind, results in a fuller range of ideas, perspectives, and approaches to problems. And an interesting study found that women-run private tech companies are more capital-efficient and bring in a 35% higher return on investment (and 12% higher when venture backed)

    SEE ALSO: 22 Of The Most Powerful Women Engineers In The World

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    startup guy

    Do you want a look that says “work hard, play hard, disrupt hard”? Well, then, the Gap’s Banana Republic has all the business casual you can handle, lovingly called “The Startup Guy.”

    The fashionable technologist struts about SOMA in a “cool belt,” “half-tucked shirt,” and a crumpled pants cuff that reveals sexy calves behind brown suede loafers.

    Banana Republic’s San Francisco chic was obviously inspired by Refinery 29′s much-beloved list of “Cute Guys in Tech.” When asked to describe his personal style style, techie heartthrob David Stokes responded, “Effortless…literally.”

    San Francisco has long had a notorious rebellion against high-end fashion. Mark Zuckerberg used to wear a hoodie everywhere, even to the chic tech awards show, The Crunchies and — famously — onstage at the D8 conference.

    Indeed, some people think that Silicon Valley has no style at all. “Vanity Fair struggles to find Silicon Valley’s ‘Best Dressed,’” ran a headline from ZDnet, for a list of fashionistas that sometimes hailed from outside the Bay Area.

    But, if you can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em? Banana Republic has taken the bold move of transforming anti-fashion into the summer’s must-have threads. You can check out the entire line here.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Banana Republic is trying to class up Silicon Valley with a new line of clothing called, "The Startup Guy,"VentureBeat reports.

    You won't find hoodies, T-shirts and flip-flops though. Instead, Banana Republic thinks startup guys wear wooly sweaters, boat shoes and short-suits.


    Here are some examples from the 39-outfit line.

    Rolled-up pants...

    startup guy

    Chunky sweaters and loafers... 

    Startup Guy Banana Republic

    Suits. Lots of suits...banana republic startup guy fashion


    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Nick D'Aloisio SummlyEditor's note:This post originally appeared on Quora, in answer to the question, "What do I need to do to launch a tech startup that will be acquired by a top tech company?"Michael Wolfe, who had the top answer to that question, is an entrepreneur whose companies include Vontu, Kana, I/PRO, and Pipewise. Wolfe gave us permission to republish his answer.

    I'll start with one of my favorite thoughts, by Alex Haley in his essay "The Shadowland of Dreams":

    I'll start with one of my favorite thoughts, by Alex Haley in his essay "The Shadowland of Dreams":

    Many a young person tells me he wants to be a writer. I always encourage such people, but I also explain that there’s a big difference between “being a writer” and writing. In most cases these individuals are dreaming of wealth and fame, not the long hours alone at the typewriter. “You’ve got to want to write,” I say to them, “not want to be a writer.”

    The reality is that writing is a lonely, private and poor-paying affair. For every writer kissed by fortune, there are thousands more whose longing is never requited. Even those who succeed often know long periods of neglect and poverty. I did.

    When the startup economy booms, like it did in 1999 and like it is again in 2014, many people suddenly discover they want to "be an entrepreneur." Newly-minted MBAs who otherwise would have joined Goldman Sachs or McKinsey instead head west to San Francisco. Big company lifers from Oracle or HP abruptly jump ship, not wanting to "miss out" on the next gold rush.

    Too often, these folks quickly find a like-minded co-founder who also wants to join the "startup scene", brainstorm a few ideas, pick one that seems plausible, hack up a product, then buy a wheelbarrow they can use to take their money to the bank when the acquisition offers start to roll in.

    They almost never need that wheelbarrow. Starting a company is as Alex Haley described writing: the best companies are usually not started by people who want to "be an entrepreneur." They are started by people who are knowledgeable and passionate about a specific problem, are driven to solve it, and then get busy building a company to bring it to life. They rarely go to tech conferences, can't be found at launch parties, and they certainly don't have a quick acquisition as their primary goal.

    In contract, those who want to get rich by "being an entrepreneur" often come up with ideas that don't really reflect any proprietary insight or interest. They'll launch an undifferentiated e-commerce site with few barriers to entry, or they'll read a Gartner report about a new enterprise market predicted to be worth billions, and they'll jump into it with a me-too product. When they hit the inevitable bumps in the road, they may not have the drive to power over them, or they may not have the proprietary insight to outsmart competitors.

    The best entrepreneurs work on ideas that grow out of their personal experiences and aptitudes. Their ideas often are counter-intuitive and don't seem likely to work at first. I highly recommend this essay by Paul Graham: How to Get Startup Ideas. One of Paul's best thoughts is:

    The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not "think up" but "notice." At YC we call ideas that grow naturally out of the founders' own experiences "organic" startup ideas. The most successful startups almost all begin this way."

    Now, many of these "organic" founders also want to get rich, as do their investors and the employees who join them, but they also expect to spend years toiling away with lots of setbacks and trial and error. They know that if they get rich it will be because they are working on an idea where they have an edge in terms of knowledge and enthusiasm, not because they have joined a lucrative profession called "being an entrepreneur."

    All that being said, I would never discourage someone who truly is interested in startups from pursuing one — I'd certainly rather have them here in Silicon Valley rather than send them back to Wall Street. Startup life can provide a career full of accelerated learning, great camaraderie and teamwork, and it will at least leave you with some great stories. If you really want to enter the startup world, and not only for a quick acquisition, you could try:

    • Get awesome at something. Become a great engineer. Designer. Product manager. Marketer. Sales rep. Growth hacker. It is hard to start or join a great company if you aren't great at a job that most startups need done.
    • Go deep in an industry. Many of the best companies are started by founds with proprietary knowledge in a specific field, like ad technology, insurance, supply chain management, information security, or many others.
    • Join a great startup. If you don't have an idea where you have proprietary knowledge or passion, follow founders who do. Join the team early, contribute however you can, learn as much as you can, and it may lead to your founding your own company in the future as you get exposed to more people and ideas.

    SEE ALSO: I Made $15 Million Before I Was 30, And It Wasn't As Awesome As You'd Think

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    A new startup called Casper has had quite the successful launch. The "Warby Parker of Mattresses" has generated more than $1 million a month since launching this past April — just from selling mattresses.

    Casper was founded to make it easier to get a mattress, and it does so by cramming a huge, fluffy mattress into a tiny box that gets delivered straight to your doorstep. Their mattresses come in six sizes and cost between $500 and $950 with a 10-year warranty.

    They don't have different options for levels of firmness, but Casper does let you try out the mattress for 40 days before fully committing. If you're not into it, they'll pick it up and give you a full refund.

    And apparently this model has been working pretty well for Casper. The company told Business Insider they were profitable on their first day of business and did $1 million in sales in their first 28 days.

    Casper raised a $1.85M seed round, led by Lerer Ventures. But the startup did not expect the demand it encountered, selling out early on and having to figure out a way to get more mattresses produced as fast as possible.

    Along with his four cofounders, Casper CEO Philip Krim originally sought to create the perfect mattress for millennials to encourage them to get more sleep. The cofounders were seeing a trend of millennials competing over who got the least amount of sleep, and Casper was designed to change that fad.

    "We got excited about the direct-to-consumer movement that's penetrated other industries, whether it's razors, eyeglasses or even cars," Krim told Business Insider. "The ability for people to sell directly to consumers through a website is a really exciting shift in the way retail works."

    While Casper lacks the options you may find at a Sleepy's, it offers an easy and quick alternative for 20-somethings that may not want to take the time shopping for their perfect mattress. In today's culture of immediate gratification and convenience, Casper lets you sidestep the challenges of leaving your apartment to find your new mattress.

    "For startups that are launching today, especially consumer focused startups with a physical good, you really have to overdeliver on every part of the experience," Krim said. "When we look at it, it's the shopping experience, making sure the site is compelling, providing all the info the consumer needs all the way through the purchasing of the product, delivery, making sure when you get the physical good it’s exciting and something they want to talk about. We've made the whole experience unqiue and different."

    SEE ALSO: There's A 'Warby Parker Of Mattresses' That's Shipping Fluffy, King-Size Beds In Boxes As Small As Golf Bags

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Square Capital

    Payments startup Square has been piloting a new program called Capital, which fronts small businesses a sum of money and lets them pay it back once they start making money.

    Square spokesperson Faryl Ury told Business Insider that 10,000 merchants have tapped into the program since it was first announced in May.

    Here's how it works: Square will provide its select merchants with set amount of money, and that money will then be repaid (and then some) by Square taking a cut of the merchants' daily sales.

    However, as Re/Code's Jason Del Rey points out, Square's new program is effectively "cutting into a business’ daily cash flow to repay the advance, often during a period when a business can least afford it." So while businesses get the money they need to get started, they don't get to adjust Square's cut of their intake until the advance is paid back in full. That said, at least Square will never change the flat percentage of sales it takes from customers, so all merchants know exactly what they're signing up for.

    Del Rey breaks it down:

    In one of the emails, Square offers to provide the business owner with a lump sum payment of $7,300. In return, Square charges the owner $1,022, which works out to 14 percent of additional cost. As a result, the business owner will end up having to pay Square back $8,322 in total. ... So the business will be done repaying Square the total of $8,322 once it has reached $83,220 in sales made with credit or debit cards.

    Business owners have kept mum about exactly how long it would take to pay back Square, but one company called Zero Friends, a small store that sells clothing and accessories adorned with drawings of monsters, says it has benefited from Square Capital. Zero Friends used the upfront funds from Square to double the inventory it brought to comic conventions, which allowed it to double its revenue.

    There are clearly plenty of potential upsides and downsides to this program, as Del Rey notes. If you make no money, you owe nothing to Square. On the other hand, once you make a lot of money, Square will take a portion of your sales.

    "We’re trying to reimagine the whole process of getting money to small businesses," Square's spokesperson told us.

    Back in 2009, Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey started Square to make commerce easy and help small businesses accept credit cards, basically changing the way money transferred between parties. But while the company's main product is a smartphone attachment that accepts credit cards, Square has ventured into some other areas of ecommerce, including Square WalletSquare Order, and a new product that will turn a receipt into a feedback platform.

    With regards to Square Capital, the company says it will continue offering money advances to a selection of its clients.

    "We’ve always been about figuring out the different pain points of small businesses and seeing how we can solve them, so accepting credit cards was a need, and the reader solves that, but that was only one problem small businesses were facing," Ury said. "Another was getting access to money to grow. That's why Square Capital really fits into the Square story."

    SEE ALSO: Jack Dorsey's Payment Startup Square Tries To Reinvent The Receipt

    SEE ALSO: Amazon Quietly Released Its Own Digital Wallet

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    startup young people

    Don’t you wish there was a formula that could guarantee funding success?

    There isn’t of course, but there are ways to make the process feel less like a heroic quest and more like an achievable goal. So how do you actually go about it? And what are the steps involved? If you missed our webinar with Ryan Azlein of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles and EGFS’ Chief Revenue Officer Gadiel Morantes, here’s the download.

    The key is getting investors to believe in your story, to buy into your vision, and to back your management team. Here’s a plan to make that happen below.

    1. Create a game plan

    I say this over and over, but, drumroll please: practice milestone funding. What do I mean by this? You’ll greatly increase your chances of success if you identify your milestones and calculate how much capital you need to raise before you start preparing your pitch and setting up investor meetings.

    Here are some examples of reasonable ones. Ultimately though, milestones are highly dependent on the type of business and stage you’re in.

    • Minimum number of customers
    • Minimum number of users
    • User engagement
    • Financial metrics e.g., revenues or cash flow
    • Product launch dates

    2. Think through what kind of capital you want and how much it will cost you

    Consider your options and do a cost benefit analysis for each.

    Of course you can’t understand the pros and cons of different capital types without an understanding of their differences. The main choice is between debt, usually in the form of convertible notes, and equity, either from angel investors or VCs.

    With equity, you’re looking at a priced round: i.e., selling shares in your company for a fixed price based on a set valuation.

    With convertible notes, you agree to take on debt in the form of a note that will convert into equity based on the price set in the note’s terms. Converts have two perceived advantages:

    They can be quicker and less costly than raising equity because there are fewer terms to negotiate, a correspondingly shorter documentation process, and less legal work.

    Because the notes automatically convert into equity at a discount to the business’ valuation at the next equity funding round, in theory they allow founders and investors to defer the valuation discussion. But it’s not always that simple. Investors increasingly demand “capped” notes. Because these instruments place a ceiling on valuation, founders find them less attractive.

    3. Take a business development perspective

    That is, understand that it will take time: potentially as long as six months. Create a project plan and set your goals and objectives. Be clear on your company’s value proposition, as well as that of any VCs you plan to talk to. Work your ecosystem by asking your service providers for investor introductions.

    4. Thoughtfully target VCs

    What do I mean by this? Do your homework. You only have a small window to get VCs’ time. Focus your efforts on the ones who will be interested in your business and be a great asset to you. Don’t waste time chasing ones whose expertise and industry focus are not a match for your startup. They won’t be interested or able to offer a lot of value to you. In a similar vein, most VCs focus their investments on companies at a specific stage of development, so spend your time trying to meet and pitch those who match yours.

    A quality VC name will give you validation in the market as well as raise your company’s profile. Consider brand and reputation and evaluate what kind of support network they’ll provide. This can be a huge value-add in terms of scaling your business. For more on this, take a look at a prior post on partnering with VCs.

    5. Network

    You never know where your next warm introduction will come from. Join an accelerator program if you can. Demo days provide good exposure and can lead to some good introductions. Of course, getting into one is difficult, so consider looking at co-working spaces. The best ones offer high quality programming and networking events with founders, funders, and advisers you might not get to meet otherwise.

    6. Prepare

    Success! You’ve got meetings lined up. That’s great, but don’t get too excited yet. There’s a lot you still need to do:

    • Understand your goal. You’re unlikely to walk away from a first meeting with a check, so set a realistic goal of lining up a second meeting.
    • Know who you’re sitting across from (see my point on doing your homework)
    • Prepare for questions. Be clear on the assumptions around your go-to market strategy, your business’ competitive advantages, and the competitive environment.
    • Practice, then practice again. Seriously, do 10-20 trial runs before the meeting.
    • Remember, your goal in the first meeting is to get to the second one. Don’t be shy about your ask: “When can we schedule the next meeting?”

    7-8. Perfect your Pitch Deck

    Tailor your executive summary to the specific investors you’re meeting. Your deck should be one to 12 pages with any supporting documents (financials, management bios, etc) included in the appendix. Here’s what you need to hit:

    • Problem and solution — What problem does your business address? What’s your solution? Why is it better than the alternatives?
    • Market opportunity — Outline and quantify.
    • Management team — The quality of your team is often VCs’ #1 investment criteria. Describe past successes and relevant domain expertise. Be proactive about addressing skill gaps. No one expects you to have everything in place yet, but you do need to be able to articulate a plan for filling in the gaps.
    • Technology — Walk them through your offering and explain its unique value proposition.
    • Convey your understanding of the competitive landscape.
    • Funding requirements — Connect the dots and demonstrate how it will enable you to hit your milestones.
    • Financials are a major component. Figure out your key metrics and outline achievable milestones.

    9. Tell your story

    Be honest and open minded, conveying your vision and your passion. This is about an exchange of ideas, so engage your audience and listen!

    10. Follow Up!

    Persistence pays off. Of course, the key is to do it without being annoying or appearing desperate by checking in too often. Even if you get a ‘no’ at the end of the first meeting, find out why. If they’re hedging because they want to see how you execute on your milestones or they want to know your management team, follow up by keeping them in the loop with your successes.

    SEE ALSO: The World's Coolest Startup Offices

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Ben Horowitz

    One critical mistake many startup CEOs make is messing up the budgeting process, says venture capitalist Ben Horowitz.

    Horowitz says technical founders often do this, and it’s a mistake he’s made before. Many people think the budgeting process should work like this (from Horowitz's blog):

    1. Set goals that will enable us to grow
    2. Break the goals down so that there is clear ownership and accountability for each goal by a specific team
    3. Refine goals into measurable targets
    4. Figure out how many new people are required to hit the targets
    5. Estimate the cost of the effort
    6. Benchmark against the industry
    7. Make global optimizations
    8. Execute

    But actually, that strategy “gamifies” the budgeting process; Horowitz says implementing it will “bloat companies to the brink of bankruptcy and create a culture of chaos.”

    Instead, Horowitz says startups should begin by implementing a number of constraints and make the budgeting process look like this:

    1. Take the constrained number that you created and reduce it by 10-25% to give yourself room for expansion, if necessary.
    2. Divide the budget created above in the ratios that you believe are appropriate across the team.
    3. Communicate the budgets to the team.
    4. Run your goal-setting exercise and encourage your managers to demonstrate their skill by achieving great things within their budgets.
    5. If you believe that more can legitimately be achieved in a group with more money, then allocate that manager extra budget out of the slush fund you created with the 10-25%.

    Here’s Horowitz's full explanation on why the second set of rules is much safer than the first.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    entrepreneur startup thinking

    Pressed to describe the stereotypical entrepreneur, which words would you use? Passionate? Dedicated? Optimistic? Sure, those apply. But insecure and troublemaker are more accurate, according to 'treps who know a success when they see one. Do the following traits, characteristics and quirks describe you? Well then, you might be an entrepreneur (at heart, if not yet in practice).

    1. You take action.

    Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group, co-star of TV's Shark Tank and author of Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business, says people who have a concept but not necessarily a detailed strategy are more likely to have that entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi. "I hate entrepreneurs with beautiful business plans," she says.

    Corcoran's recommendation? "Invent as [you] go," rather than spending time writing a plan at your desk. In fact, she believes that people with life experience have an active problem-solving ability and think-on-your-feet resourcefulness that can be more valuable than book smarts alone. Those who study business may be prone to overanalyzing situations rather than taking action.

    2. You're insecure.

    "Many entrepreneurs judged as ambitious are really insecure underneath," Corcoran says. When evaluating potential investments, she adds, "I want someone who is scared to death." Those who are nervous about failing can become hyperfocused and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. If you feel insecure, use that emotion to drive you to achieve your business goals.

    3. You're crafty.

    "One of my favorite TV shows growing up was MacGyver," confides Tony Hsieh, CEO of Las Vegas-based Zappos, "because he never had exactly the resources he needed but would somehow figure out how to make everything work out."

    A lifelong entrepreneur, Hsieh has done everything from starting a worm farm to making buttons and selling pizzas, so he admires MacGyver's "combination of creativity, optimism and street smarts. Ultimately, I think that's what being an entrepreneur is all about--playing MacGyver, but for business." It's not about having enough resources, he explains, but being resourceful with what you do have.

    4. You're obsessed with cash flow.

    Before founding Brainshark, a Waltham, Mass.-based developer of technology for business presentations, Joe Gustafson bootstrapped a venture called Relational Courseware. "All I ever thought about was cash flow and liquidity," he says, admitting, "there were seven times in [the company's] eight-year history when I was days or hours away from payroll and didn't have enough cash to make it."

    How did he respond? "In the early days, you could step up and put expenses on your personal credit card, but that can only go so far," he says. "You need cash--even if you have the best company and the best receivables in the world--to fight the battle one more day." Other strategies he recommends include working with a partner who can provide cash advances on projects and maintaining close communication with suppliers.

    5. You get into hot water.

    Stephane Bourque, founder and CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Incognito Software, says true entrepreneurial types are more likely to ask for forgiveness than permission, forging ahead to address the opportunities or issues they recognize, even without approval from higher-ups.

    "Entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo," says Bourque, who discovered he was not destined for the corporate world when he kept coming up with new and better ways of doing things--ideas that were not necessarily appreciated by his bosses and often were interpreted as unwanted criticism. Now, he says, "I wish my employees would get into more trouble," because it shows they are on the lookout for opportunities to improve themselves or company operations.

    6. You're fearless.

    Where most avoid risk, entrepreneurs see potential, says Robert Irvine, chef and host of Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible. True 'treps are not afraid to leverage their houses and run up their credit card balances in order to amass the funds they need to create a new venture. In some ways, he says, they are the ultimate optimists, because they operate under the belief that their investments of time and money will eventually pay off.

    7. You can't sit still.

    Entrepreneurs have unbridled energy that fuels them long past the time when their employees have gone home. They are eager, excited and energized about business in a way that makes them stand out. Irvine would know: He owns a restaurant in South Carolina, is opening another in the Pentagon and has a line of food and clothing products, on top of hosting his TV show.

    8. You're malleable.

    "If you have only one acceptable outcome in mind, your chances of making it are slim," cautions Rosemary Camposano, president and CEO of Silicon Valley chain Halo Blow Dry Bars. If you are willing to listen, your clients will show you which of your products or services provide the most value.

    Her original vision for Halo was part blow-dry bar, part gift shop, "to help busy women multitask," she explains. But she quickly learned that the gift shop was causing confusion about the nature of her business, so she took it out, replaced it with an extra blow-dry chair, and things took off. Smart entrepreneurs constantly evolve, tweaking their business concepts in response to market feedback.

    9. You enjoy navel gazing.

    Without direct supervisors, entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with the process of evaluating their own performance, says Laura Novak Meyer, owner of Pennsylvania's Little Nest Portraits. That requires "a willingness to solicit feedback from those around you to self-improve," she says, as well as paying close attention to feedback you may not have asked for, such as customer complaints or being outpaced by competitors. Little Nest surveys every client to ask for opportunities for improvement, and Meyer has worked closely with a business coach for the past five years to identify personal areas where she needs to improve.

    10. You're motivated by challenges.

    When confronted by problems, many employees try to pass the buck or otherwise wash their hands of the situation. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, rise to the occasion. "Challenges motivate them to work harder," says Jeff Platt, CEO of the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park franchise. "An entrepreneur doesn't think anything is insurmountable … He looks adversity in the eye and keeps going."

    Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, agrees. Despite naysayers who questioned her idea for a bakery in the midst of the carb-fearing early-2000s, she persevered and now has locations in eight states. In fact, she was one of the first entrepreneurs in a business that became an ongoing craze, sparking numerous copycats.

    11. You consider yourself an outsider.

    Entrepreneurs aren't always accepted, says Vincent Petryk, founder of J.P. Licks, a Boston chain of ice-cream shops. They may be seen as opinionated, quirky and demanding--but that is not necessarily a bad thing. "They are often rejected for being different in some way, and that just makes them work harder," Petryk says. When his former boss didn't approve of his off-duty research into ice-cream quality, he went out on his own to develop a made-from-scratch dessert in bold flavors. Rather than copying what most other ice-cream shops were doing, including buying from the same well-known suppliers, Petryk forged his own path. His early competitors? All but one are no longer in business.

    12 . You recover quickly.

    It's a popular notion that successful entrepreneurs fail fast and fail often. For Corcoran, the trick is in the speed of recovery: If you fail, resist the urge to mope or feel sorry for yourself. Don't wallow; move on to the next big thing immediately.

    13. You fulfill needs.

    Many people recognize marketplace holes, but it is the true entrepreneur who takes them from cocktail napkin to reality, says Jennifer Dawn, partner in New York City-based Savor the Success, a business network for women. "Entrepreneurs think of a way to fix it and take steps to fix it. They are innovators." So when Savor's network of women began asking for advice and input from co-founder Angela Jia Kim, she and Dawn created a new product: Savor Circles. These mastermind groups connect four members who give each other tailored input and expertise; even better, they provide Savor the Success with a new revenue stream.

    14. You surround yourself with advisors.

    Actress Jessica Alba, co-founder and president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based The Honest Company, which sells baby, home and personal-care products, notes that "it's important to surround yourself with people smarter than you and to listen to ideas that aren't yours. I'm open to ideas that aren't mine and people that know what I don't, because I think success takes communication, collaboration and, sometimes, failure."

    In other words: True 'treps don't hire yes men; they talk to those with experience and conduct thorough research, gathering as much information as they can to make informed decisions rather than taking a shot in the dark.

    15. You work and play hard.

    "Entrepreneurs fall down and pick themselves up until they get it right," says Micha Kaufman, who snowboards and sails in addition to running Fiverr, the fast-growth online freelance marketplace he co-founded.

    Like in sports, the key to success in business is staying super-focused, the CEO notes. During Fiverr's launch, instead of trying to deal with "an endless number of potential challenges," Kaufman and his team focused on "the single biggest challenge every marketplace has: building liquidity.

    Without liquidity, there is no marketplace. It's like worrying about the skills needed for frontside-360 jumps before getting on a snowboard and learning the basics."

    SEE ALSO: Here's The Number One Mistake That Kills Startups, According To Ben Horowitz

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    airport airhelp founders

    The arrival of social media has given everyone a megaphone to complain loudly and hold companies accountable for poor customer service.

    Now there are several startups that are helping people do more than just complain when a flight is delayed or a cop issues an unfair parking ticket.

    Nicolas Michaelsen likes to call what his startup does "justice as a service." Michaelsen founded Airhelp with Henrik Zillmer, Greg Roodt, and Morten Lund in January 2013. The company helps passengers reclaim money from airline companies after flights have been canceled, delayed, or over-booked. Airhelp connects to Gmail accounts and searches for airline tickets up to three years prior. If a ticket qualifies for a refund, Airhelp will bring it to the airline's attention and take 25% of whatever money is reclaimed.

    airhelpMost people don't realize their rights or know how to fight big companies when they're wronged. For example, most people who fly within Europe don't realize that if their flight is delayed more than 3 hours, they can claim $800 from the airline, pending there is no extraordinary circumstance such as a terrorist threat or inclement weather. If you're flying domestic in the United States and get bumped from a flight, you can claim up to $1,300 from the airline.

    Airhelp has worked with 45,000 passengers to give them money they may not have known they were owed. The company, which now employs 25 people and recently completed the Y Combinator startup accelerator, says it has taken airlines to court 50 times and it has won all 50 of the cases.

    "We started with an assumption that people wanted this service," Michaelson told Business Insider over Skype.

    One month after Airhelp launched it was featured in the Consumer Rights Show in Europe. Essentially overnight, 3,000 people visited Airhelp's makeshift website and asked for help with previous airline tickets. Michaelson remembers working all day and night for one month straight to answer all the inbound interest. He estimates that 26 million passengers are eligible to receive refunds from airlines every year.

    "There is this huge trend in companies that are empowering consumers," says Michaelson. "It’s a natural evolution. With social media ... consumers have the power to make or break a brand. This is the next step where you’re actually able to enforce your own rights."

    With social media, consumers have the power to make or break a brand. This is the next step where you’re actually able to enforce your own rights.

    71lbs is a similar-minded company that helps businesses reclaim money they're owed by delivery services such as FedEx or UPS. A new startup, Fixed, is helping San Francisco residents fight parking tickets with its mobile app.

    David Hegarty and DJ Burdick cofounded Fixed last fall after Hegarty received five parking tickets in three weeks. Hegarty knew how to contest tickets, but he realized that his friends didn't know and often just paid the fine. 

    fixed app

    "I'm a stickler for protesting all my parking tickets," he told Business Insider over the phone. "I really think it's a racket by the city. It's become a form of revenue. When you start giving officers quotas, people lose respect for the [authorities issuing] parking tickets," he says.

    In San Francisco, there are a number of ways to get parking tickets contested. Fixed's team of seven look for errors on the ticket write-ups; sometimes police neglect to fill out mandatory line items, which gets drivers off the hook. The startup also uses Google Street View to look at signage where tickets are issued; if a parking sign can't be seen by a reasonably observant person, tickets can often be waved.

    Without much effort, the startup got noticed by Square founder Jack Dorsey who tweeted about it along with Ivanka Trump. By the end of that week, Hegarty says 25,000 people had signed up for Fixed's waitlist.

    In March, Fixed launched its iPhone app, which asks users to take photos of their tickets. For every ticket Fixed gets waved, it charges 25% of the fee the person would have had to pay. If Fixed doesn't get the ticket waved, it will pay the ticket with a pre-uploaded credit card. Hegarty says his team processes about 300 tickets per week.

    The startup recently raised a $1.2 million seed round from Y Combinator, Merus Capital, and angel investors. Hegarty hopes to expand Fixed to the nation's top 100 cities within two years. 

    san francisco fixed parking ticket"There are a lot of times where the little guy gets screwed," Hegarty says of his startup's mission. "For most people it’s really hard to fight [a big company] the first time...That’s a perfect problem to get solved by software."

    Companies aren't thrilled by the companies Hegarty and Michaelson have created. But they're starting to realize the importance of keeping customers happy. 

    "Every time I go to the airport I’m like, 'Is this the time they’re going to deny me boarding?'" Michaelson laughed. "At first they weren’t very happy about what we were doing. ... But they’ve started to understand they have to be proactive about this. Keeping existing customers happy is worth more than acquiring a new one."

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    Leonhard Widrich Joel buffer

    Most companies have meetings of some sort. Many startups have daily standups.

    As a fully remote and distributed team with members in a variety of countries, continents and time zones, Buffer meetings have to be a bit different by necessity.

    When the team was much smaller (like 7 people), Buffer held daily standup meetings with the whole team. Eventually time zone differences between the US, UK and Asia made it impossible to find a good time of day to meet.

    We thought about how we could keep the face-to-face aspect that is so key in a distributed team, and from that thought process the idea of the pair call was born.

    How the pair call works

    It works like this: Each week, through a round robin algorithm, each member of Buffer is  paired with a different teammate. On Sunday or Monday we’ll get alerted to a Google Doc that looks like this (sorry, there are so many of us now that I can’t fit the whole team in one screenshot!).

    round robin pairs

    Once we find out the week’s pairs, one member of the duo will get in touch with the other to set up a good time to chat. Then we sync daily for about 10-20 minutes via a Sqwiggle video call, to talk about what we’re working on that day and what improvements we’re hoping to make that week.

    What we’ve found is that if you pick any two places in the world, there is usually a time that works well for both that sits within “normal working hours.” Extreme cases can be 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. or so, but generally it has been very manageable.

    Even timings that are difficult are often worth negotiating around as they give us a chance to connect with some of our faraway teammates we may not have touched base with in a while.

    Building these relationships and friendships is really worthwhile, and it’s great to support each other in our work and personal lives and take time to get to know each other better!

    Here’s Buffer founders Joel and Leo to talk a little more about pair calls:


    SEE ALSO: These Startups Save You From Delayed Flights And Unfair Parking Tickets

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    For one startup CEO, finding a niche is the key to success in both business and hiring.

    Tim Weingarten is a cofounder and CEO of The Hunt, which lets users post pictures of items they want to purchase but can't find and receive help from its online community. In an interview with Skiddy von Stade, founder of finance career site OneWire, Weingarten said he looks for hires who are both experts in their fields and good culture fits for the company.

    "What you really need is someone who is not only an expert in their field, say they're an amazing Objective C engineer. Objective C is the language you use for iOS, for iPhone applications. Maybe they're an amazing engineer, but beyond being amazing in their field, do they fit in with the team? And really that means do they fit in with the culture of the company," Weingarten said.

    He also said he looks for someone who is willing to take a risk working for a startup, who values equity in the company as much as salary, and who is a self-starter, who is individually driven.

    Weingarten believes specialization is one thing that's made The Hunt successful. With a 96 percent female user base, he said the goal of a community-driven website is to make the audience feel like they belong.

    "My view as an entrepreneur is that a big mistake you can make is trying to go too horizontal, too broad, too fast to be all things to all people," he said. "That usually ends up being a mistake, especially with these community driven sites and these huge user-driven generated content sites ... The best approach is to build, go deep and narrow, and really own a particular demographic segment and vertical of the economy."

    The Hunt launched in 2013, and has raised over $16 million in funding from investors, including celebrity investors Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher.

    You can see more Open Door interviews with OneWire CEO Skiddy von Stade by subscribing to the series here.

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    Coub, a startup that lets you edit and remix looped videos up to 10 seconds long (think of them as GIFs with sound) has raised $2.5 million from Vaizra Investments, a fund headed by the cofounders of Russian Facebook competitor TechCrunch reports that the money will be used for Coub's further expansion outside of its New York office and to continue developing its web and iOS apps.

    This brings the company's total funding to $3.5 million after an initial investment of $1 million by Brothers Ventures and Phenomen Ventures last year. In that time, the company's monthly uniques have grown from 8 million visitors to 50 million.

    You can nab source video from YouTube and Vimeo, edit it down to a short clip of your choosing, add an alternate soundtrack, and let it loop away. It works as something akin to animated memes that might illustrate a point or capture a feeling. For example, frustration:

    Or just something fun and silly:

    You get the idea! If you want to get started making your own, head over to Coub now.

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    Moving can be a huge pain — and this was my third move in just 14 months. So you might say I'm a bit of a moving veteran.

    But after just two hours on Thursday, I could easily say this was the smoothest move I'd experienced, thanks to two college students sent by a new moving startup called Bellhops.

    About a month ago, I made my reservation online. I was just moving across the street (much easier than when I moved to NYC for the first time), so I selected "Local Move" and asked for two Bellhops, which cost $80 an hour ($40/hour per student).

    You just have to make an $80 deposit (which goes to your first hour of moving), and the rest is charged after you confirm the duration of your move.

    So a month later, I got an email from Bellhops telling me the names of the two students who would be helping me move out. And the day prior, I received a call from one of the students, who introduced himself to me and made sure I reserved the elevators.

    At 3:15 p.m. (15 minutes early) on moving day, I got a call from Sorab Kochhar, my move captain, saying he and Jake Salerno were at my building.

    Meet my two Bellhops, Sorab (left) and Jake. They're both seniors at Rutgers.


    They were both super nice the whole time, and they even brought me a water bottle (despite the fact that they were really the ones doing most of the heavy lifting).


    Sorab is the campus leader for Rutgers, and he's been working for Bellhops since January. He's majoring in IT and economics, and he loves the flexibility Bellhops allows him. He can choose to work on as many moves as he wants. Sorab is in charge of recruiting all the Bellhops for Rutgers, many of which are his brothers from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.


    Jake prides himself on holding the top position on the Rutgers leaderboard, having worked on eight or nine of Rutgers' 14 Bellhops moves. Jake is majoring in Materials Science and likes working for Bellhops because he gets to be his own boss.


    Sorab and Jake are two of more than 8,000 student movers who work for Bellhops in more than 121 cities in 42 states.


    I can't speak for those other 8,000 student movers, but Sorab and Jake did a great job moving me into my new apartment — and they did it in just two hours. The previous time I moved, my mother and two brothers all had to pitch in — on top of a mover — and let's just say it took much longer than two hours. Granted, this move was just across the street, but it was such a pleasure to sit back and let Bellhops take care of everything.




    SEE ALSO: 11 Startups We Wish Existed

    SEE ALSO: The Most Successful College Fraternities In Tech

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    box garage

    Even the most successful tech companies had to start somewhere. 

    Many companies that are now worth billions were launched from makeshift headquarters in relatives' garages and living rooms.

    Others were started in dorm rooms and coffee shops, where young coders could make use of the free Wi-Fi and plentiful caffeine. 

    The tech world is filled with interesting founding stories — we've rounded up some of the best ones here.

    Hewlett-Packard famously began in a Palo Alto garage.

    Starting your company in a garage has become something of a tradition in the tech world. HP was the first, officially launching at the beginning of 1939.

    The garage and the house it's connected to are now a private museum, considered by many to be the "birthplace of Silicon Valley." 

    Steve Jobs built the first Apple computer in his parents' Silicon Valley home.

    Steve Jobs grew up in this ranch-style home in Los Altos. In 1976, he and Steve Wozniak used the garage to assembled the first 50 Apple computers, which they then sold to Paul Terrell's Byte Shop for $500 each. 

    The Los Altos Historical Commission has designated the house a "historic resource," which means that any future renovations will need to be approved by the city.

    Google also started in a garage.

    In the winter of 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin paid Susan Wojcicki $1,700 a month to work out of the garage in her Menlo Park home. They were still students at Stanford at the time. 

    Brin later married Wojcicki's sister Anne, though the couple recently separated

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Matteo Achilli

    When the popular, reputable Italian financial magazine Panorama Economy placed then-20-year-old college student Matteo Achilli on its cover in March 2012 with the headline "Italian Zuckerberg," he became a media sensation.

    Soon every major Italian news outlet wanted to cover the kid who'd started a professional networking website called Egomnia. Their interest, along with that of national politicians and business executives, expressed the hope that this young entrepreneur could become Italy's version of an American hotshot tech CEO, one who could rub shoulders with the real Mark Zuckerberg.

    Outlets outside of Italy have caught on to the hype as well, including the BBC, which just included Achilli in its new documentary "The Next Billionaires."

    Achilli, whose site won't be available to an international market until October, already has a dramatic biopic scheduled to premiere on Italian television next year and has made deals with Microsoft and Google.

    All of this was over the beta version of Egomnia — its name a portmanteau of ego, "self," and omnia, "everything"— a site that arranges users' online resumes, much like LinkedIn does. It also assigns them a grade and directly connects them with potential employers. These companies can search for a specific kind of employee and find a ranked list of candidates.

    The hype may have been inflated and premature, but Achilli is now in a position to leverage it.

    Achilli tells us over video chat from his office in Formello, which is just north of Rome, that when Egomnia launches internationally this fall, it will have an interface as good as major sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. He explains that even though he can't yet reveal specific details of his business arrangements with Google and Microsoft, both companies have invested in upcoming marketing for the company, and Microsoft will also be providing cloud-based services for Egomnia.

    italian zuck coverMicrosoft's Anders Nilsson tells the BBC that Achilli is the type of entrepreneur his company looks for, and Microsoft wants to accelerate Egomnia's growth while the time is ripe.

    Achilli also says that he is in talks with well-known, powerful venture capitalists from the U.K. and U.S., but can't reveal more.

    He says his site currently has over 700 Italian companies, including multinationals like Vodafone and Generali, and 330,000 job seekers registered. It had 500,000 euros (the equivalent of about $700,000) in revenue last year. The numbers are notable, but nothing yet suggests Egomnia is the next big thing in the international tech world.

    If Achilli were just another 22-year-old American with a social networking startup, few would have noticed him. But because he lives in a country with an unemployment rate of 12.6% — twice that of the U.S. — where over 40% of people ages 24 to 35 struggle to find jobs, the fact that he's a charismatic young guy with a job-search platform has made him a symbol of growth for Italy's lagging tech startup scene.

    And Achilli recognizes this, at least to a certain extent.

    He tells us that when he visited Silicon Valley last summer he felt "normal" instead of like a celebrity, since everyone was young and pushing a startup. "I wasn't happy," he says, smiling. "In the United States, everyone has a startup. If you have one in Italy, you are special."

    Achilli first got the idea for Egomnia during his final year of high school while applying to colleges and looking at their rankings. He wondered what it would look like if this method, through a process similar to Google's page ranking system, was applied to job candidates based on how impressive their resumes were. Companies could search for the type of employee they were looking for and select them from a ranked list, and employees could do the same for employers.

    He says he wrote the algorithm and then searched for a site developer. He wasn't able to afford a full-fledged team of professional coders, but he found a young coder named Giuseppe Iacobucci who was willing to freelance for 10,000 euros.

    Achilli's dad, who is a partner in a small telecommunications company, helped him pay this developer, marking the only investment Egomnia had before it launched.

    matteo achilli

    In March 2012, after a year, Iacobucci finally got the first version of the site running. Achilli, who was then attending the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan, struggled to find any company willing to join a 19-year-old student's new project, and so he tried his luck pitching to Bocconi students directly.

    Antonio Aloisi, a student liaison to the school's board — which includes power players like former Italian prime minister Mario Monti and Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera — became excited with the project and wrote about Achilli's site for the Italian blog Linkiesta. The post went viral, largely because the story of an ambitious young entrepreneur wanting to help his peers get jobs was so appealing during the severe recession.

    Egomnia crashed because one server wasn't enough to handle the flood of traffic as thousands of job seekers signed up, Achilli says. In a couple of months, he got the Panorama cover and was dubbed the "Italian Zuckerberg."

    Achilli has also benefited from political support. Recently, he was awarded the gold medal of the President of the Italian Republic for his service to Italy's economy, and the province of Milan is using Egomnia as an employment portal.

    Since he first caught the media's attention, Achilli's been focused on growing his team (now 20 employees) and planning how he would expand beyond Italy, which he is almost ready to do. Come October, Egomnia will open an office in São Paulo, Brazil, and expand in Europe and select markets in Asia and the U.S.

    Achilli says that the upcoming version of Egomnia will have a premium look and feel that will make it stand up to American sites likes LinkedIn. It plans to make money from advertising and charging companies for job postings beyond a set allotment.

    Achilli has a ways to go before he lives up to the nickname that's brought him so much attention in Italy, but now, with the support of two of the most powerful tech companies in the world and potentially some big investors, he'll soon have an opportunity to make a name for himself.

    SEE ALSO: 21 Quotes From Bill Gates That Take You Inside The Mind Of The World's Richest Man

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    search brothers again

    It didn't take long for Fili Wiese and Kaspar Szymanski to realize they had a special professional chemistry.

    They met while both working for Google's Search Quality team in Dublin. Wiese started out fighting web spam, and then moved on to click spam with the ad traffic quality team. Szymanski spearheaded the company's webmaster outreach in Europe. 

    They often teamed up during their respective seven-plus years with the company, until Wiese left in late 2012. 

    "We missed our collaboration at Google," Wiese told Business Insider, "So we started thinking, how can we start working together again?"

    And so the idea for Search Brothers was born. 

    Szymanski eventually left Google in 2013. After some jet-setting, he connected with Wiese to launch their new SEO consulting company.

    "What if you could hire the Google Search Quality team for your Search Engine Optimization needs?" their website asks. "Obviously you can't, but you can hire former Google Search Quality team members."

    The company has been officially up and running for about a month, and business is already booming. 

    "We got our first request to work together about 30 milliseconds after we announced the launch," Szymanski says. 

    Using their combined 15 years of Search Quality experience, Wiese and Szymanski are now helping client sites of all sizes do SEO audits (basically, health checks for their websites to ensure they can be found in search results), as well as manual action or organic adjustments recovery (helping them regain good search rankings when they've been knocked down).

    Search Brothers will only work with "white hat" customers — that is, sites that want to improve their Google search results without scamming the system. 

    "Google actually likes former employees to help other companies," Wiese says. "If we help websites get better indexing, that means better content for Google. From that perspective, as long as we don’t go black hat, or violate our NDA, or go out publically with trade secrets of Google, Google is going to be happy."

    They say response so far has been extremely positive, and that they've had many client referrals, as well as repeat customers. They help companies with the basics, like making sure their sites are completely crawl-able, but also with larger strategies to attract attention from Google's users. 

    "At my time at Google, the mantra was 'Users are the most important," Szymanski says. "If we help our clients focus on users, it is true that everything else will follow."

    The duo plans to keep Search Brothers a small operation, at least for now. 

    "Even if we wanted to expand and get other people on board, it would be very difficult to get someone who has the expertise — which is something you cannot easily replicate — and who can work with both of us without getting at each other’s throats over time," Szymanski says with a laugh.

    Of course, being at Google for so long, they both have things they'll miss. Wiese says one of the things that he loved at Google was the opportunity to program. 

    "It’s amazing, some of the code that the engineers are writing," he says. "There would be debates over a single line of code, just to perfect it better. I learned a lot just from seeing that, and from doing it myself. It’s not something that now I do a lot, though I really miss it at times. I program my own things in my spare time."

    Szymanski, on the other hand, misses getting to write extensively for the company, but also something a little sillier: Defending his title as one of the champions of an old Playstation game called SoulCalibur

    "Google is famous for its perks, and one of those things is that you have plenty of distractions," he says. "One of my best friends was the only guy who ever beat me, ever in SoulCalibur. He is the master, but at least I was second! So that was one of my biggest achievements."

    SEE ALSO: Here's What It's Like To Be One Of Google's Most Elite New Employees

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