Sitting for more than eight hours per day, for example, can put you at a higher risk for muscular skeletal disease. Slouching all day can also lead to long term illness, including breathing problems.
One startup, however, hopes its gadget will help combat some of the long term health problems that may plague 9-to-5 office workers.
The $150 Prana, which launches at the end of January, is a tiny device you can clip to your clothing at your waistline.
It alerts you when your posture is poor or when you're not breathing from your diaphragm.
"One very common symptom is during times of stress, our breathing will switch from natural diaphragmic breathing in the belly to chest breathing," Andre Persidsky, CEO of Prana, told Business Insider.
Diaphragmic breathing is important because if you only breathe from your chest, the lower portion of your lungs never get a full share of oxygenated air, according to a report from Harvard Medical School. This can make you feel anxious and short of breath.
Here's a rendering of what the Prana looks like. It resembles a circular badge or button.
Prana's device is designed to make you aware of these times when you're not breathing through your diaphragm. The gadget itself sits at your waistline to monitor your breathing patterns and alerts you with a small buzz or smartphone notification when you need to adjust your breathing.
The accompanying app comes with a library of various breathing techniques that are catered to different goals. For example, if you want to feel more energized, you might try one technique, while another may be more ideal for helping you sleep better.
Persidsky also said the app will come with a casual game aimed at helping you maintain control of your breath. You would control the "Flappy Bird"-like game, which consists of navigating a bird flying through a garden, with your breathing pattern while wearing the device. Here's what it looks like:
The Prana isn't the only wearable device to tackle the issues of posture and breathing properly, but it claims to be one of the first that can monitor both. The Lumo Lift, for example, is a similar clip-on gadget that help you fix your posture throughout the day. But it doesn't include comprehensive breathing exercises like the Prana does.
You are what you read, and if your goal is to build a massively successful company where you call the shots, you might want to start with the following books.
We asked wildly successful entrepreneurs and VCs, including Mark Cuban and Peter Thiel, for their top book recommendation. Here's what they said.
Bianca Male, Aimee Groth, and Alison Griswold contributed to this article.
"The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand
Self-made billionaire Mark Cuban tells Business Insider that this book is required reading for every entrepreneur.
It's also a favorite of Charlie O'Donnell, a partner at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures. He says, "I don't know any book that sums up the entrepreneurial passion and spirit better than 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand: 'The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.'"
This is one of the three books that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had his senior managers read for a series of all-day book clubs. Drucker helped popularize now commonplace ideas about management. For example, that managers and employees should work toward a common set of goals.
"The Effective Executive" explores the time-management and decision-making habits that best equip an executive to be productive and valuable in an organization.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Jeff Bezos also had his executives read "The Innovator's Dilemma," one of the all-time most influential business books and a top pick of several other founders and VCs, whose reviews are below.
Steve Blank, a former serial entrepreneur who now teaches at U.C. Berkeley and other schools, says of the book: "Why do large companies seem and act like dinosaurs? Christensen finally was able to diagnose why and propose solutions. Entrepreneurs should read these books as 'how to books' to beat large companies in their own markets."
Chris Dixon, an investor at Andreessen Horowitz and a former cofounder and CEO of Hunch, notes: "'The Innovator's Dilemma' popularized the (often misused) phrase 'disruptive technology,' but there's a lot more than that one big idea. Great insights into the 'dynamics' (changes over time) of markets."
Michael Katz is the CEO of mParticle, which helps app developers make use of analytics and data. It's backed by some impressive and varied investors — Google Ventures and Nas, the rapper.
Before mParticle, Katz was an executive on a large team at Yahoo. And before that, he ran a $270 million public company called Interclick. When he's not working, he spends time with rescue dogs.
We recently caught up with Katz — here's an edited version of that conversation.
You've been a public-company CEO, a division head at a giant internet company, Yahoo, and now you're a startup founder and CEO. What?!
It's been a lot of fun to see the various stages of a company. At Interclick, I saw everything, from starting out in my apartment in Boston to going public in 2009, to having it bought in 2011, to watching it dismantled inside a big org.
When we started mParticle, we knew so much more and could operate more efficiently with the perspective of a successful startup in hindsight, but embraced the fact that there's still so much more to learn so that we weren’t overly sophomoric.
We also went public early on at Interclick, so I haven’t been in this stage of a private company for a very long time, which I am definitely enjoying.
And you're only how old now?
Thirty-six. Feeling good, though.
Which job have you liked best?
Each one is unique and all part of growing as a person and an executive. Success is always fun, though, and sharing it with people you really like is what it's all about. Interclick would be the best so far, because we had six years there, but if we’re successful at mParticle, it will be a tough choice between the two.
That’s difficult, because there are tough parts about each one. As long as you stay hungry and humble, it's all positive, because what you may not enjoy temporarily may create a lot of perspective in hindsight, which does create tremendous value.
Running a public company was really stressful, and starting mParticle from a standing start wasn’t easy, and the time at Yahoo was challenging but rewarding and created more drive in starting mParticle. I have to be thankful for all of it.
You have to embrace it all if you want to be successful over the long term.
What, exactly, is mParticle?
We’re a data-automation platform for mobile apps. We give native apps the controls to move faster and reduce complexity. If you talk to any app developer, marketer, or publisher, they all wrestle with "SDK fatigue," which is the complex process of adding new partners to their app stack.
Operationally, it's very difficult to run an app business, because embedding numerous SDKs into an app not only disrupts development cycles but it creates significant privacy and security liability, and can create vendor lock-in. We make it so that apps can deploy a single SDK, and then work with anyone they want while maintaining control of their data and without having to create additional SDK overhead. Think tag management for SDKs, built to address the complexity of native apps.
So the plan is to become such a critical part of the "ad stack" that Facebook, Google, or Twitter has to buy you, right?
Being purchased is the byproduct of doing a lot of things right, including hiring the right team, building the right tech, and executing the right go-to market strategy. If we do that, we’ll have options, but we don’t focus on a transaction — it's about creating as much value for our clients as we possibly can.
The value that we provide goes beyond the “ad stack” to touch many parts of the business, including marketing, but also product and engineering. We think that many of the web-based data platforms did a great job at creating incremental value in the ad stack, but there are other opportunities that shouldn’t be ignored.
Did I hear right that Nas is an investor? How'd that happen?
He is. We have a great group of investors. My brother and I met him on the way to France a couple summers ago, and I didn’t even realize he did tech investing at the time, but a month or so later when I saw he had invested in a couple other mobile opportunities, I asked if he would be interested in finding out more.
He introduced me to his business partner and manager, Anthony Saleh, and they wrote a check shortly thereafter. The whole thing was fortuitous, especially since neither he nor I really like talking to people we don’t really know. He's an active tech investor, though, through his fund, Queensbridge Venture Partners, with quite an impressive portfolio.
Besides money, what has he brought to the table for mParticle?
For me he has brought a lot of perspective. Having a big success — probably the greatest rap album ever — with "Illmatic" as his first album, and then subsequent ups-and-downs, a lot of what he has had to figure out is how to create longevity and maintain relevancy. Staying true to himself but growing both as a person and a professional at the same time is a delicate balance that few people can truly pull off.
Coming off Interclick, which was successful as my first company, how do I follow that up and stay relevant? I knew I couldn’t do the same thing, because I wanted to challenge myself to grow as an entrepreneur but also because the world was changing and things were going mobile.
He’s had incredible success, and getting to see how he handles it all at a very high level is just awesome, and something I definitely appreciate.
Tell me about all the dogs.
Love the dogs, man! How can you not? Animal rescue and helping shelter dogs are such an important part of my life, because it provides balance. It took me a few years, but it's critical to realize there’s more to this world than tech and business, and also that we’re all part of this planet. It's not just about humans.
Stepping back and trying to help little by little is important in order for me to feel good about working so hard, and selfishly, on things like mobile data.
Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures has announced the closing of a new $280 million fund, Upfront V.
It’s the largest early-stage fund raised in Los Angeles since the year 2000.
The new fund will focus on early-stage technology investments beginning activities in early 2015, on a 3-year regular cycle.
Upfront plans to continue its tradition of investing about half its dollars in the Los Angeles market and half nationally on companies spread across America.
Los Angeles has no shortage of technology companies worth investing in. Recent successful Upfront Ventures investments include stakes in Maker Studios, TrueCar, Gravity and Burstly. And companies such as Oculus, Beats, Nasty Gal, Tinder, Whisper, and Snapchat all call LA home.
“LA is the 3rd largest tech market in the US and now the fastest growing.” said Mark Suster, a partner in Upfront, in a press release announcing the fund. “Having been on the road talking to many LPs – it’s clear that others outside our region now see the momentum.”
“When I started the firm in 1996 there was no technology startup industry at all in LA,” Upfront founding partner Yves Sisteron added. “To see this now become the major source of economic growth in our city over the past 20 years is spectacular.”
Outside of LA, Upfront investments include MakeSpace, Grove Labs, DataSift, Thredup, and others.
Upfront began investing its last fund, Upfront IV, in April 2012.
And Thiel would know, because, as it turns out, he's investing in a marijuana startup.
Thiel's Founders Fund is likely participating in a large round of financing in a cannabis startup, Privateer. The company is raising a $75 million Series B round at a $425 million pre-money valuation, according to documents obtained by Business Insider. If Founders Fund participates in the round however, it may invest at a lower valuation. The round hasn't closed yet, so those numbers are subject to change.
Privateer was founded in 2011 and is positioning itself to be the leader in the weed supply chain, which the company says in its current state is fragmented, poorly managed, and largely run underground, despite "proven demand."
Privateer quietly bought up another startup in the space, Leafly, which is like Yelp for weed products. In 2013, Privateer launched Lafitte Ventures, which focuses on medical marijuana, and Tilray, which mails medical weed to users and generated nearly $200,000 in revenue last year. Privateer is also exploring a testing facility (Arbormain) in Washington state. The founders may launch their own weed-focused investment fund, too, so Privateer can pour money into external cannabis companies.
Medical marijuana is available in at least 22 states as well as Washington, D.C. Privateer estimates the US weed market could be a $20 billion to $50 billion opportunity. Privateer hopes to be the leader across everything from growing and processing various strains of marijuana to supplying and shipping it. It also plans to get into the accessory business, selling devices like pipes and vaporizers to users.
Privateer is already generating meaningful revenue, although the company is not profitable. In 2014 it expects to generate nearly $11 million in net revenue, up from $1.2 million in 2013. Most of that revenue (60% to 70%) is generated by Lafitte Ventures, and the rest is from Leafly. Privateer expects to reach profitability and generate $111 million in 2015 and $440 million in 2016.
Privateer was founded by Brendan Kennedy, Michael Blue, and Christian Groh. Kennedy, who is the company's CEO, and Groh, Privateer's COO, formerly worked with an affiliate of Silicon Valley Bank. Blue, the company's CFO, worked for a private equity firm, Herrington.
Thiel and Privateer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
*An earlier version of this story stated that Founders Fund was leading rather than participating in the on-going round.
Airbnb is opening its first standalone call center in Portland, Oregon. But it’s a far cry from the grid of cubicles you’d expect.
Rather than windowless work stations where employees read off teleprompter-like screens, the open-space call center is appointed with shared desks, long couches, light wood, and exposed brick, reports Margaret Rhodes in Wired.
The 250 staffers who work there don’t even have traditional “desks.” Instead they are given “landing spots,” which are similar to the cubbies given to children in kindergarten.
The landing spots are small areas where teams of employees can drop off their personal items in the morning and leave their computers and gadgets to charge overnight.
The customer-service agents' remaining time is spent working in a relaxed atmosphere. The call center features custom-designed conference rooms, couches for reclining, big communal tables, and small nooks for longer chats.
“You want a cave, but you also want a vista,” Aaron Harvey, coleader of Airbnb’s internal-environments design team, explains.
“In a typical environment, the cubicle is your world and the rest is the company’s world, and they’re very territorial about the cubicles. We wanted to evaporate that territorialism and turn it into a collective place.”
John Brennan just turned 30. During his 20s, he founded and sold a startup, BuzzTable, to Sysco Foods for an undisclosed sum, likely a few million dollars.
As Brennan described it to Business Insider in an email, "It's enough to take some time off to recharge and give back to the startup/int'l development communities, but you wont see me in a private jet anytime soon."
Brennan learned a lot about business and life during his 20s and wanted to help other early-stage entrepreneurs figure everything out. So he wrote down all his advice in a 163-slideshow presentation.
"Most people do something crazy after they sell a company/turn 30," Brennan tells Business Insider. "I chose to write about everything I've learned this past decade with the intention that others could benefit."
Here's Brennan's advice on business, relationships, investing, and health. The first section covers all business advice. The second section, which begins on slide 91, covers life advice.
The Tinder profile shows a snapshot of the footage and comes with the tagline: "I rob offices in SF. $5,000 reward for identifying me."
The woman seems to have a habit of breaking into startups in the Bay Area.
BuildZoom's Tinder plan was preceded by months of searching, all fruitless. The company posted photos and information on its blog and used more traditional methods to track her down. It led to widespread coverage but no solid leads.
But it took only a few days to snag a lead using the smartphone dating app.
The BuildZoom team came up with the idea of using Tinder this month and created a fake profile on Tuesday. Business Insider previously reported that the woman had been named "Lauren" and imagined as 28 years old. Two days later, BuildZoom cofounder David Peterson tells us the suspect has been identified after someone using the app recognised her. He adds there's a warrant out for the woman on a separate issue, and the police will question her regarding the BuildZoom thefts once she's in custody. Peterson notes he'll pay the reward once there is an arrest.
"We caught her — and it was a result of Tinder!" Peterson says. "It is pretty funny that Tinder actually worked, although I had a feeling it would. After all, a ton of people use it."
As of Thursday, Peterson and his colleagues were waiting for the police to make a formal arrest. He says the authorities have both a name and a photo.
He adds: "I'm 100% sure it is her. I don't like making absolute statements like that unless I am sure. I am, though. It's her."
We'll update this post if the police make an arrest.
Hampton Creek plans to use the money to improve the technology behind their plant-based egg replacement and grow their R&D efforts.
“Part of what we do is figure out out a way to get rid of s--- food that’s bad for our bodies and bad for the planet. That all requires a different approach when it comes to technology,” Hampton Creek founder and CEO Joshua Tetrick told us.
Hampton Creek will also use the new funds to accelerate its distribution efforts.
“We have distribution with some of the largest food companies in the world," Tetrick says, "and we’ve got to produce. We want to make sure we’re not holding back. We want to grow much deeper in Asia than we already are.”
“The way that consumers are buying and consuming food is undergoing massive change. And for a long time technology didn’t play a role in food as it relates to the end consumer, but that’s changing drastically and Hampton Creek is on the forefront of that," said Craig Shapiro at Collaborative Fund, a Hampton Creek investor.
Hampton creek will release two new products next year, an eggless pasta named Just Pasta and a scrambled egg replacement called Just Scrambled.
Their first product, a mayonnaise substitute called Just Mayo proved so successful that Unilever, the parent company of Hellmann's mayonnaise, is suing Hampton Creek for fraud after they saw sales decline.
The lawsuit is still pending but over 100,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking Hellmann's to drop the lawsuit.
“Our long term ambition is to get rid of shitty food in the world,” said Tetrick. “The only way the right thing wins, is when the right thing is ten times better than the wrong thing.”
The round was led jointly by Khosla Ventures and Horizons Ventures who joined several high profile investors.
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, Bryan Meehan, Executive Chairman of Blue Bottle Coffee, Bryan Johnson, founder of mobile and payment company, Braintree, and Nick Pritzker’s Tao Capital Partners have all poured money into the latest round.
Uni-President Enterprises Corporation, one of the largest food conglomerates in Asia, and Far East Organization, a pioneer of food and beverage products in Southeast Asia, have also both contributed.
This year, the company took it to the next level with real ballerinas, firm partners in nude leotards, cheerleaders tumbling in Google Glass, and a swarm of selfies.
Plenty of industry commentary is woven into alternate renditions of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” ("All About That Burn Rate"), Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” ("LTV vs CAC"), Pharrell’s “Happy” ("Scrappy"), and Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (Remember, “Makers gonna make make make make make”).
Bustle has also benefitted from Facebook traffic, however it says no single source of traffic accounts for more than one-third of its 20 million monthly readers. It's unclear what percentage of Bustle's traffic is paid for (on Facebook, Outbrain, etc) versus organic. Bustle says it's a "small minority" though.
"In an ideal world we'd love for [the traffic breakdown] to be 50% social media (Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter), and 50% non," says Goldberg. "The goal is not to be dependent on any one source and never to let more than one-third of our traffic be from a single source."
Bustle is also starting to generate meaningful revenue: Goldberg says his site will pull in more than $1 million in the fourth quarter of this year, largely from native advertisements. For example, Bustle worked with L'Oreal on a story, "See What Inspires These 7 CEOs Each Morning."
Goldberg, who formerly co-founded Bleacher Report and helped sell it for more than $200 million to Turner, says 2014 was a pivotal year for digital media and advertising.
"I've seen the size of ad deals get bigger every year, and the number of brands that get digital continues to grow," Goldberg says. "This year wasn't an outlier year. This was the first of many good years for digital media. Dollars are falling out of print and radio. For the first time, dollars are also leaving TV. And they're all going to digital and mobile."
Bustle has raised $27 million to date. Raising more money means a higher valuation and less potential acquirers. Goldberg says he's fine with that.
"We want to go the distance here. This was about us building something special and valuable," he says. "We raised money because things are going so well... 2014 has been without a doubt the watershed year for digital media. We've never seen anything like this. I think 2015 is going to be bigger. I think we'll see a ton more ad dollars move into digital."
We're identified 14 startups we think are going to make it big in 2015. Some are trying to transform messaging, some are attempting to conquer the sharing economy, and some are media companies trying to make it big.
Why you should watch:Slack is a communication app that lets workplaces use a group chat room, private messaging features, and file sharing. It's completely taken the business world by storm, and is one of the fastest growing enterprise apps of all time. Slack will likely only get bigger next year.
Funding: $180 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, The Social+Capital Partnership, Google Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Founders: Stewart Butterfield, Eric Costello, Cal Henderson, Serguei Mourachov
Funding:$4 million in seed funding, but no investors have been announced.
Founders: Andy Puddicombe, Richard Pierson
Why you should watch:Wish is a mobile shopping startup that looks like Pinterest and only shows you the stuff you want to buy. Techcrunch says the startupis in "talks to raise roughly $100 million at a valuation of around $1 billion." Wish CEO Peter Szulczewski said"We want to be Google AdWords for the retailer."
Funding:$78.7 million from Founders Fund, Legend Capital, GGV Capital, Jerry Yang, and Jared Leto.
Another app, Robinhood, reportedly took a few million dollars from venture capitalists and spread it around to its executive team. The easy stock-trading app launched in November.
The founder of profitable startup Buffer has also pocketed a few million dollars, according to The Wall Street Journal's Evelyn Rusli. He claims the money will simply be used to invest in other startups and "grocery shop and not think about things too much."
Why would investors de-motivate founders they back and allow them to get rich quickly?
There's too much money floating around and there are not enough great startups to invest in. So the best startup deals are extremely competitive, and founders are allowed to make brow-raising demands of investors, and the investors sometimes comply.
One investor who spoke with Rusli says venture capitalists are fighting over startups like "drunken sailors." Other investors justify giving founders one million or two because that's how much top engineers at companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook make.
Jeremy Liew is an investor in startups like Snapchat and Whisper, a Secret competitor. Snapchat's founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy were allowed to take millions off the table during a round of financing despite the fact that the app hasn't generated meaningful revenue.
Whisper's founder, Michael Heyward, has raised $60 million. He, unlike the Secret and Snapchat founders, hasn't kept a penny for himself. Heyward says he has no need for millions of dollars right now. He doesn't have a family to support or loans to pay. He also says he believes in his product so he doesn't want to swap equity for cash. It wouldn't be smart since he believes his company will be worth much more in the future.
Liew thinks taking money off the table isn't wise. A leaked email about Snapchat from the Sony cyberattack shows Liew discouraging Spiegel from pocketing millions.
"[Jeremy] said that he's a seller if you are a seller -- if you do any secondary he wants to sell pro rata. He denied that he's a seller into a 100% primary deal," Lasky wrote to Spiegel. In other words, if Snapchat's executives traded stock for cash, Liew wanted to sell shares too. If Snapchat opted to keep stock — a sign that the founders were committed to their business — Liew wanted to keep his too.
Allowing founders to pocket millions can be smart. In Snapchat's case, giving Spiegel and Murphy a few million dollars may have made it easier to turn down Facebook's multi-billion-dollar acquisition offer. The company is reportedly close to raising money at a $10 billion valuation.
Despite the recent drunken-sailor fighting among investors, Liew says it's still rare for founders to take money off the table. If an established entrepreneur is asking to pocket millions of dollars, it can be a warning sign to investors that the founder isn't serious enough about building a big business.
Another investor who spoke with Rusli, Gil Penchina, admitted that pocketing millions of dollars early is rare, and founders rarely ask for it. But he noted that he feels fine giving founders a few hundred thousand dollars — just not millions.
But immigration laws are strict, even for brilliant engineers who start companies and create a lot of job opportunities in America. A lot of founders and top engineers are either not allowed into the country or they're turned away after creating businesses for Visa reasons.
Graham cautions that if politicians don't majorly reform immigration laws, and fast, the United States could be, well, "f---ed."
Graham spoke with one founder who leads an engineering team of 70 people. This person said he'd hire 30 top engineers tomorrow if he could find them. But he can't, because talent is scarce, and it certainly isn't rampant in the United States.
A few startups are trying to solve this problem and connect tech companies to tech talent abroad. Power to Fly, for example, was created by a technical executive Milena Berry and a serial startup executive Katherine Zaleski to vet talent overseas and place engineers with U.S. companies in need of their services.
Matt Shampine is the co-founder of WeWork Labs, a company that incubates hundreds of startups around the world; WeWork just raised money at a valuation that exceeds $1 billion. Shampine says a number of founders in his startup work spaces are having visa issues, including Atulya Pandey, the founder of a venture-backed startup Pagevamp. Pagevamp is a quick way to publish a website that's backed by First Round Capital.
Right now, top programmers would like to come to (or continue living in) the United States, Graham notes. But if the U.S. makes it too difficult for them and another country makes it easier, all the top tech talent might migrate there instead. If that happens, the United States could fall from being a technology super power. Graham also warns that not fixing immigration laws could become "the defining mistake this generation of American politicians later become famous for."
The more of the world's great programmers are here, the more the rest will want to come here.
And if we don't, the US could be seriously f---ed. I realize that's strong language, but the people dithering about this don't seem to realize the power of the forces at work here. Technology gives the best programmers huge leverage. The world market in programmers seems to be becoming dramatically more liquid. And since good people like good colleagues, that means the best programmers could collect in just a few hubs. Maybe mostly in one hub.
What if most of the great programmers collected in one hub, and it wasn't here?...We have the potential to ensure that the US remains a technology superpower just by letting in a few thousand great programmers a year."
A total of $1.4 billion for venture capital raised is over double the figure raised last year. And it's over 20 times the amount of VC money raised by London tech startups four years ago.
But things get less impressive when you compare London to the rest of the world. Silicon Valley tech startups raised over $22 billion in 2014, and New York managed $1.7 billion in just the third quarter of 2014.
The London & Partners survey also includes data on how London measures up to the rest of the UK when it comes to startups. Unsurprisingly, most of the money raised happens in the capital: London makes up 65% of the UK's total.
Earlier this year, Instacart raised $44 million at a $400 million valuation from top Silicon Valley investors including Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. The company says it will generate about $100 million this year, a 10X increase from 2013.
Instacart competes with Fresh Direct, but while Fresh Direct has its own store that holds inventory, Instacart relies on local grocers to fulfill orders. It has deals with major grocery chains like A&P and Costco, with Instacart shoppers who go to your local store for you.
But the shoppers don't know what's in stock in advance. A common complaint is that Instacart users spend too much time on the phone with Instacart shoppers discussing replacements for out-of-stock items and that it would sometimes be less of a headache to go to the store themselves.
On-demand grocery shopping is just one of the major deliver-it-now services that have exploded this year. Uber led the on-demand charge with a $40 billion valuation this year. Postmates is a similar service for delivering packages.
"I really see the value in Office 365 - it's pretty awesome - we tried both Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 - giving both 2 weeks of dedicated (forced) use. ... After everyone had a chance to use both we came back with the same conclusion, Google Apps is the best solution for our company," he wrote.
The main reason: Gmail.
It was simpler to use, easier to search, and worked the same on any device. He calls Gmail, "the gateway drug to Google Apps."
Google also does one other thing better than Microsoft, he feels, collaboration. It's pretty easy for multiple people to work together on documents, fire up a video conferencing meeting (a "Hangout") or chat via Gmail and so on.
But the bummer is that nearly all of the other Office 365 apps are better, including Outlook's calendaring, he says, This is is especially true for Excel. Using his analogy, we'd say that Excel would be the gateway drug to Microsoft Office and Office 365.
We reached out to Sood and he explained, "I don't see any good finance person building real financial models on Sheets. I mean come on, you can't be serious. Excel is far and away better than anything out there."
He wants Microsoft to integrate Office 365 apps with Gmail. Better still, he wants Microsoft to offer individual apps as add-ons to Google Apps, so startups could buy them on a monthly subscription basis, too.
We're not so sure Google would love this idea. Remember in 2013, when Google banned two of Microsoft's YouTube apps? The second app was actually created in partnership with Google, but Google banned it anyway. The two companies butted heads over how Google would share its advertising data to its big rival, Microsoft said at the time.
Microsoft still remembers the experience and feels burned, we understand. Google probably isn't any more willing to share info about its Apps customers with Microsoft than it was to share YouTube ad data.
Yesterday TechCrunch posted an article about a blog written by someone at Microsoft which was eventually yanked. The blog post was a tongue in cheek father vs son debate about the differences between Office 365 and Google Apps. Putting the post aside, I thought it was a good opportunity to write about my experiences on this topic.
Placing your bets on Enterprise Software
At Unikrn we are a distributed team, with people in San Francisco, Sydney, Ottawa, Berlin, and Seattle. We also have investors from around the world that we need to share certain documents with. So even though we've been in operation for less than two months, we still struggled with our decisions on technology. What software should we use to operate to our business, what collaboration software should we use, how do we brainstorm on documents, and what do we use for email. Basically it boiled down to three things that we didn't want to think about past the first month;
Office 365 vs Google Docs
Yammer vs Slack vs others
Azure vs AWS vs Google vs Rackspace / Self Hosted
For this blog I’m going to focus on #1, perhaps I’ll discuss the other topics at another time.
Office 365 vs Google Apps
The first thing any startup has to do is setup their domain, and choose their email provider. No one wants to build their own mail server infrastructure anymore, it simply doesn't make sense. Being a Microsoft fan I was initially all about choosing Office 365, but this would prove to be a difficult decision.
I really see the value in Office 365 - it's pretty awesome - we tried both Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 - giving both 2 weeks of dedicated (forced) use. Both are super easy to setup and administer, you can buy your domain and get your email up and running within minutes. After everyone had a chance to use both we came back with the same conclusion, Google Apps is the best solution for our company.
Our decision had nothing to do with cost because the fact is both work out to about the same price at the end of the day. The decision all boiled down to one thing: Gmail.
Gmail is the Gateway Drug for Google Apps and Google knows this
Office 365 mail is not the same as Outlook.com for some reason. Gmail is the only cross platform cloud email that allows for instant search, massive archives, ease of use, etc. You don't need to download an email client to use it ... and there's better than instant cloud search vs local search for any email ever in a large archives. There are also many third party cloud plugins that just work with Gmail. Gmail is universally the same across all devices, and thus it is the gateway drug to Google Apps.
Once you start working with the productivity tools you realize that calendaring on Outlook is much better than Google Apps. Excel, PowerPoint, and Word all beat Sheets, Slides, and Docs hands down. Things like font management, financial modeling, and effective presentations are all Office 365 all day long.
Real time collaboration on Google is better, you can tell it was built from the cloud up. Google Drive is much easier to administer than OneDrive. Google makes it very easy to share, search, and access documents from virtually any device, anywhere. Drive has quickly become the core of everything we do in our business. SharePoint almost felt like a bolt-on to Office 365, and trying to rationalize the difference between SharePoint, Yammer, and OneDrive just felt weird for the people on our team. Both companies continue to improve their products which is always nice to see.
Microsoft Office 365 could gain significant ground with startups by doing one thing
We may not be “enterprise class” companies, but today's startups are indeed tomorrow’s large companies. Microsoft needs to get more people at every accelerator and co-working space using Office 365 without even thinking about it. They need to make it easy and automated so the growth happens organically rather than through sales motions, pr, or blog posts. People just have to want to use it “just because”.
So how does Microsoft drive immediate usage and significant startup interest to Office 365 Apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel? They need to make it fully compatible with Google Apps. They should create a third party app for Google Apps, fully compatible with Drive, Gmail, and Adobe Acrobat Reader. If Microsoft can introduce better calendaring for Gmail, with integrated Skype and/or Hangouts support, that would be a huge bonus. They should make it free for 90 days, and charge a reasonable subscription fee thereafter. I can imagine many people would jump on this - us included. In fact I’d love to hear from entrepreneurs out there - if you agree say something in the comments!
We, like many startups, will likely not switch email providers at this point, Gmail is just too simple and too good to cancel - but we’re more than happy to add on quality apps that make our workforce more productive. Basically I'm saying I'm not sure it makes sense to wage war against established ecosystems. Instead, Microsoft should embrace other established ecosystems with what they do best. Office Apps are awesome, but Outlook/OWA/Exchange is just not as simple or universal as Gmail.
FWIW I used to work at Microsoft Ventures. I love the company, and I know they will continue to improve their offerings to make it better for startups. I remain a fan of the company and the direction they're going.
Among the actors like John Hurt and James Corden, there are three well-known names in UK tech on the list.
Richard Moross, CEO and cofounder of Moo
Moross, the CEO of London-based business card company Moo, is made an MBE for services to entrepreneurship. His company produces stylish business cards from its London offices, letting people design them online themselves. Moross has been at the heart of London's startup scene, holding regular events to help connect tech entrepreneurs.
Jamal Edwards, Founder and CEO of SB.TV
Edwards is the man behind multimedia company SB.TV, the business that produces videos and recordings for upcoming rappers in the UK. He receives an MBE in the New Year's Honours List for his services to music.
SB.TV is a social media powerhouse, sharing its videos to millions of followers on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. The site's earliest videos come from 2007, covering emerging stars including Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Tinchy Stryder.
Brent Hoberman, Founder lastminute.com, made.com
Prolific tech entrepreneur Hoberman receives a CBE for his services to entrepreneurship. He cofounded travel business lastminute.com in 1998 at the height of the dotcom boom, becoming CEO of the company until 2006. Hoberman didn't stop there, though, becoming Non-Executive Chairman of travel network wayn.com, a Non-Executive Board Director of Guardian Media Group and Chairman of online furniture retailer made.com