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- 01/31/15--10:30: _Check out the new y...
- 02/01/15--05:29: _How the founders of...
- 02/02/15--01:49: _The 10 easiest coun...
- 02/02/15--08:55: _How to build a worl...
- 02/02/15--10:47: _16 motivational quo...
- 02/02/15--11:30: _Check out the aweso...
- 02/02/15--12:51: _10 lessons I learne...
- 02/02/15--15:08: _26 enterprise start...
- 02/03/15--06:42: _This atheist makes ...
- 02/03/15--10:28: _This graphic will d...
- 02/03/15--10:57: _This cheap little d...
- 02/03/15--12:26: _Why you can’t rely ...
- 02/03/15--13:54: _Silicon Valley's te...
- 02/04/15--13:01: _Meet Babbel, the st...
- 02/04/15--13:57: _Peter Thiel has an ...
- 02/05/15--04:38: _The 17 hottest star...
- 02/05/15--12:51: _7 unexpected signs ...
- 02/05/15--15:36: _These are the 11 ho...
- 02/06/15--08:49: _Meet the trio behin...
- 02/07/15--05:08: _A CEO wrote this br...
- 01/31/15--10:30: Check out the new yuppie food mecca right underneath Twitter
- 02/02/15--01:49: The 10 easiest countries for doing business
- 02/02/15--08:55: How to build a world-saving startup
- Who specifically am I helping?
- How big is that market?
- How much will it cost for them to buy my product or service?
- Sabbaticals — A sabbatical is an extended leave of absence that allows you to pursue projects and passions. Consulting firms like McKinsey and Deloitte are well know for paid sabbaticals.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs — These are formal programs at corporations that focus on doing good. It’s a great way to hone your idea and build a network while on the job.
- Volunteer Programs — More than 20 percent of employers pay their employees to volunteer. Why not use this as a way to meet potential customers for your social good startup?
- Echoing Green (up to $90k plus stipends)
- Fledge ($17k in funding)
- GoodCompany Ventures (access to mentors and funders)
- ImpactEngine ($25k in funding)
- Praxis Labs (access to mentors and funders)
- Unreasonable Institute (access to mentors and funders)
- Center for Social Innovation (New York)
- Forge Portland (Portland)
- Green Spaces (Denver)
- Impact Hub (San Francisco)
- Propeller (New Orleans)
- Potential customers — Get your potential customers to fund you by charging upfront or by doing pre-sales. This can also help you test your pricing model and your true value-add. Paid consulting projects and contracts can also help fund your startup.
- Self-fund — This is how we did it at CauseVox. We slaved away on the day job and saved up our own money to start the venture. It takes longer to accumulate enough capital, but you get to keep 100 percent of your company.
- Friends and family — Rich uncle? Supportive parents? People that you’re connected to on Linkedin? These are the people who respect you and want to see you succeed. Organize a friends-and-family seed round or use a crowdfunding platform.
- Angels or VC – Angels are wealthy people that want to see new ideas flourish. Organizations likeInvestor Circle, Omidyar Network, and Kapor Capital are also funding opportunities once you have a concept ready to scale.
- Grants — Look for government or foundation grants (international as well) that are aligned with your mission. Typically this is better for startups with traction.
- 02/02/15--10:47: 16 motivational quotes from lesser-known entrepreneurs
- 02/02/15--12:51: 10 lessons I learned from interning at a startup
- 02/02/15--15:08: 26 enterprise startups to bet your career on in 2015
- 02/03/15--10:57: This cheap little device will guide you directly to your lost stuff
- 02/03/15--12:26: Why you can’t rely on a VC to make your hardest decisions
- 02/03/15--13:54: Silicon Valley's tech economy is still booming like crazy
- 02/05/15--04:38: The 17 hottest startups in Australia
- 02/05/15--12:51: 7 unexpected signs that you’re meant for the startup life
- 02/05/15--15:36: These are the 11 hottest tech startups in Brooklyn
- It has to start with brutal honesty
- We have a job to do. That job is to make Fab successful.
- I want your help doing that.
- But it won't be exactly the same as it has been.
- And you might not always be comfortable with everything we have to do. Change is hard.
- And we have to establish a few ground rules:
- I have a full mandate from the board to do whatever it takes to guide this to a good outcome. I am responsible for their/our money. My role is to steer this ship and you have to be 100% ok with that.
- Jason is allowed to ask and question anything. And he will make tough calls that the team may not like, but will need to try to find a way to get behind. We're in full-on preservation mode right now. This is serious.
- There has to be scrutiny and measurement on every aspect of the business, there is no room for blind faith bets.
- I can't do this if the team -- the CPLUS group -- are are [sic] not in a good head space. The broader team takes their emotional cues from you.
- We're better at this together than against each other.
- I have promised the board certain things:
- We will guide this business to being self-sustainable.
- We will narrow our focus to a specific target customer while we figure out a repeatable business plan to service them. Jennifer/Michael.
- We will question everything and apply analytical rigor to our decision process.
- We will do a ruthless assessment of our talent and fill in our gaps.
- The debate about our path is over. At this point it's about deliberate action.
- We are not done righting this ship. It will be a constant, every day effort.
- Step 1: Acknowledge that we have serious problems.
- Step 2: Ground ourselves in reality on what it will take to fix our problems.
- Step 3: Focus on fixing it.
- We have to be brutally honest with ourselves about where we are at.
- We spent $200M in the past 2 years. $200M!
- We spent $200M and we have not proven out our business model
- We spent $200M and we have not proven that we know precisely what customers want to buy.
- This is not an indictment about any person or persons or team.
- It must be a thoughtful discussion about what's best for Fab.
- We have north of $100M and we a) have to make it last b) figure out all the things we should have been figuring out over the last two years.
- This is it.
- It will be super difficult to raise another round, and if we do raise a round some of the consequences (including not controlling our own destiny, potentially nasty down round, etc)
- We are the most heavily funded startup in NYC at 2 years in our life cycle and we have spent 2/3 of the cash - its a privilege and enormous responsibility
- We have to figure all of this out quickly or we will run out of runway
- Holy shit this is a big deal
- Retail businesses are all about the merchandise.
- No amount of marketing or financial engineering can overcome the merchandise.
- Successful retail is a marriage of merchandising and supply chain.
- Successful retail is a marriage of merchandising and operations.
- Selling a lifestyle = ruthlessly executing on a tight creative vision that is married with a deep and proven understanding of what customers will buy.
- Turning around a retail business is a slog. It wont [sic] happen overnight. Planning cycles. We need time.
- The only way we get time is to cut our spend - we need to be creative and brutal about it
- We must, must, must, narrow the focus. Even more than we already have.
- Fab does X better than anyone else for Y. And here's the proof.
- That's not to say we can't come back and do more later and build that lifestyle brand we want to build, but we have to earn the right bit by bit right now.
- Especially because we buy inventory. We can no longer afford to take big chances on stuff that doesn't sell. Everything has to be focused, even the misses.
- We've got a limited shot at this and focus is the only way we are going to get there. Disciplined focus.
- It is not enough to say let's just get back to where we used to be.
- Strict frameworks. Buy what we love, within a strict framework of what our customers want.
- What customers want and will pay for matters more right now than what we want them to want.
- It's not about us. It's about Jennifer and Michael. [Jennifer and Michael are made-up profiles of Fab's target user based on an internal customer survey]
- We won't [sic] have the opportunity to build a business that Jennifer and Michael admire and shop from unless we:
- Focus, focus, focus.
- Slow things down.
- Continue honing in on costs and inefficiencies.
- Instrument and measure everything.
- Clear everything off our plates to do this right.
- We have failed in the past to clearly identify what Fab's core value proposition is to consumers.
- Who we target. Narrow, specific customer target.
- How, Product offering, price point.
- We have failed in the past to acknowledge the cost-focused, execution-focused, low margin requirements of an e-commerce business. We are doing that now.
- I guided us to go too fast.
- I enabled us to lose our core focus.
- I didn't insist on our honing in on our target customer.
- I didn't build discipline around costs and business metrics enough into our culture.
- I didn't build a retail merchandising / marketing culture.
- I spent too much on marketing before we got the consumer value proposition right.
- I allowed us to over invest in Europe vs. insisting on scaling global teams from teh start.
- I didn't build a culture and discipline that connected supply chain to merchandising to delivery. I allowed silos of teams and thinking, and that has seeded an awful an [sic] cancerous distrust.
- I didn't see the need to course correct fast enough.
- Ruthless attention to righting this ship.
- Ruthless attention to focusing the business.
- Ruthless attention to opportunities to shave costs without hampering our future.
- More more more Jennifer and Michael.
- Influx of retail and ecomm experience.
The Market, a food complex underneath Twitter's San Francisco headquarters, just opened last week.
It has virtually anything you could want: a sushi/oyster bar, a taco bar, a pizzeria, and more, all surrounding an organic grocery store.
This is amazing given that three years ago, this neighborhood was an abandoned no-go zone. It's the latest step in the amazing transformation of San Francisco's mid-Market area.
The Market is at Market and 10th Street, underneath what most people call "the Twitter building." But there are tons of other young tech companies in the building, including Square, One Kings Lane, and Microsoft subsidiary Yammer.
The vibe is like a Whole Foods.
There are themed tables all over the store. This one has Japanese candy.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The London money-transfer startup TransferWise is now worth nearly $1 billion, a huge milestone for any tech startup — especially in Europe.
It's actually pretty difficult to explain what TranferWise does. Put simply, it lets people transfer money between different countries and currencies for a lower cost than that of a standard bank transfer. But the way it does that is the clever part.
TransferWise's founders, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, stumbled upon the idea for their company when they were trying to transfer money between countries.
Hinrikus moved to the UK from Estonia in 2006, and he told London Loves Business that he often needed to transfer money from his account in Estonia to his account in the UK. The trouble was, every time that he transferred money, he would be hit by transfer fees, often as much as 5%. At the same time, Käärmann was also working in the UK, but he needed to continually send money to Estonia to pay his mortgage.
The idea for TransferWise surfaced when its two founders realised that they could cut down on money-transfer costs by paying each other's expenses. Hinrikus used his money in Estonia to pay for Käärmann's mortgage, and Käärmann used his money in the UK to send payment to Hinrikus.
TransferWise avoids international bank-transfer fees by keeping the money transfers inside the country, using domestic accounts to minimise the distance that money has to travel.
The two founders realised in 2010 that they had saved thousands of pounds using their method of transferring money. After that, they made the decision to start a company to roll out that ability to residents of many different European countries. TransferWise says it's going to use its $58 million in new funding to expand to the US, Germany, and Australia.
Ever year, TMF Group, an international professional services firm, publishes its Global Benchmark Complexity Index Report, ranking countries around the world based on how complex they are for doing business from a regulatory and compliance perspective.
The research takes into consideration local legal systems, economic and political events, and cyber security risks.
As a general trend, countries with a common law framework (like the United Kingdom and many former British colonies) are considered less complex to operate in than countries with a civil law framework, like those in Europe and Latin America.
10. New Zealand
Setting up a business in New Zealand normally requires less than one day, when the average in the OECD is more than nine working days.
Source: World Bank
Mostly known for its stunning beaches and crystal waters, Barbados is restyling itself as an international foreign exchange centre.
Among the perks: high political stability and the same time zone as the US east coast.
Source: US Government
8. United Kingdom
The UK enjoys a unique position for being part of the European Union but out of the Euro zone at the same time.
London is by far the leading market for currency traders and attracts foreign firms like no other city on earth.
Source: Business Insider
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Here’s a depressing fact — most startups fail. That’s not just for web startups, but all startup businesses of any kind.
If you’re a do-gooder, it’s even harder.
Social good startups have the odds stacked against them. Most companies focus specifically on the bottom line, but social good startups are dealing with two measures of success: financial and social impact.
Why does doing good and doing well have to be so hard?
It may be challenging, but there have been many social good startups that have succeeded including prominent companies like Tom’s and Warby Parker. I started CauseVox, a nonprofit crowdfunding platform, with nothing more than a dream and now we have grown it to serving thousands of charities all over the world, including the American Red Cross.
Here’s what we learned that can help you launch your own social good startup.
Remember, you are creating a business
As a social good startup, you’re looking to make the world a better place. Helping people is fun and intrinsically rewarding, but you also need to find a scalable business model.
The first step in creating the right model is to ask:
The best way to answer these questions is to talk to and observe your potential customers every day. When we started, we booked dozens of calls and meetings with nonprofits every week. These insights will help you refine your product/service and become more useful.
Keep your day job (for now)
Most social good startups fail because they run out of time and money before they can find a scalable business model. To increase our runway, we kept our day jobs for as long as we could and worked on our startup after work.
In some cases, your employer can help grow your social good startup. Chances are there’s a program at your current employer that you can take advantage of. Look out for these common ones:
If your current employer doesn’t have these programs, there’s nothing that you can’t do by hustling during nights, weekends, or your lunch break. Once you’re ready to take the leap, look into structured startup programs.
Apply to an accelerator program
Startup accelerator programs help speed along the early stage development of your social venture. Typically, you get mentorship, office space, and/or access to funding.
Since we’re a tech-based startup, we went through Founder Institute to prepare us for the startup world. You can also apply to the usual suspects like Y Combinator (funds startup nonprofits as well) and Techstars. The following accelerators are specifically focused on social good:
Get out of your cave
There’s a saying that if you want to go fast, you go it alone, but if you want to go far, you go with friends. Finding people with a like-minded passion for social change is crucial for you to build a team and refine your idea.
We did that through StartingBloc, an institute for social ventures, but you can also immerse yourself in a social good coworking space. There are dozens out there; here are just a few:
Find your funding
Whether it’s building a minimum viable product, testing your marketing strategy, or just surviving until your social good startup takes off, it takes capital. You can get funding in a few ways.
For more ideas on funding, check out this good (if a bit old) list.
Rob Wu is a founder at CauseVox, a crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and social good projects. Rob’s work has been recognized by the Mayor of Austin and featured in the NYTimes, CNN, Forbes, and WSJ.
As we start another month, it's always a good idea to pump yourself up a little.
These quotes from lesser-known entrepreneurs (e.g., not Mark Cuban or Richard Branson) offer some insight into starting a company. They can serve as some motivation for your day.
1. "How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top." Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia
2. "I don't care if you succeed or fail, if you are Bill Gates or an unknown entrepreneur who gave everything to make it work but didn't manage to pull through. The important distinction is whether you risked everything, put your life on the line, made commitments to investors, employees, customers and friends, and tried--against all the forces in the world that try to keep new ideas down--to make something new."Chris Dixon, the co-founder Hunch
3. "Making the decision to not follow a system, or someone else's rules has allowed me to really dig into what my own strengths and gifts are without spending time feeling jaded or wasteful." Ishita Gupta, the founder of Fear.less Magazine
4. "People don't take opportunities because the timing is bad, the financial side unsecure. Too many people are overanalyzing. Sometimes you just have to go for it."Michelle Zatly, the co-founder CloudFlare
5. "I wish I had spent more time reading and weighing the pros and cons of various philosophies instead of just jumping in and doing what I thought was morally and financially sensible." Jason Cohen, the founder SmartBear Software
6. "Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that." Anthony Volodkin, the founder of The Hype Machine
7. "No more romanticizing about how cool it is to be an entrepreneur. It's a struggle to save your company's life--and your own skin--every day of the week." Spencer Fry, the co-founder of CarbonMade
8. "You just have to pay attention to what people need and what has not been done."Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam
9. "In a lot of ways, it's not the money that allows you to do new things. It's the growth and the ability to find things that people want and to use your creativity to target those." Travis Kalanick, the founder of Red Swoosh and a co-founder of Uber
10. "Wonder what your customer really wants? Ask. Don't tell." Lisa Stone, the co-founder and CEO of BlogHer
11. "Openly share and talk to people about your idea. Use their lack of interest or doubt to fuel your motivation to make it happen." Todd Garland, the founder of BuySellAds
12. "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." Erica Nicole, the founder of YFS Magazine
13. "Think big. I never think big enough. Be audacious. Imagine deals people around you think will never happen. Believe." Josh James, the founder of Domo and Omniture
14. "Patience, drive and very little fear." Jack Nickell, the co-founder of Threadless, describing what it takes to start a company
15. "You have to be ready for hard work and frugal spending to get the idea off the ground." Garrett Camp, a co-founder Uber and the founder of Stumbleupon and Expa
16. "By dealing with all these things that seem so unrelated to the work you dream to do--you learn an awful lot. I learned to ask for help when it gets too frustrating as well. I can only recommend to get help with the non creative aspects of living the dream of a start up. You can't do everything alone." Catharina Bruns, the founder of WorkisNotaJob
Durham, North Carolina has long been a center for innovation in tech, thanks in part to the universities of the Research Triangle.
But now the city of 286,000 is becoming a hub for young companies looking to get their ideas off the ground.
Much of the activity has focused on the American Tobacco Campus, a former factory complex that has been completely revamped to include hip working spaces, retail, and restaurants and bars. Small startups, accelerators, and venture capital firms have made their homes there.
Plus, Google just confirmed that Raleigh-Durham is next on the list to get Google Fiber, the super-modern Internet service that's said to be 100 times faster than basic broadband.
Tech companies based in Durham have long benefited from being able to recruit talent from the three universities of the Research Triangle: Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Major companies like IBM and Cisco have been in Durham for decades. IBM recently opened a brand-new, 72,000-square-foot Cloud Resiliency Center at Research Triangle Park.
Source: Triangle Business Journal
But before Durham was a center of research and innovation, it was home to the largest tobacco company in the world, American Tobacco. Throughout much of the 20th century, the nation's supply of Lucky Strikes and Pall Malls were churned out of a series of factories on a 1-million-square-foot campus in downtown Durham. By 1987, however, the tobacco industry had declined, and the American Tobacco campus was suddenly vacant.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
My latest professional experience was one of the most enriching of my life.
I spent the last 6 months doing an internship at an early stage startup called Jogabo. I spent 3 months setting up their new office in Lisbon and the rest in their HQ in San Francisco.
I was community manager, but as the team was very small (only the 3 founders and myself) I was constantly learning and getting involved in many aspects of the company such as coding or design.
Every time I accomplish something significant, I try to take a step back and reflect on it and to list 5 to 10 things I have learned. Today is my last day in San Francisco so, naturally, I did this exercise to clearly see how I have grown. I decided to share my personal development because I think it may be beneficial to others as well.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Kill the fear
Most of us are afraid of the unknown and the reactions of others. We need to get over it.
What you want to do is go over these 2 fears that prevent you from meeting strangers whether you’re in the street, in the bus, at school or in a bar/club. Of course you can’t talk to everyone (and you don’t need to) but I believe that people around you represent new opportunities. They’re future friends, co-workers or even girl/boyfriends. I’ve found that many people I encounter are approachable, but they are waiting for you to take the first step. Do not miss this chance.
Going to networking events in the Silicon Valley has provided 2 key take-aways. First, influencers like CEOs of companies that have raised tens of millions of dollars are very accessible. Secondly, everyone is here for the same purpose: networking. So why not shake hands with a few strangers in the room? Why not explain to them what you’re working on and learn what they do in order to see if you could help each other? When you do that repeatedly you increase your chances to meet someone interesting. With practice, reaching out to others becomes comfortable; there’s nothing to be afraid of in the end.
At a meetup last month I met Adrian the Director of Engineering of Coinbase — the world’s most popular bitcoin wallet. After the event he invited me to have lunch in his office on the 26th floor of a tower in the financial district. During the meal we (along with his co-workers and a friend) came up with a great idea, which I may pursue as my next start-up. It’s as easy as that. This is serendipity: a suite of interconnected events in your life that leads to great things. And it couldn’t happen if I didn’t go to events and trigger conversations!
My Tip: I always have been quite sociable but sometimes, when I am hesitant to talk to people, I take a deep breath and recall a Buddhist principle — everything around me is in unity. These people are no different than me, my sister or my brother. This thought can give you extra confidence so you can talk to anyone, even the most powerful CEOs.
2. Find your vision and values
You need the right vision to accomplish your dreams. You must also define your values and the ones of your company to guide your actions.
I had the chance to live and work with people who endured great sacrifices to share their vision with the world. For instance, before raising money, there was a time when the founders had only $300 in their company bank account. They had to travel the world to find places where the cost of living was low (i.e. Chile and Argentina) so they could afford to keep working on their project. It inspired me a lot and made me wonder: What kind of vision would be strong enough to make me think everything else is secondary?
Well, I have some ideas but I don’t have the full answer to that question yet.
I also learned that a company needs to be driven by values. They are the guiding principles for how work should be done or which decisions to take. They’ll not only drive your actions but also the actions of your team. Jeremy, the CEO of the company once told me that his first employees must embrace the values of the company. Thus, his employees wouldn’t need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. Even if the company fails, the team will learn from this experience and the values they shared will help them to keep going. Mike Tyson said: “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”. Well, if you define your values and apply them to your work, you will be better prepared when you are dealt a blow.
My Tip: Be a chameleon, adapt to your environment but stay true to who you are. Meet people with different perspectives, but don’t lose sight of your values.
Your Turn: So now ask yourself these questions: Can I write down 5 of my values? How do I apply them in my everyday life?
3. Do sports everyday
Having a healthy body is one of the keys to efficiency and well being.
During my internship we were usually working from 8:30 a.m to 7 p.m at a minimum and even if I loved what I was doing, sometimes it felt long. I need to move and be outside, so when I’m in an office for 10 hours a day it becomes an imperative to do some sports. And that’s for 2 reasons: because otherwise I implode and also because it boosts my productivity.
We were doing lots of things to increase our productivity at work like a standup meeting every morning at 10 a.m to talk about the tasks we completed yesterday and what are the objectives of the day were. We were also working on standing desks that we’ve made from Ikea. However, I found out that there’s nothing better than a run or a gym session in the morning before work because it feels good to arrive at the office fresh and ready while others are still sleepy from just waking up. In order to get to work at 8:30 a.m, we would wake up at 6 a.m to be at the gym at 7 a.m. We would alternate between strong lift workouts and running.
I also suggest that you play a team sport like soccer or basketball at least once a week. It increases your teamwork and fast decision-making skills.
Playing soccer in SF’s fog is amazing
Soccer teaches you to build trust in your team. For instance, when you make a bad pass to your teammate you naturally say, “Sorry, my bad!”. By doing so, you acknowledge that you did something wrong, which will encourage the other players to admit it when they make a bad move too. Being able to recognize you failed and not blaming others for it makes a team great not only on the field but in an office too. This is explained in a great book I read from Patrick Lencioni called The Advantage where he shows that creating vulnerability in a team by admitting our own errors is great for productivity.
My Tips: Find a gym buddy to take you out of bed in the morning when you don’t want to go and inversely. Also, tell yourself that millions of people are doing it too. Some are also accomplishing much greater challenges. Take Tim Borland for example. We met this guy when we rented his ranch on Airbnb for Thanksgiving. He ran 63 marathons in 63 days to raise awareness about kids battling the disease ataxia telangiectasia (or A-T). When we asked him how he did to achieve this feat he said, “It’s 99% in mental and the other 1% is in the head”. Very inspiring…
Your turn: Start with an easy goal. Go to the gym every morning before work/school for 1 week. You’ll see it’ll be very addictive and you’ll keep going!
4. Find great co-founders
You have to find awesome co-founders to make sure you’ll build the right product and that you’ll have strong people to fight next to you in every situation.
In the startup I was working for, each of the 3 co-founders was complementary. As the team was very small I got the chance to always be at the heart of the decision-making process. I participated from the conception, to the design and then the launch of new features. I was impressed by the way the founders would listen to each other, find solutions or start from scratch again until they delivered the best outcomes. That’s the atmosphere in which you want to work in for your entire life and that makes you deliver a great product.
One other thing I learned in the Silicon Valley is that VCs invest in your team much more than in your idea. So if you want to raise money you better find the right co-founders. Also, the day the company goes through a rough patch you want to be able to rely on a team. I believe you have found the right people to work with when you can promise this to yourselves: “If there’s only one left, we will be the last one” (extract from a French song). Here it means that your team is an unity and you’ll do everything to achieve your goal together.
My Tip: Don’t avoid a conflict at the beginning of your relationship with your co-founders to see how they react. That’s something you want to figure out at the beginning instead of in 3 years down the line.
5. Go out of your comfort zone to get rid of your prejudices
When you go away from everything you know, you make your own experience and go over your prejudices.
When I arrived in San Francisco I went out of my comfort zone. Lots of things were new to me. I loved tech but I didn’t have a clue about coding. Entrepreneurship was my thing (I created my own clothing company when I was 17) but I’ve never met as many 20–30 years old CEOs with ideas that change the world. I lived abroad (I’m from France and I study at University of Bath in UK) but it was only a 1-hour flight from home not an 9 hours time difference, which makes it hard to talk to friends and family. So it was a big change. When you’re as far from everything familiar, well you better be humble, because you’ll learn a lot.
By being away from your classic authority such as your family or school you realize there is much more than what you’ve been taught. You’ll open your mind.
My Tip: Make the effort to confront people you have prejudices against. You’ll usually learn you have much more in common than you thought and they’re interesting.
6. Your time is precious, always make the most of it
You need to organize your time meticulously to get the most out of every day.
First, you should apply both at work and in your personal life the 80/20 time management rule. This rule means that 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of the results. You should therefore get rid of all the tasks that are time consuming and drive small income.
The planning of my day from November to January
You also have to organize your working day. Instead of answering immediately when a support mail arrived and stopping what I was doing, I allocated a time slot for the support (in the morning at 10:30 a.m, then at 2 p.m and finally at 6 p.m). It allowed to me to be fully effective and concentrate on the day-to-day tasks without being constantly interrupted.
My Tip: Use Asana to organize the tasks you have to do and be efficient.
7. Seek the best deals
When you’re an entrepreneur every $ counts so you’ll have to master the art of bargaining and finding deals for free.
There’s usually a time when you have to deal with a tiny budget and insecurity. The startup I worked in was at its early stage and its founders paid themselves the minimum. I didn’t get paid for this internship but it definitely was worth it. It taught me to live with a small budget in an expensive city. Renting only a small room cost me $1200/month so I had to save money elsewhere. For instance, there was always free food at the events organized in companies’ HQ like Airbnb or Linkedin where I went to listen to interesting speakers and meet people.
I also organized meetups for tech entrepreneurs. I would provide the space, food and speakers. It was a nice way to share our experiences and have a great time! In exchange, I would make people pay a fee to make a bit of money. The last one I organized 5 days before leaving was a great success and attracted 60+ entrepreneurs from around the world.
Meetup I organized with Serendipia @startuphouse
I was always seeking for the best deals at work too. Instead of spending $500 on 20 armbands (to put smartphones into) for a project, I’ve called companies until I spoke with Darrin the CEO of Sporteer that agreed to send us their amazing armbands for free. The best thing here is that it resulted in a long term partnership between the two companies.
My Tip: To negotiate better, listen more than you talk. Let the other person talk alone and wait for her to go where you want to. Silence is a very powerful weapon in negotiation.
8. Be transparent
You have to be transparent with your customers, your co-workers and yourself if you want to succeed both in your business and in life.
One of the main focuses of my job was to support our users. I’d educate them about the App, receive their feedback and help them when they faced a bug. I ended up really liking helping others and getting to know our users. From the basic support e-mails, I would sometimes end up skyping with some of our most active users to collect feedback and give them updates about new features. I also recognized the importance of social networks for support and marketing. There’s no more 6-month marketing campaigns but 365 days campaigns where you add content daily on Facebook, Twitter to engage with your customers (Great book: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook from Gary Vaynerchuk)
I also experienced how to be transparent with your team. For example, when we had an important problem occur on the App, we would do a 5 Whys meetings. The principle is simple, we’d ask ourselves 5 times “Why” this issue happened in order to find out the root cause and make sure it won’t happen again.
My Tip: Follow these steps to support a customer that reports an issue 1)Acknowledge the problem 2)Say you’re very sorry 3)Always try to go further than just solving his problem.
9. It’s all about sharing
Give without counting to others and you’ll receive much more.
I’ve always been very careful before connecting people from my network together. I used to believe that the more you’re the only connection between two people, the more powerful you are. I changed my mind on this point since I’ve been to the Silicon Valley. People here are happy to introduce two people to give birth to new projects and opportunities. Milgram said there’s only 6 degrees between you and every human on earth so by introducing and being introduced, you’ll connect with the whole world!
My Tip: I’d like you to understand what a great guy, Kim Hansen (I met him in Lisbon during the first 3 months of my internship) explained to me. He made me realize that leadership is all about sharing. He said “The leader is not the one that only tells the others what to do, he’s the one that empowers them to become great leaders too. He has to teach and help them to develop their capabilities.” Therefore, the best leader is a servant.
10. Be in the movement
If your not moving, you’re dying (unless you’re meditating).
Traveling in California
The last thing I learned from this experience is that there’s nothing worst than the routine. I could have found an internship in Paris, my hometown. It would have been easier but I decided to go away and you’ve seen all that I learned. I spent the first 3 months of my internship in Lisbon at Startup Lisboa and the rest in SF. There, I was in this dynamic workplace so I moved a lot. I’ve been to Los Angeles, Carmel, Napa, Sonoma, Lake Thaoe to name a few.
One day a friend I met here called me and said he was at a great event in Las Vegas and that I was missing something amazing. 15 mins after I booked my plane ticket and 3 hours later I was in the plane to Vegas to meet him at the Thiel Summit, an event that gathered 300 young entrepreneurs where I met truly awesome people.
Things happen to you when you’re active and in movement.
My Tip: If you believe in something go for it. If it’s hard, if it’s far, if there’re barriers, take your chance anyway you won’t regret it. JUMP!
Every year we survey the field of startups selling their wares to businesses to find the ones we think are sure-fire winners.
These are companies with great technology, great leadership, massive investor backing, or tons of partnerships and industry attention. Or all the above.
Enterprise has become a hot area for startups in the last year or two. We actually had difficulty narrowing our list down to these select few.
Mixpanel: Watching your website
Headquarters: San Francisco
Investment raised to date: $77 million
Mixpanel grew hot in 2013 by helping companies figure out what website visitors were doing, and has been growing like crazy ever since.
Today, it counts nearly 3,000 companies as customers, including Uber and Airbnb, and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, early Yelp and PayPal exec Max Levchin, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and Yammer founder David Sacks. In December, it raised a $65 million round in that valued the company at $865 million.
Slack: Insanely popular chat app for work
Slack, a chat room for coworkers, is one of the fastest-growing business applications ever, going from launch to a value of $1 billion in a jaw-dropping 9 months. It now has over 365,000 users (including teams at Business Insider).
Prior to Slack, CEO Stewart Butterfield was a co-founder of Flickr, sold to Yahoo in 2005 for about $25 million.
Zenefits: Hottest employer in the Valley
Company name: Zenefits
Headquarters: San Francisco
Investment raised to date: $83.6 million
Two-year-old Zenefits has become the hottest employer in the Valley. It's causing chaos in the insurance and HR software industry by giving away cloud human resources software for free, making money as an insurance broker instead.
It's on track to grow its user base 1,600% this year and is so hot that "PayPal Mafia" angel investor David Sacks (who sold his last company, Yammer, to Microsoft for $1.2 billion) not only invested in Zenefits but signed on to work as its COO.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
In February 2012, Trevor McKendrick was out at a dinner with family when he learned that a relative of his was making $8,000 to $10,000 per month selling apps in Apple's App Store.
McKendrick figured if his relative could do it, so could he. He decided to build an app and sell it. His goal was to make $600 per month — enough to cover rent.
He looked at the top-grossing apps in the Apple App Store. He wanted to find an app that was making a lot of money "but sucked."
He found a couple of apps that exactly fit the bill.
"It turned out that there were a few Spanish Bible apps that were terrible," McKendrick told host Alex Blumberg in a recent episode of Blumberg's great podcast, StartUp.
McKendrick hired a Romanian programmer to build an app for him. It sold OK.
Then McKendrick built an audio version of the app. It was a big hit. "That was the moment," he said, "where it was: Oh this is not just a side project. This is a living."
After the audio version was first released, McKendrick started making $5,000 to $6,000 per month.
According to McKendrick's blog, the app made $73,034 in net revenue in its first year. In the second year, that number grew to $100,134.
McKendrick told Blumberg he remembered exactly where he was when he first realized how much money he was making.
He turned to his wife and said, "Holy crap, honey, look at this money."
McKendrick told Blumberg the income "doesn't feel like real money because so little work is involved.
"Dude, I spend maybe an hour a month on this thing."
McKendrick says the money has "changed our lives because I don't have to worry about our income."
Though McKendrick doesn't have to think about money, his booming Bible-selling business does have him worrying about one thing: his morality.
See, McKendrick isn't exactly a believer in his product.
"We don't believe in Christianity," he told Blumberg. "We don't believe in the Bible."
"I would describe myself as an atheist."
McKendrick was raised a believer — a Mormon, actually. He attended a Mormon college and got married in a Mormon temple. But when his brother left the church he realized he had long harbored doubts himself, and he soon quit, too.
Now he has some guilt about making so much money from selling a religious book in which he doesn't believe.
He explained why to Blumberg.
"What if you sold 'Harry Potter' books or 'Lord of the Rings' books, but you told people it was real? And you told people if they would just learn how to write spells themselves, they could heal their children? And if you sold that as a real thing? I would feel terrible about that. But that's really the situation I am in selling the Bible. I am selling this thing I truly believe is fiction."
Blumberg says he sometimes gets emails from users asking him to pray for them or interpret the Bible for them. "They think I'm a preacher," he says.
"If you're emailing the maker of an app to get help for your son, you're probably not a in a great spot. Trading that for profit weighs on me a little bit."
But does McKendrick feel guilty enough to stop? Blumberg asked him.
McKendrick's answer: "No, I can't. Yes I have a problem with it. But I can't."
The money is too good, and McKendrick really needs it these days. He's using it to fund a new company called BackOffice — which makes a product he actually believes in.
(By the way, if you're into the world of startups and you're not listening to StartUp, you're missing out!)
If you go back a hundred years before the mechanization era, you would see that the default way of making a living was not through a job, but through farming. So that tells us the current default for making a living is temporary. The question is what’s next?
The next default could be starting startup. Just like getting a job is today. But should you start one now? Let’s look at all the reasons not to. And objectively examine our feelings.
The median age of startup founders is 27. Being too young is not about biological age. It’s about maturity. Would you feel like an equal talking to your employees who might be older than you? What if your investor or your co-founder said “your idea is stupid”. Would you agree or would you rebel? A kid would do either of these things. An adult would ask why.
The only 2 ways to get experience is to work for someone else or to work for yourself. Working for someone else gives you the experience of working for someone else. That’s not what you need in a startup. So the best way to get experience in startups is to start one.
Not determined enough.
You can’t get good at math through determination. To be good at math you need to learn the rules and then manipulate those rules. In startups there are no rules. So the determination to make up the rules and make them work can get you as far in startups, as your talent can get you in math.
Newbie in business.
What does it really mean when people say they know a lot about business? What business? Since startups by definition are new businesses with new business models, no one really knows about these businesses. So it’s OK if you don’t know, but be prepared to be the first one to find out.
Startups are stressful, demanding, and all-consuming. Sounds a lot like life. Most people go through life with partners. So why would you want to go through a startup by yourself? There is a good chance it will be too much to bare for one person.
Luckily ideas are free. And many startups change their idea midway anyway, so if you start with a not-so-good idea, and then turn it into a good one, you’ll be like most startups.
No room for startups.
Some gawkers comment that there are too many startups. That’s like saying that too many people are trying to solve world’s problems. There are enough problems in the world, big and small, for as many people as are willing to start a startup.
Family to support.
Most startups do not generate revenue for the first while. Revenue-free lifestyle may not be possible for people with families to support. There is always another way though. Consulting or building a paid product can give almost immediate income.
Although few people have the problem of being so rich that it would discourage them from starting a startup, some are. For those people it’s still more exciting to work with people who may not be so rich.
Afraid of commitment.
Startup will take away your freedom. So if you value it more than anything, don’t do a startup. But that means you should not get a job either. If your startup succeeds, though, you may discover a new kind of freedom that is otherwise unavailable, like freedom to deliver products to millions of people.
Need for structure.
Some people say that they prefer a job because it gives them structure. It’s a nice euphemism. But really it means that they need someone else to tell them what to do. If that is you, don’t do a startup. Even many prestigious jobs don’t want to tell you what to do, though. So it may be better to look for structure elsewhere.
Fear of uncertainty.
There is not much uncertainty in startups – most of them fail. But a few don’t. So prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.
If you have a hard time keeping track of smaller items, you might like Pixie, which has come up with a neat way to literally keep tabs on your valuables.
Pixie makes an attachable Bluetooth beacon that transmits its precise location.
The device looks like a unusably large guitar pick, but it's small enough to put in your wallet or stick to the back of your smartphone.
Pixie says its beacons can signal their location "down to inches."
Bluetooth beacons have been around for some time. But Pixie stands apart with its iOS app, which lets people see the location of their tagged items with colored "Xs." It's the rare example of an augmented reality app that's actually useful. The Verge tested the device and was pretty impressed.
Even though Pixie's beacons are shaped like sleek teardrops, they're still very visible on whatever you tag. I would probably stick one on my TV remote before putting one on the back of my iPhone.
But plenty of people would probably pay for the peace of mind Pixie offers.
You can pre-order a pack of four beacons for $40, or wait until it actually ships this summer, when the price will go up to $70.
What is the role of a VC for entrepreneurs?
I suppose it can be different for every founder and for different VCs but I’d like to offer you some context on what I think it is and it isn’t. I was recently contacted by an entrepreneur who was consider a few different business models for his company. I barely know the guy (or his markets) but he wanted me to weigh in one “which market I thought he should pursue.” I responded
“I can’t tell you that one approach is surely better than the other. If I said so I’d be disingenuous.
My job isn’t to predict markets but rather to find entrepreneurs who want to create markets through insight and conviction.”
And that’s the simplest way I view my job. It’s to find great entrepreneurs who are passionate about solving a problem. They become obsessed with why the problem exists and they start chipping away at ideas for solving the problem. The develop so much conviction that they can solve it that they do the most difficult thing one can do with one’s ego. They tell the world publicly that they not only are going to solve the problem but they’re going to do it better than anybody else in the market.
I see this on a regular basis like the founders – Josh Mangel & Aaron Peck – at Skurt who are asking the obvious question of why renting a car an airport sucks so badly. Of course as a frequently traveler I know this, too. But the infinitesimally small daily decisions that one needs to make the better that system will never come from me. (Note: before you jump down my throat this founder is no longer with the company after making a mistake and apologizing to Jcal he decided to move on.) I can spar with the best of them but at best this will be 5 hours per week.
The entrepreneur who is driven to solve a market problem that bugs her will have to tell her family and friends that she’s really going to do it knowing full well she may fail. She’ll have to quit her well-paid job at a respectable company and tell her parents that although she studied hard throughout school and got into a great college and graduated in 3 years that she is now leaving it to change the way that manufacturers sell products electronically through their distribution systems. Or whatever seemingly hair-brained idea that would make a Tiger Mom panic and wonder how it had all come to this. Or a Jewish mom wonder why you’d make YouTube videos in stead of being a doctor. Yes, Miles, I mean you
VCs have the safety of not being that person. That is what separates us. And what makes you crazy. And special. I think the best VCs understand that we are enablers not masters of the universe. We are money, advice, coaching, cheerleading, interventionist but not “the decider.” That’s you.
Some VCs pretend to know markets better than you and kid themselves into thinking that their instincts on how to do it are better than yours. These are mostly VCs I would avoid. It’s like trusting your 28-year-old fresh-from-MBA-school McKinsey consultant to make executive business decisions about your 128 year-old-business that they know nothing about just because they are wicked smart, have a black belt in Excel & PowerPoint and do better graphs than you. Consultants should provide you data & frameworks – not decisions.
No. In my view the best VCs are merely your guides. They are your sparring partners. They are there to help you correct your course when you want to make decisions that their history and wisdom tells them might lead you into a dark alley.
Each situation you face is different and unique. Platforms have changed. Marketing channels have changed. Crowd funding now exists. Mobile is now more important than desktop computer for many apps. International markets are now bigger than the US market. Virtual reality is now becoming just reality. Your decisions are unknowable. They are unique to you and not to each other situation that VC has faced. At best they can be your history guide.
You are the only person or team that stares at your exact problem every single day, obsesses about your decisions at bedtime every night, wakes up in a sweat at 4am with decisions spinning in your brain about whether you should sign a deal with unlimited liabilities or not.
How can we know better? What person in their right mind would pretend they did? If you rely on your VC to make the toughest calls that probably says more about your own insecurities with tough, unknowable, judgment calls than about your VC. Strangely – I have found over the years that even the smartest people I know often prefer not to make the hardest calls when it comes down to the wire.
That’s not to say that we as VCs are without strong opinions. I’m no wall flower. And I cherish my role of being difficult to persuade about strategic moves without strong data or logic or conviction on your part. It’s my job to help you find your True North. To know that while acquiring a business in China will help you globalize faster it most certainly will take you off of your most immediate problems at home and that dominating your national opportunity first is far better than being spread thinly across two complex opportunities. You want to do that early in your company’s existing? Bring it on. You’re going to have to run over me like a Mack Truck to get that decision approved. But I would never say “no” 100%.
I was reminded about the role of a VC last week when my partner Kara Nortman (<—- yes, of course you should follower her! just click that link) was preparing for our annual meeting with our LPs. Kara worked in VC for more than 5 years but more than a decade ago. In preparation for her reentry into VC she spoke with many mentors of hers for advice on venture capital. One such advice came from Sharon Weinbar (who I, too, am a fan of) who said,
“View every situation with a beginner’s mind.”
Such simple yet poignant advice. Kara and I discussed what we thought that meant to each of us. I pointed out that when you become a partner in a VC firm almost by definition you’ve seen years of businesses that failed or concepts that didn’t quite work. So you become jaded. Of course the taxi lobby and its cozy relationship with local government will never let a business like Uber exist! Document management? Nah. It’s been tried for 10 years with minimal success. I can’t see how DropBox or Box break out of this mold. Disappearing messages? Nah. Facebook already has critical mass.
It’s not our job to predict markets only to have a good sense of where innovation and disruption could lead to big opportunities and to find entrepreneurs who are more driven, more passionate, more committed and more informed in these markets than we are and who we believe are also more of all of these than the competition.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A study released Tuesday shows Silicon Valley's tech economy is continuing to boom, with 58,000 new jobs and 42,000 new residents last year and all indications the record growth will continue.
The annual Silicon Valley Index released by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, representing businesses, government and the broader community, also shows record venture capital investment in technology.
"The world's hottest regional economy keeps getting hotter," said Joint Venture President Russell Hancock, pointing to the highest growth rate since 2000.And unlike 15 years ago when the tech sector spiked and then crashed, this time economists say there's a solid economic base.
"It's not bubblicious, we have grown into this and we've done this incrementally," said Hancock. Silicon Valley, home to Google, Apple, Facebook and many other tech firms, was the last economy to succumb to the recession and the first to emerge from it. The 1,900-square-mile region south of San Francisco also saw some of the highest income gains and housing prices in the country last year.
The report shows that with the income and population growth, low wage earners are being priced out of housing, roadways are increasingly congested, and public rail service is overwhelmed throughout the greater Bay Area.
In addition, the income gap is the largest in the U.S., with world-class firms paying top wages to computer scientists while those who work for them, as housekeepers, landscapers or caretakers, haven't seen significant wage increases. Thus almost one out of three households needs food or shelter subsidies.
"The gap is growing, not because most people are doing worse here, but because people at the top are growing faster," said economist Stephen Levy, who directs the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.
While the report focuses on Silicon Valley, it also shows San Francisco to the north is a major driver of the region's economic prosperity. New companies in San Francisco, including Uber, Dropbox, Lyft and AirBnB, received $7.2 billion in venture capital last year, about the same as Silicon Valley companies.
This article was written by Martha Mendoza from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Markus Witte, CEO and co-founder of language-learning tool Babbel, doesn’t like disclosing user numbers. He thinks they’re a “pure vanity metric”. One thing he didn’t mind sharing? In January of this year, the Babbel app crossed 100,000 downloads a day.
The company – which has raised around $12 million in funding to date – was started by Witte (pictured below), Thomas Holl, Lorenz Heine and Markus Corallo on the premise that there were barely any options for learning languages on the Internet during that time.
Before Babbel, the co-founders had worked together at Berlin-based software company Native Instruments. Since its founding in 2007, Babbel has grown to a team of more than 300 employees across its headquarters in Berlin and a recently opened office in New York City.
“Every company in the language-learning space was focusing on people who were able to spend a lot of money and who had a very high external motivation,” recalled Witte in a conversation with Tech.eu. “Our perception was that a lot of people would like to learn a language, or brush up their school French or whatever, but didn’t have a ton time nor want to spend a ton of money… But they still wanted to learn a new language for a lot of fuzzy reasons.”
These days, Babbel offers its learning system in 14 languages and claims to see more than 1,300 users registering per hour. Babbel provides users with free registration to its app (available on the web, iOS and Android) as well as the first lesson in each course for a language.
Beyond that, the company adopts a subscription model and users can select from various payment plans (monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual).
With Babbel recently announcing the opening of its US office, we caught up with Witte at the company’s Berlin HQ, where we got a peek into the company’s workspace, culture and plans for the future.
Tech.eu: In the last five years or so, a number of language-learning services have cropped up, such as Duolingo, LinguaLeo and busuu to name a few. What makes Babbel different from other players tackling this space?
Markus Witte: The core of it is that we really care about a great product and a professional standard. It goes across the whole value chain, if you will. We’re producing content in-house with professionals – so it’s language teachers, language professionals and didactic professionals, who produce language courses in language pairs.
It came as a surprise to us that it’s so unusual to have language courses made for each language separately, because it’s still standard to build a French course and then translate into a Spanish course, which doesn’t work really well for the user. And once you have that course, you translate the reference language – the mother language of the user – so that the French course for an English speaker is the same, then, for a German speaker. Of course, this doesn’t work as well because Germans learn in a different way and know different things than native English speakers. So we actually produce courses in combinations, which adds complexity but from a user perspective is better for learning.
Another thing is that we focus on having relevant and ready-to-use content. With Babbel, you don’t learn sentences like, ‘I’m a bear’. Rather, you’d learn sentences like ‘Can I have your phone number?’ or ‘I’d like a beer’ – sentences that you would actually use.
Tech.eu: Can you share some current user numbers with us?
MW: No… I mean, user numbers in the industry are a pure vanity metric. Back in the day, we used to share user numbers, because everybody did. It makes sense for a community to talk about users, but for a product like ours, it doesn’t. It’s not on any internal dashboard, so I felt that sharing this informational externally would just be fake. Also, users – in this industry – usually means everybody who signed up for a free account since the inception of the company and it’s a total nonsense number.
What I can tell you is that we crossed 100,000 downloads a day for the app, which I think shows quite a bit of momentum.
Tech.eu: Babbel has grown to more than 300 people since its founding, what are some of the most important aspects of the company’s culture at the moment?
MW: From the beginning, the central aspect – and it might sound trivial – was learning. It’s not only learning for the user, but learning for each individual in the company and the company as a whole.
Everybody here – also the founders – haven’t been in this [language-learning] space before, so everybody here is on a steep learning curve. The learning aspect means you’re empowered to make mistakes and to fail. I wouldn’t say we embrace failure – because like everybody else, we totally hate failure – but what we also hate is blaming somebody… We all make mistakes, all the time, and we feel like it’s part of learning. In a way, every startup is a learning company, but for us, that applies in multiple ways, because our users are also learners.
Tech.eu: Is Babbel looking to raise more funding?
MW: At this stage, funding is not a big game-changer. When we were a small company, we absolutely needed the funding and it was a total necessity to grow. The Series B round we did two years ago, it was something that we thought made sense. However, now, we might do additional financing, but it wouldn’t be a game-changer.
Tech.eu: Why did you choose to set up the headquarters in Berlin?
MW: It wasn’t really a deliberate choice – we were just in Berlin during that time.
At one point, around 2011, we had an offer in Silicon Valley that would’ve required us to move to the Bay Area. We actually considered it. At the time, we were around 15-20 people, so it would have been possible.
But we thought that there weren’t any advantages for us to go there, and that was the only deliberate decision to stay in Berlin. Berlin is definitely a very good place to start a company. Europe is very good if you work with languages, because you have this multiplicity of languages and you have a EU market. From a business perspective, the EU market is rather easy to cater to – like legally, tax-wise, and currency-wise – and you start with multiple languages.
Tech.eu: Babbel just opened an office in the US, why did you look to New York City instead of San Francisco?
MW: The main reason is time difference… Nine hours time difference is a nightmare. I had a team in Los Angeles in my last job and it was a pain to coordinate. Six hours to New York is bearable, but nine hours to San Franciso is terrible.
Also, the advantages of the Silicon Valley area for a startup – well, they usually apply for particular companies with different missions from ours. In New York, you can find fantastic talent and connect to the media. I think it’s a very cool city to work in.
Tech.eu: What kind of apps or tools are most commonly around the Babbel office for productivity and organization?
A lot. It depends on which department you ask. In product and engineering, it’s definitely Pivotal Trackerfor agile process development. At the same time, we use a lot of whiteboards and stickies, and we still work with paper a lot because sometimes you just need that.
Tech.eu: In addition to expanding presence in the US, what’s on the roadmap for Babbel this year? What can we expect?
MW: Growth and momentum. That’s important in itself to keep the startup spirit, so growing the team and getting the right talent on board.
We’re definitely looking at the Americas – Canada is an interesting market as well as South and Middle America. The office in New York is responsible for all Americas.
Of course, we’re also working on the product. There’s a lot of things that we ‘re trying and planning to do on that side, which is mostly directed towards helping people build a sustainable learning pattern.
Babbel has a fleet of about 120 company bikes that employees can use.
Peter Thiel is a famous startup investor and early Facebook backer. People always ask him if we're in another bubble.
Thiel is not sure how to answer. He doesn't think we are, but, he says, "it's a complicated question."
One thing Thiel is totally sure of is that as frothy as the startup world seems today, it's nothing compared to the dot-com bubble of the '90s.
To illustrate the point, Thiel likes to tell a story about the time someone gave his company $5 million out of the blue and refused to take it back. Thiel told this story last fall, during a podcast interview with fellow startup investor Marc Andreessen.
Back in March 2000, a startup Thiel was running, Confinity, merged with a startup Elon Musk was running, X.com.
The company's product was called PayPal. With PayPal, users could use one username and password to pay for things on eBay and elsewhere on the web.
At the time of the merger, PayPal was growing very fast.
In February 2000, it had 100,000 users. It would have 1 million by April. The customer base was growing at a 5% to 7% daily compounding rate.
The growth was phenomenal, but expensive. PayPal was growing so fast because it was giving away free money. The company had a referral program where, if you signed up, you got $10, and, if you referred someone who signed up, you got another $10.
So not only were users growing exponentially — so were costs.
At the time of the merger between Confinity and X.com, the new company had $15 million in the bank. The CFO told Thiel and Musk that the money would last six weeks.
This news freaked Thiel out a little. Musk, too.
Oddly, says Thiel, no one else at PayPal seemed especially worried. It was the height of the bubble, and everyone believed that a startup like PayPal could raise more money at a higher valuation in a snap.
So with confidence, Thiel and Musk set out on a world trip to find financing for PayPal.
They did not have to look hard. Money got thrown at them everywhere they went.
The world was mad with dot-com fever.
The wildest stop on the trip was a visit to South Korea, where three investor groups competed to fund the company.
One day, in a hotel lobby, Thiel discovered a professor hiding behind a palm tree, trying to eavesdrop on his conversation. Apparently, he'd been sent to the hotel to spy on American business executives. His mission: Steal business models from the US.
"It was a frenzy," says Thiel. "Everyone was trying to get in on the action."
Finally, Thiel was ready to leave South Korea. One of the investor groups took him to the airport. At the ticket counter, Thiel's credit card didn't work when he tried to buy a ticket. The investors were thrilled. Here was their chance. They bought Thiel a first-class ticket on the spot.
Thiel got on the plane, happy to have the fancy ticket, but unsure whether he would take funding from the investor group that bought it for him. No paperwork was signed.
This detail did not stop those investors.
They called up PayPal's lawyers and said, "Where do we wire the money?"
The PayPal lawyer assumed that meant Thiel had closed a deal. He gave the South Korean investors the wire-transfer information.
The South Koreans wired PayPal $5 million — without first alerting Thiel or signing any paperwork.
When Thiel got on the phone with them and protested, the South Koreans refused to tell him where he could wire the money back.
"Their opening negotiation was, 'We're not telling you where you can send it back. You have to take it,'" says Thiel. "We ended up with them as investors."
It turned out that the people who were not worried about PayPal having only six weeks' worth of cash had been right to forgo worries. Sort of.
On March 31, 2000, the company closed a $100 million fund-raise.
On the following Monday, April 3, the market tanked and the dot-com bubble burst.
2014 saw some great local startups thrive in the Australian marketplace, with many entrepreneurs reaping the rewards of developing a successful business.
While Campaign Monitor’s $250 million funding from a group of US venture capital firms was the sector’s headline of the year, there were plenty of other businesses that met impressive capital raising and growth targets.
Here are some of the flourishing startups that Business Insider has been in contact with and what they achieved in the year of the horse.
Document productivity company Nitro, was founded in Melbourne in 2005.
Since then it has established a customer base of more than 490,000 people in nearly 200 countries, including 50% of the Fortune 500.
This year Nitro added 75 new Nitronauts to its global team, and launched new offices in Dublin and St. Petersburg.
It secured a $15 million funding round from US firm Battery Ventures, and has raised more than $21.6 million.
This female fashion online retailers launched in 2010 and has since grown to 12 employees.
According to The Australian Startup Awards 2014, which awarded Showpo the Startup Daily Startup of the Year award, the company's revenue grew by 288% last year to $10 million, and profit was up by 381% on its results from 2013.
Last year Showpo also celebrated their first million dollar month in May.
The business also grew its social media - Instagram and Facebook - following from 550,000 to 875,000.
Stackla is a social content marketing platform, allowing brands to discover and curate content from the social web.
Founded in 2012, Stackla last year established new offices in San Francisco and London, adding to its Sydney office.
Last year the company made $2 million in a capital raise round and grew its revenue by 300%.
Its staff numbers also grew from eight in December 2013 to 33 in December 2014 and it now has over 300 organisations as customers.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Remember Jeff Foxworthy? The comedian made a splash back in the ‘90s with his (slightly un-PC) “You might be a redneck” routine. Among his classic one-liners: “If you own a home that’s mobile and five cars that aren’t … you might be a redneck.”
Well, inspired by Jeff, I’ve been thinking about a “You might be an entrepreneur” routine — in other words, slightly unexpected signs you’ve got what it takes to go through the thrilling, punishing, life-changing experience of starting your own company.
Yes, you’ve got to be passionate, resilient and all that other good stuff. But there are more subtle qualities needed, as well. Networking with other entrepreneurs over the years through Hootsuite and working closely with young up-and-comers through my foundation The Next Big Thing, I’ve noticed that a lot of us share some common personality traits. So, without further ado, you might be an entrepreneur if…
1) You’re restless, and no achievement ever seems good enough. When most people reach a goal they think, “I did it! Time to sit back and enjoy it for a while.” An entrepreneur thinks, “Great, what’s next?” Take the late fashion maven Coco Chanel. She started with a simple hat line, expanded into women’s clothing, and eventually moved into jewelry, accessories and perfume. By the time of her death in 1971, Chanel had not only left behind an iconic brand, but a business empire that was bringing in $160 million annually. Entrepreneurs like Chanel don’t stop with one big achievement. They’re always itching to find and take on the next challenge.
2) You’re a control freak. Throughout my career, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to strike a balance between controlling my business and letting the talented people around me take the reins. It turns out that many of my entrepreneur friends struggle with the same challenge. It’s great to have a CEO who cares about all the details of a company, but when that person needs to be involved at every level, it can become detrimental to getting things done. It can also stress out employees, who have been brought on precisely so you don’t have to make each and every decision. Luckily, we can take some comfort in knowing that super entrepreneurs likeElon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates have all been described as control freaks.
3) You’re a masochist. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to love a little pain and a lot of risk. Consider the fact that 75 percent of new startups fail. Only a masochist sets himself up to face those kind of odds, straight out of the gate. And it doesn’t get much better after that, at least not at first. You’ll struggle for money. You’ll work unimaginably long hours. You’ll be lonely, because while everyone else is out partying or watching movies, you’re toiling away … often alone. Serial entrepreneurs — who start and run businesses one after another — could be considered even more masochistic, because they go into each new venture knowing what’s coming.
4) You have a love-hate relationship with money. Entrepreneurs generally fall in love with making money early in life. A young Warren Buffett, for instance, had a paper route for the Washington Post and made money selling everything from lost golf balls to gum, stamps and magazines — all before he graduated from high school. I got my start washing windows of local businesses and selling snacks on paintball fields when I was still in elementary school.
But, eventually, many entrepreneurs are driven less by money and more by the innate thrill of launching a new venture and the freedom and control that come with it. By the time I reached college, my own attitudes had already started to shift. I was on the path to a law degree and a secure, well-paying job. Instead, I dropped out to start a pizza restaurant because it was more of a challenge and I could do it my way.
5) You’re a black sheep, and maybe even a dropout. Many entrepreneurs describe themselves as not fitting in with the crowd. I definitely felt that way in high school. Lots of notable entrepreneurs have even ended up ditching the traditional education system altogether. Tech titan Bill Gates, billionaires Ted Turner and Li Ka-shing, Richard Branson and McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc are just some examples of widely successful entrepreneurs who all dropped out of high school or college. While it’s not always easy to be the outsider, it’s exactly this quality — seeing things through a different lens from the rest of the world — that can help move society forward and drive innovation.
6) People think you’re crazy. Because entrepreneurs tend to think along different wavelengths, their ambitions can often come across as crazy to friends and family — especially before the vision has been made a reality. Take, for example, Ruth Handler, who created the world’s most iconic plastic doll: Barbie. In the 1950s, Handler was met with doubt and criticism (including from her own husband) for proposing a doll that looked more like an adult than a baby or child. She came up with the notion after seeing her own daughter playing with paper dolls that looked like adults. Handler, of course, went forward with the idea anyway, and the rest is history.
7) You’re somewhat introverted. To lead a business, you need to be super outgoing and salesy, right? Not necessarily. It turns out that roughly four in 10 top executives — including Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page — identify as introverts. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is also a well known introvert. Research suggests that introverts in the workplace foster a better team environment than their extroverted peers. And introverts are also known to be good listeners, a greatly overlooked but essential asset for good leadership. Few of the entrepreneurs I know are loud or assertive, especially not in big groups or meetings.
Brooklyn isn't just for hipsters anymore.
Manhattan may be known as New York City's Silicon Alley, but Brooklyn — its neighbor to the east — is buzzing with startups too.
We rounded up some of the coolest startups in Brooklyn. They solve problems — like delivering your packages on your own time so you never miss the UPS guys again. They're also revolutionizing food, making podcasts into a big business, and delivering laundry on demand.
With GoTenna, you'll have WiFi — anywhere.
GoTenna is a pocket-sized device that promises to give you WiFi anywhere. The GoTenna device pairs up with your phone to let you communicate, even when you don't have service.
Cofounders Daniela and Jorge Perdomo came up with the idea for goTenna in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Months later, Daniela had created physical prototypes for a gadget to help people communicate even when they don't have cell phone service. GoTenna has raised $1.8 million in seed funding.
Livestream lets you watch events around the world in real time online.
At the end of May, Livestream moved its streaming services from its Google-owned property in Manhattan to the artistic neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. There, the company occupies 30,000 square feet on two floors of a refurbished warehouse on Morgan Avenue.
About half of Livestream's employees live in Brooklyn, so the move made sense. Livestream is the first tech company in its neighborhood. The company has 140 employees total, most of whom work in Livestream's New York offices. But Livestream has offices worldwide, in places like Los Angeles, the U.K., Ukraine, and India.
Take a look at our tour of Livestream's offices here.
Gimlet Media is making podcasts a big business.
Currently, Gimlet Media runs two podcasts: one is called Reply All and is about the internet, and the other is a show called StartUp, which talks about what it's like for Blumberg to start his own business. In November, Gimlet Media raised a $1.5 million round of seed funding from Lowercase Capital, Knight Enterprise Fund, and betaworks, and the company is rapidly expanding.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The Chiltern Firehouse in London is notoriously hard to get into. Scores of foodies have written about the restaurant's exclusivity, which is crawling with A-list guests. But soon, snagging a last-minute table at one of the hottest places to be seen right now could be made easier with a new app called Uncover.
Uncover has forged relationships with some of London's most in-demand spots to create a catalogue of late cancellations and booking errors.
After tapping into the program and selecting your preferences — restaurants are categorised under labels such as "hot spots,""Michelin-starred dining," and "hidden gems"— the app will alert users where something is open.
We successfully tested out Uncover this weekend and were able to make a same-day booking at the Aqua Shard, located at top of The Shard, at 8:30 p.m. Prime time!
Uncover has already signed up at least 150 restaurants, but it seems this is just the beginning. We spoke to the guys behind Uncover — David Saenz, Christopher Steinau, and Dan Ziv — to find out more about how the app is bringing accessibility and spontaneity to the exclusive London dining scene.
Business Insider: What inspired you to set Uncover up?
Uncover: It's real-life experience. We used to work in other areas of business and when we were in London it was always very hard to get a table. We would try lots of different places — but as we often travelled, we didn't always have a set schedule which made things really difficult. We found ourselves hoping for cancellations and that's what gave us the idea. It was a lightbulb moment for us.
BI: Obviously Uncover focuses on high-end, more exclusive restaurants. Who are you working with now and where in the future might get involved?
U: We do work with restaurants that are more exclusive. There's something in that. We partner with the buzziest, most popular places and are forming more links all the time. We already have a good list — 150 so far. We've got La Gavroche, Gymkhana, and Yauatcha already. And yes, we're talking to the Chiltern Firehouse to try to establish something there too. We're confident we could get something, although it would probably only be a couple of tables a week. We're working up to lots of things.
BI: How does the app work?
U: We don't charge the restaurants, we just take a fee from bookings. It's very simple: We hand-pick the best available, list them, and then people can search Uncover for options and book instantly. We're improving the app all the time, adding things like better photos — it's good marketing for restaurants, obviously. But it's also about discovery: helping people in the city find new and exciting places they might not know about, uncovering amazing food.
BI: With your background in business, it looks as though Uncover is popular with people who endured the same difficulties as you all did when trying to eat out?
U: Yes, we've seen a great uptake. We've had more than 10,000 downloads already and everyone can use it; there's a broad spectrum of people. But it is certainly a favourite with business people, PRs, and concierges because they often need to entertain and sometimes meetings are booked late. Also, we're finding Uncover is being used by people who travel a lot and aren't sure about the city they're visiting. They need inspiration or somewhere quick but that's still going to impress clients.
BI: In terms of travelling, is Uncover launching outside London soon?
U: Yes, we want to expand in the future. Places like Paris, New York, and Hong Kong would be perfect for the app. But we only just soft launched in November, so we're only just coming out of our testing phase really. We've been trialling Uncover over the last few months. But we think we've got a pretty strong chance of progressing.
Fab.com was once considered the fastest growing startup in the world. The e-commerce site partnered with thousands of designers to sell their funky decor and trinkets via flash sales.
Within its first six months, Fab generated $20 million and Silicon Valley investors valued the company at $400 million. At its peak, the company raised a total of $336 million at a $900 million valuation with a $200 million+ run rate.
But then Fab crashed.
This month, the assets of Fab are expected to be acquired by PCH Innovations for $15-50 million in a stock-based deal.
The company and its CEO, Jason Goldberg, made a lot of mistakes during the course of Fab. You can read about them all in detail here.
When Goldberg realized Fab was failing, he wrote a 5-page memo to his executive team. It's dated October 11 2013, a few months after the company raised a $150 million round of financing at a $900 million valuation from Tencent.
Then, Fab was laying off hundreds of staffers and pivoting its business for the fourth or fifth time. The memo provides a transparent look into a troubled company that blew $200 million before figuring out a sustainable business model. It is proof that even the most hyped tech companies with gobs of funding can go sideways very quickly.
Printed copies of the memo were handed to the executives. Business Insider got a copy and typed it all out to protect the source. Here it is in full:
October 11, 2013
We are going to make this work.
What do you all need in order to do this?
We are doing [sic] do that now.
I have made mistakes.
And all of you have made mistakes too.
I need you all to do this: Write down the mistakes you made.
It's not about blame. It's about healthy introspective dose of realism that is needed by all of us in order to go forward. We can't build a better Fab until we have a clear sense for what we should have done different, better, smarter.
Things you can expect over the next weeks and months.