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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    train conductor mistake stuck lost keys

    The walls are closing in on the on-demand economy, and another startup has decided to bow out this week.

    Zen99, which offered tax help and other services for contractors like Uber drivers, announced today that it will be closing its doors on August 25 and return the remaining money to its investors, according to a Medium post by its CEO and founder Tristan Zier.

    Zen99 launched in May 2014 to help the 1099 contractor workforce track their earnings, estimate taxes, and sign up for health insurance.

    The company was poised to take off because of the meteoric rise of the independent contractor in the on-demand economy, which make up the majority of the workforce for companies like Uber, Lyft, Handy, and Postmates.

    However, that tide has recently changed as some of these startups have started to switch from independent contractors to employees — since June, valet service Luxe, shipping service Shyp, tech support service Eden, and delivery services Sprig and Instacart have all moved at least some workers to employee status. More companies may be poised to follow if a class-action suit filed by some drivers for Uber and Lyft succeeds.

    In 2014, Zen99 raised a total of $2.6 million from SV Angel and Crunchfund after it graduated from Y Combinator, the prestigious startup incubator of Silicon Valley. It's unknown how much of that is left to return to its investors or why it ultimately shut down.

    Zier declined to comment further to Business Insider, but he did confirm that the company's five employees have already found new jobs.

    "Getting knocked down is hard, but absolutely makes you stronger. I’ll be back up after a short break, smarter and hungrier," Zier said in his note.the


    SEE ALSO: A startup dissolved overnight and laid off its 400 employees via email with no warning

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Peter Thiel's 3 Keys For Building A Successful Startup

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    monster truck crush demolishSome startups are out to find their place on Wall Street alongside the traditional players. And some are out to replace the establishment altogether. 

    Big banks have long depended on antiquated and personnel-heavy businesses to do everything from marketing bond deals to striking currency transfers.

    Some nimble start-ups have sought to partner with Wall Street firms and make these processes more efficient. Others have sought to step in to the gaps left behind by traditional players as a result of regulation. 

    And then there is a group of startups founded in the U.S. and elsewhere that are out to disrupt them altogether. Some are off to a great start. 

    Business Insider spoke with dealmakers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to put together a list of the companies most likely to up-end Wall Street's traditional hierarchy.

    When some of these companies come to “occupy” lower Manhattan, they might not ever leave. 

    Kantox promises discounts on currency exchanges

    European startup Kantox was founded in 2011 by former Deloitte consultant Philippe Gelis, and has tapped into more than 1,500 businesses and processed in excess of $1.5 billion in transactions for them. It isn’t unlike TransferWise, another European payment processor, but Kantox focuses on currency exchange and has raised much less in funding than TransferWise. The company, which just took on $11 million in a Series B financing, even posts at its website what customers would have saved using its technology to transfer funds. Gelis says the company will be profitable by the end of 2015. 

    Syndicated Loan Direct wants to take a bite out of the leveraged lending marketplace

    Syndicated Loan Direct was founded by Shaheen Malik Kanda and Angela Levine, who are veterans of the leveraged finance industry. The company is looking to market and sell leveraged loans to institutional investors, and is very early in its development; it has only raised pre-seed capital. "Only institutional clients use this platform," said Malik Kanda, adding that the product is currently being rolled out exclusively with large banks' leveraged finance sell-side desks. Existing backers include TechStars and ValueStream Labs. 

    Acorns helps users squirrel away a savings account

    There are plenty of startups that aim to provide digital savings tools, but Acorns is changing the way people actually save. Much like how a squirrel plows away a stash of nuts for the winter, Acorns rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and socks away that loose change in a savings account. Earlier this year, the company brought in $23 million in a funding round, bringing total funding to more than $30 million. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    NOW WATCH: People doing backflips on a two-inch wide strap is a real sport called slacklining

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    Uri Levine

    This summer, it’s raining unicorns — tech startups valued at more than $1 billion — and as a result the Israeli tech scene is going absolutely crazy.

    Business Insider just spent a week in Israel meeting with over a dozen tech companies and VCs. They all told us:

    Everyone is dreaming of becoming the next unicorn. Instead of selling their startups for $1 million to $30 million, founders are turning down multimillion acquisition offers, wanting to build big companies.

    2015 is a record-breaker for VC funding. For the first half in 2015, 342 companies have attracted $2.1 billion, up from 334 companies nabbing $1.6 billion in the first half of 2014.

    The private-equity bankers have arrived in droves, including Blackstone, SilverLake, KKR, Apax Partners, TPG, JPMorgan, and Morgan Stanley, and they're writing huge checks.

    Chinese investors are swarming the country, joining Israeli VC funds as limited partners as well as doing a lot of huge, direct investments into startups, too.Viber CEO and Rakuten CEO

    "If we're going to do $4 billion in venture in 2015, the estimate I heard is that at least $500 million of that will be Chinese money, and that’s direct investment not including the LP stuff," Israeli powerhouse VC Jon Medved told Business Insider. "And I think that’s probably underestimated.”

    Medved, founder of investment startup OurCrowd, is widely known as one of the fathers of Israel’s tech-startup scene.

    Chinese investors are “at all the parties” a startup founder told us.

    The joke here is that Israeli border control needs to open up a special customs line “just for Chinese investors with bags of money that they can just get in the country for free,” Medved quipped.

    This hot economy has led to ...

    • Big, well-funded Israeli companies starting to acquire other Israeli companies for big sums of money, too.
    • The first crop of Israeli serial entrepreneurs, such as Avigdor Willens, who sold Annapurna to Amazon earlier this year for a reported $350 million to $375 million. Willens sold his first company, Galileo, for $2.7 billion in stock back in 2000 to Marvell Technologies.

    It started when Google dropped a billion on Waze

    Israeli FlagsWhen Google bought Waze for $1 billion in 2013, it was a milestone event for the country, says Medved.

    “Billion-dollar companies are now all over the place. Waze was the first and most important,” he told us.

    Waze cofounder Uri Levine explained to Business Insider, “This was the first time a billion-dollar app, and a consumer app, came out of Israel,” and it set “a new beacon for Israel” telling entrepreneurs to aim higher than a quick exit.

    The next year, Japan's Rakuten (the eBay of Japan) acquired Israeli messaging app Viber for $900 million, and unicorn fever in the country began.

    Over and over, startup founders told us they had no interest in selling their successful companies — some of which were doing millions of dollars in revenue, and some of which were doing hundreds of millions in revenue. They wanted to grow their companies past $1 billion to many billions.

    “Israel entrepreneurs are obsessed with building unicorns,”Hillel Fuld, CMO of Israeli startup Zula told us.

    Billion-dollar startups include …

    • Taboola (who raised $117 million in February, $157 million total)
    • IronSource (who raised $105 million in two rounds from private-equity funds run by JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley)
    • Outbrain (who filed confidential SEC documents for an IPO at a reported $1 billion valuation)
    • Conduit, who said it was the first Israeli internet unicorn, in 2012

    There’s also a new crop of public tech companies worth $1 billion:

    • MobileEye: IPO’d in 2014, $12 billion market cap today
    • CyberArk: IPO’d in 2014, market cap of about $2 billion
    • Wix: IPO’d in 2013, market cap of about $900 million
    • And there are some half-unicorns, like Varonis Systems, which IPO’d in 2014 and has a market cap of nearly $600 million — nothing to sneeze at.

    Asian money everywhere

    "The Asia stuff is very dramatic, very real and very new," says Medved.

    "China is the big story. But Japan, for example — there had never been a visit of a Japanese prime minister to Israel before, in all the years of Israel’s existence. What did they have to come here for? This year, the Japanese prime minister shows up for four days, all tech.” Jon Medved

    Meanwhile, Korea’s Samsung Ventures has now made "eight investments here over the last year," says Medved. Plus, "there are now Israeli companies going to list on the Singapore exchange."

    Israel will also be hosting the Indian prime minister for the first time. In February, Indian company Infosys (now run by SAP’s former US CTO Vishal Sikka) bought Israeli company Panaya for $200 million. India has plans to build a research and development center here.

    Still, China overshadows them all. Investments are pouring in from Baidu, Fosun, Alibaba, Tencent, RenRen, and others.

    Famous Chinese angel investor (and billionaire) Li Ka Shing and his Horizon Ventures fund are all over the country.Horizon was an early investor in Waze. And he’s invested in about 29 Israeli startups, including Waze founder Levine’s latest baby, FeeX, (raised $9 million).

    If there's a downside to all of this, it's that Israel is starting to experience a severe talent shortage. They are now poaching each other's employees and trying to keep employees from leaving by offering better and better Valley-like perks.

    IronSource co-foundersIronSource, for example, flies its 550 employees to one exotic off-site meeting every year. The whole company just got back from Greece.

    "Once a year, we party," CEO Tomer Bar Zeev told us. "That builds culture. It's one of the best investments we can make, investing in the company."

    If that fails, Chinese billionaire Li Ka Shing has an answer. He also donated $130 million to Israel’s Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology (like the MIT of Israel), one of the largest ever donations received by an Israeli university.

    SEE ALSO: How Fitness22 is making 'millions of dollars a year' selling iPhone apps with no marketing

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: An Israeli Company Just Solved Solar Energy's Single Most Mystifying Problem

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    fired layoffs let go box leaving workThere’s a common thinking that sales teams should be relatively high churn. That the bottom 15-20% of the sales team almost has to churn each year, because it’s survival of the fittest. Reps have to fight for the best leads, prove the highest close rates, exceed the mean of the bell curve, to not just thrive, but survive.

    Maybe this is true if you are a mortgage broker. Selling a completely fungible product. Maybe. I’m not sure.

    And it clearly is true, in part, at SaaS companies beyond $200m in ARR. At Salesforce, at Box, the bottom end of the sales team churns out each year. They’re often managed out, not fired, but same thing.

    But for many SaaS start-ups, I think accepting this is not only a huge mistake, but it’s a recipe for tragic underperformance.

    Let’s step back for a minute.

    First, do sales reps really compete with each other? Usually – no. Not directly. At least, not for a while. They are routed leads. By round-robin, by territory, by whatever. And for a long time, leads are precious. You want the maximum revenue per lead. So you really want every sales rep to kill it. Each one consumes X% of your leads. If one can drive an M6— in theory, at least, given the same number and quality of leads — they can all drive an M6. More on this here.

    Second, at least for a long time, sales reps are a revenue center, not a cost center. If you try to align leads with reps, and you pay the reps say 20% all-in of the revenue they bring in … reps are a revenue and profit center. More on this here.

    Third, trained, scaled reps are extremely valuable. It costs a lot to train a rep in indirect costs. They squander a lot of leads in the early days. They suck up a lot of management time. They answer questions all wrong for a while. The less of this, the better. You make more money per lead, with less work per lead.

    boiler room sales tradingFourth, the best sales teams stick together. If a rep is making a killing, and knows her product cold, and has a great boss — they never leave. Unless it’s for a management role they can’t get. For individual contributors, you see very little voluntary attrition other than promotion in the best run sales orgs. And they feed on each other, challenge each other, help each out, go out for raw steaks together.

    Fifth, the very best sales teams attract more reps like flies to honey or moths to light.There are just soooo many start-ups. So many. If you’re a sales rep — how do you pick? You want three things: (x) a great boss, (y) ability to make serious coin, and (z) a winning product. Add excessive churn to this environment, and at least (y) becomes a concern. Why go to a boiler room, when down the street on Market, I can make just as much money at 20 other start-ups?

    So it turns out, just like engineers, you don’t ever want to lose any great sales reps. Any of them. And if you recruit right — why can’t the vast majority make it? They can.

    Let me challenge you further. Try to build a Zero Voluntary Attrition Sales team. No one is allowed to leave.

    Ok. So how do you create this beast? The key is — you have to do it all:

    • You have to pay (high) market. You can’t be cheap. You have to pay market, and later, high market. But this doesn’t have to bankrupt you as long as it scales with revenue closed. See our Initial Sales Comp plan here.
    • You have to find as many internal promotion paths as you can. Otherwise, you won’t lose individual contributors, but you’ll lose those gunning for management. You have to find a way to promote SDRs to AEs. And at least some AEs to team leads. This works out OK if you are growing quickly, it’s harder if you aren’t, but you have to find a way. A great hack here is to make it crystal clear to top ICs that they will make less money as manager. That will limit the wanna-bes that like the idea of a bigger title but aren’t willing to sacrifice short-term comp.
    • salesYou have to invest more in onboarding and internal training. Any rep should be scaled up in 30 days. If you train and onboard them right. Otherwise, you’ll see too much churn from reps that don’t make it without enough training and onboarding … but could have killed it with more help in the first 30 days. There are many, many great reps that just need help getting going. They don’t just intuit it on their own. Help them. Train them. Make it a core competence, a center of excellence.
    • You have to constantly work to stamp out any sexism, and other -isms. Bro Culture puts this goal at high risk. We’ll talk more about this in other posts, but if you allow a Bro Culture to permeate your sales team, you’ll eventually lose folks that don’t want to be in that environment, and you’ll cut off a large pool of potential candidates. Quietly pull aside anyone who makes inappropriate remarks and just tell them that’s not us and you never want to hear it again. Make it a core cultural value to hire as diverse a sales team as you can.
    • You have to have quotas that 80% of the reps can achieve. Yes, make it hard. Yes, make it a stretch. But if 80%+ of your reps are great … 80% of them should be able to achieve quota. Having a minority of reps hit quota helps no one.
    • You have to make reps feel like their territories and leads won’t be stolen from them.This is a nuanced issue to work on with your VP of Sales, later. But as you scale, many traditional VPs of Sales will want to constantly shrink territories, reduce the number of leads per rep, or worse … shift your best reps to the worst territories. There’s an art here, and some of it you do have to do. But take it too far, and make it seem greedy, or unfair — and the great ones won’t stay. That’s a raw deal to a rep that’s killing it. She’s investing her life and long term economic future in your start-up. It’s a Sales TEAM, friends.
    • You have to have everyone in the interview process agree each rep is at least as good as the average current rep … and clearly better than the lowest performers that still hit quota. You have to do this and enforce it. You can’t let the bar go down just because you are behind in hiring. If you do, you’ll sneak back into a high churn environment.
    • You have to make Zero Voluntary Attrition a core company value. We are a Zero Voluntary Attrition organization. If anyone great leaves — that’s a failure. For me, as CEO. For us, as a team. We should be able to spot failure before it starts. We know how to do this.
    • You have to spend more time as a founder with the sales team — so you can help identify the folks that are close to leaving. Ambitious people will often be close to leaving even at the best organizations. Then, find a way to keep them. A few more options. A clear path to a promotion. A Thank You. Find a way. More on how to keep folks that are almost out the door here.

    A lot of these ideas apply across the entire company, really, in every function.

    It’s just only in Sales do groupthink and traditional enterprise sales procedures seem to expect high-ish churn.

    Don’t accept it. At least, not before $60-$80m ARR. Every lead, every extra dollar of revenue, every chance to grow 10-20% faster than otherwise is precious. And a truly great sales team can just take you so, so much further than a merely good one.

    SEE ALSO: The startup scene in Israel is going bonkers, and the Chinese are swooping in

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The ugly secret behind why J. Crew's sales have tanked

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    Why "Let it Go" when you want to let your company grow? 

    After three hours of pitches on Tuesday, the 28 startups from Batch 13 of Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups took the stage in a singalong version of "Let It Go."

    However, in Silicon Valley, it's better to sing "Let it Grow"— an ode to developing a startup and collecting cash on Demo Day.

    The 500 Startups version replaced the original lyrics with rhymes like "No time to eat, no time to sleep. Gotta hustle to push that MVP." (That's "minimum viable product" in Silicon Valley speak.)

    We managed to record the second half of the live performance:

    If you want the full pre-recorded version of the song, it's below — just be aware that it's hard to let it go once you hear it:


    SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley lingo is getting pretty ridiculous: Unicorns, centaurs, and ponies

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: All the incredibly useful things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do

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    Zirtual maren kate donovan

    Zirtual may have been saved by an acquisition, but its 400 or so former employees are still left picking up the pieces.

    The virtual assistant company dissolved overnight on Monday and fired its entire workforce with an e-mail at 1:34 a.m. Within the next 48 hours, its CEO Maren Kate Donovan apologized for the last-minute shutdown and said the company has found an acquirer, Startups.Co.

    Donovan, in an interview with Fortune, insisted that she was working hard to save the company until the last minute and that an external CFO firm made an error with projecting payroll in April. (The same CFO firm told Fortune that they are not to blame for any of this).

    It's clear Donovan knew she needed more funding, but it appears she was counting on a round that never came through.

    "We thought we were going to pull through until Sunday because things kept lining up," Donovan told FortuneThe funding fell through after an investor pulled out, and the company was forced to close its doors.

    But a lot of former employees are saying that things had soured long before Sunday.

    Benefits only paid through July

    The company's HR chief had quit abruptly a week before, allegedly posting in a Facebook group that she didn't want to be party to doing anything illegal. (Donovan told Fortune that the HR chief's departure was because she wanted to let the employees go and Donovan wasn't ready to give up on securing the funding.)

    But former employees say that Zirtual had already stopped paying for benefits in July even though it charged employees for this month. Insurance coverage had stopped July 31. 

    "Anyone who went to the doctor in August won’t have it covered," said Katy Boyle, a former Zirtual Assistant or "ZA". Her visit to the doctor on August 3, while still employed with the company, now has to come out of her own pocket.

    Moreover, employees were only paid through August 7 — but they didn't know this until the email arrived in the early morning of August 11.

    The acquisition by Startups.Co won't be a saving grace for many employees, either.

    While Zirtual is scheduled to turn its lights back on Monday, its new workforce will be made up of independent contractors, not full-time employees, according to an announcement on the site. This means they will not be eligible to receive benefits like health insurance or paid time off, like they were in their old positions. 

    zirtual assistant

    Re-hiring all 400 ex-Zirtual employees is also unrealistic, especially since burn was a problem to begin with.

    "Ideally we’d like to keep everyone, but given that the previous state of the company was unsustainable, it’s not reasonable to think we can continue to do so. Prior to the announcement, the company had employed over 400 professionals, so we have a lot of work to do to determine how many we can retain," the acquisition announcement said.

    While there are some Zirtual assistants who are interested in returning to the company, many like Boyle have said they've opted to leave or sign their own contracts directly with their clients. By signing their own contracts without the Zirtual middleman, they can keep 100 percent of the money themselves, said Daniell Wells, another contractor who is not returning to the company either.

    Those who have applied to return will be accepted based on client demand, according the Startups.Co announcement, and they're already trying to re-book clients — although some assistants on Twitter are claiming that the company is also going about that in an honest way.

    We've reached out Startups.Co for comment and will update if we hear back.

    Next up: A lawsuit

    Even once it reboots, Zirtual has a new hurdle to face: a class-action lawsuit.

    Business Insider has a copy of a lawsuit filed in Delaware — where Zirtual is incorporated — alleging that the company violated the WARN act (short for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) by not giving employees enough notice. The WARN act is supposed to protect workers from sudden shutdown by requiring a 60 days notice if its reasonably foreseeable.

    If Zirtual is found to have violated it, the company would be responsible for 60 days of backpay and benefits.

    Wil Schroter, CEO of Startups.Co, told the Las Vegas Sun that he had no comment on the lawsuit at the moment because the company was still working through the acquisition process. 

    Whether or not the layoffs violated federal law will be an issue left up for the courts, but in the hearts of Zirtual Assistants, many are left feeling betrayed and blind-sided.

    "You knew long ago it was not going to be able to be sustained and you did nothing morally and ethically responsible toward fixing it," one anonymous ex-Zirtual Assistant said on Medium. "If you had only been fair and honest with us all along, as you said you were being, things could have been so much different."

    SEE ALSO: The CEO of the startup that dissolved overnight explains what happened: burn

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This robot wakes you up in the morning and checks if you turned off the oven when you leave the house

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    Private car-hire app Uber is fighting back against allegations of operating an illegal business in Hong Kong as it struggles to meet rising demand for its services in the city following the arrest of seven drivers in the past two days.

    In addition to the seven drivers, police in Hong Kong have arrested three Uber staff members. The firm said today that two of those staffers were actually interns.

    The company is asking Hongkongers to support it on social media using the hashtag #supportuberhk, in a strategy similar to the one it employed successfully in New York after Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to limit its growth.

    Frequent Uber users said the service had slowed and become more expensive since the arrests. They suggested its drivers were likely to be intimidated by the arrests, but pointed out the high-profile raid on Tuesday had likely given the app a publicity coup as new users clamoured to try it out.

    Police arrested two drivers yesterday for operating without permits and proper insurance, bringing the total to seven, plus the company staff member and two interns. Eight of those 10 have been released on bail so far, pending further investigations.

    Uber said on its website today that it remained committed to operating in Hong Kong.

    “We welcome the opportunity to work with the government to modernize regulations in order to accommodate technologies that help make Hong Kong a more livable city,” the company wrote on the site. “We look forward to meeting with the Transport and Housing Bureau, other government bodies, and legislators to discuss how we can work together to encourage innovation and create a better Hong Kong.”

    On Hong Kong Island on Thursday, the app’s surge pricing peaked at 2.3 times the normal price, with a minimum HK$92 fare. Similar scenes unfolded in Kowloon, with a surge of 2.2 times normal and an HK$88 base price.

    In Causeway Bay, customers are expected to wait up to 30 minutes at mid-morning for an Uber car, while it was 15 minutes in Central, and 10 minutes in Mong Kok.

    “Only since last night has it been a nightmare and for sure this must be a direct result of pulling drivers off the road or drivers not signing on,” said Phillip Fok, who has used Uber around 250 times since it launched in Hong Kong in July last year.

    “I do believe Uber has pulled many drivers off the roads, or many people are giving Uber some love and supporting them.”

    Fok said the surge pricing hit three times normal in Tsim Sha Tsui so he opted for a red taxi on Peking Road and Middle Road.

    But he said the taxis “all had their signs covered up and were blatantly asking for destinations. After ranting at a few of them, I walked over from Middle Road to Chatham Road South and was able to get a taxi. Not the end of the world.”

    Meanwhile, Andre Blumberg found no cars available around Kowloon Park while a price surge of 2.7 times normal kicked in. He said on Twitter: “[Uber’s] answer to Hong Kong’s crackdown is pretty lame. Had expected better.”

    Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung warned yesterday a further crackdown and more arrests of Uber drivers could take place.

    Lawmakers yesterday were split on the police’s decision to take on allegations that Uber drivers were using cars without permits and proper insurance.

    The Legislative Council’s transport panel chairman, Michael Tien Puk-sun, said: “Taxi drivers [had] better shape up or lose the people’s goodwill.”

    However, he expected public pressure to force authorities to introduce new regulations and not to prosecute the drivers.

    But the Liberal Party’s Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who represents the transport sector, urged authorities to prosecute them as soon as possible to test whether there were any loopholes in the law.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: People doing backflips on a two-inch wide strap is a real sport called slacklining

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    Uri Levine

    Uri Levine will flat-out tell you that the co-founders of Waze didn't own much of the company when they sold it to Google for more than $1 billion in 2013.

    Most of the money went to the investors, he told Business Insider.

    The gossip in Israel is that Levine didn't walk with that much cash given the total amount involved. One Israeli news site estimated his take was about $38 million, or about 3%.

    Even so, that's still a lot of money. Enough to immediately go out on his own instead of working for Google. (The rest of the co-founders and execs did choose to go to Google.)

    We heard tales that Levine was enjoying a jet-setting life, dashing off the Alps to ski at the drop of the hat.

    That's sort of true, and sort of not.

    It's true he's a big skier and travels frequently to the Alps. But this was a hobby he was into before Waze was bought, going four or five times a year for week-long ski trips, he told us.

    People spend their day at the That's a first-world hobby, for sure, but a plane ticket from Tel Aviv to the Alps isn't astronomical. It can cost less than $500 for the 4+ hour flight.

    His big splurge, he said, was to spend an 8-week vacation in the Alps skiing after the deal closed.

    And the first thing he bought after the acquisition? A new mountain bike, a carbon Specialized StumpJumper. That's a good bike that can run you over $3,000, but it's not a top-of-the-line splurge like an Specialized S-Works StumpJumper, which costs about $10,000.

    Why didn't he get the top-of-the-line bike? He's not "that aggressive" of a rider, he told us. And he likes to commute on his bike, too.

    Has he bought houses or cars? Nope.

    "Nothing crazy. I live in a rental apartment. It makes perfect sense for me," he told us. And he doesn't own a house in the Alps either.

    What he does spend his money on is in investing in startups. He's become a major Angel investor in Israel's hot startup scene.

    The investment theme he loves to back? Saving money.

    For instance, he's chairman of a startup he launched while still working at Waze, called FeeX. That's a service that helps you save money on financial services and investment funds. (Levine says saves its users an average of $50,000).

    Another startup is Fairfly. It monitors airfare prices after people buy their tickets and if it finds a lower one including cancellation fees, it re-books the flight for them.

    "People over-pay $100 billion a year because don’t check the prices after they booked a ticket," he says. So, to his way of thinking, Fairfly is looking at a $100 billion market opportunity.

    Uri LevineThen there's FairSale, an app in stealth that saves you money on stuff you already bought. Scan your receipt with your phone and if that product goes on sale, it helps you collect on a store's price guarantee. Levine says people throw away $130 billion by ignoring such low-price guarantees.

    Zeek is a service that helps you buy or trade store credit/gift vouchers, rather than letting them expire.

    Engie is new one in the works. It's an app that saves you money on car repairs by connecting to your car's diagnostics computer so you know exactly what's wrong before you take the car to the mechanic.

    Plus, he's involved with handful of other startups.

    One interesting note: he has five kids between the ages 14 and 25. The two oldest, ages 21 and 25, are both doing startups themselves.

    Can they count on their dad, one of their nation's most famous and prolific angel investors, to back them?

    Yes, but only to a point.

    "I want them to be successful and happy, independently and not because of me," he tells us.

    So he's willing to offer seed money but no more.

    "In general, I’m not supporting them after the seed round. If they are unable to raise funds independently, then sooner or later they will fail," he says.

    SEE ALSO: Waze cofounder tells us how his company's $1 billion sale to Google really went down

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: People doing backflips on a two-inch wide strap is a real sport called slacklining

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    bard the hobbitA finance startup co-founded by one of Google's first engineers is helping small community banks and credit unions take on the biggest names on Wall Street. 

    Roostify is a Burlingame, California-based startup that helps smaller community banks and credit unions access a more diverse set of mortgage borrowers faster than they otherwise would be able to.

    The start-up has just 10 employees at present, including co-founder and former Googler Harry Cheung. 

    The company is in the midst of raising a new round of funding that will likely raise a little more than $7.5 million.

    Roostify plans to triple headcount in 2016, according to CEO Rajesh Bhat, who said the funding round will soon close and that Roostify will be adding some familiar faces to its investor roster. 

    “A couple of them are our customers,” he told Business Insider.   

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 9 non-chemical ways to fall asleep super fast

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    Glambot Karen Horiuchi

    Buying a pre-owned shirt from a thrift shop or a lamp from an antique store is common. Even fashionable.

    But used makeup? There's still a huge gross factor, and Karen Horiuchi is making it her mission to fix that.

    Her company, Glambot, buys used makeup from people looking to offload their extras, then cleans it all before listing it for sale online.

    While many envision pre-owned make-up to be the dregs of a tube of lipstick or powder that's already used up, Glambot's instituted a rule that anything coming in has to be at least 50 percent full — and the price is based on how much is left.

    Glambot cleans and sanitizes everything that comes in the door: whether it's using heat or alcohols to sterilize containers or cleanly removing layers of product to get down to a fresh one.

    There are certain items like mascara and lip gloss that can't be sold because they have a reusable applicator, but items like lipstick, blush, and even makeup brushes are listed on Glambot.

    Horiuchi, who has degrees in law and biotech, was on a trip abroad when she realized she had brought several containers of pretty much the same purple shade of eye shadow. 

    She wanted to make some money selling it instead of throwing it away, but realized Amazon and eBay don't accept used makeup. People looking to buy cheaper or discontinued versions of their favorites were relegated to forums and Craigslist, Horiuchi told Business Insider. 

    She started Glambot as a side-business in 2013, but in the past year the team has grown to 12 people and is on track for $1 million in sales.

    By setting the minimum number of products that can be sold to Glambot to 20, Horiuchi has found that most of their sellers are people within the industry who receive extra samples and freebies or make-up obsessed people who take good care of their products anyway.

    "To be honest, most of the make-up that comes in is barely touched," Horiuchi said.

    SEE ALSO: Watch 28 startups sing an epic Silicon Valley remake of 'Let It Go'

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    NOW WATCH: The one reason Zara is dominating the fashion industry right now

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    Gaza Sky Geeks accelerator

    The Gaza Strip has a single tech startup accelerator.

    Thanks to a one-time $900,000 (about £576,000) grant from Google, US charity Mercy Corps was able to set up Gaza Sky Geeks in 2011. It started out as a tech hub, offering a co-working space and running startup weekends where companies could meet investors, but developed into an accelerator in 2013.

    Carpooling and taxi app Wasselni was one of the first four companies to go through the GSG acceleration programme. GSG manager Said Hassan refers to the company as "Uber for the Middle East." But, because Gaza has no 3G network, Wasselni customers can only find nearby taxi-drivers when connected to WiFi.

    Startups like Wasselni face dramatically different challenges to most young companies — poverty, travel restrictions, and a limited infrastructure damaged even further by last summer's conflict between Israel and Hamas. Despite these challenges Gaza's startup movement is gaining a lot more attention. When the funding from Google ran out last year GSG ran a crowdfunding campaign which raised $250,000 from 800 people in January.

    GSG started an incubation programme in March, and is now looking after 20 early-stage companies. The simply named Walk and Charge has created a device that transfers the movement from walking into electricity. It means that Gazans can charge their phone on the go, or if their electricity shuts off. An electricity blackout can last for up to 16 hours in parts of the strip.

    Walk and Charge is one of Hassan's favourites.

    "The people working there are in difficult situations," he says. "Sometimes they don’t even have the transportation money to come here or to the pitch days. Sometimes they don’t have money to buy equipment. But they’re resilient."

    Gaza Sky Geeks accelerator

    One of the biggest problems for Gazan startups isn't conflict or poor infrastructure, but finding investment from outside the country. Locals need express permission from the Israeli or Egyptian authorities to leave Gaza, which isn't easy to come by. A lot of GSG startups end up pitching potential investors over Skype.

    "Because of the travel restrictions, startups have to imagine how markets outside operate too," Hassan says.

    Without help from GSG, startups like Sabeel would have no idea how ordinary markets operate. Sabeel, which means The Path in Arabic, describes itself as "the Foursquare for Muslims," It helps those travelling to Europe and the US find nearby Halal restaurants. But because GSG is a part of Mercy Corps, it has been able to help a lot of people travel from Gaza to places like Morocoo and Dubai to understand more about the markets, Hassan says.

    Working with larger Middle Eastern venture capital firms and accelerators, such as Jordan's Oasis 500 and Nablus-based Palinno, Gaza Sky Geeks has helped four startups to secure investments so far. Along with Wasselini, 2014 saw social networks Tevy and Datrios and business intelligence solution DWBI get seed funding.

    Out of the 20 startups currently being incubated, Hassan expects four or five of them to go through GSG's next acceleration programme in September. And the programme is ony getting more popular. When the accelerator announced its latest startup weekend, over 600 young Gazans applied.

    "We are still in the beginning and are not big like Silicon Valley," Hassan said. "But many young Gazans have the essence of entrepreneurs."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: All the incredibly useful things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do

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    Ambarish Mitra

    Ambarish Mitra was living in Munirka, a slum in the southwest corner of Delhi. He had been there for seven months when he spotted an ad in the newspaper for an "e-business" competition — what they were calling internet businesses in 1997, Mitra recalls.

    The 17-year-old applied to the business-plan contest, submitting his idea to empower women by connecting them to the internet free. His return address was in the slum, near the water tank, he says.

    Mitra did not know that this ad would be his exit route.

    With one initial public offering under his belt, Mitra now has a billion-dollar augmented-reality advertising company, Blippar. He has been photographed with the British royal family. His newest phone was personally delivered by Xiaomi vice president Hugo Barra, who arrived in a Tesla being driven by an Uber driver.

    Mitra is long past the slums, thanks to the ad he spotted that put it all in motion. But in 1997, with that application floating somewhere in the mail, Mitra's focus was on one thing: surviving.

    'Just a rebel'

    Mitra grew up in a middle-class Indian family, which prioritized education over wealth. His mother was a homemaker, a singer, and a painter. Mitra's older sister took after her and went to study the arts in college. She now runs a successful Indian dance school in an Atlanta suburb.

    Mitra's father used to hand him copies of Businessweek and Forbes magazines. The elder Mitra was an inventor in his own right, having found a way to reuse coal slurry in one of the largest Indian coal-mining towns, and he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps to study engineering.

    Mitra, though, was captivated by the internet — and not very great at school. While the drawers of his desk were filled with Backstreet Boys and heavy-metal cassette tapes, business books piled up next to his computer. His two favorite books his father ever gave him were on the collapse of IBM and a book on controlling your destiny.

    Ambarish Mitra desk

    After witnessing the birth of the internet, Mitra idolized Bill Gates. He read "Business the Bill Gates Way" and Gates' "The Road Ahead." Next to his computer, he kept a framed photo pulled from Fortune magazine, showing Gates and Warren Buffet.

    "I was beginning to worship people like Bill Gates, like hardcore idolized him," Mitra said. "I actually had an image of him on my study table while people had Madonna and Samantha Fox and all these people in that generation. I had a picture of Bill Gates."

    The lure of the internet put Mitra at odds with his father, who wanted him to study engineering. He had a great childhood and a totally functional, fun-loving family, he says, but he was also a bit of a rebel and wanted more out of his life.

    "My parents wanted me to be an engineer, and I wasn't interested in that," Mitra says. "It became so hectic that one day, I just ran away from home and started living in the slum in Delhi."

    Welcome to Munirka

    Living in the slums, Mitra went door-to-door in the city selling magazine subscriptions by day — a lesson in handling rejection, he says now. At night, he worked in a tea stall.

    The two jobs netted him around $1.50 a day. He stayed in touch with his sister so she could tell his parents he was alive. Otherwise, he was on his own.

    "I became a man as a boy very quickly," Mitra says. "One quality that I acquired, which runs directly in the DNA of Blippar, is that I became completely fearless. Nothing scares me. When you go through violence like I did, and you come out the other side, it makes you stronger."

    Ambarish MitraSeven months into his life as a runaway, Mitra noticed the newspaper ad. He applied to the contest, submitting his plan to connect everybody with the internet to empower women.

    It was a "noble topic" for a young person, Mitra said, but it had deep roots in his upbringing.

    His grandmother and her four sisters had all received college degrees and rode scooters through the crowded Indian streets. They were a rare sight for 1920s India, but Mitra had grown up realizing how education empowered women. The internet was an extension of that.

    Three months later, Mitra found out that his plan to connect the world won.

    "Absolutely to my shock and surprise and delight," Mitra says. "It was life-changing."

    He won some money and borrowed the rest from a friend's dad who was a banker. Mitra then launched his internet portal: Women Infoline.

    The company gave free internet access to women with low wages, subsidizing it with ads.

    It soon took off as the tendrils of the tech boom made their way to India. By 2000, a 20-year-old Mitra had grown his company from its newspaper ad start in the slums to an IPO in India.

    "When this happened, I did this peace treaty with my father," Mitra says. "I said, 'I will come back, but I will do whatever I want.' They were very proud of me behind the scenes."

    From boom to bust to boom again

    Mitra won't reveal how much money he made in the IPO, allowing only that it was insignificant in today's world but a lot of money for the year 2000 in any country. His resignation shortly after the IPO helped him get out before the tech boom collapsed a year later.

    At age 20, pockets flush from the IPO, Mitra was lured to London by the glamour of British life and its culture. Four days after arrival, Mitra started working as a retail associate at the Top Shop clothing store on Oxford Street. Then he spent some time helping the British government build out its intranet, and he tried his hands at another couple of startups.

    But in 2008, as the financial crisis hit worldwide, Mitra was almost bankrupt. He found himself having to get a "proper job," as he calls it.

    Blippar Ambarish MitraHe joined Axa, an insurance company, working his way up to become head of innovation, but he continued to hang out with Omar Tayeb, a friend from a previous startup.

    They were at a pub when they made a joke about having the Queen come to life on a pound note, and Tayeb, who was thankfully sober, remembered it, Mitra says.

    They turned it into a party trick, where a photo scan on the phone would turn the Queen on a £20 note into an animated photo of their friends. Mitra's "eureka moment" came when he realized that they shouldn't be obsessing over a bank note. Any image could become animated.

    Tayeb and Mitra came up with $200,000 to launch, investing all of their money in the new startup, which they called Blippar.

    It worked, and the company's latest $45 million round of funding in March 2015 has catapulted the company to a $1.5 billion valuation.

    Find your warship

    To say Mitra is bullish on Blippar is an understatement. He tells Business Insider he will never sell to Google or even his idol, Gates, and Microsoft, because what he is doing "is bigger than the internet itself."

    It's not running away as a teenager, though, that brought him the success — it's the relationships he has formed since and the timing, he says.

    "You can never fire a missile from a kayak," Mitra says. "I think I found my warship. I had the right people and the right mix to build this business."

    Blippar founders Ambarish Mitra

    While the teenage runaway college dropout is a great archetype of tech entrepreneurs, Mitra doesn't recommend it — and wouldn't make the choice again.

    For one, he knows the decision hurt his mom a lot.

    "It's a human behavior to celebrate success coming out of tough environments because it gives us hope," Mitra says. "But at the end of the day, the majority of the time when you make decisions like this, things will go wrong. It's not important to be smart. It's about building relationships around you. It goes a long way in life if you actually truly care about your immediate environment and people who care about what you do."

    While Mitra has cycled through wearable devices, there's one bracelet he has never taken off. A random priest with a long beard gave it to him on the street and told him it was for happiness and prosperity. He has worn the same copper bracelet that is carved into snake heads every day since he was 12.

    SEE ALSO: The CEO of Blippar says he'll never sell to Google or Microsoft 'because what I'm trying to make is bigger than the internet itself'

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    NOW WATCH: Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack and Flickr, on two beliefs that have brought him the greatest success in life

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    Lightricks CEO Zeev Farbman

    Lightricks makes a popular smartphone photo-editing app, Facetune, that's a perpetual member on the App Store's best-selling apps list.

    And that's no accident. 

    Lightricks was founded in Israel in 2013 by five co-founder friends, four of them PhDs studying computer graphics, or as the company's CEO Zeev Farbman described it to us: "computational photography."

    Their best-selling apps Facetune and Enlight help you edit photos on mobile devices and have already generated "millions of dollars in profitable revenue" for the company, Farbman tells us.

    Lightricks has 4.5 million customers for face photo touch-up app Facetune (used by many celebs including, reportedly, Kim Kardashian). It costs $3 to $4 — so, over $13.5 million of revenue for that app alone. 

    The startup has also already nabbed over 1 million customers, at $5 a pop, for their new full image editing app, Enlight, which is like Photoshop for your iPhone. (Another $5-ish million in revenue.)

    Earlier this month, the 30-employee company took a $10 million venture investment from Israeli firm Carmel Ventures so they can hire more people, build more new products, and grow faster.

    But the successful app isn't what Israeli insiders are buzzing about

    The scuttlebutt is that this small company is headed for a big exit, perhaps an acquisition by Apple or Facebook, because the team of PhD founders invented two valuable bits of technology far beyond its popular apps.

    These are:

    1) a graphics engine that helps cameras work better.

    2) mobile advertising software used only by themselves, that helps them stay in the best-selling lists.

    original pics before and after FaceTuneAs for the graphics engine, we know that a major maker of Android phones was in talks with Lightricks about licensing it for its phones.

    Because of this tech, people in Israel told us that they think Lightricks has (or will) be bought by Apple.

    Apple is a big player in Israel that earlier this year opened yet another huge 800-employee office there. 

    Apple likes to buy Israeli companies, too, like secretive flash memory company Anobit, acquired in early 2012 for $390 million, and movement sensor and former Microsoft Kinect partner PrimeSense, purchased by Apple in late 2013 for $300 million.

    Earlier this year Apple bought another camera-equipment technology maker LinX for an estimated $20 million.

    Facebook loves Lightricks, too

    But Facebook is all over Lightricks, too. Its homegrown mobile ad prediction software system discovered that ads on Facebook mobile was the best way to grab new customers.

    The system was the brainchild of CMO co-founder Nir Pochter (He's the most atypical CMO we ever met. He hardly talks at all, and in very few words, always says something insightful.)

    Lightricks CMO Nir PochterWhen Facetune first launched, Apple featured it in the App Store, giving it a huge boost in downloads.

    When Apple stopped featuring it, the downloads stopped. Pochter knew the bootstrapped company needed to advertise, but where and how much?

    Being a mathematical wiz, Pochter built a prediction algorithm, which grew into a software platform, for running ad campaigns.

    He experimented in small countries, small markets on a small advertising budget and discovered that Facebook mobile was best for Facetune.

    Today his algorithm predicts exactly how much money he has to spend on ads to keep Facetune on the best-seller list, where it attracts even more customers.

    Lightricks' success became a poster child for Facebook's mobile ad business. Facebook has showcased the company as a success-selling story, and, we're told, gives the young company a lot of extra attention and support.

    Pochter has been asked, many times, if he's willing to sell the ad software as a product, too, but Lightricks isn't considering that now, he tell us. They want to focus on computers graphics and don't want to "get sidetracked" with developing and supporting an ad software product.

    Upshot: this is a startup worth watching, headed for something big. 

    SEE ALSO: It's incredibly easy to be an American traveling alone in Israel

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    NOW WATCH: This drummer created a whole song using only the sound of coins

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    Sometimes the best way to fix an issue is to start afresh.

    That’s what the Australian founder and CEO of StartupHouse Elias Bizannes decided when he fired himself and all four full-time employees at the San Francisco-based incubator and co-working space.

    “We were having issues with the business, multiple issues, one of them was the team,” he told Business Insider.

    “There were issues around performance and motivation” and the team “blew up” over a client matter. Bizannes was struggling to get them back on track.

    He was on on holidays when his sister suggested he fire the entire team and start again. When he returned from his break in July he acted, seeing it as an opportunity to “reset” the entire business. The team gathered to hear the news.

    “There were some unhappy people in the room and there was a lot of emotion,” he said. “It was a weird meeting because there was the feeling of being fired, but there was a sense of hope because there was an opportunity to reset.”

    One major change was earmarking COO Karolis Karalevicius to take over as CEO, and then he would decide who was rehired.

    “Despite everyone telling me I was crazy, it was probably one of the best things I’ve done for the business because every single person in the team is re-energised and nearly everyone is going to be basically rehired and in the cases that they’re not going to be rehired it was actually more of a personal choice,” Bizannes said.

    One of the problems, he said was that complacency crept in and despite being profitable and the model working, it was time to reassess the vision. Losing your job turned out to be a great motivator.

    “It’s created a fresh energy in the team and it’s also allowed us to rethink what the roles in the team should be.”

    But with the likes of Angel List CEO and founder Naval Ravikant and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure on the list of investors who’ve tipped in about $500,000, revealing what he’d done was daunting, yet simple.

    Elias Bizannes startuphouse ceo

    “I thought it was important that I tell them, so I dropped them an email with a subject line that said ‘I just fired my entire team’. I got immediate responses from every single investor – they were all supportive and open to bouncing around ideas. Everyone was surprised,” Bizannes said.

    “Even though they weren’t expecting this, they do support me in my decision and they appreciate me trusting my gut.”

    So with a clean slate, Bizannes took on the role of executive chairman. His new focus is the future of StartupHouse and how it can be expanded beyond a single building real estate play.

    “What I actually realised was it was not actually the fault of my team… it was my fault for expecting them being able to do it when they had so much of a workload,” Bizannes said.

    “I’m actually going to be able to be an entrepreneur in the business again, rather than being a manager. The business needs an entrepreneur to rethink the growth.”

    Bizannes envisages a number of locations in San Francisco to begin with. The idea behind StartupHouse is to reduce the living costs of entrepreneurs and help them get off the ground. Its focus is on early stage – pre-funding or pre series A – startups.

    startup house

    Currently it has 100 paying members on various monthly plans and Bizannes is looking at providing accommodation, incubation or foundry mentorship programs and expanding the events program.

    Many startups end up there after competing in one of the international StartupBus competitions, also founded by Bizannes. Bridgefy, a messaging app that works without Internet or SMS, was runner up at last year’s North American tour and incubated at StartupHouse. It launched recently with 11,000 users and just won the global Twitter hatch competition, scoring $25,000.

    Bizannes maintains StartupHouse is not pivoting, it’s just trying to become better at what it does: build startups.

    “What I did was basically try and take my ego out of it. By restructuring it, which also hurts my personal interests because I’m not controlling the business now I’m not in the CEO role, it’s actually allowing the business to be more successful,” he said.

    “That’s a really hard thing to do because as a founder, you actually want to stay in control.

    “We’re at the transition now where we’re no longer a startup… we’re now a growth business.”

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Maybe working at Amazon is hard for a reason

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    minority report

    JPMorgan is about to start analyzing employees' communications.

    The giant bank has recently posted job adverts for data scientists that will "be responsible for the overall development of data models using algorithms for pattern detection in electronic communications."

    The new team will sit within the bank's intelligent solutions unit, which was set up to transform "JPMC data assets to create and commercialize information and solutions that enable consumers, businesses and governments to make better decisions and achieve their objectives." 

    The bank declined to comment, beyond confirming the ads. 

    Analyzing employee communications is increasingly big business. There are startups that are making a name for themselves detecting illegal behavior for big banks' compliance departments.

    And JPMorgan isn't the only bank looking to crack down on risky behavior before it turns into a massive scandal or a fine. 

    Goldman Sachs also recently posted a data scientist job opening seeking to "identify potential risk behaviors that may not be accounted for within our current surveillance framework."

    SEE ALSO: JPMorgan is hiring military vets to fight its cyberwar

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: People doing backflips on a two-inch wide strap is a real sport called slacklining

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    Click grow 3.JPG

    Keurig sparked a revolution when coffee lovers discovered the ease of plopping in a cartridge and getting a cup of joe a few minutes later.

    A new startup, Click and Grow, now wants to bring the coffee cartridge craze to vegetables.

    Living up to its name, the Y-Combinator backed startup wants to make it as easy as a few clicks to grow enough food to feed your family, according its CEO and founder Mattias Leap.

    The startup has had success first selling smaller versions of its Click and Grow plant line. It raised more than $625,000 in a Kickstarter for its small three-plant herb garden, and it also has a line of smart pots.

    Click and Grow's newest product though is a complete smart farm built into an IKEA kitchen counter. The $299 smart farm system comes with two racks that hold 30 plants each, for a total of 60 vegetables.

    click grow cartVeggie lovers subscribe to a $29 monthly plan to receive 30 new cartridges of their choice, Leap said. The company makes plant pods for anything from salad greens like kale and lettuce to herbs like basil or vegetables like tomatoes.

    The plants both grow faster and contain more nutrients although they are not genetically modified organism, Leap claims. Click and Grow instead focused on the LED lighting and transforming the soil to be more oxygen efficient.

    Each cart also hooks up to a smart phone app so you can monitor and track the plants growth. All the user is left to do is refill the water tanks, hidden under the cart.

    Leap said that the amount of vegetables produced by the smart farm is enough to feed a family of four, although that's if they are eating small quantities of the nutrient rich greens and not a salad every night. A basil plant, for example, lasts many more meals than a lettuce head. 

    Once a person eats through a veggie, they can just replace the cartridge and a new plant will grow in its place. 

    It's not lettuce on-demand though. Growing is at the hands of mother nature so you'll still have to wait around six weeks for your veggies to come to fruition.

    SEE ALSO: A startup Glambot is generating $1 million by selling used makeup

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    NOW WATCH: Why new companies have it way easier now than a decade ago

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    Headshot 2The first question Jeff Hyman asks his clients is always, “What keeps you up at night?”

    These clients are startup founders, many of whom feel isolated by their position at the head of a company, and worry, deeply, about failure.

    Hyman, a five-time entrepreneur, has launched a new venture called “Startup Therapist” in which he acts as an advisor to founders on things they just can’t go to others about — though he's quick to point out that he's not a licensed therapist.

    “If you're starting a company, it’s difficult to talk to staff," Hyman says. "Your staff expects you to be strong. And it’s difficult to talk to your board. They don’t want to hear it.” You could also talk to your family and friends, of course, but they don’t necessarily understand your business.

    That leaves few options for founders to lean on when they have problems. And there will always be problems, Hyman says.

    Hyman aims to be a counselor without an agenda — besides the success of your company (and presumably your continued business). His main lane is the “human” problems of running a startup, something he says most founders are woefully inept at.

    “It could be a team of two unpaid summer interns or 1,000 people. For many, they are leading people for the first time,” Hyman says.

    He remembers a time when he had built one of his first companies to $15 million in revenue when he was 26 years old. “I didn’t know anything,” he says. “It just was very isolating. I raised a ton of money and had 100 employees and I’d never managed before.”

    One of the people Hyman turned to at the time was prominent venture capitalist, Brad Feld. Feld was the first investor in Hyman's first company. “He’s a rare bird in the venture community because he is very emotionally intelligent,” Hyman says of Feld. “And he has wrestled with depression and been very public with that.”


    According to a recent study, depression affects 30% of entrepreneurs. Hyman sees depression as a huge issue in startups, though because he's not a licensed therapist, he wouldn’t seek to counsel someone regarding their clinical depression. What he hopes to do is lessen the feeling of isolation that founders often experience.  

    The product that Hyman provides with the “Startup Therapist” is called “Office Hours.” He meets with entrepreneurs once a week, for an hour, by Skype video conference. In between sessions they also have unlimited access to him via email.

    The service is $1,497 per month, though there are discounts if you are connected to certain venture capital firms.

    Nick Cromydas, founder and CEO of Hunt Club, is one of Hyman’s beta clients. “I started two companies that failed,” he told Business Insider, though his current one is growing and profitable. “How do I build this to be a successful and sustainable business?” That was the initial question he came to Hyman with.  

    Cromydas says Hyman has helped him understand what to focus on and prioritize. There are always going to be problems to deal with. “It’s great to have someone who has done what you are trying to do and knows all the emotions that come with it,” Cromydas says. It’s about telling you what is a real fear, something you should work on, and what is irrational from a business perspective.

    Hyman sees his main competition as executive coaches, but he says they often lack actual experience as a CEO or founder and are expensive — in fairness, Hyman is expensive as well. But he says in his market research, he’s found that 80% of founders said they didn’t have an alternative, that they’d figure it out by themselves.


    Hyman’s theory is that they shouldn’t go at it alone, and Cromydas agrees. “You hear founders say they are crushing it,” Cromydas says. “And then they are out of business in three to four weeks.”

    What Hyman provides is a place where founders don’t have to project this facade of strength in an attempt to live up to the legends of people like Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a place where they can admit what they are struggling with to someone who has no dog in the fight, and get advice from someone who has been there before.

    The question is now whether people will be willing to pay $1,497 per month for that service.

    SEE ALSO: There’s a dark side to startups, and it haunts 30% of the world’s most brilliant people

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    NOW WATCH: Why new companies have it way easier now than a decade ago

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    In Silicon Valley, a handshake deal can make or break a startup. Things move too fast, so investments and companies can fall apart if the funding doesn't come through.

    It's especially hard when investors are listening to pitches from as many as 100 startups over two days and making decisions on the spot. That's why many Silicon Valley investment deals start out as handshakes.

    Handshakes should mean a done deal, but that doesn't always happen, so startup accelerator Y Combinator instituted a formal "Handshake Protocol" in 2013.

    A handshake deal only happens if:

    1. The investor says “I’m in for [offer].”
    2. The startup says “Ok, you’re in for [offer].”
    3. The startup sends the investor an email or text message saying “This is to confirm you’re in for [offer].”
    4. The investor replies yes.

    That crucial step three is where handshake deals can fall apart.

    So, why not turn to tech to solve the problem?

    For this summer's Demo Day, a pitching exhibition for its startups, Y Combinator created a new "Handshake" button for investors in the audience, Y Combinator President Sam Altman said during the opening remarks. 

    Since investors (and press) are barraged with more than 50 pitches in three hours each day, Y Combinator has created a dashboard where investors can "like" or "handshake" a startup they are interested in. (Investors have had the option of "Liking" to express interest and get in touch with a startup for awhile.)

    When an investor clicks on the handshake button, they can specify if they have already settled on the terms with the startup and it autogenerates an e-mail saying what they're in for. The startup gets the notification and can accept their virtual handshake. 

    Of course, most of these handshakes occur in person first, because startups have to negotiate the terms in the first place. The virtual handshake is a way to keep investors and startups responsible.

    SEE ALSO: This startup is building a Keurig for fresh herbs

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    Many people crave the energetic environment found in startup culture.

    But the opportunity to be valued and feel like you are building something from the ground up can be tempered by long work hours and the stress of potential failure. Not all startups get the recipe for employee satisfaction right.

    These 17 startups, which stretch from San Francisco to Orlando, definitely do.

    To compile this list, we looked at Glassdoor's ranking of the best small and midsized companies to work for in 2015. The Glassdoor ranking is based on the input of employees who provided feedback about their satisfaction with their company via Glassdoor's company review survey. Not all companies are eligible, as Glassdoor's algorithm takes into account the quality, quantity, and consistency of the employee reviews. The rating is on a five-point scale.

    Unsurprisingly, many of the companies that appear in Glassdoor's top ranking are "startups"— which we defined as small to midsized private companies, broadly in the technology space, that have been around for less than a decade.

    These are the 17 best startups to work for according to employee ratings.

    SEE ALSO: The 14 best tech companies to work for

    17. Gigya

    Average rating: 3.6

    Headquarters: Mountain View, California

    Industry: Customer Identity Management

    "Complete startup feel. We have two kitchens. It's a pet friendly office, and catered lunches each week. There's a game room with beanbags, ping-pong table, and an N64. Everybody is friendly to each other and an awesome team to be around."— Business Development Representative



    16. VMTurbo

    Average rating: 3.7

    Headquarters: Valhalla, New York

    Industry: Cloud Infrastructures

    "As a developer you get to work on vey interesting projects, very challenging and varied work. The team is incredible. You work on meaningful tasks, and you really get to influence the final product. Management is open to comments, advice, and feedback."— Senior Software Engineer 

    15. SoftRock

    Average rating: 3.8

    Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

    Industry: Customer Acquisition, Engagement, and Support

    "I love working at SoftRock. I have had the ability to work within multiple departments learning not only my job but how other departments function, and how it takes our entire team to be successful. We also have a lot extra activities outside work such as a company football league, themed weekly cookouts, and charity work." -Operations


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    sam altman, y combinator, sv100 2015

    Sam Altman, the head of Silicon Valley's prestigious Y Combinator startup accelerator program, shared in a blog entry some hard truths about the 75% failure rate of the startups that it mentors:

    A lot of founders get so caught up in the startup lifestyle that they forget to build their product. It's a lesson that applies to all startups, Y Combinator or otherwise.

    During the three months of the Y Combinator program, Altman writes, the companies grow nicely. Y Combinator has fostered high-profile startups like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Zenefits.

    But then, after the program is over, "[growth] essentially flatlines" for some of the startups.

    What happens to those startups is that they go on to focus more on speaking at conferences, talking to the media, or rearchitecting their infrastructure than they do at focusing on growth.

    "In general, startups get distracted by fake work. Fake work is both easier and more fun than real work for many founders," Altman writes.

    Moreover, there can come "a reduction in intensity" that comes alongside landing a big funding round. Compounding the matter is the fact that a well-funded startup is more resistant to a change in direction. And, no matter what, as a startup gets bigger, it's harder to keep the growth train moving. 

    Altman says the way to avoid this is to just focus on building the product, and making it into something people will actually want to use. Basically, stay hungry and don't let up on getting better.

    "Don’t ever let yourself feel like you’ve won before you have. I still don’t think the Airbnb founders feel like they’ve won. You have to keep up a high level of intensity for many, many years," Altman writes.

    Some startups never learn this lesson, Altman says, and by then "it’s too late and for all it’s a waste of time."

    But if more founders embraced the idea of keeping up the Y Combinator rate of intensity, Altman writes, "the number of successful startups would probably double."

    SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley's top startup factory has a clever way to make sure investors follow through on 'handshake' deals

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