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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Rosen_Sharma_BlueStacks.JPG

    Over 100 million people have downloaded an app that allows them to run Android applications on their Windows PC or Mac.

    The BlueStacks App Player, built by San Francisco startup BlueStacks, gives people access to thousands of apps that aren't typically available on desktop.

    The milestone was announced in a company blog post today, where the company also revealed a new version of its app, "BlueStacks 2".

    Apps run within BlueStacks on your PC or Mac, and can even be scaled up to full screen.

    Even though Android apps require touch controls to work, BlueStacks says that you can use about 85% of them just as easily with a keyboard and mouse. The obvious exceptions are apps that require smartphone-only functions like accelerometers and a GPS.

    BlueStacks has proved particularly popular with gamers looking to play mobile gaming apps like "Candy Crush" and "Angry Birds" through their computer. The company claims that mobile gamers are more willing to spend significantly more through in-app game purchases when they're playing through their PC.

    "As our product and platform has matured, it has attracted a new genre of gamers," said BlueStacks CEO, Rosen Sharma. "Hardcore PC gamers we find are also into playing midcore mobile games. These users spend a lot of money, which has attracted app developers to our platform in droves. On the other end of the spectrum, apps like messaging and eCommerce also tend to get heavy usage and attract high-value users. The platform has been a boon for advertisers."

    Coinciding with the milestone, BlueStacks also announced that it has updated the app player with a number of new features. The new "BlueStacks 2" release, available from today includes multi-tasking and a new section that shows users the most popular apps that are used oved its platform.

    "While there is risk associated with releasing so many features at one time, we couldn't wait to roll these out to all of our devoted users," the company wrote in a blog post.

    Candy Crush BlueStacks

    BlueStacks is looking to make money with an enterprise version of its app, which costs $24 (£16) per user per year and offers faster gameplay, premium support, and early access to new releases.

    The company has been backed by Andreessen-Horowitz, Samsung, Redpoint, Qualcomm, Intel, Ignition, Partners, Radar Partners, Presidio Ventures (a Sumitomo Corporation Company), Citrix, AMD, and Helion Ventures.

    "I've watched this company come up as Android has come up over the years," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst and president of Creative Strategies. "Both have exceeded almost everyone's expectations."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Google's self-driving car has a huge problem


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    leura fine

    Leura Fine first got the idea for her startup, Laurel & Wolf, while she was stuck in traffic in southern California.

    Fine, who worked for years for renowned interior design firm Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design, was on her way home from a client meeting when she decided she needed to start her own business.

    "I had a style board with me in the car that I'd hot-glue gunned samples to in the traditional way that designers do," she says. "It's inefficient, expensive, a waste of time, and there's got to be a better way of doing this."

    After years of helping complete projects ranging from Elton John's house to 40,000-square foot castles in Italy, Fine realized something: "the system is broken," she told Business Insider. (Martyn Lawrence Bullard disputes this account, says Fine was an intern and then Bullard's assistant, and played no part in the design of Elton John's house.)

    Fine wrapped up her last design project in December 2013 and started working full-time on her new project, Laurel & Wolf in January 2014. The startup launched in June 2014. 

    People just can't do interior design themselves

    Fine says she realized two things about interior design: 99% of people couldn't afford it, but it was a huge pain point in people's lives.

    "I always joke that being an interior designer is kind of like being a doctor. You show up at a dinner party and someone's like, 'um, can I just show you this one thing really quickly?'" Fine says.

    "You walk into another room, and there are teak samples up, and people ask 'what kind of chair would you buy?' I thought, this is crazy that all these people really struggle with putting their homes and businesses together, and very few people can afford the service."

    Fine says she's watched over the past five years as technology completely changed interior design. On one hand, you had new sources of inspiration: things like Pinterest, Instagram, and interior design startup Houzz cropped up. "All of a sudden people had access to seeing what great design looked like," Fine says. "They could accumulate their own photos and get their own inspiration and ideas."

    And then on the e-commerce side, places like One Kings Lane and Wayfair started catering to people who cared about home decor. Brick and mortar companies started moving their merchandise online and making better-looking products at affordable price points.

    laurel and wolf

    "I saw this happen over and over again. People would pin 40, 50 living rooms and they're getting inspired and shopping from all these sites, but people have no idea how to put it all together," Fine says.

    "Interior design as a service exists for a reason. Designers understand not  just aesthetics, but form and function and scale. So having a designer help you put together a space is a really effective way of using your budget when it's done properly. And furniture, regardless of your budget, it's expensive." 

    How it works

    Fine's startup, Laurel & Wolf, has software that connects designers and clients virtually, letting designers work for customers anywhere across the country. When you're someone who wants interior design work done, you go to the website, take a style quiz, answer questions about the space you want designed, and upload pictures and information about the dimensions of your space.

    Then, your project is launched on our platform. A typical customer gets different designs from 3 to 5 designers, who have been matched in regard to your style, your profile and the type of room you're doing. Then, you pick the designer you like the best, and you go through an iterative process with them to figure out how best to style your space. 

    laurel and wolf

    When you're done, you have a much less-intimidating design plan, complete with a fully dimensioned floor plan with directions for install, a shopping list that's to your budget 100%, and a final styleboard showing you what it looks like. You can buy the stuff on your list yourself, or have the startup do it for you for no additional cost.

    You pay a flat fee per room. The startup offers packages ranging from $299 to $499. Laurel & Wolf takes a 20% cut. The startup has 800 interior designers across North America, all hand-vetted and established individuals. Laurel & Wolf finds its designers by working with The National Society of American interior Designers and with alumni associations from the nation's top design schools.

    The Los Angeles tech scene

    Laurel & Wolf has raised $25.5 million in VC funding from big names like Benchmark Capital. Tim Draper contributed to the startup's seed round of funding. Right now, the almost two-year-old startup has 52 employees working out of its West Hollywood offices. 

    "It's a great city, we have a very burgeoning tech scene. A lot of companies are being built down here," Fine says of the Los Angeles area's tech scene. "If you're building a consumer tech company, it's a really great place to do it. We're an incredibly diverse city. You have pockets of people from literally all over the world."

    In addition, Fine credits Los Angeles' entertainment industry for bringing in lots of creatives to the city, which she says is great for tech. "We have been able to attract incredible talent," Fine says. "People who are interested in relocating to LA from the Valley and from NYC because it's a great place to live, a great quality of life, and it's great for creatives."

     

    SEE ALSO: 2 Harvard students were sick of their dirty apartments, so they built a company that will do your chores for you

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Mark Cuban explains why downloading Snapchat is a huge mistake


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    andreessen

    Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has invested in a startup that manufactures performance enhancing supplements known as smart drugs.

    The investor, which has used its billions of dollars to back the likes of Twitter, Skype, Airbnb, and Buzzfeed, led a $2 million (£1.3 million) seed investment round into San Francisco startup Nootrobox, which makes pills that "enhance your mental state" and "upgrade your brain," according to the company's website.

    Nootrobox is focusing on an area known as "nootropics" and has a range of products, including memory boosting "Rise" pills and energy enhancing "Sprint" pills.

    "The new capital will allow us to accelerate clinical research and development on nootropics, to double down on our manufacturing and supply chain innovation, and to continue building a world class team across all disciplines of medicine, software, and product manufacturing," wrote the company's cofounders, Michael Brandt and Geoffrey Woo, on the Nootrobox blog.

    According to The New York Times, the startup plans to launch apps that will tell consumers how its drugs are affecting their bodies.

    The New York Times reported that the investment is coming out of the main Andreessen Horowitz fund, as opposed to the company's new $200 million (£132 million) life sciences fund, which was announced last month.

    Chris Dixon, the Andreessen Horowitz partner who led the investment, has previously backed a company called Soylent, which offers meal replacement drinks.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    London Underground

    Google.org, the search giant's charitable arm, has invested $1 million (£660,000) in a nonprofit startup called Wayfindr, which has developed smartphone technology that can help to guide people through cities.

    Wayfindr's marketing and communications lead Katherine Payne made the announcement on the company blog yesterday, where she also revealed that the company is in the midst of a trial with London Underground at Euston Station.

    "We are currently testing our prototype app with blind and partially sighted people in London Euston station," wrote Payne. "Once they have selected their destination, they are guided via audio directions triggered by signals from [Bluetooth] beacons installed throughout the station."

    The Euston station trial, which will run until the end of January, follows a successful trial at Pimlico station, which ended earlier this year.

    David Waboso, capital programmes director for London Underground added: "Our trial at Euston is really putting the system through its paces, to see whether it can fulfill its promise at one of London’s busiest Tube stations."

    Google.org awarded the grant to Wayfindr through the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB). The money is being allocated through the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities program, which aims to find technology products and services that can help people living with disabilities.

    In addition to supporting the London Underground project, Wayfindr said the grant will help it to "accelerate" its work over the next three years, adding that it plans to run similar trials in other urban settings, including shopping centres and hospitals.

    RLSB chief executive and Wayfindr chair, Dr Tom Pey said: "What makes Wayfindr so strong is the focus on smartphones, meaning blind people don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on different gadgets – they have everything they need in their pockets."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Harry's Shaving 21

    When Harry's cofounders and co-CEOs Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider went to the German razor factory Feintechnik in early 2014 after acquiring it for their shaving startup, they introduced themselves to their 420 new employees.

    "What? Two CEOs? What does that mean?" Raider said the audience asked.

    It didn't matter that Germany has a history of companies like Deutsche Bank and Daimler AG that have had the co-CEO structure; it's rare anywhere in the world, and the concept of two people sharing the role of chief executive isn't readily understood.

    Katz-Mayfield told Business Insider that people, German and American alike, often ask how a dual CEO approach can work, assuming that it would result in time wasted constantly reporting to each other or debating every decision. Conversely, the structure has made them more efficient, he said.

    Since launching in March 2013, Harry's has acquired well over a million customers, according to the company. It's raised a total of $287.1 million and is valued at $750 million. One of the main reasons that it's been able to grow so quickly is due to the way top duties are split, the cofounders say.

    "People underestimate the value of debating major decisions and having a thought partner," Katz-Mayfield said. It is very rare, he said, that one of those debates doesn't yield a productive result.

    He explained that he's a linear thinker and Raider is a creative one. As friends who had known each other a few years, they decided during the planning process prior to launch that Katz-Mayfield would be responsible for operations and Raider customer relations. Their roles grew with the company.

    Harry's Shaving 13

    Harry's, which has roughly 100 employees in New York and 500 in Germany, has different teams that each report to one of the CEOs, eliminating the risk of employee confusion regarding the hierarchy.

    Katz-Mayfield is responsible for the supply chain, finance, research and development, and manufacturing teams and typically spends three to five days each month in Germany while Raider holds down the New York office. Raider is responsible for the technology, customer experience, and marketing teams. Katz-Mayfield is also the CEO of Harry's global holding company, legally making him Raider's boss.

    But it's always been a collaboration, and although the partners trust each other's strengths to run their teams, they appreciate having extra insight from a perceived equal.

    "Sometimes we get really focused or fixated on something, and it's just helpful to have a cofounder to pull you up," Raider said. For example, there may be an advertising issue he's spent 30 hours thinking about over the course of the week and he'll consult Katz-Mayfield, who has spent an hour thinking about it before reaching his conclusion. "And sometimes that is the spark," Raider said, snapping his fingers, "that yup, you're right."

    They know when to defer to the other because "there's just a lot of value alignment, unsaid communications," Katz-Mayfield said. "Like a married couple that can finish each other's sentences."

    Harry's Shaving 11

    Raider, as a cofounder of eyeglasses startup Warby Parker, said that he and Katz-Mayfield were initially assured of the potential of the co-CEO model due to seeing how well it has worked there. Warby Parker's two chief executives, Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, remain Raider's close friends (the latter also being an investor in Harry's), and they've often discussed ways of using the management approach to maximum effect.

    Raider said that he understands why outsiders can be skeptical of the arrangement.

    "There are, of course, benefits and drawbacks to every model," he said. "For me, the benefits — given the complexity of the business that we're building and the fact that we really do focus on different areas of the business — have far outweighed [the drawbacks]."

    "And being the CEO or founder of a company is pretty lonely," Raider added. "Having a partner who's in it with you every day and can share that is really, really helpful and valuable."

    SEE ALSO: A CEO of Harry's, the shaving startup valued at $750 million, uses a ruthlessly efficient approach to his schedule

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Meet the founders of Warby Parker, the eyewear company disrupting the highly secretive Luxottica monopoly


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    Mondo team

    Mondo is a London fintech startup that's looking at banking in a different way. It doesn't have branches, and its current account is controlled from a smartphone app that analyses spending and can be used to contact the company at any time.

    You can't actually use a Mondo card yet, as it's still being alpha tested to make sure that everything works (you don't want your bank account to have problems).

    However, we were given access to one of the alpha testing cards. Here's what it's like to use a digital bank:

    Mondo invited lots of developers and startup figures to its office-warming party where it gave out the alpha cards.



    Here's what the Mondo card looks like — just like a normal card. Pink is the only colour choice for now.



    I stuck £50 on the card. You have to transfer money onto it from another account to get started.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Stuart SEP

    Investors at venture capital firm Scottish Equity Partners decided not to back homegrown fantasy sports business FanDuel because it was too much of a risk, one of the fund's founding partners told Business Insider.

    Since its incorporation in 1991, Scottish Equity Partners has backed more than 100 UK companies but it shied away from Edinburgh unicorn FanDuel, which is now valued above $1 billion.

    Stuart Paterson, a partner at Scottish Equity Partners, told Business Insider in London that FanDuel "was on quite a fine line between skill-based gaming and gambling" that meant "it was a risk that investors couldn’t take."

    Online gambling is illegal in several major jurisdictions globally, including the US.

    Founded in 2009, FanDuel has a betting platform that entices sports fans into creating fantasy teams for US sports that can be pitched against strangers. The platform — used by five million people and operational in 40 US states — has proved incredibly popular with NFL (football), NBA (basketball), MLB (baseball), and NHL (ice hockey) fans.

    "There probably does need to be some regulation [around fantasy sports betting]. Hopefully there is," said Paterson. "Maybe the prizes need to be limited. Hopefully they can work their way through it and get a regulatory environment that supports it."

    Paterson's fund has been used to back other fast-growing Scottish technology companies, including travel booking site Skyscanner, which is situated in the same office building as FanDuel.

    Fortunately for FanDuel, which is relatively unknown in the UK, a number of other investors have been willing to take a punt on it, with Google Capital, Time Warner Investments and Turner Sports taking part in this summer’s $275 million (£176 million) funding round, bringing total investment in the company up to $361 million (£234 million.)

    Last year, Techworld said FanDuel took$600 million (£390 million) in bets and kept $60 million (£40 million) of that as profit.

    Legal battles

    Investors in FanDuel will be watching the company closely as it goes head-to-head in courts across the US with regulators who believe the company is guilty of illegal gambling.

    Last month, New York state attorney-general Eric Schneiderman insisted that FanDuel and rival DraftKings be terminated, accusing them of operating gambling companies without a licence. The pair argued their case in New York last week.

    Class action lawsuits are being assembled in several other states that will seek to reclaim money lost to "illegal" bookmakers. 

    For example, FanDuel is being sued in a court in Tennessee for $10 million (£6.6 million), while a DraftKings employee is facing accusations of insider trading after winning $350,000 (£233,000) through FanDuel competitions.

    Jason Trost, the US-born cofounder of online betting exchange Smarkets, told The Sunday Times: "It’s very possible that Americans will get rid of this completely."

    Back in 2011, for instance, US prosecutors indicted 11 executives at three online poker sites for running internet gambling operations in America. The cases have yet to come to trial.

    FanDuel's latest legal battles triggered The Sunday Times to run a piece titled "Unicorn to Unicorpse?" last month.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Mark Cuban explains why downloading Snapchat is a huge mistake


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    Marc Andreessen

    Venture capitalists (and venture capital funds) are in the business of investing in young, innovative companies (often in the tech and healthcare sectors) in exchange for an equity stake that hopefully can be translated into a profit when the company goes public or is merged with or sold to another company.

    And so, in order to be successful, venture capitalists are always on the lookout for growth companies.

    This means digging down on specific data to assess opportunities.

    It means asking probing questions: What's happening to the cost of storage and bandwidth that could make cloud storage and collaboration cost-effective now? How are pharma marketers allocating their advertising dollars? Is this founder well-suited to lead a high-growth business? It also means doing a lot of research, including picking up the phone and talking to current management experts.

    But how does all that (and more) translate into day-to-day, even hour-to-hour responsibilities? For the answer, below we bring you a typical day in the life of a venture capital analyst (that is, a young venture capitalist).

    6:00 a.m.: Wake up and check my email for any overnight developments. Then I hit the internet to read business headlines, scanning websites such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times Dealbook page.

    7:00 a.m.: I arrive in the office and begin replying to emails. Then I take a more in-depth look at the financial news, paying specific attention to major publications like The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. I also read various trade publications, both online and in print, that cover my specific area of coverage and take notes regarding new ideas and companies that might be good candidates for a capital infusion.

    8:00 a.m.: With names of people and companies culled from my research, I use the internet to locate information and contact details on them. I check my firm's internal database to see if someone else on my team has contacted the companies, then create files for the ones that hold potential and send myself an email as a reminder to call them during business hours.

    9:00 a.m.: Respond to emails and voicemails from the day before. The people I'm communicating with are primarily entrepreneurs, other venture capitalists, and personal acquaintances.

    9:30 a.m.: Attend a morning staff meeting with the general partner (GP) assigned to my area, where I give a quick rundown on some interesting stories in the news that might impact the sector I cover. Also, I use this opportunity to gauge the GP's interest by providing the names of a few ideas or companies that might be seeking funding.

    10:00 a.m.: Meet with a group of entrepreneurs who want to make their pitch. I read the business plan for five minutes. One GP sits in with me. The other GP, who planned to be there, cannot make it because he has a conference call with a portfolio company facing some challenges. I sit politely through the presentation and identify the three critical issues facing the company. During the question and answer phase, I think of how to politely extract more information about those three issues, all the while evaluating whether I would want to work with this team or not.

    In the end, I decide to make some calls to gather more information about the market, or a competitor, but I feel that there's a very low probability I'd ever invest. I wish I could just kill the deal, but the management team is reasonable (though not great), the customer need they have identified may actually exist (I don't know first-hand, so I'll need to call around), and I may learn something by taking it to the next step. Plus, in the back of my mind, I know the market for good deals is very competitive, and you don't want to reject a deal too quickly.

    11:00 a.m.: Phone the people who called during the meeting. These people include entrepreneurs, analysts, other venture capitalists, and my lunch appointment. A colleague tells me that the company I almost invested in two months ago just got funded by a competing firm. I wonder if I made a mistake.

    I find out from an entrepreneur I was hoping to back that he wants his son to be a cofounder and owner of the firm. I abandon all hope. An analyst informs me that AT&T has decided to stop its trial of a new technology because it doesn't work, which creates an opportunity for companies with an alternative solution. I think of two small companies, one in Boston and one in Denver, which have alternative solutions, and make a note to call them to get a status report.

    12:30 p.m.: Lunch with a small business I'd reached out to a few months ago about their interest in receiving some venture capital. The company has already shopped its idea to a few other firms, and I'm hoping to gauge their interest and hopefully woo them. This could be the final step before I arrange a meeting between the company and my firm's general partners. Bringing in a hot new client is a major coup for any analyst — and they're interested.

    2:00 p.m.: Get back into the office and write up a report on the new company I just had lunch with, including all the relevant information, how much funding they're looking for, and my analysis of the company's potential. Once the report is complete, I forward it to the general partner and arrange a time for the company to come into the office.

    3:00 p.m.: A partner and I meet with a portfolio company on a conference call. I helped bring this company to the firm and know them well. Unfortunately, it's facing some challenges and I offer to screen executive recruiters to help it find a new CFO. The GP offers to talk to two mergers and acquisitions firms to get a first opinion about what might be done to sell the company over the next six months. At the end of the call, the GP gives me three names and numbers of recruiters, which I add to my own contacts.

    4:30 p.m.: I make due diligence calls for a potential investment I've been following for two months. Last week I called the company's customers, and they seemed happy for the most part. Today, I call the personal references of the management team. The idea is to get as much negative information as possible. The goal is to discover any potential character or personality flaws any member of the team may have. VC firms are "due diligence machines," doing the hard work of making sure a company is what it says it is.

    5:00 p.m.: A conference call is scheduled with a company that my boss has asked me to research. After about 30 minutes on the call, I determine that it doesn't fill the criteria my firm is looking for. However, once the CEO has explained his business plan, I begin to ask about competitors. During the course of the conversation, I find out about other companies that might fit the firm's criteria.

    5:30 p.m.: Calls to the West Coast. I also check my stocks, confirm dinner plans, and surf the web to gather information about the technology areas I cover.

    7:00 p.m.: Dinner with two other young venture capitalists downtown. We talk mostly about life, sports, travel, and relationships, but also about the latest deals, cool business ideas, and recent successes. I learn that a competing firm just made 30 times its money on a deal I never saw. I also find out that a company I turned down, which was invested in by someone else, is about to go bankrupt. A train missed; a bullet dodged.

    The above was adapted from the new Vault Career Guide to Venture Capital.

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    Read More:

    7 Tricky Interview Questions Private Equity and Hedge Fund Firms Ask

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    SEE ALSO: Mark Cuban's 3 fundamental rules for running a business

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    times100richest richard branson

    Taking shares in fast-growing companies is a pastime for many of the world's richest people, including the founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson.

    Wealthy individuals are constantly on the look out for the next big thing as they look to carry on building their already-impressive personal fortunes. 

    Branson's net worth of $4.9 billion (£3.2 billion) makes him one of the richest men on the planet.

    Here are the 18 technology companies that Branson is backing around the world, according to CrunchBase.

    The investments are listed in chronological order.

    $83.75 million (£55 million) in virtual medical care provider Doctor on Demand.

    Doctor On Demand claims to be the fastest and easiest way to see an urgent care doctor or psychologist on your computer, tablet, or phone. The company puts patients in front of psychologists, physicians, pediatricians, and lactation consultants for $40 (£26) upwards. The service is currently only available in the US. 

    Investments made: $62.75 million (£41.3 million) in July 2015 and $21 milion (£13.8 million) in August 2014. 



    $6.4 million (£4.2 million) in cloud computing firm Rescale.

    Rescale is a cloud simulation platform consisting of software and hardware that aims to help engineers and scientists build, compute, analyse, and scale simulations with high performance computing. The San Francisco company was founded in early 2011 by Joris Poort and Adam McKenzie. 

    Investment made: July 2015. 



    $30 million (£20 million) in travel booking software firm Zozi.

    Zozi's platform provides web-based bookings, payments and customer management software for tour, activity and event businesses. The company aims to help people discover and book thousands of activities and getaways, and get the gear they need. 

    Investment made: July 2015. 



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Stuart SEP

    Stuart Paterson, a founding partner at venture capital firm Scottish Equity Partners, is expecting to win big on travel booking website Skyscanner in the near future.

    Scottish Equity Partners backed Skyscanner with £2.5 million in 2007 for a 40% stake in the Edinburgh-based company. At the time, the company's annual revenues were less than £1 million, according to Paterson. Today they're around £100 million.

    The Sunday Times reports that Scottish Equity Partners will sell off 5% of its stake in exchange for a huge profit as part of a new £65 million funding round that would value the company at over $1 billion (£660 million). Skyscanner is reported to be working with advisers Goldman Sachs and Numis Securities on the sale of new shares.

    "We have a lot of emerging companies that are doing extremely well but the one that has had the most impressive performance to date has been Skyscanner," Paterson told Business Insider in London last week. "That business is doing north of 10 billion [pounds] of ticket sales for flights. It’s over 700 employees. It’s making tens of millions [of pounds] of profit. It’s a very viable business. What’s interesting is even at the scale it’s at now, the growth rate is accelerating.

    "In terms of great hopes, Skyscanner's one that’s certainly been impressive from a return on capital. There’s many unicorns out there that have raised hundreds of millions [of pounds] but this hasn’t," said Paterson. "Many are losing money substantially, this isn’t. It’s current valuation is largely based on profits. I think the aim now is an IPO [initial public offering] in 2017. That's what the company is planning for."Gareth Skyscanner

    Silicon Valley venture capital giant Sequoia — a firm that has backed Google, Apple, and Facebook — has also invested in Skyscanner. The firm invested an undisclosed amount in 2013 at a $800 million (£529 million) valuation in 2013. Sequoia chairman Sir Michael Moritz sits on the board.

    "We’ve invested in search related businesses in America for a long time and we’ve invested in travel businesses so it was fairly natural that Skyscanner hit our radar screen a few years ago," Moritz told Business Insider at the opening of Skyscanner's new London office last month, where he praised the company's operations in China, a region is he particularly bullish about.

    At the time, former Amazon exec Bryan Dove, now head of Skyscanner's new London engineering hub and SVP of engineering at Skyscanner, said: "If you look at the metrics, Skyscanner has been consistently growing from a revenue perspective and an EBITA [earnings before interest, taxes, and amortisation]. I know there are some rumours out there, we certainly don’t comment on rumours. From a company perspective, we continue to be focused on our users and our products."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: I visited Amazon's first retail store, and one thing was especially annoying


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    Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Michael Moritz

    Sir Alex Ferguson gave tech entrepreneurs in London an insight into what it takes to be a good leader today.

    Speaking today at TechCrunch Disrupt, the former Manchester United football manager told Sequoia chair Sir Michael Moritz and an audience of startup founders that good leaders should possess a number traits if they are going to succeed.

    "It’s really important to be consistent, be who you are, don’t change," he said at the Olympic Park. "People don’t respond to change. Consistency is very important."

    When asked which players make good leaders, Ferguson praised former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, as well as the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Nicky Butt.

    "Gary is the best example," said Ferguson. "His brother Phil was a far more talented footballer but we took Gary because he was more determined and he had something in him. He worked and practiced and had an incredible determination."

    Ferguson pointed out how Gary gets up at 5am and he's "always searching for something," while Giggs is highly intelligent and Scholes is very analytical. 

    Moritz, whose venture capital firm profited by backing the likes of Google, Apple, and Facebook in their early days, also quizzed Ferguson on Chelsea manager José Mourinho's struggling form in the English Premier League.

    Ferguson said: "I’ve been watching Jose recently. Spoken to him a couple of times. It’s the first time he’s been confronted by non-success. It’s a challenge for him."

    "I think all good leaders will eventually find a solution and things will go back to normal. I know the guy, I can’t see it lasting long."

    On retaining talent — an issue that many tech companies struggle with — Ferguson acknowledged that talented individuals will often be poached by bigger outfits, pointing to the likes of Jamie Vardy at Leicester City who will likely be in demand at the end of the season.

    Entrepreneurs across the UK and Europe attend the TechCrunch Disrupt in London every year in a bid to hear from successful startup founders, find investors, and seek new customers.

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    Deliveroo bike

    Food delivery service Deliveroo has admitted that it was surprised at how popular its offering has been in Paris.

    The London startup, which has raised $200 million (£132 million) in total, admitted that it wasn't sure how well Deliveroo would be received by Parisians, who are well-known for their love of fine dining.

    Despite the concerns, business is going very well in the French capital, according to Deliveroo CEO Will Shu.

    Deliveroo allows people to get premium food delivered to their home or office via a person on a bicycle or a motorbike. Customers pay the same prices that they would in a restaurant, plus an additional £2.50 delivery charge.

    Fred Destin, a venture capitalist at Accel Partners and a Deliveroo board member, said Paris is full of foodies. "We were convinced some cities wouldn’t work," he said, referring to Paris in particular. "People like to eat out and cook but Paris is one of our best cities because it’s so dense."

    Shu added that every city requires small tweaks: "For example, Hong Kong is very hilly. Singapore has wide streets and if you make a wrong turn you’re out of luck."

    The restaurants that Deliveroo teams up with tend not to offer their own delivery services. In London, the startup has partnered with more 5,000 restaurants, including the likes of Dishoom, Ping Pong, Dirty Burger, and even Michelin-starred Trishna.

    The idea for Deliveroo came about after Shu transferred from Morgan Stanley's office in New York to the investment bank's Canary Wharf office. Upon arriving in London, Shu said he quickly realised that there wasn't much on offer by the way of restaurant deliveries compared to New York. A few years after arriving in the UK, online delivery services started to become popular, but Shu said the quality of the food being delivered was often relatively poor, adding that it would often take too long to arrive.

    More on how the Deliveroo app works can be read here.

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    Warby ParkerThere's no shortage of hot startups.

    To stand out, startup CEOs are getting creative by launching innovative products and raising tons of money — and they've got the world talking.

    We've found the CEOs of some of the hottest startups in the US. We picked the CEOs by buzz, accounting for things like how much money their company raised and how much they've been in the news.

    For the purpose of this list, we defined a startup as a private tech company. We included only US-based startups that have taken venture-capital funding and have not yet IPO'd or been acquired.

    Did we miss a buzzy startup CEO? Let us know in the comments.

    Lauren Browning contributed to an earlier version of this story.

    SEE ALSO: A MILLENNIAL'S GUIDE TO CORD-CUTTING: How to ditch your $100 monthly cable bill forever and still watch everything you want

    Payal Kadakia

    Company: ClassPass

    ClassPass CEO Payal Kadakia was working on her startup Classtivity, a precursor to ClassPass, in a Starbucks in Astor Place when she was maced and mugged. She says the incident made her want to be better at protecting herself, and in turn, the incident "motivated me to perfect my business."

    Gym rats love ClassPass, a service that lets users take unlimited classes (up to three per location) at boutique fitness studios for a flat fee every month. Not only does the ClassPass give users a steep discount on pricey classes like Pure Barre, but it allows them to try a multitude of things, from spin to hot yoga to Pilates.

    Investors are pretty keen on ClassPass as well. The startup is valued at about $400 million, and raised $40 million in January in a series B round of funding led by General Catalyst Partners and Thrive Capital.



    Matt Salzberg

    Company: Blue Apron

    Blue Apron, a company that makes cooking easy by delivering perfectly proportioned ingredients and recipes straight to your door, isn’t just a godsend for lazy cooks — it’s also worth $2 billion. Following a series D round of funding to the tune of $135 million in June, the startup announced its $2 billion valuation, making it one of tech’s growing number of unicorns: privately held companies with valuations of $1 billion or more.

    Though it’s only been around since 2012, Blue Apron is already selling more than 3 million meals each month, CEO Matt Salzberg told Business Insider earlier this year. The startup has more than tripled in size since January, and reports hundreds of thousands of customers. Blue Apron’s potential is vast: The service appeals to millennials who want to expand their repertoire in the kitchen as much as busy moms straining for creativity and simplicity in their weeknight meals.



    Marc Lore

    Company: Jet.com

    E-commerce startup Jet wants to be the next Amazon. The company raised $220 million through three rounds of funding before it even launched, giving it a $600 valuation. It also hit over $1 million in sales on its first day when it launched in July, setting the tone for a successful year. It was the No. 4 marketplace in terms of sales just a month after launching, beating out Sears and Best Buy.

    The company promises to offer prices up to 15% lower than anywhere else on the web, and developed an exclusive technology that adjusts prices in real time based on what users put in their carts

    In October, Jet changed its business model and dropped its $50 membrship fee it once proposed would be its sole source of profit. Lore previously said Jet doesn't plan to reach scale or profitability until 2020, when the company projects to have 15 million paying customers and $20 billion in sales.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Box IPO

    With the money flowing freely in Silicon Valley, there's been little incentive for startups to face the public markets, says Bill Maris, CEO and president of Google Ventures.

    Corporations are raising cash like a startup, absorbing mountains of money from venture capitalists rather than facing a fickle public market. As a result, tech IPOs in 2015 are markedly down from previous years.

    "It swung from 1999/2000, which I lived through as a startup internet CEO, where companies were going public when they weren't companies and just startups to now where they are legitimate corporations and just waiting as long as possible, avoiding going public at all costs," Maris says.

    Unlike previous years, the venture firm declined to disclose in its recap of 2015 how many exits the company has had in the past year, but the number is lower, Maris admits.

    "I think we had fewer absolute exits, and that's not because we had more companies fail necessarily, it's because companies are waiting to go public in ways that I don't quite understand sometimes," he said.

    It's in large part due to the funding environment in Silicon Valley. For the past few years, it's been easy to raise money in the private market so there's no incentive to go public. In the last quarter, though, the market has tightened, according to Maris.

    "You'll see exits accelerate when the funding environment gets more difficult. We're starting to see that happen, and it wouldn't surprise me if interest rates go up, if investors don't want to deploy as much money or are more picky, and companies that can't raise money will shut down, be acquired, or go public," he said. "As long as money is flowing freely, you're not going to see a ton of exits."

    Maris refused to name names of which companies should make the move to go public — Google Ventures is an investor in Uber, so he may be waiting a while to get a return on that one. But Maris did suggest that the IPOs of Box and Square are examples of good results of when tech companies go public.

    "There are certain companies that would benefit from the rigor and the oversight and the legitimacy that comes from being a public company, and they'll find out that it's better for them," Maris said.

    SEE ALSO: Here's where Google's venture arm sees the startup market going in 2016

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    Banza

    A high-protein pasta made from chickpeas is gaining popularity. 

    Banza, a startup based in Detroit, created a new pasta made out of chickpeas. It has two times as much protein and four times as much fiber as traditional pasta has. It also has half as many carbs as traditional pasta has.

    Co-founder Brian Rudolph graduated from Emory University in 2012. He went to Detroit with Venture for America, a program that aims to "build companies and revitalize communities through entrepreneurship," according to its website.

    During the program, Rudolph taught himself how to make pasta in his apartment. He experimented with different recipes to figure out how he could make a more nutritious version of pasta.

    He eventually tried chickpeas as his base, and he was pleasantly surprised by how much it tasted like pasta. He even tricked his roommate into thinking it was regular pasta. 

    Banza's chickpea pasta was born.

    In 2014, Banza took home a $500,000 prize at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Contest, a business competition. 

    Banza has nine people on its team. It has expanded quickly in one year. Its pasta is now sold in 1,700 grocery stores in the United States, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Meijer, Fairway, Wegmans, Shoprite, and Eataly.

    The pasta comes in a variety of shapes: penne, rotini, shells, and elbows. An eight ounce box costs $4.One serving of Banza's chickpea pasta contains 14 grams of protein, whereas regular pasta has only seven grams of protein. Banza's pasta has 24 grams of carbs per serving, and one serving of regular pasta contains 40 grams of carbs. Banza's pasta does not contain any gluten, grains, or soy.

    "Regular pasta is the biggest offender of overeating," a Banza team member told Business Insider. "We look to Chobani as a business model because they reinvented regular yogurt and made Greek yogurt a popular trend. We hope to be able to do the same with Banza." 

    Banza is on a mission to reinvent products with healthier ingredients. It plans to expand its product line beyond pasta in the future. 

    People who have tried it seem to think it's a good alternative to regular pasta.

     

     

    SEE ALSO: A restaurant chain originally designed for bodybuilders is now one of the hottest concepts in New York City

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    Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo arrives for the the annual Allen and Co. media conference Sun Valley, Idaho July 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Blake

    Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is stepping away from social internet businesses, but he's not leaving the startup world entirely. 

    On Kara Swisher's Re/Code Decode podcast, Costolo was deliberately vague about his plans for a new company to be launched next spring. 

    "I'm going to try to bring software to a space that hasn't traditionally leveraged software,"Costolo said. "I'll call it the personal wellness space, but that doesn't give you much detail or any clarity and that's fine."

    Costolo's career includes founding a dot-com business SpyOnIt that tracked changes on websites and alerted you in real-time. The internet entrepreneur then went to Google before he joined Twitter, where he worked his way up to CEO. 

    The "personal wellness" space doesn't sound like it will have much overlap with his previous career, but Costolo refused to elaborate much more on why he's going into that area.

    "I have a specific idea around this space that I think could benefit massively from software being brought to bear there, so that's what I'm going to do," Costolo said on the podcast.

    SEE ALSO: Google Ventures CEO explains a big mistake startups are making

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    Fred Destin Accel

    An audience member at the Sharing & On Demand Economy Conference recently questioned a panel of entrepreneurs on whether people will possess anything of their own in years to come, be it their own home, their own car, their own wedding dress, or even their own power drill.

    Owning things is expensive and finding places to store unnecessary luxuries in a world that's becoming increasingly densely populated could be seen as cumbersome, according to Alex Stephany, the former CEO of drive rental platform JustPark.

    Entrepreneurs operating in the sharing economy, which is underpinned by the internet and the rise of smartphones, are describing their businesses as revolutionary, with Uber's Travis Kalanick saying his taxi-hailing app is changing the way people travel across the world

    "We want transportation to be as reliable as running water everywhere for everyone," Kalanick said at Salesforce's annual conference in September. 

    But there’s one potential problem that few people are talking about: many of these businesses, including Uber and Airbnb, aren't yet turning a profit. 

    Fred Destin, a general partner at Accel Partners, which has invested in Facebook, Dropbox and Spotify,  doesn't believe being profitable is as important in a company's early years as you might think. "People obsess about profitability," he told Business Insider. "You can decide when you want to make a business profitable by simply growing more slowly.

    "If you look at Uber, Airbnb, Blablacar, Deliveroo, all these companies do the same thing. They acquire customers up front. You have to make the investment upfront in marketing to get these people onto your platform. You don’t immediately make money. You make money when they use, and reuse, and reuse the product.

    "The payback time, so the amount of time it takes to make money on a newly acquired customer, can be 12 months, 24 months, etc. So almost the faster you grow the more you burn money at the beginning, but you’re building an asset underneath it which is a base of stable, loyal users. That’s very good."

    The Belgian investor — who sits on the board of restaurant food delivery service Deliveroo, which has raised $200 million (£133 million) — went on to remind Business Insider that Amazon was unprofitable for many years. "Now, with the level of brand they have, a lot of people, including me, probably do 60-80% of their ecommerce on Amazon," he said. "They've proven they're an immensely valuable company."

    Uber and Airbnb, the most valuable sharing economy companies in the world by valuation, are spending vast sums on aggressive marketing and global expansion in a bid to gain as many new users as they can.

    Uber is now a bigger company than Ford, General Motors, and most of the S&P 500 companies, according to an article on Nasdaq's website. It has raised over $10 billion (£6.6 billion) and is valued at over $50 billion (£33 billion). It's also losing millions of dollars every day, according to leaked documents that were obtained by US news site Gawker and published in August.

    Airbnb, has raised $2.4 billion (£1.6 billion) for its home rental platform and is now valued at over $25 billion (£16.5 billion). But it's forecasting an operating loss of $150 million (£99.5 million) for 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

    Destin said he'd be surprised if Airbnb, for example, wasn't profitable "within three years, five max". He added that the startup is still in "hyperexpansion mode" and it's "probably the world's largest hotel company" despite having only been built in the last few years.

    "If they decided to stop growing tomorrow, with the strength of their brand and their supply, they would probably throw off vast amounts of cash," he said.

    Show me the money

    But profits aren't coming quickly enough for some venture-funded startups and there's only so long they can wait before they have to start pulling back.

    In the UK, parking rental app JustPark raised several million pounds over the last two years from well-known investment firms like Index Ventures but last month it announced that it was cutting at least 10 roles and losing its CEO.

    Airbnb Floating House London Thames

    There are certain things companies in the sharing economy need to avoid if they don't want to end up going bankrupt.

    Destin said startups can go wrong when they start giving away free credit and and slash their prices in a bid to get people signed up to their platform.

    "When you use aggressive discounting techniques you can get into trouble," said Destin.

    With billions of dollars behind it, Uber can afford to offer coupons to new users but bootstrapped startups need to be more careful.

    Many sharing economy companies aren't yet profitable, but they are still providing work for a large number of people around the world that may otherwise be unemployed. Uber for example, is helping over 20,000 drivers in London to earn a wage, while Airbnb is providing thousands of homeowners with an extra source of income.

    UK government and the sharing economy

    As a result, the UK government is very keen to support the sharing economy and the businesses that sit within it.

    In March, Chancellor George Osborne showed his support for the sharing economy when he scrapped an outdated subletting law that meant UK residents could only let out their homes on Airbnb and other home sharing platforms for a certain number of days a year.

    He also announced plans to trial a number of sharing economy services in Leeds and Manchester, dubbing them the UK's new "sharing cities".

    The Chancellor made the reforms after digital minister Ed Vaizey tasked Debbie Wosskow, the founder and CEO of LoveHomeSwap, a startup that allows homeowners to exchange their properties, with carrying out a review on the impact of the sharing economy in the UK.

    "With increasing UK economic impact, the opportunity is great for companies big and small — and for individuals all across the country to turn themselves into successful ‘sharing economy’ micro-entrepreneurs," said Wosskow ahead of the report.

    Debbie Wosskow SEUK Love Home SwapWosskow now chairs Sharing Economy UK (SEUK) — a trade body comprised of over 20 sharing economy companies either based in the UK or operating here in one form or another.

    She had this to say about sharing economy companies turning a profit

    "Though sharing is not a new idea, the sharing economy is still a very young sector and some of the businesses of which it is comprised are much younger still. It’s not possible to comment exactly how many businesses are profitable but it is fair to say that the potential of the sharing economy is huge and profits are already being made by the users, which is a success story in itself. SEUK businesses like Hassle.com, Airbnb and Under the Doormat, for example, are enabling users to create new sources of income through existing, and often unused assets.

    “The real question is how do we support these businesses on their way to a profit. Key challenges such as insurance, taxation and regulation through more traditional systems and services are issues that the majority of sharing economy businesses have to spend a lot of their time overcoming. Rather than focusing on what should be the key items on a business agenda such as customer acquisition, financing, profitability etc. These are the key issues the sector needs to work on together to support individual businesses on their road to profitability."

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    Alastair Mitchell and Andy McLoughlin of Huddle

    Andy McLoughlin, an early stage investor at SoftTech venture capital firm in San Francisco, has revealed a hidden passion for European startup founders.

    SoftTech only invests in founders that have based their businesses in Silicon Valley or New York so when McLoughlin encounters a European founder he's automatically drawn to them.

    "European founders are great," he told Business Insider at TechCrunch Disrupt in London. "We have a tonne of really amazing European founders in our portfolio."

    Indeed, SoftTech has invested in a number of European entrepreneurs including Bastian Lehmann (Postmates),  Laura Wu (Shippo), Mathilde Collin (Front), and Sam Choudary (ClassDojo). 

    As an angel investor, McLoughlin has also backed Eoghan McCabe (Intercom), Alex Saint (Secret Escapes), James Smith (Bugsnag), Timo Rein (Pipedrive), Alex Tew (Calm), and Joel Gascoigne (Buffer).

    "What they have, which I think goes a long way, is they have to really fight to be there [in the US]," said McLoughlin. "Having been in that boat myself, where you have to fight tooth and nail just to stay in the country, you make bloody sure that your business is going to be successful because if you’re building a life somewhere the last thing you want is to have to leave and go home."

    The British venture capitalist cofounded enterprise collaboration firm Huddle with Alastair Mitchell in London before expanding it to San Francisco and turning it into a company that regularly competes with Box and Dropbox. To date, the company has raised $89.2 million (£59.5 million).

    McLoughlin left Huddle to become a full-time investor in December 2014, when the company raised its last round of funding.

    He said he'd love to be able to invest in London businesses one day but for now the SoftTech team of five is spread quite thin. "As it is I can come back and meet companies and talk to them about the journey to the US because a lot of companies ultimately do want to end up in San Francisco," he said.

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    closed store new york city

    Despite the hype surrounding tech "unicorns" — the myriad of startups that are valued at over $1 billion — the number of entrepreneurial endeavors in the US has actually been declining for some time now.

    According to researchers, not only are there now fewer startups being created in the US, but the slowing rate of entrepreneurship is hurting the economy.

    "Historically, the U.S. has exhibited a high pace of entrepreneurship with a small share of fast growing young firms disproportionately accounting for job creation and productivity growth," said the new study. "The decline in startups and the accompanying decline in high growth young firms either suggests adverse consequences for U.S. economic growth or a change in the way that such growth will be achieved."

    The researchers — Ryan Decker of the Federal Reserve, Ron Jarmin and Javier Miranda of the US Census Bureau, and John Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland — analyzed the rate at which startups are adding employees and found that the number of high-growth firms has decreased significantly.

    "In 1999, a firm at the 90th percentile of the employment growth rate distribution grew about 31 percent faster than the median firm. Moreover, the 90-50 differential was 16 percent larger than the 50-10 differential reflecting the positive skewness of the employment growth rate distribution," said the study.

    "By 2007, the 90-50 differential was only 4 percent larger than the 50-10, and it continued to exhibit a trend decline through 2011."

    Essentially, there has always been a large number of startups in the US. Of those startups, a select few are able to catch on and heat up quickly. These firms hired a disproportionate number of people, helping to stimulate the labor market.

    Over the past 15 years, not only have there been fewer startups overall said the study, but a smaller number have been able to transform into high growth companies. 

    This is also an issue for the broader US economy since these companies also carry the load for the economy in terms of new hiring and increasing productivity, which has been stagnant in recent years.

    "Evidence suggests that young firms devote disproportionately more resources to innovation, so the high growth of young firms is particularly important for aggregate productivity growth," wrote the researchers. "If rapid firm-level growth reflects efficient movement of labor toward high-productivity producers, then reductions in the number and impact of such firms may be a cause for concern."

    Screen Shot 2015 12 07 at 5.14.35 PM

    While the researchers didn't empirically dive into the reasons behind the slowing pace of startup hiring growth, they did provide possible answers.

    1. Startups don't know how big they should be. Either through regulation or distorted markets, firms aren't sure if they are ready to take on more employees.
    2. Startups are prioritizing other forms of growth besides adding employees. The researchers suggest that young companies could be buying machines or expanding internationally. Additionally, they may find it more profitable to be acquired by larger, mature businesses.

    This is troubling, said the researchers, because the US economy has for so long been supported by these high-growth entrepreneurial firms and without them, the country's future growth prospects could be limited.

    SEE ALSO: Young Americans have gone from being home owners to student debt holders

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    Ariella MyChefIt.JPG

    A female startup founder in London has revealed that she’s been using mobile dating app Tinder to recruit male chefs.

    Ariella Young, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of Mychefit, a platform that sends chefs to cook in your home, told Business Insider that she's recruited two chefs through Tinder so far and she's looking for more. 

    "I was using Tinder obviously for dating and then I saw some profiles where they were wearing aprons," said Young in an interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week. "I approach them and ask if they're a chef, before explaining that I'm interested in hiring them."

    Young — who holds a BA degree in law from the University of London and has studied at Stanford — admitted that she's been using Tinder "just like" LinkedIn.

    So far she's managed to successfully hire two chefs over Tinder: Olivier, 32, and Sebastian, 30. 

    Olivier, whose Tinder conversation with Young can be read below, has worked as a chef at the Charlotte Street Hotel, while Sebastian is head chef at West Thirty Six in London's Notting Hill area.

    Young shared the screenshots of her Tinder conversations with Olivier to confirm her story.

    Ariella Tinder

    image5.PNG

    Young said Olivier and Sebastian introduced her to a number of other chefs that they knew and she's gone on to hire four of them, bringing her up to six chefs in total.

    The chefs have already served over 100 people, who pay upwards of £38 per head, depending on the menu and the number of people being cooked for.

    Chefs are paid £15 an hour and they bring their own food, cook it, and wash up before leaving. 

    Mychefit was built with the help of Berlin-based software developer Rawad Traboulsi and so far it's been backed with £50,000 in angel funding, despite being founded just a couple of months ago.

    Young said she's now looking to raise more money so she can grow the business. "We already started generating revenue so we want to scale fast and grow fast and for that reason we’re looking for funding," she said.

    Young concluded: "It’s strictly professional, I’m not dating. I’m still single!"

    Ariella Young and Sebastian.JPG

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