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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Harry's Shaving 22

    Shaving startup Harry's, at just two-and-half years old, is still a baby by corporate standards, but it has some serious momentum behind it.

    The company says over a million people have bought its products online and retention rate of mail-order subscribers is around 60%. Harry's raised a total of $287.1 million and as of this summer is valued at $750 million.

    Cofounder and co-CEO Jeff Raider told Business Insider that, because it's still so young, it's important that he and his business partner Andy Katz-Mayfield only do deals with investors who will give them freedom to pursue their vision, and who don't see an investment as a way to steer the ship.

    Raider has found a practical question that helps determine if an investor's values align with his and Katz-Mayfield's: "When should we go public?"

    "The best investors that we've met are like, 'Whenever you guys are ready,'" he said. 

    Raider explained that he and Katz-Mayfield are hoping to hear investors respond with something like: "Don't build your business to take it public; build your business to build an amazing business."

    They watch out for overly technical answers, which suggests to them that investors want too much control over the company's vision.

    It's an approach that complements something Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank said at the CNBC and Inc. Magazine iCONIC conference in November: "The IPO is the starting line." He meant that, regardless of how well the stock performs, the founder is held responsible by more investors and has a greater chance for achieving tremendous growth. He also warned that many young companies are too eager to give away a chunk of their business to someone with a big check.

    Raider said at some companies, "there's a fallacy that you go public and you just wipe your hands, like, 'OK, we're done.' That to me is just the beginning, or an early part of the journey, if you want to build a company that's successful for a long period of time."

    SEE ALSO: The cofounders of a $750 million startup explain why they decided to have 2 CEOs

    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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    TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus

    Taavet Hinrikus, the cofounder of London fintech startup TransferWise, has invested in a mysterious payments startup called Curve, according to TechCrunch.

    The entrepreneur — who quietly took over as CEO at TransferWise in October — took part in a $2 million (£1.3 million) funding round alongside several other notable investors, including Ricky Knox of challenger bank Tandem, Ed Wray of Betfair, and former staff on the Google Wallet team.

    Details on Curve are scarce as the company is running in stealth mode and yet to publicly disclose what its platform actually does. A small number of users are able to sign up to a beta of Curve. 

    TechCrunch writer Steve O'Hear said he understands that Curve "broadly plays in the payments and loyalty space and combines the benefits of mobile payment solutions, such as Apple Pay, and the traditional bank card."

    The website, which is inviting people to sign up for beta, reads: "Reimagining the Card: Meet your next generation of payments after the trusted bankcard."

    Curve is being led by Israeli entrepreneur Shachar Bialick. Other members on the founding team include Tom Foster-Carter, who was previously COO of children’s banking startup Osper, and Anna Mostyn Williams, who used to do marketing at Microsoft’s Xbox in the UK. The company also employs an "office hero" called Kathryn James.

    Curve screenshot

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The CEO of this billion-dollar company explains why employees aren't allowed to ask for a raise


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    millennials

    Becoming a young tech entrepreneur has arguably never been more appealing, with an increasing number of successful role models to look up to, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Box's Aaron Levie, and Snapchat's Evan Spiegel. 

    But taking the leap isn't always easy and every successful entrepreneur will tell you there are some things they couldn't have lived without on their way to success, be it their beloved iMac or simply a good cup of coffee.  

    Here we've rounded up some of the things that we think millennial entrepreneurs (those born between 1982 and 2000) might appreciate. 

     

    A Cambridge Satchel

    The 15-inch classic Cambridge Satchel is a safe bet for entrepreneurs looking for a mix of style and practicality.

    Turn up to an investor meeting with one of these on your shoulder instead of a scruffy backpack and you'll instantly be taken more seriously. 

    The satchels were originally intended for students but today they're seen as fashionable items for people of all ages.

    Price:£120



    "Zero to One" by Peter Thiel

    Peter Thiel is the Silicon Valley billionaire that cofounded PayPal and became the first outside investor in Facebook.

    His book "Zero to One" tells entrepreneurs "how to build the future." In the book he argues that tomorrow's champions will not win by competing in today's marketplace. Instead, they will escape competition altogether, because their companies will be unique.

    Price: £11.37



    The Apple iMac with retina 5K display

    MacBooks are great but sometimes you just need a bigger screen and a bit more power.

    Fortunately Apple's desktop machine, the 27-inch iMac, is on hand and the latest model comes with an impressive 5K retina display.

    It also boasts a 3.3GHz Quad-core i5 chip, 8GB RAM, and a 2TB internal hard drive.

    Price:£1,849



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    MRI singing man

    A new biotech company aims to get into your brain — through your gut.

    Kallyope, which launched Wednesday with $44 million in financing, seeks to explore the interaction between the brain and the trillions of microbes in the gut. In particular, it’s looking for molecules released by the microbiome that might affect human behavior and that could be developed into medications.

    "Instead of trying to get to the brain through the brain, you can get to the brain through the gut,” said Josh Wolfe, founding director of New York-based Kallyope and a partner at the venture capital firm that led its financing.

    Read more: A scientist who wants to hack the microbiome

    Kallyope is one of the first companies focusing specifically on gut-brain interaction, which has become a hot topic of research in the past few years. Its funding is significantly larger than the average early-stage biotech deals in the third quarter of 2015, according to Greg Vlahos, a life science partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    Interactions between our brains and our guts affect all sorts of behaviors, from sleep to satiety, said Tom Maniatis, a biochemist at Columbia University's medical school and one of the company's scientific cofounders. Those interactions might lead to therapies, he said: "We all are very serious drug hunters."

    Most research on gut-brain interactions has occurred in animals, scientists said. For example, scientists have made rodents more (or less) adventurous by transplanting gut bacteria between one mouse and another. But studies in humans are more complicated, and less data is available.

    Kallyope Chief Executive Nancy Thornberry, a longtime researcher and executive at Merck, declined to give details of the company's research plan beyond saying the startup will look closely at the role of the microbiome in behavioral disorders.

    Read more: The market for microbiome therapies is booming

    Dr. Premysl Bercik, a gastroenterologist at McMaster University in Ontario, said he welcomes the industry interest in the field. But the information that Kallyope has publicly released is so vague, he said, that "it's difficult to speculate on what this company is really focusing on."

    The government has also taken an interest in the gut-brain axis. Last September, the National Institutes of Health announced $1 million in grants would be available to researchers investigating the relationship between microbes in the gut and mental disorders.

    Ike Swetlitz can be reached at ike.swetlitz@statnews.com
    Follow Ike on Twitter @ikeswetlitz

    NEXT: I 'showered' in bacteria for a week, and it totally changed my definition of clean

    CHECK OUT: 11 overlooked factors that affect the bacteria on your body and help determine your health

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here’s what goes on in your brain when you laugh


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    Golden Gate Bridge couple

    Software engineers in San Francisco are being paid 37% more than their London counterparts, according to recruitment firm Hired.

    The average salary for a London software engineer is £54,000 while the average salary for software engineers in San Francisco is a whopping £86,000.

    Well-funded technology startups like Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest have their headquarters in San Francisco, as do larger corporations like Salesforce and Twitter. 

    New York companies are also paying software engineers considerably more, with engineers in the Big Apple taking home an average of £81,000 (or 33% more).

    Interestingly, UK-based tech companies offer much more to software engineers coming from San Francisco, awarding them salaries of £91,600 a year on average. Similarly, software engineers from New York are reported to receive salaries of over £85,500 a year on average when they move to London. 

    "With a string of high profile exits and an influx of venture capital investment, London’s importance as a global tech hub is growing quickly," wrote Hired in the report. "As the tech community grows and more traditional businesses begin to embrace the digital world, the demand for technical skillsets is increasing.

    "However, despite this growing demand for tech talent, Hired’s data indicates that salaries in London for software engineers hasn’t kept pace with other world-class tech centres such as San Francisco and New York. In fact, when compared to these two cities, UK companies actually offer the lowest average salaries for software engineers."

    The data shows that larger companies tend to pay more to software engineers on average.

    It also shows that 28% of software engineers in the UK were from other parts of Europe or the US, with San Francisco based candidates receiving the highest number of offers from London companies. European software engineers that work in the UK predominantly hail from Spain, Sweden, and France. 

    Conversely, salaries offered to candidates coming from other countries (excluding the US) tend to be significantly lower than those offered to UK-based candidates.

    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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    Evan Spiegel

    Every week this year, another startup has reached a billion-dollar valuation. Whether these private market valuations actually hold water is another question.

    We've decided to rack up a bunch of these billion-dollar startups — Cowboy Ventures' Aileen Lee first referred to them as "unicorns"— that didn't exist five years ago, and that are now valued at $1 billion or more.

    For the purposes of this list, we zeroed in on US-based companies that were founded in 2011 or later — since we're nearing the end of 2015 — and that are private tech companies.

    We then ranked them from least to most valuable.

    SEE ALSO: The 27 best up-and-coming startup CEOs in America right now

    Udacity

    Founded: 2011

    Valuation: $1 billion

    Education startup Udacity wants to help you "be in demand." Sebastian Thrun, also known for launching Google's secretive hardware lab Google X, founded the company in 2011 with the lofty goal of democratizing education.

    The idea is that anyone who completes one of Udacity's nine nanodegrees — which include front-end web developer, Android developer, and data analyst — will be perfectly primed to get a job, since big companies actually helped design the curriculum. Over 10,000 students from 168 countries have enrolled in the nanodegree program, and in November the company raised a $105 million Series D round to continue scaling that growth.



    Vox Media

    Founded: 2011

    Valuation: $1 billion

    Vox Media, the company that owns The Verge, Curbed, SB Nation, Vox.com, and Eater, added another site to its arsenal in June: 18-month-old Re/code. A tech-news publication founded by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2014, it is predicted to bring in $12 million this year, Business Insider reported at the time of the acquisition.

    In addition to purchasing Re/code, Vox Media received a $200 million investment from NBCUniversal in August. The investment is reportedly part of a push by NBC to connect with millennial audiences, Re/code reported at the time, but it's a good sign for Vox Media any way you slice it.



    Uptake

    Founded: 2014

    Valuation: $1.1 billion

    Cofounded by Groupon founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, Uptake is a billion-dollar Internet of Things startup. The company provides analytics for major industries, with the eventual goal of helping fields like gas and construction cut costs. One of the company's biggest partnerships is with Caterpillar.

    "Eliminating unplanned downtime is the aspiration of the industrial Internet," Keywell, uptake's CEO, told Fortune earlier this year. "The benefit is not tens of millions of dollars, it's hundreds of millions of dollars of increased revenue and profitability." The Chicago-based startup has more than 300 employees.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Marc lore jet.com

    They may be only months old, but these startups changed technology in 2015. 

    Take live-streaming app Periscope.

    It was acquired before even launching to the public, then capped off the year being named Apple's iPhone app of the year. Meanwhile, Jet had a splashy debut that aimed to chip away at Amazon's ecommerce empire.

    We narrowed down the list of startups which launched this year to 25, and to determine the best, we took into account factors like funding, revenue, growth, and investor interest. We're including startups that came out of stealth or opened to the public as launching this year as well.

    Did we miss a great startup that launched this year? Let us know in the comments!

    SEE ALSO: A top VC firm just put together a stunning presentation on the state of startups

    Hungryroot turns vegetables into bright and delicious pasta dishes.

    What it is: Former Groupon exec Ben McKean launched Hungryroot to turn veggies into amazing pasta dishes. When you order from Hungryroot, you get a packaged meal the next day that consists of 70% to 80% vegetables and 20% protein. The base ingredient is vegetable noodles — made from sweet potatoes, radishes, beets, zucchinis, and more — paired with a creative sauce, and served with an optional protein side. In its first month, Hungryroot sold 10,000 meals.

    Funding: $2 million from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, and KarpReilly

    Website: https://www.hungryroot.com/



    Periscope is the video livestreaming app Twitter bought before it even launched.

    What it is: In March, Twitter launched Periscope, a livestreaming app it acquired back in February before Periscope even launched. Periscope lets users easily stream video footage from their devices to followers. Viewers can comment and send "hearts" to the streamer. The footage can be then replayed later, which sets it apart from rival app Meerkat, where the footage is gone once the stream is over.

    Funding: None announced.

    Website: http://periscopeapp.tv/



    The League is a dating app for the elite.

    What it is: The League — a selective dating app for elite, successful individuals — launched in San Francisco earlier this year, and it just launched in New York City. Stanford graduate Amanda Bradford founded The League to match up highly motivated and interesting single professionals. Its users often have advanced degrees.

    Funding: $2.1 million seed round from Jon Vlassopulos, IDG Ventures USA, Roman Feola, Naomi Gleit, Cowboy Ventures, XSeed Capital, Peter Kelly, Russ Siegelman, Mark Leslie, Allen DeBevoise, SherpaVentures, Structure Capital

    Website: http://www.theleague.com/



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    travis kalanick uber ceo

    Uber is currently raising more money — up to $2.1 billion— at a valuation of about $62.5 billion. The round will bring the five-year-old company's total amount raised to just over $12 billion.

    And as of this moment, the company says it has no plan to go public, despite generating more than $10 billion in gross annual revenue. 

    The last time we saw a private company scale to a $60+ billion valuation was Facebook in 2011. 

    In March 2011, 14 months before Facebook went public, it was valued at $65 billion when General Atlantic reportedly bought less than 0.1% of the company. But a year later Facebook was essentially forced to go public. Basically it had so many shareholders that, according to SEC guidelines, it would have to start reporting its business metrics as if it were a public company.

    Facebook priced its IPO at more than $100 billion in 2012, making it the third-most-valued public offering of all time, only trailing Visa and Enzel.

    Even though Uber is almost the same size and scale as Facebook was back then, it's in a substantially better situation. The company has been careful to learn from Facebook's missteps and control who owns its stock so it isn't forced into an IPO.

    CEO Travis Kalanick hasn't even sold any of his shares.

    "It took Facebook a long time to go public, but once they did, Zuck has become a huge proponent — is it misery enjoys company?" Uber CEO Kalanick joked at the WSJD Live conference in October.

    How is a founder able to raise $12 billion at a $62.5 billion valuation and resist the pressure to go public? 

    Here's what Kalanick did to get himself and Uber in a cozy position, flush with both cash and control. 

    Circumstances have changed since Facebook's IPO

    Facebook IPOIt's easier for startups to stay private longer than it was when Facebook filed to go public.

    First, there's a lot more money chasing private companies than there was in 2011.

    That doesn't help every private company: Jack Dorsey's payment company, Square, for example, recently went public to gain the capital necessary to continue growing its business. But Uber's fundamentals are strong enough that it still has a line of investors eager to give it capital, and it's always in fundraising mode.

    "In years and decades past, you'd go public for that last slug of capital to get to market,"Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said at the WSJD Live conference in October. "And the dynamics have changed. There's a lot of money in the private markets. So that part of going public is no longer there."

    Government regulations have changed in favor of companies staying private longer as well.

    When Facebook began the process of going public, the SEC required private companies with more than $10 million in assets and 500 shareholders to comply with some of the burdensome reporting requirements public companies have.

    But in April 2012, the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act) increased this threshold so private companies with $10 million or more in assets could have up to 2,000 shareholders without having to comply with SEC public-company reporting rules. 

    Additionally, people who own restricted stock units (RSUs) or other forms of equity under the company’s compensation plans don't count toward that 2,000 number. And for the past few years, Uber has given its employees RSUs instead of stock-option grants. 

    Why RSUs?

    Ron Fleming, a partner in charge of emerging companies at law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, explained to Business Insider why RSUs have become increasingly popular for fast-growing private companies.

    Basically, options are riskier for employees, who may end up with no stake in the company if they leave before a liquidity event (like an IPO or sale).

    If a company's valuation rises dramatically, employees who leave before a liquidity event may not be able to afford to buy the options at their initial strike price — there's no easy way to sell shares to cover the bill.

    travis kalanick sean parker mark zuckerberg the social networkWith RSUs, there's no exercise price. The company simply agrees to grant the employee stock on a regular vesting schedule. That means an employee who leaves the company doesn't have to pay to acquire her vested shares (although taxes can still be an issue). 

    RSUs are also better for employees if a company loses value. For example, if an employee has a stock-option grant at $4 per share, and then the company’s valuation drops 25% due to poor performance or bad market conditions, the employee's stock options are worthless. RSUs would still be worth $3 a share.

    Keeping a tight leash on Uber stock

    It's important to remember that Uber is only five years old. So while you might think early-stage investors and employees would be pounding the table for a liquidity event, five years is a relatively short time to wait for a return on investment in a startup. Typically investors need to wait seven or eight years to pay back their LPs.

    In Uber's case, it's not particularly easy for shareholders to get liquidity either.

    Take this story, for example.

    A tech executive relayed a friend's experience with Uber to Business Insider. The friend was trying to buy Uber shares from an early Uber investor and had struck a deal to purchase them. The early investor and the friend took the deal to Uber for approval, but the company shut it down.

    "They brought it to Travis and he said, 'You can sell your stock, but only back to Uber at this price.'" 

    The price, this person claims, was heavily discounted off of Uber's valuation at the time. 

    Fortune's Dan Primack was told a similar story:

    An early Uber employee thought that he had found a buyer for his vested stock, at $200 per share. But when his agent tried to seal the deal, Uber refused to sign off on the transfer. Instead, it offered to buy back the shares for around $135 a piece, which is within the same price range that Google Ventures and TPG Capital had paid to invest in Uber the previous July. Take it or hold it.

    One reason Uber may be so protective of its stock is that other big tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google weren't, and it caused them issues later on.

    In the case of Twitter, Chris Sacca, a billionaire investor, made a fortune when he somewhat sneakily bought up the majority outside stake. Before Twitter's IPO, Sacca reportedly created a few generically named investment vehicles and aggressively bought Twitter stock from early employees and investors on secondary markets.

    chris sacca

    Forbes' Alex Konrad describes the move as "accumulating the largest outside position in Twitter right under their noses."

    Sacca, who invested an early $300,000 in Uber, reportedly tried the a similar approach with Travis Kalanick's company, but Kalanick found out and shut it down, according to Forbes. 

    However, we've heard that Uber was not upset about Sacca trying to buy shares, but trying to sell shares he'd already bought without following certain guidelines Uber had said out. Another Uber insider says the stock situation, while annoying to Kalanick, wasn't actually what drove Kalanick and Sacca apart, but declined to elaborate further.

    Regardless, it's a good example of how tightly Uber controls its stock. "Travis wants to be in control, so when you do things behind his back he thinks he can't control you anymore and you're dead to him," one person familiar with the pair told Business Insider.

    Uber has no problem admitting it's a control freak when it comes its stock. 

    "We have very strict transfer restrictions in place and pursue necessary means to ensure they are respected and to limit any fraudulent activity," an Uber spokesperson tells Business Insider. "The only way to invest in Uber is through Uber.” 

    Sacca declined to comment for this story.

    'Selling the future'

    uber travis kalanickUber's management team knows how to create hype. But unlike most startups, Uber has the revenue, growth, and execution to back up its claims. Kalanick has always been a salesman, and he knows exactly how to get investors excited.

    The Information's Jessica Lessin describes Uber's current fundraising strategy as something that resembles an IPO roadshow:

    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and other executives have been on a roadshow giving investors a two-hour management presentation—followed by Q&A—after they sign serious NDAs ... Before the meeting, the investors are told very little about the company’s financials. At the end, and after receiving data, they have been asked how many shares they would be willing to buy based on various valuation targets, which ranged from $60 billion to $80 billion this time.

    The big selling point, an early Uber investor tells Business Insider, is Uber's growth potential in Asia. There, ride-hailing competitors like Didi and Ola dominate. But if Uber can capture more of the market, it can become even more gigantic.

    "The company is selling the future in Asia," an Uber investor tells Business Insider. "I don't even think they're talking about self-driving cars. They're saying, if 30% of our revenue is in Asia, imagine how our company will look in the next five years if we nail India and China. Look at the potential market waiting for you."

    Being exceptional

    uber indiaUber wouldn't be able to get away with any of this if it wasn't truly an exceptional business. It doesn't own cars; it's merely a logistics business, connecting supply and demand, taking around 20% of every trip total, and leaving the other 80% for drivers.

    The company will generate more than $10 billion this year, according to an internal document obtained by Reuters in August, of which Uber will keep about $2 billion. And its growth shows no signs of slowing. Projections for next year are nearly triple this year, at about $26 billion in gross revenue.

    "Uber has unbelievable growth," a source familiar with the company tells Business Insider. "Usually companies grow a lot in the beginning, then they reach an inflection point. I don't think this company has reached that inflection point yet."

    Like the biggest businesses in the world, Uber didn't just create a world-class product. It invented an entirely new industry, the on-demand industry, where anything from food to cars can be hailed with one button push on a smart phone. 

    "This company created a new economy," an early Uber investor tells Business Insider. 

    "It's not a traditional company. It invented a new way to transact, and it's a pioneer. What Google did for search, that's what Uber has done for the sharing economy. Before Uber, it wasn't anything."

    SEE ALSO: Uber hired a new director of communications from Google, and she's cleaning house

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A angry taxi driver latched onto an Uber car and got dragged down the street


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    Mike Jaconi Button

    On the poster of values at Button's New York headquarters, one stands out from the normal "have fun" and "live a healthy lifestyle" priorities of most companies.

    "Provide omotenashi."

    Say what?

    "The easiest literal translation is the ability of the host to predict what his or her guest wants before he or she asks for it," explains Button's CEO Mike Jaconi.

    "What it speaks to, though, is if given or demonstrated authentically, there’s an ability that you have as a person to give someone an experience that is predictive of where they are and what they want to do."

    But Button isn't a startup in the hospitality industry.

    The B2B startup powers deep-linking, or the connections between the apps you use. If you're using Foursquare and find a restaurant you like, Button powers the option to book a reservation straight from OpenTable, or pulls up the Uber app with the address already selected. 

    The Japanese philosophy of wholehearted hospitality is core to startup's business and its office culture. The 25-person team works in a Gramercy Park penthouse, and the company was just named the number one place to work in New York by Crain's.

    Predicting what people want

    Their business model about linking intent with what comes next — like wanting to make a reservation after scouring a restaurant page — is reflective of omotenashi.

    Mike Jaconi Button"If you think about what that ability is, it’s the ability to predict what somebody wants before they want it, that’s what the company is all about," Jaconi says. 

    The same has to be true within the workplace culture, he explains, standing to grab me another cup of water once he notices I'm out.

    Button tries to anticipate what each employee needs professionally, and is rigorous about only hiring team members that wholeheartedly embrace the philosophy.

    Employees get 17 weeks' paid maternity or paternity leave policy. They can spend up to $100 to test out on-demand services for the job, without having to get permission first. They also get stipends for professional development activities.

    That's on top of the traditional free lunches, fully-stocked kitchen, rooftop deck, and coffee on tap in the kitchen office. 

    This thoughtfulness has given Button a family-like feel. Throughout our conversation, Jaconi refers to his employees only as family members, and when anyone enters the kitchen, we pause the conversation to talk to them.

    "The thing that I’ve learned is that startups make it and they don’t," Jaconi said. "The one thing that’s indelible is what those people felt they grew with."

    He continues, "Every person is here and I’m going to commit to everyone. The thing that I can promise is that you as an individual as a professional will grow here," he says.

    Omotenashi indeed.

    SEE ALSO: The 25 hottest startups that launched in 2015

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This startup is trying to take down the diamond industry with Leonardo DiCaprio


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    Mark Cuban

    For some entrepreneurs, the dream of being on "Shark Tank" ends up feeling more like a nightmare (one that ends with no deal).

    Here are seven founders whose companies were roundly rejected in 2015.

    SEE ALSO: 14 behind-the-scenes secrets you didn't know about 'Shark Tank'

    The Skinny Mirror, Season 7

    Belinda Jasmine's product The Skinny Mirror is designed to make people feel better by making them appear slimmer than they actually are. All the Sharks saw was a distorting illusion with limited market potential. "I deal in reality," said Kevin O'Leary.



    iCPooch, Season 6

    Video chat product iCPooch gives pet owners "facetime" with their dogs. When a demonstration failed to prove that dogs recognize their owners on a screen, the Sharks bowed out. "I can't even get humans to use video conferencing," said Robert Herjavec.



    Tycoon Real Estate, Season 6

    Aaron McDaniel's [now defunct] crowdfunding website Tycoon Real Estate offers consumers investment opportunities online. Every Shark took issue with the concept of investing without knowing who your partners are. "I hate it," Mark Cuban said.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    adora cheung homejoy

    As legend has it, 90% of startups fail.

    While the seven on this list collectively raised nearly $400 million in venture capital, these startups are only a few of the high-profile ones that ended up shuttering their doors in 2015. CB Insights has a full list of 146 startup failure post-mortems from the past few years.

    Here's how they tried to change the world, and what other startup founders can learn from their demise:

    SEE ALSO: The 25 hottest startups that launched in 2015

    Quirky

    What was it: Launched in 2009, Quirky was an invention platform where people could vote on product ideas they loved, and the company would turn them into products, like the much-loved Pivot Power strip. It also created a subsidiary Internet of Things business called Wink, which made hubs for the smart home.

    Why it closed: Many of Quirky's products had thin to non-existent margins, Business Insider's Jillian D'Onfro reported. For example, the company spent nearly $400,000 on developing a Bluetooth speaker that only sold 28 units.

    Its Wink unit also faced distress, and a botched security update meant the company had to do a nationwide recall this spring of all of its smart home hubs.

    The startup ran out of money and filed for bankruptcy in September. It had struggled to change its business model after several rounds of layoffs, and eventually sold its Wink smart-home business for $15 million. Its CEO had stepped down in August.

    Money raised: $185 million from Andreessen Horowitz, GE, RRE Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, and Kleiner, Perkins.



    Homejoy

    What was it: Homejoy offered on-demand home-cleaning services. One of the first companies into the so-called gig economy, Homejoy was a favorite of the press because it offered low-cost cleaning and was using software to automate the process of booking so it would be more efficient.

    Why it closed: In an interview with Re/code, Homejoy CEO Adora Cheung blamed the worker-misclassification lawsuits the company faced. It had failed to raise enough funding to grow the company as big as they wanted, she said, so it decided to shutter its doors in July.

    But Christina Farr on Backchannel pointed to poor customer retention, poor worker retention, and mounting losses as its downfall. Like Groupon, the company had struggled to entice repeat customers when it offered a cheap initial cleaning and then later raised the price.

    Money raised: $40 million from Y Combinator, PayPal founder Max Levchin, First Round Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and Google Ventures.



    Zirtual

    What was it: Zirtual provided on-demand virtual assistants. Instead of taking the gig economy model and using only contract workers, Zirtual differentiated itself by having full-time employees. Each assistant would work multiple accounts, depending on the workload, making it cheaper for corporate clients.

    Why it closed: In August, Zirtual laid off its 400 employees in the middle of the night via an e-mail, after a last-minute Hail Mary round of funding failed to come through. CEO Maren Kate Donovan later said the "numbers were f-----" and the company had over-staffed without having matching demand.

    Looking back, she told Fortune that she should have hired a full-time CFO and had a proper board for the company. Zirtual's assets were acquired in October by Fundable.

    Money raised: $5.5 million, including from Jason Calacanis, Mayfield Fund, Tony Hsieh, and the VegasTechFund.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    spoon university

    Women may be underrepresented throughout the tech sector — but they're building some incredible startups, apps, and products.

    We've rounded up a collection of 19 female-founded startups that made the news this year.

    Some of them launched or came out of beta, while others raised funding or launched new services.

    You'll want to keep these startups — and their founders — on your radar.

    SEE ALSO: The 25 hottest startups that launched in 2015

    DWNLD

    These days it seems like everybody has an app in the App Store. And why not? It's a great way to make  extra money while putting out a product that you believe in.

    Alexandra Keating is capitalizing on that idea with DWNLD, a mobile app-creation platform that helps companies, brands, and other influencers easily and affordably turn their content, from social media to photos to videos to GIFs, into native mobile apps in minutes. DWNLD landed a $12 million investment from Greylock Partners in September,and works with clients like Nylon, xoJane, and a number of YouTube stars and bloggers.



    AptDeco

    Reham Ragiri is one of the only minority female founders to take a company through the prestigious startup incubator Y Combinator, transforming the preowned-furniture marketplace in New York City.

    She and cofounder Kalam Dennis developed their service so that buyers and sellers of used furniture don't have to coordinate delivery or pick-up times, or even do the actual delivering or picking up themselves —AptDeco has a delivery partner that does it all, taking one of the biggest hassles of trying to buy or sell furniture in New York City out of the equation.



    Spoon University

    Spoon University — a website to share recipes, health and lifestyle stories, restaurant reviews, BuzzFeed-esque quizzes, and other food-related content — went live in September 2013 and quickly grew to a 100-person student staff at Northwestern's campus, before expanding nationwide.

    Spoon University, which has raised a $2 million seed round, says it attracts 2 million unique visitors every month — 10x growth from the 200,000 it had earlier this year. Schools like Penn, NYU, Dartmouth, and Michigan all have their own Spoon University pages, with 3,000 students actively contributing stories, photos, and videos to the website.

    Spoon University's advisors include digital media startup talents like Bryan Goldberg, the CEO and founder of Bustle and Bleacher Report, and Chris Altchek, the CEO of Mic. Its readership is 75% female.

     

     



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Shazop

    Shazop could revolutionize shopping for high-end fashion online.

    It's a brand new comparison shopping site, where shoppers can select designer dresses, shoes, and handbags and from over sixty different retailers — such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Shopbop, Nordstrom, and Macy's — and compare sizes and prices. The site keeps track of coupon codes for added discounts.

    Founder Andrea Marron, former Vice President of Digital at Nicole Miller, came up with the idea during her tenure at Nicole Miller. She noticed that whenever the company would distribute product to retailers, the mark downs would vary tremendously. In spring 2013, she teamed up with ZocDoc developer Amit Sawat, and Shazop began to come to realization.

    It's obviously in its nasceny, but Marron thinks of the website as the Kayak of online shopping.

    "Way back in the day, you would go to ten different airline sites to try to find the best price on a flight," Marron said in an interview with Business Insider. "But now, it's a lot more convenient for a user to just go to Kayak to find the best flight. We want to be the one place that a consumer can go to to browse and find the best style for them and have all the information there for them on one page."

     

    Shazop UI

     

    Right now,Shazop sells high end brands, like Tory Burch, Elizabeth & James, and Rag & Bone. This is intentional. 

    "We thought that it’s easier to brand yourself as high-end and later add the lower-end brand then to do the reverse," she said. Right now, she wants Shazop to be a "curated experience." In the coming weeks, Shazop will offer more brands, including Kate Spade, Balmain, and BCBG. Shazop will continue to add products and designers as the site grows, and Marron said that a suggestion will allow users to request brands they'd like to see on the site.

    Not only is this beneficial to consumers, but Marron believes that retailers can benefit from this service, because it's "an opportunity for them. Let's say someone is browsing on Shazop for a dress and it's sold out at a retail that they had in mind ... another retailer could potentially pick up a customer by having that size in stock."

    It all is rooted in a tremendous amount of data. Shazop pulls data from the websites and brings the information to the consumer easily, making it a one-stop shop for consumers.

    Naturally, Shazop has accumulated tons of data and information while making the product. To capitalize on this, Shazop offers a B2B service called Ragtrades, which sells data to retailers to help them handle their pricing and buying methodologies. Marron told Business Insider that Ragtrades' most popular product is a price tracking dashboard.  

    shazop ui

    Marron knows that online shopping can be troublesome to many. "Finding something that fits you really well is certainly a big concern," Marron said. "And finding something that you love in your size that fits you at the right price."

    But Shazop could be appealing to those who have disavowed online shopping.

    Marron believes that online shopping and in-store shopping have a symbiotic relationship. In fact, it's partially the basis of Shazop.

    "I really see them [in-store shopping and online shopping] as so separate; they both inform each other I’d say," she said. "If you love in-store shopping you can use something like Shazop — say you go tot the store and try something on [and use] a tool like Shazop to find the best price."

    But ultimately, when it comes to in-store shopping and then going home to shop online, Marron believes that "the lines are getting blurred."

    SEE ALSO: Online shopping is killing a category that retailers have been relying on for years — and now they're scrambling Kate Taylor Nov. 10, 2015, 10:51 AM 3,853

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


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    skymall zombie

    On March 9, Apple unveiled the Apple Watch. Media sites flooded the internet with coverage of Tim Cook's every utterance. Thousands of words were dedicated to drooling over or hating on the shiny piece of metal that will change this world.

    Among those media sites was Gigaom, a pioneering technology blog founded by Om Malik in 2006.

    Nine years later, Malik had stepped aside from the day-to-day operations. I was a part of the editorial team carrying on its legacy as a niche, but informative part of the tech media scene.

    Hours after Tim Cook left the stage just blocks from our office, I got an email that we had an all-hands meeting that afternoon.

    By the end of the day, I typed out the words "Gigaom recently became unable to pay its creditors in full at this time...." 

    Gigaom, like many media companies before it, had shut down.

    I spent the next day evacuating 3D printers and gadgets we'd been reviewing into my tiny Prius C, so they wouldn't be sold, only to ship them back to those companies because we had no site to publish a review. That was the end of Gigaom. Or so we thought.

    But it turns out 2015 is the year of the zombie media company. 

    It's back

    When I left Gigaom on March 9, the homepage were supposed to be forever immortalized with the words "About Gigaom" and a one-paragraph note of farewell. Below it hung all of our Apple Watch coverage combined with hodge-podge of daily news.

    Gigaom

    However, on the top of the "About Gigaom" note from March 9 there is now an update. And if you look at its front page, Gigaom is alive and well. 

    After Gigaom's shutdown, which was chronicled from the New York Times to the BBC, buyers started coming out of the woodwork. By May, the site had been sold to Knowingly Corp., an Austin-based internet startup run by Byron Reese, the former chief innovation officer of Demand Media.

    No sales price was released, but Reese was able to acquire the site and its content library. Gigaom the zombie relaunched in August 2015 and is still up and running.

    Meet the zombie media

    Gigaom wasn't the exception of the year. Several media properties have closed their doors only to relaunch again.

    In San Francisco, the Bold Italic was a local news site known for being a hilarious take on local news and having a great series on the fanciest local restaurants reviewed by four year olds. Despite being a web bookmark of most millennials in the city, its parent company Gannett also decided to stop funding it. It had been an experiment in local news, but after six years, it had never spread beyond the confines of San Francisco. It stopped publishing in April.

    Three months later, two local entrepreneurs announced that they had bought the Bold Italic and were relaunching it. By August, the site was publishing again, including an ode to "The Night before Hipstmas" and a trend report on wine in a can becoming popular in the city.

    circa news

    The biggest turnaround was Circa News, a mobile app that tried to "atomize" news into just facts and quotes. Readers loved it because they could also receive updates on a developing story through push notifications and not have to reload news articles to get the latest.

    Unlike Gigaom's closure, which came out of the blue, rumors started swirling in May that the company was running out of money and looking for a buyer. It stopped publishing on June 21, until the official announcement came three days later that it had been put on an "indefinite hiatus."

    In November, circanews.com was back up and running with a "coming soon" message. The mystery buyer turned out to be Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a news network that runs a large bundle of TV stations. 

    While Gigaom and The Bold Italic are staying closer to their former lives, the new Circa sounds like it will be taking a different turn. Rather than atomizing the news into understandable mobile-centric bits, the new owners told the Wall Street Journal that they want to focus on original reporting and grow the brand to compete with Vice, Vox, and Buzzfeed. 

    Money still to be made?

    While many cry for the death of media, it's clear some investors are willing to take a gamble on building a new media empire — or at least trying to make a profitable one. New media startups are springing up everywhere, and the hot ones like Vice, Buzzfeed, and Vox can be worth more than $1 billion, according to CB Insights:

    cbinsights media valuations

    As Business Insider's Henry Blodget pointed out in his Future of Digital:2015 presentation, there's a generational shift towards consuming media on smartphones and tablets and less so in print. To make a mint in media, you have to be focused on digital — which all of these zombie companies are.

    henry presentation

    For entrepreneurs looking to carve out their own media empire — or in the case of Circa, break into the digital side and diversify beyond television — the down-and-out media companies are fire sales of SEO, clicks, and traffic that can be hard to cultivate organically.

    Gigaom is still publishing into my Facebook feed because I never "unliked" the page. Same with The Bold Italic. 

    2015 was the year the dead media companies refused to die, and the zombie media among us are happy to haunt your social networks as they claw their way back into your consciousness. 

    SEE ALSO: In memoriam: 7 once-hot startups that shut their doors in 2015

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    NOW WATCH: How food videos from ‘Tasty’ took over your Facebook News Feed


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    Top10

    Top10, the London startup that showed travelers the 10 best hotels in any given city, has shut down.

    CEO Tom Leathes confirmed to Business Insider that the company had shut down, and staff had departed.

    The company's app had a clever concept: It would show 10 good hotels in any given location, as well as cheap prices for bookings. Larger listing sites like Expedia have hundreds of hotels on their books, but that can be overwhelming.

    Top10 iPhone appHowever, Leathes said that it was an extremely competitive space. Top10 reached a point where growth slowed and it needed to build a global brand in order to have any chance of competing with established players. 

    Top10 raised funding from some respected names. Since its launch in 2011, it brought in $12.4 million (£8.2 million) in funding from venture capital funds including Balderton Capital and Accel Partners.

    The company's app also received praise from Apple. It was listed as an "Editor's Choice" app in 127 countries, and was also chosen as the "best new app."

    Staff left Top10 in November and the company's founders are now winding up the business and its assets.

    But that may not be the end of the road for the founding team. Leathes said he's worked with his cofounders on other companies in the past and said it's likely that they will remain together on future projects.

    Top10 provided this statement to Business Insider about the closure of the company:

    After three fantastic years in the travel business, and having learnt a huge amount, we decided to wind down Top10’s hotel price comparison business last month.

    Launching a new business has always been difficult, and early-stage tech companies are always high risk. The hotel industry is particularly challenging given the size, reach and budgets of the big players. At Top10 we did an amazing job innovating in this tough space, but ultimately the competitive landscape made it too expensive for us to scale, and for that reason we decided to close the company.

    First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who has been part of our journey. We have been working hard to ensure all of our customers, staff and other stakeholders are treated fairly during this period.

    We’re incredibly proud of the groundbreaking products we built at Top10, and the amazing people that made it happen. Many of the team are now moving on to work with other great startups within our investors’ portfolios and beyond, and we can’t wait to see what they build next.

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    NOW WATCH: A 56-year-old man filmed a conversation with his 18-year-old self, and it's going viral


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    Doug Ludlow Happy Home Company

    Doug Ludlow and his wife had just moved from Los Angeles to their own home in the Bay Area when he had a revelation.

    "I very quickly realized I was the least handy person on Earth," he jokes. "I didn't know how to swing a hammer."

    Suddenly, Ludlow was a first-time homeowner; he was now responsible for maintaining a house, and it was his biggest purchase to date. But he had no idea who to call when he needed help. He had to go through Yelp and call up half a dozen carpet cleaners just to get someone to make small repairs to his house.

    Ludlow had sold his startup, Hipster, to AOL in 2012, and then worked at AOL Ventures before launching his next startup. He knew that he wanted to start a new company, but he didn't know exactly what he wanted to do. 

    He kept coming back to this problem of not knowing who to call to repair things around his house. If you rent and live in an apartment, you have a super and a landlord who take care of your issues; if you own your own house, you're on your own.

    In 2013, Ludlow got the idea for The Happy Home Company. He launched the company quietly in September 2014, then officially in December 2014. Today, the company has 19 employees and is based in San Jose.

    "We wanted to make this process as simple as possible," Ludlow told Business Insider. "We wanted to remove any layer of abstraction between you and getting your home project completed." 

    The Happy Home Company focuses on home repair, home improvement, and maintenance. As a customer, you pick up your phone and text one of the Happy Home Company's 10 "home managers"— W2 employees who have backgrounds in home repair and were contractors in a past life. Ludlow said 84% of all customer communication is done through SMS; the rest comes from Happy Home Company's website.

    You can get a free consultation to find out what's wrong with your home, be it a leaky faucet or an air conditioner in need of a new filter. 

    Then, your home manager works with a list of pre-approved, carefully screened service providers in your area to get your repairs taken care of. The goal is to make it super-simple for the customer, so you're only ever interacting with your home manager.All the scheduling and payment is done through Happy Home Company. Owning a home is already overwhelming, Ludlow says, so home repair should be as painless as possible.

    happy home coTen home managers may seem a small number — how does that scale? — but Ludlow says each is able to handle quite a few homes since the average person isn't asking to get a job done every day. An average customer uses Happy Home Company about once a quarter.

    Ludlow says the Happy Home Company's biggest project to date has been a $36,000 renovation, but on average, the company does $200 handyman jobs. Usually, the first request they get from new customers is a small project, but as customers gain trust in the company, they come back for help with bigger and more expensive projects, like remodels. Unlike a company like Handy, which has a lower average transaction rate, Happy Home Company can scale up their average transaction cost with user trust. 

    Happy Home Company makes money on a sliding scale, taking a hint from companies Airbnb and eBay. Bigger jobs mean the startup takes a smaller cut, and on smaller jobs, they take a larger cut. 

    "Even though we take a cut, customers get a lower price than they would have on their own," Ludlow explains. "Service providers we work with get so much business from us, they're able to lower the rates for us because we're giving them more jobs."

    Ludlow says Happy Home Company has raised $3.5 million in seed funding from investors including early Uber investor Chris Sacca at Lowercase Capital, David Tisch at BoxGroup, SV Angel, and Dave Morin at Slow Ventures. 

    Happy Home Company

    "When we launched the service, it was kind of frustrating," Ludlow says. "People said, 'I love the idea of Happy Home — I'll use you when I have a project.' And they'd hear about us and like us but if they didn't need us at the time, they'd forget about us. So growth at the time was difficult."

    But, Ludlow says, now growth is surging. He says the company realized they had to reach customers exactly when there was demand for the service. "Now, we intercept people when they have a specific job to do, instead of getting people to sign up and hoping they'll just turn to us when they have a specific job to do," he says. 

    From the time Ludlow launched Happy Home Company in September 2014, he says it took the company 384 days to hit its first one thousand users, and to do $1 million in job transactions. But then, it took the company just 38 more days to get its next thousand users, and to make its next $1 million in job transactions.

    Now a year into its operation, Happy Home Company is unveiling its next steps. Previously, the service was only available in the Bay Area. Now, it's expanding to more areas around the US.

    In addition, the company is using data it's collected about the kinds of jobs its users commonly need to have done around the house to create "smart jobs," proactive, preemptive solutions. For example, if you live in a place where it rains, it would be helpful to have someone come out in August to have someone take care of your gutters before every gutter cleaner in your city is booked up and the price triples.

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

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    NOW WATCH: CLOSE UP THE INTERNET: Donald Trump wants to shut down parts of the Internet


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    Bethany Koby TWSU

    Technology Will Save Us (TWSU), a technology startup focused on learning, has raised £1.2 million from high profile investors and several venture capital funds.

    The London tech company has a range of learning resources that aim to help children understand technology. The resources include tech-based do-it-yourself gadget kits and online educational materials.

    SaatchInvest, which has invested in fast-growing London startups like Citymapper and Evrythng, led the funding round, which also saw participation from European seed-stage VC fund Backed. Business Insider understands that a well-known British retail mogul also invested, as did the man who invented the Sainsbury's Nectar Card, Stuart Marks.

    Based in Hackney, East London, TWSU was created in 2012 by the wife and husband team of Bethany Koby and Daniel Hirschmann. The pair believe that society has a flawed relationship with technology and they want to change this through education.

    The tech-based DIY kits that TWSU produces are designed to encourage children to make, play, code, and invent with technology. They include a DIY speaker kit, a DIY synth kit and a DIY gamer kit.

    TWSUUsing everyday life as inspiration, the kits tap into hobbies and passions, such as music, gardening, cycling, and gaming. Kits are priced from £15 and targeted at children aged 5+. So far, over 50,000 kits have been sold.

    "Having taught alongside our developing careers, we were both aware of the crisis in technology education," said Koby, cofounder and CEO at Technology Will Save Us. "While kids are very much consumers of technology, they typically find computing complex and scary. By authentically merging the physical world of making with digital programming tools, we are presenting complex skills in a unique and highly accessible way."

    The company also designed the BBC micro:bit, a pocket sized tech tool that will be given to a million 11-year-olds in February 2016.

    The company said it will use the fundraising to expand its product range and build on existing retail partnerships such as John Lewis, Urban Outfitters, The Conran Shop, and the MoMA Design Store in New York.

    Leo Castellanos, investment director at SaatchInvest, said: "TWSU's long term proposition is compelling: to bridge the physical and virtual education worlds engaging children, students their families and teachers. Needless to say the market opportunity is absolutely huge."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A 56-year-old man filmed a conversation with his 18-year-old self, and it's going viral


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    airbnb houseboat phone

    Airbnb is being sued by a German woman who claims she was filmed by a hidden camera as she walked around naked in her rental property, The Recorder reports.

    Schumacher was staying in the apartment with her partner Kevin Stockton, who made the Airbnb booking. The couple say they found a remote-controlled wireless camera hidden on a living room shelf between some candles, according to the legal filing.

    Plaintiff Yvonne Schumacher is also suing Fariah Hassim and Jamil Jiva, the residents of the property, which is in Irvine, California.

    Schumacher and Stockton — who stayed at the property in December 2013 – are concerned that the camera may have listened in on their "personal and intimate" conversations.

    The case, filed in San Francisco on Monday, brings two charges of negligence against Airbnb, in addition to charges of wiretapping, privacy intrusion, and infliction of emotional distress against Hassim and Jiva.

    In the legal suit, Schumacher says she told Airbnb about the camera but the company allowed the couple to carry on listing their property on its site. Airbnb has previously said it has a "zero tolerance policy" for hidden cameras and would immediately remove a host who secretly recorded their guests.

    "While staying as a guest in the property, at night Mrs. Schumacher would sleep without any clothing, believing that with the front door closed and the window blinds drawn throughout the property, she was protected and free from prying eyes," writes Schumacher's lawyer. "This natural presumption proved to be incorrect."

    Schumacher's lawyer added: "Little to no effort is undertaken by Airbnb by way of a vetting process with respect to these hosts to ensure the safety and welfare of the third parties renting properties through Airbnb."

    The lawyer added that the company fails/failed to do meaningful background checks and verify personal details of the lessors.

    An Airbnb spokesperson told Business Insider: "Though we do not comment on pending litigation we will defend it vigorously. Airbnb takes privacy issues extremely seriously.

    "All hosts must certify that they comply with all applicable laws in their locations and are of course expected to respect the privacy of their guests. Airbnb asks hosts to fully disclose whether there are security cameras or other surveillance equipment at or around the listing and to get consent where required."

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    Harry's Shaving 20

    Dollar Shave Club, with its reported two million members, may be the clear leader in the emerging men's razor subscription service market, but younger New York startup Harry's is catching up quickly; and it's doing it with far less spending on traditional advertising.

    Since launching in March 2013, Harry's has focused on a selective and efficient influencer model as opposed to using their capital to catch as many eyeballs as possible.

    Harry's says it has reached well over a million total online customers (defined as people who have purchased at least one item) and is approaching one million subscribers, while maintaining a 60% retention rate among customers who started receiving Harry's razors in the mail every month or every few months.

    "The way we think about [marketing] is that we introduce the brand to people through a credible source," cofounder and co-CEO Jeff Raider said. "So the best form of advertising is you trying Harry's, liking it, and then you telling your friends about it. And that always has been, since the moment we launched."

    When Raider and his cofounder and co-CEO Andy Katz-Mayfield were developing the company pre-launch in 2012, pharmacy brands like Gillette and Schick dominated the industry due to decades of brand awareness and trust, and Dollar Shave Club began slowly acquiring momentum since launching the previous year.

    Dollar Shave Club was going the traditional disrupter path of offering a sufficient alternative to mainstays that was cheaper and more convenient. The company's added value, however, was only its service, since the razors it sells are manufactured by the brand Dorco and available elsewhere at a slightly lower price.

    Harry's, with eight razor blades retailing for $15, would have prices comparable to Dollar Shave Club's premium offering but be of notably higher quality. Raider and Katz-Mayfield determined that the way to achieve this would be to become vertically integrated, manufacturing all of their own products rather than reselling others and owning all means of distribution.

    Harry's Shaving 14

    The founders' outreach focus would be, and still is, "telling guys everywhere that there is finally an option that they can be proud of" that's "at a price they feel really good about."

    As Raider explained in a 2014 guest post on author and investor Tim Ferriss' blog, their pre-launch strategy focused on building brand awareness through social media teasers that compelled viewers to register their emails for Harry's updates and get their friends to do the same through tiered rewards. If a person got 50 friends to sign up, he'd win a year of free shaving — more than 200 people reached that goal. On launch day, Harry's was able to send an announcement to each of the 100,000 emails it had collected in one week.

    Additionally, Raider told Business Insider, Harry's team "sent the products to hundreds of people, ranging from family to friends to highly discerning grooming editors at major magazines. We wrote personal notes to each and were so excited to share the brand with them." For example, GQ's style editors enjoyed Harry's aesthetics and performance and wrote a positive review in their magazine, which drove sales.

    Even Raider's guest post on Ferriss' blog, with a supportive introduction from Ferriss himself, was a strong source of traffic to Harry's site due to its personalized tone and seal of approval from Ferriss to his hundreds of thousands of loyal readers.

    Harry's Shaving 11Over the past couple years, Harry's has been a regular podcast advertiser, but its marketing team tries to make partnerships that will sound as authentic as possible.

    "When we think about working with a new media partner, we send the hosts products to try out," Raider said. "We feel that it's really important for them use our product. If both parties feel like it's a good fit, we will move forward with a sponsorship, and we ask them to organically describe their personal experience with Harry's on-air."

    Harry's main advantage is that it can promote having superior products and good value due to its business model. It has raised a total of $287.1 million at a valuation of $750 million, and used more than $100 million of that to acquire a German razor factory last year. Raider and Katz-Mayfield said they are using their money to further develop the factory and improve their products while maintaining their affordable prices.

    They think in the long term their strategy can continue to win customers from the big guys like Gillette and trump Dollar Shave Club's expensive advertising push.

    "Our biggest challenge is just awareness," Raider said. "If you surveyed the whole US population, a very small percentage of people know that Harry's exists, what Harry's is and what it stands for. ... So I think as we get older as a business and a company and have more customers who tell more people about us, word spreads, and that's naturally led to acceleration of our growth, which has been exciting."

    SEE ALSO: The cofounders of a $750 million startup explain why they decided to have 2 CEOs

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    Sadiq Khan

    London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan will today call on Westminster to devolve more powers relating to Tech City to the mayor's office, as he looks to put the UK capital on a par with San Francisco.

    "Tech City" is the name given to an area around Old Street Roundabout in Shoreditch, East London, which is home to the majority of the capital's startups.

    "It’s high time London took over more responsibility for Tech City from the tired control of Whitehall," Khan will say during a visit to Tech City today.

    "London has made a great fist of carving out a leading position as a centre of tech but there’s much more to do to ensure we build on this success," he will add. "As mayor, I won’t be satisfied just sustaining our position as the tech capital of Europe — I have global ambitions and want our tech sector to be on a par with New York and San Francisco.

    "But we can only do this if we tackle head on the things which are holding us back. As mayor, I’d use my powers and directly intervene to protect the dwindling workspaces and startup locations for tech and creative companies across London. I’d also ensure that the next generation of tech talent is coming from the classroom’s of London’s schools and colleges."

    Khan, who claims he will be the most pro-business London mayor ever, will also pledge to tackle the "chronic failure" of superfast broadband in London. At present, London average broadband speeds are slower than the European average and among the worst in the country, according to Khan.

    Khan will pledge to use planning powers to ensure there is an ongoing commitment to investing in digital connectivity infrastructure. He will also commit to launch an urgent review into why London is failing in the provision of next generation superfast broadband, holding to account central government and the private companies responsible for the infrastructure, as well as outlining urgent solutions to the problem.

    However, local tech entrepreneur Rodolfo Rosini said Tech City issues are irrelevant if City Hall fails to address housing and transportation issues.

    And Eileen Burbidge, the chair of Tech City UK, released this statement about Khan's comments:

    London plays a central role in the UK’s digital economy and it’s encouraging to hear that it will remain a priority for the new Mayoral candidates. It is absolutely necessary that London continues to attract and develop digital skills and businesses and build on the incredible momentum that’s been growing over the past five years. We very much look forward to maintaining our strong partnership with London and its new Mayor, as well as all the other cities and regions across the UK.

     

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