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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider
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    Susan Fowler

    • For the last year, Silicon Valley in general and the venture-capital community in particular has been trying to come to terms with the tech industry's longstanding gender discrimination and sexual harassment problems.
    • Many venture firms are more seriously examining and weighing allegations of sexual harassment made against the founders and managers of startups they're considering backing, those inside the industry say.
    • Venture firms and startups themselves are putting more emphasis on companies having diverse management teams and workforces.
    • But not everyone is convinced Silicon Valley has a gender discrimination problem — or that venture capital should do anything about it.
    • And despite the heightened awareness, the industry has done little to address its underlying problem — the venture capital business itself lacks diversity.

    Dana Kanze has a pretty good sense of how the tech industry thinks about women.

    A former entrepreneur and CEO of a tech company, Kanze studies how women are treated in the venture capital and startup worlds as a doctoral fellow at Columbia Business School. In the last 18 months — in the wake of Donald Trump's election and Susan Fowler's famous post about her "strange year" at Uber and the explosion of public accusations of sexual harassment in the tech industry — she's noticed a distinct shift in attitudes in the venture capital community.

    VCs in general are more aware of gender discrimination issues, of how poorly women are often treated in the industry, and of research that indicates that firms with more diverse partners tend to have better returns, she said. And women in the venture industry are more willing to speak up about the discrimination and other challenges they've faced.

    "I've had very positive discussions across the board," Kanze said.

    But she's also gotten pushback. One Silicon Valley VC she spoke with challenged the very notion that gender discrimination exists or that his firm should do anything about it.

    "He basically disregarded the issue out of hand," Kanze said.

    Kanze's observations mirror those of others inside and outside the venture capital industry. Many say what became the #MeToo movement has had a marked influence on the business. But not everyone in the industry has taken it seriously or thoughtfully, and it's unclear whether the movement will effect lasting change.

    "More and more venture firms are looking at their firms and seeing what they can do to be more inclusive and to create an environment where everyone — regardless of gender or race or personality differences — can thrive," said Fern Mandelbaum, a partner at Vista Venture Partners who teaches classes about diversity and entrepreneurship at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

    But, she continued, "by no means is it the majority. I wish it was."

    Gender discrimination is a longstanding problem in Silicon Valley

    Gender discrimination is nothing new in the tech industry, much less in corporate America. But Silicon Valley in general and the venture business in particular have long been resistant to doing much about it.

    For decades, women have been vastly underrepresented in tech and venture. Female-founded startups have attracted a tiny fraction of the funds drawn by those founded by their male counterparts. And women partners in the VC are so rare that some firms still don't have any. When major firms name their first woman partner — as Sequoia did just two years ago when it hired Jess Lee — it's big news.

    Coupled with the lack of female representation have been persistent rumors that those women who did find work in the industry often had to contend with toxic work environments and sexual harassment. Few spoke out publicly about what they faced, and those that did — most notably former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Paofound themselves under attack.

    Dave McClureBut in the last year or so, a bright spotlight has been shone on the way Silicon Valley treats women. It started with Fowler's blog post describing how she was allegedly sexually harassed by her manager at Uber and how the company's human resources department did nothing to address that or other complaints she made about how women were treated at the company. That post spurred a major investigation at Uber that eventually led to the resignation of its CEO, Travis Kalanick, the ouster of several other executives, and the firing of more than 20 employees.

    More importantly, Fowler's post — and the change it led to at Uber — spurred other women to come forward. By the end of the year, numerous executives and venture partners, including powerful figures such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Steve Jurvetson and 500 Startups CEO Dave McClure, had resigned under clouds of allegations.

    The women who came forward and the consequences that followed helped raised awareness of gender discrimination issues in the Valley — and what might happen if the industry tried to continue with business as usual, those inside and outside the industry said.

    Venture capitalists are starting to act 'like grownups'

    In the venture capital business, this newfound awareness has led partners to think more about the lack of diversity in their ranks, they said. In general, venture firms are trying to bring more women into the business and trying to make sure their funds aren't biased against women, said Duncan Davidson, a general partner at Bullpen Capital.

    "I think most people in the business are acting like grownups," Davidson said.

    The heightened awareness of gender discrimination has also spurred venture investors to pay more attention to rumors of sexual harassment at the startups they're considering investing in, Duncan and others in the industry say. They're doing more digging into such allegations and it's more likely if they find something that they'll walk away from potential deals, they said. Such allegations are taken particularly seriously if they're being made about the startups' founders or management, said one Silicon Valley VC, who asked not to be named.

    "Before July 2017, most people would have looked the other way" the VC said. "The standards have changed."

    The newfound focus on gender issues in the Valley has also opened up opportunities for female entrepreneurs and investors and for firms that have long pushed for diversity. Last fall, for example, Sequoia's Lee, together with several other female venture partners, launched Female Founder Office Hours, an organization devoted to offering coaching to women entrepreneurs.

    Diversity is being pushed inside and outside startups

    Obvious Ventures, which was started by Twitter cofounder Ev Williams, has emphasized the importance of its portfolio companies having diverse workforces since it started, said James Joaquin, one of the firm's cofounders. About a year ago, Joaquin proposed that venture firms include something he called the "world positive term sheet"in the contracts they sign when they invest in startups. The non-binding agreement would encourage companies to make a positive impact on the world, including by building diverse teams.

    More recently, Obvious has been pushing for startups to put in place formal procedures for handling complaints by employees accusing managers of sexual harassment and other bad behaviors. Larger companies typically have such formal channels, but they are often lacking at startups, Joaquin noted.

    james joaquin obvious venturesSuch initiatives have gained new attention in the wake of the Valley's MeToo moment, as has the focus on giving women more opportunities, he said.

    "I think we've made more progress in the last 12 months than in the last 12 years prior to that," Joaquin said.

    Relatedly, startups are focusing earlier in their lifespans on putting in place human resources teams to ensure they have good hiring and management practices in place, said Jennifer Carolona, a cofounder and general partner at Reach Capital. Meanwhile, she's found that workers — particularly younger ones — within Reach's portfolio companies are becoming more vocal in pressing their companies to have greater diversity among their executives and directors.

    There's a "groundswell," Carolona said. Socially conscious Millennial workers "really putting pressure (on companies) to make sure they have diversity," she said.

    Not everyone is on board

    Still, for all the heightened awareness and high-profile resignations, not everyone has signed on to do something about gender discrimination in the Valley and the changes have by no means upended the way the industry goes about its business.

    Ellen PaoFemale VCs are still few and far between. Female founders still struggle to get funded. Women engineers still are a distinct minority. And tales of sexual harassment still keep percolating out of the industry.

    While many VCs have reacted to this moment by trying to be fairer to women, the lesson others have drawn is just that they need to be more careful of what they say around women or that they need to avoid them entirely, said Bullpen's Davidson.

    "There are some people who are acting like grown ups and others that are acting like children," he said.

    While many VCs are paying closer attention to sexual harassment allegations, others still don't care. Indeed the chance that a firm will look away from such allegations within a startup it's considering investing in is still about "50-50," said the VC who asked not to be named.

    And it's an open question whether addressing gender discrimination and stamping out sexual harassment will remain a priority for the industry. It's still early days, said Pao, now a partner at Kapor Capital.

    "It was heartening to see some investors step back from certain investments because of these risks, but disheartening to see others invest anyway," she said in an email.

    In one high-profile example, the popular trivia app HQ Trivia was unable to raise money at the end of 2017 as the company was dogged by allegations of past behavior by cofounder Colin Kroll during his time working at Twitter.

    Earlier this month, HQ Trivia raised $15 million, from Founders Fund, which reportedly carried out its own investigation and decided to put one of its female partners on the board as part of the deal. In a statement to the news site Axios, Kroll apologized for past "things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable" but said he had never sexually harassed anyone while at Twitter.

    Silicon Valley hasn't dealt with its underlying problem

    As much attention as gender discrimination issues have gotten in Silicon Valley in the last year, the tech industry has yet to address the underlying structural issues that give rise to such unequal treatment, said Y-Vonne Hutchison, founder and CEO of ReadySet, a consulting firm that works with companies that are trying to create more diverse workforces.

    They're continuing to invest in people and technology that look certain way. They're not changing who's in power ... Without that, there can be no change.

    The crux of the problem, she and other critics say, comes down to what they call pattern matching. Venture capitalists are largely white and male and come from affluent backgrounds. In their minds, they know what a successful entrepreneur looks like. No surprise, it's typically someone white and male who comes from a privileged upbringing.

    It's a self-perpetuating system, because when looking for new partners, venture firms often want to hire the people who founded successful startups — who happen to be the white, rich male entrepreneurs they funded in the first place.

    "They're continuing to invest in people and technology that look certain way. They're not changing who's in power," Hutchison said. She continued: "Without that, there can be no change."

    Indeed, whether the Valley's MeToo moment will maintain its momentum and prompt further changes or just peter out is anyone's guess.

    "It's a favorable time for change," said Mitch Kapor, a longtime champion of diversity and founder of Kapor Capital. "But if people wait for the storm clouds to pass and for it to blow over — that could happen."

    SEE ALSO: This Stanford grad went from living in motels to working in VC — here's his unusual path and how he wants to help others like him

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: I quit cable for DirecTV Now and it's saving me over $1,000 a year — here's how I did it

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    kathryn minshew

    • Entrepreneur Kathryn Minshew is the cofounder and CEO of The Muse.
    • In her seed round of investing, she was rejected 148 times.
    • In the Series A round, she was more strategic about pitching investors and figured out how to ensure that her idea was viable.

    A different type of entrepreneur might have given up.

    And after 148 rejections from investors, no one would have faulted her for throwing in the towel.

    But if there's one thing Kathryn Minshew values, it's perseverance— when one approach doesn't work, she's ready to try another.

    Minshew is the cofounder and CEO of job-search and career-advice site The Muse. At this point, she and her colleagues have raised nearly $30 million.

    But as Minshew told CFP Bobbi Rebell on an episode of the podcast "Financial Grownup," the site had a rocky start, fielding one "no" after another during their seed round of investing.

    In their Series A round, Minshew told Rebell, she was more deliberate about the way she pitched investors. She found that two strategies in particular helped her.

    1. She pinned all of her first meetings with investors to a roughly three-week period.

    Before that, Minshew said, she'd take whatever appointment the investors had available.

    Now, she'd ask them to meet in a specific time frame and if they said they weren't available, she'd respond with something like: "I need to get all of our first meetings done by X date. I can push it a few days. Let me know if you're going to be able to make it work, and if not, totally fine. Maybe there will be another round that you can participate in."

    Inevitably, Minshew said, many investors would say they'd move around their schedule to fit in the meeting. "And the ones that weren't able to or the ones that said, ‘No, sorry, I can't do it,' they probably would have never backed the company to begin with," she added.

    2. She solicited candid feedback from her end users.

    This second strategy allowed her to stay confident that her idea was viable.

    "If you tell someone you're the founder of a company and ask for their input, they're more likely to give you positive input because they don't want to hurt your feelings," Minshew said.

    "If you tell them that you're a consultant, helping a company understand how its market positioning lands or helping a company better understand what it's doing well and what it's not, people are much more likely to give you totally unfiltered feedback."

    Based on the feedback she was getting from her target audience, Minshew said, she understood that she had "tapped a nerve." Even though there were areas where they could improve, there was a need for The Muse.

    Minshew said, "We were on a path that people loved."

    Listen to the full podcast episode »

    SEE ALSO: Here's the cold LinkedIn message that prompted a CEO to give the sender a job

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This startup raised $50 million to sell brand-less products online for $3

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    Patrick Stapleton

    • Patrick Stapleton founded, a CMS platform that was accepted into Y Combinator's 2018 class.
    • Stapleton, a college dropout, learned to code almost entirely from resources he found online.
    • He says he owes his education in coding to Codecademy, another Y Combinator company. 

    In March, Patrick Stapleton launched his company,, a content management system that's geared toward nontechnical users. Despite creating a highly technical product, Stapleton's route to programming recalls the nontraditional path taken by many  startup founders before him:  Stapleton is a college dropout and a self-learner who learned to code almost entirely from resources he found on the internet.

    Stapleton first began coding in high school, when he started tinkering with the HTML and CSS code on his Myspace page. It wasn't long before his glitzed-out profile caught the eye of other teens at school, and soon he was receiving commissions to design custom layouts for his classmates. 

    "Everyone in high school wanted a custom layout," Stapleton said in an interview with Business Insider. "I had the best-looking Myspace profile at school, and everyone was asking me to make them one." From there, Stapleton began soliciting small businesses, charging anywhere from $20 to $200 for a tailor-made Myspace page. 

    At first, Stapleton thought that his flare for aesthetics would land him a career in graphic design. But then, as he began toying with the back end of more and more web pages, he realized that his passion lay not in design, but in writing the code for the websites themselves. Eager to learn more about coding, Stapleton began to explore the web f0r more resources.

    "I was really obsessed," he said. "At that stage, I was like a sponge." 

    When Stapleton first began coding in 2011, there weren't as many online resources as there are today. Of the few programs he used, Stapleton said that Codecademy, which had been launched early that year, was the one that occupied most of his time. Nearly every day, Stapleton said he worked from 9 am to midnight on Codecademy learning coding languages like JavaScript, Ruby, HTML, CSS, and Python.

    "I'd wake up everyday and learn everything I could," he said. "It was like a full time job."

    Two years later, Stapleton was ready to put his programming skills to the test, and in 2013, he entered a hackathon where he helped build the Reddit analytics site, Reddit Insight. The project won the contest, and in an unexpected twist, went viral. 

    Reddit Insight

    "It was picked up by everyone," Stapleton said. "I started getting calls from Apple and Twitter  big companies that I never thought I would work with because I was still learning how to code."

    And while Stapleton had yet to graduate from Codecademy, he was soon working on projects for Google, Netflix, and several Fortune 500 companies.

    But despite his high-profile freelance work, Stapleton ultimately opted for an alternate path. Last year, he decided to create his own product: a content management system that would provide seamless collaboration between content creators and developers. 

    In an effort to grow his new project, Stapleton and his team applied to enter prestigious Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator's 2018 class. "We didn’t think we would get in," said Stapleton. "We thought 'Hey, let’s just apply and see if it works.'" 

    To Stapleton's surprise, Y Combinator picked Tipe up immediately, and on March 19, Stapleton launched the company at Y Combinator's Demo Day. 

    Stapleton credits his company's fledgling success to the resources he found online as a programmer and specifically to Codeacdemy, which went through Y Combinator's 2011 class  the same year Stapleton discovered the platform.  Stapleton said he believes that his nontraditional education in coding is indicative of Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial culture.

    "It's getting easier for everyone to pick up this skill set and learn how to code," he said. "It's all about creating products that make coding more accessible."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: YouTube and Facebook have a serious problem with 'promoted' conspiracies about the Parkland shooting

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.


    • Modsy is a service that makes 3D models of the rooms you want to decorate based on pictures you send and its basic dimensions.
    • The company's interior designers will create two versions of the room, decorated with furniture from popular home stores that you can actually buy and that match your tastes and budget. 
    • For $69, you'll get the home designs and the ability to edit them on your own. For $199, you'll get more features, like a stylist who will chat with you and make adjustments and recommendations to the design for you.

    If you've ever bought a piece of furniture online and realized only after the setup that it either didn't fit the space physically or aesthetically, you can already name at least one time when you would have benefited from a service like Modsy.

    Modsy is an online company that lets you upload photos and dimensions of any room and then creates a 3D model, complete with recommendations from an interior designer on how to fill it — using furniture from popular home decor stores that you can buy after the fact at a discount through Modsy. If you've already got a nightstand or bed frame, you can pay $10 and Modsy will make a 3D model of it as well, so you truly never have to wonder about what something will look like once put together. You also don't need to crawl around your house with a tape measurer. 

    There are two pricing options, but for both, you'll receive a 3D model of your room, curated products that match your style profile, two custom designs of how to put it together, and unlimited edits to the room itself. Every furniture option is real and shoppable, and they show you which products are used in a bar at the bottom of the design. Not only can you view the room from all the angles you'd find while standing in it, you can also see it from a bird's-eye view. At $69 for the most basic pricing level, it's a lot of value (especially for those who have a tough time imagining something like that on their own) for a low cost, especially when it's for an important investment like furniture.

    In my experience, the value was definitely worth the price. The 3D designs were extremely helpful and also allowed me to be more creative with the space.

    The furniture the Modsy designers use is all chosen to fit your preferences, and if you're not sure if you like "traditional" or "urban," as I wasn't, there's also a quiz they'll direct you to which will help you discover that.

    If you love the furniture and want to shop it, you can buy directly through Modsy and you'll receive a discount on your purchase. For the first pricing option, you'll get $20 off, and for the second you'll receive $50 off. 

    Right now, get 25% off a design package when you use "FALL25" at checkout.

    Studio Image_preview

    When I used Modsy, it came as a complete relief. I was moving to a new place after college and wanted to take furniture shopping more seriously, but interior design is not a natural gift. I can appreciate when things look put-together, and I know what I like, but being on the other side of things isn’t easy, particularly the visualization (which Modsy took care of for me). While my spacial awareness allowed me to parallel park during my license exam without hitting any cones, it doesn't transfer to sofas for the living room as easily. Not being able to imagine all of the furniture, light fixtures, and rugs together also had me buying more basic furniture simply so that I would know it would go together. Modsy allowed me more freedom and creativity. 

    Modsy, like the best of services, did something I could not have done on my own — and did it very well for a moderate price. I would have been more than happy to shell out $69 for what was included in the basic package, but as I wanted to invest in furniture I could have for a while, I was also happy to part with $199 for the added style advice their second option offered.

    Even if you can't afford all the items Modsy uses to fill your space (although they do customize the selection to your budget), it's still a great way to get ideas from experts at an affordable price. I pay a lot in rent so that I can enjoy where I live, and I felt like Modsy was a valuable tool as an extension of that. 

    For me, Modsy was a great service. Their pricing seems more than fair for what you get in return, and it helped me enlist experts to do a job I knew they could do much better than me. Modsy helped me make the most out of my apartment and made sure I did so without wasting money on furniture I would later hate.

    If you’re moving and don’t have the mind of an interior designer but want to love your space, I can’t recommend the service highly enough.

    Here’s how the process works:

    SEE ALSO: This startup makes sofas that sound almost too good to be true — they’re easy to move and only take 10 minutes to build

    Getting started:

    To begin, head to the Modsy homepage and click "get started" to start the questionnaire. 

    Select which room they'll be creating a 3D model of for you.

    And select what the reason for the redesign is.

    If you're moving and looking to completely revamp your space, or just want to update your living room, Modsy will be able to help.

    Sign up to get a 3D model of your own home decorating project here.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Liz Wessel

    Female-founded companies are on the rise.

    From talks with investors and leaders in venture capital, we've rounded up a list of 10 female-founded companies that you should be paying attention to in 2018. These leading founders have set their sights on disrupting major markets like fashion, cosmetics, feminine products, online networking, and grocery delivery. 

    Check out the companies you should be paying attention to this year: 

    SEE ALSO: The 50 best-paying big companies, according to employees

    DON'T MISS: The 50 best small companies to work for of 2017, according to employees

    Maven is a telemedicine company that provides digital solutions for women's health.

    Founder: Katherine Ryder

    Funding: $15.3 million 

    What it does: Maven's app connects women to healthcare practitioners through video and private messaging and provides a community centered on women's health.

    Why it's taking off: The company has partnered with several high-profile companies (including Snapchat's parent company, Snap, and a number of Fortune 500 companies) that now offer Maven's maternity services to their employees. 


    Shippo, which was founded five years ago by Laura Behrens Wu, helps small businesses mail out packages with ease and efficiency.

    Founder: Laura Behrens Wu

    Funding: $20 million Series B

    What it does: Shippo connects businesses with a network of shipping carriers worldwide.

    Why it's taking off: Shippo is tackling the e-commerce industry by providing a way for small businesses to send out goods with the efficiency of Amazon.

    Glossier is redefining the online cosmetics marketplace.

    Founder: Emily Weiss

    Funding: Since 2015, Glossier has raised $86.4 million.

    What it does: Glossier is an online cosmetics marketplace. 

    Why it's taking off: In just three years, Glossier has overtaken a sizeable portion of the cosmetics market with its direct-to-consumer approach to beauty products. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    walmart 7897

    • Recent news on Walmart and Amazon suggests the two could be readying for war over the over-65 crowd. 
    • Walmart's looking at buying pharmacy startup Pillpack, according to CNBC, and is interested in new partnerships with Humana. Those two deals could change the way Walmart serves the elderly. 
    • The same crowd is clearly a focus for Amazon, also. Babak Parviz, a vice president at Amazon, said in February that the elderly was something "we deeply care about." 

    The US population is aging. By 2050, the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to be double what it was in 2012.

    An aging population means we'll see an increase in health concerns and chronic conditions like heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer that can be costly to manage. It also offers a business opportunity for those companies best placed to meet the healthcare needs of this growing population.

    Rivals Amazon and Walmart both seem to have the elderly on their radar, with reports of potential takeovers by Walmart that include a pharmacy startup and a health insurer focused on Medicare plans. Amazon's early moves in healthcare offer the promise of helping the company serve a community it has struggled to reach, meanwhile.

    It appears the stage is being set for a battle between Walmart and Amazon for America's elderly. 

    A wave of potential deals for Walmart

    Humana has held early-stage talks with Walmart focused primarily on new partnerships, though an acquisition has been brought up, multiple news outlets reported last week. While you probably think of Walmart as a giant retail business, it's also one of the largest pharmacy chains in the US, behind only Walgreens and CVS.

    And on Monday, CNBC reported that Walmart is looking to buy Pillpack, a pharmacy startup that mails prescriptions that are packaged together based on when they need to be taken. Pillpack declined to comment. Walmart didn't respond to requests for comment. 

    Walmart may be known as a retail giant, but it's one of the biggest pharmacy chains in the US. It's also long had a focus on affordable prescriptions as well, offering some generic medications for $4.

    Walmart's historically had an interest in the Medicare population. For example, Humana and Walmart have a cobranded Medicare drug plan and an initiative that provides healthy-food credits.

    Should Walmart and Humana link up on more partnerships and a potential acquisition, Walmart would become more embedded with Humana's Medicare business, which is the health insurer's main focus.

    Under a combined Walmart-Humana, adding on a service like Pillpack could make a lot of sense geared at an elderly population that tends to have more prescriptions and more chronic conditions.

    Pillpack works with Part D and Medicare Advantage plans to provide prescriptions to members. This can be beneficial to the commercial health plans that can get better reimbursements from Medicare based on making sure members don't lapse in picking up their prescriptions.

    Should the deals materialize, it could put Walmart in an interesting position when it comes to taking care of an aging population.

    "This reported interest by Walmart is consistent with a focus on seniors, as PillPack's value proposition helps with seniors who have multiple prescriptions," and Humana is a leading Medicare Advantage managed care organization, Bernstein analyst Lance Wilkes wrote in a note Tuesday. 

    Amazon's interest in the aging population

    People over 55 aren't among the biggest users of Amazon Prime, which could be a case for Amazon getting into healthcare.

    "We note too that the older demographic still under-indexes toward Prime membership...which speaks to the opportunity for Pharma to help Amazon further penetrate the ~80 million 55+ population in the United States," Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note in November speculating on Amazon's entry into healthcare.

    Since then, Amazon's ambitions in healthcare have become clearer. The tech giant is teaming up with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway on a nonprofit healthcare initiative, and it already sells over-the-counter medication, including an exclusive line called Basic Care.

    While those moves don't necessarily spell out a focus on the aging population, Babak Parviz, a vice president at Amazon, said at Klick Health's Muse event in New York in February that the elderly was something "we deeply care about." 

    "We have looked at the older population in the context of health obviously, but we know that this group has a lot of issues, a lot of unmet need, some of them relate to health, but their health and the broader issues that they face are all interrelated," Parviz said. 

    SEE ALSO: Walmart's talks with an insurance giant could be part of an assault on Amazon Prime

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    rapid ramen cooker $7.99

    Nine seasons in and hundreds of products later, the show "Shark Tank" continues to entertain us as well as the panel of celebrity investors with creative pitches. However, that doesn't always mean the products are actually good. Some end up being a little too creative or out-there and border on plain gimmicky or "Who would even use that?"

    We looked through all the "Shark Tank" products available for purchase and came away with a selection of star products for the home that made us curse and ask ourselves, "Why didn't we think of this earlier?"

    Many solve for the wasteful design of many common products you already use, while others address the annoying inconveniences that everyone experiences. 

    Check out the "Shark Tank" home products that are worth buying below.

    SEE ALSO: The 20 best gifts that got their start on ‘Shark Tank’

    A spring-loaded laundry hamper

    This hamper drops down as you add clothes and rises as you remove them, meaning doing laundry will no longer be that uncomfortable chore you never look forward to. It eases the strain on your lower back, so it's especially great for expecting mothers, people with bad backs, and the elderly. 

    Household Essentials Lifter Hamper, $29.99, available at Amazon

    A self-cleaning dog potty

    If you've already tried many indoor potty training systems, your search ends here with the world's first self-cleaning dog potty. You can adjust the timer to automatically change a dirty pad one, two, or three times a day, or manually change it with a push of a button. The machine will wrap and seal the waste, keeping your home clean and odor-free. It's best for dogs under 25 pounds. 

    BrilliantPad Self-Cleaning & Automatic Indoor Dog Potty + 1 Roll, $149.99, available at Amazon

    Note: Currently only available through third-party sellers

    A rapid ramen cooker

    Granted ramen is already a pretty convenient meal to make, this tool makes the process even easier. The water line stops you from overfilling the bowl, the bowl doesn't get overly hot, and you don't need to use a pot and stove. It's perfect for anyone who doesn't have access to a kitchen, including students living in dorms and office workers. 

    Rapid Ramen Cooker (Red), $8.58, available at Amazon

    Note: Currently only available thorugh third-party sellers


    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Sarah Lacy

    • Chairman Mom is a new site for working moms created by PandoDaily founder Sarah Lacy. It aims to provide mothers with a network of support on a  judgment-free platform.
    • The site offers an ad-free platform that costs users $5 a month to join.
    • Chairman Mom's revenue model is intended to shut down trolling and promote positive online behavior. 


    In the wake of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, there's been a growing debate surrounding the role of social media giants. How do social networks ensure user privacy? How do they promote good behavior online? How do they keep problematic ads from surfacing on their sites? 

    One brand-new site might have the answer, and it's offering a solution to an often overlooked segment of the population: working moms.

    The site is Chairman Mom, the brainchild of  journalist and PandoDaily founder Sarah Lacy, who is creating an online community focused on connecting moms with a network of support where they can chat about their daily challenges on a pointedly judgment-free platform.  

    "What we're launching is a subscription-based platform to rebrand working motherhood," Lacy said in an interview with Business Insider. "Before I became a mom, I always heard about the guilt that working moms felt and the stigmas they faced. I had friends who would say things to me like, 'Get ready to feel like a failure all of the time.'”

    Lacy says the extreme pressure mothers face within the workforce is manifested not only in the office place, but in online interactions as well. "There's so many mother-focused Facebook groups where it turns into tribalism and mommy wars and horrible threads that end with someone calling someone else a bad mother," said Lacy.

    At Chairman Mom, Lacy aims to check these tribalistic, antagonistic behaviors at the door. "There's no such thing as being a s----y mother," said Lacy. "We're changing the stigma of women feeling like shit for doing something great for their families."

    Chairman Mom

    Trolling and bullying are problems that have long troubled the online landscape, but Lacy says the key to maintaining good behavior online resides in how a site is built, rather than the people that populate it. 

    For Lacy, creating a judgment-free platform meant rethinking the site's revenue model from the ground up.

    To join Chairman Mom, users are charged a flat fee of $5 a month, and the site is a deliberately ad-free zone. That's because Lacy's fundamental agreement with the people who use her platform differs radically from that of most other mainstream social media sites. "Our users are the customer and not the product," said Lacy. "We won't obsessively track you, and we aren't trying to repackage you to sell to Procter and Gamble."

    "There's so many little things that are done within social media sites that promote fighting and drama because fighting and drama make you come back to the site again and again," said Lacy.

    With a subscription-based platform devoid of ads, there's no residual lure in attracting visitors to the site to gain revenue. A flat monthly fee not only incentivizes good behavior online, but it ensures that the people participating have some financial stake in the site itself. "You need a sense of barrier to create a trusted community online," said Lacy. "Five dollars a month isn't very much, but it's enough of a barrier to promote good behavior."

    And while a subscription-based platform might promote good behavior online, Lacy says Chairman Mom is firm on moderating users as well. Users can flag content for removal, and if an item is flagged three times, it's automatically pulled from the site. 

    Lacy's values for Chairman Mom reflect the unflinching critical insight she's levied on tech giants like Uber and Facebook during the years she spent working as a tech reporter in Silicon Valley. Lacy has long believed that social networks like Twitter and Facebook don't do enough to shut down trolling and abuse on their platforms. "These are wide open unenforced social networks that don't take these problems seriously," she said. "I’ve always had the point of view that if a tech company tells you that something like moderating commenters is hard, what they mean is that they don’t care about it."

    While Lacy believes that Chairman Mom is targeting a large segment of the population, she's realistic about the platform's limitations. For instance, she doesn't expect Chairman Mom to entirely negate the use of Facebook in the coming years for working moms.

    "I don't for a second think that there will be billions of people uninstalling Facebook," said Lacy. "What you're going to see is a shift in how people spend their time on Facebook. People are going to be using Facebook less, and we are carving a way out of Facebook in terms of what is a part of life."

    Chairman Mom

    While Chairman Mom's exclusive focus on working mothers might at first seem a niche market, the platform has caught the eye of several prominent investors. Its $1.4 million in seed funding was led by Floodgate Ventures and included prominent firms like Greylock Discovery and Precursor Ventures.

    Lacy describes Chairman Mom's market as a massive opportunity. "This is not a small or niche product," she said. "It’s going to grow in a sustainable way. If this is our number one focus, it's not that hard to pull off. There are a bunch of tech companies that pull off way harder things than not having a troll-based environment."

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    Jennifer Inthavong

    • Poshmark is a fashion marketplace app that lets users buy and sell used-clothing online.
    • Jennifer Inthavong, a Poshmark seller in LA, says that she's netted $480,000 since she started selling on the app in 2013. 
    • She's since quit her job in order to stay at home and sell clothing on Poshmark full time. 

    After Jennifer Inthavong had her first child five years ago, she realized that she wanted to stay at home and care for her son full time. However, Inthavong, who worked in LA as an advisor at a local college, knew she would need an alternative income to make that possible.

    One day, while scrolling through Facebook in 2013, she discovered an ad for Poshmark, a fashion marketplace that lets users sell used clothing online.

    Inthavong had a stash of handbags and clothing taking up space in her closet, and she decided to see if her unwanted items could turn a profit on Poshmark. When the items sold a short while later, she was immediately hooked. 

    "At first, I was buying more than I was selling," Inthavong told Business Insider. "But then I started looking through the closets on Poshmark, and realized that people were actually making money off of the clothes they were selling."

    Jennifer Inthavong

    And so, Inthavong started meticulously assembling her own online "closet" for Poshmark — an inventory of clothing and accessories that reflect a seller's available items and often, their individual fashion sense.

    Inthavong, who at first started listing only the goods in her closet that she no longer wore, was soon considering turning her Poshmark inventory into a full-time business: selling clothing culled from LA boutiques to buyers online. 

    While the app at first presented a learning curve in how to attract a steady stream of buyers, Inthavong soon realized she would grab customers by strongly representing her own style and taste. She also followed top sellers, taking notes on the comprehensive inventories they offered online. 

    "You have to get the feel for it, and it's a learning curve, but the community on Posh is very helpful,"  said Inthavong. 

    For Inthavong, Poshmark's sense of community was a defining feature that set the app apart from other online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. On Poshmark, Inthavong said she was soon making personal connections with the people who bought her goods, beyond just talking about style, sizing or fit.

    "It's a little like Facebook, but with fashion," she said. "You follow people and build a community. It's all based on relationships. My buyers know me personally. They know about my son. They know about my family."

    Inthavong said that one of the most compelling aspects of working through Poshmark is the chance to meet her network of online friends in person.

    "When I first started, I threw a local meet-up for all of the people that I talk to over the app," she said. "There was a Posh seller who flew down from Fresno to attend. I call them my 'Posh friends.'" 

    Aside from the friendships she's made, Inthavong says that connecting with Poshmark's community is integral to her thriving Poshmark business. Inthavong's success on the app has attracted the attention of other sellers, and she says that she often offers advice to other up-and-coming sellers.


    "I'm more than happy to help other people," she said. "I mentor people who want to go all the way, and who are trying to make a living off of it."

    For herself, Inthavong said that she's netted close to half a million dollars since she started selling on Poshmark.

    Her success on Poshmark wasn't instant and it wasn't easy. But after years of building up her network of buyers, and fine-tuning where she buys her inventory, in 2017, she quit her job and works exclusively at home, full-time, selling on Poshmark. Now she brings her son along when she stops in to buy items at local clothing manufacturers in downtown LA. 

    Inthavong says that her proximity to LA has been key to keeping her online inventory fashionable and hip. She's developed personal relationships with several downtown vendors and isn't afraid to haggle for a competitive price, 

    While Inthavong says that her sales on the app vary between $5,000 and $10,000 a month, the profit she's made has allowed her to help buy a home along with her boyfriend in a Californian suburb. 

    For sellers who are new to the app, Inthavong says the key to maintaining a successful inventory is all about developing a unique fashion sense.

    "What I tell people is that they should create their closet in way that will make them stand out," she said. "You want to let your inner stylist come out."

    SEE ALSO: How a college dropout learned to code on Codecademy, then launched a company that was accepted into the buzziest Silicon Valley startup incubator

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    Dara Khosrowshahi, Chief Executive Officer of Uber Technologies, looks on as he attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

    • Venture-capital investing hit $28.2 billion in total deals in the first quarter, according to a new report.
    • That's the fourth straight quarter in which the level has topped $20 billion.
    • But fewer companies are getting cash; the 1,693 startups that got funding in the period marked the lowest number since at least 2011.

    Venture-capital investing has soared this year, though the money is flowing to fewer and fewer startups, according to a new report.

    VC firms collectively invested $28.2 billion in startups in the first quarter of 2018, according to a joint report from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association. That amount was up from $23.8 billion firms invested in the fourth quarter of last year and was the most invested in a quarter since at least 2006, according to the report. It also marked the fourth straight quarter in which VC investment topped $20 billion, and it represented a higher dollar amount invested than in all of 2009.

    "2018 is pacing to extend the trends we've grown accustomed to over the last few years of total capital invested figures soaring to unprecedented levels," PitchBook and the NVCA said in the report.

    But much of the money is going to bigger firms, particularly the so-called unicorns — those relative few startups with valuations of more than $1 billion. In the first quarter, 17 unicorns got a combined $7.2 billion in new financing. Among the unicorns that got new funds were Uber, Lyft, and Faraday Future.

    All told, just 1,693 deals closed in the period. That was down from 1,772 deals in the fourth quarter and represented the lowest total in a quarter since at least 2011.

    SEE ALSO: This Stanford grad went from living in motels to working in VC — here's his unusual path and how he wants to help others like him

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    • US Artificial intelligent startups raked in $1.9 billion in venture capital money in Q1 2018, up 29% from the quarter before. 
    • AI accounted for 116 US deals, out of a total of 1,206 across tech sectors.
    • AI accounted for three mega funding rounds — investments over $100 million — out of 34 across the US.
    • Digital healthcare and cybersecurity also ranked alongside AI as the most notable Q1 funding trends.

    Artificial intelligence startups in the US had a record quarter during the first three months of the year, raising $1.9 billion in venture capital across 116 deals, according to the 2018 Q1 MoneyTree Report published on Wednesday. That's 29% growth from the previous quarter. 

    Digital healthcare companies, by contrast, raised $1.4 billion in Q1, while cybersecurity companies raised just $528 million. 

    AI's strong Q1 numbers were underpinned by several mega deals in the space, including a $153 million series B for UiPath, a $112 million series A for, and a $100 million growth round for C3 IoT. 

    The flow of money into AI startups comes as sophisticated computing technologies such as machine learning, speech recognition and image recognition have graduated from the labs and made their way into the commercial market. Many of these AI-based products have the potential to upend major industries, from automobiles to retail. 

    All of the established tech giants — Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft — are spending heavily to bolster their AI capabilities. But an explosion of small startups are also racing to develop new products and services that leverage artificial intelligence capabilities.

    The AI startups come from Romania, China and Silicon Valley

    artificial intelligence robotUiPath is a Romania-grown and New York City-based "software robotics" company that uses AI to do digital busywork that humans don't necessarily want to do. UiPath's $153 million funding round, led by Accel Partners, capitalG and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, valued the startup at $1.1 billion, the company confirmed, a Fremont, California and China-based self-driving car startup, raised its $112 million from Comcast Ventures, Legend Capital and Sequoia Capital China. 

    C3 IoT, a Redwood City, California-based predictive analytics company, raised its $100 million from Sutter Hill Ventures, The Rise Fund and TPG Growth.

    Those three mega funding rounds were among the 34 rounds over $100 million in the US in Q1, which accounted for 34% of the total VC funding over the quarter.  

    Two of the three largest funding rounds in AI were early stage, following the trend of 10% deal growth for investments of that stage.

    Earlier seed stage investments in AI — used to get companies off the ground — accounted for just 26% of all funding rounds, down from 35% in the quarter before.

    Across industries, funding for all US-based, VC-backed startups increased 4%, up to $21.1 billion across 1,206 deals in Q1. But that number is supported by the larger deals, as the total number of investments actually declined by 2% over the quarter. 

    SEE ALSO: It's not just the IPO market that's booming — here's why this Silicon Valley VC says 2018 will also be the year of M&A

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    Amid the tech landscape, unicorns are few and far between.

    Last year, CB Insights tallied the odds of becoming a unicorn  a company valued at $1 billion or more  at under 1%. 

    But already, within the first few months of 2018, a total of 16 companies have overcome those odds and crossed the billion-dollar valuation mark. These companies, which were originally rounded up in a recent report by Pitchbook, are working to transform industries like transportation, medicine, entertainment, data analysis, and farming. 

    While most of the companies to reach unicorn status are located within the US, China was a notable contender with four companies making the list, and Romania celebrated its first unicorn to date, a robotic automation company called UI Path. 

    Here's the full roundup of 2018's freshly-minted unicorns:

    Canva is an Australian company that provides graphic designers with an intuitive platform.

    Year founded: 2012

    Total raised: $96 million

    Currently valued at: $1 billion

    What it does: Canva complements graphic design projects with easy-to-use design software and a comprehensive selection of graphic elements like stock photos and fonts.



    The Chinese company Meicai created an app that connects farmers to restaurants.

    Year founded: 2014

    Total raised: $477 million

    Currently valued at: $2.8 billion

    What it does: Meicai, which translates to "buy vegetables," runs its application on inexpensive cellphones so that Chinese farmers can distribute fresh produce to restaurants in their area.


    Caocao Zhuanche is a Chinese-based ride-share company that operates a fleet of electric and hybrid cars in China.

    Year founded: 2015

    Total raised: $380 million

    Currently valued at: $1.6 billion

    What it does: Caocao has been fighting its way into China's colossal ride-share market. The company offers taxi hailing services, car rental services, and private car touring options. 


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    Jess Lee

    • Sequoia Capital investing partner Jess Lee said that she used an effective tactic to command investors' attention when she was raising capital for her former company, Polyvore.
    • The tactic involved startling all the men at the beginning of pitch meetings by slamming a stack of magazines down loudly on the desk.
    • Along with a group of female founders and investors, Lee is offering practical guidance to female entrepreneurs through the project Female Founder Office Hours.  
    • One of Lee's top tips to female entrepreneuers is to enter their pitch meetings with confidence. 

    Before Jess Lee became the first female investing partner at Sequoia Capital, she was a successful entrepreneur. Lee cofounded Polyvore, a fashion e-commerce company that was acquired by Yahoo for about $200 million.

    But in Polyvore's early days, Lee struggled to raise money for it. 

    Lee would often find herself walking into a room full of disinterested male investors. In order to capture their attention and shake her nerves, she began her pitch meetings with a jarring tactic.

    In an interview with Business Insider, Lee said that she would hold a stack of Vogue magazines tucked under her arm. Without warning, she'd slam them down on the table and announce: "There is $100 million worth of advertising in these magazines."

    She'd pause, then continue, "Now, imagine that on the internet."

    When it comes to raising capital, making an impression in a board meeting filled with potential investors can be integral to a company's success. 

    Laurel Touby, a New York-based entrepreneur and managing partner at Supernode Ventures, said that commanding a room is key to a successful pitch. However, Touby said many female founders she meets with often lack confidence in these situations. 

    "Too often, a woman will walk into the room and her body language will detract from her presentation," said Touby. "She'll speak softly or mumble, or she won't express herself as someone who is expected to be heard and listened to."

    Now that she's an investor, Touby admits a founder's demeanor often has a direct effect on her interest in investing in their company.

    "Unfortunately, I've only invested in a few female-founded companies," said Touby. "I feel turned off when a founder doesn't seem forceful. Being too gentle is a strike against anyone, whether you're a woman or a man, particularly when you're forcing your way into someone's pocketbook."

    Female Founder Office Hours

    Another founder, Binti CEO Felicia Curcuru, said she's used the same theatrical entrance Lee employed when walking into pitch meetings in the past. Binti specializes in developing software for foster care programs.

    "When I was getting capital for a seed round, I'd walk into the room, and again and again, it would be filled with all male investors," Curcuru told Business Insider. "I wanted to show them that I was in charge, so I brought a prop along."

    Curcuru's prop was a massive book filled with pages and pages of foster care and adoption paper work.

    "I wanted to show investors how terrible the current process for foster care and adoption is," said Curcuru. 

    As she entered the room, Curcuru would hurl the book down on the table and announce,"This is what the current process for adoption and foster care is right now."

    Not only did Curcuru end up raising capital, but she found that her forceful entrance had a memorable impact. "Even people who hadn't sat in on the round would know who I was," she said. "They'd say, 'Oh, you're the girl that slammed the binder.' It made an impression."

    Now, Cucuru and Lee are teaming up to offer this kind of practical advice to other female startup founders. The project, called Female Founder Office Hours, pairs women with mentors who can offer guidance on how to build and manage a company, raise capital, and create an effective pitchdeck. 

    Since November, Lee said the project has received interest from close to 1,500 women.  While the amount of interest has been overwhelming, Lee said it didn't surprise her. 

    "I'm a former female founder, and so, no, I'm not surprised," said Lee. "Starting a company is so hard and there's so much inside baseball knowledge on how to fundraise that I wasn't surprised people were crying out for that kind of help."

    One of the project's primary goals is to increase the percentage of venture capital backing for female founders by 10%, said Lee. On Thursday, Female Founder Office Hours announced the addition of more than 120 female founders to its resource base. The group includes CEOs and founders from companies like Glossier, Brandless, Houzz, Shippo, and Stitch Fix who will help guide female founders.

    Entering a room with confidence is among the top tips Lee said she offers to new founders. Another piece of advice Lee emphasizes is the importance of female founders surrounding themselves with like-minded women.

    "It's so important to have a community of founders for empathy and social support," said Lee.

    "We need to get more women out there. Women are perfectly capable of building great companies, and we can get there by helping each other."

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    shark tank rejects main 2

    Throughout its nine seasons, the show "Shark Tank" has averaged four to nine million viewers. It's the biggest public platform that an entrepreneur could hope for, and just a 10-minute pitch on the show can translate to huge sales. Household names like the Scrub Daddy and Tipsy Elves all got their start after successfully striking deals on the show, but even companies that walked away without deals have done well, if not better than companies that did. 

    The founders of these companies took their "Shark Tank" rejections in stride, using them as learning lessons to nonetheless make millions in sales. Money from the judges would've been nice, but it turns out the national exposure can be just as valuable. 

    Check out the 8 companies that you'll be surprised didn't get deals on "Shark Tank" 

    The Bouqs Co.

    Online flower delivery service The Bouqs Co. left the Tank in 2014 without an investment, but Robert Herjavec kept them in mind three years later when he was planning the flowers for his wedding. Herjavec eventually ended up investing after getting a firsthand glimpse into the process behind creating the beautiful arrangements. Co-founder and CEO John Tabis said that there were several days in 2017 when the company sold $1 million in flowers in a day. It's now valued at $43.1 million. 

    Shop flower bouquets at The Bouqs Co.


    This smart video doorbell gives homeowners peace of mind about who's at their door, whether they're at home or not. When Ring founder Jamie Siminoff appeared on the show, he valued his company, then called DoorBot, at $7 million.

    Since then, it's counted prominent investors like Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers,Qualcomm Ventures, Goldman Sachsand Richard Branson among its supporters. Most recently, Amazon bought Ring in a deal worth over $1 billion, a testament to its versatile capabilities beyond home security.

    Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell in Satin Nickel, $134.99, available at Amazon

    Kodiak Cakes

    The co-founder and COO of Kodiak Cakes, a natural food brand that makes whole grain, protein-rich breakfast options, went on the show seeking a $500,000 investment for 10% of their business. Though the Sharks all liked the taste and nutritional benefits of these pancake mixes, none of them agreed with the valuation. 

    Now, it's the fastest-growing pancake mix brand in the US, growing 80% year-on-year and approaching $100 million in revenue. 

    Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Pancake, Flapjack and Waffle Mix (3-Pack), $14.97, available at Amazon

    Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Unleashed Flapjack On the Go Baking Mix (12-Count), $20, available at Amazon


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    Niv Dror

    • AngelList's former head of marketing Niv Dror has launched his own $3 million venture capital fund called Shrug Capital, stylized as  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Capital.
    • The fund has received investment from influential Silicon Valley VCs like Founders Fund's Cyan Banister and Andreessen-Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon.
    • Dror told Business Insider that the shrug emoticon, which he had tattooed on his left wrist two years ago, is among his favorite keyboard shortcut responses.

    In October 2016, Niv Dror  then an editor for product editorial site Product Hunt  tattooed the shrug emoticon onto his left wrist. Less than two years later, Dror has left his position as head of marketing at AngelList to start his own venture capital fund. Like Dror's tattoo, the fund's name draws inspiration from the shrugging emoticon's conjectural figure.

    Dror's $3 million fund, called Shrug Capital — also stylized as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Capital — has attracted interest from several influential Silicon Valley VCs, including Cyan Banister of Founders Fund and Andreessen-Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon.

    In an interview with Business Insider, Dror said that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Capital all started from a tweet he posted last November. "If I ever raise a venture fund I'm calling it:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯," Dror wrote at the time.

    Managing director of Brainard Capital, Owen Brainard, tweeted back: "First step to raising a venture fund is saying 'If I ever raise a venture fund...'" 

    Dror said that Brainard's response planted the first inkling of possibility in his mind that he could raise his own fund. "I've always wanted to be a venture capitalist," said Dror. "But I never considered that I could raise my own fund." 

    Two months after first tweeting about the idea, Dror said he gave Brainard a call to ask if he'd like to invest in Shrug Capital. Brainard agreed, becoming the fund's very first investor.

    Dror said the plan is to create a portfolio of consumer-based companies that he's excited to "talk about for more than an hour with a non-tech audience." Dror said that his experience working with tech products at companies like Product Hunt and Meerkat provides him with insight into consumer-focused startups. 

    Dror's vision for the fund solidified over a recent deal with gameshow trivia app HQ Trivia. "I wanted to invest any amount in HQ," said Dror. "I knew that if I could get into HQ, it would help me raise the fund and get access to competitive deals."

    As for the inspiration behind the firm's name, Dror said that the shrug emoticon has long been his go-to keyboard shortcut response. "I use the shrug emoticon very often," said Dror. "It's much easier than taking a position."

    Despite being named after a doubtful emoticon, Dror said that his fund means serious business, and that the name has received positive feedback from investors.

    "Founders love it," Dror said. "I got an email from a founder a few days ago who said, 'I can't wait to have a shrug emoticon on the cap table.'"

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    material main

    Cooking is not a skill that we simply enter the world knowing. We gain the know-how from a variety of sources — cookbooks, classes, parents, friends, cooking shows — but it can still be complex and confusing.

    In a similar way, that's how most of us shop for and use cookware: bumbling around somewhat nervously, trying to make sense of the different materials and uses, and collecting tools from parents and roommates that have seen countless kitchens before our own. Sure, you can throw out your old pots and pans and start from scratch, but if you want high-quality, well-constructed cookware, you often have to pay up first, spending hundreds of dollars on name brands. 

    You're not alone in these struggles, and just in the past few years, new companies have emerged to lend you a helping hand in the kitchen — many offering products for half the price of traditional top brands.

    They all understand that the joys of food, cooking, and eating become even sweeter when your kitchenware lasts a lifetime but doesn't take a lifetime to pay off. Made with the best materials and processes available, these knives, pots, pans, and tools perform impressively well and are perfect for passionate home cooks like you. 

    If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen tools and cookware without breaking the bank, look no further than these 4 new direct-to-consumer kitchen companies. 

    SEE ALSO: 15 highly rated kitchen tools on Amazon that make meal prep easier

    Made In: Putting top US craftsmanship in front of enthusiastic home cooks.

    Shop cookware at Made In here and read our review of Made In here

    Background and founders: Chip Malt and Jake Kalick wanted to create a company that gets people excited about cooking in the kitchen and offers exceptional cookware made from the best sources. They found their quality standards met by American manufacturers and often use customer feedback to influence product design and release decisions. 

    What it sells: 

    Materials and construction: Made in the US by manufacturers with more than 150 years of cookware experience, the pans and pots have a five-ply construction of thick stainless steel and aluminum. They're induction-compatible and dishwasher- and oven-safe. The nonstick pan is PFOA-free. 

    Additional info to know:

    Material: Whittling your kitchen tools down to the basics, with style.

    Shop kitchen tools at Material here and read our review of Material here

    Background and founders: Eunice Byun and David Nguyen hated the clutter of their kitchens, which were filled with hand-me-downs, poor-quality tools, unnecessary accessories, and unsophisticated color palettes. When they asked themselves, "What would we want in our own kitchens?" they answered: simple, sleek, and carefully-designed tools made from world-class materials, for half the price of premium brands.

    What it sells: 

    • The Fundamentals ($175), a kitchenware essentials set consisting of an 8" knife, paring knife, tongs, wood spoon, metal spoon, slotted spatula, all contained in an angular wooden base. Available in two handle colors and two wood colors. 
    • 8" Knife ($75), a strong, well-balanced, and sharp chef's knife. Available in two handle colors. 

    Materials and construction: All the products are made in a region of southern China known for its expertise in knife-making and kitchenware manufacturing. The knives are made from three layers of Japanese stainless steel: the outer two are corrosion-resistant while the inner one is a high-carbon steel.

    Additional info to know:

    • Free shipping
    • 60-day return policy 

    Misen: The Kickstarter darling that has expanded past knives.

    Shop knives and cookware at Misen here and read our review of Made In here

    Background and founders: Misen's name comes from the term "mise en place," which describes how chefs set up their stations before service. In a similar way, Josh Moses and Omar Rada wanted to prepare people with the right tools to cook better. They launched with their first product, the Misen Chef's Knife, on Kickstarter and raised over $1 million in one month. 

    What it sells: 

    Materials and construction: The knives are made with a a high-carbon Japanese stainless steel. They have a sloped bolster for better comfort and control, and edge angles of 15° instead of the standard 25° for a sharper cutting face. The cookware, made in China, features a five-ply construction of thick stainless steel and aluminum. It is also induction-compatible and dishwasher- and oven-safe.

    Additional info to know:

    • Shipping starts at $5 
    • 21-day return policy 
    • According to its website, a Lifetime Sharpening Program is in the works 

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    • Many people think of young examples — like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates — when they think of successful startup founders.
    • New research shows that these cases are more the anomaly than the status quo — the average age of the most successful founder is about 42 years old.
    • Among the top 0.1% highest-growth startups the age increases to 45 years old. 
    • While founders in their 40s tend to have the highest rate of growth, researchers found that youth does have an advantage when gaining funds from venture capitalists, who are more likely to base their investments on appearance than on data. 

    Company founders can be as young as in their teens or as old as in their 80s. But is there an ideal age you should be when you start a company? It turns out there is, and it's older than you may think.

    Those are the results of surprising new research by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Rather than surveying a representative sample of entrepreneurs or asking experts' opinions, an NBER research team actually assembled Census Bureau data and looked at hundreds of thousands of successful startups, especially those with rapid growth.

    What they found was not what you might expect. Bill Gates started Microsoft at 20. Steve Jobs was 21 when he and Steve Wozniak started Apple. So you might logically think that the most successful fast-growth companies are started by very young founders who are unfettered by convention and unwritten rules, able to take risks, and unafraid to shake up the old order.

    But that isn't true. In fact, the researchers found, the average age of a successful startup founder is about 42. When it comes to high-growth super-successful startups, the average age is even older. When researchers looked at the top 5% of rapid-growth startups, they found the average founder age was 42.1. Narrowing their focus to the top 1%, the average age was 43.7. When they looked at the top 0.1% of fast-growing startups, founder age went up to 45. Contrary to popular belief, they concluded, youth is a disadvantage when it comes to creating a high-growth startup.

    But there is one time when youth is an advantage in the startup world — when you're pitching your company to VCs. The youngest successful founders were those who had received funding from New York City-based venture capital firms, although even then their average age was 38.7 — old enough to have been Mark Zuckerberg's parent when he started Facebook from his dorm room at 19.

    Wait a sec. Aren't VCs supposed to be looking for the highest-growth startups? Isn't that their mantra? They're all but certain to lose money on the majority of companies they fund, so don't they need those high-growth successes to make the endeavor worthwhile? Why are they funding startups whose founders are still too young to deliver the high growth VCs crave?

    Because, whatever they may say, VCs aren't using data to make their funding decisions, as TechCrunch notes. Instead, they're going by look and feel, and the look they're going for is typified by Mark Zuckerberg: young, white, male, privileged, and from an elite university. VCs implicitly admit that they're ignoring the data with the often-repeated comment that they bet on the founder, not the business. This is why female founders still receive only about 2% of the funding VCs provide, even though the data shows that startups founded by women have greater odds of success. 

    VCs' disdain for data is ironic, given that the most successful startups — think Google, Facebook, and especially Amazon — seem to owe their phenomenal growth to their practice of carefully gathering data and to strictly following that data wherever it leads them. Perhaps one day VCs will start doing the same. In the meantime, it's nice to know that if you're in your mid-40s, it might be tough to get venture capital funding — but if you start a business there's a good chance it will do just fine.

    SEE ALSO: A star Silicon Valley investor who sold her startup for $200 million reveals the jarring tactic she had to use to make men pay attention to her pitches

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    Jeff Bezos Amazon

    • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos used to disqualify job candidates who talked about work/life balance, according to "The Everything Store" by Brad Stone.
    • The glorification of working yourself to the bone is typical of tech startups, especially those in the early stages.
    • Amazon is especially well-known for its culture of overwork.
    • But there are signs that Silicon Valley's culture may be changing.

    In the early days of Amazon, there was one quick way for job candidates to eliminate themselves from the running: Talk about wanting work/life balance.

    That's according to "The Everything Store," a 2013 bestselling book by Brad Stone that traces Amazon's journey to become one of the world's most powerful companies, and CEO Jeff Bezos' journey to become one of the world's most powerful people.

    Bezos' former glorification of an all-work-all-the-time mentality is pretty typical for tech startups, especially those in the early stages. This was the mid-90s, when Amazon was a fledgling startup, not the behemoth on the brink of becoming a trillion-dollar company that it is today.

    The internal mantra at Uber, for example, used to be "work smarter, harder, and longer." (Now it's just "smarter" and "harder.")

    In 2017, Wired reported on a heated Twitter exchange, initially between tech investor Blake Robbins and venture capitalist Keith Rabois, over whether working harder (and harder) is always the key to success. Rabois urged Robbins, who extolled working "smarter" over harder, to "read a bio of Elon [Musk]. Or about Amazon," implying that these tech moguls worked around the clock to achieve success. Venture capitalist David S. Rose agreed with Rabois: "Entrepreneurship is all-in."

    Former Amazon employees talk about logging 80-plus-hour workweeks

    Amazon is especially well-known for its culture of pushing people to their limits. A 2015 New York Times article called out the company's "bruising workplace" in its headline. Former employees told The Times about logging 80-plus-hour workweeks; one said "The joke in the office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the work/life balance came last."

    Amazon quickly responded to the Times article with a post on Medium, suggesting that Times reporters took some startling anecdotes out of context and "misrepresented" the company.

    Business Insider previously reported that hundreds of reviewers on the website Glassdoor had posted about the lack of work/life work/life balance in their careers at Amazon.

    For example: "Extreme hours and horrible work/life balance. Be prepared to work a minimum of 12 hours everyday and up to 15-16 hours for months on end," a current area manager in Haslet, Texas wrote. "Upper management doesn't respect your work/life balance and mandatory overtime is a constant thing."

    Still, some reviewers applauded the work/life balance they experienced while working at Amazon. For example, a senior sales consultant in Charleston, South Carolina, wrote: "Of all the organizations and previous roles I've experienced so far in my career, Amazon has set the bar for work-life balance."

    Meanwhile, a 2015 study, published in the Journal of Corporate Finance and highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, found that Amazon had lower ratings of work/life balance than other tech companies did, based on Glassdoor reviews.

    Yet the tide may be turning throughout the tech industry. As Business Insider's Steve Kovach wrote in an op-ed, Silicon Valley is starting to recognize its overworking problem.

    Arianna Huffington, for example, CEO of Thrive Global and an Uber board member, said at an Uber all-hands meeting that employees don't have to be "always on." She added that "when you're always on you're depleted, you are distracted," and "not as creative" as you are when you're well-rested.

    Bezos has publicly addressed the topic of work/life balance before. In 2017, he told TechCrunch that he prefers the phrase "work-life harmony" better than "work/life balance," noting that "work/life balance implies there's a strict tradeoff."

    In an interview with Thrive Global, Bezos said, "If I'm happy at work, I'm better at home  —  a better husband and better father. And if I'm happy at home, I come into work more energized  —  a better employee and a better colleague."

    SEE ALSO: A day in the life of the richest person in history, Jeff Bezos — who made $6.44 billion in one day and still washes the dishes after dinner

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.


    • Filippo Loreti is Kickstarter's most funded watch brand ever, and one of the platform's 20 most successful initiatives to date across all categories.
    • Every watch Filippo Loreti makes is purchased online and shipped directly to the customer, a direct sales model that cuts out middlemen and greatly reduces overall costs.
    • What strikes me most about the trio of Filippo Loreti watches in my collection is the fact that, although ostensibly similar, each piece has a look and feel all of its own.
    • Nearly all under $300, these watches are more than worth their price.

    To quote vaunted 19th Century French novelist Victor Hugo, "There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come." And though today I'm writing primarily about the upstart luxury wristwatch brand Filippo Loreti, it's not in reference to that watchmaker that I invoke this famed quote. (Wristwatches have been commonplace for more than a century, after all, and are hardly a novel concept.)

    In this case, the "idea" in question is the use of online crowdfunding to help launch and scale a product or service. And even more specifically, I'm referring to Kickstarter, the luminary of the slate of new public-benefit corporations that help raise capital for ventures that would likely never have lifted off via traditional business growth models.

    For if anyone has ever made good use of Kickstarter, it's Lithuanian-born brothers Danielius and Matas Jakutis, who were in their mid-20s when they launched their first Kickstarter campaign back in 2015.

    Their funding goal for their fledgling watch brand Filippo Loreti was $20,000. Within a single month, they raised almost a million dollars. Then, the next year, as the second line of Filippo Loreti watches was unveiled, the company commenced another round of online fundraising. This time, they raided more than five million dollars, again in less than a month. These wildly successful crowdfunding sessions would mark Filippo Loreti as Kickstarter's most funded watch brand ever, and as one of the platform's 20 most successful initiatives to date across all categories.

    Jakutis Brothers

    For the consumer, what this crowdfunding success would ultimately mean is the ability to buy watches for which other brands might charge $1,000 or more between $225 and $315 in most cases. Even their priciest watches currently sells for $609, a bargain in the luxury timepiece category. With quick cash in the coffers, Filippo Loreti could devote less time (and expense, ironically) to raising funds or to establishing partnerships and marketing materials, and could instead get down to the production of chronometers.

    Unlike other luxury watch brands, the pieces the company makes won't be seen in jewelry store display cases or in the pages of catalog. Every watch Filippo Loreti makes is purchased online and shipped directly to the customer, a direct sales model that cuts out middlemen and greatly reduces overall costs. In fact, according to Filippo Loreti's own website, the markup costs associated with wholesalers, retailers, advertising, and other expenses associated with traditional luxury watch sales result in a customer paying as much as a 4,000% increase in sale price over production costs. With that figure in mind, you can appreciate how a wristwatch can sell for just a few hundred dollars yet can still be called a luxury item.

    PA VM BlackG 1.1

    I own and wear three Filippo Loreti watches, so you can consider me something of a lightweight collector, but I'll posit that I'm quite familiar with the brand. What strikes me most about the trio of Filippo Loreti watches in my collection is the fact that, although ostensibly similar, each piece has a look and feel all of its own.

    My Filippo Loreti watches include the Venice Moonphase Silver, the Venice Moonphase Rose Gold Blue, and the Venice Moonphase Black Gold. Each has a case measuring 40 mm across and nine mm thick, each features a single dial on the right side of the body, and each has a band made of fine Italian leather. On each face you will find three small subdials that track the date, day of the week, and month, and a richly illustrated moonphase set behind a half-moon-shaped cutout. There is an hour hand and a minute hand, though no second hand. The bands are fastened with a simple metal buckle.


    As noted, for all their similarity, these three watches look strikingly different and work with different outfits for different occasions. I could wear the Moonphase Silver with faded jeans and a T-shirt, while the Moonphase Blue Gold would look just fine sneaking out beneath a French cuff shot forth from a tuxedo jacket. The Black Gold watch would look at home accentuating a business suit or resting on the bar at an upscale, well, bar.

    While I have not had any of my Filippo Loreti watches long enough to see how they last over the years (and neither has anyone else; this brand is brand new in the scheme of things), I can tell you this:

    So far, at well under $300, these watches are more than worth their price.

    View the entire Filippo Loreti catalog on their website here.

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    Ken portrait

    • UK-based biotech unicorn BenevolentAI just raised $115 million at a $2 billion valuation.
    • The company uses artificial intelligence to help discover new drugs to treat conditions like Parkinson's disease and rare cancers. 
    • Applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery — which can often be a long, expensive process — has started attracting more attention from investors.

    BenevolentAI, a UK-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to discover new treatments just raised $115 million.

    The funding, which came from existing investors including Woodford Investment Management, values the six-year-old company at $2 billion, a unicorn status held by only a few biotech companies

    Applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery — which can often be a long, expensive process — has started attracting more attention from investors. In March, TwoXar, a startup that uses its software to discover new experimental drugs for other companies, raised $10 million and Atomwise, which designs drugs that companies can then test out, raised $45 million in its series A round in MarchIBM's Watson AI has also been used in drug discovery.

    To see how that works, picture a pharmaceutical company on the hunt for new drugs to develop. Traditionally, that company would seek to figure out the science behind a particular disease, working to find disease targets it could then design drugs to go after. This can be a lengthy process involving a lot of lab work and uncertainty over whether the drug will work when it is tested in animals. And often, the scientists working on it have a very specialized understanding of a particular disease that influences how they approach the problem. 

    Ideally, BenevolentAI's technology can amplify that information, opening up the possibility of finding more experimental drugs. The company's CEO Ken Mulvany compared it to an algorithm developed at Stanford that was able to deduce a person's sexuality more accurately than people could. Mulvany said that humans often miss signals that AI can pick up on, which could be helpful in finding new approaches to treating diseases. 

    "We only know to look for the things that we know, rather than the actual signal that's in there," Mulvany told Business Insider.

    To start, BenevolentAI  focuses in on a particular disease — so far, that's been around diseases of the central nervous system and rare cancers, as well as some work with Parkinson's disease —  then finds drug targets with its technology, and goes on to test it out in their labs. To date, the company has about 20 drugs in the works. The hope that some of these will pan out and make it through the clinical trial process factors into the company's high valuation.  

    "I think the assumption from investors is that some will make it because the AI is changing the risk profile because we're getting better by predicting what may work what may not," James Chandler, BenevolentAI's vice president of corporate affairs told Business Insider. 

    The funding will be used to keep developing the drugs the company has discovered, along with potentially expanding BenevolentAI's technology to other fields including energy and agriculture. 

    SEE ALSO: A startup that uses software to discover new drugs just raised $10 million

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