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Articles on this Page
- 10/03/18--06:36: _Entrepreneurs who a...
- 10/06/18--08:30: _Keep your day job, ...
- 10/08/18--06:35: _I found high-qualit...
- 10/08/18--12:16: _A Google engineer t...
- 10/08/18--12:52: _This Kickstarter se...
- 10/09/18--05:41: _A former Y Combinat...
- 10/09/18--09:26: _3 former Google exe...
- 10/11/18--05:44: _Before joining the ...
- 10/11/18--07:10: _The former Google e...
- 10/12/18--01:00: _This tech investmen...
- 10/12/18--05:32: _An entrepreneur who...
- 10/14/18--10:38: _An ex-Googler who w...
- 10/15/18--09:18: _In a 20-year-old in...
- 10/15/18--10:28: _I tried Buffy, a po...
- 10/15/18--17:17: _The Facebook hack t...
- 10/16/18--14:51: _T-Pain brings you i...
- 10/17/18--08:00: _This self-storage s...
- 10/17/18--10:24: _This startup is the...
- 10/18/18--12:38: _This CEO just got m...
- 10/20/18--08:30: _This Irish CEO expl...
- "Shark Tank" alumni, including the founders of Bombas and Coffee Meets Bagel, say their experience on the show was valuable even beyond getting an offer.
- For example, it forced the entrepreneurs to think about their business more carefully as they prepared for their appearance.
- Those founders who received offers say it confirmed that they had a compelling business idea.
- Many people wonder how to start a business successfully. According to Brian Scordato, the founder of Tacklebox Accelerator, the first thing to do is keep your day job.
- Tacklebox is a six-week program geared toward founders with full-time jobs. Scordato helps those founders bring their business concepts to fruition, slowly and steadily.
- Tacklebox doesn't take equity; instead it charges founders $2,500.
- Scordato and Tacklebox alums and mentors say even if you go through the program and realize you don't want to pursue your business idea any longer, that's still a positive outcome.
- Tacklebox has a broad definition of success, and Scordato thinks it's OK that not every company will be a billion-dollar business.
- When you're making sauces, gravies, and other thick foods, using a saucier is preferable to a saucepan because it lets you stir, whisk, and reduce ingredients more efficiently.
- Kitchen cookware startup Made In's saucier ($99) is even more rounded in shape than a typical saucier and is perfect for serious home cooks looking to improve their sauce-making.
- Though the saucier used to be more of a professional kitchen mainstay, Made In's well-designed, durable, and accessibly priced saucier deserves a space in your own kitchen.
- Software engineer Daren Makuck left a high-paying job at Google and took a 50% pay cut to work at a startup called Qwil.
- An interaction he had with Qwil CEO Johnny Reinsch convinced him it was the right career move.
- Makuck even refused to increase his salary when the time came, to Reinsch's surprise.
- Filippo Loreti is a Kickstarter-alumn that has set multiple world records for its crowdfunding.
- The company makes luxury watches that would normally sell for $1,000+ and offers them at an accessible price (from $219) by operating direct-to-consumer.
- Filippo Loreti takes design inspiration from three of Italy's iconic cities: Venice, Rome, and Milan.
- The women on our team tested the $249 Rome collection, defined by its Piazza del Campidoglio-inspired watchface, and loved the price, elegance, versatility, and thoughtful design.
- We've also reviewed the brand's men's offerings.
- Harj Taggar is a former partner at Y Combinator, the tech accelerator that launched a number of successful startups including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Instacart. He's currently the cofounder and CEO of Triplebyte.
- Taggar said he and his YC partners placed a high value on learning what applicants did in their spare time.
- The YC application still includes the prompt: "Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together."
- The YC partners looked specifically for people who had created projects or explored new ideas beyond the requirements of work or school.
- Google often makes the list of best places to work in the US.
- The three founders of ad tech startup Beeswax are all former Google executives who made the tough decision to leave.
- They each explained to Business Insider why they decided to leave the company. Among the reasons that helped them decide: finding more room to work, getting the space to have unlimited impact, and operating in an environment not ruled by engineers.
- Harj Taggar is a former Y Combinator partner and the cofounder and CEO of Triplebyte.
- He was initially enrolled in law school in the UK, but he dropped out to move to the US and start a company.
- Taggar decided to leave law school by getting specific about the risks. It's a strategy he recommends to young professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs today.
- Beeswax is an ad-tech startup in New York founded by three former Google executives.
- The founders of Beeswax said they chose their company's name so it would stand out in a crowded industry.
- They deliberately avoided using the word "ad" in their name to distinguish them from their competition.
- Tech startups and investment remain fairly homogeneous, with ethnic minority and female founders still in the minority.
- One problem is that no one really wants to disclose how lacking in diversity they are.
- One early-stage venture capital firm has studied its own portfolio of startups to see how many have female and ethnic minority founders and revealed the numbers.
- Forward Partners is beating the average, with 10 companies out of its 52 investments having at least one female founder, but the investor wants to do better.
- Nicki Radzely, the cofounder of Doddle & Co., appeared on "Shark Tank" in January to pitch the Pop Pacifier.
- During the episode, Daymond John told Radzely her company "sucks" and questioned why she had valued her business at $5 million.
- Radzely ultimately accepted a $250,000 offer from Kevin O'Leary.
- Looking back, Radzely said she loved that John insulted her because it gave her more airtime and a chance to address other investors' and viewers' concerns.
- Patrick Ip, an ex-Googler who was involved in a Nobel Peace Prize nominated project, has a new startup called Catalog.
- Ip and his co-founder Jacobo Lumbreras hope Catalog can create steady work and full-time jobs for independent photographers around the country.
- Ip's project at Google — One Billion Acts of Peace — didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize, but has documented 53 million so-called acts of peace thus far.
- In a 1998, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sat down for an interview with writer Steve Homer. At the time, Bezos was promoting the launch of Amazon's UK website.
- Now, it's the 20th anniversary of the UK website's launch, and the interview provides some early insight into the CEO who would eventually become the richest man in the world.
- Bezos discussed why most startups have to move out of the garage — and it isn't because of space. Rather, the pure amount of electricity that's needed to run a business becomes too much for a home, he said.
- Startups, Amazon included, have "so many computers in the garage that circuit breakers [keep] flipping."
- If it looks like a cloud, feels like a cloud, and moves like a cloud, chances are it's a cloud— or in this case, a Buffy comforter.
- Organic eucalyptus may just seem like a buzzword to help sell comforters, but in reality, it makes a huge difference in the comfort of your comforter, and consequently, the quality of your sleep.
- Surprisingly breathable yet still thick enough to be warm, this is a perfect blanket to have on your bed as you begin to consider transitioning from the summer months to the fall.
- Best of all, you get to try Buffy before you buy it, though chances are, once you take this comforter out of the box, you'll never want to send it back.
- Facebook's motto is no longer "Move Fast and Break Things," but the results of that mentality still linger.
- What Facebook didn't realize is that moving fast can break things other than software code; it can undermine society and even, in the extreme, lead to deaths.
- The influence of the motto at the company can be seen in everything from the Russia-linked 2016 election manipulation operation to the recent hacking scandal that exposed the personal information of 30 million users.
- But the danger and consequences of the Move Fast motto go well beyond Facebook, because the mentality was adopted far and wide and is still being promoted today.
- We're going to be living with the aftermath of the Move Fast mentality for years to come.
- Hackers stole millions of Facebook users’ personal data — here’s why you should be worried
- Google’s recent behavior shows the troubling reality of an internet superpower that abandoned its vow to not 'be evil'
- Tech's diversity problem is even bigger than we realized — here's why that's so bad for the next generation of startups
- Facebook’s privacy 'bait and switch' confirms your worst fears about its unstoppable advertising impulses
- T-Pain's new Fuse show, "T-Pain's School of Business," finds the recording artist interviewing the founders of successful product startups.
- T-Pain spoke to Business Insider about the startups featured on his series premiere, the influence of his music, and his upcoming work.
- Omni — a San Francisco-based self-storage startup that's raised over $40 million — is on a mission to transform the traditional self-storage world.
- Omni lets users not only store their items for a flat monthly fee per item, but it also allows for those items to be rented, helping people earn money on things that would have otherwise collected dust.
- On Wednesday, the company announced it would start letting users cash out their rental income by moving it to a cryptocurrency wallet (XRP) instead of a conventional bank account.
- "Having a strategy for how you want to work with some degree of crypto is important for almost any startup at this point," Omni CEO Tom McLeod told us.
- Scribd is the Netflix of the publishing world — offering readers unlimited access to a library of more than 1 million books and audiobooks, magazines, and other documents for a monthly fee of $9.
- On Wednesday, Scribd announced a brand new service, bundling a Scribd subscription with a subscription to The New York Times for $13/month.
- Scribd's CEO Trip Adler says the company "kind of got into books a little bit accidentally," but it is on a mission to "change the way the world reads."
- After eleven years and multiple pivots, Adler is confident in Scribd's current path and believes his team can build a subscriber base of similar scale to Netflix and Spotify.
- Invisible allows people to outsource their most repetitive work and daily tasks, with prices starting at $10/hour.
- Invisible customers save valuable time by only having one point of contact with the company, who then manages a team of workers on their behalf.
- On Thursday, Invisible announced that it has raised a $2.6 million seed round of funding, with Zynga founder Mark Pincus as a notable angel investor.
- Invisible CEO Francis Pedraza is also excited about the other side of the marketplace he's building which helps create tech jobs for people around the world.
- Eoghan McCabe is the CEO and cofounder of Intercom, one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley.
- Intercom offers services that help companies communicate with their customers.
- McCabe and his partners formed Intercom after being inspired by the personalized service they got at a Dublin coffee shop.
- Intercom is now offering chatbots that can help businesses grow.
Few if any "Shark Tank" alums will say they didn't care about the prospect of making a deal with one of the investors.
But many entrepreneurs have told Business Insider that their experience in the tank was valuable not solely for financial reasons.
Goldberg said the mere act of preparing for their appearance on "Shark Tank" was useful. The cofounders compiled a spreadsheet with nearly 300 questions that the Sharks had asked other entrepreneurs, and rehearsed their answers to these questions over and over again.
"It makes you take a look and examine things and have answers to questions that you might be ignoring," Goldberg said of the rehearsal process. "It brings things out in the open."
Jack Mann, founder of earplugs company Vibes, hired a coach to prepare for his appearance on "Shark Tank," and learned a technique to help him remember his pitch. Mann said he still uses the technique — which involves associating a keyword in each paragraph of your speech with a different image — today, when he gives presentations.
Multiple other entrepreneurs who received offers from Sharks said it confirmed for them that their business idea was compelling.
Dawoon Kang, cofounder and co-CEO of dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2015 and declined Mark Cuban's offer of $30 million for the entire company. Kang said she and her cofounders have no regrets about turning Cuban down — even though other people called them greedy.
Still, Kang told Business Insider, "To get Mark Cuban to benchmark us at $30 million really was a huge testament and validation of all the work that was done to build this company."
Mark Lim, cofounder of Lollaland, went on "Shark Tank" in 2012 and won $100,000 from Cuban and Robert Herjavec. Lim told Business Insider that getting "validation" was a key benefit from the experience — especially since the business was still in its infancy at the time.
The exposure that comes with appearing on "Shark Tank"— which has a national audience of about 10 million, according to the New York Post— is perhaps the most meaningful benefit.
Nikki Radzely, cofounder of baby-product company Doddle & Co, won $250,000 from Kevin O'Leary. "Going on the show was tremendous for the brand," she said, largely because it brought "awareness to parents that were looking for a better solution to soothe their baby."
Mann felt similarly, though he ultimately turned down O'Leary's offer of $100,000. The two things of most value, he said, were the investors' "acumen and experience," as well as "the obvious exposure that comes from the show."
The first thing to know as a founder in Tacklebox Accelerator is that you will not "move fast and break things."
That mantra, once touted by Facebook and other tech companies, is antithetical to the Tacklebox approach to entrepreneurship. At the first of each session's six workshops, Tacklebox founder Brian Scordato says as much to the founders seated before him.
Instead, Tacklebox is about making slow and steady progress. Case in point: Scordato advises the founders not to quit their day job until they're (almost) certain their business is viable.
Launched in 2015, Tacklebox is a six-week program during which Scordato guides about eight founders, many of whom still have full-time jobs, in bringing their business ideas to fruition. Tacklebox isn't an accelerator in the traditional sense: Founders don't give up equity in their companies; instead, they pay $2,500 to attend what can seem like "startup school."
The goal, Scordato said, is to show founders that successful entrepreneurship is, above all, "practice-able and teachable and learnable."
Entrepreneurs who keep their day jobs may be more successful in the long run
Admittedly, the slow-and-steady strategy isn't the sexiest. A story about an entrepreneur who up and quit her day job to pursue her startup dreams is generally much more compelling than an entrepreneur who waited it out until the time was just right.
But Scordato makes a persuasive case for caution. "You're always proving that this is worth your time," he told me.
"A lot of our founders have really, really good jobs and they've busted their asses to create a little bit of savings," he said. "Most of our founders don't come in and say, 'I hate my job; I want to leave.' It's more like, 'I really, really like my job. It's helped me gain this certain insight and I want to start a company based on that. But I want to make sure that it's worth leaving this awesome job for it.'"
What's more, he said, having a full-time job means you necessarily have limited time to work on your business. So you have to prioritize, and do only the tasks that are most important. "It's interesting how it works when you force yourself into the confines to really focus on the 80/20 stuff," Scordato said, referring to the idea that 20% of your efforts often produce 80% of your results.
Scordato's observations are backed by some research and anecdotal evidence.
In his 2016 book, "Originals," Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote that, contrary to popular belief, the most successful entrepreneurs don't quit their day job to start a company. One University of Wisconsin study found that entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs were 33% less likely to fail than those who don't.
Grant cites the example of Bill Gates, who was testing his idea for Microsoft on the side before he took a leave of absence from Harvard to go all in.
Similarly, Kathryn Minshew, cofounder and CEO of The Muse, didn't quit her job at McKinsey until she was confident in the strength of her business. And the founders of jewelry company Aurate told Business Insider that starting a business on the side, while they were employed at Marc Jacobs and Goldman Sachs, made them better entrepreneurs.
"Some people think about founders and think about startups as 23-year-olds starting something, and it's actually a good idea for them to do it even if it fails. It's a cool life experience," Scordato said. "That's for the most part not my founders. My founders have enormous opportunity cost for starting these things."
Scordato also looks specifically for founders who have developed domain expertise over the course of their career. "You should have been subconsciously preparing to build this company for a long time, in a way such that your skill sets and knowledge bases have already distanced you from any competition," he said.
Indeed, an MIT study found the average age of a successful startup founder is 45. The study authors found that work experience explains much of the age advantage. They write in the Harvard Business Review,"Relative to founders with no relevant experience, those with at least three years of prior work experience in the same narrow industry as their startup were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful startup."
If a founder goes through Tacklebox and decides not to pursue their business idea, that's still considered a success
The most recent cohort of Tacklebox businesses included a dating app, a startup to make travel more comfortable, and a career-management platform.
I sat in on two of the workshops and listened to a recording of a third. At the first workshop, Scordato told the founders that sometimes, people get to the end of the program and realize they don't want to launch their startup. "That's OK, too," he said.
I was skeptical: Who spends six weeks and $2,500, only to realize that, oops, their business idea stinks? But the Tacklebox alums I spoke to said they'd rather spend some time and money to realize their business idea isn't workable than quit their jobs and blow a huge amount of cash, only to reach the same conclusion a year down the line.
Shawn Cheng, a partner at the venture production studio ConsenSys Labs, has been a mentor to Scordato and to Tacklebox founders; he told me that the biggest value of the program is learning "how to learn," or learning "how to walk away."
Most startup accelerators take an "all or nothing" approach, Cheng said, in that you either build a company or waste everyone's time; Tacklebox is geared toward founders thinking that "they have an idea and they want to be testing it, and they want to be talking to more people about it, but they're not quite sure how they should validate it in order to put everything else in their lives on hold to pursue it."
Sam Alston, the founder of Big Lives, which identifies up-and-coming fashion designers, was in the eighth cohort of Tacklebox, in 2017. She credits the program with giving her the confidence to leave her job, as a client development director at Louis Vuitton.
Alston said she frequently recommends Tacklebox to aspiring entrepreneurs, noting that Scordato is transparent about the fact that "the skills that you gain should allow you to then test any business idea"— not just the one you're currently working on. "It's really selling a framework rather than consulting on a specific business."
Scordato also told me that a handful of founders have gone through Tacklebox with one business idea, realized they didn't like it, and waited another year or so before going through Tacklebox again with a better one.
It's a program Scordato might have benefited from earlier in his career. In the past 11 years, he's launched three startups, aside from Tacklebox: a recruiting platform for college basketball, a dating app, and a social-networking app. None of them are still in operation.
Scordato's real talent seems to be spotting other entrepreneurs with potential, and giving them the guidance and mentorship they need to develop their nascent businesses. He also brings in a series of outside experts, including successful founders and investors like Cheng. Each cohort of founders gets a chance to pitch their businesses to a group of investors, less to convince them to sign on and more to get feedback about how well they articulate their business' mission and goals.
Unicorns aren't the only startups welcome at Tacklebox
Tacklebox has fed a few startups into Y Combinator, such as The Lobby, which gives job candidates a chance to chat with employees at top finance firms. While its founder Deepak Chhugani was in Tacklebox, he and Scordato devised a plan to get him into Y Combinator. Tacklebox also introduced Chuugani to Angela Lee, founder of the venture capital firm 37Angels and chief innovation officer at Columbia Business School, who wound up investing in The Lobby later on.
Chuugani is glad he went through Tacklebox before Y Combinator. He told me that, in Y Combinator, after three months, if you don't think your idea is viable, it's a much more high-stakes situation. "You're forced to find any idea that might work," he said, "because now you've raised money from the accelerator." He added, "YC changed my life," but "you should be a little bit prepared to know what you're getting yourself into if you're going to raise money."
Despite Chhugani's success, Scordato said that the majority of Tacklebox startups aren't suited to Y Combinator. The Lobby "has the potential to be a very high-growth, very huge exit sort of company," but it's an exception.
Some founders go onto more niche accelerators, like New York Fashion Tech Lab — but for about half of Tacklebox startups, Scordato said, "maybe they need a little bit of money to build the initial tech platform, or they need to hire someone to do that, but it's not going to be a big challenge. They can start operating and become profitable quickly."
Lee, the 37Angels founder, said Scordato and Tacklebox are more open-minded about success than most other startup accelerators. That is to say, getting into the uber-selective Y Combinator isn't the only measure of success.
Lee mentioned the concept of "lifestyle startups," a term that's emerged in the last decade to describe a business that doesn't need venture capital and won't necessarily be worth $1 billion, ever. Lee said the term is often perceived negatively; but lifestyle startups, she said, are welcomed at Tacklebox. A lifestyle startup can still bring in $10 million a year, she said — and "since when did making $10 million a year become a failure?"
"We LOVE those," Scordato wrote in an email, referring to lifestyle startups. "What we really stress is that companies that could be great lifestyle businesses and probably won't be unicorns shouldn't try to become unicorns. They should build sound, revenue-generating businesses that can build great products at a high margin for a (relatively) small group of customers."
In an irony that's not lost on its founder, Tacklebox itself is one such startup. "I love that Tacklebox is practicing what it's preaching," Cheng said. He mentioned that Tacklebox has already gone through several iterations, holding workshops on weekends, mornings, and evenings, and offering higher and lower price points.
"It's got to be scary for Brian," Cheng added, "but I commend him for that and for not being afraid of trying new things and experimenting."
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.
In every home cook's kitchen you're likely to find a saucepan, the small round cooking pot with tall sides that's used for making sauces and gravies or warming up liquids.
You're less likely to find a saucier, a similar type of pot that has a rounded bottom and slightly flared top. If you don't frequently make sauces, risottos, custards, and other types of foods that require frequent stirring or whisking, a saucier will just be another extraneous piece of cookware taking up space in your cabinet.
However, if you are a sauce enthusiast and are frustrated with the flaws of a traditional saucepan, you should consider investing in a saucier.
I recently tested Made In's saucier, the shape and design of which made me question why I've put up with making sauces in a traditional saucepan for so long.
Its three-quart saucier, in particular, was designed based off customers' feedback, and because Made In can control all of its production processes, it was able to make a more "curated" saucier that specifically addresses these customer needs.
Made In's saucier is more rounded in shape than a traditional saucier, making it even easier to stir ingredients around. It's also more flared in shape at the top to encourage better evaporation when you're reducing sauces and gravies.
I made a variety of sauces, including a chunky tomato sauce filled with vegetables and a creamy alfredo sauce, in the saucier and the processes were so much smoother thanks to the design of the pot.
Because it doesn't have hard edges like a saucepan, ingredients didn't get stuck in tricky-to-reach places and I could stir everything in smooth, continuous motions. The handle is sturdy and made me feel supported as I turned the pot and also stayed cool throughout the cooking process.
Reducing sauces and gravies makes more sense in a saucier instead of a saucepan with tall sides because there's more surface area to let the liquid reduce and condense faster. As a busy person who likes cooking but has many other tasks to get through during the night, I liked that the saucier made cooking more efficient.
As with the nonstick frying pan, what especially impressed me was the value I was getting from this well-made cookware.
The saucier has a five-ply stainless steel and aluminum construction (the extra layers make it more durable), is induction compatible, and is dishwasher- and oven-safe. A three-quart All-Clad saucier has nearly all the same specifications — it's actually only three-ply — and is sold for double the price. With a lid, Made In's saucer is $99, while All-Clad's is $195 on Amazon and other major retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond.
Savings like this combined with a product that was carefully designed for the actual cooking task in mind only further convinced me that Made In is a kitchen company you should be watching.
For Daren Makuck, leaving a high-paying job at Google to work at a fledgling startup was an easy choice.
The hard part was deciding whether to stay.
But an interaction he had with his new CEO not only convinced him to stay at the lower-paying job, but taught him an important lesson about employee satisfaction, too.
Makuck, a software engineer, left Google a year after his previous company, a marketing startup called Toro, was acquired by the tech giant. Wanting to work at a smaller company again, he contemplated leaving after he was approached to work at a new startup called Qwil.
Even though he'd be taking a 50% pay cut to join Qwil, the temptation to leave Google was strong, Makuck remembers. But he was still concerned he wouldn't be a good fit for Qwil, a fintech company that facilitates payment between freelance workers and the companies they work for. Makuck told Qwil CEO Johnny Reinsch that he had his eye on a return to the video game industry, where he had worked previously.
"I had told him I would feel bad if I joined and ended up wanting to leave after a year," Makuck told Business Insider.
How Reinsch responded immediately changed his perspective.
"He replied, 'If we can't keep you happy enough to stay for more than a year, that's on us,'" Makuck said. "This was the first time I had ever felt like a company — not just the people in it — would share the responsibility of my employment, and it's something I didn't even realize I needed."
This past April, as Makuck approached his two-year anniversary at Qwil, the startup announced it had raised $5 million in Series A funding. That meant Reinsch could afford to bump up his employees' salaries.
Yet when Reinsch offered Makuck a raise, the engineer turned him down.
"Given from what I had seen of the company and the way they ran it I was convinced that we would be successful, and I wanted to do everything I could to help us achieve that," Makuck said.
But Reinsch wouldn't take no for an answer, insisting he take the extra pay. For Makuck, it affirmed his decision to stay at Qwil two years earlier.
"Johnny's response to my offer showed me that he would stay true to his word — that continued employment was a thing we were both responsible for," Makuck said.
"It may seem like a small thing to do, but it's things like that that make me want to go the extra mile as an employee."
Meanwhile, for Reinsch, the experience reinforced that the satisfaction his employees got at work was just as important as their paycheck.
"The truth is, how much money you get every month is one thing. How much satisfaction you get every month is another," he wrote in a LinkedIn post.
"And sharing those values with the people you recruit is the best feeling in the world."
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.
Luxury watches often come with the sort of price tag that prohibits most of us from owning one — an inaccessibility that has, in the past, been a central part of what made something luxurious a luxury.
But thanks to new companies approaching the industry with more robust business models, things are changing, and luxury is becoming increasingly affordable.
Now, if you find the right online company, you can own a watch that should theoretically cost 10 to 40 times what it takes to produce for much less.
And if you're looking for that, you should know about Filippo Loreti.
Filippo Loreti is a watch company that was founded by 20-something Lithuanian brothers Danielius and Matas Jakutis in 2015. Aside from its watches, it’s best-known for its record-breaking 2015 Kickstarter in which the company outstripped its $20,000 goal by raising close to a million dollars in a month’s time. The company’s mission was and is simple: make $1,000+ luxury watches affordable and relatively accessible.
In short, the Jakutis brothers wanted to democratize the luxury timepiece industry.
By creating the company online and reducing how many external pieces they have to include (middlemen and retailers) the company is able to keep its costs low and pass those savings on to its customers. As a result, you pay from $219 for a minimalist watch to $609 for an artisanal automatic, all well under what luxury watches typically go for.
Filippo Loreti’s 2015 Kickstarter campaign made it the most crowdfunded watch company in history, and, in 2016, the company broke its own record by raising over 5.5 million in 30 days from more than 18,000 backers. In total, the company has launched three record-breaking crowdfunding campaigns, raised more than $10,000,000 tot and is one of Kickstarter’s 20 most successful initiatives across all categories.
Aside from affordable luxury, Filippo Loreti likely draws customers for its ongoing spirit of crowdsourcing. The company maintains the “old ways” that set great watches apart from the rest, but its watches are co-developed with the brand’s community — resulting in a luxury watch that still feels aspirational, but with the sort of thoughtful design that brings it decisively into the ‘now’.
Initially, the company’s messaging — like most watch brands — was catered towards men. However, one facet of the elegance and elastic utilitarianism of watches is that they aren’t necessarily gendered. While Filippo Loreti’s site offers two sections — men’s watches and women’s watches— the differences are minimal, and the prices identical.
Anyone of any gender could comfortably wear the designs.
The watches are inspired by three iconic Italian cities — Venice, Rome, and Milan — as well as, less overtly, the long history of Italian luxury and finesse in general — emulating the same meticulous and vocational craftsmanship of industry landmarks like Ferrari, Fendi, Versace, Prada, Armani, and Dolce & Gabbana.
For the last few weeks, the women on our team have been wearing watches from the $249 Rome collection to see how they stack up. As a whole, the line is minimalist, versatile, and elegant. Of the four options, the major distinctions are in color of leather and metal: Matte Black, Rose Gold, Gold, or Silver.
Filippo Loreti’s interpretation of Rome takes its main inspiration from the famous Piazza del Campidoglio, a “masterwork of urban planning” with a mesmerizing, elliptical design by Michelangelo as its centerpiece. The series’ dials are executed in a reminiscent style, using a “guilloche” pattern most notably used by high-end watchmakers. The collection falls in line with the iconic Italian architectural monuments best defined by their sloping lines and carefully crafted details. At the back of the watch face, you’ll find a 3D embossed recreation of the Piazza del Campidoglio — an unusually beautiful addition that adds artisan value without interfering with its simplicity.
You can swap out leather bands if you value versatility, and you can shop for an automatic ($585 - $609) or quartz ($249) form the series. Though, in a rare distinction for the brand, the Rome automatic watches are only found in the men’s section.
Financially, it makes sense to get a luxury watch here rather than pay a 4,000% markup — at least until that markup is justified by the sort of iconic name that warrants a lopsided price. Plus, the company offers free shipping worldwide, 90-day returns, and a 10-year international warranty.
But, all in all, the watches are really nice — even regardless of price point. Part of the draw to Italian staples like Fendi, Ferrari, and Versace is the knowledge that these items were, in some way, costly either in price, effort, or ingenuity to produce. Filippo Loreti watches are affordable, but they still feel luxurious and aspirational in the sense that they feel distinctly thoughtful and labored-over. The Rome collection is simple enough to be timeless and versatile, but still ultimately feels customized.
Below are the watches we tried and what we thought:
Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter:
I’ve always had a strong preference for gold or light-colored watches, but Filippo Loreti’s Rome Matte Black watch might be the first to make me jump ship. Though it’s all black, the various textures — the geometric etchings surrounded by a smooth ring of marble, the soft yet sturdy leather — play against each other so the watch is still visually interesting. The reverse engraving is beautifully detailed, and even though no one else can see it, it’s a reminder of the brand’s elegance, sophistication, and craftsmanship.
Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter:
I've gotten to check out a lot of watches through my time at Insider Picks, and Filippo Loreti is one of my favorites. The quality of the materials and the considered but understated design make them look and feel luxurious without being over the top. The matte black is sleek and the proportions spot on — not so thin that it appears purely ornamental or the watch face unnaturally large like many women’s watches, but also not bulky enough to appear overtly masculine. The contrasting texture and intricate pattering are interesting to look at, and I love the personalization of the 3D embossed Piazza on the back. My favorite aspect, though — aside from price — is that I always think of Michelangelo’s geometric centerpiece when I look down at my wrist. It’s an oddly nice source for a recurring mix of both humility and inspiration — and I like knowing my watch has a bit more of “deep dive” story to it.
Remi Rosmarin, Insider Picks intern:
I rarely wear watches. I have a small wrist, so I find that most watches either dangle uncomfortably or just look absurdly large on my arm. Those issues, plus the high price tags on most watches I actually do like, have deterred me from watch shopping all together. I assumed this watch would be another failure.
After trying the Rome Gold, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The brown leather band and gold face give the watch a classic, timeless look that matches well with my everyday jewelry. At 40 mm, the face of the watch is still pretty large, but I did not find it obtrusive as I typed and did work. I think this can be credited to the settings on the band, which allowed me to make sure the watch was really secure. The design is simple, but the textured pattern on the face definitely adds some intrigue. This watch may not go in my everyday rotation right away, but I definitely will re-wear it. If you’re in the market for a watch, I think Filippo Loreti, with its high quality but reasonably priced options, is worth checking out.
Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks editor:
I am no watch connoisseur, but my partner has a collection of minimalist timepieces that I occasionally steal to wear myself. This time, it seems, I'll have to guard my own watch from her thieving hands.
I got the Rome Silver watch to test out, and I've been amply pleased with it so far. The minimalist silhouette of the watch is what I found myself initially drawn to, but the immense detail is what keeps me wanting to revisit it every day. I'm particularly excited to wear it on my trip to Rome in March of next year, where I absolutely plan compare the etching of the Piazza del Campidoglio to the real thing.
It's worth noting that the watch face is on the larger size for my wrist, which isn't something I mind, but may be a consideration for anyone with tiny wrists or daintier taste.
When he joined Y Combinator as a venture partner in 2010, Harj Taggar was the first full-time employee at the startup accelerator. He and his partners were constantly refining their selection process.
As they watched accepted entrepreneurs build their businesses, the partners came to one glaring realization: The most successful founders didn't always look so good on paper.
Taggar, who is currently the cofounder and CEO of Triplebyte, told Business Insider: "Often, we'd fund people that had been promoted and risen up the ranks at really top quality companies like Google. But they'd work at a startup and they couldn't handle the ambiguity. It wasn't a good fit for them."
On the other hand, Taggar said, they'd see people "who had an unusual background, an eclectic mix of things that they'd done, and actually turn out to be really great at [entrepreneurship]."
He and his partners became obsessed with figuring out the best ways to identify top talent, without relying on resumes.
At some point, they realized that one of the best predictors of a founder's success was what the founders did in their spare time.
"What projects did they work on, and in particular when did they work on projects out of personal interest, because they thought that they would learn something or they were just curious about something?" Taggar said. In other words, he was less interested in projects they did because it was required for school or for work.
The Y Combinator partners started looking more closely at founders' responses to a prompt that's still on the application today: "Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together."
Y Combinator looks for curiosity and the willingness to test new ideas
In the last decade, Y Combinator has launched a number of successful startups, including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Instacart.
Some startups that have applied to Y Combinator have publicly posted their initial applications, so you can see how they responded to that particular prompt.
When The Muse cofounders applied, in 2011, they mentioned a "10-year strategic review for Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street)'s South African production, Takalani Sesame." Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox, applied in 2007 and mentioned an online SAT prep company he'd previously launched.
Taggar recalled the application submitted by Brian Armstrong, cofounder of Coinbase. At the time, Taggar said, "it wasn't clear that [Bitcoin] was going to be anything particularly popular. But [Armstrong] had already spent a bunch of time building tools for it and making it easier to buy Bitcoin." Taggar said it was evident that Armstrong was simply interested in this "cool new thing."
Armstrong's interest in building cryptocurrency tools on the side is a prime example of what Y Combinator is looking for, Taggar said. "We found that a predictor of would we want to fund someone is: Is this someone that's got a curiosity about the world and likes getting ideas off the ground to see what happens?"
Employees routinely rank Google as one of the best workplaces in America, and deciding whether to leave the company is never an easy decision.
The three founders of the startup Beeswax, all of whom are former Google ad executives, recently explained to Business Insider how they each knew it was the right time to quit.
The trio founded Beeswax, which makes software that helps companies bid for ads online in real time, in 2015, and have since expanded to 55 employees and are outgrowing their Manhattan office. Their revenue last year was estimated at $25 million.
Before leaving to start Beeswax, chief technical officer Ram Rengaswamy worked at Google for seven years as a tech lead and software engineer on high-profile projects like Gmail.
But at Google, he said, he wasn't able to build projects from the ground up like he wanted to.
"I kind of knew that I wasn't growing much at Google," he told Business Insider. "I mean, yes, there were challenging problems to solve, but there are so many smart people there who've done all the heavy lifting that honestly, what I felt like I was doing was taking the Lego bricks and just building stuff on top. So someone had already had done the hard work and for me I was just putting things together."
It was a matter of "I'm inquisitive, I'm curious, and I'm not learning enough on my job," he said.
On top of that, he said at Google it can be hard for your accomplishments to stand out, and it's unlikely you'd get attention from higher-ups like founders Larry Page or Sergey Brin.
"It's a big organization and there's just so much impact a single person can have," Rengaswamy said. "So that was another thing that would always bother me, that yeah, sure if I left Google, I don't think Larry or Sergey would know or care or would even be aware."
"That part always was a thing on my mind. So I think it was a combination of those two things."
Meanwhile, Ari Paparo, Beeswax's CEO, left Google in 2010 after two years as a director of product management. More recently, he was a product management executive at AppNexus and Bazaarvoice.
He said his decision to leave Google was more based on finding a company culture that would allow him to succeed.
"For me it was a little different," he said. "It was that I saw myself as more of a businessperson than a technologist. And Google is very much an engineering culture, so there's a limit to what you can get done as a businessperson."
Beeswax's chief product officer, Shamim Samadi, worked at Google for nine years, the longest-tenured Googler of the three. His two stints at the company included six years as a lead product manager for advertising.
Samadi said Paparo approached him with the idea for Beeswax and immediately became excited at the thought of developing the new ad technology. But more importantly, he realized he'd have to leave Google to develop it.
"I'd been feeling it in my current role and felt very much that the incumbents would have a hard time pulling it off, and for structural and infrastructure and philosophical reasons just didn't see it as a real opportunity," he told Business Insider. "I got really excited about the idea and then more importantly, about the team to do it with."
Already having a strong relationship with Paparo and Rengaswamy, Samadi said he felt comfortable making his exit at Google.
"We all probably had it in the back of our heads, we want to start something at some point," he said. "But then it comes down to, what is the idea or the area, and what is the team that you do it with? And when those two things are there, you make the leap."
A decade ago, Harj Taggar couldn't have predicted what his career would look like today.
Taggar, a former partner at the startup accelerator Y Combinator, is the cofounder and CEO of Triplebyte, a recruiting and technical screening platform for tech companies. Back then, he was a law student in the United Kingdom.
He had an idea for a business, and was considering moving to Silicon Valley to pursue it. But the prospect of dropping out of law school was intimidating.
So Taggar evaluated his options using a simple strategy that he still uses and recommends to young professionals today: He got as specific as possible about the risks of dropping out.
Taggar told Business Insider, "What I pushed myself on was, 'OK, what is the big risk here?'"
At the time, he said, he had no real expenses — and also minimal savings. He remembers thinking, "The worst-case scenario here is, I work on a startup, it doesn't go anywhere, and 12 months later, I re-enroll in law school."
Suddenly, that worst-case scenario didn't seem so scary after all. He left law school and moved to the US to work on his startup, Auctomatic, an auction and marketplace management system for sellers.
Soon after, Taggar was accepted into Y Combinator, and his startup received investments from Paul Buchheit, the lead developer of Gmail, as well as the venture capitalists Paul Graham and Chris Sacca. (The business has since shut down.)
A few years later, Taggar became a venture partner at Y Combinator, which in the past decade has launched startups including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Instacart.
It's OK if you decide not to take the risk — as long as you know exactly why
"It's easy to avoid taking the leap or doing something because you just have this gut-level feel of 'it's too risky for me to do,'" Taggar said. He said he tells people, "If they have enough curiosity to consider it as an option, but they're afraid of the risk factor, then I'd say be specific. What exactly is the risk?"
Say you're worried about not having an income while you're building your startup. Taggar called that "a totally valid concern," but added that you can get more specific by asking yourself, "How long could you go? What would happen if you went six months without being paid a salary?"
Even if your ultimate answer is "this just isn't for me," Taggar said, that's OK. Maybe you have a mortgage and a new family and it's not the best time to take a risk. The key is to know exactly why you're avoiding that jump.
Taggar said, "Often people surprise themselves when they write things out and are more specific about the risks and how big the risks actually are for them."
One of the most important factors to weigh when choosing the name of a company is how memorable it will be to your customers.
The founders of Beeswax kept that in mind.
Beeswax is a New York ad-tech startup founded by three former Google ad executives. The company pioneered a new way for marketers to bid for ads online. Three years after the startup's launch, its revenue was estimated at $25 million.
So what does beeswax have to do with advertising?
"I really liked the insect metaphors because our customers are very hardworking and industrious, and they're toiling away doing their thing," CEO Ari Paparo told Business Insider. "So we were thinking about hives and ants and bees and it just evolved."
The metaphor doesn't stop there. The names of Beeswax's products are on-brand references like Buzz, Drone, Stinger, Pollinator, and Waggle, the name of a dance bees use to communicate. The walls of Beeswax's Manhattan office are painted with hexagonal, honeycomb-like designs.
"We're doing something really different, we're doing something pretty bold. We want it to be memorable," chief product officer Shamim Samadi told Business Insider.
For the founders, choosing a unique name for their startup was also a way to distinguish them from their competition. In New York City alone, the crowded ad-tech industry includes companies with names like AdRoll, AdHawk, ADstruc, adMarketplace, and xAd, and Paparo said "it was the No. 1 requirement" that their name didn't have "ad" in it.
"Ad tech's been around for a while, and we're coming into the market later than our competition. So we felt like we just had to break through," Paparo said. "If we had another name like AdPotato, everyone would be like, ah, that sounds like those other guys, 'ad' this, 'ad' that."
"So definitely it was a conscious decision to try to do something that would leverage up our awareness and our marketing."
Samadi put it more bluntly.
"No one's asked what our company name is twice," he said.
The tech startup and investment is a homogeneous world, with the stereotype of white men at the helm still prevailing.
According to data from The Entrepreneurs' Network and Beauhurst released in 2017, just 9%, or £358.4 million, of UK investment went to startups with a female founder. The remaining £3.6 billion went to male-founded companies. It isn't for want of trying either — female founders anecdotally report that it is tougher for them to raise money.
One early-stage venture capital firm, Forward Partners, is releasing diversity statistics for its startups for the first time in an effort to shine a light on where it puts its millions. Forward has invested in 52 startups since 2013, such as peer-to-peer lender Zopa, and has $84.4 million (£74 million) in funds under management.
Here's how its 52 startups breakdown:
At least one female founder: 10 (7 have all-female teams)
All-white founders: 37
At least one ethnic minority founder: 15 (8 are all ethnic minority teams)
The figures still show a stark disparity between the number of men and women being funded but it looks like Forward is doing better than the average. There isn't much to go on beyond anecdotal data but, according to Crunchbase, teams with female founders accounted for just 9% of all global venture deals in the first quarter of 2018.
Forward Partners investor Louise Rix, who conducted the research, also looked through six weeks' worth of startup applications to determine how successful different types of applicants were at winning investment. That comprised 300 pitch decks.
She found that all-female applications made up just 7% of pitches, but those teams did well with funding, since 14% of Forward's portfolio are all-female teams, or seven companies.
Forward Partners itself is not hugely diverse, a fact that Rix — the only woman on the investment team — acknowledged. "What we want to say is that we care about this, that we’ve got a lot improvements to do, this is where we’re at, and we're aiming to improve," she told Business Insider. "It would be great if other VCs would share their data as well."
There is a dearth of information from the European venture capital industry about the diversity of its investors and portfolio companies. Diversity VC, a group campaigning for more diverse investors, released a landmark study in 2017 showing that just 13% of people calling the investment shots at venture capital firms are women.
Rachel Carrell is the founder of a Forward Partners portfolio startup, Koru Kids, which provides childcare to help working parents after school. She raised £3.5 million ($4.6 million) in a seed round in May from Forward and Albion Capital.
"It's really good for society to have more diverse investments," she said. "When you invest in women, you do get different types of businesses. A lot of investors, they have a collective blind spot as a group.
"Did [being a female founder] make a difference? It's not a controlled experiment, so it's hard to tell. Could I have raised more or faster, it's impossible to tell. But I don't think it’s a coincidence this is the first significant VC-backed startup to address childcare I’m a mum of two kids."
Rix said Forward had taken a first step in benchmarking itself, and planned to improve from there. "We are pretty pleased we’re beating the averages," she said.
Nicki Radzely didn't go on "Shark Tank" to make friends.
She knew she'd be pummeled with hard questions — and potentially insults — about the product she was pitching, the Pop Pacifier.
Radzely is the cofounder of Doddle & Co., a company that makes baby products, including pacifiers and teethers. The Pop Pacifier is designed to stay clean because the nipple pops back in every time it falls.
When Radzely went on the show in January, Doddle & Co. was four months old, and she was asking for $250,000 in exchange for 5% of her company, meaning she had valued the business at $5 million.
Daymond John took the lead on questioning Radzely about the cost, her sales, and why she thought the company was worth $5 million.
When Mark Cuban and Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, proclaimed the product a "hit" with parents, John jumped in to say it "sucks." It was a pun, since the product was a pacifier — but you would imagine that the comment would sting nonetheless.
That wasn't Radzely's reaction. "I thought it was fantastic," she told Business Insider. Radzely also got a kick out of John putting the pacifier in his mouth during the episode.
"I think he was giving me a wink through his comments and actions to get us on air and to give some rise to our brand," Radzely said.
"He asked hard questions," she said, "which helped me prove to the other investors that were sitting there that I could answer them and that there were no major flaws or gaps in our story."
She added: "The questions that people were probably thinking, sitting at home watching, he asked. So it gave me a moment to clear that air."
Radzely received multiple offers, including a joint offer from Blakely and Lori Greiner. Ultimately, Radzely accepted Kevin O'Leary's offer: $250,000 for 10% of the company.
Today, Doddle & Co. has reached nearly $1 million in sales.
Radzely said she "loved everything" that John "said and did."
"It only helped us," she said.
When Patrick Ip joined Google in 2014, he was quickly introduced to a man named Meng.
Meng, whose full name is Chade Meng-Tan, was an early engineer at Google turned full-time motivator for the company with the memorable job title of "Jolly Good Fellow."
In one of their first meetings together, Ip remembers Meng pondering a new idea: "Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information. What if we tried to organize the world’s goodness?”
Meng's idea would eventually lead to a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
For Ip, it was a formative lesson about the power of innovative ideas and technology.
Ip, along with his co-founder Jacobo Lumbreras, created Catalog to help small to medium-sized brands get unique, high-quality product photography at a lower cost than what was available before.
“It just shows how arcane the process is, where the only thing that is really a substitute [to Catalugue] are stock images that everyone already has access to,” Ip explains. “On the high end, the only other substitutes are in-house studios and agencies.”
One of Catalog's first customers — an all-natural cosmetics company named Naked Poppy — was quoted $7,000 for 15 photos by an agency.
Catalog's product shots, by contrast, only cost $20 per photo.
Ip said he saw the problem first hand while he was at Google. Not having quality photography was one of the top reasons smaller companies weren't able to find success on Adwords — Google's search advertising service — and ultimately left the Google platform.
"What separates these highly saturated markets is the content you have, the photos that tell your story to connect with people," Ip says. "I got to see the problem at Google's scale, so I know it's huge."
To achieve lower costs, Catalog connects brands with independent photographers around the country. They hope their two-sided marketplace will create steady work for the photography community.
“[Photographers] can’t quit their [day] jobs on one-off deals. They need to know that work will continue to come,” Ip says. “[Catalog] could become a way for [them] to do this full time.”
If it can create more jobs for photographers and help small brands grow, Ip hopes that Catalog could ultimately represent its own act of good.
The project at Google — One Billion Acts of Peace — didn't ultimately win the Nobel Peace Prize, but it did gain the support of 14 Nobel Laureates, including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Over 53 million acts of peace have been documented by the project thus far.
Before Jeff Bezos was the richest man in modern history, he was operating Amazon.com out of his garage.
It's a scene that's probably familiar to a lot of startups, but in a 1998 interview, Bezos said the reason most startups need to relocate out of the garage isn't because of space — but instead, power.
While visiting the UK in 1998 to promote the launch of Amazon.co.uk, Bezos sat down with writer Steve Homer to discuss Amazon's inception and timeline. While reflecting on the 20th anniversary of Amazon.co.uk's launch recently, Homer released a transcript of the 20-year-old interview.
During the 1998 discussion, Bezos spoke about his time operating Amazon.com out of his garage. Working in a garage is almost synonymous with startup culture at this point, but at some point it becomes unsustainable. While it might seem like a lack of space becomes the motivating factor to invest in some office space, Bezos said it's something else entirely.
"I know why people move out of garages," Bezos said in the interview. "It’s not because they ran out of room. It’s because they ran out of electric power. There have so many computers in the garage that circuit breakers kept flipping. We had to siphon power from all the other rooms in the house with big orange electric cords, extension cables, and so then we couldn’t plug in a vacuum cleaner, or a hair dryer anymore in the house. At a certain point, we had to get a real office, which we did."
The interview provides a striking contrast between the CEO in 1998, who just years prior had been working out of a garage and siphoning electricity, and who he is now: the richest person in modern history, valued at about $140 billion
To read and listen to the full 1998 interview with Bezos, click here.
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The eucalyptus revolution has finally made it into your bed. You're not only finding traces of that Australian tree in your favorite ointments, lip balms, perfumes, and medicines, but also in yet another product meant to make you feel like the most pampered version of yourself. Meet Buffy— not the vampire slayer (a joke I'm sure the company is tired of hearing), but rather a new line of comforters that may just be one of the best things I've ever had in or on my bed.
At its core, the Buffy is a down-alternative comforter constructed with a mix of microfiber and eucalyptus fiber.
The eucalyptus isn't just for show, but rather lends its naturally soothing and anti-inflammatory effects to your nightly skin regimen — all without your having to lift a finger. While I was a bit skeptical about just how useful a eucalyptus comforter could be, I will say that this is one blanket that you'll want to have touching your face.
It's incredibly soft and silky, and while I can't say that I've ever had inflammatory issues with other comforters, Buffy somehow feels slicker (in the best of ways) when compared to other comforters I've tried out. That said, keep in mind that you'll have to sleep with the Buffy sans duvet cover if you want to reap the full eucalyptus benefits — that may be a little iffy, even if you can wash the Buffy in your laundry machine. In any case, here's hoping that the company will soon release a companion cover that still leverages the health benefits of our favorite Australian plant.
The interior of the comforter is filled with no fewer than 50 recycled bottles.That isn't to say that they've just crushed up your empty Dasanis and Aquafinas and placed them within a eucalyptus cover, but rather that Buffy's sustainable practices are actively rescuing used plastic bottles and giving them new life as part of your bedtime. Somehow, these bottles are spun into polyester and then "crimped for fluffiness." And fluffy this comforter most certainly is.
Part of this may be attributed to the lyocell found in the comforter — this cellulose fiber is a form of rayon, made by dissolving wood pulp using a jet-wet spinning method. It also turns out to be hypoallergenic, naturally repelling mold, mildew, dust mites, and other microbes or pathogens. The result is a comforter that feels light and airy, and won't get musty over time, and is substantial enough to keep you warm on a chilly evening.
And as for keeping you warm, I'm always a bit concerned about overheating during the night. But the Buffy does a surprisingly effective job at regulating temperature. By leveraging 37.5 technology, this comforter is able to keep you cooler than a similar product of comparable thickness, but is also breathable enough to let warm, sticky air escape during the night. That is to say, I've never woken up in a pool of my own sweat when sleeping with Buffy. Come fall, I'm quite confident that I'll be able to wrap myself in my comforter and face down even the chilliest of evenings without a snuggle partner.
Sustainability has clearly taken a forefront in all that Buffy does, which means that you can sleep comfortably and with a clear conscience, knowing that Buffy has reclaimed over 750,000 plastic bottles from entering the oceans and landfills, and saved over 15 million gallons of water by using eucalyptus rather than cotton.
Oh, and because Buffy isn't worried about filling its comforters with down feathers from the birds of the world, you'll also be investing in a cruelty-free product.
As for pricing, the Buffy isn't necessarily the cheapest option on the market, but when compared to similar products, it's still extremely affordable at $120 for Twin size. I should also point out that you don't initially buy the Buffy — instead, you take it out for a 30-day test period, totally risk-free. In fact, you're not even charged for the comforter until you're convinced you've fallen in love with it. That said, if you do decide to return it, the comforter goes to a good cause — the company notes that it generally donates returned products to homeless shelters in the local community.
All in all, if you're looking to give your nightly repose a major upgrade, you may want to take a closer look at what's on top of your bed, and replace it with a Buffy comforter.
Buy a Buffy comforter in the following sizes: Twin ($120), Full/Queen ($150), and King/Cali King ($190).
DON'T MISS: The best adjustable bed frames you can buy
It's been four years since Facebook ditched the latter part of its "Move Fast and Break Things" motto, but we're still uncovering its consequences and experiencing its aftermath.
(In case you're curious: the mantra was phased out in 2014, and semi-seriously replaced with "Move Fast with Stable Infra," as in computing infrastructure.)
The hacking attack Facebook discovered recently is only the latest outgrowth of that mantra. But you can see its lingering effects in basically all of the company's scandals and fiascos over the last two years, including the Cambridge Analytica debacle and the Russian-linked propaganda effort during the 2016 election.
But what makes it so dangerous is that you can find the effects of that motto far afield from Facebook. That's because from that company it quickly became the mantra of Silicon Valley. It's been imbued in the culture and in the way the tech industry as a whole has developed products for much of the last decade.
You can detect its influence in everything from Uber's numerous scandals to Google's recently acknowledged security hole in its Google+ social network. And because of its pervasiveness, we're certain to see its effects in many more fiascos to come.
The hacking incident, though, was a particularly bad manifestation of it.
Facebook has shown it doesn't care about "breaking" users' privacy
As the company revealed on Friday, in the attack, hackers gained access to the personal data of some 30 million users. For nearly of those affected, the compromised data included when they were born, where they had physically been recently, where they went to school, and whether they had worked.
What makes the attack worrisome is that such information is a goldmine for scammers. It can be used to steal consumer's identifies and gain access to their financial and other sensitive accounts.
The hacking attack was the result of a vulnerability that dates back more than a year. The vulnerability in turn was the outgrowth of three separate bugs that were at least that old, if not older. Facebook discovered the vulnerability — and the underlying bugs — only after hackers started exploiting it last month.
The vulnerability emerged years after Facebook dropped the "and break things" part of its famous motto. But the company's apparently unwitting creation of the hole, and its failure to detect it before the vulnerability was exploited, indicates that it was operating under the same mentality.
Facebook, after all, was founded and built — and its business model depends — on the attitude that users' private data is a commodity to be exploited. While it may worry more than in the past about "breaking things" when it moves fast, it has shown repeatedly that users' privacy is very far down the list of things it's concerned about messing up.
Even now, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when it's supposedly turned a new leaf on privacy, it still collects more information than it arguably needs and uses that information in ways of which users likely aren't aware. Just recently, for example, researchers discovered that the company was surreptitiously using phone numbers users gave it for security purposes to target them with ads.
The "Move Fast" mentality led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal
But you can find the effects of the company's "Move Fast and Break Things" motto far beyond the latest security hack. The Cambridge Analytica scandal — which compromised the data of some 87 million users — was an outgrowth of that mentality. The company shared data about its users with developers without worrying about the potential consequences or downsides of doing that and without bothering to check — until after the fiasco — if the developers' use of the data was on the up and up.
Amid that scandal, Facebook revealed another hack, one that affected far more people — up to half of its 2 billion user base — through which malicious actors were able to scrape user profile information via a search tool. Again, the company had introduced a new feature without thinking through how it could be used in a malign way and without taking steps to prevent that use until it was too late.
And then there's the spread of fake news and propaganda via Facebook, from the Russian-linked effort during the 2016 US presidential election to the campaign against Myanmar's Rohingya minority. As has been made clear in the wake of those and other scandals, the company built a system that could quickly and efficiently spread information among groups of like-minded people without worrying about how that system could be hijacked by people with bad intentions.
It's one thing if what gets broken when Facebook moves fast is some feature on the site. But the company is no longer a small startup with a tiny user base. When it screws something up, the effects can be deadly.
Facebook finally seems to be starting to grapple with the aftereffects of its erstwhile motto — or at least the public relations damage it's recently led to. Among other things, it's introduced new privacy controls, changed the way its News Feed works to promote posts from users' friends rather than from publishers, and started investigating what developer did with users' data.
"Move Fast and Break Things" is now the motto of Silicon Valley
But even if Facebook succeeds in heading off future harms from its service, the consequences of its motto are likely to live with us for years to come. That's because the "Move Fast and Break Things" mantra was embraced far and wide in the tech industry.
Entrepreneurs and startups, venture capitalists and other investors, and the tech giants have all espoused it in some form or another. Tech industry trade groups such as the Consumer Technology Association and libertarian think tanks such as the Mercatus Center have touted the philosophy as part of the notion of "permissionless innovation." Even right now, when the drawbacks of the Move Fast mentality have become all too clear, LinkedIn founder Reed Hoffman is touting a new book promoting the idea, calling it "blitzscaling."
Because it's been so widely embraced, standards have arguably fallen everywhere. Those that haven't immediately adopted the Move Fast motto have been pressured to do so at the risk of being left behind by their peers. If your rivals aren't worrying about the aftereffects of the technology they create or the business methods they adopt but instead are charging ahead to seize as much of the market as quickly as they can, you're going to do the same — damn the consequences.
Just as has happened with Facebook, that mentality is starting to catch up with other tech companies and with society, particularly as the companies have become bigger. Facebook wasn't the only service that has been hijacked to spread propaganda during the 2016 election; Google and Twitter were too. And Facebook isn't the only company that recently acknowledged a privacy compromising security flaw; Google did also, with it its Google+ service.
We're seeing the consequences all over
In many cases, thanks to the Move Fast mantra, tech companies have created services that even they don't have a handle on. Take Google-owned YouTube. Numerous times last year, it was found to be distributing and promoting disturbing videos to children. YouTube repeatedly vowed to address the problem, and it repeatedly failed.
In other cases, under the Move Fast mentality, tech companies have flaunted local laws and local sensibilities in their rush to seize local markets. Uber and Lyft were notorious for this, but so too, more recently, were scooter rental companies such as Lime and Bird.
And what was broken in those cases weren't just ordinances that arguably protected the entrenched taxi industry. Uber and Lyft have contributed to increased traffic and massively depressed the wages of taxi drivers, while scooters have ended up blocking sidewalks and entryways, causing an uproar among non-scooter using citizens.
As we've seen repeatedly, when you're moving fast, you don't have any time for reflection. You don't have time to think about what, exactly, you might be breaking or the larger social consequences of what you're doing. And there's even less time for public officials or the rest of society to catch up and keep an eye on things — even though real people outside the company may and have been harmed.
"Move Fast and Break Things" has spurred innovation at Facebook and in Silicon Valley. But that consequence-free, "permissionless" innovation mindset has real costs that we'll be paying for a long time to come.
Nearly a decade and a half out from the start of his music career, T-Pain decided to follow his side interest in startup culture into the world of reality business shows.
"T-Pain's School of Business," which premieres Tuesday on Fuse at 11 pm ET, finds the recording artist interviewing the founders of a wide range of successful product startups.
Speaking to Business Insider during a phone call from his studio last week, T-Pain discussed the startups featured on his series premiere, including a marijuana-infused wine and an all-in-one instrument for musicians, the popular influence of his music, and what we can expect from his upcoming work.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
John Lynch: I was relieved to hear you swearing and joking on the show. I was worried with this type of show that we might see a PG T-Pain.
T-Pain: Oh, no [laughs]. I am who I am on any platform.
Lynch: And Fuse was a good home for it?
T-Pain: Yeah, they were the only people who would actually let me do my thing, so yeah, definitely a good home.
Lynch: What inspired you to do this type of business show?
T-Pain: Mostly because I was already doing it at home, going through Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and all the funding sites. I was just trying to bring something that I already liked doing to TV. Not much other motivation than that, man. It was just a great idea. I told Fuse what I was doing on a daily basis, and they were like, "Man, that'd be a great show." And here we are.
Lynch: How did you approach hosting it?
T-Pain: It wasn't really a hard decision on how I was going to approach it, because like I said, I was already doing it, and I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs everyday. You've gotta imagine the number of people that come up to me everyday saying they have great ideas, or looking for funding. But a lot of these companies that I talked to on the show were already successful. I felt like it was more of an opportunity to teach than anything else, because I didn't want to have a show where I'm like, "I know all about making money. Here's how you do it — do this," or you know, I'm not shutting anybody down. That seemed like a terrible idea.
I just wanted it to be organic, natural, pretty much uplifting, and very, very informative. That was the most important thing. I wanted it to be informative and not just showing off how much money these people have made and how dope their products are. I wanted information behind the development, information behind the process, what made you come up with this idea. I wanted to motivate younger and up-and-coming entrepreneurs as well, so it helps out a lot to have an informative show, and not just something that's super duper fun and you learn nothing.
Lynch: One of the products that you seemed to like a lot was the Artiphon 1, this all-in-one instrument that raised $1 million on Kickstarter. What did you think of playing that, and have you used it at all since then?
T-Pain: Yeah, I'm literally looking at it right now [laughs]. I'm in my studio, and I've got it hooked up in my studio right now. The Artiphon is such a new take on something that sort of existed, but there's been nothing like it so far that I've seen, other than normal Midi controllers and the keyboards that you can bring in and turn into Midi controllers. It's such a different thing, like with the iBow that you can use your phone and treat it like a violin, and the guitar aspect of it, you can play a piano like a guitar. So many different ways you can use it. You can make your own custom pads. And it's just one thing that fits into your backpack. Before I saw this product, using my laptop in my hotel room, I would have to bring a keyboard, a small guitar, a record device, but all of that is in that Artiphon, so it helps out a lot.
Lynch: Another product you tried was a weed-infused wine. That you seemed more skeptical of, which I think was right — it seemed like a bizarre scenario.
T-Pain: [laughs] Yeah, that was actually pretty cool, man. I wasn't chill about it at first because I'm just not a weed guy. I'm just terrible at weed on any account. I don't know how somebody can be bad at weed, but I'm just real bad at weed. I can't do edibles, I can't smoke weed, but then I drank that, and man, I was actually pretty chill. Usually I'm freaking losing my mind or something like that, but there wasn't a crazy dosage of THC in it, so I bet that helps out a lot, and also I like drinking. But yeah, it worked fairly quickly and very effectively.
Lynch: To go back to music technology, as one of the modern originators of autotune, what was it like for you to see that technology and that style really take off in the years after your first album?
T-Pain: It was pretty cool, man, to be an innovator. Not that I invented autotune or was the first person to use it or anything like that. A lot of people have complained that they did it before me, and I'm grateful for that and, hey, maybe they motivated me, I don't know, but it didn't take off like it did after I did it. To see myself as somebody that brought it to the forefront and made it popular, I'm really glad I did it. That's something under my belt that I can keep going and tell my grandkids about.
Lynch: And you're still — you haven't exhausted it, you still like using autotune as a tool?
T-Pain: Oh, absolutely. I can't stop doing something that I started. It's a pretty cool thing for me, and it's part of my sound. So I don't want to change too much. If it ain't broke don't fix it, you know. It's one of those things.
Lynch: You had a recent back-and-forth on Twitter with Delta airlines about your distaste for their runway music, and they ended up playing "Buy U a Drank" on one of your flights. Is that, or what's the strangest place you've heard one of your songs?
T-Pain: Probably in a church [laughs]. That was weird.
Lynch: You said "in a church"? [laughs]
T-Pain: Yeah, I didn't think they would be doing that, but hey, they used it, flipped the words around to talk about God and Jesus, and yeah, I'm all about it. I have no problem with that.
Lynch: Which song was it?
T-Pain: It was "Bartender," which was weird. They flipped that around and made it about "the word." So that was pretty cool.
Lynch: Prepping for this call, I had a sharp flashback to being an emotional white kid listening to "I'm Sprung" on like a CD player, back in the day [laughs]. I'm wondering, is there an era of your career that you're particularly nostalgic for or proud of?
T-Pain: I think the "THR33 RINGZ" era. I feel like I got more creative in that time, and I took more risks with the style of clothing I was wearing, and coming out with all these props at my shows. And that's another thing that really brought me to doing this TV show was taking risks, and just seeing how difficult it is to really believe in yourself when nobody else knows what the hell is going on. Because if I would have listened to people when I came up with the whole circus theme [for "THR33 RINGZ"], that whole album would have never happened. It helped to believe in myself and get to a point where I could channel my inner entrepreneur and just go for it, and do things on the road that nobody had seen before, and it worked out.
Lynch: You just dropped a second volume of "Everything Must Go." Why release free collections of your songs at this time — why must everything go?
T-Pain: Well, for one, I don't feel like buying any more hard drives, and I'm running out of room on all the ones my music is on. So if I'm running out of space on a four terabyte drive, then I just need to either delete all the music I got on there or just release it. I'm not using it for anything or making money off it sitting in the ol' hard drive, then why not just give it to the people? It's just something to bring awareness that I'm still here, same type of music. It was music I made in my leisure. I mean, the only way I would capitalize off of it is if one of the songs becomes a hit and I go touring off of that song for some reason, I don't know why, but it's not really a priority of mine at this present time.
Lynch: How are you thinking about your next official release — I'm assuming you're in the studio for it?
T-Pain: Yeah, it's actually coming pretty soon, like really really soon. Like less than two months soon. So I'm just in the studio getting it done. We got the final tracks. I just sent in all the sessions for mixing. It's pretty much like, not so much a surprise, but basically like I'm doing everything on the go. The game isn't really big on promoting anymore anyways, so it's just like a thing I'm doing. I'm not seeing it as a big, life-changing thing I'm doing, but it's definitely something I want to put out in the world.
Lynch: How are you conceptualizing it musically?
T-Pain: I don't think I'm coming at it with any particular concept or anything like that. Conceptually, it's just me enjoying music again. It's just a vast array of things that I've had on my mind recently. There was a point where music didn't really mean as much to me as it used to, so just getting back in the groove and really enjoying it again is what you would get out from it. If I had to lay a concept to it, I think it's just me having fun [laughs]. That's all it boils down to.
"T-Pain's School of Business" premieres Tuesday night on Fuse at 11 pm ET.
Costume Town may look like a typical, online costume rental store — complete with a replica Stormtrooper suit and Spider-Man onesie — but behind the scenes, it runs a little differently.
Rather than keep its inventory in a storefront or warehouse, Costume Town is built on Omni — the San Francisco-based startup that's on a mission to transform the traditional self-storage world.
Omni lets users not only store their items for a flat monthly fee per item, but it also allows for those items to be rented to strangers, helping it customers earn money on things — like fancy plates, or crutches — that would have otherwise collected dust. Some, like Costume Town, use Omni as the back-end inventory storage for their business.
When you want to store an item, you schedule a pickup, and an Omni courier grabs it from you. When you want it back, same deal; just use the app to schedule a dropoff. A camera might cost you $0.50/month to store with Omni, while larger items like a bike may be $3/month. Pickups and dropoffs can be free, depending on the time of day.
"We're always trying to push the boundaries on how people think about assets, ownership, and access," Omni CEO Tom McLeod told Business Insider in a recent interview.
On Wednesday, Omni announced it was pushing those boundaries even further by letting users cash out their rental income by moving it to an XRP wallet. XRP is a cryptocurrency (or token) that was originated by the blockchain company Ripple.
McLeod tells us when a user decides to cash out, his company will look at the current prices across the top five XRP exchanges and offer the average of those amounts to be transferred to a user's XRP wallet. Once the transfer is complete, users can store that value in their wallets and, when they decide the time is right, trade it for regular money.
"We think of Omni as a tool for unlocking liquidity. Rentals give you the ability to unlock value while still maintaining that asset, " McLeod explains. "Now [with the XRP integration] you can also look at one of your items as an investment and then double dip into another investment off the back of it."
McLeod gives the example of a tent that rents for $50 over the weekend. An Omni user can cash out $25 in USD to their traditional bank account and move the remaining $25 to their XRP wallet as an investment.
Omni COO Ryan Delk explains that the reason XRP was such a great fit for this dip into cryptocurrency was mainly because of the token's liquidity.
"The transaction confirmation speed is incredibly fast (seconds), the cost to transfer is really low (pennies), and it's very liquid — you can move XRP into any other currency on any major exchange," he said.
Omni hasn't been shy about its interest in crypto. Part of its recent $25 million funding round came from two Ripple executives — Chris Larsen and Stefan Thomas — in the form of Ripple's XRP token.
"Having a strategy for how you want to work with some degree of crypto is important for almost any startup at this point," McLeod said. "This is us dipping our toe in with a partner that has worked with us in the past."
Beyond the XRP integration, Delk tells us that bringing its services to more cities across the US will be a focus for the company. Last month, the storage-startup that's raised over $40 million in funding began operating in Portland — its the first market outside of the Bay Area.
The company also wants to invest in building out tools for businesses, like Costume Town, which are actually relying on Omni to make their own businesses run.
"Probably similar to Airbnb when people starting going beyond just listing their own home. Or the same thing Uber went through where people bought more cars to have more people drive for Uber," Delk explains. "We're starting to see that moment happen [at Omni], which is pretty exciting."
Scribd's mission is "to change the way the world reads," but its CEO Trip Adler says that mission came about by chance.
“We kind of got into books a little bit accidentally,” Adler told us.
Initially, Adler and his co-founder Jared Friedman set out to help Adler's father publish an academic paper online — a process that took upwards of 18 months before the first iteration of Scribd was built. At the time, there were blogs for publishing a few paragraphs of text, Adler explains, but blogs didn't work for publishing a 10-page academic thesis or scientific paper. And so, Scribd was born as a place to put longer documents on the web.
"We were good for taking things that were already written and getting them on the web," Adler said.
Quickly, people other than Adler's father started uploading content via Scribd, which attracted more readers. Those readers then started uploading content of their own.
"We got a nice viral loop started, and pretty soon we had tens of millions of users," Adler tells us.
That was 2007.
Eleven years and a few pivots later, Scribd considers itself the Netflix of the publishing world — offering readers unlimited access to a library of more than 1 million books and audiobooks, magazines, and other documents for an $8.99 monthly fee.
On Wednesday, Scribd announced a brand new service, bundling a Scribd subscription and with a subscription to The New York Times for one monthly fee of $12.99. For context, a subscription to The New York Times alone costs $15.99 per month after introductory rates, a Times spokesperson told us.
"It's a great step forward for readers and a great step forward for our industry," Adler says of partnership, which is the first time his company has provided readers full-access to a news publisher.
Those interested in the bundle package will sign up through the Scribd app — where they can access the Scribd library — but will be provided separate login credentials to The New York Times.
Correcting the course
Though Wednesday marks a significant milestone for Scribd, the past eleven years haven't been easy for Adler, who says he's averaged 90 hour work weeks since co-founding the company.
"There's been a few moments when things weren't going well — where we were burning a lot of money, or the team was really unhappy, or we weren't growing fast, or the board wasn't happy — there's plenty of moments like that where it gets kind of frustrating," he explains. "But I think if you do this stuff for a while, you learn that this is just how it goes and there's always challenges, and you just learn to enjoy being challenged."
One of those moments came in early 2016, three years after the company had first launched its subscription model, according to a report by Fast Company. The team realized it was losing too much money on subscribers who were voraciously reading 100 books per month, mostly in the mystery and romance genre. It was also taking a major hit on those accessing scientific and technical books that cost Scribd $50 to $100 in licensing fees per read. In February 2016, to keep the company from financially going under, Adler and his team cut off unlimited access to their library and limited readers to three e-books and one audiobook per month.
In February 2018, Scribd re-launched its subscription offering with new content and a new model to curb the consumption that cost the company the most. Readers now have unlimited access to Scribd's content library until they reach the upper limits in a given month, at which point they will be given a narrowed offering of titles to choose from for the rest of that month.
Adler is confident in his company's current approach, and is especially bullish on the subscription model for books, given the success of other content subscription services like Netflix which has over 130 million subscribers and Spotify with over 80 million subscribers.
"In the reading space, I think we can build a subscriber base of similar scale," Adler tells us. "And if we do, that really is going to have a lot of secondary and tertiary effects in terms of how people read. You'll have a whole new audience, reading in a totally new way. It'll also just create a lot more subscription revenue to give back to the industry and grow the industry."
The next chapter
Today, Scribd has 800,000 monthly subscribers, growing at 50% per year.
Through the company's evolution, Adler says he's relied heavily on the people around him, taking a page out of Jim Collins' classic business book, "Good to Great."
"In 'Good to Great,' they talk about all these strategy success stories, and every single success story started with getting the team together first, and then the strategy came from the team," Adler says. "If you have a really good team in place, really good ideas will naturally emerge from that."
As for what his favorite recent book, Adler doesn't stray far from the Silicon Valley zeitgeist — "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind," a popular book with the tech intelligentsia, would be his choice.
And, as he points out, it's available on Scribd.
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What would happen if Elon Musk had more time in his day? Would he start another company?
It's a question that Invisible CEO and co-founder Francis Pedraza thinks about often.
Pedraza told Business Insider in a recent interview that people who make a career out of non-repetitive tasks — like forming business strategies and writing computer code — still spend around 40% of their day doing process-based work that could be delegated or automated. Pedraza pointed to recruiters who devote half their days to posting job descriptions across the internet and account managers who are forced to fill out detailed reports.
On Thursday, Pedraza's company Invisible announced it has raised a $2.6 million seed round to help give these employees back the valuable gift of time. Zynga founder Mark Pincus participated in Invisible's seed round, as well as Backed Ventures, Loup Ventures, Horizons Alpha, and Day One Ventures.
Pedraza believes he and his team of around 30 have come up with a better plan for solving the outsourced work market than well-known freelancer services like Upwork — which currently has a $2 billion market cap.
He calls it a synthetic approach — pairing automation technology with real, behind-the-scenes people completing tasks.
"Invisible is like Uber for digital labor," Pedraza tells us.
Invisible starts at $10 per hour for those looking to get help with simple tasks like booking travel or scraping LinkedIn for potential leads. More advanced tasks that aren't as easy to replicate, like drafting email responses, can cost up to $30 per hour.
"Labor is as cheap as processing power now, but [other companies] are not viewing it as a computing resource," Pedraza tells us. "[At Invisible] we're not giving up on humans."
How Invisible works
Once an Invisible customer creates a task, it gets assigned to the next available agent who is qualified to handle it. Right now, Invisible employs 70 contract workers in 16 countries around the world, helping complete tasks that range from qualifying sales leads to actually drafting emails for clients.
Users only interact with one point of contact at Invisible, even though there may be multiple people working for them in the background. Invisible calls this point of contact a "bot" (you can even give your bot its own name), but at least for now, a human will always be on the other side of the chat interface, coordinating the outstanding work.
Pedraza believes having a single way to manage your work is key, otherwise training and managing a team of contractors can become a full-time job unto itself.
"You have to keep hiring, and pretty soon you're building an army, and it's taking more of your time in running the army than it's saving you in time savings," Pedraza says.
In theory, someone using Invisible could have one person, or a hundred people, working for them with no difference in time spent managing the process on their end.
The bigger picture
Beyond giving time back for people to explore more creative and impactful work, Pedraza is also interested in the job opportunities Invisible opens up for those around the world.
"If I can provide a career path for people to enter the digital class and teach them increasingly valuable skills, that's exciting," Pedraza tells us. He says that wages for workers start at $1.50/hour but can increase up to $30/hour, where— in countries like Kenya — that can be quite a large salary.
Invisible's approach — of actually relying on people to complete tasks, rather than pure machine automation — may run contrarian to the typical, "AI" hype of Silicon Valley, but Pedraza believes it's the right one.
Invisible does use technology to automate tasks where possible — like filling out expense reports where there are only a few major platforms used and automated scripts can be created — but real people are documenting and creating these processes at the start.
"If you say that you care about the world and you're building pure software companies, you're basically anti-humanist in the most extreme way," Pedraza says. "You're not helping most people in the world. You're increasing the inequality."
Eoghan McCabe, CEO and co-founder of Intercom, first came up with the idea for his business in a coffee shop.
In Dublin, where McCabe is from, he and his coworkers would frequent a hipster coffee shop called 3fe and chat with the owner, Colin Harmon. There weren’t many other coffee shops with that vibe in the city, and McCabe appreciated how Harmon connected with his customers. The personalized service Harmon offered ended up inspiring McCabe and his partners.
"We got to meet and appreciate the guy, feel the passion for his craft," McCabe said. "We built a relationship with him and paid more for his overpriced coffee."
He continued: "When we looked at every internet business, they didn’t get to connect with us the way Colin connected with us."
McCabe started thinking about how internet businesses aren't great at interacting with customers. Typically they send customers emails from "donotreply" addresses and then route them through not always helpful "help" desks when they need more support.
"All these products were really impersonal," McCabe said. "With Colin, if you went into his store and asked, 'We have a question about Colombian roast,' he’d say, 'What is it?'"
McCabe and co-founders Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, and David Barrett, soon got to work on a messaging service for companies that became the foundation of Intercom.
Intercom has become a billion-dollar company and is growing fast
Fast forward seven years to today, and the company has become a $1.3 billion business headquartered in San Francisco with offices in four other cities. It's one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley. In March, it raised $125 million in new funds. And just this month, it launched its new product, the Answer Bot.
When Intercom first began, it focused on creating an instant messaging system to connect companies' customers with their sales, marketing, and support employees. Its next step is to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to create bots that can automate every stage of the customer lifecycle.
"The first chapter was about getting people back into the mix," McCabe said. "This next chapter is to facilitate automation, bots, to achieve the same vision and mission."
That may seem contradictory. After all, Intercom's original goal was to make businesses more personal, and bots are literally not persons at all.
But McCabe says the apparent contradiction goes away if you think about the meaning of "personal."
It's "all about treating the customer as an individual," he said. "It’s about respecting their time and their dignity. It's all about getting them to their ideal outcome.
"We started to realize these bots and automation technology could do all that — sometimes better than humans."
Intercom's bots are designed to help out human workers
Intercom's bots aren't pretending to be humans; they're open about being bots. They're also not intended to completely replace human workers. Instead, they're meant to assist them and allow companies to help more customers than they could before.
If a company only has human workers to handle customer service questions, customers can end up having to wait long periods for someone to handle their queries. Intercom's clients can use Answer Bot to handle some of those questions instead.
The service uses machine learning, relying on previous conversations between employees and customers to figure out how to answer new queries. Intercom clients can even build their own chatbots using Custom Bot, a product the company released in August.
While their bots are handling routine questions, companies can route more complicated ones to their human workers.
"Answer Bot has a deep bank of the questions people ask about that business," McCabe said. "The next time people ask that question, it doesn't get sent to your support team to answer that question for the 2000th damn time. Answer Bot can answer that and say, 'let us know if you need anything else.'"
McCabe predicts that bots will soon become commonplace. Intercom has over 30,000 paying customers, including Sotheby's, Atlassian, Shopify, and Expensify, and its service facilitates 500 million conversations a month. To improve its bot technology, the company is doubling down on research and development and expanding its product development team.
McCabe and his team learned from past mistakes
But leading a company hasn't always been easy, McCabe said. Intercom isn’t his first startup — he had previously founded two other ones with the company's other cofounders. Those experiences helped, since he and his partners made a lot of mistakes along the way in their prior ventures.
"A lot of the dumbest mistakes we got out of the way," he said.
McCabe and his cofounders learned that to be successful, they needed to figure out how to have their companies do what they're best at while continuing to innovate. Having learned that lesson, he’s ready to face the next chapter in automation. And he thinks his company is primed for a major transition in the industry.
"In the next couple of years, every single business that has invested in trying to accelerate their growth will have simple bots working alongside humans," he said. That will allow them "to have higher quality and faster response to allow humans to do what humans do best."