Tag Archives: startups

WHIZ KIDS


You Don't Want to Compete with this Kidby John Jonelis

You don’t want to compete with this kid. Believe me. Just watch his intensity as he pitches his business to some of the private equity luminaries in the city. I’m a judge at this event and try not to show my feelings of awe as he answers all the tough questions in a pressure-cooker environment without so much as a flinch. There’s an intimidating team behind him too. They’re all in middle school. Middle school! Continue reading

Blogging vs. Building


“The more you blog, the less you are building”

Hiten Shah recently shared these words with me on MessageMe:

The more you blog, the less you are building.

I’m currently parked at blogging HQ, Philz Coffee, writing. I write frequently, dedicating 1-3 hours every day and publishing up to three posts each week (I have a dozen unpublished essays finished in my “queue”). Many people have asked why I spend so much time writing, sometimes criticizing this daily routine and questioning its value.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Recently there’s been a surge of debate in the startup community on the value of blogging[1], kicked off by this tweet by Keith Rabois:

https://twitter.com/rabois/statuses/397075060499812352

I disagree with Keith’s hyperbolic statement — I can name several successful founders that blog regularly[2] — however, there is some truth to his argument. For 95% of us, blogging is very time-consuming. The attention it brings is also distracting, as one’s Twitter stream and email inbox flood with ego-boosting appreciation.

Blogging takes focus away from other things, including your startup. As Nabeel Hyatt points out, many founders ebb and flow in this blogging routine. Take Ev Williams as an example. When his new startup, Medium, first launched, he regularly published on the new platform but in recent months he’s remained largely silent. Why? Probably to focus on Medium.

Why I Write

I write for many reasons. I get tremendous intrinsic and extrinsic value from it. This daily habit helps me hone an important soft skill: communication. My writing abilities have improved, as evident by the embarrassment I feel reading blog posts I wrote six months ago.

Blogging is a joy. I use it as a vehicle to explore product design, deconstructing the psychology and growth tactics used in many of today’s most successful consumer products.

In doing so, I have built an audience of interested startup enthusiasts, providing me a platform of followers for experimentation and distribution of new startup ideas. Most people start marketing after they conceive of a startup idea or release a product. In reality, marketing can begin before a startup’s inception.

But what’s most rewarding is the feedback and appreciation I receive from readers. Not to sound egotistical, but several founders have informed me that something I wrote, provided them with new perspectives, sometimes changing the way they build their startup and even their own life.

I Won’t Always Blog This Much

But like Ev, I won’t always blog this often. I’m currently in-between roles, exploring opportunities for my next full-time, all-in startup adventure. I blog for the reasons above but it’s also strategic.

Blogging has opened several opportunities to meet amazing entrepreneurs, advise startups, and job offers. Blogging is the new resume — amplifying one’s experience, talent, and way of thinking in a more scaleable way than one-on-one communications. Fortunately, I’m in a position to invest in my blog without sacrificing focus in building a startup.

For now.


[1]: Many other bloggers have weighed in on this topic:

[2]: Here are a few founders I respect that actively blog:

Subscribe to follow my blog or say hello on Twitter (@rrhoover).

This essay was inspired by this week’s Startup Edition, “Why do you write?”. Visit Startup Edition to read more responses from other entrepreneurs.

Further Reading

Blogging is the New Resume

 — Blogging is an effective way to illustrate expertise, personality, and most importantly, thought process.

Written by

Co-Creator of Product Hunt. Creator of Startup Edition. Instructor at Tradecraft. More at http://ryanhoover.me. Follow at @rrhoover.

View story at Medium.com

5 Startup Lessons from my Puppy


photos by me, @aronsolomon

photos by me, @aronsolomon

Though she does not yet have her own startup, in part because she is eight weeks old.

  1. Walk before you can run. This is pretty simple, really. When my wife @leilangod and I picked up Heidi last Friday afternoon, the pup tried to run really fast. It didn’t work well. Good running builds from the foundation of exceptional walking which, really, doesn’t come super-naturally to a seven-and-a-half week old pup who has spent much of her life lying around with her littermates. Get the walking thing down. Master the basic skills you’ll need to succeed. Push your comfort levels to learn new things in new situations. Yes, push the envelope, but also turn it on its side, flip it inside-out. Once you do that, you can run. With confidence.
  2. Once you can run, do so — really quickly — from points A to B. So you’ve got the basic running thing down now — excellent. Get moving. I hate the cliche “fail fast,” but you need to learn to do so and to succeed even faster. My pup doesn’t know how to jog (or if she does, she’s keeping it in stealth mode) but does know how to sprint like a madwoman from, say, the car to the coffee shop. She does a mean zero to sixty. So should you.
  3. Let people know when you’re not okay. Two days after we picked her up from the breeder, we took her to our regular coffee hangout. She wanted me to put her down rather than keep her on my lap. Okay. Cool. The double-length street car rolled by. She started shaking and wanted to be back in my lap. I complied. Stop this idiotic “Dude — we’re crushing it” when you’re actually what’s being crushed. When you’re down, overwhelmed, depressed — PLEASE ask for help and stop holding everything inside.
  4. Fuel up. Maybe this is raising cash or building your team but when an opportunity presents itself you need to think about taking it. That doesn’t mean that you pivot when it’s the last thing you should be doing, it means that you have your eyes and ears open. Heidi (half Labrador Retriever and half Hunting Poodle) has proven highly skilled at listening for any rustle or crinkle of her food bag. She’s really good at expressing her interest in fueling up. You should be too.
  5. Be nice, damn it. This morning, Heidi met a big dog at the coffee place. His name is Knuckles. We can’t let her hang with other dogs yet, as she’s in the middle of her shots. But Knuckles came close, looked at her, wagged his tail and she did the same. Wag your tail at people. It doesn’t mean that you’re a pushover, it means that you’re friendly. And approachable. And while being nice sometimes means more work, it’s also how the right opportunities will come to you.

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Going to California: This Singaporean delegation has one week to gather Valley VC money


Going to California: This Singaporean delegation has one week to gather Valley VC money
Spring SIngapore

This group of Singapore-based startups arrived in San Francisco Sunday night.

A bevy of young Singaporean startups and their chaperone, SPRING Singapore, a government agency promoting the city-state’s emerging technology scene, arrived in the Valley late Sunday for an extended meet and greet with local tech titans, startups, and venture capitalists.

And depending on how the five-day visit goes, they may take home much needed venture capital to help their fledgling startups grow. And ideas of course. And even advice. Hey, whatever works.

The thrust of the visit, which includes eight Singaporean-based startups and five incubators, is to dial in and get face time with some of the Valley’s biggest tech giants and startups, said a SPRING Singapore spokeswomen who declined to give her name.

Companies on the visitors’ wish list to visit include Google, Yammer, and Evernote, the spokeswomen said during a brief phone call late Monday.

The spokeswoman said each of the companies and incubators in the visiting delegation have each raised around $500,000 in previous funding rounds, and while here, hope to ink deals for more.

Some of the Singaporean startups and what they do, according to the spokeswoman and her press release:

Clault.com:

Clault is going after their share of the billion-dollar-plus data security market. The company produces a cloud document-sharing tool that protects the security and integrity of documents while transitioning to the cloud or stored on mobile devices and also stored documents. Clault’s CEO, Marcus Tan, who procured his master degree in business from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, has spent his career in Asia, the U.S. and Europe.

Coursepad: 

Coursepad produces e-learning mobile educational and training apps that employers use to create and teach lessons suited to specific workforce audiences. Lessons are also streamed to a Facebook/Instagram-like news feed to members of that employment community. Through the Coursepad interface, employers can track lessons in real time and to monitor whether employees are making progress with the tutorials through video and text.

Quantine/Next-5.com: 

Next-5 provides interviewing and social recruitment solutions for employee talent acquisition. Companies using the platform can connect, engage, assess, and interview job applicants through online talent recruitment and management tools. This means that employers can pre-screen candidates through realtime videos and other media.

Taggo.me:

This startup makes a cloud marketing social platform that purports to drive sales by turning customers into loyal fans. Taggo turns Facebook fan pages into sales-generating fan clubs sponsored by payment brands. The technology uses a simple, patented method to add loyalty. Merchants get more fans, word of mouth advertising, and more repeat business — all free, sponsored by payment brands, banks, and credit card companies.

Other Singaporean companies in the delegation include Tocco Sudio, Mobikon, Red Dot Payment, and Crayon Data. 

http://venturebeat.com/2014/02/18/going-to-california-this-singaporean-delegation-has-one-week-to-gather-valley-vc-money/

You’ve Landed on the Shore of a Deserted Island


You have a certain amount of provisions, which you have to make last until you find a way to make the island sustain life—or convince someone to send you more.

You don’t know how big the island is at first or what predators lie in wait.

There’s always a chance someone else will raid your island if it looks fruitful, so you need to shore up your defenses.

Eventually, if you’re successful, you’ll be king of your own prosperous world. If not, you’ll die—or, at least, have to go home.

Either way, it’s going to be a lonely, difficult, but rewarding adventure (until you get eaten by a tiger).

Welcome to your startup.

Originally published in an earlier version on evhead.com – October 2008

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Date a Girl in Startups


I write a lot about love and dating. Over the past year, I’ve had more conversations with my female peers in startups and entrepreneurship about these issues than any other topic. Very few young women in startups are in healthy relationships, but that doesn’t mean we don’t strive for them or thrive in them. For some reason, we have a hard time starting and building romantic relationships. I haven’t been able to work out the exact formula for why we have so much trouble but I am certain that it has a fair amount to do with men’s fears about who we are and what we do.

The seven statements bolded below are reasons that we kick ass. They were compiled with the help of a group of girls, some of whom I am close friends with and others whom I have never met in person. Together, we picked out the things that we feel make us not only unique, but also strong and powerful women. Importantly, they are also traits that help us build relationships. Hopefully, they will make you at least consider dating a Girl in Startups.

__________________

She enjoys taking risks. Deciding to start your own venture, or work for an early stage one, is attractive to people who are comfortable walking the line between massive success and failure, who see their $12,000 a year paycheck as a world of future possibilities, and who can’t stop pushing forward. Because of this, she is confident in her abilities. Her decisions reflect her as a person. Not only does she accept this, she owns it. She is hard to derail and she gets shit done. Big risks can yield big rewards, but she knows that she has to work her butt off to make it happen.

Whether she is building a deck or editing code, she can spend all night working because she has passion for what she does. She is dedicated to her work, family, friends, and relationships and when she sets her mind to something she sees it to the end. Sometimes this means she takes forever to answer your texts. But don’t worry — from pitching to VC’s to managing a cohort of interns, she knows what good communication looks like and can use it as much outside of work as she does in the office. If she’s not texting you, facebook messaging you, or sending a carrier pigeon every 15 minutes it is because she understands that the best communication is done in person. Bonus is, when you ask her how her day was, you’re actually curious because you have no clue what she was up to.

If you date a Girl in Startups you have to appreciate that she is obsessed with learning. She constantly searches for new information, tests new technologies and products, and is open to new perspectives. Intelligence turns her on, and she reads blogs and articles on tech and entrepreneurship like others read erotic literature. She may have finished college; it’s possible she dropped out. No matter her level of formal education, she’ll always be up for learning something new. Furthermore, she sees failure as one of the best ways to learn. She has learned to be resilient because she flirts with failure on a daily basis. For her, failure isn’t crippling but rather a chance to create something new. She won’t let little bumps throw her off track in her work or in her relationships.

Consider dating a girl in startups, but if you do, know that she won’t automatically make you #1. She is independent, self-sufficient, and will make you work to become a priority in her life. When she makes time for you, it’s because she cares.

*Thank you Sam, Melissa, Maddy, Robin, Becca, Shilpi, Stephanie, Arianna, Ryan and many more for your advice and criticism in writing this piece. I wanted to make sure that it came from the startup community, rather than just one woman’s brain.

**Originally Posted on PippaBiddle.com

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The 36 Most Valuable Start-ups on Earth


Ever heard of Jingdong, Nutanix or Zalando? They are all members of the exclusive “Billion-Dollar Startup Club,” a growing list of startups valued at $1 billion or more by venture capitalists.
A new interactive chart from The Wall Street Journals ace Scott Austin ranks these billion-dollar startups using data from Dow Jones VentureSource. Today there are about three-dozen such companies in the U.S., Europe and China.
A billion dollars isn’t cool anymore. More than half of the companies are valued at $2 billion or more. And the exclusivity is fading: since November, three companies have joined the club (storage equipment maker , payments service Stripe and messaging app Snapchat) while another three (music-streaming service Spotify and online storage companies Box and Dropbox) have raised funding at multi-billion dollar valuations.
Before you scream “Bubble!” know that most of these companies are in better financial shape then peers from the dot-com boom era. A few pre-revenue startups, such as Snapchat and scrapbooking site Pinterest, have crept into the club. But a large share of them are making real revenue – see Dropbox and its $200 million in annual sales –even if you question the valuation metrics.
Here’s a startling stat—the U.S. membership is larger than during the dot-com bubble years of 1999 and 2000, when there were 18 companies, according to VentureSource. Today, there are least 25 startups valued at $1 billion or more in the U.S.—19 alone in the past two years.
In China, the lineup is dominated by online companies – such as retailers Jingdong and VANCL, search engine Sogou and restaurant-review site Dianping – capitalizing on a surging Internet population. But it is a smartphone maker, Xiaomi, that is one of the world’s most valuable venture-backed companies at $10 billion.
Zalando, a German retail giant, tops the European list at about $5 billion, followed by Spotify and Mobileye, a maker of vehicle-collision warnings systems.
Are you surprised by any companies in the club? Who are we missing? Bookmark this website, as the Journal will update the chart as companies move up, down, off and on the list.

RELATED LINKS

The Billion Dollar Club - Updated ranking of the the world’s most valuable startups.
WSJD – The Journal’s new website for technology news and analysis.
Scott Austin – Creator of the Journal’s awesome smartphone cost calculator and the billion-dollar club.

Posted by:Dennis K. Berman

Early Stage Marketing


Hi. My name is Pedro. That’s me up there. The smiley one. Well.. the one with the shiniest head. I work as a dream catcher during the night and during the day I try making new startups grow at Forward Partners.

I don’t normally write serious blog posts because they are not very fun to read, however I will make an exception for today. I am hoping the topic will get you excited enough!

Step zero

So step zero here really means zero. Nada. Niente. Rien. You haven’t done anything, you have no idea where to start, who your customer is, how you should start or what you should to do.

The first thing about early stage startups is that they are not certain businesses until they have proven their model. i.e. can be profitable and scale in a certain timeframe.

In Forward Partners the timeframe from ideation to external funding rounds is around 12 months. These startups have 1 year to prove they can run and grow quickly. Marketing should be used to support the learning required from product development to find a product market fit.

Things need to happen fast and have to be lean.

Early stage startups have limited resources (people wise and moneywise), zero brand equity and little time to prove their assumptions and this limits marketing choices to only affordable channels (sorry boys and girls no TV ads for now).

In addition, feedback from customers development may lead to business model, product, marketing changes (new customers, types of device, locations, hours of day), new pricing strategies, promotions, channels/places, different communication creative (Message/Tone) etc..

This leads to ..

Point 2. We need frameworks and tools to quickly adapt/record/control businesses

Defining a 3 months marketing strategy when you are still figuring out the business is probably not the best of ideas. Therefore, as soon as you start having customer feedback from your interviews, you might want to evaluate how should you engage with your customers throughout the “awareness to purchase” funnel, identify the most important persona and storyboard, what is important for them (fears/dreams/hopes) and what are the main triggers that lead them to think about you.

Awareness to Decision (purchase) funnel

You should define clear goals for each iteration of your product and understand what KPI are you trying to move. At this point marketing and product decisions are very interconnected and it is of your best interested to record assumptions, tests and what drove you to make the decisions. Last, but not least…

Point 3. Stick to things that you can track, win fast and that you can turn on/off.

Right, you have your first assumptions you want to test with an audience so you want to drive traffic to your to test page/app. You shouldn’t start by creating a 600 word blog post everyday for 10 days to start getting organic traffic in.

  • It is hard to scale fast using SEO, Content and PR. Also, it is not something you can simply turn off if you have a problem or want to pivot on the product side.
    However, you should always be aware of best practices since these will affect the future of your organic rank and paid search quality.
  • It is also hard to build brand equity quickly, although you need to recognize its importance for trust and future sustainability. I.e. you don’t want to build a bad brand either by not caring.
    This is an important one. The more you engage with early customers the more you understand which messages are working and which elements of your product you should be promoting.
  • Finally it is hard to build on word of mouth or “member get member” schemes before you have a good enough product that people are proud of and would like to share with their friends. However, do understand that each business has its own customer dynamics; hence this might prove to be an important channel in the future, so you need to deliver a somewhat acceptable experience from start. The “virality” piece shouldn’t be discouraged; ideally we should build excitement here, especially of what the product could be.

So, unlike “normal businesses” where you could probably focus on a medium/long term strategy immediately and work on usual channels knowing they would sooner or later deliver results, with early stage startups you will have to pick and test a handful of channels in a small timeframe and evaluate results.

Although each business is different we have found that a good starting point can come from 3 types of channels:

  1. Direct comms. —  Engage with your target customers directly by focusing websites/newsletter/places that they tell you they normally hang around or use. This is where we can harvest this information. So rather than websites, it’s direct communications.
    If it is a (hyper) local business more offline means of gathering information, such as attending networking events and conferences might have faster cut through.
    Examples:
    emails, newsletters, display, forums, (local) communities, meet-ups, specialty blogs, etc..
  2. Quick reaction paid channels  — These are great for customers that you really know or that are actively searching for a solution that you provide, especially for small incremental innovations in commodity businesses that people understand.
    Don’t forget that the further away your proposition is from the keywords you are bidding on or the more innovative your business is the more expensive converting/educating a person will be. Highly targeted social, means cherry picking your customers from social platforms and targeting them directly.
    Examples: Search, display, targeted social
  3. Referrers/Affiliates/Partnerships  — These are great if what you are offering something people don’t need to be “educated about” and that you can issue promotions/vouchers associated with it (free delivery, X% discount, adding something extra to the basket for “premium brands”).
    This type of relation might cannibalise your direct sales and good “partners” will remind you of this. They will also only allow your “promotion” to be available for a limited time period and you should have a similar offer on your site. Bad deals where you commit to tens or hundreds of vouchers and customers don’t return can cost you your company. Be aware of the type of deal you are making. In an initial stage you want to have limited exposure and make sure you can pause your “promotions” at any given time.
    Examples: Affiliate websites without setup fees, complementary assets (think you sell a shipping service.. who sells the boxes?), authorities in your business
Channel Prioritisation

As you move forward and get the first few reference customers in you start figuring which channel to use at which point of the awareness to decision funnel. This will also enable you to understand which way to take the brand, segmenting your customer base, etc..


And that is it.. my first post on Medium. So if you want to read more from me, need any more insight about your particular idea or like my shiny head get in touch I am always happy to help!

Adios amigos!

Pedro
@inovpedro

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Digital Business and Entrepreneurship. Making life a Good Thing! Marketing @ForwardPrt, cook at home! Tweet me in PT, ES or EN

7 Traits Great Entrepreneurs Are Made Of


Why don’t have the chops to become a great entrepreneur.

Or do you?

1. Great entrepreneurs don’t create excuses, they create solutions.

2. Great entrepreneurs take responsibility for their work, and feel responsible about others.

3. Great entrepreneurs have a tough work ethic, to start and work until the job is done. They start by focusing on one task and then expand until the picture is painted. When dreams become a reality.

4. Great entrepreneurs control risk and exposure. And aren’t impulsive or emotional when it does happen.

5. Great entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need “an investment” to build great companies. They’re creative and figure out other ways and execute.

  • Apple, started from a garage, Steve Woz created the product Steve jobs sold it.
  • Facebook, started in a dorm room, Mark Z. wrote the code with the help of the right people and got traction way before they got their first investment.
  • Gurbaksh Chahal, found an ad software from a guy online, sold advertising deals to businesses. And paid for the software while trialing it for 90 days.

6. Great entrepreneurs master the law of leverage in business — getting things done through the right people efficiently.

7. Great entrepreneurs know that everything he/she is learning, from any and everywhere is valuable and an asset in the long run.

So do you have what it takes to become a great entrepreneur?

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I write about Social Media, Branding and Entrepreneurship: www.hasanshaz.com

Published September 26, 2013

Subscription Billings Startup ChargeBee Raises $800k From Accel Partners


Next Story

ChargeBee, a Chennai-based startup that helps companies manage their subscription billings, has raised around $800,000 in a Series A funding from Accel Partners. This brings ChargeBee’s total funding to $1.17 million, including the $370K it had raised in seed funding during October 2012.

This new funding will be used to beef up ChargeBee’s sales teams in the U.S. and also hire more engineers to work on next versions of the startup’s core product.

Subscription billing startups such as ChargeBee, Recurly and Chargify, leverage SaaS model to help customers implement a billing system fast by automating most of the back-end processes of invoice generation and payments collection.

Krish Subramanian, co-founder of ChargeBee said the startup offers more choices compared with other rivals.

“ChargeBee differentiates as the most extensible billing solution available including more choices with our REST API and the option to use Stripe tokens instead of card,” said Subramanian.

ChargeBee now has around 500 paying customers from 10 countries including Australia, US, UK and Canada. Currently, the startup processes average monthly transactions worth $1.6 million. By end of this year, ChargeBee wants to achieve $20 million in monthly transactions.

Co-founded by former Zoho employees Krish, KP Saravanan, Thiyagarajan T and Rajaraman S, ChargeBee started in 2011. A Hacker News post about Chargify increasing its subscription rates inspired the ChargeBee founders to look at building a startup that offers better services, at cheaper rates.

“Our plans start at $49 for startups and we do have a “bootstrapper” plan wherein customers use ChargeBee for free till they reach 10 customer billing a month,” said Krish.

Accel India has to date invested in around 17 startups in India at the seed stage from its $150 million+ Accel III fund.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/subscription-billings-startup-chargebee-raises-800k-from-accel-partners/