Posts Tagged ‘startups’

Product Hunt

Rarely these days does a new online community or news site enter my daily direct search routine (meaning that I directly navigate to the site daily on instinct). The bar for producing consistently high quality content is usually too high for any small group of people, thus a strong founding community is necessary. Product Hunt has that passionate group.

Product Hunt is a curated list of the best new products discovered on the web, every day. They have a strong community of early adopters who submit new products that are then curated by the Product Hunt team. I believe they are going to be a big deal.

Andreessen Horowitz recently lead their $6 million series A funding round at a $22 million valuation. But this is just the beginning… I could easily see Product Hunt growing into a $100 million company. Why? Seemingly overnight, they are now consistently ranking as a top two thousand website in the U.S..

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 8.50.16 PM

The climb to acquire new loyal fans beyond investors, founders, and other early adopters will be more difficult. But each new Product Hunt user is far more valuable than a new user on a purely social site such as Reddit or Facebook. Regular users on Product Hunt are using the site with their wallets open; they are ready to test and buy.

Ryan Hoover, founder and CEO of Product Hunt, recently stated in a Forbes interview:

In the short term, we’re going to see more and more products being launched and being scooped on Product Hunt because there are so many users and products and their motivation will be the first one to submit them.

Typically in the past, startup founders building technology products have often introduced their work to the world via a “TechCrunch of Initiation” or “Show Hacker News“, both of which contain the early adopter audience but are not particularly optimized for showcasing products. Product Hunt provides the community interaction through comments but does one better — they segment new submissions by day and curate the content.

Product Hunt is product filtering, not product search. They are providing a classic synaptic web improvement. They are “…making connections between the content and conversations in your daily life and your current interests and future intents” by adding a little “…machine learning, human teaching and user experience improvements.”. This has lead to a phenomenally simple and reliable service for curious minds.

Overall the first year of Product Hunt has been an impressive one. I’ll be tracking this company closely.


11 2014

Surge Pricing Goes Mainstream

When I think about what differentiates Uber as a convenience driven customer experience, I think about their ability to dynamically price rides based on real-time supply and demand. The “surge pricing” concept is not new but Uber is the first consumer tech startup to shove price fluctuations into the face of its customers. You can easily get an Uber car on a cold rainy day in New York as long as you are willing to pay the additional price.

This blog post “Beyond Uber, Venture Investors Predict Mainstream Surge Pricing” in The Wall Street Journal describes that airlines and hotels have been doing this for years, but now new data collection technology has allowed for demand information to affect prices in other industries. The article mentions that some critics view this as strictly price-gouging. However, it makes sense to me that a luxury/convenience oriented business should be able to charge more for their services when demand far exceeds supply. Keep in the mind that in the case of a company such as Uber or Airbnb, it’s individual agents (drivers and property owners) that stand to gain the majority of this pricing increase.

BeyondPricing will likely bring this dynamic surge based pricing model to thousands of Airbnb hosts. Table8 gets you access to last minute reservations at popular restaurants. And I can definitely see this trend continuing into much of the healthcare industry.

On the flip side it will be interesting to see if any companies allow for a price-hedging option, meaning that the customer could lock-in a guaranteed price in exchange for purchasing the service well in advance. Southwest Airlines enjoyed the benefits of price-hedging during the recent US recession when they decided to lock themselves into jet fuel prices at early 2000’s prices. This benefit is of course passed onto consumers in the form of lower fares. Competitors to Uber such as Lyft are already developing a reputation for this type of service when demand is low and supply is high: Lyft offers 10-50 percent off rides during off-peak hours.

Keep a close eye out for even more industries to begin experiencing drastic changes in pricing; it’s likely their will be many opportunities as an influx of readily available information on supply and demand opens the free markets even more.

P.S. Kevin Novak recently talked about how a simple interface change at Uber dramatically changed consumer behavior during surge pricing. Check it out!


06 2014

Why Startup Demo Day Is Like The Film Festival

I recently spoke about the process of securing funding and publicity for feature films with one of the producers being nominated for an Oscar at tonight’s Academy Awards. Mitchell Block, a professor at USC,  produced the Oscar nominated short subject documentary Poster Girl with a more logical approach to the business of film than most typical starving artists. Block explained that the commonly perceived “normal” approach to producing a film is to complete it though post-production first, then hope to secure financial backing from the film companies present at one of the various world-renown film festivals. While the majority of highly capable film students and artists take this approach to creating their films, Block emphasized the backwardness flawing this course of action due to the unprobable success rate.

Instead, Mr. Block highlighted his extensive portfolio of various short documentaries as a model for which other budding producers should follow. Block said that every time he creates a new feature film, his first objective is to secure the financial backing from a film studio. In the case of Poster Girl, he leveraged his film industry contacts to submit a shortened and unedited clip of the documentary to HBO, who promptly funded the project. Thus, Poster Girl had received the necessary support from HBO to ensure the proper financial and publicity resources to promote the film once post-production was complete.

This exploration of the film industry with Mr. Block gave me the revelation that startup companies often go through a similar process. Essentially there are a bunch of ramen-eating hackers building their ideas in anticipation that during a “demo day” or launch conference so-to-speak, investors will be lining up at their table with a newly inked check in hand. I view these “demo days” as the film festivals which leave many talented visionaries out of touch with any potential in their product. Instead of spending weeks or months developing a minimum viable product, the hackers should put on their top-shelf thrift shop suit and sell their idea to investors.

With the necessary idea-validation and support from venture capitalists, hackers and founders can then focus on building their vision rather than winning attention at a tech meetup. There is undoubted merit in the application process to events such as TechCrunch Disrupt and Launch Conference, but the future success of all companies on stage is rare. Startup accelerators such as Y Combinator realize this methodology produces stronger startups on average because they are only buying into the ideas that they know will work, and especially sell for a high valuation on their own demo day.


02 2011

Start A Legitimate Company In One Weekend

Take a look at almost any tech blog today, and there is a high chance that you will notice a headline related to a startup incubator because of a company that is associated with one of the various entrepreneurial seed funds. These programs have attracted a lot of interest in the past couple years, as many people lost their jobs and are now interested in founding their own company. Programs such as TechStars, Y-Combinator, Dreamit Ventures, and the Founder Institute all have numerous portfolio companies that have graduated from their programs and have gone onto being highly successful companies. In fact, the jobs creation and local economic stimulation by these programs has garnered interest from New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who initiated a public fund for entrepreneurial pursuits in New York. In exchange for the seed funding, each of the programs typically takes a small share of the company. This way the programs can continue to fund more successful and not successful companies to their credit in the future.

Adeo Ressi, founder of the Founder Institute, has the most geographically diverse set of startup incubators in tech centers around the world. His mission is to found 1,000 companies per year through his semester long programs. People such as Adeo are bringing a vision to entrepreneurial communities across the world, showing them that they can be part of an accelerated startup if they posses the necessary characteristics to execute their ideas. I believe that the best part of these startup incubators is that they are instigating a wave of innovation that will ultimately improve the lives of others and make the world a better place.

Do you already have an idea that was scraped a few months back because of some common excuse? Follow Adeo Ressi as he guides you to making your idea happen for less that $2,000.
Read the rest of this entry →


09 2010

Tech Startups: “Not All Sunshine and Rainbows”

Recently the tech community has been endlessly trading opinions about the best place to start a business, which city offers the best quality of life for a startup employee, and various other aspects of the environment that a startup is based. Regardless of whether you’re a tech startup based in Silicon Valley (aka San Francisco-San Jose), Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Boston, NYC, etc., each area has seen its good and bad days, and each area has benefits and turn offs. The reason for this heated discussion is primarily because many people believe that Silicon Valley is losing its edge and startups elsewhere around the world no longer need the competitive advantage of being based in the San Francisco area.

Take a look at some of the popular articles by mainstream media and bloggers alike:

Financial Times (UK) – Can VCs replicate the valley in Europe?

New York Times – Boulder Colo., a Magnet for High-Tech Startups

CNN – The next Silicon Valley? It may be New York

AdGrok – New York will always be a tech backwater, I don’t care what Chris Dixon or Ron Conway or Paul Graham say

Direct negation of AdGrok post: New York is the greatest city in the world…I don’t care what Antonio Garcia-Martinez says

Perhaps all of the Silicon Valley wannabe’s should just follow the advice of Paul Graham, as he describes the best way to emulate a Silicon Valley tech hub is not to pick a sunny spot on the map, but rather to attract the right people. (“How to be Silicon Valley“)

Whichever city you choose to base your startup in,  it will not be the sole supporting factor for your startup’s success or failure. (That is unless you decide to start your skiing business in Florida.) No matter which tech hub you are in, there will always be hurdles and challenges to overcome. To Silicon Valley’s credit, they still remain the most powerful tech hub*, but they area is “Not All Sunshine and Rainbows”. For example, take a look back at the tech bubble that burst in 2000. Yes, it’s true for both sides, more companies have succeeded and failed in Silicon Valley than anywhere else. However, as Rocky demonstrates in one of the most motivating movie scenes of all time: “It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward.” So far, Silicon Valley has survived as the most powerful tech center in two major economic collapses, so it’s safe to say they are the winners for now.

*The dominance of tech center is determined by the amount of venture capital funding invested in companies located in each city every year.


08 2010

Succeeding With Startup Incubators

The past two weeks have drawn much attention in the web startup industry to the upcoming deadlines for startup incubators. Thanks to an internet entrepreneur that is physically distant from the U.S. startup scene, but still very in touch with the funding opportunities, Juri Kaljundi of  Estonia has put together a comprehensive list of the startup accelerator programs currently accepting applications. Check it out here.

While I am not planning on applying to participate in these programs specifically designed to accelerate the startup process, I would like to offer advice to the applicants that are applying  now or in the future. These are a few quick notes from an entrepreneurial program I participated in at Drexel University’s Baiada center for entrepreneurship in the summer of 2009-

In order for a startup to be the most successful with their product or service, their offering must meet the following requirements:

1) Solves a current problem.

2) Perceived as being innovative. Even if its not; because of the way it is packaged or marketed.

3) Easy and inexpensive to install or integrate.

4) Low-tech, meaning that it is simple to operate.

Keep in mind that these guiding points are merely a starting point, and many other variables such as market size, existing competitors, etc. must be taken into account. Either way, this  should give you an idea if your startup business is on the right track, and hopefully make your idea stand out a bit more than others. Good luck on the applications!


02 2010