Giftly built a platform that avoided the hassle of individually dealing with merchants and point-of-sale systems. They came out with a native mobile app last fall that made it easier to send presents to friends and family.
The company’s platform didn’t put any limitations on what kinds of presents you could send because the company had a web of relationships with banks and creditcard processors. When a recipient would go to redeem their gift, they would pay out of their own pocket, but Giftly would reimburse them that amount through their creditcard.
GiftCards.com said Giftly will be rolled into their operations, but will maintain offices in San Francisco.
“We will continue to build out Giftly,” said Giftly’s CEO Timothy Bentley. “Our backend infrastructure will be used for their next generation products. We’ll continue to expand
the ways our technology and services are available to developers, through our API, and merchants, through our merchant services.”
The company is also looking to raise a first venture round, even though it’s been around for more than 10 years. That round will go toward completing the acquisition of Giftly. GiftCards.com has been around since 1999; they sell personalized, pre-designed and discount gift cards.
Twenty-four hours after Google released three location tools for its app developers, startups are already integrating the APIs into their products.
The founders of Valet stayed up all night to get the new API into their app as quickly as possible. Valet launched in April in the Google Play store to help people remember where they parked. It tags your parking location with a pin and reminds you when to pay the parking meter. You can set a timer for your meter and share the location on social media. There is, of course, no guaranteeing you will avoid fines, but it does cut down on the “human error” often responsible for the tickets.
Founder Will Roman recently relocated to San Francisco from Austin, Texas, to work at another startup. After “losing” his car a few times in the unfamiliar city and getting slapped with multiple parking fines, he recruited cofounder Josh Deffibaug, and the two set out to build Valet.
The app received mention on Gizmodo and a couple of Android blogs for its “simplicity and beauty” and was attracting a good number of users through word-of-mouth. But when Roman and Deffibaugh heard the news about Google’s new location APIs, they saw an exciting opportunity.
“Everyone who drives can appreciate this,” Roman said in an interview. “Parking tickets suck, and so does forgetting where you parked on a busy day, when visiting a new city, or after a night of drinking. With integration of the new Google Play Services location API’s, all features can be automated on over 95 percent of Android devices thereby preventing you from ever loosing your vehicle or getting a parking ticket again. We’re the only parking app in the world to integrate the Google Play Services location API’s.”
The location application programming interfaces (API) are part of Google Play Services, a tool kit for Android developers. Integrating location-sensing features to your app can be challenging and Google’s fused location provider “intelligently manages the underlying location technology” to make building location-aware app easier and less energy-intensive. The technology combines GPS with on-phone sensors like the gyroscope, accelerometer, and barometer to collect your movement data and deliver a more accurate, immediate, and power-efficient application.
Using “Activity Recognition,” your phone can figure out whether you are walking, cycling, or driving which has clear applications for fitness apps. The Valet founders realized that the same technology could be used to tell when a car goes from driving to park mode, and can automatically drop a pin in your parking spot without you having to push a button.
“The new location APIs are more accurate, simpler to integrate, and back ported,” Roman said. “They solve a lot of the fragmentation issues of Android and enabled us to cater to the broadest market possible with even better reliability than previously possible.”
Competitors include iCarPark, Car Finder AR, Find My Car Smarter, Car Locator, Where Did I Park. Valet is based in San Francisco, where parking does in fact suck.
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MakrShakr – a new robotic bartending system designed by researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab – unveiled at Google I/O in San Francisco. The new mixology systemallows users to create in real-time personalized cocktail recipes through a smart phone application and transform them into crowd-sourced drink combinations.
Rob Meyerson is director of verbal identity at brand consultancy Interbrand.
The Bay area gets a bad rap when it comes to names. No, I’m not talking about your friends’ babies, Namaste and Venture. I’m talking about brand names — especially the names of startups.
Here in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and the rest of the Bay area, we’re home to plenty of brand names that sound nonsensical at first, but have since become household names: Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Apple. But for every quirky company name we eventually learn to take seriously, there are a handful of local startups whose silly names never seem to reach escape velocity — names that we never warm up to.
Worst-case scenario, these names can be a hindrance to their companies rather than a leg up. Of course, whether or not a company’s name is “good” is partly a matter of opinion. (Doostang, for example, sounds scatological to me — especially inappropriate given it’s “an exclusive career community.”) But some simple guidelines can add a bit of objectivity when looking at brand names. QOOP, a now-defunct “social commerce network” based in Mill Valley, failed the basic test of clear pronunciation (Koop? Kwoop? Co-op?). Weebly, a San Francisco company that lets users create sites “as unique as they are,” suffers from an unfortunately non-unique name — it fails to stand apart from the dozens of other startups with names that end in “ly” (a trend that started with Libya’s country domain). And Pinwheel, now called Findery, had to recover from the hiccup of changing its name early on due to legal availability issues.
But it’s too easy to get negative about names, especially when they’re taken out of context or with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight after a brand has run into trouble. Instead of nitpicking, let’s correct the Bay Area startup scene’s reputation by highlighting some of the great brand names working their way into our collective lexicon every day. Here are a few brand names — new or just in the news — that get their respective companies off on the right foot.
Curious, a Menlo Park startup that just raised $ 7.5 million in Series A financing, serves up “hundreds of short, video-based lessons for people who want to learn a new skill or rekindle a favorite hobby.” The name is a short, real word, making it easier to pronounce, easier to spell, and easier to remember than a random assortment of letters. It evokes a sense of wonder and discovery, while also speaking directly to the offering’s emotional benefit. Curious is not just about learning. It’s about satisfying your curiosity.
Based in Palo Alto, Datahero “analyzes patterns in your data…[to] help you unmask the answers within.” The name is a straightforward benefit statement: Use our services, and you’ll become a hero to your organization. By using a novel compound word, they’ve created a name that’s easy to remember and hard to confuse, even with other data-related startups like GoodData and DataSift. And by having a little fun with the name (the recently launched site is chock-full of hero-themed vocabulary including a “secret Data Decoder”), they’re already carving out a distinctive brand personality in what could otherwise be a relatively dry category.
Retrace is also based in Palo Alto, and just launched at Disrupt NY. Here’s another real-word name. But unlike Curious, the word “retrace” isn’t used very often, which makes it easier to lay claim to. One of the few places it does show up in everyday speech is in the phrase “retrace your steps” — advice given to those who have forgotten or lost something important. That makes it the perfect word for an app described by its CEO as “the best way to remember and organize everything about the meetings you have.”
Sometimes a straightforward, descriptive name works best. Fremont-based Tactus just released a reference tablet for OEMs demonstrating their product: Tactile Layer. This B2B company needed a name that clearly describes the product, a “tactile user interface for touch-screen devices” with “completely transparent physical buttons that rise up from the touch-screen surface on demand.” (And yes…it looks pretty cool.)
After recently getting acquired by Facebook, Parse, based in San Francisco, can probably no longer be called a startup. But its name will apparently live on beyond the acquisition (at least for now), and it would be a shame to do away with it. An interesting, easy-to-pronounce, one-syllable verb, this name has a double meaning. For laymen, “to parse” means analyzing, understanding, and uncovering deeper meanings. But computers also parse code, making the name more relevant to its intended audience: app developers.
Are these startups guaranteed success because they have good names? Of course not. Obviously, success or failure is more directly determined by other factors, like the company’s leadership team, its competitive set, or the economy within which it operates, all of which are more likely to change, however, than the name. But can a great name get attention, stick in people’s minds, and send the right message? Yes. And does that boost a startup’s chances of success? Absolutely.
I’ve found that when people visit San Francisco, it’s not unusual to hear them ask something like: “No seriously, is there a coffee shop on every block in this city?” Yes, San Francisco likes coffee. So do a lot of cities. Busy people thrive on coffee, especially in the tech industry. In fact, some would even say that a substantial amount of coffee is an essential ingredient to success.
Phil Jaber would agree with that statement. After a long love affair with the brew and decades spent testing out his own blends, in 2003, he founded Philz Coffee. What was started out of a corner grocery store has today grown into a budding coffee chain, with 13 stores now open and serving across the Bay Area — one of which you’ll find in Facebook’s headquarters.
With all the coffee flowing through the Bay Area, Philz has stood out by combining varietals to make a bunch of fantastic tasting blends that are made without using a bunch of machinery. These blends were invented by Phil himself, and while they’re not patent-protected, they’re secret family recipes that you won’t find anywhere else, Phil’s son Jacob Jaber and current Philz CEO tells me.
Philz is a proponent of the drip coffee method and, while that may sound like a “hipster” practice to those outside of the Bay, it’s pretty fantastic and has taken off in the Bay Area. Some connoisseurs swear to it as the only way to make and drink it.
As a sign of just how hot the specialty coffee market is getting (at least in San Francisco), fellow Bay Area boutique coffee chain, Blue Bottle, took home $ 20 million in venture capital in October from Index Ventures’ Mike Volpi, True Ventures’ Tony Conrad and serial entrepreneur Bryan Meehan, among others. At the time, the coffee chain had expanded to ten stores of its own.
When asked if Philz sees Blue Bottle as a competitor, Jaber said that he doesn’t — that the success of one is a positive for the other, and that the market for this kind of branded, personalized coffee experience is huge. In other words, he thinks there’s plenty of room for both to get enough people caffeinated to pay the electricity bills.
Today, PhilzCoffee is adding some growth capital of its own. Although the company isn’t ready to disclose the exact amount, Jaber says that the company has raised an eight-figure round that’s on the lower end of the spectrum. From what we can gather from sources, it appears to be in the $ 15 to $ 25 million range. The lead investor in the round is Summit Partners, and as a result of the firm’s investment, Summit Managing Director Greg Goldfarb will be taking a seat on the startup’s board of directors.
Jaber says that the company will also be looking to add a much smaller angel round on top of the growth equity investment, which they hope to close in the near future. While the angel investor list remains unclear, we were able to learn that it comes from entrepreneurs and executives in the consumer tech and retail spaces.
When asked why they decided to partner with Summit, the CEO tells us that the firm understood Philz’ ethos better than anyone else, both intellectually and viscerally, which was important to them, especially as it’s a family business and a passion of both Jabers. Of course, it also helps that the father and son duo will retain control of the company, with Summit taking a minority interest rather than a controlling share.
Philz’ name has slowly begun to spread of late, thanks to partnerships the company has struck with Virgin America, for example. If you’ve flown on a Virgin America flight recently and had a cup of coffee, you were drinking one of Phil’s blends.
With the new capital in its coffers, the company will look to strike a handful of partnerships like that one to increase distribution and awareness among coffee fans. To that end, Philz is also going to begin expanding outside of the Bay Area. Plans are still in motion, but Jaber says that you’ll likely see Philzbegin to expand in California first, and into the surrounding states. They want to start close to home first. So you won’t be seeing Philz in Prague any time soon, unfortunately, but LA? San Jose? And you cities on the West Coast? Look out. Philz crazy tasty blends may end up on your streets sometime in the near future.
The largest accelerator in Canada, the biggest seed investor in Europe, and one of the top seed funds in Australia are joining forced to put on one major demo day for 15 of their top startups Wednesday, May 1, in San Francisco.
“I think it’s a first … I’m not sure anyone has ever done this before,” FounderFuel’s Ian Jeffery told me yesterday when we chatted about the big demo day.
The three organizers include FounderFuel, an accelerator based in Montréal whose last demo day had a massive 800-strong audience; Seedcamp, which runs Europe’s most prolific seed funding program out of Google’s London campus; and Startmate, which helps startups grow in Sydney. Together, they’re doing something a little unprecedented: showcasing their best 15 startups on one day at one time, right in the heart of global startup central: San Francisco.
The event is on Wednesday, May 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and registration is limited to AngelList members: Sign-up and investor authentication is all being done via AngelList.
“The best startups, while sometimes ending up in Silicon Valley, are increasingly formed outside of the Bay Area, and FounderFuel, Seedcamp, and Startmate each play pivotal roles at the epicenters of startup communities outside of the US.,” the group said in a statement.
Here are the participating startups, with brief bios provided by the accelerators:
Epilogger: The Center of Attention http://epilogger.com Find photos, videos, blogs, and conversations from any event. Epilogger is the entire event collected from everyone automatically into one place. It claims it’s the web platform and app to experience the event before, during, and after. Epilogger is a growing community and the central destination for all content from any event big or small in your city and around the globe. Whether it’s that great conference, that inspiring movement or humankind’s next giant leap, it claims it’ll be there: “We are the event.”
InfoActive: Bring life to datahttp://infoactive.co InfoActive makes it easy to create mobile-friendly, interactive infographics with live data. Drop live data streams into interactive infographics that scale to any device and double your engagement metrics with interactive, data-driven content. It won “Best Bootstrap Company” at SXSW 2013.
MyCustomizer: Empowering the Customization Revolution http://mycustomizer.com MyCustomizer empowers brands and retailers to offer outstanding product customization experiences with a ready-to-use SaaS platform. Market leading brands sparked the customization revolution by investing massively in “design-your-own” online experiences. Whether they offer sports equipment, shoes, suits and ties, chocolate, or even cars, MyCustomizer empowers businesses to join the revolution by seamlessly connecting brands, retailers, and consumers through a unique customization SaaS platform.
OOHLALA: Energize your Campus experience! http://gotoohlala.com The Mobile platform that connects post-secondary students with their campus.
Maily: Your kids first email http://maily.com
Maily is e-mail reinvented for kids. Children can create email using five tools adapted to their needs: pencils, brushes, photos, backgrounds, stamps, and their own words. Maily accounts are created and supervised by you, the parents. You decide who your children can communicate with. More than 50,000 kids are using Maily, and more than 600,000 Mailys have been sent so far.
Crowdprocess: Web-based supercomputing http://crowdprocess.com
CrowdProcess is an online market for supercomputing. It enables developers to process data on the web browsers of people who are visiting websites. CrowdProcess sells this processing power as a service, and it pays the websites’ owners. In summary, CrowdProcess does distributed computing on web browsers via websites.
QAMINE: Code analysis platform for the cloud http://qamine.com QAMINE is an “automated software testing as a service” platform that analyzes developers’ commits without disruption to their workflow and with a one-click installation solution. With over 12,000 registered repositories (acquired in less than two weeks) and a concrete/revolutionary roadmap and vision for the future, it wants to become the world’s best code analysis tool for the cloud.
Blossom: Lean product management http://blossom.io
Blossom is a project management tool for building modern web and mobile applications. Unlike other project management tools that focus on managing vast amounts of tickets in the backlog, Blossom helps you to focus on the current iteration, who’s doing what, and what they can ship next. It introduces just-in-time production concepts from lean manufacturing to the world of software development. The ideal project management tool for agile companies that ship early and often.
Campalyst: Cutting edge social media ROI analytics suite http://campalyst.com/
Campalyst’s enterprise-level social mediamanagement suite empowers brands with the unique ability to connect monetary ROI to their social media efforts and fully understand how and why social media contributes to their bottom line revenue. No more buzzwords, no more guesswork, it promises; it provides actionable financial performance analytics built for the age of social media marketing.
BugCrowd: Crowdsourced security vulnerability testing http://bugcrowd.com
Bugcrowd is crowdsourced security for web and mobile apps. It runs managed bug bounties as a service for our customers. A bug bounty is where a group of friendly security researchers are invited to compete to find security flaws. If they’re the first to report a new bug, they receive a reward of cash and Bugcrowd Kudos points.
Edrolo: Great education = great teachers http://edrolo.com
Edrolo delivers high school students great grades when it counts. It has more than 2,000 paying customers in the U.S. and Australia, and its team members have left jobs at Google, Goldman Sach, and a successful startup because they believe great teachers should impact hundreds of thousands of students not hundreds. It finds the rock star educator for each subject, curriculum, and exam and partners with them to build on-demand video, quizzes, study notes, and more.
Goodcall.io: Convert and retail customers with a phone call http://goodcall.io
Good Call helps online businesses convert and retain customers with outbound phone calls. It’s a long proven practice that it has redesigned for web applications. Its customers create events in their web app that trigger outbound calls. An agent is notified, and an outbound call is made through the platform. Customers can use their own internal agents, or choose from our marketplace of outbound professionals. All calls and metrics are recorded and presented to its customers.
Kinderloop: Bringing the simplicity of Instagram to the lives of child care providers http://kinderloop.com
A web and mobile application that brings the simplicity of instagram to the lives of child carer providers worldwide. Care providers use the app to quickly and securely post video, photos, and news. Parents receive immediate updates.
Shiftr: Simply swap work shifts http://shiftrapp.com
Shiftr is an employee-facing mobile app for hospitality and retail enterprises. Its mobile app gives employees flexibility and involvement in the scheduling process while giving managers the information to make the right decisions quickly. Shiftr has traction in fast-food franchises and retail enterprises.
Specifically, this strategy led to growing Udemy consistently 20 percent almost every month for the last few years, helping Lyft’s launch in LA be more successful than San Francisco, and a host of other successes that are not yet public.
What made us more effective than other class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>growth hackers? We applied lean startup methodology to marketing (“Lean Marketing”). Of course, we’re not the only ones to do this, but somehow the art of customer development has been largely lost in the fad that is class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>growth hacking.
To be an effective marketer, you can’t just be great at running and analyzing large swaths of data. That’s table stakes these days. Everyone knows how to A/B test, what the cost/benefits of each channel is, what viral marketing is, and the basics of LTV/CAC analysis.
With all of our obsession over quantitative (“performance”) marketing, we’ve forgotten one of the core ideas of building brands. Brands are built by understanding the customer. The better you understand the customer, the better you are at everything class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>growth hacking:
Copy and calls to action are more compelling. You pick words that convert the highest because you understand why customers will buy your product and what triggers their curiosity to learn more.
Images convert better. You know who your customer is, what they look like, and what they’re attracted to.
Better channels. You understand what your customer reads, where they eat, and who they follow on Twitter.
Improved targeting. You’ll be able to create personas of your ideal target customers and use those to build better targeting on your ad spend.
The problem is that most class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>growth hackers spend too much time in spreadsheets and not enough time out of the building. They obsess over numbers and prefer to work behind a screen. That’s a necessary skill set for effectively building viral loops and optimizing performance marketing campaigns, but it is not enough. Even the best marketers could be better if their initial tests were better. Say you have 50 ideas for copy that could work on a Facebook ad. How much time would it take to A/B test all 50 ideas? How much money?
What if instead, I could tell you what the top five of those ideas were with a reasonable level of reliability? All of a sudden, I’ve saved almost all that money and a hell of a lot of time. The best marketers know how to pick those five, and you can be one of the best too. Just get to know your customers better.
What’s the best way to know your customer? Meet them. Go out and do real user research — just like UX designers or lean startup entrepreneurs. Steve Blank, Eric Ries and Janice Fraser provided us with an incredibly good framework by which to do said research. Apply the same thing to marketing.
Three methods for success:
Interview your customer. Get out of the building and pick up the phone. Talk to your customers — at least five of them — and make sure they are fairly representative of your user base or target market (I usually find that after five, it’s repetitive).
Pitch your customer in person. Take what you learned from step 1 and start testing copy by pitching customers in person. If you are a food app, set up shop at a farmer’s market. If you are a payments company, go pitch startup entrepreneurs at a tech event. Whatever you’re selling, go to where people are buying and convince them. Iterate on your pitch constantly, and by the end of the day you’ll have an incredible understanding of your prospective user. This is often faster and far more cost-effective than A/B testing. Now you have a shortlist of amazing phrases that you can then A/B test the shit out of online.
Repeat periodically to “refresh” your understanding and test new ideas. Just like with Lean UX or Lean Startup, this process doesn’t end. It continues indefinitely — you and your team should constantly be bringing in users to interview them and understand their motivations for buying.
Ultimately, marketing is part art and part science. As a startup community, we’ve done a great job recently of perfecting the science. However, the best marketers are good at both. You can be too; just get out of the damn building.
Gagan Biyani is an entrepreneur and growth hacker. He co-hosts with Erin Turner the Growth Hackers Conference, which is on May 3, 2013 in San Francisco. Also, he has led marketing at marketplace startups Lyft and Udemy. You can follow him on twitter: @gaganbiyani.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneursstart and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
Political advocacy group Engine, which bills itself as the voice of startups in government, spoke to the House Committee on Small Business today in Washington, D.C., advocating for those who have “created all the net new job growth in this country for the last quarter century.”
You guessed it: startups.
U.S. immigration rules are extremely challenging for foreign-born engineers and founders to navigate, with many spending years and thousand of dollars working through the byzantine maze of rules and regulations … all while their businesses potentially languish and cofounders, employees, and customers suffer the consequences. Silicon Valley has been prominent in the fight – particularly around the Startup Act – to admit immigrants who want to start businesses and create jobs.
The precisely what Engine is working toward as well, with the backing of technorati like Google, SV Angels, 500 Startups, and many other technology-focused startups and organizations, such as Mozilla, Yelp, and the Startup Genome.
The problem, Engine’s Michael McGeary says, is that the startupcommunity is typically underrepresented in government. Today’s speech is just the first step in redressing that imbalance and putting immigration — as well as startups’ other major concern, software patents — on the top of the government priority list.
Here’s the full text of McGeary’s presentation:
REMARKS, AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY MR. MICHAEL MCGEARY and ENGINE ADVOCACY BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS
Chairman Rice, Ranking Member Chu, Members of the Committee, thank you for having me here with you this morning.
I want to spend my time talking about issues that will impact the true engine of economic growth in this country: our startupcommunity. Startups promise the rebirth – – and rejuvenation — of the American economy. Far from the idea held by many about startup life — of bespectacled youths in ironic t-shirts gallivanting around Downtown Palo Alto or the Flatiron in New York, spending their days writing code for the next great game about unicorns which we can all play on the subway on our way to work — the startupcommunity in America reflects the best of American business. It’s dedicated men and women, working in coffee shops, and co-working spaces, office parks, and garages in Kansas City and Austin, and Nashville, and yes, San Francisco and New York, creating economic growth and multiplicative effects not seen in any other industry, helping power not just their own business, but in many cases countless others across the country.
These men and women have created all of the net new job growth in this country for the last quarter century, and according to our recent study, Technology Works, are projected to create 4.3 jobs in local communities for every job created in a technology concern.
It’s for these reasons, and so many others, that a few of us got together to form Engine Advocacy. For those unfamiliar with Engine, we got started about a year and a half ago with the intention of connecting the startupcommunity with government at the federal, state and local level. We did so with an eye towards turning some of the workarounds, good ideas and innovative solutions to common problems faced by the startupcommunity, into new legislation or government programs that can help make it just a little easier to start and run those businesses here in America.
￼We do that in a number of ways for a community that has largely been under represented in the halls of government. Our work is balanced between direct advocacy, convening our members from all over the country with leaders in government, and educating all of the players by arming them with good stories and strong data that point to the impact that startups can have in driving economic growth.
And that’s why I came here today. If you took a survey of startup founders and entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, developers, engineers, and the myriad others working in startups today, they would tell you that two issues more than any others threaten the promise and progress of their companies. These issues — immigration reform and software patent reform — are Engine’s immediate priorities and will form the basis of our advocacy work this year.
First, immigration: despite our historical competitive edge, we in the United States are facing a growing gap between the jobs we can create and the skills and employees needed to fill them.
In the long term, we need to continue to work to evolve our American education system to help power that growth and give young people the skills they need to compete in a global marketplace. But in the short term, we must also realize that our most valuable resource, talent, is already on our shores attending the University of Wisconsin, or Kansas University, or Stanford, and that, unfortunately, we seem to be looking for ways in the current system to send these smart, talented, entrepreneurial individuals either back to their countries of origin, or to places like Canada, Chile and South Korea where they have hung out the welcome sign to these promising minds, as we did for so long at Ellis Island and Angel Island. It’s imperative that we find a way to keep knowledge here, working and building business in America so that our economy can continue to grow and our businesses continue to thrive.
Second, for those who do stay and others who start business, another spectre is lurking, threatening to choke off innovation nearly at its source — the danger of patent trolling. According to recent findings by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, patent trolls, forgive me, “Non-Practicing Entities” account for 56 percent of all lawsuits filed against innovators. This environment creates a legal and regulatory thicket which many young companies of two and three people find incredibly hard and costly to navigate.
We must find smart ways to protect innovative intellectual property, and as the constitution says, to promote science and the useful arts. The current system in place does no such thing — in fact, it even threatens to chill innovation as young companies find fewer and fewer avenues for capital as the prospect of patent troll lawsuits grow.
￼In the end, what’s good for startups is good for small business on the whole, because startupspower small business. Consider the single mom making jewelry in Boise who is able to sell to consumers all over the world thanks to Etsy. Or the rural doctor in Kansas who is better and more readily able to diagnose cardiovascular problems in a patient because of increased computing power, and new data culled from existing MRI scans paired with three-dimensional flow visualization — a technology being pioneered in our own office in San Francisco by Morpheus Medical. And the bakery in my neighborhood in San Francisco’s Sunset District that accepts credit card payments via Square on their iPad rather than having to buy a costly point-of-sale system. The promise and potential of America’s entrepreneurial future is also so much more — we can create gaming apps that distract and delight, but also technologies that save lives, bring people closer together, and allow us to see our world, and ourselves, from a reframed perspective.
Startups can power the next generation of growth in the American economy if we let them, and it will be in working with this committee and other allies in Congress which can allow for that future, our future, to be prosperous.
Planning for the weeks ahead? Join women entrepreneurs who rock the world, stop by a startup conference to schmooze VC’s and and join Tony Conrad, Mark Ecko and Megan Casey in Silicon Prarie.
Mark your calendars, pack your bags, and book your flights — it’s entrepreneurship conference season! Here are 10 upcoming entrepreneurship events you can’t afford to miss:
1. Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World - May 8-9, 2013 (New York, NY)
The Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World Conference, held by Savor the Success, is an annual two-day conference focused on enhancing the lives and businesses of women entrepreneurs. The business network, comprised of female entrepreneurs, aims “to inspire women entrepreneurs to ‘have it all’ through entrepreneurship, which creates a flexible lifestyle and also creates jobs for Americans.”
Workshops will cover various aspects of entrepreneurship, from developing essential leadership qualities to increasing productivity and improving business operations. This year’s theme, “You CAN Have it All,” will include guest speakers: Alexis Maybank, co-founder of Gilt.com, Colleen DeBaise of Entrepreneur Magazine, JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s Your Business, and more.
2. The Startup Conference - May 30, 2013 (Redwood City, CA)
The Startup Conference, one of the largest conferences in Silicon Valley, will host nearly 2,000 entrepreneurs seeking insight on all things startup related, including how to launch a product, pitch to VCs, and find co-founders.
This year’s conference will also feature a Startup Pitch Competition, where selected entrepreneurs receive the opportunity to pitch their startups to notable VCs for the opportunity to gain seed funding for their startup. Speakers have not yet been announced.
3. Entrepreneurs Unpluggd, “When, Where and How to Get Investors For Your Startup” - April 16, 2013 (Chicago, IL)
The Chicago-based event series, Entrepreneurs Unpluggd “seeks to create an intimate, engaging environment for entrepreneurs to learn actual lessons from actual experiences.” The series, created by serial entrepreneur and FeeFighters founding member, Stella Fayman and journalist Tim Jahn, will feature three keynote speakers: Sonali Lamba of BrideSide.me, Uzi Shmilovichi, founder and CEO of Base, and Troy Henikoff, managing director of TechStars Chicago.
4. Big Omaha - May 8-10, 2013 (Omaha, NE)
Held in “Silicon Prarie,” Big Omaha will host it’s annual large-scale conference to connect entrepreneurs to some of the nation’s top innovators in a relaxed atmosphere. This year’s event will be held in the Kaneko space of Old Market.
Speakers will include Tony Conrad, founder of about.me and Sphere; Marc Ecko, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Marc Ecko Enterprises; and Megan Casey, Co-founder of Squidoo and founder of Pack. Some events are open to the public, while others are reserved for paid attendees.
5. San Francisco Small Business Week - May 13-18, 2013 (San Francisco, CA)
The San Francisco Small Business Week is an educational and networking opportunity for the small business community of the San Francisco area, attracting nearly 4,000 entrepreneurs, small business owners, investors and community leaders. The eighth annual conference offers several networking opportunities during the week such as mixers and an awards ceremony. The day-long conference offers 50 free workshops and seminars to small business owners to choose from.
If you live in San Francisco, chances are you’ve heard of an app called Sōsh, which takes all the guesswork out of finding really interesting, awesome things to do nearby. But here in New York, the word Sōsh has no meaning at all, except for maybe being a reference to one of my favorite characters on “Girls”.
But that’s about to change, as Sōsh is officially launching in New York.
Sōsh is a “concierge” app that scrapes every possible source on the internet, whether it’s events-related blogs, restaurant review sites, or Twitter, to bring the very bestactivities in your city right to the palm of your hand. You can browse through categories like Fine Dining, Under $ 30, Creative Cocktails, Burgers, and Date Night, among many others, or you can choose to look at the “Here and Now” category to see what’s right in your neighborhood.
From there you can bookmark events based on what you’d like to do, or click the “Done It” button to show how cool you are for already having experienced the wonders Sōsh has to offer.
So you might be wondering: what’s the difference between this and any other events site or Yelp! even? Well, for one, Sōsh is all about the very “best” restaurants, nightlife, cooking classes, farmers markets, etc. Something with a two-star rating wouldn’t even show up on Sōsh. Part of that has to do with the company’s very advanced algorithm, and part of it has to do with the fact that, before anything ever goes up on Sōsh, it’s inspected by a real human to make sure it’s legit.
Rishi Mandal, co-founder and creator, explained to TechCrunch why he kept Sōsh all bottled up in San Francisco for so long without expanding to other cities, and it all comes down to user experience and acquisition. “Achieving a high density in one market creates an echo chamber amongst users, and allows us to have a profound impact on local businesses, advancing the prospects of a business model much more quickly,” said Mandal. Plus, it lets the team focus on quality curation, which can be a pain in the hyperlocal game.
And he’s not joking around about that “high density” thing. One in every 10 adults in San Francisco has the Sōsh app, and one in eight of 21-48-year olds uses the app, which is good news considering that’s Sōsh’s target demographic. And according to Mandal, the majority of those users come back into the app at least once a week.
What’s even better, this high density has absolutely achieved the “echo chamber” effect Mandal mentioned earlier, as the average Sōsh user has 13 friends on the app at the point of download. I, being awesome, had 18.
But Sōsh is also collecting crazy amounts of data, just from its SF user base. So far, the app has made over 10 million recommendations to users, with many millions of data points amassed around what people like. However, that won’t make a difference in the city that never sleeps.
Mandal mentioned that the challenges in SF are very different from those in NYC. In San Francisco, users are hungry for cool activities, whereas New Yorkers tend to have trouble sifting through the hundreds of daily activities in the city to find the good ones. But Sōsh has adapted the app to fit NYCer picky preferences, just as the app will evolve into much more than a concierge.
The idea, Mandal explained, came from the fact that users have such high expectations of their digitalworld. Everything needs to be fast, fluid, functional, and intuitive. However, these high standards don’t cross over into the real world.
“If you make a reservation at a restaurant and show up on time, and the hostess tells you to wait 15 minutes, you wait 15 minutes,” he said. It’s just expected.
The real goal of Sōsh, eventually, is to raise your expectations in the real world. Mandal envisions users finding a restaurant they love, seeing available tables and times, booking reservations, and even possibly booking a car to the restaurant, all from the app. He wants Sōsh to almost take on a digital assistant role. But, you know, one that actually works.
I’ll be interested to see Sōsh spread like wildfire in NY just as it did in San Francisco. But have no fear, ye flyover states, because Sōsh is already planning out an Android version of the app, and further expansions.
The next cities on the list are Boston, Seattle, LA, and Chicago, with further roll-outs to follow. The app is available now in the App Store.