- 8 Mar
No this is not a write-up of the 1966 western starring Clint Eastwood, but rather my interpretation of the just completed 2013 Launch Festival. The festival was sold out with more than 50 startups launching, 175 startups presenting in the demo pit and 5000+ eager attendees. The result was a vibrant and energetic conference showing some great startups from around the world (25% came from outside the US and almost 40% were hardware related).
The event didn't really get a smooth start as it looked like it would be several hours before we could register:
But Jason Calacanis, who was the one putting this event together, acted fast and let everyone in without registration, giving his volunteers time to reorganize. By lunch when the registration was reopened it went smoothless.
Let's take a look at some of the startups that made waves:
I don't think it came as much of a surprise when Triptease won best design for their gorgeous travel review site. It really makes me want to take a trip just so I can write up a review on their site. Granted their target is 4-5 star hotels so it is likely that they will make a small pivot and become a site for paid reviews, but for now it is open for anyone.
Better - Wizzywig
This is a little bit of a cheat because these guys actually competed in the Hackathon and not the demo pit. However in a mere 48 hours the Wizzywig team built a "content management as a service" tool, where multiple collaborators can update a live website without having to go through the normal tedious process. All changes are saved and they offer a visual tool that lets you drag between 2 versions of a specific page. Obviously they won the hackathon and the accompanying price of $100,000.
Best - Zillabyte
Zillabyte is a lead gen software for SMB's and won the price at the event for best 2.0 enterprise. These guys created a really cool product that via the freemium model let small companies search for leads, even much segmented ones if they like. They will be releasing a special query language in the coming months that seems very easy to use and let the user take even more control of his/her search.
Bad - Trendalytics
I actually liked part of what Trendalytics have built, but it is too complicated for too narrow a market. It is a startup that hopes to help clothes buyers better see the trend and hopefully perform better in their purchases. The problem is that it is too technical for the targeted user, and when the panelists suggested that the startup use the great features they have built for a broader purpose it was struck down immediately by the argument that the founder always wanted to be in fashion. Lesson here is that your passion at times can get in the way of your success.
Worse - Boxbee
I know this will be a shock to those who already know that Boxbee - a new take on physical storage - won best 1.0 startup at the event. I just think it is a really bad idea! The problem is that they are aiming at smaller storage which will mostly be for people in apartments, and as such a smaller segment of an already competitive market. Add to that, the promise of 2 hour delivery of boxes and the logistics of storage location and placement of items for easy retrieval and you have a huge cash flow problem on your hands. I don't see how this really can scale outside NY/LA where there may be a small demand. I know they won because they are trying - like Uber - to disrupt an industry and for that they deserve some kudos, but it still has to be viable and I doubt it will be.
Worst - YouCommentate
YouCommentate believes that we all want to be commentators on sports events or award shows. I have no aspiration for an alternate career as a commentator and I doubt anyone wanted to listen to me if I did. The reason I give them the "worst" label is that anyone who have tried streaming sport events online and simultaneously listened to a different audio stream knows that they are NEVER in synch and you will end up getting the call before it happens. As commentator and listener undoubtedly won't be on the same broadcast stream they will be out of synch, and here I'm not even considering the delivery of the audio stream delay. It will be a nightmare and not something anyone will pay for. I think the final nail in the coffin for these guys is that the Canadian company InstaRadio also launched at this event and offer streaming of sound via your smartphone aka is much more appealing as it takes an approach similar to its namesake Instagram.
It was hands-down very easy to select the "winner" of the ugly. Despite very clear and simple instructions from Jason and crew one presenter couldn't help himself and decided that he needed help selling his startup so he hired some "booth babes". I am not even sure what his startup was about since he didn't even have a laptop or any other electronic device running at the table.
As you can see above Jason was on it and correctly got him and his startup removed from the event. In fact Jason continues to impress me with his tireless effort to help the startup community. During the event he was always ready to jump in and help explain the startup to the panelists when they struggled to grasp the concept. He never rushed any of the presenters when they had technical problems, in fact on more than one occasion he took the blame for the problems as there was connectivity issues which he knew could happen. He even took time to talk to attendees and startups rather than sitting and having lunch with angel investors and VC's.
If you didn't have a chance to go to this event you can still catch some of the action in the video vault, but don't forget to make a point of attending next year, because I sure will.
- 1 Mar
Some of you may already know that my latest project – FlatLeaf didn’t pan out as planned. It has been a great project to work on, and I still think it had some great potential, but as a bootstrapped project it was never going to get a proper launch. I therefore closed it down at the beginning of the year. Although not an easy decision it is much better than continuing down a road leading nowhere.
In past incarnations of this site I have had a segment dedicated to articles, and I plan to bring that back in the near future. It will mostly be centered on tutorials and examples of what is near to my development philosophy; making programs easily expandable, extendable and modifiable. It is likely to also contain random bits that may be less usable but fun to work on.
Finally I will be going to the Launch Festival in San Francisco next week, so if you are as well send me a message if you want to grab a cup of coffee. I will try to write up a post or two on what is happening there, as it is bound to be great with around 200 existing startups and 40 brand new ones launching at the event.
- 2 Nov
On October 21st (yes I know I am WAY behind on my blog posts) I attended a Tablet conference hosted by @jason via http://www.launch.is. I have to say it was one of the most professional run events I have been to in a long time. It was at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, so there was something to live up to, and Jason and crew did. They had collected a bunch of the best companies in the Tablet space see the full list here .
There were 5 sessions with 5 presenters in each, followed by a roundtable panel with the presenters.
As you can see from the list there were Apps from kids books to text books, text to video and restaurants to doctors. Though many of the apps were very beautiful and well made, DrChrono and eHarmony comes to mind, my favorite was Stuck on Earth by Trey Ratcliff a beautiful free travel app with professional pictures wherever you can imagine you wanted to go. What I liked about it was its potential to be a fully fledged travel app with restaurant suggestions and day trips, to bicycle rentals and boat trips. Trey is being very careful not to overdo it so we will have to see where it goes.
Best in show did however go to Condition One with their unique app for a completely different video viewing experience.
With all the talent there both on and off stage there is no doubt that Tablets is the hottest device to develop for and we have only scratched the surface.
- 12 Sep
Note: all the names have been omitted in this post to protect the not-so-innocent.
This past week I have been stood up twice by people I need to talk to in regards to my startup. That is nothing new for an entrepreneur, but as others before me, I started doubting in whether my endeavor was something that would succeed, and if I was the only one really thinking this was a good ide.
Still feeling a bit down over this, despite a weekend that managed to push it a little in the background, I decided to write some emails to potential partners to see if I could get together with them on an upcoming conference.
However I didn’t get far. My inbox contained an email from a friend pointing me to an article describing how the biggest player in the industry was about to enter my niche market – and I haven’t even launched yet.
Now most people would probably see this as the end and head further down to hole of despair only to exit on the other side with a decision to call it quits. I will admit I initially did use some words I will leave out of this post. However after a little time to reflect I calmed down and started analyzing the situation:
- I had prematurely gained a competitor I knew eventually would enter my space.
- The market moves fast and total market domination was never the plan as it was unattainable. This “new” competitor doesn’t change that.
- My approach to this niche market has been to create a user experience not found elsewhere; the new competitor doesn’t change that.
Finally I recalled a tweet from Naval "What if Google does this?" counter "What if Google enters the VC business?" and a blog post from M Suster ending with “.. if there are no BigCo in your market you are probably in the wrong market.”
I guess in the end it is what entrepreneurship is all about; no matter how far down you are there can be a positive side to it. Onward!
- 14 Jun
I recently answered a question on OnStartup on LinkedIn and realized that the question “How do you meet your Business Partner” required a little more in-depth coverage.
I don’t think there is a formula to this, but if there is I will gladly take it. I think if you are looking for a techie partner it is a little easier than looking for one with a business sense. If you find the “hacker” type techie you will have found someone that is also willing to work hard. You should look at some of the Q&A developer sites out there CodeProject, StackOverflow, or you could try to be part of one of the new social developer sites like Forrst. The smart people will stand out on those sites. However that is not enough. As a developer most of my friends are techies, smart and will work hard, but that doesn’t make them good cofounders.
In the search of a cofounder I have come to the conclusion that it is extremely difficult to find someone with the entrepreneurial gene. Having it myself I simply just assumed it was in us all but not necessarily as predominant in everyone, and just needed some nurture to blossom. Some people are happy with status quo and will do anything not to rock the boat. That is fine by me, but I can’t use them in my startup. I need someone that will live and breathe for the startup for as long as it takes to get it going. Someone that has the startup on his/her mind as the last thing before bed and first thing in the morning.
As I mentioned I was blind to the fact that not everyone has the gene. I probably should have taken a note from my conversations with my wife because for some reason she never gets as excited about the new features I come up with as I do. It is not until I speak to other likeminded individuals that I see the same spark in the eye that indicates that the wheels are in motion trying to find some twist to the newly acquired knowledge.
Networking is the key to finding people with similar mindset, and it is the similar mindset that needs to be there if there is to be any chance of finding a good co-founder. Please don’t confuse that with people always agreeing with you, as it is important in any business to have a natural counter weight of opinions. To successfully network, try joining local networks in business or development depending on which type of cofounder you are looking for. Alternately you could join something like Founder Institute or Founder Labs that is focused on helping you in becoming a better entrepreneur.
Finally if you find the formula, please let me know.
- 10 Jun
As mentioned earlier, this year will be fast and furious.
To kick this year in high gear I am proud to announce that I will be launching a startup – FlatLeaf – later this year.
It is still in stealth mode but stay tuned and more will follow.