Original post by James Gardner via InnovatorInside
These days, my job at Spigit has me spending 50% of my time in London, and the rest in California at our head offices in the East Bay area. This is very interesting, because it really illuminates the difference between startup world in both places.
Firstly, the obvious: London may be a hot place to start something in Europe, but it lacks the scale of the community in the valley
But the real differences are all about attitudes to the way things are done.
The UK is a much, much less business friendly environment than the US. The amount of red tape involved in doing anything is absurd, and you don’ realize it till you have seen the two compared.
Let me give you an example. Here at Spigit, we have our employees provide themselves the mobile phone they want to use, and expense the costs back to us. It sounds sensible, right?
In the US, this is all fair and good, but in the UK, we have to report that as a benefit in kind to the tax office. Then, what happens is the employees all get these coding notices from the tax office saying they owe additional tax because they had they had a personally owned phone paid for by their employer. Most of the time they only use the phone for business calls, but that, apparently, isn’t the important test of taxability.
Our CFO, based here in the US, made a very sensible suggestion: just pay their tax bill. But no, we can’t do that either. The payment of the tax bill, apparently, would be another taxable benefit.
Is this post interesting to you? You might also like James’ new book Sidestep and Twist – its about building hit products people will queue up to buy.
So, instead, we have to work out a way of taking over all their phones, which are all with different operators, just so our employees won’t be out of pocket when they do our business.
Stuff like that happens all the time. I was on the phone to some unhelpful people in the UK’s tax office the other day and made this point, and discovered, somewhat to my horror, that they hadn’t yet discovered Britain no longer had an Empire.
February 16, 2012 | Techmeetups
Original post by CARL FRANZEN via TPM
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been increasingly vocal about his love for all things tech over the past few years, but now he’s taking it a whole new level. On Thursday, Bloomberg (the real one) tweeted that his new year’s resolution was to learn how to write code using the handy, free, game-like online courses offered by New York’s own Codecademy.
“My New Year’s resolution is to learn to code with Codecademy in 2012! Join me. http://codeyear.com/ #codeyear,” Bloomberg tweeted, instantly moving the hashtag #Codeyear into the top trending terms on Twitter in the New York City area.
Codecademy quickly responded, thanking the Mayor for his free PR boost and making him a generous special offer: “thanks – we’d love for you to come stop by and we can help out in person!” the Codecademy account tweeted back.
The move even prompted London Mayor Boris Johnson to state he was in “awe” of Bloomberg and would consider joining him on the quest to become adept at, or at least acquainted with, programming, as the BBC reported.
“Codeyear” is the name given to a new, year-long effort by Codecademy to get people to use its signature online lessons to learn basic online programming skills for themselves.
Codecademy’s website itself is not even five months old, but already the innovative New York City-based startup company has attracted generated enormous buzz among tech journalists, who praise its timeliness, ease-of-use and, perhaps most of all, the general enjoyment and satisfaction provided by its quick online exercises in programming.
The company was started in June by friends and former Columbia students Zach Simms, a political science major, and Ryan Bubinski, a developer, the New York Times reported. Ironically enough, the idea was born out of Simms’ failed attempts to come up with startup ideas that would be acceptable enough to win him the backing of the famed Y Combinator startup fund in Mountain View, California. Simms kept running into the realization that he didn’t know enough coding to pitch a great startup demo, so he and Bubinski decided to turn that into their startup idea.
January 13, 2012 | Techmeetups
The Bicycle Academy’s Andrew Denham explains how he raised £40,000 in five days – and shares his secrets for success
I raised £40,000 in five and a half days but, in truth, the campaign took me almost a year, as I courted what would become my customer base for 11 months prior to launching the actual crowdfunding pitch. Here’s a round-up of the most valuable lessons I learned…
Tell a compelling story that others can write along the way
When I first came up with the idea for The Bicycle Academy I didn’t really think of it as a business, it was just something that I wished existed. From the very beginning I painted quite an ambitious picture of what it might be, then I documented what I was doing, telling the story as I went along. Over time the project picked up more followers, many of whom got in touch to see how they could help. People liked what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it.
Do the legwork before you launch
The crowdfunding campaign was the last push after trying really hard to make sure that people knew about The Bicycle Academy. From the very start I wrote a project blog, kept Twitter and Facebook accounts and created teaser videos. You need to do as much as you can to get your message out there and then you need to keep on updating people. I made sure that there was a build up towards the first day of crowdfunding, so that potential backers knew how important their effort was and how exciting it would be if we succeeded.
Hit the ground running
Some projects try to crowdfund far too soon, with little or no build up. By the time they get publicity for their campaign, it’s likely that very few people will have already backed the project, so the people who would have otherwise been convinced think that they’re in the minority and don’t back it either. People’s opinion of any project will be based at least in part by how well it’s been received by others, so if a lot of time has gone by with little or no money raised, then it will be seen as a vote of no confidence. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to do a lot of legwork beforehand, so you have a base of people ready and willing to back your project as soon as you launch.
Know your customer
The Bicycle Academy project was covered in papers, magazines and on the radio but, in particular, I ensured that the project was covered on most of the cycling websites and magazines in the UK. I knew this would be crucial. Getting mentioned on the right blog can have a far bigger effect than getting onto a nationally-recognised but otherwise irrelevant website. You need to focus your efforts to reach the people who are most likely to back your project.
January 11, 2012 | Techmeetups
Original post by Lior Levin via YOUNG UP STARTS
When you work in a startup, the hours are long and the work can be punishing. You might make decent money – or be in the running for a great payoff later – but the initial investment of time and energy that goes into a startup can be difficult to deal with. While there is nothing wrong with making money and using it to buy the things that you enjoy, so many of us don’t feel satisfied with the current state of affairs. Few of us find that just making money provides deep meaning in life. Working at a startup can magnify these feelings after a while.
Think about the number of people you know who hate their jobs. How many of your friends and relatives feel that they go to work every day in an emotionally draining environment? In a startup, with the hard work and long hours, the problem can be even more difficult to overcome. As a startup, if you want to avoid burnout in your employees, you need to give them the chance to do work they consider meaningful.
As an entrepreneur with a startup, consider this: Over the past two centuries, advances in production and productivity have ensured that many of us have what we need, and that we even have a great deal of what we want. As a result, many of us expect a little more self-actualization from our work. Indeed, there are studies that indicate workers are happier and more productive when they enjoy their work.
While money will always be a reason to work, it helps to have a reason beyond financial compensation. Startups can attract high quality employees by providing a work environment that helps them feel as though they are accomplishing something greater than themselves.
Creating a Values-Driven Startup
Most people want to feel as though they are accomplishing something when they go to work. A number of startups are starting to recognize that operating by core principles and values can make the work environment more attractive to employees. Startups like Eventbrite, Sharethrough and Automattic all set forth core values that define their products and services, as well as guide their companies.
On top of that, a values-driven startup encourages its employees to adopt – and live by – the core values that define the company’s mission. The idea is to frame your business in a way that makes a meaningful difference in others’ lives, and helps them feel that they work they do somehow creates a better world — or at least doesn’t make the world a worse place.
People are attracted to workplaces that fit their values. A company that allows them to feel as though what they are doing each day fits with their own goals and the values they hold dear, will find their jobs less soul-sucking and they will be better at them. If you want to improve your work environment, and start a company that offers customers and workers alike a product or service they can believe in, there are some things you can do to ensure that your startup offers a work environment that others want to be part of:
Inspiring Vision – Create an image of what you want your company to look like and what you want it to accomplish. A values-driven startup isn’t just about making money from consumers. It’s about providing meaning.
January 7, 2012 | Techmeetups
original post by COURTNEY BOYD MYERS via TNW
While living in New York’s tech community this past year has been a wild ride, it’s been a ride alongside a welcoming, supportive and extraordinary group of people. We’ve seen pivots, partnerships, massive hiring, acquisitions and rapid rounds of funding. And we’ve seen more success than failures, which has inspired us to keep running.
We welcomed accelerators like the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator, TechStars and DreamIt Ventures, played with new incubation models like Gramercy Labs Collective and Prehype and raised over $100,000 for local hackers through a fashion-infused tech celebration called Raise Cache. These organizations helped bring together an extraordinary group of mentors within NYC, and established a sense of camaraderie and mentorship within the community. If the years prior we’re about gathering materials and putting the pieces together, 2011 was a year to see the New York tech industry all come together.
For an end of the year, dose of nostalgia, we caught up with 13 entrepreneurs, who all launched companies this year and asked them what their most exciting moment was in 2011.
Given Goodsie‘s long path to launch, CEO Jonathan Marcus, who also founded the all-new Flavors.me, gets nostalgic thinking of how much the company achieved in 2011. For Marcus, Goodsie’s public launch in early May 2011 was the most exciting moment of the year. He started working on Goodsie in early 2009 and just days away from launching in late 2010, he made a very difficult decision to part ways with their technical team because of personal chemistry issues, and re-write the entire code base from scratch in a different programming language.
“A core group of the Flavors team spent the next 5 months moving heaven-and-earth to finally bring Goodsie to life. There were countless times where it seemed as though Goodsie would never launch,” says Marcus. “When we launched in May, a full two years after starting this journey, I was incredibly grateful and proud to have finally achieved and realized a vision that had become a multi-year labor of love.”
Today, Goodsie has 1,000 active, paying sellers, and is growing 20% month-over-month. Over the past 30 days, Goodsie’s top 50 retailers generated half a million dollars in sales. Just this week, Goodsie launched an integration with SoundCloud for sellers to import and sell SoundCloud audio. “Given our traction in music, we expect the SoundCloud integration to be very well received,” says Marcus.
December 29, 2011 | Techmeetups
Original post by Lauren Drell via Mashable
Jobs and Woz. Larry and Sergey. Jack, Biz and Evan. Mark and Eduardo.
Many of today’s most notable and successful tech companies were born not out of one, but two (and sometimes three) noggins. Entrepreneurship can be a long, lonely and hard road, so it helps to have a co-founder — he serves as a sounding board, a different point of view, a yin to your yang. He’s a beer buddy when the going gets tough, and another flute to clink when the long-awaited funding comes through. The co-founding trend is going strong, with many of today’s up-and-coming startups led by two (or more) complementary individuals. After all, if you’re going to go through the startup rollercoaster, why not share the ride with someone?
But how are you supposed to find the person with whom you’ll hunker down to build the company you’re so passionate about? Well, there’s TechCoFounder, FounderDating and Founder2Be, for the Match.com types. Then there are hackathons and startup weekends, a great source for CTOs. And there’s business school, where you have access to a large pool of bright minds. But you might not even have to go that far or spend that much money — you could find the person on Craigslist. Or maybe you’re already dating him. Or best friends with her. Or maybe you just need to meet your future co-founder in a random twist of fate.
December 28, 2011 | Techmeetups
Original post by JOE COLLETTI via tech.li
Bill Veeck is remembered for the convention-defying promotional events he staged in order boost attendance at his teams’ games. While Veeck’s role in sending three-foot seven-inch tall Eddie Gaedel up to bat during a professional baseball game is certainly a story worth telling, the sensational accounts that define Veeck’s legacy often cause his entrepreneurial genius to be overlooked.
Today, we think of ‘networking’ as connecting with those who occupy positions of influence, hoping to benefit by association. When we talk to potential customers, we call it ‘market research’.
When he wasn’t at the ballpark, Bill Veeck was traveling around, making free appearances as a guest speaker. According to Veeck:
When you start with the premise that the world owes you a sellout, you look upon appearance requests not as an opportunity but as an imposition.”
“Sure, I’m hustling tickets. But it’s the most subtle kind of hustling possible. I have never mentioned tickets during a talk. People are there to be entertained. They want to hear something they ordinarily wouldn’t hear about our players, about our team, about the back-scene maneuverings of baseball. I don’t think it would be right — or even smart — to break in with even the most gentle sales pitch.”
Show your customers that you’re not just out for their money. Have a conversation; discover how you can add value to their experience.
Inspired by Bill Veeck’s autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck, here are seven thoughts worth considering as you grow your start-up.
“One of the best ways to meet people and spread good will, I have found, is to go to openings. Any opening. I made every opening in Cleveland, whether it was a hamburger joint, a plush lounge, or a filling station.”
“If you’re running a club with 51 percent control, you’re working as hard as if you had 100 percent, but only getting half the profits.”
Do your employees follow your lead without question? They shouldn’t. Encourage conversation — hopefully they will reach your conclusion for their own reasons.
December 22, 2011 | Techmeetups
Original post by HARRISON WEBER via TNW
The magic of startup life is the constant flow of new information; new ways of solving problems with solutions that surface from sleepless nights and wandering minds. Major tech companies like Microsoft and Apple were once startups themselves, small companies with innovative ideas that geared up to expand rapidly.
Microsoft and Apple grew into the powerhouses we know today and knocked IBM off its top shelf, all while constantly being challenged by small, groundbreaking companies that could maneuver much faster than a major corporation.
What happened to IBM can still happen to the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google, which is why acquisition is their life force and part of every corporation’s recipe for success — bringing in fresh ideas before the whole company goes stale.
After developing an impressive competing network, DoubleClick was bought by Google for 3.1 billion in 2007. This acquisition of DoubleClick brought Google into the display advertising market overnight.
Google Docs was created with the acquisition of Upstartle’s Writely, a web-based wordprocessor, and 2Web Technologies for XL2Web, which led to Google Spreadsheets. Google merged both products together to create a productivity suite that now competes with desktop and cloud offerings from Microsoft Office and Apple’s iWork.
After Google Video failed to gain traction online, it acquired YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. At the time, there was speculation that Google had overpaid; YouTube had zero monetization strategies, and was over-run with copyright infringment. Time has shown that this may be one of the best acquisitions in recent history, with YouTube’s 40% marketshare and successful monetization as outstanding proof.
Android is another high profile innovation, acquired by Google in 2005. Google developed and brought Android to market, from what was a small Palo Alto startup that had run independently for two years.
Since 1998, Google has bought over 100 companies.
December 14, 2011 | Techmeetups
Original post by BILL BARNETT via HBR Blog Network
Executives set value propositions for their products — the target market segments, the benefits they provide, and their prices. It’s why a target customer should buy the product.
But value propositions go beyond just products. Your personal value proposition (PVP) is at the heart of your career strategy. It’s the foundation for everything in a job search and career progression — targeting potential employers, attracting the help of others, and explaining why you’re the one to pick. It’s why to hire you, not someone else.
The question is this: How do you develop a powerful PVP?
Take a look at Steve (name has been changed). Steve is a tall, 54-year-old manufacturing executive. Steve’s interest and skill at manufacturing operations is the cornerstone of his PVP.
It’s hard to know what you’re really good at. You need more than the ordinary, convenient categories. I seek the kinds of things where I fit naturally, what I enjoy. That’s not consumer products, not hard science, not financial institutions, and not an enterprise that’s pursuing something other than long-term financial objectives. I look for operations-intensive companies who can benefit from significant performance improvement. I take floundering institutions and go build things. It’s not quite turnaround, not slash and burn; but it’s a far way from peaceful stewardship of assets. I’m a go-build guy.
Steve targets companies from $150 million sales up to $1 billion. He doesn’t want start-ups, where everything would need to be set up, or a company so large that he couldn’t know people down the line. He prefers private companies. With no experience with the special duties of a public corporation’s CEO, he feels it doesn’t make sense to have to learn all that on the job at this point in his work life.
Steve also emphasizes his view of the right atmosphere: “I’m not at all into sleazy places, nor into industries like tobacco, alcohol, or casinos. Ethically-challenged places are no fun.” We could debate whether those industries pose ethical issues, but that’s not the point. They aren’t right for him.
November 28, 2011 | Techmeetups
Original post by Andrew Keen via TC
As the co-founder of Priceline, serial entrepreneur Scott Case is a natural startup guy. Indeed, his fever for startups is so intense that he is now CEO of StartUp America Partnership, a “movement of entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs” designed to inspire young companies with expertise, capital and talent.
Case gave an inspirational keynote at last week’s Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored event in San Francisco, where he revealed his three rules for startup entrepreneurs. And after his talk, he was generous enough to list these rules to me on camera, as well as show off his colorful footwear and explain how America can once again become a startup nation.
This interview is part of a week-long series from Innovation Uncensored. Check out earlier interviews such as my conversation with Virgin America CEO David Cush. Still to come in the series is a particularly lively conversation with Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja of SCVNGR, who explains to me why his $50 billion market is so cool.
November 18, 2011 | Techmeetups