- Infinity Ventures Summit In Sapporo: Demos From 14 Japanese Startups
- Unbound Launches Its Kickstarter-Byliner Hybrid For Celebrity Authors
- Greylock Partners Launches $160 Million Tech Fund For Europe And Israel
- What Makes A Startup Successful? Blackbox Report Aims To Map The Startup Genome
- Cliqset Founder Takes On Personal Publishing And Social Conversations With Stealthy Startup Glow
- (Founder Stories) Gilt’s Kevin Ryan—It Is All In The Presentation (TCTV)
- Oren Jacob, CTO of Pixar, joins August Capital as EIR
- Disrupt NYC: The Final Battle (Video)
- Gillmor Gang 5.28.11 (TCTV)
- Is There A Peak Age for Entrepreneurship?
Posted: 29 May 2011 04:46 AM PDT
Apart from panel discussions and presentations, some hours of the program gave a total of 14 Japanese start-ups the chance to present their services onstage. Here’s a rundown of all companies that participated at the IVS launchpad this time.
IVS Spring 2011: One winner and four runners-up
enchant.js by Ubiquitous Entertainment (winner of the launchpad)
Location base magazine by Hakuhodo DY Media Partners
Feel on! by L is B
READYFOR? by Ohma
Reengo by Kayac
The other launchpad demos at IVS Spring 2011
Posted: 29 May 2011 03:17 AM PDT
Thanks to Kickstarter, the idea of crowd-funding a creative project is nothing new. Post- Cory Doctorow, the notion that an established author might convince his fans to pay upfront for a special edition of an as-yet unpublished book is hardly earth-shattering. And, following the launch of Byliner, even the launch of a digital-only publishing house isn’t really news.
And yet, by combining all of the best elements of those three examples, UK-based Unbound hopes to create something very remarkable indeed.
The premise behind Unbound is this: even established authors sometimes feel under-served by their usual publisher. Perhaps a member of Monty Python suddenly has an idea for a children’s book, or the creator of a cult TV show decides she wants to write her first novel for a decade. The publishing industry being what it is today, such not-quite-no-brainer projects might never make it further than the proposal stage. And yet, as Cory Doctorow admits, self-publishing a physical book can be a painful experience, both mentally and physically.
That’s where Unbound comes in. As with Kickstarter, specially selected authors can pitch their book to fans (and potential fans) in the hope of attracting sufficient pledges to continue. Different pledge levels mean different things: from ebook editions, à la Byliner, to beautiful personalised hardbacks, signed and numbered by the author, as pioneered by Cory Doctorow. Importantly, when it comes to the print editions, all of the production and distribution is handled by Unbound, saving authors from the back-breaking, soul-destroying, wheel-reinventing effort of self-publishing.
If the funding threshold is met, then the writing and publishing process begins. If not, subscribers can either have their money refunded, or apply it to a different project (this is notably different from Kickstarter, where nothing is charged until a project goes ahead). During the writing period, donors are given access to the author’s “writing shed”, where they’ll receive updates on progress, exclusive videos, diary entries and more. For fans of authors like Terry Jones, this element alone is worth the price of admission. High end pledges also bring invitations to launch parties and even lunches with the author.
I caught up with Unbound’s co-founders – Justin Pollard, John Mitchinson and Dan Kieran – while I was back in London. All three are successful authors, and Mitchinson’s career also includes stints as Marketing Director of Waterstone’s (the UK’s largest book chain) and as MD of Harvill Press. He is also vice-President of the Hay literary festival and Director of Research for Stephen Fry’s QI TV show.
The team’s pedigree is reflected in Unbound’s ability to attract big name authors from the start, and in its innate understanding of what both authors and readers demand from the publishing process. I’ve never been more than slightly tempted by the hipster-centric nonsense offered on Kickstarter, and I’ve only dipped my toes into Pledgemusic once, but of the five launch projects offered on Unbound.co.uk, there are three – Terry Jones’ Evil Machines, Amy Jenkins’ The Art of Losing and Jonathan Meades' by Museum Without Walls – that I plan to subscribe to as soon as I’ve finished writing this.
The founders also understand the importance of allowing authors to retain as many rights in their work as possible. Unbound retains the publication rights in books it signs for the first year (“longer copyright terms are increasingly becoming meaningless,” says Mitchinson) but after that authors can sell paperback rights – and the rest – to traditional publishers if they wish. This leaves open the possibility of books proving their worth on Unbound before being picked up by the traditional publishing industry.
Unbound.co.uk launches today.
Posted: 29 May 2011 12:14 AM PDT
Well known US VC house Greylock Partners is launching a brand new $160 million fund aimed at internet technology companies, with the fund being deployed between Europe and Israel. Greylock is best known for its stakes in Facebook, Groupon and LinkedIn and European investments including Wonga. Greylock’s move will be a shot in the arm for European tech companies looking for more options when raising financing.
We understand the fund will be run from London by Laurel Bowden, a Partner, and will cover investments from early stage and beyond.
Posted: 28 May 2011 06:44 PM PDT
Generally speaking, the odds are stacked heavily against the average startup. The rate of failure among entrepreneurs and startups is startlingly high — it comes with the territory. Otherwise, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be pirates.
But, what if there were a way to reduce that failure rate by cracking the formula of startup success? No easy feat to map the double helix of startups, but entrepreneurs are risk-takers by nature, so four of these risk-loving international entrepreneurs came together to found the Startup Genome Report, a report that is part of a larger project that dives into the very anatomy of what makes Silicon Valley startups successful — or not.
The entrepreneurs who founded the Startup Genome report (Bjoern Herrmann, Max Marmer, Fadi Bishara, Aleksandra Markova), have also created a business accelerator called Blackbox, which will be leveraging the data they have collected (and will collect) from their ambitious R&D enterprise. The Startup Genome Report, as it is today, is a 44 page analysis on data collected from 650+ web startups.
The entrepreneurs recruited both UC Berkeley and Stanford faculty members, like Steve Blank, the Sandbox Network team, the Startup Bootcamp team, and the Pollenizer team, to help coauthor and contribute to the study. The goal of the report is to lay the foundation for a new framework for assessing startups more effectively by measuring the thresholds and milestones of development that Internet startups move through.
Blackbox, which was co-founded by techVenture and other organizations that have a track record of working with 100+ startups, including 15 exits (such as Bebo, Tapulous & Lala), hopes to use the Startup Genome Report as a cipher to help crack the innovation code, and give fledgling entrepreneurs and startups from around the world access to the characteristics and qualities that make Silicon Valley companies successful.
Here are 14 of the most interesting trends identified by the Startup Genome Report, some of which are intuitive and some of which may come as a surprise. Among them? Investors may be less help than they think. Take a look:
If you’re interested in learning more, detailed analysis of each of these points can be found in the full Startup Genome Report.
The team is also introducing a new survey that aims to help entrepreneurs understand the stage their startup is in and gives them personalized tips and advice for what to focus on based on data from the research project. The more data the project collects, the more accurate its conclusions become, and the more entrepreneurs and their startups can benefit from that knowledge, so check it out here.
Posted: 28 May 2011 01:22 PM PDT
As we heard last fall, Cliqset, a FriendFeed like social aggregation platform, was shut down by its founders, Darren Bounds and Charlie Cauthen. Cliqset, which launched in 2009, was a high-powered social syndication and aggregation service, with the ability to post and syndicate content on Cliqset, Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and 80 other sites and networks. You can read our prior coverage of Cliqset here. As Louis Gray wrote last November, the startup was one of the first networks to implement Pubsubhubbub for real-time updates, and Salmon for cross-network comment posting. But despite these technologies, the service couldn’t attract an active number of users and landed in the deadpool. It looks like Bounds is on to his next project—Glow.
Bounds writes that Glow is his “personal attempt at building a social network that doesn't sacrifice simplicity, features or user-experience in an effort to promote decentralization, user privacy and data ownership.” The site, which is in stealth mode for now, will combine personal publishing ans social conversation.
Glow sill use many of the same open protocols and standards that Cliqset implemented, including Activity Streams, Salmon, PubSubHubbub and Portable Contacts. Bounds says that he is taking a different approach to social networking that Diaspora, OneSocialWeb or Status.net. From his post, “Feature wise it's a little of Twitter, a little of Facebook and few of my own ideas. Think real-time, follow-model, @mentions, likes, comments and private group messaging to start.”
Interestingly, Bounds says that he doesn’t plan to build a business around Glow.
Bounds told Gray back in November that any future projects would projects would leverage users’ existing social graphs and that “the need for success wouldn’t be contingent on relationships and community within itself.” Perhaps that could indicate that Glow is built around your social graph on Facebook and Twitter.
It should be interesting to see what Bounds has up his leave with Glow. Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long. He says he’s rolling out the first set of invitations to Glow in the next two weeks.
Posted: 28 May 2011 01:21 PM PDT
Chris Dixon wraps his Founder Stories interview with Gilt Groupe's CEO and Founder, Kevin Ryan by discussing the early sales strategy of Gilt – a strategy that was designed to build customer and brand loyalty, but not the bottom line, at least initially.
Revisiting the launch period around four years ago, Ryan says, “we were going to make $4,000 for us on a sale and I spent $7,000 on the photo shoot, and you would say that is not a good business model, but what happened was the brands loved it, the customers loved it … and so now we sell $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 …. on a sale.”
The benefit was clear. Businesses liked selling excess items online in a classy environment and customers liked buying them at discount.
While the idea was gold, Ryan was quick to point out it was probably the least important part of the equation. He goes on to say, the key to success is “execution, and execution is hiring great people, managing them well and moving quickly.”
Prior episodes of Founder Stories including Foursquare, GroupMe, and Tumblr are here.
Posted: 28 May 2011 12:33 PM PDT
August Capital recently announced that Oren Jacob, CTO of Pixar has joined as their newest entrepreneur in residence. After a few weeks on the job, I got a chance to interview Oren and ask him how his new gig was going. In short, he has new-found respect for venture capitalists and button down shirts.
Oren had no idea how many meetings back to back were in store for him and how hard it can be to put on a fresh face and high level of excitement for each pitch. However challenges like that – and a bad case of entrepreneurial itch – were exactly why he decided to leave Pixar.
After being at the animation company for over 20 years, Oren wasn’t completely ready to take the startup leap, at least not until he’d found a way to understand the challenges of entrepreneurship from every angle. What was it like to sit on the other side of entrepreneurs looking for investment? What’s it like to be a company that successfully received investment and what are the struggles they go through that he will help eventually guide them through? What should you do in a pitch? What should you not do?
The only way to find out was to immerse himself in that world as he prepared himself for his next journey. He’s not entirely sure what he’s going to do post-August Capital, but that’s the nature of being an EIR. He’s hoping a great idea will come to him or that he’ll join an exciting company that crosses his path in one of those meetings.
I first interviewed Oren for my Speaking Of… show where I learned about his love for competitive farming and ‘Ready Set Bag’, the film he made in collaboration with his wife. At the time of that interview, he was still deeply involved with Pixar. In my last interview, I focused on his current side projects, but Oren also told a story that I found truly incredible and that I hoped to write some day, when he was no longer at Pixar. Which is to say, now…
Back in high school in Irvine, Oren had gone to see the Spike and Mike Festival of Animation the year that Luxo Jr. was in it. At that very moment, he decided he was going to apply to both Cal and Stanford because both schools were near Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). If he wanted to work at either of those companies, he figured being closer to them would be a good start.
Oren got into Cal and continued to go to the Spike and Mike film festivals and one year saw Tin Toy with a friend. Some weeks later, his friend saw a flyer for an internship on their campus with Tin Toy as the “I” in Pixar. She recognized Tinny from the festival and brought the flyer home, to Oren’s delight. Still, Oren figured there was no chance of him winning the internship: surely they were looking for computer science folks, leaving a mechanical engineering student like him way at the bottom of the list of applicants. So, what does a young enterprising young man do when he wants to eliminate the competition? Well, he strapped on his jogging shoes and ran around campus ripping down every flyer that had been put up. Apparently his tactic may have worked because there ended up being only four candidates for four positions. He got an offer to work there that summer for $10 bucks and hour.
About two weeks into the job in 1990, Oren started to feel guilty that what he had done was dishonest and that building his career on something dodgy was a crappy way to live his life. So, after some thoughtful reflection, he decided to go to his boss, explain everything and offered to resign. For those of you that don’t know Oren, he speaks faster than most humans on earth and you really have to pay attention to follow along. His boss sat there for more than a few minutes in silence as Oren rambled his explanation and apology. Finally he responded, “Wow…”
Oren asked if he should leave or go back to work. His boss just shrugged, so he went back to his desk relieved.
About 6 months later, in the winter of 1991, Pixar had some major layoffs and the company shrank to less than 40 people. Oren was still an intern at the time and had attended both the “you’re being laid off” meeting and the “you are the few who are staying” meeting and decided he liked the latter one better. He went home for the rest of the week, didn’t attend any exit interviews, didn’t turn in any keycards and just showed up for work the next week to a company that was now focused solely on animation.
The guy who dealt with keycards never deactivated his key. Oren kept showing up. Folks were surprised to see him in the hallway, but he played it cool and nobody raised a fuss. Many months later, paychecks started showing up in his box again and continued for 20+ years. Over those 20 years Oren worked obsessively hard and rose through the ranks of the company to CTO.
Stories like Oren’s are rare but always inspiring. I love that he started out as an intern and was so passionate about the company that he would do whatever it took to not only remain there, but see just how far he could go. If he applies that kind of passion and tenacity to his first start-up – whatever that ends up being – only a fool would bet against him.
Posted: 28 May 2011 11:00 AM PDT
After 30 startups launching on stage at Disrupt NYC, it all culminated in the final battle between six finalists: Getaround, BillGuard, Sonar, Do@, ccLoop, and InvoiceASAP. What made this final battle so fascinating to watch was not only the quality of the startups, but the quality of the judges: Fred Wilson, Ron Conway, Marisa Mayer, Roelof Botha, and Josh Kopelman.
We put together the entire final battle in the embedded video player above. Each demo is a separate video, and you can skip around by hovering over the video and hitting the channel button once it starts to play. Individual videos for all of Disrupt can also be found here. And below are links to our original writeups for each company with videos showing their first demos that got them to the final round.
Posted: 28 May 2011 10:00 AM PDT
This week’s Gillmor Gang comes at the end of travel — to New York for TechCrunch Disrupt and Las Vegas for the Forrester Analyst Forum. Disrupt continues to gather a head of steam, with the social effects of an emerging app ecosystem now being built out across the media and the enterprise. Although it seems still to be at the early stages with Twitter heading off a second front from Bill Gross, outbidding UberWhatever to buy Tweetdeck serves mostly to define the shape of the acquisition market as a hedge against IPOdom.
Although the noise has died down about the Microsoft/Skype deal, enterprise analysts are tripping over themselves to handicap Steve Ballmer’s job tenure. George Colony produced a Wave chart with Apple all alone up and to the right, Salesforce.com owning the next space, and as one senior analyst put it, only imaginary companies on the horizon to compete with us. I say us because apparently there are still a few who don’t know I work for Marc Benioff. And Microsoft was well down and to the left in the view Colony calls the AppInternet. What we talk about today on the Gang may have something to with all this.
Posted: 28 May 2011 09:09 AM PDT
The recent articles proclaiming that 25 is the peak age for entrepreneurship deserve a considered and factual response. The demographic and racial profiling that has plagued venture capital and tech entrepreneurship has a new friend—ageism. This has to stop.
It does not take but one minute to look around the world and prove any thesis of a peak tech founder age incorrect. There are countless entrepreneurs over the age of 30, including Reid Hoffman (age 35 in 2002), Evan Williams of Twitter (age 35 in 2007), Mark Pincus of Zynga (age 41 in 2007), Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (age 54 in 2005), among many others.
A commonly held belief is that younger founders appear to inspire waves of innovation, like in the mid-1990s and even today with Facebook, while older entrepreneurs launch sustainable businesses. The reality is more complicated. There are older inventors and entrepreneurs, like Dean Kamen (age 60) or Elon Musk of SpaceX (age 39), who continue to create revolutionary products; and there are, of course, thousands of young entrepreneurs pursuing “me too” businesses.
Anecdotal data is at best inconclusive. I launched my first internet business at the age of 22 in 1994, and through naive optimism and blind luck, it eventually became worth over $600 million. My direct impact on the value creation was relatively low. In fact, many of the revolutionary internet businesses started in the mid-1990′s were founded by 20-somethings with blind optimism. However, the majority of the sustainable businesses created in the 90′s were founded or run by older entrepreneurs.
In some cases, older entrepreneurs paired up with the younger founders, like Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin were both age 25 in 1998, and Eric Schmidt was age 46 in 2001). In other cases, more successful clones were launched by older entrepreneurs, like Amazon (Jeff Bezos was age 30 in 1994). And, many young founders were pushed out or sidelined for more seasoned leaders, like with PayPal (Peter Thiel took over from younger founders when he was age 31 in 1998).
Anecdotal evidence, personal stories, and biased sample sets are not the best way to draw meaningful conclusions, so let's look at some facts.
In order to identify the traits of successful entrepreneurs, the Founder Institute has conducted a battery of proprietary personality and aptitude tests on over 3,000 applicants worldwide, and then carefully tracked the progress of our nearly 1,000 enrolled founders and 350 graduates. Research scientists employed by the Institute have examined the results of the successful founders and the less successful cases, looking at high-level traits and even examining test results on a question by question basis.
The research shows that an older age is actually a better predictor of entrepreneurial success, and that three other traits also correlate strongly to success: strong fluid intelligence, high openness, and moderate agreeableness. Let's dive in deeper on the four key traits of entrepreneurial success:
The 3,000+ tested applicants come from 17 cities across four continents worldwide, and range in age from 17 to over 60. Applicants self-select as being interested in entrepreneurship by applying to the Institute in the first place. Two times per year, the Institute expands the breadth of the test with different batteries, lasting as long as three hours, providing a greater set of data to identify new traits of success. In addition, the Institute enrolls a number of semesters per year without using the test results so that we have a control group to measure the effectiveness of the test results in admissions.
Figure 1: Age of Founder Institute Applicants at Time of Applying
Since the Institute is only 25 months old and the oldest graduates are only 18 months out of the program, there are no M&A deals or public offerings among the graduates, yet. So, the Institute uses a careful performance evaluation of founders and their companies to identify their relative "success." Each founder is rated weekly during the program by a subset of their closest peers in their program, rated twice throughout the program by seasoned CEO Mentors, and tracked quarterly after graduation through self-reporting on key metrics, such as revenue growth and market traction, with validation of this progress by the Founder Institute itself. All of this data is collected, processed and analyzed twice per year to check, validate and change our assumptions.
Only 39 percent of applicants are under 30, and of those who graduate, 36 percent are under 30. The average age of all graduated founders is 34.4 years old, and the performance results of graduates speak for themselves:
Figure 2: Performance of Founder Institute Graduated Companies
Figure 3: Age of Founder Institute Graduates at Time of Graduation
The Testing Results:
The admissions test itself predicts success well by factoring in age and the other traits. 53% of the time the test will predict the assessment of a founder's success by peers and mentors within 5%. The predictions of the test are off by 20% or more in only 14% of the cases.
Figure 4: Prediction of the Test Results Measured Against Peer Reviews
Age is only one factor among many to predict the success of entrepreneurs, and anybody at any age can break any molds put forward by "experts.” However, it's clear that the stories of a few “college-dropout turned millionaire” (or billionaire) startup founders have clouded both the mass media and the tech industry from reality. We have romanticized the idea of a young founder because, well, it's a great story, but these stories are not the norm. In the end, classic biases of gender, race, and age need to be discarded for a real science of success.
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