Remember how MacGyver used to take pencils, a piece of gum, a mirror shard and an armadillo paw and make a nuclear detonator out of it to escape his captors? Yes, that's how you build a start-up.
It's not that far from the truth. Startup founders need a more than a healthy dose of ingenuity -- to get around the people saying "No"; to find solutions where only problems seem to exist; to make from scratch something that is not real, yet -- so taking inspiration from a mythological TV pop culture icon should make a lot of sense. This is another one of the many interviews we are doing with startup founders and developers about what it's like to really build something.
In a continuation of this series, we talk with Chris Hartley, the CTO of SwitchCam, a web app that helps you stitch together multiple angles of an event to watch them seamlessly, just before the Media Camp Demo Day happening on September 13.
Media Camp is an accelerator helping push through development of media-based startups on the web and an in mobile.
Here's the SwitchCam team. You can follow them on Twitter.
Chris Hartley, CTO Switchcam Opening Statement (I guess you could even call this a pitch)
Switcham is redefining interactive video by creating immersive, non-linear video experiences that harness the video taken by the people closest to the action. I've been a developer of submarine sonar systems, stock market trading algorithms and now run technology for switchcam.com.
What has overjoyed you in the past month?
Honestly, a simple comment left by a total stranger on the Switchcam website: “thanks internet for letting me relive the best concert of my life”. When people talk about the broader termed “internet” they're referring to those internet treasures that shape it – wikipedia, Facebook, icanhascheezburger, etc. To be contributing to the wonder of “the internet” and having that level of impact on people, I couldn't be happier.
What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?
Don't fall for the hype – great businesses are built rather than chanced upon. It's true that large empires are being built faster than ever thanks to the internet but the deciding factor on which ones succeed is the ability to stick to your guns and deliver something valuable. Keep laser focussed on creating value and doors will open.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
As a video entertainment platform we have a tonne of monitoring in place for the qualitative metrics but we really sit up and listen to the qualitative feedback. Any consumer entertainment business is about making people feel something – hopefully something good – and the beautiful thing about an online business is that your customers are never more than 140 characters from telling you how they feel. And trust me, they aren't shy to tell you.
Who would you like to be your mentor, and what would you ask him or her?
Definitely MacGuyver. As a startup CTO, time is always against you and you never quite have the resources you need – I would definitely want to ask him “how do you consistently create innovate solutions from nothing, no matter what your adversaries throw at you?”.
Watch for the Media Camp Demo Day on Twitter. Follow @themediacamp to get more information. They will be using hashtag #mcdemoday.
If you would like to apply for your startup to be a Microsoft BizSpark-supported startup, you can find more information and a link to the application at our website.
EDIT: Many people have been asking why they need to pay to get access to the Store. You do not have to pay money for this code. Users who want the code to get free access to the store must first activate their MSDN account to get this code. We apologize for any misunderstanding.
To celebrate startups and to make it easier to build for Windows 8, the BizSpark team from today onward will waive the subscription fee for Windows Store and offer you a one year Windows Store Developer Account.
These new offers that are exclusively given to members of the BizSpark program is our demonstration of a commitment to startups. We are also changing the terms and requirements for becoming a member of BizSpark, extending the entry level requirement age of new startpus from three years old to five years old. More on that in a bit.
How about those Windows Store and Windows Phone Marketplace deals?
Even our Microsoft Developer Evangelists are building Windows 8 apps. Like GUT, from Developer Evangelist Reza Alizadeh.
We know you’re excited about building Windows 8 apps and we’re excited to announce the Windows Store is now open for app submissions from all developers – including all BizSpark startups – in our supported markets, and we’ve added 89 more app submission markets! The Windows Store is ready for you to join today. To make it an especially great day, the subscription fee is waived for startups in the BizSpark program! BizSpark members now get a free, 1-year Windows Store developer account.
Please visit the Windows Store Blog for full details - the dev tools are free, the SDK is ready, and we have a ton of great supporting content to help you build your app and submit it for Store certification. Sign up now, reserve your app names, and we’d love to publish your app in the Store in time for general availability of Windows 8 on October 26.
Windows Phone Marketplace
BizSpark members can now receive a one-time, 12 month developer account to the Windows Phone Dev Center. It’s got everything you need to create great apps for Windows Phones and make them available in the Windows Phone Marketplace for customers to see, try and buy. The subscription also includes your own personal dashboard to track your apps and your earnings. Take the video tour to see what’s new! Sign up today – simply go to the benefit overview page to get your promo code and start the registration process. Note: Availability varies by market.
New age limit criteria
Effective immediately, more startups than ever will get access to Microsoft BizSpark. Today, we are expanding the age eligibility criteria from three years old to five years old. This means that a startup who is currently less than 5 years old, making less than US $1M annually, privately held and developing software, is eligible for a three-year membership in BizSpark!
Is your startup 4 or 5 years old and you thought you didn’t qualify? You do now! Join today at www.microsoft.com/bizspark.
To learn more about these and the many other benefits of the Microsoft BizSpark program, please visit www.microsoft.com/bizspark/about.
Even though the emotions are powerful, the move towards love is a choice, not some silly romantic puppy dog emotional experience. People often make really strong choices about themselves to get there.
What's true for "romance" is very true in start-ups and the shaping of a product for a market, in order that real long-lasting bonds can form. Why? Founders are looking for committed customers, and customers are looking for design, product function and architecture they can trust. This search takes time. It's hard. It's not exactly as simple and straightforward as four letters and a mono-syllable make it seem. You need to be a listener, and you need focus.
I am writing all of this because I just realized this in re-reading this great interview we are publishing today. We're publishing this interview with Chute, a builder of media-rich apps, because we saw one of Chute's co-founders pitch "Pics of Words" on Sunday at TechCrunch Disrupt. I saw some of the same ardent focus on designing something useful and love-worthy in his pitch that I see in all of Chute.
The following short interview is also part of a new series on business advice and experience for start-ups. From now on, you are going to see more interviews with founders here, focusing on business, running a business, and the experience of building something. While the hope of almost every entrepreneur is that he or she will get funded, the big story here -- for the rest of time -- is how do you build something that people want and what kinds of business strategies do you need to be successful.
Today we talk to the two co-founders of Chute, Ranvir Gujral and Gregarious Narain. Chute is a media startup growing out of the MediaCamp accelerator. They will be presenting in a Demo Day this week. Ahead of that Demo Day, we wanted to ask them what cues they look for in a company or a product that help them fall in love with it. By love, we mean, not ardent romantic lvoe, but choice. They will choose tihs product to use because it fuflills a real need in their lives.
Here's the Chute team.
Chute Corporation can be followed on Twitter here:
@getchute @ranvir @gregarious
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Finding a product you love is much harder than you think. We’re usually using a lot of things that we like or have to use, but not because we truly love them.
The last product I’ve fallen in love with is the Nike+ Fuel application. This is a great app for a couple of important reasons. First, the design is well executed and brings the most important tasks to the front and center for the user. For example, the home screen is focused on your goal - a simple ring that shows your progress along with a strong number centered. It’s a clear, simple way to make sure I know where I am in today’s race. Second, the design encourages, even requires, behavior from me. Nike has put in place a number of gaming mechanics (fuel points, achievements, and social connections) to give me lots of prompts and incentive to take an extra walk.
A great product not only pleases the eye, it helps you realize your goals and brings you back to make sure you’re doing happy and successful while doing it.
While technology powers more and more of our businesses these days, it’s also a convenient crutch that we can often hide behind in the place of understanding. Technology is almost always just a small part of the process of building a business. Perhaps more important than anything is learning how to build and foster productive relationships with people: your co-workers, your customers, and your evangelists (both at work and at home).
What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?
How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?
Product failures are easy to spot if you use an open process for development. Early and frequent interaction with potential users and customers can help steer you in the right direction. The challenge, of course, is distilling the problems that need to be solved from the specific complaints. It takes a great deal of listening and practice to get right. Your internal team is a great sounding board for the thousands of small decisions that are required to bring any product to market, especially a great product.
For a startup, however, the greatest failure in product development is a failure to launch. A startup’s orientation must always be toward shipping code. It’s too easy for products to get too bloated in the initial product development phase.
Engagement and evangelism are the two biggest indicators we look for as a success metric. A highly engaged customer will spend more and more time working with your product. They will discover new uses and brainstorm bigger and better use cases for you. High engagement means you’ve identified a pain point and provided a solution of merit.
Evangelism is not just flattering; it’s a great indicator of product/market fit. When customers turn into evangelists, you can safely bet that you’re on the right track. Most often, customers will make recommendations without even letting you know so it’s important to ask people how they found you so you can thank (and reward) your most loyal fans. Building in rewards for customers to evangelize your product is a great tactic.
Of course, our own winning is secondary to our customers’, so we want to communicate with our customers as much as possible and make sure they are succeeding with Chute.
Here is a screenshot of a new Chute app, pics of words.
When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?
We’re lucky to have a great set of investors, and we certainly ask for their help often around all sorts of issues like hiring, strategy, pricing, and business development. They’ll frequently put us in touch with specific expertise to help educate us about a subject.
I think what most entrepreneurs have in common is that they derive an immense amount of utility from customers actually using and deriving value from products that they’ve built. There’s no better feeling in our business then when our customers are loving what we do for them.
The future is made of collaborators working in innovation strongholds like StartX.
This post was written by Claire Lee
Last Thursday evening StartX Stanford, the university accelerator, hosted their Summer Class Demo Day. This was the largest class so far and – with my front row seat – I witnessed each of the 18 companies deliver incredible pitches and showcase truly innovative startups. The diversity of both the individuals and the solutions, is second-to-none. Wow. They rocked.
StartX also announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft on the same day; with the powerful triumvirate that comprises AOL, Kauffman and Microsoft lending support to take StartX to new places and accelerate their growth and expansion, StartX is understandably excited:
“For many founders in StartX, access to top mentors and technical expertise is a crucial element for their long-term success,” said Cameron Teitelman, founder of StartX. “Working closely with Microsoft is a great opportunity for StartX founders to leverage the products, resources and connections they need to accelerate their business.”
We were delighted to engage with StartX for the first time in the Spring 2012 class, where we had the pleasure of meeting companies such as Appfluence, a StartX company that builds priority-management software solutions for executives and managers. Microsoft is providing extensive technical, business, and design resources for Appfluence to migrate their award-winning product, Priority Matrix, to the Windows 8 platform.
We also met MindSumo, a platform for companies to actively engage with students by posting real-world challenges for them to solve, has also been working with Microsoft.
“StartX’s vision is to combine the wisdom of the private sector with the energy and imagination of founders coming from an institution like Stanford. This vision comes to life now because of the rich bench of mentors and advisors from the venture and entrepreneurial world that offer their time and expertise to the program.
“We are honored that Microsoft BizSpark can support this effort.” – Dan’l Lewin.
Very excited about what the future holds for StartX and Microsoft.
StartX founders get all the benefits of BizSpark – and of BizSpark Plus – available to select leading accelerators around the globe.
After seeing hundreds of startup pitches at startup competitions and Startup Weekend events, I’ve come to realize that there are three types of pitches that almost always win. When I refer to winning pitches, I am being agnostic to the industry or technology and referring more to how the pitch is actually delivered. Here are the 3 types of winning startup pitches:
Tech that knocks your socks off
The easiest to describe is tech that knocks your socks off. This type of pitch puts the technology up front and is heavily focused on the demo. The demo is staged in such a way that a story is being told. This is typically like a Steve Jobs presentation when he’s showing off the latest iPhone/iPad. Another great way of showcasing this is to get some sort of audience participation. I still remember this presentation that was done during Startup Weekend Mobile back in the Summer of 2010, with a company called Flout. It was basically twitter with a geofence around it (people outside of a certain geolocation could not see these tweets). The beauty of this was that the presenters asked everyone in the audience to use it, and they displayed the “Flouts” on the screen. Everybody got it and used it, and the screen lit up with all sorts of crazy comments, including a few comments that caught the presenters off guard (the epic “peeeeeeniiiiiisssssssss” Flout).
Another more recent example of this was from the Mega Startup Weekend Mobile Track winner, Predict Gaze. They built a technology that tracks eye movement while you are watching a video on the iPad (using the front facing camera). Based off of the eye movement, they are able to predict when a user lost interest in a video. Their demo was excellent because they had charts that showed at what point people lost interest, and they did the demo in real time.
On another hand, these types of presentations always suck without the tech. Many times, people just need to see something to believe it, so in instances where you don’t have the technology available, you will likely lose your audience.
The tear jerker
The tear jerker pitch is one that involves a personal story. We saw two of these at Mega Startup Weekend, Family Ease, a Windows 8 application that helps with the child adoption process, and Eyes on Demand, an iPhone wristband attachment that helps the blind “see” by using the iPhone’s camera and sending that image to a loved one who can guide the blind. Their goal is to be “Onstar for the Blind”. The reason these two pitches were successful was because it dealt with a personal pain. The leader of Family Ease struggled while adopting her child and wanted to help other families through the process. The leader of Eyes on Demand built this product for his blind Mom. Both of these team leaders did an excellent job at presenting the issue by really getting the audience to feel the pain that this product is solving. They did a fantastic job, blending tech with emotion to win.
Lets face it, the ratio of males to females in tech is pretty sad. Although we are seeing improvements, as of right now, some of the best pitches I’ve seen involve some form of bromance. This is when long-term friends get together and build something awesome. In many instances you can tell immediately that this team gels well and is able to execute because of their deep understanding of each other. In instances of Startup Weekend, where most of the teams are formed on the fly, you can sense that some teams have more of a bromance than others simply by watching how they execute. You may not have the best idea, but by just having an awesome team you execute better and faster than the rest. The ideal team or “bromance” would include a developer and a designer, or a developer and a marketer. I saw this with the gaming track winner at Mega Startup Weekend, Stinky Da Vinci, where the team dressed alike and really had a great balance of talents including a marketer, a designer, a developer, and a hustler.
These are the top 3 types of pitches that I’ve consistently seen win. I am sure there are other types, but they are rare. Have a look at some top pitches you have seen and see if you see these qualities.
If you don’t have a bromance, a super sexy technology, or a good emotional story, look a little deeper and ask yourself why you don’t have these qualities. Maybe by fixing these points in your pitch, you can have a winner!
Post contributed by Ahmed Siddiqui, who coordinates the Startup Weekend events in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also founder of Go Go Mongo!, a game company that inspires kids to eat healthier. He can be reached through twitter: @siddiquiahmed
The BizSpark team joined over 300 entrepreneurs and regional leaders for the official launch of Startup Washington! Special attendees included Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Startup America Board Member Pamela Contag and Director of the Department of Commerce for the State of Washington, Rogers Weed.
This blog post was written by Midori Lawler
Startup Washington is a part of the Startup America Partnership, an organization building a national community for entrepreneurs. They are the voice of amplification of the Entrepreneurial Community of Washington State with the mission of building a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem and supporting high-growth, job creating startup companies.
Startups in Washington can join Startup Washington to connect with other entrepreneurs, customers and organizations, be a part of special contests, giveaways and events, and get discounts on business expenses such as airline tickets and shipping. Join today at www.startupwashington.org.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn shares his thoughts on the impact of entrepreneurism and the local Seattle economy.
Lindsay Andreotti and Lara Merriam-Smith, co-chairs, officially launch Startup Washington!
Pamela Contag, board member, talks about her involvement with the Startup America Partnership.
Members of the BizSpark team celebrate the launch of Startup America!
Watch our Microsoft Evangelist team present their app, Play it Forward, which they hacked together in 24 hours at TechCrunch Disrupt.
It's an app that allows you to give people good karma points for helping you, while keeping track of all the good karma you earn. They will be presenting in spot 42.
If you would like to follow the Evangelists on Twitter, we made a list for that. Free live streaming by Ustream
We got our hands on the script that the Microsoft Evangelists used to pitch their product. This is the original script for their app that helps you collect good karma every time you do something good for someone. I think it would do a fairly good job of really connecting people, by enabling them to interact in physical space with their phones. Their Windows 8 phones.
John is John Alioto, and Helen is Helen Zeng, a new evangelist on the Silicon Valley team.
Here's their pitch for Play it Forward, a gamified good karma generator and social help app for Windows Phone.
What did you ever do to change the world? You may have already made a bigger impact than you realize. Play It Forward is way to track the impact you make and have fun doing it!
Earlier today I helped someone start their car and he asked me how he could repay the debt, I simply said “Play it forward.” We tap devices and the karmic debt was transferred, increasing my good karma and indebting him. That one action will allow me to track the impact of my deed.
This companion app allows me to track the action and its exponential impact. Here on the main screen, we show the good deeds around our location. Here’s my scores, my badges. If we drill down into one deed, we can see when it happened, how many points it’s worth, and a graph of the impact that it’s had.
The more good deeds you do, the more badges you collect and the more achievements. For those of you who think you can get out of helping others, we have badges and achievements just for you.
Sponsored achievements and user analytics offer rich opportunities for monetization.
Facebook got people sharing, Twitter got people talking, Play it forward will get people helping.
For the first time ever, Microsoft has entered its evangelists in the Tech Crunch Disrupt Hackathon. You can follow them on Twitter. You can follow this list on Twitter to connect with them: The TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 Microsoft Hackers
Yesterday, about 40 VC / Angels showed up to the Microsoft Silicon Valley headquarters, and listened and interacted with a few Israeli startups that are a part of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure running in the Israeli
Here are some notes taken from Laura Wigod, who curates some of the news and blogging information for the Microsoft BizSpark community.
VCs advice to companies pitching:
Presenter: Tal Shoham
Online event planning – create a web page for your event that brings speakers, marketing, collateral and social media under one roof
“Social is the new standard”
(Note: the shot on screen in her photo is a photo of her younger self in one of her first gigs as a meeting planner – for her mom)
Presenter: Ophir Zardok
Increasing event ticket sales through social engagement – a Facebook app for promoting events – see where your friends are seated – send them invites
“Creating social explosions”
Presenter: Omri Shor
Phone app to remind you to take your medication – when you take your medication, you update your app or call in – if you don’t, a call goes out to one of the loved ones you have listed who can then check in on you
Idea came up after founder’s father accidentally double-dosed his insulin. (He is fine now, btw.)
(Personal Note: I think this is a really great idea. But I think they should create a website, too – for all the people in rural areas without cell phone coverage.)
Presenter: - Gal Rotem
360 degree product viewer – allowing anyone to create 360 degree views of products they are selling online – they also plan on creating a stock image library, so if Store A shoots a Jill Spade bag, Store B can purchase the image, rather than shoot it themselves
Presenter: Gal Frenkel
Back office cloud service
Presenter: Yael Givon (did the talking) and Gil Rimon (ran the presentation)
Content aggregator aimed at teens/young adults that creates an online “tv show” from your social media feeds
They are a husband/wife team and new parents to a 4-month old
Designed to help determine whose twitter handles you should follow
Photo below is of Zach Weisfeld, Senior Director of Business Development and Strategy, ILDC
“Turning a natural behavior into a social process” - “natural behavior” referring to the now ubiquitous pose of people holding their cell phones aloft at events – Vidit allows multiple attendees of events to upload their individual videos and then create new video using all of the uploaded video footage – allowing users to choose the best angles and audio tracks – or they can let Vidit do it automatically
(Note: My personal favorite pitch – the one I wished I could play with right away – I think it would be fun to get a bunch of friends to lip sync to a song and then use Vidit to edit the final video)
You wouldn't think that launching a Twitter handle for BizSpark support was worthy of a party, but that's just what we're going to do. Well, in our heads, we will.
There are so many requests for applications -- literally thousands each month -- and we are launched in over 125 countries, globally, that we decided it would be best to help you 24/7 (or as close to that as possible) by being available to you on Twitter. We have been overwhelmed (in a good way) with all your requests for support, your really great questions, and your very much appreciated offers of your own assistance as members of our community.
So, we are doing the right thing. From now on, if you have questions, support issues, or if you are curious about your pending application, or you want just to help and to have a your opinions heard, you can tweet to @bzsupport, and you will be heard. Someone will respond to you.
How's that for customer service?
You can continue to use @BizSpark as the Twitter handle you use to offer us great ideas on links to share with the community, to introduce us to other people, and to genuinely show your affection. You know we will be showing it right back.
In other news, it's worth checking out some of the recent interviews we have done with BizSpark members and Israeli startups who were here during the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure Demo Day. They were in Silicon Valley yesterday to pitch their products and tour around the Valley.
There was Atav, and RotaryView, as well as Vidit and Evolero. And don't forget Stevie.
And coming up is MediaCamp Demo Day. These guys are rock stars.
MediaCamp is an accelerator program sponsored by Turner Broadcasting, which helps media-focused startups get the legs under their highly tractionable businesses.
The folks there will be tweeting from @themediacamp Twitter handle on September 12, and will be using the hashtag #mcdemoday to track the conversation.
We will be running a series of MediaCamp founder interviews on this blog. Here's a sneak peek, though, with MediaCamp startup founder Daniel Odio, who runs Socialize.
Startups @ Media Camp
Chute (http://getchute.com/ | @getchute)
Chute's platform enables publishers, brands, and app developers to seamlessly add any photo or video functionality to their apps or sites. Chute handles the entire backend from uploading, image processing, and API integrations, to features like moderation, commenting, and sharing.
Matcha (http://www.matcha.tv/ | @matchaTV)
Matcha is the easiest way to find the best Movies and follow your favorite TV Shows across digital video services such as Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Amazon and more, in one place. Matcha's guide goes beyond aggregating 200,000 premium titles and adds rich social elements and a proprietary recommendation engine to create a robust, personalized video experience.
Showbucks (http://www.showbucks.net/ | @Mike_Yuen)
Showbucks develops fun and engaging apps that combine social video with social games.
Socialize (http://www.getsocialize.com/ | @Socialize)
Socialize believes people strongly influence each other even when they aren't 'friends.' Anyone who shares a common interest is influenced by others with that same interest. Socialize is creating a social platform that can predict user intent by mapping an interest graph across users and content.
SocialSamba (http://www.socialsamba.com/ | @SocialSamba)
SocialSamba is the leading social storytelling platform, enabling fans to "friend" their favorite fictional characters, and experience personalized stories with them. SocialSamba has served more than half a million scripted social experiences to fans.
Switchcam (http://switchcam.com/ | @switchcam)
Switchcam creates interactive video experiences that allow the viewers to direct the show. By syncing and combining fan footage with professional footage, fans can experience events, concerts and sporting games like never before.
Yesterday, we had our first Israeli Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure Demo Day, and it went off quite well. The Next Web's Alex Wilhelm wrote a spot on what he thought were the three coolest companies pitching their products.
Here is the writeup.
The Israel program accepted 11 companies in its first class, out of more than 100 applications. Teams of 2-4 people were preferred, and while no cash was provided, each company was given office space, access to advisors, and other perks, not to mention a short line to Microsoft and its Azure product. In the next class, a $20,000 convertible note will also be offered.
Of the eleven, Alex picked out MediSafe, RotaryView, and Stevie for special mention. We covered them here yesterday. Those links take you to personal interviews with each of the founders for those companies.
Vidit got an honorable mention.
Photo credit: Taryn Yonaha, Microsoft
Atav is another one of our Israeli startups debuting their product for an American audience today. Atav helps organizations recruit employees easily and effectively, without a lot of hassle.
Here, Tal Moran, founder, explains the motive behind the work he has done with his co-founders.
Has starting your own company provided any answers about your life? Have you discovered something about yourself that you didn’t know before?
Since I was a young kid, my aspiration was to create innovative tools that will serve everyone - patents for the kitchen, clean the muddy water in the bath and more. Unfortunately, the only customers of these inventions were me. When starting my own company, Atav, with my co-founders, I discovered how enjoyable it is to convert a good idea into a real technology product, but the icing on the cake was when our customers told us how they are satisfied and amazed to see the results Atav achieves for them and mainly how easily they recruit new employees for their organizations by using Atav's product. That's what worth all our effort.
The answer about life for you all - creating amazing company and products starting in believing yourself.
This week, Israeli startups came to Microsoft's Silicon Valley headquarters and demonstrated their products in front of dozens of investors from around the world. We're running a series this week that gives the founders at these companies the oportunity to tell us firsthand what drives their companies, what gets them out of bed in the morning and to offer advice to other startups about how to approach the difficult task of disrupting industries.
Conferences are social. So is the internet. Evolero empowers conference organizers to fully utilize today's social web for their conference.
With Evolero, organizers easily setup and manage an event website that replaces the flat, static registration site with a live showcase of the network of people, content and connections their event generates. As a first step, organizers easily manage their site's layout, branding, information and registration. Every person related content an organizer adds to the site, activates an invite to that person to add their layers to the site, in order to promote their objective at the conference. Organizer offers a better, valuable experience to the presenters, sponsors and attendees and maximizes the conference's online branding, marketing and sales. As the conference's eco-system comes to life online, it's easy to make the most out of the conference before, during and after the event day.
Here are Co-founders Tal Shoham and Shany Peleg, from Evolero.
I’ve learned that everything starts and ends with a strong team, both personally and professionally. Team should be comprised of people that are complementary to each other’s talents and personalities.
Staying focused and understanding the main, core value our product brings that differs it from any other solution or service within the industry
I try to only look at numbers and facts of our clients & users actions within the system and not their opinions about the product. Through our product’s analytics, I figure out what is being used, what’s not being used and what’s being used differently from what we expected. We then discuss these issues within our team and with our mentors and advisors and come up with a potential solution, which we execute and test it and re-discuss results.
First and foremost - Returning costumers. We have an 80% of returning costumers and that is a main sign for us that we’re on the right track. Other than that, we are collecting between 5-10 leads per each conference using our system, from the conference attendees that are also organizing conferences themselves, which is another strong signal for us.
We have a lot of great, invaluable discussions with Hanan Lavy, who’s managing the WAA. We also meet very intensely with our mentor, Yossi Sella, a senior partner at Gemini VC. For topic-specific questions and discussions, we turn to one of the four mentors working with us through the WAA mentor program.
I would like to add to our mentor list a CEO of an internet company, to mentor me on the dailies of running an internet business, on the long list of objectives a CEO has to cover and on methods of work she or he developed.
Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?
One of our mentors, Dror Leshem, made us sit and write a month-by-month plan of every aspect of our startup’s development as I’m planning it. He told me to never keep things in my head that I don’ have to, so there’s never an overload due to the huge amount of data a startup CEO has to walk around with. It really took a lot off my shoulders.
As always, our product excites me most. We’ve teamed up with a new designer and gave her a heavy mission - to implement our unique vision into a UI that emphasizes our main innovative value that visually demonstrate how we change the game within the conference industry. She came up with a great execution that gave us confidence that we are about to take one meaningful step forward in really changing the game.
Who inspired you the most this week, and why?
My father. He always pushes me to understand that reality is always better than any dream and that I should always strive to get answers and facts even if I’m afraid they’re going to disappoint me. Knowing where you stand, fast, will bring you closer to making things better, faster.
I fell in love with a product lately when I used Airbnb. I love how their vision manifests into every little aspect of the (stunning) product. They even offer a professional photographer, free of charge, to come by your property and take professional pictures, so the site’s visual appearance will not fall short of any
professional hotel registration site, as well as helping to increase users confidence and increase sales. Recently I found their first ever investors’ slide-deck and it was the same clear vision and focus from day one. Even more impressive!
What does something in your business vertical need in order for the product to be successful?
It needs more and more independent conference organizers - they are the classical users of our system. This is an exponentially growing segment, and we need it to keep growing
What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?
Since two of the founders came from the industry and our product is the result of 10 accumulated years of online struggles for the events we lead as organizers, initiators and owners– the product idea came first and was tested, even as an idea, on our immediate environment of conference organizers, offline.
Is the lean startup process a type of marketing, or is marketing different from customer and product development? How does your company utilize next generation marketing techniques?
We are not there yet, we’re still focusing on market validation. We’re selling our first version and understanding what is our core value and main problem we are answering. Generally, I don’t think marketing is different from customer and product development. It need to be viewed as one organ in the holistic organism that is a startup, and be handled, both strategically and tactically, in accordance with the product and market development and as an extension of these procedures.
Oh… where should I start? Starting my own company is the biggest learning and development experience I have ever had in my life. It is difficult to summarize what I have learned, as learning is still in its process but I think that first and foremost it is the understanding that no one knows better than you what is good for you. People around may be smart and experienced, but understanding how to make things work, either for me or for my business, is something only I can do. This is a great responsibility but also a huge mental emancipation.
Vidit recreates events using crowd sourced video.
Vidit collects videos taken by many people in a single event and by using a unique video synchronization algorithm; vidit synchronizes and edits all clips into one video that depicts the event from its beginning to its end, from the user's point of view. A music concert, for example, is probably the best use case. Fans take videos all the time, but most of the time; the video is from the same angle, shaky or just sounds bad. Vidit takes all these small clips and combines them into one video using the best shots.Your name?
Here is our interview with Vidit founder Elad Gariany.
Think ahead. As a technologist couple we tend to give more priority to the technology rather than to the actual problem that we try to fix.
Although it is really tempting to spend time, develop and create the next biggest technology the world have seen, you should always remember that the product and the company’s vision comes first.
We’ve learned the hard way that before developing anything, you must think about your products’ ecosystem. Who are the group of people that are part of your products’ universe? Who needs it? Who are your customers? Who will pay for this? What are the relations between these groups of people?
Do not reinvent the wheel. If something is good, someone probably already did something similar. Learn from success and mistakes other make.
Last and most important of all, prepare your self. Building a company from the ground-up is an emotional roller coaster. Out of all possible things you could have done, you choose to do that. You better prepare yourself because it is not going to be an easy ride.
You thought Social TV was going to solve all your advertising market problems, and stop the annoying things that make being a TV consumer annoying? Oh, well, it will. Just not immediately.
But, we do have an Israeli startup that has a solution they are demo'ing at the Israel Incubator Demo Day in Silicon Valley. That would be Stevie.
Gil Rimon (Founder), Yael Givon (Founder), Assaf Oppenhheimer, Benjy Cook
You can follow them on Twitter at @MyStevieTV
Here is a video and then our interview with Stevie.
It’s important to be versatile, have a core team that can do everything, and communicate the priorities to everyone. If everyone in the company breaths what’s important and are competent, things will get done quickly.
The industry we’re in, connected TV and social TV, is still growing and defining itself. We hoped that by now the world will be much more exposed to Connected TV platforms of all sorts - It’s obvious it will happen, and it’s an exciting industry since it’s still taking shape and we can be part of creating the future of entertainment, it just requires patience :)
How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction - do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?
Usually, product changes and pivots arise from user comments, or from our own QA and our partners thoughts and ideas. We mostly start the discussion between the two founders, and then move it on to an open discussion with the whole crew.
More users (when you don’t buy them) is usually a good sign :) - but also - any user who writes us, even something critical, is someone who cares. Every investor or VC who calls in and asks questions, even if he’s not completely serious, is someone who is interested. And of course, good blog posts and articles by people we never met - Are a great sign.
We have some good friends from the industry that we trust, and they are our helpers and wailing walls. Other entrepreneurs with more experience are always a good place to look for advice.
A very experienced TV professional who is also very active and knowledgeable in social media and the web.
Eyal Keren helped us a lot - He has given us confidence and a good story to tell when meeting potential investors. Gil Perez helped Gil before going on stage at Techcrunch Disrupt NY. Gil taught me how to stay calm on stage, look at the audience, take a breath before talking, be meaningful when talking and get focused.
Reading a flattering article about us in an important American magazine (that we never asked for) Getting a surprising phone call from a big VC (Which we never approached)
Seeing our new iPad/AirPlay version in action.
The “Israel Loves Iran” campaign on Facebook. We love idealistic, viral campaigns that really do the job. They already have millions of exposures on FB, and now they started collecting money using Indiegogo (http://www.indiegogo.com/peacefactory). They make great use of all the new tools we have now to communicate messages and to make a change.
(Gil) When I bought my Samsung Note. This phone is not really a phone - It’s more of a mini tablet with a phone. It takes me back to the days of the PDAs (like Palm and iPaq) - And I love it.
What does something in your business vertical need (to happen?) in order for the product to be successful?
Maturing of the connected TV, social TV and IPTV space, having real implementations and scale in this space will accelerate our business beyond current OTTs - Stevie will easily become a real channel on your TV set at home!
What came first for your company - the product idea or your existence on the Internet?
The idea. We did nothing before the idea came up except for buying domain names. Only months later, when we were already funded and had an alpha version, did we have a functional website too.
We asked Israeli startup MediSafe Project to teach us something about what it means to work on a startup. As it turns out, the entrepreneur lifestyle is very challenging. According to MediSafe founder
You can follow them on Twitter @MediSafeProject
That’s probably one of the most dynamic thing you can do, except flying a plane (did it too).
We are raising our seed round. Challenge not ended yet…
The people that decide if you are on the right way to the right solution are your clients. I ask them if my product is good for them or not yet…
Engagement. Will release beta soon and that’s the leading parameter.
In the team, that's my partner and brother, Rotem. Outside - one of the mentors, depending on the question and their skills.
A person that’s not afraid to ask difficult questions.
Michael Cheifetz, saying "I challenge you to meet 5 investors by…". Shira Abel, saying "Israel is not a test market, Find out how to get to the States, FAST"
The big progress in the product.
Not easy to inspire me…
This week, the Nexus 7 by Google. AMAZING
We're getting there: US healthcare needs a revolution.
We have installed several viral hooks in to the product. Now we're waiting to launch to see how it works.
I have the ability to persuade people to join me, and that’s a big thing. Found out that I can see flaws in product design fast (and able to fix them).
RotaryView helps online vendors grow sales, quickly, simply and fuss-free through the creative and effective use of a 360° product viewer. Unlike others, RotaryView's photography platform does not require knowledge of code. Simply shoot and upload the photos. Nearly instantly, images are transformed into a 360° product presentation enabling customers the freedom to explore and thoroughly review a product, from every angle. The result: happy customers and increased sales.
@rotaryview presenting at #MSaccIL Demo Day. twitter.com/TarynYonaha/st…
— Taryn Yonaha (@TarynYonaha) September 6, 2012
@rotaryview presenting at #MSaccIL Demo Day. twitter.com/TarynYonaha/st…
The RotaryView team consists of the following people:
Gev Rotem CEO
Gal Rotem CMO
Sharon Marco V.P R&D
You can follow them on Twitter here.
Our interview with founder Gev Rotem:
Before starting to write one line of code, talk to your potential customers (define them first) and see what are their pains and needs.
Building a very strong company structure and product, with only self-funding.
We consult in the team, test with our client, and consult with expert advisers.
When I see that they are engaged with our system on a daily basis, I know that they are hooked up.
When I have a question to one of the team members I go to the member that is in charge of that questions fields, we also have great advisors from various fields.
Deciding to take a great development challenge, and seeing the team joining forces and working like crazy to achieve the goal.
Starting to work on RotaryView!
Our product Idea came first, but it followed 14 years of being in the business of computer graphics and 3D animation, we saw the difficulty of presenting products on line from all angles
Today is the first ever Microsoft Accelertor for Windows Azure -- Israel Demo Day.
Today, dozens of investors and startups from Israel come to Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View to experience pitches from some dudes and dudettes who have flown over 8,000 miles to experience the deep connections we have with the Valley. Here is a Twitter list of all of the entrepreneurs who are presenting. Be sure to follow it all day to keep in touch with them.
We've invited the few dozen investors and some friends from Startup Land to listen to the pitches and drill down into the mechanics of the business models of these Israeli companies. To give you some context (though admittedly not that much), here is a video that explains why these hot startups are piling into the accelerator, based in Tel Aviv, and run by Microsoft evangelist Hanan Levy.
This research and development center project in Tel Aviv has also recently inked a deal with Georgia Tech to help train Accelerator participants in innovation thinking.
Here's a brief list of some of the companies presenting, and, when available, their Twitter handles. You can follow the entire conversation today on Twitter at #MSaccelIL and #bzIsrael. You can follow #BizSpark for all Microsoft BizSpark related items. If you have every considered running your own startup and if you would like to be given free software and support, you should sign up for the three year program at Microsoft BizSpark. As long as you are developing web and mobile software, are less than three years old, and making less then one million in revenue, you will be considered.
Over the course of the next two days, we are going to go a little deeper than a general showcase of some of these startups. We thought we would let you get more connected to them by publishing some of their brief memoirs. By brief, I mean a couple of paragraphs about their experience starting up a company in Israel, arguably one of the hottest startup capitals in the world.
Keep coming back to this blog post, because we will be adding the links to this post over the week after September 6. We will also post some live photos of the event on Twitter and Facebook.
Here are some of the companies presenting, with a description of what they do:
You can follow us on Twitter by following @bizspark, and you can follow us on Facebook by subscribing and liking the page for Microsoft BizSpark
If you have ever worked on a startup in Berlin, then you have heard of Club-Mate.
This blog post is written by social media lead and editor Douglas Crets.
There are startups around the city that are posting job descriptions. In those descriptions, they are advertising that they may not be able to pay the developers, but they can certainly give them some energy drinks. This is true for at least one so far, check out CloudControl's call for a JAVA developer.
I larend about this from Thomas Ruland in the Facebook Group for Startups in Berlin. It's worth checking out this group, because you can get some great introductions from Berlin startup people there.
I am in Berlin to learn about some BizSpark companies and to have meetings with the developer evangelists that cover this huge booming capital of startups. One of them is Stephan Jacquemot, who is schooling me on some of the amazing stuff that Microsoft does with startups here.
Stephan Jacquemot, Emerging Business Team Lead at Microsoft Germany
Stephan tells me that three of the evangelists have put their money and their work behind something called the Dark Side Bakery. This is wild. According to this article (original in German): "For two months [earlier in the year], the pop-up office in the loft works like a think tank for app development around Windows 8." Basically, they got some funding to host the Dark Side Bakery at this loft called Grunderloft, in Mitte, where they had wild parties, built apps for Windows 8, and seeded the city with their great technological prowess. Not your typical Microsoft seminar. I mean, just look at that logo.
The Dark Side Bakery is the work of three developer evangelists in Germany.
Quote from the article: 'Together with developers, startups and evangelists we want to develop apps and exchange ideas to" Stephan Jacquemot, Emerging Business Team Lead at Microsoft Germany. "Microsoft supports the development of the app market, an important future market, particularly for young entrepreneurs: Market research firm IDC predicts for 2015 roughly 183 billion downloads of apps."
An app that makes it easier for emergency services to connect in the field has won the Startup Weekend in Cape Town, South Africa. The winners will head to DEMO Africa in October to compete and to present in front of a panel of investors, entrepreneurs and other people.
Virtual Firehouse’s winning idea is the brainchild of Brandon Wilson, an emergency services veteran who has experienced the inadequacies of current solutions first hand. The system aims to overcome the management and reporting challenges that emergency services teams face due to outdated systems.
“The winning solution addresses a clear need in the market, and despite the impressive output and creativity displayed by all teams, the judges were pleased with their final decision” commented one of the Startup Weekend judges, Stuart Gast of Invenfin Venture Capital.
The top two teams won mentorship and support from Microsoft BizSpark, which will also send them to attend Demo Africa taking place in Nairobi, Kenya in October this year.
Photo Courtesy: © Mark Koekemoer 2012
DEMO Africa is getting close, so we are really excited to see more and more companies being brought into the experience. This team will spend some time on stage in Kenya, and it should be interesting to see if the idea that started in South Africa will gain some exposure and traction for emergency services in other countries.
The registration process was supposed to end on August 31, but If you want to register your company for DEMO Africa, you should visit this link. You may be able to still get something in there. "Only 40 startups will be able to launch at DEMO Africa and another 15 pre-product pitches will be selected from student groups and the Startup Weekend process. “We will have the best of the best from Africa launching at DEMO Africa, and this is very exciting to use,” Harry Hare, the DEMO Africa Executive Producer has said. “We will be able for the first time show the world what Africa is made up of."
This is great stuff. according to the folks at DEMO Africa, the chosen 40 startups will be announced within two weeks.
If you have not already signed up to become a BizSpark member, you can sign up here. You shoul dhave a company that is less than three years old, and you should be under $1 million in revenue per year. You can start the process with only an idea. You do not have to have anything other than a business website and email, and you should sign on via the Microsoft Live ID login.
You can connect to other companies and startup founders who are talking about their projects and processes every day at the Microsoft BizSpark Facebook page.
Apps are cultures.
Here is a photo of some Socialize Founders. One of them is jumping in an alley. That bald guy is Daniel Odio. I met Daniel at a Turner MediaCamp dinner that we did with them in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Daniel's team is working on what I see as a marketing intelligence app that allows brand managers (especially of games and certain procedural apps) to truly gain information and intellgience on the ways people are using the apps. They do it by making it easier to socialize with people inside any app. When he first talked about it, my mind clicked. Exactly, I thought, these apps are actually mini-cultures, but what's missing with all the games and the other things (aside from apps like Instagram), is a way to really get to know the people who are using the app you are using.
Well, Get Socialize.
And the picture. They are a fun group. We asked them a few questions about their experience in building an app, and here are Daniel's answers.
Become technical. When I was in college in the 90’s, getting a business degree was OK. In fact, I attended the business school of the University of Virginia. Many of my peers went on to get MBAs. But out here in the Valley, that’s not worth much. It’s fine if you want to work in Corporate America, but if you really want to innovate, if you really want to create something from nothing, you need to be able to use the tools of the trade to make that happen. Learn short-cycle scrum (http://go.DanielOdio.com/scrum). Learn to play your computer like an instrument (http://go.DanielOdio.com/instrument). Become a developer in at least one language, even if it’s an easy web language. Having object oriented programming chops will make you invaluable. Even if you’re a marketing person, learn to hack a scripting language so you can automate manual processes.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
The signal is easy and obvious when it happens: They care. Until you have customers that care about what you’re doing, you haven’t found your product/market fit. Paul Graham drills this into Y Combinator startups: Make something people want. It doesn’t matter if the scale is small to start – it’s better to have a dozen passionate customers than 1,000 that don’t care that much. And Dave McClure has a great take on it as well: It doesn’t matter if the customer loves or hates your product – as long as they care. If they hate it, then it means they care enough to tell you. Being irrelevant is the real killer of new product companies. Dave McClure’s words have comforted me on many occasions when we haven’t executed as well as we’ve wanted to, and we have upset customers. I see it as a signal of validation. Once you have customers that care, iterate like hell to create a world-class product that a larger audience will care about.
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
This is such an easy answer for me: I rely on CloudApp (www.GetCloudApp) over 50 times per day. It’s a massive productivity booster. Almost nobody knows about CloudApp, and even when they hear about it, they have a hard time understanding what it is. But once you “get it,” you wonder how you lived without it. I won’t even try to explain why it’s so amazing here, but I did do a detailed blog post about it at http://go.DanielOdio.com/massive
Marketing for startups isn’t even called marketing. It’s called “user acquisition.” Startups are all about creating tremendous growth, and being able to efficiently acquire users is a huge part of that. If you want to do marketing at a startup, learn about SEO & SEM techniques. Learn how to talk to developers – technical folks hate marketing-speak. They want you to be real with them. What’s the value they’ll get by spending their time integrating your product. Why should they pick it over others? Learn how to showcase small wins with case studies that you can parlay into bigger wins. Learn to build your personal brand by becoming a subject matter expert (http://go.DanielOdio.com/brand). If you’re in the service industry, learn to become a superstar by productizing your expertise (http://go.DanielOdio.com/superstar).
Added this question: What’s the #1 tip you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Creating something from nothing is incredibly hard. Most people can never get themselves to work outside of a box that’s defined by others. It’s easy to romanticize being an entrepreneur, but it’s back-breaking work. If you think you want to be an entrepreneur, do it around something you’re incredibly passionate about. At the beginning, nobody will listen to you. You’ll feel like you’re the only one who believes in your idea – and you’ll be right, because if others believed in it, they’d already be doing it themselves. Don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to be a star employee at a large company, but I respect the hot dog vendor standing in front of the tall corporate skyscraper more because he doesn’t know where his next paycheck is coming from. He has to create value every day and really earn it. You have it in you, even if you may not realize it. If you’re passionate enough about something, go do it. No regrets.