Four of these events are happening on the West Coast in February.
Mountain View is happening February 2.
Los Angeles is scheduled for February 23.
Seattle is happening on March 30.
What is a Node.js Boot Camp?
Node Boot Camp is a free event for developers and designers who want to learn Node.js from the ground up with hands-on instruction from Node experts in the community. No prior Node experience is necessary to attend. At Node Boot Camp you’ll learn how to build your first Node application from scratch, how to work with popular Node.js development tools and editors, how to work with popular 3rd party Node frameworks, and how to deploy your applications to production hosting environments.
8:30 am – Network and Breakfast.
9:00 am – Start. Fundamentals.
10:00 am – Deployment.
10:30 am – App Development. The Basics.
12:00 pm – Lunch.
12:30 pm – App Development. Basic + Advanced.
1:30 pm – Hackathon.
4:30 pm – Presentations.
5:00 pm – Prizes and Finish.
This event is free of charge. Attendees are responsible for booking and paying for their own travel and accommodation.
Email your questions to email@example.com
Investors are pointing to a rising M&A trend for the enterprise and startups ecosystem. Windows Challenges are ending, and new contests are beginning. We are still taking applications for the second class of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure powered by Tech Stars.
and we have put together a list of all the links we have tweeted out today that we thought are worth a second look.
Interview with Marc Andreessen where he makes statements that could prove prescient about IPOs and M&A in tech this year.
Open House for the Windows Azure accelerator today.
Register and get those video applications in for the 2nd Windows Azure Accelerator powered by TechStars. Feb 3 absolute last day.
Plenty of healthy debate about what startup destiny in 2013. Here’s some insight.
COO travels for business most of the year, uses Surface RT. Here’s his real and honest opinion.
How are you navigating the art and the business technicalities of starting up your own company? A movie star founder tells all.
Looking to score a big date for Valentine’s Day? May we recommend Big Data Date Night in Mountain View with SiSense, Facebook and Netflix.
Node.js boot camp coming to Silicon Valley on February 2.
Being Temporary in a World Looking for Profitability – Steve Blank explains why startups have different values than public cos, but how they’re same, too.
Opening up the Windows App Lab in Canada.
Zero Code Cloud Migrations: Hmmm.
Ten startups show of their work to investors in Seattle. They will do the same this Thursday in Silicon Valley.
This will make your geeky little heart skip a beat.
So sick and tired of Valentine's Day. Right? If only there was something much more interesting, someone much more captivating, someone who really understood me for me. Someone who knew what it means to de-dup and use cloud storage like it was really meant to be used.
Someone who went to something like... Big Data Date Night in Mountain View. Live, on the Silicon Valley Microsoft Campus, in our brand new BizSpark Labs.
On February 13, we are hosting a big talk on big data for all the lonely hearts out there who want to know what to do with the heart-throb Hadoops in their lives. Need a warm MySQL to wrap your arms around at night? Well, we have you covered.
We will be doing this talk with folks like Bruno Aziza, VP of Marketing at SiSense, and some of the big names in data analytics at Facebook, Netflix, and Microsoft.
If you register before January 31, you will get discount pricing.
Read below for the night's full lineup.
Registration and Networking
Opening KeynoteBruno Aziza, VP Marketing, SiSense
Lightning Presentations John DeGoes, PrecogMoises Nascimento, PayPalMichael Hollenbeck, Predixion
The New World of DataKamal Hathi, General Manager, Microsoft
Panel: Big Data for Business SuccessKen Rudin - Head of Analytics - FacebookChris Pouliot - Director, Algorithms & Analytics - NetflixFedor Dzegilenko - Director of Analytics - SurveyMonkeyEric Mason - Director, Com. and Technology Evangelism - WixModerator: Dave Feinleib, Forbes Contributor, Founder of Big Data Landscape
Closing RemarksNicolas Kardas, Director Startups & VCs relations, Microsoft
Register before January 31 to get Early Bird pricing. Space is limited, so don't wait to claim your seat!
Many people tell me that they have a great idea and that as soon as they get enough customers they will be profitable. That may be true for any startup. But something else makes a startup successful. And that is all about the search.
Steve Blank, the famed entrepreneur and author of the The Startup Handbook, has a great line in this video of his talk on the democratization of entrepreneurship. He says, "A startup is a temporary organization used to search for a scalable and repeatable business model." This now-famous Steve Blank aphorism should be taken down on paper, blown up into a poster print, and put on every wall of your garage, if you are building a startup.
Watch his talk below, and then: 1. Think about the difference between an established business model and the "search" for one.2. Think about the low cost of finding that business model.
3. Weigh in here with your thoughts on what is challenging about this, what works here, and what does not work. We are listening.
What makes this so important right now is an idea brought forward by Carlota Perez in her book, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital. It seems that globally we are in a moment of massive disruption. Financial markets, entrepreneurs, and established companies are in the search for business models.
We are trying to make some of this easier for entrepreneurs with Microsoft BizSpark's program to give free cloud hosting (in some cases) and free software licenses (in all cases).
We subscribe to this great board on Quora for infographics. It turns out that most of those infographics are about startups and the life of entrepreneurs. Because that syncs so well with the life of the community in Microsoft BizSpark, we would like to display those for you from time to time.
Here's one from Funders and Founders
Yesterday we wrapped up the Accelerator experience with TechStars in Seattle with our Demo Day. The packed event included more than 400 registered attendees, including 110 investors to watch 10 startups pitch their ventures. The demo day is one of two we are having this month. The next one will be in Silicon Valley on January 31. And once that is over, we will wrap up the ongoing application process for the second Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure powered by Tech Stars, which closes February 1.
Janet Tu with the Seattle Times posted a story with an interview with Jilliene Helman, co-founder and CEO of Realty Mogul. In speaking about the program, Helman noted "it's not fly-by mentorship…It's roll-your-sleeves-up mentorship." Her story lists the startups that presented and included a link to apply for the next accelerator.
GeekWire’s John Cook wrote a recap of the event, including overviews of each startup and a quote from Socedo founder Aseem Badshah. Cook notes that “Microsoft’s Executive Conference Center was a target-rich environment for entrepreneurs. Venture capitalists such as Madrona’s Matt McIlwain and Voyager’s Bill McAleer and angel investors such as Geoff Entress and Charlie Kindel listened to the presentations, the first group of companies to emerge from the Windows Azure accelerator program.”
Also onsite was Rick Turoczy, Portland-based startup blogger for Silicon Florist and the general manager of Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) posted an in depth recap of each company's presentations and even includes some thoughts on which ones would be ripe funding targets. He also closed the story with a positive endorsement of the program: “The nice thing about the Azure program is the breadth of companies that can apply. If you’re building something in the cloud, you’re eligible. But you have to hurry. Applications close February 1.”
You can check out some of the videos we have been posting from the founders at our Facebook Page. Along with the videos you will find some great resources for building your startup in the form of advice and conversations with over 37, 000 entrepreneurs and developers. If you have any questions, you can also ping us on Twitter @bizspark.
I've heard this question framed in debates online and in offline events. It is as if there is a natural definition of a startup as being exclusively "home grown." If you use anything other than yourself, your laptop, your own team and the funds that you have at your disposal, you are not developing a startup.
Is that true? Can that possibly be true, for all developers and entrepreneurs who are trying to build a business?
We think that this is worthy of discussion. On February 4th at 4:00pm Pacific, we are going to have a discussion about this with one of the founders of a startup. and we are going to use technology created by another founder, FreshTag.
Just enter the chat by using hashtag #bzelance to register. You will be admitted into the chat room immediately, and we will begin promptly at 4pm. That chat is video and text, so you will be able to participate in the discussion and monitor the questions that people ask our founders.
Below are the responses to the questions for Daniel Cowen of Echoer, who used Elance to build his business. We will be talking with Daniel during the online event, and you will have a chance to follow up with questions about this interview and his business strategy.
Microsoft BizSpark members qualify for an Elance special offer. If you are a member, you'll get $100 credit to get started.
BizSpark: What was the first major decision you made to build a company?
Daniel: After we came up with the idea of Echoer the first thing we did was start researching the space. After a month and half of research (which included tech work using other platform APIs) we made the decision to put Echoer on a solid footing and build both a company and a team around it. We'd gotten lucky with Last Night Never Happened, our first app, playing fast and loose. But with Echoer we wanted to take the lessons learnt and build talent, knowhow and channels to resources from the get go. While we knew we were starting small, we also wanted the structures in place that would allow us to grow, both in terms of talent and investment.
BizSpark: Did you ever rely on outsourcing help to build a company, and if you did, what do you say to people who say that’s cheating?
Daniel: We did, and heavily so. We outsourced a lot of our work at first, for example design and early coding. When you are testing ideas and you don't have the funding to hire outsourcing is often the best way to get talent on an ad-hoc basis. For certain capabilities its not sustainable, and you eventually need to bring that talent in-house. But for other tasks you will inevitably be in stop start phase for a while, for example certain research tasks, translation, presentation production, etc. For these and others we have been lucky enough to lean on platforms like Elance, giving us both geographical spread and depth of expertise. There are things we never even expected to do, for example a very targeted PR exercise in Italy, which we could never have done at such short notice or low cost without outsourcing. Is it cheating? Quite the contrary, it's lean thinking at its best, employing just the right level resources at just the right time to get the job done as best it can. Anyone who wants to keep costs down but need to expands beyond their current capabilities would be crazy not to outsource at first. You can always consolidate this later and bring those capabilities in-house, or stop/change the project direction if results point that way.
BizSpark: What comes first in building a company, the design, the idea, the product, or the team?
Daniel: For us the idea came first, then a lot of research, then the design, then the product. The company formed somewhere in middle of that, and the team emerged as and when we need to acquire new skills sets that were beyond our current capabilities. In some senses design should and could have come a lot later, and the product tinkering started earlier. But with Echoer the design is such a core part of the product and user experience that we led with that ahead of the engineering. You live and learn, and in truth it's not this binary. The key is to be lean, adaptable and agile at all times. Validating learning and growing with true and tested needs.
BizSpark: How does outsourcing reduce friction in building a company, and what friction does it eliminate?
Daniel: Outsourcing reduced a lot of time and money related friction. Overheads are NOT permanent and can be scaled as the job scales. Likewise we saved a lot of time not having to interview candidates, deal with employment agreements, etc. That's not to say those frictions go to zero. You still need to choose outsourcers well, but we developed ways of testing several candidates at once, at low time and money cost, in order to find the best person for a particularly job. We were also thrilled in one example where our scaling had zero friction, with one outsourcer training another in the task we had already trained them in. Outsourcing also eliminated geographical friction. In another example we hired an Elancer in Japan for some marketing work. We didn't have to go to Japan. Nor did we have to find a Japanese speaker in Montreal who would have had to market remotely. We were able to find the right person in the right place at the right time with only time differences to compete with.
BizSpark: What happens when the company is ready to launch, do you get rid of our your outsourcing help, or keep them and roll them into the company?
Daniel: It depends. As I mentioned above, you should build the team alongside the capacity needed. That means that as some roles become "permanent" you may want to bring that person in house. Likewise as some projects fail or phase out you may not need that outsourcer. Or you keep going on an ad hoc basis. We haven't yet taken an outsourcer in house, but we would do it if the circumstances were right. And there is at least one person we have worked with who would be ideal if we ever needed a full time candidate for that role. And in other cases we have used outsourcer X for job Y, only to find job Y was no longer needed. Did we lose outsourcer X? No chance. We had built such a good level of trust and understanding that we simply retrained them for the next job, even though very different. If you've taken the time to train and get to know an outsourcer and they are talented and driven then my guess is there will always be a place for them in that company or in other related and non-related projects. Again, why start fresh when you can take yet more friction out of the system.
What do artists and start-up founders have in common? There is one rather indiscriminate fact that ties them together: the constant fight for audience attention. If you don't have an audience, you don't have sells, reputation, or legitimacy.
This blog post was written by startup founder Kahlil Ashanti of Vancouver.
Call them customers, clients, followers, fans, the label changes but the underlying meaning doesn't change.
Artists and Start-up Founders are creative souls who are hoping to attract an audience in hopes that this audience will choose their endeavor above all others.
For artists, this happens in auditions. Please pick me for the role, or please come see my show/film.
For founders it happens in boardrooms - pitching situations. Please fund my company, or please use my product.
We all want an audience, but are we telling a unique story to engage that audience?
Remember when the only way to get people's attention was commercials? If you didn't see it on TV, it didn't exist. TV commercials, magazines, newspapers or radio ads were the only way to get the word out about your product/invention/show, and creating these commercials or ads was too expensive for the average person, so it created a false hierarchy in the minds and emotions of the consumer. 'If it's on TV, it must be legit'. Even if it's crap.
Then came the internet, which opened up an avenue of communication that grew at unprecedented levels, and it started to spread audience attention thin. All of a sudden a computer wasn't just for word processing, and the audience had the power to make or break brands based on a new currency: Attention.
Social media took hold, the hierarchy crumbled and all of a sudden, everybody on the internet was a walking commercial, with the ability to reach an endless number of people, in most cases, for free. Or, as I like to put it, if you have a Facebook profile or an email address, you have a one person show.
In the span of 20 years people went from being marginally distracted to being way too distracted and making choices not based on advertising, but based on common ground and recommendations.
What do artists and start-up founders need to focus on to gain the attention of a distracted and indifferent audience?
Two words: 'me too'.
I believe that when we go online, we are searching for a piece of ourselves in every click. Who shares my interests? Who is eating what I like to eat? Who has been somewhere I want to go? Who has been through what I've been through?
People connect with the person, not the idea.
We are wired for connection at a molecular level. We go through life collecting experiences, going through the good, the bad and the in-between so that we can share these stories with others. But when the opportunity comes to share our story with the world, we sometimes retreat into 'bullshit bingo' mode and start trying to make our story sound like everybody else's.
Your story can be reflected in what you do, not just what you say. Artists get their teeth bleached, or wear tight clothing, or wear 'the right clothing'. Founders spend way too much time becoming the next _______ instead of being the first __________. With each minor adjustment, our story is diluted and we become a clone of everything and everybody else.
Life experiences: the failures, the struggles, the triumphs, the shame and the silliness, are our story. It is the only thing separating us from the competition. Introducing these elements into our creative endeavors be it coding or performance is the only way to create the 'me too' moments in the minds and hearts of the most distracted audience ever. Will everyone say 'me too'? Nope. We don't want them too. Not everybody drives the same car. Nobody eats at the same restaurant. But they know what they're getting when they choose. Why? Me too.
Sometimes 'Me Too' is controversial, like PostSecret.com. Half a billion hits and counting.
Everybody isn't your audience. Just the ones who say 'me too'.
When you allow your story to become inseparable from your product or talent, you create an invitation for people to relate to you on an emotional level. And emotion creates relationship, which leads to conversation. Conversations welcome awareness, and others are invited. This is the real meaning behind social media. Using the Twitter/Facebook version of social media is the dunk, not the dribble. I'm not knocking it, it clearly has some value. But having thousands of followers means very little if you have nothing significant to say. Create the 'me too' conversation and your audience will spread the word for you.
A basic building block of storytelling is the 'why do I care' moment. The inciting incident. Why do we care?
Before you introduce us to the next big thing, before you go to that next audition, start with your story. Where's the 'me too'? The root of the word audience is 'audire', which means 'to listen'. No sales pitch. No buzz words. Just you and your story.
Artist or founder, doesn't matter. The world is listening. What will you say?
Who is Kahlil Ashanti?
Kahlil Ashanti (Entrepreneur, Actor, Producer, Writer) thinks that dogs should never be better dressed than people. He is best known for his critically acclaimed solo show, Basic Training. His multi-lingual work in theatre has earned him several awards including The GreyFriars Bobby Award, Scotsman Fringe First Award, NY Times Critics Pick and a Broadway Drama League nomination for Distinguished Performance. Basic Training has been optioned for television development by Barry Josephson (Bones, Enchanted, Men In Black) and Lowell Mate (Everybody Loves Raymond, Roseanne) and will be green-lit as a series this summer. Recently selected for Cirque Du Soleil as a character actor, Kahlil is constantly searching for opportunities to be a part of life giving projects that are bigger than all of us, and is one of the co-creators behind PostSecret: Unheard Voices, the first blog to be successfully adapted to an interactive Theatre 2.0 worldwide touring live experience. As co-founder of seed funded ReceiptNest.com, he finds himself knee deep in the tech world, excited to help fellow entrepreneurs who wanted to tell their stories in compelling ways. Please be advised that Kahlil barbecues with charcoal, not propane. Twitter: @kahlilashanti www.kahlilashanti.com
LikeBright founder and Microsoft BizSpark member Nick Soman announced that his company had joined the Bing Fund today. In case you missed it, we interviewed Nick a while back.
LikeBright uses the Facebook social graph to help you pinpoint people you would like to meet and date. It works very simply. You pick people who are friends of friends. When that person on the other side picks you, you are introduced. The particpants are screened by their qualities that match your qualities.
I asked Nick what he thought of Graph Search, the recently launched social search mechanism in Facebook. Here's what he said:
Short answer on Graph Search is 1) It's a great move for FB since it's great for their users (and Bing is a partner!) and 2) Discovery is an important first piece of the dating puzzle. We hope to enhance our product via Graph Search and then help single folks start the conversation and date better, full stop.
Here's a slice from the press release.
“LikeBright’s mission is to eliminate loneliness using the shared social ties that connect people,” said LikeBright founder and CEO Nick Soman. “Most single people meet their partners through friends, and lots of people like to set their friends up. We give them a simple, social and safe way to do this online. People deserve to find love through the people they trust. Having Bing and Microsoft in our corner will help us make it happen faster.”
Soman, a graduate of Harvard Business School, is also bullish on the market opportunity. “There are a billion people on Facebook now and online dating is a 4 billion dollar market with less than 5% of singles participating. There’s a massive opportunity to get everyone else involved.”
As the first local Seattle investment by Bing Fund, LikeBright has the opportunity to work side-by-side with product experts within Microsoft and leverage technology assets, marketing power and expertise to spur innovation in dating.
“At the end of day, technology is about helping enrich people’s lives,” said Rahul Sood, General Manager of Bing Fund. “Using social signals we generate online, LikeBright lets your network have a say in who your potential matches could be. Because who better to vouch for you and a match than your friends and family? We’re excited at the opportunity to help LikeBright further this vision.”
LikeBright has already made powerful friends in the tech and dating world. LikeBright investor Dr. Galen Buckwalter, the scientific founder of eHarmony, believes that “LikeBright has the best method for introducing couples for romantic relationships that is available. Period.” Advisor and top dating blogger David Evans of the Online Dating Post writes that social dating is “a large addressable market ripe for startups with the right mix of vision, management, nimbleness and marketing dollars. That’s LikeBright.” NPR’s Lauren Silverman notes that “men outnumber women by a ratio of 4-to-1” on competing sites while LikeBright is “achieving the impossible . . . an even balance between men and women users.”
The Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, Powered by Tech Stars will have its first of two demo days starting January 17 in Seattle. Then they will move down to Silicon Valley to close out the month with a demo day in front of investors there. If you are thinking about applying to the second Windows Azure Accelerator class, you should know the reasons why those before you have taken this challenge. Here are some very short video clips with the founders of the graduating class. Enjoy.
Applications close February 1.
Keller Smith, Appetas
“You are going to learn more per hour than during any other time in your life.”
You can apply to the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by Tech Stars here.
Al Bsharah, Embarke
“You will be surrounded by people who are just as crazy as you are.”
Dana Dyksterhuis, Fanzo
“One of the biggest reasons is getting to know the other teams…we are so close, and we are like family.”
You can apply to the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by Tech Stars here
Anne-Aymone Ferreir -- Keebitz
“The reason why every founder should be able to be part of the Accelerator; they will focus and ask themselves the right questions and do the right thing for their business, and they will do it in the right order.”
Stephen Siciliano, MetricsHub
“The accelerator is the best place to discover what customers need and to deliver it exactly the way they need it.”
Tyler Griffin, Mobilligy
“You should come to the accelerator because of the mentorship and business model guidance you are going to get from meeting such incredibly smart, motivated, and interesting people.”
Jilliene Hilman, Realty Mogul
“This is not fly by mentorship, this is roll your sleeves up mentorship. Get ready.”
Aseem Badshah, Socedo
“You should join the Microsoft accelerator because it gives you access to this great network of mentors, customers, people who care about your business; people who can help you refine your business model and make sure you are on the right track.”
Massimo Andreasi Bassi, Staq
“You should come to the Microsoft Accelerator, because you can use the resources of Microsoft, even being a tiny startup.”
BizSpark member Zirtual is in the news today with founder Maren Kate Donovan securing $2 million in funding from Zappos founder Tony Hsieh and others.
We interviewed Maren some time ago for our success stories project. Here is some of that interview again.
What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?
Maren: Bootstrapping a startup when everyone else around you is worshiping at the altar of venture capital and taking on other people’s money. I’m eternally grateful that we have bootstrapped as long as we have, even though it has been the roughest two years of my life. Keeping complete control of the company in the early days is key to letting creativity, not a board room, drive your business.
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?
Maren: I usually see the problem and then figure out a solution, then I will go on to consult our team so they can find things I overlooked. That way we have a more holistic approach and a better solution than if just one person tried to solve the problem.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
Maren: LTV, absolutely hands down when a client stays with you month after month it is a sign you are winning.
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?
Maren: I turn to advisors occasionally and my team more often, I talk to the people who spend a lot of time in whatever area it is I’m curious about and they help inform me.
Who would you like to be your mentor, and what would you ask him or her?
Maren: Sarah Blakely of Spanx. She’s a brilliant entrepreneur and created a billion dollar company from the ground up. I would just like to spend a few weeks shadowing her and learning from her leadership style.
Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?
Maren: I have a few mentors and one of the most important things one of them ever told me was to always do what’s right for the business, no matter what. To treat it like it is your flesh and blood.
What has overjoyed you in the past month?
Maren: Our new COO joining.
Who inspired you the most this week, and why?
Maren: Reading the story of how Gilt.com was started.
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Maren: The last time Erik, our lead designer, made an update to our website. I fall in love over and over again with our product and the people behind it.
Has starting your own company provided any answers about your life? Have you discovered something about yourself that you didn’t know before?
Maren: I never knew how persistent I was or how far I was willing to go for something I believe in. Starting Zirtual and growing it to over 40 people has taught me that anyone can do anything if they truly set their mind to it.
Last night, we listened to a great evening of stories from Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky. The event was hosted by PandoDaily, and it was the best conversation I have ever witnessed with a founder of a startup. Did you know that at one point Brian was so deeply in debt, he ate dried cereal? The story I recount in this Quora answer, (not sure why I answered it anonymously), but I will reprint it here.
This blog post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager, Microsoft BizSpark.The company at one time was fueled only by a baseball card collecting binder of maxed out credit cards, is now valued at over $2 billion. He and his co-founders literally had no money. They had taken out credit card after credit card in the hopes that someone would eventually get their idea. Chesky was introduced to 21 angel investors (may have to check the math), eight of whom agreed to talk to him. One of them, he said last night, met him in University Cafe, and ordered a smoothie. The investor got to halfway through his smoothie and then promptly stood up and left. Chesky and his co-founder took a shot of the smoothie, because they thought it was so bizarre. Where is that shot now, I wonder?
here is why I think you don't need much money or even a strong pedigree to build a great startup. I answer someone's question in Quora about why you don't need money to make money -- ostensibly saying that it has nothing to do with the money. It has to do with the product outcome:
You actually do not need money to make money. In some cases that is true, but take Brian Chesky, who co-founded Airbnb, worth now $2 billion. Yes, he got an angel round and then VC investment, but prior to that, he borrowed money from a long list of eventually maxed out credit cards. He got to $30,000 in debt.Then he started selling Obama O's and Cap'n McCain cereal at $40 each during the election that saw President Obama get into office. He goes to try out for Paul Graham's Y-Combinator and one of his co-founder's Nate, tells him and the other co-founder to not take the cereal boxes, which they were going to bring to Paul Graham as a gift. Keep in mind, at this point, Chesky is eating the dry cereal because he has NO MONEY at all. He goes to the meeting, Paul Graham listens, and can't undersatnd why anyone would want to use Airbnb. The meeting finishes up with a perfunctory, "well, that's it, thanks." And one of the co-founders at the end of the meeting pulls out the two cereal boxes. Nate, who warned against it allegedly looks on in amazement. What the....???Paul Graham asks, what is this? Co-founder explains, oh, we made this cereal to pay for our company. Pause.Paul Graham allegedly says, "You just don't quit. You guys are like cockroaches!" Eventually Paul Graham calls them back and asks them to join Y-combinator. The reason he gave was that if they could convince people to buy $4 cereal for $40, they could convince someone to rent someone's bedroom for a night. You don't need the money. You need the faith in your idea, the right network, and the conviction to keep struggling, because your startup or your investment or your idea is born out of a struggle. Your crisis is your salvation. Forget the money.
Here is what I learned from Brian's talk: 1. Entrepreneurs have no clear path to a successful project / product, but they have a very strong focus on how other people make choices.2. Things that come out of left field will not be understood by the majority of people because, as Chesky said, "people listen for patterns." And patterns are what people already know.
Kevin Yu, one half of Socedo, tells me that he has an infinite amount of trust in Aseem Badshah, his co-founder. It's something that I hear so often from startup founders that I actually don't pay much attention to it. But then, I go over my notes from our interview, and I notice something.
This post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager, Microsoft BizSpark.
Kevin Yu (left), and Aseem Badshah (right) run Socedo, one of the companies graduating from the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by Tech Stars. Socedo is a social media marketing company that helps you get better ROI from Twitter.
They were running a marketing agency, managing the @UserCommunity account on behalf of Microsoft. The challenges we faced led to the genesis of Socedo. So, what makes it a startup? Well, trust actually has a lot to do with it. This is something to consider if you are thinking about applying to the next round of this class. Applications close February 1.
If we are watching from the shores out at the stormy sea of entrepreneurship, we know this much:
There is a team
There is funding
There is a product
And there are customers.
And clearly there is a process to forming a team, forming a product, and shipping it to market, but discussions with hundreds of entrepreneurs tells folks that there is something special to a founding team. There is some kind of spiritual or powerful motivating force that makes it all come together.
When you talk to the founders of Socedo, you get the feeling that this force is really familiarity and trust, and when you look at it that way, you begin to see what makes being in an Accelerator so important. Something gels together.
For Socedo, the experience in the Accelerator was like a hyper-compressed version of what Aseem and Kevin already do well: throw ideas together and simultaneously master the business and the engineering aspects of it. Kevin was getting his Executive MBA at UW while Aseem was doing his bachelors, and Kevin decided to drop by UW to see what was happening in the business class presentations day.
Kevin drops by because he thinks, “What are the cool ideas coming out of this?” showing up for possible serendipity is something that is ingrained in how Kevin works. He tells us: “[Solutions] are in your personal networks, keeping in touch with people, and having this relationships over time are advantageous.”
So, we have one ingredient. You may have an idea. You may think what you might want to do, but it really depends on encountering the other aspects of your own idea while meeting each other. Kevin doesn’t tell us much, but we get the feeling that Kevin had a few things in his mind already. Meeting Aseem led to some discussion.
“I have always had this entrepreneurship bug, and I’ve never really worked for someone else," says Aseem. "I want a kickass product that everyone loves, but I don’t necessarily think it’s like I’m totally tied to a product itself.”
“It’s like this continuum. The idea starts as something real and granular. You have some pain in your own life and you want to solve it,” he says.
That was interesting. I think this is the other point – identifying with other people. So, you have familiarity with someone else, and trust, and you have an enthusiasm about connecting ideas and building something, but then you also have empathy for others.
Before we are where we are today, Socedo was actually a Twitter account that reached out to developers. Just broadcasting and walking them through problems. Fast forward again. A lot. This is what they have now.
You can’t draw the line really where this stopped being a thing they did, and then became a startup, because all of the muscle fibers and brain cells of how they behave around problems is built into the business that has become Socedo. That's really where trust comes in, because they are starting out with a road ahead and no map. All they is have each other and the constant feedback from people who are using what they are trying to do. They have to act as one unit, borrowing each other's talents to complete the fuller picture and present something of clarity to the customer. They really are like a relationship built out of trust, acting cohesively, and taking in that feedback together, so that they can make changes together.
And in a scenario where each customer's feedback will be different, that's amazingly important.
Says Kevin: “Both of us greatly value that customer pain point. We used that for the main drive for our features. We bring our own unique experience. The moment you stop listening, you die.”
“If your product becomes irrelevant, there is something wrong with the organization itself. You are not listening, or something," he says.
So, the basic ideas are these:
You are not building this for yourself, you are building it of yourself for someone else; you have to get rid of your own self-interest in some way. And having a co-founder on your side, and massive amounts of help to aid you is the defining factor between producing something that helps people, and just doing that thing you do.
There will be many – countless—people who come after you to use this product after you are gone, to put it dramatically. If from the very beginning, you build something from your own experience and the experience of others, and if you build enough rigor, and engineering design into your product for it to solve the problems of other people, that will be a real and genuine business.
“I think [this] process is forever.,” says Aseem. “Your ideas are always changing.”
And therein lies the Accelerator. That’s why it exists. It's a trust machine. It's the foundation that sits underneath the foundation that the founders build together so that they can exist to help customers exist.
If you want more information this Accelerator, just drop us a note.
Applications close February 1 for the Windows Accelerator, powered by Tech Stars. Belong to something that helps people.
Most students graduate facing the challenge of getting a job, but Chai Botta, the CEO of GameIn this isn’t a problem. He and his co-founders are already running their own successful start-up, with a fast-growing game in the Windows 8 store, even though some of them are still in full-time education, including Chai.
The story starts in April 2012, when Chai – a mathematics student at Rome University - applied to take part in an entrepreneurship course run by www.innovactionlab.org (a BizSpark Network Partner). Based in Rome, this particular event included creating 30 teams of four, each of which were each tasked with coming up with a great idea for a start-up. The end point was a competition where they would all compete in front of venture capitalists for first place. A lot has happened since then, so we’ll hand over to Chai to tell his story.
“Being part of the InnovactionLab project was great. Before that, I had no idea what it was like to be an entrepreneur, but it taught me a lot and made me realised that I had it within me to start my own business.
I was also lucky in that I was part of a strong team in the InnovactionLab project. We all have a role to play: Valerio and Justine take care of all financial and managerial aspects, meanwhile Edouard and I wrote the core of the game. And we’re all passionate about videogames which is really important, because that shines through into our product innovation.
The result was that we came up with a brand new of thinking about games. Although we didn’t win the top prize, it was the catalyst for our approach to creating a new concept of games. By this, I different devices or games but using the same avatar, to share their prizes, money, benefits, goods from a game with any of our other games. No other gaming company is doing this in the same way that we do.
Plus, being part of the Innovaction event gave us a chance to network with some useful contacts, including venture capitalists and Mario Fontana from Microsoft. Mario really liked what we were doing and wanted to see how Microsoft could help us develop our company. Straight away, we joined BizSpark, which has been great for giving us access to free technology, but also networking and support.
The result is our company GameIn, which uses our new approach to games. We aim to make the games as interactive and exciting as possible, using technology such as geo-location, augmented reality and the cloud. Our first game is SquarePix, which we have develop since we have been part of BizSpark and is now available on the Windows 8 store. SquarePix is a geo-located game based on conquering real places on a map and is a cloud-based solution with a Windows Azure back-end.
Our first business model is the classic freemium one (where the basic game is free but users pay for additional features, such as clothes for their avatars). Our second business model is based on geo-located ads, but in an unconventional way. We plan to sell special pixels on SquarePix to big companies who can then show their ads on the pixels. Users can challenge the companies’ own players and if they defeat them, could win a discount coupon.
We’re now being supported by Enlabs, an incubator here in Rome, who will help us to start presenting to potential investors. We already have hundreds players all over the world and we expect this to continue growing fast as the popularity of the Windows 8 Store spreads. All our games are in English and we are targeting the global market from day one.
What more can I say? In only six months my life changed drastically, from being a normal university guy to a co- founder of a gaming start-up with already a game-app inside the Windows 8 store. From InnovActionLab and Microsoft I learned that if you have the right attitude, anything is possible!”
Guest blog post by Prateek Gupta, founder of FreshTag, an app that connects multiple people by entering hashtags or clicking a link.
FreshTag was founded at a San Francisco hackathon in June 2012. Co-founder Ben Denial and I attended it to work on a simple idea to connect people on browser-based video platforms in the most efficient and simple way. We teamed up with engineers Jon Bardin & Cody Byrnes to win 2nd place after 18 hours of constant work to develop the first prototype. We launched in Demo Fall Conference 2012 with a full scholarship and valuation of $1.5 million.
The FreshTag team using FreshTag... Meta FreshTag connects multiple accounts, and this is kind of how it works. Lets say we get together, so we create Freshtag.me/PrateekDougMeeting. We take the real-life "Starbucks meeting" concept online, and make it literally the easiest way to bring friends/family/biz-partners face-2-face without downloading a client software or plugin, opening a login account, dealing with username & password, exchanging usernames and adding/friending contacts to video chat. The problem we are solving with FreshTag is lifting the barriers of video conferencing. Think about video chatting with your grandma without any technical irritations.
It's like meet me at FreshTag.Me/UniqueKeyword at 2PM. Our vision is it keep our product simple and user-friendly to consumers for a beautiful experience. From a business point of view, FreshTag is in talks with several universities to solve the problem of faculty office hours, team meetings, group study & on-campus broadcasting. A. Every green sheet will have a unique link (Stanford.edu/Spr13Bus1ASec1) where a professor will be hosting office hours virtually. These days, students are not leveraging office hours because classes are on Mon and Wed, and professor holds office hours on Thursday, students are either busy at work or are in another class. We make it more flexible and keeping it virtual to fit the schedule of students. B. There is always something happening on college/university campus, but as a student, parent, alumni; I am not physically there to be involved. Imagine: Stanford.edu/Live This is the place where a university will be broadcasting their events like speeches, seminars, sports etc. Technically, FreshTag is very flexible and can be implement on an existing tech-ecosystems. Currently, we are working very hard to bring FreshTag on mobile as well. You can come chat with us on our Facebook page, if you have any questions. Or leave me some questions in the comment section here.
If you want insight into the next billion entrepreneurs to generate new ideas, disruption and business in the future, here is a great infographic that we found at Funders and Founders. By the year 2020, the "third billion" starts doing business. Have you made plans to compete with this third billion, work with this third billion, or join it?
When I talked to Jilliene Helman of Realty Mogul I learned that a true entrepreneur is someone who takes the best of herself and makes something for her market. It is something precious and new, and it takes 100% commitment.
Jilliene Helman, left, and co-founder Justin Hughes
Jilliene and her co-founder Justin Hughes, who she has known for years, both left jobs they had held for a few years to start Realty Mogul, an ambitious startup that is meant to make the real estate game easier for institutional and accredited investors.
They've gone through the Windows Azure Accelerator, powered by Tech Stars, for three months, and are about to graduate at a Demo Day later in the month in Seattle. I asked her what were some of the key points she picked up by going through this process. If you are also considering applying for the accelerator, consider what she has to say.
Ambition Is Fueled by Decisions and Every Founder Builds a Culture
There are two things that my conversation with Jilliene showed me about the Azure Accelerator experience. One is that a true entrepreneur brings commitment and her inherent qualities to the experience. The second is that, regardless of how inherent qualities like decisive action and careful planning are, or how innate the ambition and adherence to traits like accountability are, the entrepreneur in an accelerator learns to use those traits, because it may not be totally true that she has used them effectively before. In other words, it seems very true after talking to one of Realty Mogul's co-founders that the Accelerator experience peels back all the cliche and stereotypical thinking about how a person should run a business, and it teaches them how they can run the business in their way to get the results they need.
That may jar some MBAs out there, who probably have read reams of books on how to run a company. But Jilliene has proven that sticking to one's gut instinct -- she quit a job she was in for four years and totally committed herself to this program -- and hiring to build a culture model after her own beliefs, has helped her get to the point where she one day woke up and realized she needed to hire three people yesterday, because her startup was actually generating business.
While people turn their noses up at failure, ambition puts failure in perspective. Ambition puts failures into context, and like hope, it gives people a reason to complete what is really just a dream of the founders. Think about that, and it's the consummate accelerator story. Two founders dream something up, make the break from their known reality, and they stumble, but continue on.
"You have to really want it," says Jilliene. "You are going to fail at some things. We have a few times. And in order to get back up all those times, you have to really have something on the line."
Three months later, they are ready to demo.
"It was a seize the opportunity kind of thing. I was in a full time job prior. There was not enough time to do a kick ass job at the job and run the company. It was a clean break, shutting down everything in our lives, and the only thing we are doing is working and spending time with family."
She says that the moment she realized she needed a full on team, it was a little bit later than she would have liked. But she had the benefit of having talked to some mentors at the Accelerator who had coached her on hiring. Jilliene felt that she knew what to do. But she already had something else even more valuable -- her own (and Justin's) sense of commitment to certain personal values -- accountability, ambition, decisive action.
When she builds a team, she is hiring to fit that culture, she says. She doesn't look at the typical stereotypes of what makes a good sales person, for example. She looks at what characteristics of theirs fit into how she runs the company, and how that fits into the expectations driven by her and her co-founder.
"We would rather hire a sales guy who fits our culture than a sales guy who has better numbers," she says.
"Culture to us means accountability."
So I asked her if she has always been this way, feeling that culture is what drives the business, or if this is something that she learned in the Accelerator. Her answer suggests that this is one of the qualities that make a good Accelerator candidate -- be someone that already brings your own sense of self to the experience. What the accelerator experience taught her was to use something inherent to her as part of her management and building style:
I am that way irrespective of the accelerator. That [accountability] is just so strongly ingrained in me. I have seven brothers and sisters. If you don’t do what you say you are doing to do, people can't rely on you."
Part of it is coming from a conservative banking background, you don’t come late to a meeting. I was not hiring people for accountability before. I was hiring people for skills sets. I was hiring for the best …. Regardless of their scrappiness, or their accountability.
It’s totally about building culture, and I never knew the importance of building culture before coming to the accelerator.
More Information about Realty Mogul
Partnership with Gust (we are featured on the home page): https://gust.com/startups
Interview with American Express Open Forum: http://www.openforum.com/articles/prepare-yourself-for-crowdfunding-success/
We are also a Founder Institute graduate: http://fi.co/
Angel List Profile: https://angel.co/realty-mogul
To start off this bit of news, we recently found out our old commander-in-chief Bill Gates is going to be kicking off SXSW. How's that, hipsters!?
From hipsters, we move to entrepreneurs. Namely, the entrepreneurs that have been slamming our Facebook page with advice, experience and narratives of how they have started up their own companies. Here are some of the week's best discussions (actually, this is just over a week, from right before New Year's Eve to today).
Is culture the catalyst for starting up a company? How do you want to change culture with your startup?
One particular entrpreneur, Chase Aucoin, is thinking very locally, saying that it's the job of his company to change the work culture in his town:
"To provide a workplace that harbor success and creativity and creates a profit without crushing the souls of it's workforce in the process. And provides fair living wages without the use of fear to wrangle existing employees to stay active."
The conversations this week also steered towards the more charitable, as Urban Txt, a non-profit in Los Angeles helping teens learn to code, showed off one of the phones we sent them.
We found out that several dozen members in our community are working diligently on Windows 8 apps and services on Windows Azure, which is good for company morale, of course!
Entrepreneurs told us that in company culture, startups work like marriages -- which is something of a cliche these days -- but that they also work like Special Ops teams.
What will it take for startups to succeed in what is being called a dire economic period for the first half of 2013? And the priorities seem to be in this order: funding, focus, and then a great marketing strategy. What do you think you will need to do in 2013 to explode out of startup mode into scaling up mode?
We also heard that hope and failure were a common theme. What began earlier in the week as a pretty fierce discussion about failure, see this thread, ended up being a theme on how to rise above the ashes in another post.
But it all ended up pretty well. We showcased two of the startups that are about to graduate from the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by Tech Stars. They are Embarke and BagsUp, and they are now prepping for their first demo day in Seattle on January 17. They will do that in Seattle, then they will come down to Silicon Valley on January 31 for another demo day in front of the Silicon Valley set. We wish them luck.
Embarke is made up of Al Bsharah and Bryan Hall. They are making really smart analytics for email marketing in the hopes that they can make the inbox more social and the marketing teams of companies smarter in how they engage with consumers. And while they have been working hard on building this startup, they have not forgotten to stop for fun. Here's a shot of them on the plane on the way to the Accelerator about three months ago.
Visit Embarke onlline.
And then there's BagsUp, founded by three guys who had earlier sold their technology startup to Travelocity. Australian as they come, two of the founders, Carl Jackson and Ben Jackson, sat down with me and told me about how they work as a team when they are all together. Basically, it's all intuition.
If you want to belong to the next Azure Accelerator, you should visit this link.
To cap it off, time to show off this photo of a "Hot Surface" in our London offices in the UK.
@Lee_stott captured here enjoying his "Hot Surface" by DPE Technical Manager in Microsoft UK Andrew McCartney
If you wish to be included in future blog posts on this blog, please look at this definitive advice guide on how to get Microsoft to write about your startup.
Meet DiXidiaSoft's newest creation, Realms of Swordfall, a MMORPG. They are our first online gaming company in Italy.
Right now they host their gaming servers on Azure, as well as some of their internal management tools, but they have not fully launched yet. For now, we will have to wait to play.
According to Siro Toracchio, Founder, CEO & Project Manager:
"The graphics engine is massively using DirectX (9 and 11), and the tool used to build [the game] is mainly Visual Studio 2012. We're building it, and also planning to sell it in future to developers. Also the scripting language for the engine will be mainly C#, and the external development tools are all built with the .NET framework."
To get a preview, check out this video demo they made. It's a pretty stunning world. Imagine what it will be like when it's filled up with demons, orcs, dragons and flying swords.