A friend of mine, William Sulinski, has recently started a cool new project called From Holden. The concept is pretty basic – Will like to wear quality clothes (he’s way more fashionable than me!) but he, like me, is on a startup person’s budget. So he’s decided to start a verticalized men’s clothing company focusing on high quality shirts. It’s a cool concept, and I like the style of the shirts that he’s working on.
From Holden V Neck T Shirt
Will is on the cusp of a new trend in internet retailing, which combines manufacturing/sourcing with internet distribution in the goal of driving down the cost to the end consumer. I like the concept and will be asking for a few shirts for my birthday…
He talks more about what he’s trying to accomplish in a video on his Kickstarter campaign.
Please check out the From Holden Kickstarter campaign and, if you like the shirts, help Will out!
I’m really excited about the latest OfficeDrop integration. ExpenseMagic, an automatic expense report generation service, has just integrated with OfficeDrop. This integration is going to be particularly useful for me, since I hate creating expense reports. Now I’ll just be able to drag my receipt scans into a magic folder and ExpenseMagic will give me a completed expense report!
The key take away here, from my perspective, is that having an open API (like the OfficeDrop API) allows third parties to make your platform better, while extending their own reach. Plus, cool integrations like this one create tremendous PR opportunities.
ExpenseMagic OfficeDrop Integration Video
Yeah, it was cool enough for me to want to make a video:
Here’s the press release. Looks like we are going to get some great press on this, so hopefully I”ll brag next week about it!!
OfficeDrop and ExpenseMagic Team Up to Make Expense Reports Bliss
Scan Receipts to the Cloud and Automatically Generate Expense Reports
August 17, 2012 — Cambridge, MA –Let’s face it. Expense reports aren’t fun for anyone.
Many of OfficeDrop’s small business cloud users take pictures of their receipts on-the-go using our iPhone, iPad, Android or desktop scanner apps and save them as searchable PDFs within their OfficeDrop online cloud storage accounts.
Now mobile users can simply snap photos of receipts using any of the OfficeDrop smartphone scanner apps and add them to their ExpenseMagic Upload folder. ExpenseMagic’s team gets to work and generates an expense report that you can view and share from your mobile device or computer.
From the PC it’s even easier: OfficeDrop users can simply drag receipt scans into the ExpenseMagic Upload folder in their OfficeDrop Windows File Sync Client and ExpenseMagic will put an expense report right onto their PC. Check out this video to see a demo.
“OfficeDrop wanted to take the pain out of small business expense reports, and ExpenseMagic was the perfect integration to help us do just that,” said OfficeDrop CEO Prasad Thammineni. “We are really happy that the wizards over at ExpenseMagic were able to use OfficeDrop’s API to create such a value-added feature. Integrations like this make OfficeDrop more than just cloud storage.”
OfficeDrop users can take advantage of ExpenseMagic’s automated expense reporting for the first month for free. More information on pricing plans for ExpenseMagic is outlined here. Learn more about the ExpenseMagic OfficeDrop integrations here and here, and get the ExpenseMagic iPhone app here.
OfficeDrop is a complete cloud solution for small businesses, from digitizing documents for the cloud to storage accounts that are sharable with teams. To learn how OfficeDrop makes digital life simple with its scan-and-capture apps and services, visit www.officedrop.com.
Techcrunch has an article on how Microsoft’s online division has lost money for the past 22 quarters. That’s a long time.
The article takes a pretty negative tone toward Microsoft. The comments seem to indicate that people think Techcrunch is continuing it’s Google and Apple lovefest and is attacking Microsoft because of this bias.
Regardless of TC’s bias towards or against Microsoft, I think the piece could be written about Google – if you replaced “MSFT” with “Google” and replaced the highly profitable “Windows and Office Divisions” with “Adwords” and replaced the loss making “online division” with “everything else at Google.” Basically, Google is still struggling to make money in other divisions that are not search and ad driven.
The battle between Google and Microsoft isn’t a battle for sissies. They aren’t fighting for second place – they are trying to destroy each other. Google doesn’t mind losing money in Chrome (OS or browser), Android, or Docs if it hurts Microsoft where their chief source of cash flow is (i.e. Office and Windows). Microsoft is willing to lose lots of money to try to make Google’s primary source of income, online search/advertising, hurt. They each also understand the importance of the other’s core divisions, and they both want a real piece. Disrupting either is going to be hard and expensive.
That’s the reason each is willing to have their profitable divisions subsidize their losses in the other divisions.
So, is this an opportunity or threat for startups trying to compete in or around these spaces?
Well, it’s a little of each, IMHO. It’s an opportunity, since if you manage to get traction in either area you have two fight-to-the-death potential acquiring companies. But it’s a HUGE threat too, because if you choose to enter one of these areas you are competing with two huge titans who are willing to make economically insane losses to get marketshare. For example – let’s say you are trying to do an email startup (this is just an example). You are competing against two companies that likely have a very different business model than you can afford. They just want users/marketshare of their email services, and the revenue and margins are not particularly relevant. So if your business model requires making money… well, you could be in a really tough spot.
To compete against either you need either an enormously better understanding of the customer, translated into a massively better product… or amazingly deep pockets.
You know what I need? A checkin app to manage all these location based checkin apps. It would be great if there was an app that would check me into FourSquare, SCAVNGR, Facebook places, etc.
That’s kind of a joke, but I’d use it. Seriously.
Using the power of Google Analytics, it’s easy for me to see which Startable blog posts were the most read in 2009. Keep in mind that I’m merely looking at the number of views, so stuff posted earlier in the year has a distinct advantage of making it to the top.
10. The hidden cost of down rounds – the antidilution provision. When venture backed companies’ values drop, the pain is not felt evenly amongst the shareholders. With venture backed companies’ valuations falling like rocks due to the financial turmoil and bad-economy-induced-missed projections, I’m not surprised that this post got a lot of traction.
9. 4 Ways to generate business ideas. Prasad’s post on idea generation and ways to come up with innovative businesses and solutions still attracts good traffic to Startable.
8. The Entrepreneur in Residence. The first in a three part series explaining what an entrepreneur in residence does at a venture capital firm. The follow up posts talk about how to deal with an EIR and how to meet with one. I think this post will continue to get good traffic; it is actually the number one search term driving traffic to Startable.
7. MBAs and Startups. Right when I was fresh from leaving venture capital and starting actually doing the entrepreneurial thing, I responded to a Dharmesh Shah post on 10 things MBA school won’t teach you. Now that I’ve been a “real” entrepreneur for the past 6 months, I agree with what I wrote. This post also had a bit of a TechCrunch boost.
6. Early stage venture capital valuations. Right after I left venture capital I felt that I could reveal the truth (as I saw it) on how VCs value startups. VCs have a target ownership, and the more you raise the higher valuation you startup will get. I continue to stand by this.
5. So you want to be a junior VC. My advice to someone who emailed me asking for tips on interviewing for a non-partner position at a venture capital fund.
4. Angel groups are professionalizing and I’m not sure VCs realize it. I was pretty impressed after attending a meeting of the Northeast ACA (Angel Capital Association.) This isn’t a meeting most venture capitalists get to attend, and I was pretty shocked at the level of sophistication. Angel groups are really getting good. Somehow this post got a lot of stumbleupon love.
3. The venture capital investment memo. Since I worked at a few funds, I thought it would be fun to compile the “average” investment memo put together during the investment process at a venture firm. I get good monthly search traffic to this post.
2. Leaving venture capital. Well, this is when I officially announced I was leaving Atlas Venture. I guess people wanted to read about it!
1. It’s not me it’s you, the real reason many startups can’t raise venture capital. Many, many startups are rejected by venture capitalists for the simple reason that the VC doesn’t have confidence in the founder. However, this is rarely communicated. I list some tips that the founder can use to tell if they are the problem.
Wow, so I’ve written a lot this year. Hopefully I’ll continue to have some good content going forward. I am always available over email or twitter, so don’t feel bad reaching out.
Happy New Years!!
Last summer I was lucky enough to be an advisor to Boston TechStars. It was an awesome experience, and I highly recommend the upcoming Spring session. Applications are due January 11th; you can apply on the TechStars web site.
I’m not affiliated with TechStars at this moment, and I want to make it very clear that I have absolutely no involvement with the application screening process. However, I do have some opinions on what made some of the Boston companies successful, and I have a strong suspicion that the screening process is designed to bring in a certain type of entrepreneur(s). By a “certain type” I mean someone who will get a ton out of the program, engage with the mentors and create something really cool. I also happened to have been around Shawn, David and Brad when they were talking to the Boston mentors about what they look for when picking entrepreneurs. So, I’m no expert, but…
Here are my opinions on some of the characteristics TechStars is looking for:
You need one, preferably two plus rockstar developers. You are going to be creating something from scratch over the course of a few months. Whatever you are going to make would likely take a big corporation’s tech department a year or more to build. But you are going to have a working demo and hopefully customers in just a month or two. So you better be pretty awesome in the technical department.
How you prove it: Have real, working demos or alphas that blow their socks off. Really impress them. Do something totally new with a piece of technology, even if it is not related to what you want your company to do. Check out what Brad Feld says about why he liked the founders of RedLaser.
Ability to accept criticism
If you are accepted to the program you are going to be exposed to some of the most successful technology executives in the Boston area. These are people who have walked the walk and who are involved with the program because they want to provide mentorship. Being provided mentorship means you can accept criticism and be flexible in shaping your vision.
How you prove it: This may be one of the hardest things to prove in the application. But other entrepreneurs have done it, so I know it’s possible.
Have a business model
Understand how your idea will make money. This means you understand how customers currently solve the itch you are going to scratch. Is the way you want to make money consistent with their willingness to pay? Check out David’s post on the business models from previous TechStars companies.
How you prove this: Make it clear you understand what customers already pay to solve the problem; who the competition is and how much money they make selling a solution. Look for similar business ideas and see how those companies are monetizing. The way your company actually makes money in the future can be different, but you need to prove that you are thoughtful and that you are more than just an awesome developer – you are an awesome developer with some business savvy.
When you raise venture capital, you try to raise enough so that you can hit critical value creation milestones. In TechStars, you’ve got three months of reasonable funding, free office space and dry humor provided by Shawn. What the heck are you going to accomplish with that? You had better be able to achieve some real milestones by the middle, end and a few months post program. Know what the metrics are that show you’ve created value. I don’t know what your business is, but if it’s anything like the other TechStars companies I saw perform well then you will want to have 1) a working product (even if it’s a minimally viable one) and 2) highly visible customer traction.
How you prove this: Have an aggressive developmental timeline that you can actually hit. And, see my next point:
Hit goals during the application process
I remember Shawn saying “we admitted these guys because look what they did during the application process.” The company he was referring to launched product, on the schedule the proposed, in between the time they applied and were accepted. Set goals on development (or marketing) milestones that will occur between January 11 and Feb 1 when acceptees are notified.
How you prove this: You do it! You say, we are going to launch our iPhone app in three weeks and you do it. You say we are going to have the private alpha ready on January 20th and you get it out.