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The latest news on Entrepreneurship from Business Insider

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    Remember the good old days? When a startup founder could draw up his own clunky logo, slap it on a Web page and call it a day? Now every startup needs to spend time, attention and money on slick branding and design sophistication - just to get in the game.

    99designs, a marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design, polled more than 1,500 entrepreneurs, startup founders and small-business owners and found that 80% of them think the design of their logos, websites, marketing materials and other branding tools is either important or very important to their success. Just 3% said design was not important.

    Click here to read more >>

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    It was inevitable. We always joked it would happen: Someone finally submitted a project that is a direct competitor to GroupTalent.

    Yes, another marketplace for software projects. After the bets were settled, and the gawkers in the office moved on, I was stuck with the nagging question: What do you do when someone wants to copy your startup idea and asks you for help?

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    tikhon bernstam

    Parse is used by 20,000 mobile developers—and that number grows 40 percent monthly.

    This phenomenal startup gives app developers a way to build an app that looks and feels great. Instead of wasting time coding the technical necessities like Facebook connectivity and push notifications, Parse users can drag and drop the functions right into their apps.

    Parse powers some of the most popular apps in the world, including Band of the Day — a runner-up for App of the Year on Apple's App Store, in a batch of more than 400,000 other applications.

    We caught up with Parse co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, a two-time graduate from Y Combinator, to find out what the company is doing. Here's what we learned:

    • About 20,000 mobile developers are using Parse, and the number of developers grows 40 percent every month. That suggests Parse could easily add 8,000 developers by the end of the month.
    • Using Parse can lower your development time by 10x to 100x. Developers go from taking weeks to build an app to being able to build one and push it out in a matter of hours.
    • Even large companies are using Parse. Companies that outsource app development often tap into Parse for complicated functions, like push notifications.

    Here's a lightly-edited transcript of our conversation with Tikhon:

    BUSINESS INSIDER: So, what's your back story? How did you guys get started?

    Tikhon Bernstam: I started Scribd.com in 2006, it's now a top-100 site online if you look at the Quantcast International Networks. It's a profitable company with 45 people, it's still going strong. I left about a year ago because i wanted to get into mobile stuff. I saw just how difficult it was to build a mobile app: handling the server side, making it scale, all the things on the front end where if the users went offline, online, offline... what do you with that case. We saw all these Y Combinator companies solving the exact same problems over and over for every single app, so we decided to do it once, correctly, properly.

    We make native app development fast and easy, We have about 20,000 developers on the platform, growing 40 percent month over month. One of our apps, Band of the Day, helps you find new music, it's a gorgeous app that's built on Parse that was second to Instagram as Apple's app of the year. A lot of the companies doing mobile stuff, everything from Exec, Hipmunk, to Chime, are built on Parse. Then there's a lot of apps that are obviously not Y Combinator — one of the top apps in the trivia section is built on Parse. There are a million more examples.

    BI: How was Y Combinator the second time around?

    TB: It was interesting, for me being a second-time founder through Y Combinator. It's so much bigger this time. In the first batch it was 11 companies, now it's 63 companies. I'm really impressed they managed to scale it up really well, with full-time and part-time partners. It was actually a really great experience. I would certainly do Y Combinator again a third time. Justin Kan holds the record for three times now. I'm hoping to beat his record one day but it might take time.

    BI: So what does it mean that an application is "built on Parse?"

    TB: We are the infrastructure for these tens of thousands of mobile applications. Parse provides everything from push notifications, which is very common, like alerting users that a TV show is on, all the way down to social integration with Facebook and Twitter. If your user logs in with a Facebook account one day and then Twitter the next, they should know it's the same user. We make it easy to store your data in the cloud, like Hipmunk logging data on how long each hotel search takes. We can tell you who all your friends are, what all the restaurants are within 6 blocks of you. We can store files and photos, we can handle all that stuff, storing a ton of data.

    You just download our library from our website and you drag and drop it into your project. If you use xCode to make an iOS app, you drag and drop and all of the sudden you have all this functionality available to you right away. There are two ways to use Parse — you can build your entire app on top of Parse or use certain parts with your existing apps, like push notifications.

    BI: How much does Parse actually help developers?

    TB: I've had dozens of testimonials about how it's sped up mobile development by 10 to 100 times. We're knocking out all these hard problems for app developers, so they can focus on making a beautiful user interface and experience. We're a big believer in native apps, let us focus on all these techie problems that are common to all mobile apps. We have folks who tell us that they finish entire apps in a single day, or in a few hours. We've never had an app go up and leave, they are really happy to not have to worry about servers falling over or scaling up or adding more servers or worrying about the middleware and the networking layer. We are the plumbing that's holding all these apps together.

    BI: What does your average user look like?

    TB: It varies from larger enterprise customers, some of them have outsourced the entire app development. There's a car company that outsources an entire app development process and they're using Parse for all their apps. A common use case for us are these agencies that are pumping out an app a day or a week. We also have a lot of independent developers and we're also supporting push notifications for larger apps for even larger companies. Even push notifications can be a very difficult problem. Folks want a lot of data and analytics over how effective it is.

    BI: What's the next step?

    TB: We just released a JavaScript software development kit, that allows for HTML5 apps. If you want a web presence, suppose you have a great iOS app or a great web app and you want it to work on say PCs or on BlackBerries, you can use that. We are seeing a lot of apps expanding into that. We're gonna support Windows 8 down the road, and we're announcing some pretty big partnerships soon with large companies that you guys are familiar with.

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    Mike Onghai

    This article originally appeared on American Express Open Forum.

    About 543,000 new businesses were created each month in 2011, according to the Kauffman Foundation. And some of those got their start in an incubator.

    Startup incubators help emerging companies grow by providing them with necessary resources and initial funding to expand their ideas. In exchange for funding, they typically keep a small percentage of the company.

    Over the course of a few months, incubators work with startups to create a blueprint for their companies to present to investors at the end of the program. These blueprints usually result in investments. Among some of the more famous companies that got their start in an incubator: AirBnB and Dropbox.

    Funding For Existing Companies

    Startups seeking early-stage funding aren't the only companies encouraged to apply. Even companies that are already formed and have limited funding can still utilize the program to amplify their brand.

    Mike Onghai, founder of AppAddictive, left a comfortable hedge fund to spend a summer with Philadelphia-based DreamIt Ventures, one of the top 10 incubators in the U.S, according to Forbes. When he arrived at DreamIt, he already had a user base of 50 million people but used the incubator program to transform his consumer-based model into a business-to-business model. AppAddictive is a social and mobile application platform geared towards publishing and advertising that allows businesses to publish apps without coding. Onghai recently acquired $1.2 million in seed funding for the company's drag-and-drop tools for Facebook.

    "I had managed a hedge fund and I had bootstrapped two ventures before, but I had never raised money from outside investors for my own startup before," Onghai says. "I wish there were incubators around when I started my first ventures; I could have avoided a lot of mistakes."

    Social Support

    In addition to getting money for your company, the talented connections available at incubators provide invaluable support. The best incubators remain in touch with their startups even after their term has finished. Consider it like having an entire faculty and board of advisors to yourself. They work with you through your projects and most, like DreamIt Ventures, provide legal, accounting, and administrative help.

    An incubator also accelerates the development process. During roughly 10 weeks, participants focus solely on the projects at hand and are provided with space and resources.

    On Demo Day companies get the opportunity to display what they've been doing in front of a room of investors, creating an auction environment. The majority of Onghai's funding was the result of his demonstration at DreamIt Ventures.

    Learning by Doing

    Aside from formal mentoring, the peers you'll be working alongside at startup incubators can provide just as much support. Incubators have a tough selection process, often sifting through thousands of applications. "I was the senior in my group," says Onghai, "so a lot of people turned to me for advice."

    Incubators are arguably more beneficial than business schools. "I dropped out of a paid-scholarship MBA program to start my online venture," says Onghai. "Hands-on experience cannot be replaced by lectures and classes. You can get video lectures online these days. I follow the quote, 'When I hear, I forget. When I read, I remember. When I do, I understand.'"

    NOW READ: The 5 Biggest Myths About Putting Together A Successful Business Plan >

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    Hilary Mason

    Bitly, a link-shortening and analytics service, has raised an additional $15 million led by Vinod Khosla's Khosla Ventures, AllThingsD reports.

    It's raising a bunch of money to hire and grow more quickly, even though it's already making millions in revenue every year, CEO Peter Stern told AllThingsD.

    Coming fresh off a big redesign, Bitly has now raised $28.5 million total, and added 200,000 new users last month, according to the AllThingsD report.

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    sleeping desk coworker employee tired

    Inc.'s Jeff Haden recently published an article, How the Rich Got Rich, and examined an annual IRS report, 400 Individual Tax Returns Reporting The Largest Adjusted Gross Incomes.

    According to the IRS report, here's how the top 400 made their fortunes (their average earnings in 2009 were $202.4 million):

    • Wages and salaries:  8.6%
    • Interest: 6.6%
    • Dividends: 13%
    • Partnerships and corporations:  19.9%
    • Capital gains: 45.8%

    He also notes, "The top 400 averaged $92.6 million in capital gains income--16% of the total capital gains reported by all taxpayers." From that, Haden concludes:

    • Working for a salary won't make you rich.
    • Neither will making only safe "income" investments.
    • Neither will investing only in large companies.
    • Owning a business or businesses, whether in part or partnership, could build a solid wealth foundation

    The bottom line? You won't get rich without taking risks, and you probably won't become obscenely wealthy working for anyone besides yourself.

    Yes, there are exceptions.

    Here's the full article and Haden's analysis.

    Need some entrepreneurial inspiration? Here are 9 Ridiculous Ideas That Made People Ridiculously Rich >

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    0 0

    Bravo is shooting a reality TV show chronicling the life of tech entrepreneurs and moguls in Silicon Valley.

    This has a lot of people in Silicon Valley very, very upset.

    Not because they don't want their lives chronicled in the media — Silicon Valley techies are used to wooing the press to get coverage for their startups.

    They just aren't used to film crews showing up to parties, which are typically considered off the record, recording the antics of young twenty-somethings with millions of dollars in funding.

    Crews like the one in the photo below, which a tipster sent us from one of Silicon Valley's many parties.

    "I hate it, I see their stupid cameras everywhere," one Silicon Valley techie wrote in to us.

    silicon valley reality show recording crew

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    ouya box

    OUYA, a Kickstarter project for a $99 Android-powered game console that plugs into your television, went live at 9:00 a.m. eastern time yesterday — and it's already racked up more than $2.5 million in funding.

    In addition to running Android applications, OUYA is going to carry a ton of games that you can play for free. Developers, by default, have to make part of their games free to play.

    Instead of raising money through traditional venture capital means to build the console, which is difficult for a hardware company, OUYA decided to try and raise $950,000 on Kickstarter.

    It's since blown past that goal — at 9:30 a.m. eastern time, it had about $2.7 million in funding.

    Don't Miss: What It's Like Raising $1 Million In Less Than 10 Hours To Crush The Xbox

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    Historically, when deciding where to base their first US office, a European startup’s decision basically came down to the Bay Area or Boston – depending upon which customer segment they were serving. Up until recently, New York was nothing more than a fly over state or, at the very best, a satellite office with a small sales team.

    So why are some of Europe’s hottest startups now opening up their first US office just on the other side of the pond in NYC? Why are investors increasingly coming to NYC to find the newest and most innovative start-ups? These are the questions that we’d like to address in this post.

    Click here to read more >>

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    asteroids earth

    Private groups are shaping business plans to tap into the resource-rich environs of outer space.

    Early celestial targets with commercial cross hairs on them are the moon, as well as asteroids.

    While the financial backing, technology and entrepreneurial spirit to mine asteroids and other space targets is jelling, yet to be grappled with is a mix of thorny issues, such as property and mineral rights, ownership and possession, international treaties, as well as the big "C" — not for Cosmos, but for Capitalism.

    It’s true that in space nobody can hear you scream, but it's also assured that the voices from legal eagles will be soundly heard.

    A Space Resources Roundtable that convened here in June brought together experts to address off-Earth resources, private development and the legal issues ahead. The conference was convened by the Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium, in collaboration with Colorado School of Mines and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

    What route to mine space?

    "My lay take on space property and mineral rights is that there seem to be several potential routes that the evolution of such law could take," said Leslie Gertsch, deputy director of the Rock Mechanics & Explosives Research Center at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

    Gertsch told SPACE.com that legal experts appear divided on what route is most likely, increasing the current difficulty of making business plans for space. [Planetary Resources' Space Mining Plan (Gallery)]

    "The form that space law will finally take will depend on who has the guts and funds to start the process, what case it’s started with, where it is adjudicated — be it the U.S, Australia, Europe or Asia, for example —  and how the lawyers chose to argue their respective points during its course," Gertsch said. "When a major legal firm begins fully billed work, then I will sit up and take notice."

    Even this may happen several times, simultaneously or sequentially, Gertsch added, before legislation or treaties have become robust enough that businesses feel confident. "But that may not be in the near future," she said.

    When someone has prospected enough asteroid targets to start detailed mineral exploration, or someone else has characterized lunar deposits worth mining, maybe two to five years from now, Gertsch said, "then we will start to see activity by lawmakers and in the courts."

    Staking a claim

    On the frontlines of what next for space resource development is Gregory Nemitz, CEO of Orbital Development in Twin Falls, Idaho.

    It was Nemitz who sued NASA and the U.S. government over his property rights to asteroid433 Eros, a claim he made about 11 months before NASA landed its NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft on the space rock in February 2001.

    The claim was based in the first tenth of property law, which is ownership before actual possession. Centuries of law, Nemitz said, recognizes that a common law claim to something can be valid prior to possession.

    "Everybody knows that possession is nine-tenths of ownership," Nemitz told SPACE.com. "The primary purpose of the lawsuit was to get an official determination from the U.S. government about property rights in space. The secondary goal was to move forward the international conversation about that topic," he told attendees of the School of Mines meeting. [7 Strangest Asteroids in the Solar System]

    The first goal failed, Nemitz said. The federal court and the appeals court declined to examine the Nemitz claim for Eros and granted the state’s motion to dismiss on a technicality, "dismissed as a matter of law for lack of a cognizable legal theory."

    The issue of just how someone can make an officially recognizable claim on asteroids or other space resources was not adjudicated.

    The second goal was a success. In the last decade many aerospace-themed conferences have included space property rights as part of their discussions, Nemitz said.

    Extraction projects

    In the coming years, it's reasonable, normal and perfectly sound to make claims in space, Nemitz said.

    For an asteroid, plant a claim marker on the object, say, with a radio beacon. On the other hand, don’t go to the moon and claim the whole moon, perhaps just a 50,000-acre slice, something that is economically viable in size, he said.

    If you do that, eventually a regime of property rights will be invented, will be adopted, and probably grandfathered in within previous claims … because it will be the people that have those claims that will be clamoring to make a regime for property rights, Nemitz said.

    "Law follows the actions of people, it does not lead," he added.

    The focus today should center on achieving human-tended space resource extraction projects and let the law be developed to follow that lead, Nemitz said. Those persons, who arrive to the off-Earth places containing resources, will be the society that will someday define and establish the laws for protecting off-Earth property rights.

    "Today it is probably best to just carry forward with the engineering projects aiming to extract and use space resources and not worry too much about property rights," Nemitz said. "Property rights are officially recognized primarily to protect property from theft and vandalism. Space is vast and there aren’t any neighbors vying to steal your property, so don't worry too much about it."

    Nemitz said that there's need to embrace the old Zen rubric: "It is easier to receive forgiveness than permission."

    Digging deeper

    More discussion on mining claims contrasted to surface rights should be part of the dialogue, said Dale Boucher, director of innovation at the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) Inc. in Sudbury, Ontario. It is incumbent on governments to get together and create the regime in which space resource mining can take place, to enable economic activity, he added.

    "I don't think a big mining industry is really going to get involved unless that have some surety that they can make a profit," Boucher said. "They can't make a profit from it unless there is some regulatory regime in place that allows them do that … whether that's tax incentives or whether it’s a mining claim concept," he said.

    In terms of the United Nations playing a role, that organization requires consensus. "I don't see anything happening with consensus," Boucher said. "Maybe it really is going to be, let’s go out and do it and beg forgiveness instead of permission."

    In many ways, it’s the classic causality dilemma of the chicken or the egg, Boucher noted. He’s not sure which is going to come first: the regulatory framework or the actual economic activity.

    "But I think we’re on the cusp of both of those happening," Boucher said.

    Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on a person’s point of view, Boucher said, he’s sure that the legal minds will get involved. "I'm suggesting that maybe we need to dig a little deeper. No pun intended."

    More From Space.com:

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    Some entrepreneurs start out to create a company that they intend to spend their lives growing and maintaining. Others form startups with the expressed hope of being acquired by larger companies. If an acquisition is part of your exit strategy, you need to build your business with your buyer in mind.

    To find out what strategies helped real-life entrepreneurs negotiate their own acquisitions, we asked four successful young entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for their advice. Even if an acquisition isn’t on your radar yet, these tips can be helpful to you in getting - and keeping - a future buyer’s attention:

    Click here to read more >>

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    intern working

    In honor of renowned author Stephen Covey, who died this morning at age 79, we've decided to succinctly break down the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" from his all-time best-selling book, which sold 20 million copies. 

    Here's the short version, but we recommend you buy his book:

    1) Be Proactive

    As human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. We have the independent will to make our own choices and decisions, and the responsibility ("the ability to respond") to make the right choices. You have the freedom to choose your own fate and path, so having the independent will, imagination and self-awareness to make the right move makes you a proactive, and not a reactive, person.

    2) Begin With The End In Mind

    Mental visualization is extremely important. Covey says that all things are created twice: first, the mental conceptualization and visualization and a second physical, actual creation. Becoming your own creator means to plan and visualize what you're going to do and what you're setting out to accomplish and then go out and creating it. Identifying your personal statement and your principles will help.

    NOW READ: Jonah Lehrer Says That 'Grit' Is The Single-Most Important Predictor Of Success >

    3) Put First Things First

    With your power of independent will, you can create the ending you want to have. Part of that comes with effective time management, starting with matters of importance. Then tasks should be completed based on urgency after you deal with all the important matters. If you deal with crises, pressing problems and deadline-driven projects first, your life will be a lot easier.

    4) Think Win/Win

    If you believe in a better way to accomplish goals that's mutually beneficial to all sides, that's a win/win situation. "All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan," Covey wrote. "One person's success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others." If you have integrity and maturity, there's no reason win/win situations can't happen all the time.

    DON'T MISS: 26 Successful People Who Failed First >

    5) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

    If you're a good listener and you take the time to understand a concept, it will help you convey your opinions, plans and goals to others. It starts with communication and strong listening skills, followed by diagnosing the situation and then communicating your solution to others.

    6) Synergize

    Synergistic communication, according to Covey, is "opening your mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options." This applies to the classroom, the business world and wherever you could apply openness and communication. It's all about building cooperation and trust.

    7) Sharpen The Saw

    Sometimes you're working so hard on the other six habits that you forget about re-energizing and renewing yourself to sharpen yourself for the tasks in front of you. Some sharpening techniques include exercise and nutrition, reading, planning and writing, service and empathy and commitment, study and meditation.

    NOW READ: 54 Smart Thinkers Everyone Should Follow On Twitter >

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    mark zuckerberg

    The technology business is a high risk, high reward situation. 

    All CEOs and entrepreneurs are trying to figure out what people will want in the future while fighting off rivals who are just as smart, work just as hard, and have as much, if not more money.

    One slip up and you could easily nuke your company. But, if you make the right decision you could end up quite rich.

    We've taken a look at 10 tech decisions that seemed foolish at the time but ultimately worked out.

    Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion

    At the time $1.65 billion was a huge amount of money for an unproven startup. YouTube was on shaky legal footing, since content providers like Universal and CBS were crying copyright infringement, it had no revenue, and it appeared as though it would be a money pit using crazy amounts of bandwidth.

    Today that all seems silly. YouTube is one of the premier properties on the web. Google is believed to be generating $3 billion in revenue from the site on an annual basis. And YouTube has made most content providers happy by removing copyrighted content.



    Twitter rejects Facebook's $500 million offer

    In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg saw Twitter coming on strong and was worried it would be a threat to Facebook. He offered $500 million to take it out.

    Twitter's execs rejected the deal for a few reasons. They wanted to build their own independent company. Also, Facebook was offering stock which wasn't that appealing.

    In the end, rejecting Facebook was the smart choice. Twitter's currently valued somewhere between $8 and $10 billion.



    Early Pandora employees worked for two years before getting a cent of compensation

    Pandora's early employees worked without pay for two and a half years, reported MarketWatch. The company even considered gambling at local casinos to stay afloat because it struggled to find investment.

    Last year, Pandora IPO'd, raising $234.9 million. Today it's a $1.75 billion company.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    exec co-founders justin kan

    Ever wanted to volunteer for a charity, but never had enough time?

    Now you can hire someone to do charity work for you with Exec, a Y Combinator backed startup.

    Exec is a startup that lets you hire "execs" for an hourly fee to complete tasks, like assembling a table or picking up a package.

    Exec isn't strictly based on charity work. It's just doing this as a promotion to raise awareness about its service. This is a surprisingly crowded field. TaskRabbit and Zaarly are two other startups that let you hire someone to run errands for you.

    Exec is led by Justin Kan, who also founded Justin.tv, another Y Combinator company that's seen a lot of success since re-branding to streaming video games as Twitch.tv.

    We caught up with Kan to find out why they went this route. Here's what we learned:

    • It's just a test-run to find out if it's popular. If there's a lot of traction, then Exec will consider moving it to new cities.
    • It's not really lazy activism. Essentially it's like donating money to a charity, except you know the tangible impact of your donation to that charity because you're hiring a helping hand.
    • Still, it's a funny and fun idea that could have a lot of impact. The idea came from a post on Facebook from one of Kan's friends.

    Here's a lightly-edited transcript of the interview:

    BI: How are things going with Exec?

    JUSTIN KAN: Things are going really well, it's growing, just picked up a bunch of new customers. Dropbox is using us, we're still trying to figure out if we're gonna expand. We're doing a promotion this week that we're pretty excited about. We're gonna allow people to pay for someone to volunteer for them at local San Francisco charities. We figured that was an interesting angle that hadn't been done before. We want to make it a regular thing, give back every couple of months, so the latest idea that my friends actually had, he thought of it on Facebook and posted in on Facebook.

    BI: What do you mean working on a charity?

    JK: We'll let you choose from a couple charities. We think we can uses an exec to do something in person like working on events, like dinners. For example, you can also hire an Exec to work an after-school program.

    BI: Worried people might just consider this another form of lazy activism?

    JK: I think that's definitely something that people will ask, but you are donating money. It's better than liking something on Facebook and not doing anything after that

    "It's better than liking something on Facebook and not doing anything after that."

    . You're putting your money where your mouth is. We've pre-vetted the charities, and we're just using ones that were qualified to use Exec at the time. We talked to them to make sure it's useful to them. It does fit that angle, it's better than doing nothing.

    BI: Do you think this is a one-time thing or do you plan on doing it often?

    JK: We're gonna run it for a month and see, charities are pretty locally specific to San Francisco. So when we launch other places we're going to have to figure out different ones. A couple of other charities asked me, they're interested in us coming to other cities. If people actually like it and it's an idea that resonates with other people, if it's just something that's more interesting, then we'll figure out some other stuff we can do. 

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    Jill Dodenfeld

    Jill Donenfeld began writing the business plan for her private chef service The Culinistas — formerly The Dish's Dish — just three days after graduating from Columbia University.

    Six years later, the 27-year-old's company has attracted high-profile clients such as Neil Patrick Harris, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Kardashians.

    The weekly home catering business is now available in New York City, the Hamptons, Los Angeles, Malibu, and recently, Chicago.

    For just $300 plus the cost of groceries, the Culinistas will do the work for you. After the client completes a checklist online, which details the items available in the kitchen and the customer's needs and wants, the chefs create a tailor-made menu for them. They'll do the grocery-shopping for you, come to your home, prepare meals for the week, properly store and label food in plastic containers, and clean up the kitchen.

    As an undergraduate, Donenfeld worked as a private chef for the family she babysat for.

    "One thing kind of led to another, and all of a sudden, there were maybe four families I was cooking for," she told Gothamist. She went on to complete an apprenticeship with pastry chef Karen DeMasco, author of "The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own" and wrote restaurant reviews for Time Out New York.

    Donenfeld said that a mixture of her rural upbringing and city life inspired her to start the business.

    "It was the perfect storm of growing up in Ohio and eating dinner with my family every night, moving to New York City for college and falling in love with the myriad cuisines available in the city, topped off with a healthy lack of understanding for how difficult it is to run a successful business." 

    Donenfeld started the business with just $5,000 of her personal money and had a make-shift office in the back of a hardware store. Because she funded the startup on her own, a business plan wasn't necessary to acquire additional funding, but she still felt it was an essential tool.

    "I created the business plan as a road map for myself," she said. "My main goal was to help people eat more consciously."

    "There's a lot you can do without money. If, as an entrepreneur, you depend on money to grow your business, then you're probably going to run into big issues. Starting your own business is about being creative and making it work however you can because you so strongly believe in your idea that it powers everything."

    Donenfeld promoted her business through word-of-mouth referrals and emailing media professionals. She also had a handful of connections through her apprenticeship and stint as a restaurant reviewer.

    The young entrepreneur spends a significant amount of time focusing on interviewing the right people to join her team.

    "The interview process is the single most important part of my job," Donenfeld said. "First I sit down with each chef to gauge their interpersonal skills and to get a sense of their backgrounds and their goals. If that goes well, we go through a cooking interview that sort of mirrors the service."

    "Everything is judged from the minute they walk in the door—from how they present themselves to their prep work to the skill and creativity that goes into each dish. I also look at the intangibles like comfort in a new environment. It all matters when you are cooking in someone else's home."

    There are currently six chefs in NYC, four in Chicago and three in Los Angeles.

    The majority of clients employing Culinistas' services are families and busy, working professionals. Molly Schoneveld, who works in celebrity and lifestyle public relations, is a happy client:

    "Jill's service makes something that's really luxurious—having a personal chef—affordable," she told the Los Angeles Times. "You have to pick a week when you're really going to be home to enjoy it."

    Donenfeld is currently focusing strictly on spearheading catered events and dinner parties, an area she hopes to expand on in the future. Regardless of how famous the client is, Donenfeld no longer makes house visits to cook. "The only person I would break this rule for is Steve Martin," she says.

    She co-authored a book with longtime Culinista chef Josetth Gordon, "Party Like a Culinista: Fresh Recipes, Bold Flavors, and Good Friends," which gives people advice on how to throw dinner parties for a variety of different occasions. During a five-month trip to Madagascar, she also wrote the book "Mankafy Sakafo: Delicious Meals From Madagascar," which documents Donenfeld's food journey and the recipes she collected throughout different regions of the island.

    Donenfeld plans to improve the business by maintaining a steady stream of clients and expanding to other demographic areas. Her track record proves that she isn't afraid to try new things.

    "When clients ask us to cook things we haven't done before, we learn how," she said. "Sometimes we get some crazy requests—but we don't cook and tell."

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    matt debergalis meteor

    Building a startup is hard.

    But there's a new trend in startups coming out that make it much easier to make an application.

    The latest example is Y Combinator graduate Meteor — which just raised $11.2 million in funding from big-time investors like Andreessen Horowitz. It's a startup that specializes in speeding up the process of making an app.

    Meteor takes away a lot of the technical challenges of building a rich web experience with live updates — like comments on Facebook, or a Twitter feed or collaboration service like Asana — by packaging it into a single piece of software you can drop into any app.

    Now a less-technical developer can access those really complicated features that users essentially demand, thanks to Facebook, without having to spend months developing them.

    We caught up with co-founder Matt Debergalis to find out why Meteor just received a huge round of funding. Here's what we learned:

    • Startups typically spend a lot of time building protocols and software for their applications, and not the actual applications. For example, a small team might spend months building the underlying architecture for a live commenting system on photos, like what you might find on Facebook.
    • Meteor essentially takes away that development time. All these protocols are available through Meteor, so app developers don't have to spend a ton of time building them from scratch. They can focus on building the actual service.
    • With Meteor, you don't need to be a coding genius to build an app any more. All you need is a little bit of experience with JavaScript and a good idea. Meteor handles the rest.
    • After building an open-source community, Meteor plans on building a programming infrastructure for enterprise companies. That's a pretty typical route with most open source projects.

    Here's a lightly-edited transcript of the interview: 

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Tell me a little bit about Meteor.

    MATT DEBERGALIS: We're building is a new platform for writing rich client applications, things like the photo-viewer in Facebook or Quora or other sites that actually run inside the browser as a program. That's a big break form the old model, where you would build a website that ran in a distant web server far away from the user that would deliver a rendered page to the browser. The reason this is happening is the same reason we moved from the mainframes in the 70s and 80s to desktop software on Windows  — you can build a richer interface, a more fluid experience for the user, if the software is physically right next to he person using the software.

    With the rise of mobile devices where we have powerful computers in peoples' pockets and the rise of JavaScript which has become this industry standard powered by massive investments for Apple, Microsoft and others, we now have a platform where we can move away from that web era where software was far away where we had these static interfaces. The reason Facebook invested in that, for example, is so you can swipe through photos and see comments popping up in real time.

    BI: What kind of pain point are you attacking? 

    MD: Because the technique is new and because the infrastructure doesn't exist yet, building those rich web services takes teams of experts months to build today. Only larger companies like Twitter and Quora and Asana, people who are well-funded, can do that. Your typical developer is left between a rock and a hard place because users expect the interface to be fluid and interactive like Facebook. It's a technique that's difficult for a developer and small team to master. Meteor is the first off the shelf answer to that problem. It ties together all the techniques and technologies to build the rich applications so the weekend coder and typical developer can focus on the application, not the ni tty gritty

    "It ties together all the techniques and technologies to build the rich applications so the weekend coder and typical developer can focus on the application, not the nitty gritty."

    .

    BUSINESS INSIDER: What do you mean by "techniques"?

    MD: Here's the challenge: if someone makes a change on a site like website, how do we get that information on to everyone else's screen. You might have a million people using that app if it's successful, everyone is using that information. To write software like that you have to build a bunch of programs that coordinate the traffic, you invest in protocol that allows your client to coordinate with the server you wrote, which is your air traffic controller, and the server decides which data to send to which people. You're investing a whole layer to connect those things and forced to come up with a solution on how to tell each client when their data is out of date, and keep every single interface up to date.

    For example, that's why we have the rise of new programming languages like Node.js. That's good at allowing every client to keep an open connection to the server. But to write those protocols you have to be good at JavaScript, and good at some server side language like Ruby or Python,  and you have to be able to design a protocol. You end up building a miniature database inside your client because you want to be able to store data and cache it so the client is quick and fluid. Those kinds of problems have nothing to do with the app you're trying to build, it's just complex software everyone has to write. That's what meteor does off the shelf.

    A good analogy is the relational database. Before Oracle provided a database you could buy, any software you wrote you had to include that functionality by hand. Companies used to hire database hands that would build fragile database systems tied to applications. But once we had this off the shelf SQL technology, every developer could start with that off the shelf instead of focusing on the nitty gritty of figuring out how and when to put information on a disk.

    BI: How does this help a startup?

    MD: If you want to develop an idea as quickly as you can and you're a small team, you want to iterate and try it out and see how people that feel. If the beginning of that process is a month of underlying technical work and you don't have any product to show for it, you're in a tough spot. Meteor lets a startup iterate their product in days instead of weeks or months. It lets people immediately works with graphic design, with a rich application. Meteor is a technology that lets a graphic designer begin building a complete application. It levels the playing field and it lets a single designer or an artist to be able to construct that next blockbuster app.

    BI: Tell me a little bit about your team.

    MD: There are three of us, we're all hackers. We've done some projects that all ran into this problem. The reason we wrote meteor is that we struggled with exactly what I described, spending months building the underpinnings of applications because we want these kinds of interfaces. We thought this was an opportunity with the growing acceptance of JavaScript, it was time to bring an off-the-shelf solution that we could put together as a product that would let any developer use those same techniques to the table. We went through YC last summer, we've been working on Meteor for just about a year.

    BI: You just raised a huge chunk of cash. What are you going to use it for?

    meteor updateMD: The reason we wanted to work with Andreessen Horowitz and Matrix Partners is that they are experts at taking successful open source technologies into the enterprise. Andreessen Horowitz has made some high-profile commitments to developer-centric technologies, we think they're a great fit. Marc Andreessen basically invented the web. It's a firm that I think is patient and understands the value of a vibrant open source community.

    The first thing we're gonna do is use this to continue to grow the Meteor project, an open source project that anyone can use for free and modify it how they want. We ant to help the community grow. That means we're going to do whatever we can do to help people build the meteor project — find jobs, build apps, all these things successful to an open source ecosystem.

    In the long term, the funding will help build product that commercial enterprises need so they can integrate Meteor into their existing IT infrastructure. The challenge with the enterprise is you have requirements around how you want to allocate computing resources. Those are products we can develop around the Meteor core that we can sell to the enterprise. The team we've put together has done this repeatedly. We have to be patient and focused on the open source project, once you have that, we have to figure out how to take that technology into the enterprise, which has this very different set of interests.

    BI: How does this fit into the big push into mobile? 

    MD: You see applications built for all these platforms at the same time. You may build a native mobile application for iOS or Android, and you're usually gonna have an HTML5 equivalent. The real problem is how to have a consistent architecture that lets you share data across those two things at the same time and how you do it in a way that saves engineering time. Meteor is a bunch of individual packages that fit together. It's designed to plug your native mobile application into the exact same server as your HTML5/desktop application and have a consistent standard protocol, so when you make a change on your phone or your native app, it appears on the desktop.

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    dermandar 1

    Silicon Valley can never have too many photo-sharing apps.

    Now one of the latest trending apps is Dermandar's DMD Panorama, a photo-sharing application that rapidly takes panoramic shots of your surroundings.

    It's available for both the iPhone and Android devices.

    It's one of the fastest panoramic photo apps we've seen, stitching together a 360-degree shot in about 20 seconds.

    It's also one of the slickest interfaces we've seen, and has a good sense of where to stitch photos together to get a full shot.

    If you're a camera enthusiast, the app is free for now, and it's worth checking out. We've included a full walkthrough below.

    Here we go! You have to hold your camera vertically, because that's how it takes photos.



    You can add a flash or adjust the focus, like any camera app.



    Once it's vertical, it'll take the first shot



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    aaron levie 400 300

    Box, an enterprise cloud storage provider, is raising another financing round after already raising $162 million that would value it at a whopping $1.2 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    That would put it in the small, exclusive club of billion-dollar startups in Silicon Valley. It's yet another enterprise startup to achieve a valuation over $1 billion — showing a lot of excitement over those kinds of startups.

    For example, enterprise social network Yammer sold to Microsoft for $1.2 billion last month.

    Business Insider first reported the new funding round was approaching when CEO Aaron Levie met with bankers in New York in late May. Box just finished raising $81 million in October last year.

    A new funding round would make sense. Box has been on a marketing blitz and spends a ton of money trying to build it up as a hip brand and startup.

    Box bought a bunch of billboards along highways and gives away a ton of free online storage space. It also paid $1 million to change its name from Box.net to just "Box."

    We even hear from one source that the company tried to run a Superbowl ad at one point, but ran out of time to produce the ad. We hear it hasn't ruled out that as an option in the future.

    (To be fair, Dropbox, a consumer-oriented competitor, has raised more than $250 million. But Dropbox is also seen to have a bigger brand and a higher valuation than Box.)

    Citrix Systems actually tried to buy Box around September last year for a price that was above $500 million, multiple sources familiar with the deal told Business Insider.

    Box has a burn of about $1.5 million monthly on about $25 million in revenue annually — although we heard those numbers in November and they could have changed since then. When we reached out, a Box spokesperson said they were not numbers the company publicly commented on.

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    tikhon bernstam

    Remember Instagram?

    It's a photo-sharing application that sold to Facebook for $1 billion after rocketing to tens of millions of users in the span of a few months.

    As simple as it sounds, it can be technically challenging to build an app like that. But with a startup called Parse, you can build it in a half hour.

    Parse gives app developers a way to build an app that looks and feels great. Instead of wasting time coding the technical necessities like Facebook connectivity and push notifications, Parse users can drag and drop the functions right into their apps.

    Parse powers some of the most popular apps in the world, including Band of the Day — a runner-up for App of the Year on Apple's App Store, in a batch of more than 400,000 other applications. It's used by 20,000 mobile developers—and that number grows 40 percent monthly.

    We caught up with Parse co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, a two-time graduate from Y Combinator, to find out how easy it was to build an Instagram clone. Here's what we learned:

    • Using Parse, you can build a copy of Instagram in a half hour. All the important bits — like adding a camera function and a sharing function for photos — are baked in to Parse.
    • It works for other apps that use pretty common functions, too. Geolocation is baked in to Parse, so it's easy to build a clone of Pinwheel in a half hour too.
    • Parse has 25,000 apps built on its platform. Around 20,000 developers use Parse, and that number is growing quickly.

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you tell me a little bit about Parse?

    TIKHON BERNSTAM: Mobile app development is traditionally really hard, the whole mission of Parse is to make mobile app development much much easier. There aren't a lot of good examples of open-sourced sophisticated apps like this. We're hoping to show how easy it is to build huge hit apps like that. We're at over 25,000 apps on the platform, at Parse.com/gallery we're building a gallery of some of the coolest, interesting apps on Parse right now.

    parse anypicBI: So what's this promotion exactly?

    TB: We're launching a Parse-powered clone of the smash hit Instagram and showing with a tutorial showing how you can go from scratch to Instagram in just 30 minutes. Before Parse, that was impossible, it would have taken you much longer — at least a few weeks. We're actually open sourcing the app and all the code and hoping to spur innovation in photo sharing. 

    We're huge fans on Instagram, and this is not exactly the same thing, it's a great basis for anyone to go start their own photo-sharing app. Parse is handling a lot of the problems that are really difficult. The user authentication, uploading photos, server configuration, the servers handle all this logic. All this stuff you no longer have to do with Parse, we're trying to showcase the power of the platform.

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Why Instagram?

    TB: We'd seen quite a few apps on Parse already doing some parts of photo-sharing. There's obviously been a lot of interest in this space since the acquisition if Instagram, and we just wanted to show the flexibility of Parse. They've done a great job, it's obviously no small feat, and getting 50 million users is not trivial.

    Our goal here isn't to make money off anything, it's more to showcase the platform and how quickly you can get something really cool up and running on Parse. That's the point. We're hoping to spur more interesting stuff in this photo-sharing sector. We're gonna fork the code on GitHub, we hope people build their own thing.

    BI: Can you give me some other examples of apps you can quickly build on Parse?

    TB: We've actually built a couple smaller ones. We built one called AnyWall, a geolocation game, it's a lot like Caterina Fake's app called Pinwheel, you can drop a note anywhere and someone else has to be within a certain distance to see the note. You can drop a note at a restaurant. You can have that up and running in less than a half hour. We've already seen a lot of developers fork that and make extra additions to it.

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    chicken rooster

    I don’t get angry very often, but here’s something that managed to really push my buttons.

    Around America the same phenomena are occurring:  In some of the nation’s poorest towns, it’s becoming illegal to be resilient.

    This is absurd! The people who need to harness the power of self-reliance the most are being denied the freedom to do so, by towns that are wedded to a dysfunctional past.

    Take this man for example: Jason Canfield.

    Jason is a homeowner in Holland Township.  Holland Township is one of the smaller towns in rural Michigan with a per capita income of only $16,000.  That’s about 50% of the per capita income of the average American (a level of income that hasn’t changed in 38 years! This means we’ve been going down the wrong path for quite a while).

    Jason wants to become more self-reliant.  He wants to increase his family’s food security and improve his future.  To accomplish this goal, Jason started small by deciding to raise chickens and turkeys to feed his family.

    What happened next is shockingly perverse. Due to pressure from his fellow neighbors, the Township is now forcing Jason to get rid of his entire coop of 26 chickens and 3 turkeys.

    It appears that there’s antiquated suburban legislation in place that prevents him from being self-reliant.  The town has a zoning ordinance that decrees that raising chickens on less than five acres of land is illegal.  The specific act of raising chickens is considered a “farming activity” that can only be executed on plots of land five acres or larger and specifically zoned for farming.

    Seriously? This ordinance essentially means that being productive or engaging in economic self-help is a against the law unless you own land that is five acres or bigger.

    What makes this particularly counter-productive is that in higher socio-economic US communities — areas with family incomes three times higher than Holland Township — there are zero restrictions on raising chickens.

    Here’s what I have to say to the Holland Township and other towns like it:

    DON’T make resilience a crime based on notions of what a home and community used to be in a fading industrial era.

    Instead, do the opposite. Make it easy community members to produce the food, energy, water, and other essential resources. Create the platforms that allow members of the community to easily grow and sell what they produce. Embrace sustainability and the prosperity it offers.

    What happened to Victory Gardens?

    Remember when nearly everyone was encouraged to produce more of what they needed locally?  Here’s an image of one of Boston’s many victory gardens during WW2. (Boston Common, 1944)

     Boston

    It’s incredible how quickly and how easily people in developing countries decided to forgo their rights to economic independence at the individual and community level.   It’s also amazing to wonder how long it will take to regain this independence  as financial turbulence and environmental disruptions increase in frequency and severity. The silver lining is that we can produce almost everything we need at the local level better than we do at the global level right now.  All it takes is a conscious effort to do so…

    Making Products Locally

    Lots of people don’t get the degree of transformation underway in manufacturing the products we use on a day to day basis.

    They look at 3D printers and the things they make as toys.  Granted, it does look that way.  Here are some items produced locally by the “Rep Rap Vision.” An open hardware project by Matt Underwood in Mahomet, Illinois (the project was completely funded using Kickstarter — Awesome!)

     Widgets

    The ability to manufacture products locally is going to get much better in the immediate future.  Remember, not too long ago the products we bought from China and Japan looked very similar to the ones above.

     

    They don’t anymore…  Just something to think about.

    Your Resilient Communities Analyst,

    John Robb

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