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The latest news on Entrepreneurship from Business Insider

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    jessica scorpio getaround

    Getaround, a car-sharing startup, just announced that it is raising $13.9 million in its first round of funding, which includes the likes of Marissa Mayer, Shervin Pishevar and Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors.

    Getaround has been around for just about a year but hadn't yet raised a lot of money like most startups. That's changing today.

    With Getaround, a car owner can make money renting out their car to a pre-screened driver. Most Getaround renters make about $350 each month. (Think about it like Airbnb for cars.)

    So far there are 10,000 people sharing cars on Getaround (though the company doesn't share how many people are renting those 10,000 cars). It's only available in four cities: Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Austin.

    In addition to raising money, it's starting a new business called Getaway, which will let car owners rent their cars for extended periods of time. Getaround will handle the cleaning and maintenance costs, making it great for owners who are leaving for extended periods of time — like traveling abroad.

    Co-founder Jessica Scorpio has a mission to keep a billion cars off the road by using the cars that are already available, but sitting unused. Getaway is another big push for that.

    We caught up with co-founder Jessica Scorpio to find out what they're going to do with that big pile of money. Here's what we learned:

    • Getaway users are expected to make $1,000 each month. For now, Getaround is looking for participants who can rent their car out for a full six months.
    • Getaround builds all its hardware in-house. That means the GPS tracking system and methods for locking and unlocking the car are produced at the office in San Francisco. This really impressed a lot of their investors.
    • Getaround is focused on revolutionizing transportation — not just with cars. Vehicles were the logical place to start, but it could easily expand into other forms of transportation. Think of it like an operating system for getting from point A to point B.

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

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you give me a breakdown of what Getaround is?

    JESSICA SCORPIO: Three years ago, challenged by Larry Page, I had to come up with an idea to positively impact a billion people in ten years. There are a billion cars on the planet that sit idle 22 hours a day, so we basically started solving a problem called car overpopulation. We created Getaround to allow people to make use of what's already available.

    We officially launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York last year, when we won the audience award and grand prize. We are basically a marketplace that enables people to share cars with others nearby; anything form a Toyota Prius to a Tesla Roadster. Our owners make around $350 each month, and every month we have people making more than $1000, which offsets the cost of ownership. Getaround provides the insurance, we do driver screening to make sure people are good drivers, that's the usual background.

    getaround technologyBI: And you guys just raised a big pile of money, too?

    JS: We're announcing a $13.9 million Series A funding. There is a great list of investors, including Shervin Pishevar, Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's new CEO, Ashton Kutcher and Innovation Endeavors, (Google co-founder) Eric Schmidt's investment arm. We're proud to have them on board with our mission of disrupting the transportation industry. We're super-focused on three main things: continued expansion into this market, exploring partnerships that will enrich the car-sharing experience, and continuing to develop our in-house technology project. We're currently in four cities. Pishevar will be joining our board with this round, too.

    BI: What exactly is the mission of Getaround?

    JS: Our mission is to make every vehicle a shared one. In general, we are going to be a marketplace for sharing and making transportation more efficient. Right now we're focused on cars.

    BI: Anything else coming with this announcement?

    JS: I should bring up our second announcement: Getaway, a first of its kind service. Basically, Getaway is something a bunch of people approached us and asked for; it lets car owners share their cars full-time with Getaway managing the entire process. With Getaround, normally if you just list your car on the site as a car owner, you set pricing, availability, and accept requests — you're still using it on a regular basis, though. For Getaway, it's an opportunity for people who can't manage their own car to maximize the potential of their car. We expect people to make about $1,000 a month. It's great for people who are traveling abroad, people who are going on deployment in the military or have a car they really don't use. We're gonna be testing it in Chicago and San Francisco.

    BI: Where did the idea for Getaway come from?

    JS: We had tons of owners across the country who approached us saying they loved the Getaround idea and the service but they wouldn't be able to manage the rentals themselves. One customer, for example, went on a three-month extended honeymoon in Asia. He looked at options for his car, he had to hire someone to have his car in good working order. He approached us, and we were testing Getaway at the time, and in his first month he was able to make about $1,000 using Getaway.

    Basically, there are all these different people who have cars that they park and store and barely use. Getaround takes on responsibility to clean it, maintain it, manage the rental. He would park it in a central location. When this goes live, people can apply at Getaround.com; we're initially testing it in Beta. People all over the country are encouraged to apply because we're hoping to expand. We're really looking for vehicles we know will be successful and make good money for the owners, in general we're looking for cars with under 100,000 miles that are 5 years old or newer. We're looking for vehicles that are available for at least 6 months, it's definitely a different set of cars.

    BI: What about technology? You guys build your hardware in-house, right? 

    "When we initially met Mayer at TechCrunch Disrupt last year, one of the reasons she loved Getaround was that we early-on invested in hardware."

    JSWe are constantly improving the technology, we build the Getaround car kit in house. We're gonna continue to do that. This funding will support and continue development, but we raised a good amount of money before this. We don't run out of car kits, we have plenty available — it's up to the owner whether they want to install a car kit or exchange keys with drivers. When we initially met Mayer at TechCrunch Disrupt last year, one of the reasons she loved Getaround was that we early-on invested in hardware. She thought that was a great idea and a great investment.

    One other really exciting thing we're launching is a new feature called Instant Rental. You unlock the car with your smartphone so you don't have to do the key hand off. The renter can get secure access to the vehicle immediately with Instant Rental. All the Getaway cars are equipped with a Getaround car kit, which has GPS features, and they'll all have Instant Rental.

    Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Web site wireframes

    At a time when four to five billion people will soon connect to the Internet through mobile devices, talented user-interface and product designers have become a critical part of of successful technology companies.

    Some founders of the hottest startups in the world began their careers at university design programs. Airbnb's Brian Chesky went to the Rhode Island School of Design, for example.

    Meanwhile thousands of other designers do great work at larger companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

    So, which school are the ones that prepare their students best to excel in this field?

    We've canvassed a number of top venture capitalists, designers and professionals to assemble a preliminary list, but we want your help in figuring out which schools help you in the one thing that really matters: the amount the school will help your future career.

    All these schools have comparable high-quality academics, smart professors, and great campuses. But some of them have a direct line to working at some of the best technology and design firms in the world.

    Please take 10 minutes to answer the questions below.  In a few weeks, we'll reveal the new definitive list of the World's Best Design Schools.

    Keep in mind the list is not comprehensive — if there's a college missing, add it below!

    Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    doctors in white lab coats

    Jeff Stibel, a brain scientist and author tells Harvard Business Review that if you have four specific symptoms, you suffer from a common ailment.

    Do you have it?

    Better to find out sooner rather than later.

    Do you wake up before your alarm goes off, hop out of bed excited to go to work?



    Do you race to the car, forgetting breakfast, your morning coffee, and the paper?



    Halfway to work, do you look down, realize you forgot to shower, shave, or get dressed?



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.


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    Coffee Talk

    This article originally appeared on American Express Open Forum.

    Networking is important for any business for a number of reasons. Whether you're seeking out contacts that could help fuel your company, looking for industry advice from experts in the field, or on the prowl for a business partner, there's no better way to achieve your overall goal than networking.

    Networking can serve as a lifeline for some businesses, which is why these relationships are important to cultivate. Keep in mind that networking doesn't begin or end at a networking event. Networking can be done anywhere; at a bookstore, over lunch, during a conference or in your office kitchen.

    "It's a common misconception that simply attending a networking event will bring you new business right away," says Ivan Misner and David Alexander, authors of "Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections." They also added that neither will reading books. Like most skills, you only learn with practice.

    Networking Is Just The Beginning: Attending one event or handing out a few cards isn't enough. To really put your all into networking, you've got to go the extra mile. "Some people go to the chamber of commerce mixer, exchange a few business cards, then say, 'There, I've networked'," says Misner and Alexander. "Wrong. That's only the beginning. You have to attend a variety of events to broaden your network base."

    Follow-Up: Networking provides the connection, but follow-ups provide the bridge. Without the bridge, there's no way to get from one place to the next. "A contact that you do not follow-up with is a contact that will never become a part of your network," the co-authors say. "There will be no business—no sales, no referrals, no meeting the powerful CEO he knows—unless you follow through."

    Comb Through Old Emails: So you've got an inbox with 3,000 old messages? You might want to dig through them. The smallest thing, like an old press release you junked, could give a connection to a firm or business you're interested in. By going through old emails, you might also come across contacts you forgot you'd had. Organize your inbox, sent items and archives to weed out potential contacts.

    Utilize Networking Apps: Networking apps make the process easier for you, so you should take advantage of the them. The CardMuch app easily turns business cards into contacts; Happening finds networking events in your area; Hashable allows you to create virtual business cards.

    Always Have Business Cards: As mentioned previously, you never know when you're going to run into someone, so have a handful in your wallet for quick distributing. When at an event, this is a given. Hand two business cards to anyone you meet; one for them, and one for someone he or she may want to pass it off to. Most likely, they will return the gesture and give you two as well. This essentially multiplies the number of people who could potentially contact you for business.

    Take Notes: On the back of business cards, write down quick notes about your interaction with the person. Did they mention they were looking for graphic designers who specialize in logo design? Or that they recently adopted a puppy? Write that down. In your follow-up, you could mention someone you know who designs logos and ask how that puppy is doing.

    Get A Networking Partner: This less common practice is similar to referral networking, with a much larger commitment and loyalty. Find someone also networking, whether it be a friend in an unrelated field or a colleague from work, and exchange a stack of business cards. Make it a priority to bring up your networking partner's name when it is relevant, and he will do the same for you. If your networking partner was a logo designer, you'd give his card to the person who mentioned he was looking for one.

    Take A Chance, Reach Out To Them:  You don't have to physically meet a person to network with them. If the person you'd like to chat with has a blog or wrote an article you liked, reach out to them. The worst thing that could happen is they say no or don't give a reply. The best things that could happen are virtually limitless.

    SEE ALSO:

    How to successfully follow up with prospective clients > 

    The best way to socialize with colleagues and prospective clients > 

    GUY KAWASAKI: If you want to innovate, you've got to be willing to polarize people >  

    Please follow War Room on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Google BBS

    If you're trying to get a job as a software engineer, you're more likely to be hired by learning just one programming language and mastering it, according to a former Googler on Quora.

    That's despite the existence of a huge number of programming languages. You don't want to be okay at every language, and should instead focus on mastering a single language if you want to work at a technology company, Leo Polovets writes on Quora.

    For example, if you want to work at Google, many products there are typically coded in Java, according to another former Google employee.

    So if you really want that software engineering job at Google, or really any tech company, start brushing up on the company's most-commonly used programing language, Polovets writes.

    It isn't just about mastering a programming language though. You should master different skills of building a technology product, like user experience and infrastructure in addition to the typical ferreting out of bugs and development, he writes.

    Here's the full post from Quora:

    Become awesome at one language -- you'll stand out much more than being pretty good with a bunch of languages.

    Most software teams use 1-2 languages for the majority of their work. Which of the following do you think they would prefer?

    • You know their most-used programming language like the back of your hand.
    • You kind of know their most-used programming language, but hey, you also know a little bit of Haskell and Scala and Python and ML?

    I can assure you that as an employer, #1 is much more appealing than #2. (Of course, being an expert with several languages is even more appealing, but it's not expected when you're just finishing your studies.)

    As an analogy, think about picking players for an elite basketball team. Do you want 5 jacks-of-all-trades, or would you rather have an amazing forward, a terrific center, and the best point guard in the league? The first team would be solid, but the second team would be incredible.

    That said, your best programming language should not be the only thing you focus on. Try to be great at one (or more) software skills: algorithms, software design/architecture, UI/UX, database design, etc. An uncommon combination of 2-3 skills that you're really good at makes you a very attractive candidate for lots of jobs.

    Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

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    yardsale founders

    In 1999, eBay had one of the most vibrant communities of local sellers, who would often hand-write notes for the items they sold and took special care of each other.

    Fast forward to 2012, and it's more or less been replaced by Craigslist. The wonder around local selling has essentially evaporated, with eBay now focusing on power sellers.

    Enter Yardsale, a new app for selling things locally that ran through the Summer 2011 Y Combinator program. After launching just weeks ago, the app picked up more than 100,000 installs and is going straight after eBay and other peer-to-peer local sales services.

    You can download the app here.

    We caught up with co-founders Ed McManus and Ryan Mickle to find out what's happening at Yardsale. Here's what we found out:

    • Within 2 weeks of coming out of beta, the app was installed more than 100,000 times. The app has a four-star rating and was ranked in the top-50 lifestyle apps when it launched in early July, according to AppData.
    • Sales usually happen within 10 to 15 minutes. More often than not, the seller is only a few block away. But you can sell to someone within 200 miles, according to the app.
    • You can literally sell anything. That can range from a car, to a boat, to a pair of Justin Bieber tickets, which apparently sold for $1,200. That's going straight for Craigslist's jugular.

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

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Tell me a little bit about yourselves.

    Ed McManus: Right after school I joined Scribd, I was there for around two and a half years. We worked on the core technology powering the site. I left about two years ago and started exploring ideas, launched a few side projects.

    Ryan Mickle: I'm an early eBay user since back in '99, left management consulting about 5 or 6 years ago to come back to Silicon Valley. I went to school in Berkeley and was dying to come back. I was doing consulting on product. I was working with a couple Y Combinator companies and a couple clients, and that was around the time I met Ed and came up with Yardsale and wanted to go after it.

    "It's one of those rare opportunities where you're surrounded by people who make you feel like you're totally out of your league."

     

    BI: You guys went through Y Combinator, correct?

    RM: We were in the Summer 2011 batch. It was amazing, we really enjoyed it, it's one of those rare opportunities where you're surrounded by people who make you feel like you're totally out of your league. You just wake up and want to push yourself harder. We left Y Combinator last summer and made the choice to put our heads back down and just crank on the product with the desire to make it really, really great. That's pretty unconventional for Y Combinator, it's more difficult than jumping right into a launch as quickly as possible. We chose to be under the radar, getting Yardsale to the point that we thought it would work. 

    BI: How'd you guys settle on the idea? 

    EM: We were thinking about how back in 1999 on eBay there was this really incredible community. Most people would hand-write notes to each other, there was something vibrant and incredible about that community. It's likely due to the economics of the web, but in order to scale you had to focus on the power sellers and effectively abandon the community. When we thought of the opportunities on mobile, we wanted to recreate that community and scale buying and selling for those individuals.

    BI: How does this differ from eBay?

    EM: We set out to create the easiest way to buy and sell things to your neighbors. On Craigslist, the market is riddled with fraud, and eBay has a high barrier for entry. We heard from a lot of eBay sellers that reputation that was becoming a barrier to entry, you're up against people with ratings of tens of thousands. if you're the guy on there with a single digit rating no one trusts you.

    RM: eBay by design rewards people who are power sellers. We wanted to create Yardsale so it'd be an inviting experience for a first-time user. It adds value to the lives of an individual seller. We knew we could take that process and turn it into a 15 or 30 second listing process. Mobile is the best place to do that.

    yardsaleBI: How big is the network so far?

    RM: One of the things that surprised us right away was how many transactions happen and how fast they occur in proximity of the buyer and seller. We're seeing items get purchased from people who live within a block or two. Items sell within 15 minutes or within an hour. We know there's a huge opportunity in this niche space that's local selling, it just hasn't been cracked yet. Mobile just lets us dive in with finer granularity with items that are literally blocks away from you.

    EM: One of the core values at the beginning was to focus on community and to foster that. The bulletin boards were a great place in the early days to discover what works for other sellers and find people with similar interests. eBay got a little bigger and tried to really focus on maximizing the average sale price, and a lot of those individual sellers, they lost the edge they had before. You lost the community you originally had, it kind of evaporated. Now you have a lot of retail sellers, power sellers selling retail goods, it's lost a lot of the community.

    BI: What devices are you on? Any plans to hit Android?

    RM: We're just on iOS right now, we're really just focused on making that product as effective as possible. Our number one goal is to help people get their items sold. We're working on the monetization details, there's plenty of opportunity. We believe that we can build features and an experience that's absolutely worth paying for. But we'll never degrade the experience with ads, we know we can add value in the experience of actually buying and selling. We're still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like.

    BI: What kind of traction have you guys seen?

    RM: We've been really surprised by the response we saw after launching. It was only about 5 weeks ago that we opened up nationwide from the closed beta we started after Y Combinator. Within 2 weeks we broke 100,000 installs, 80,000 of which were new users. We immediately started seeing sales all around the country, which really blew us away. We've sold cars, we've sold boats, I think one of the most surprising aspects is seeing how little it takes to create a liquid marketplace in a city that isn't New York or San Francisco. Those are our biggest cities.

    BI: What's the strangest thing you've gone on sale on Yardsale?

    "The users, they don't even care about the money they are making, it's fun and it's such a light experience in buying and selling these items with their neighbors."

    RM: Well, just today we sold a pair of Justin Bieber tickets for $1,200.

    BI: Oh boy. So where do you go from here?

    RM: Everything we've done so far is a small sign of what's to come. We're at the front of the space that we consider casual selling. So, we're focused on expanding in new cities and improving the product, and really focusing on that community that we know is one of the core reasons that people keep coming back to Yardsale. The users, they don't even care about the money they are making, it's fun and it's such a light experience in buying and selling these items with their neighbors.

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    general assembly, ga, bi, dng

    General Assembly recently opened a new 12,000 sq ft. campus across from its original New York location on Broadway.

    The new space began hosting classes only days after it opened in June. It has beautiful signage, classrooms rigged with cameras to stream classes, and a long worktable made of high school bleachers.

    GA is now two years old, has 70 employees and 14,000 students. Its philosophy is that people "learn by doing," and that courses should emphasize the journey over the destination.

    To that end, all of GA's students take 10-16 week courses taught by real practitioners. We toured the place where they learn how to make or market great new tech.

    Welcome!



    To General Assembly's expanded space in NYC!



    A map so you can find your way around.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.


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    matt debergalis meteor

    Starting a company used to be incredibly hard — you had to buy up a ton of software licenses and hardware, like SharePoint and Oracle servers, to get anything off the ground.

    Nowadays, it's still incredibly hard to start a company, but thanks to a whole suite of new cloud-based applications that simplifies everyday tasks, it's less of a headache.

    And more often than not, you'll find a few favorite mission-critical applications among Silicon Valley's newest wave of red-hot startups.

    There's a new site called WeUseThat that's profiled a number of the top rising stars in Silicon Valley to find out which apps are their favorites.

    We've assembled the best for you below.

    Stripe

    Startups using: Most newer startups, including Beeminder

    Stripe is rapidly becoming the go-to payments option for any new startup. It's a few lines of code that you add to your software that immediately enables you to accept credit card payments.

    It's one of the easiest payments solutions in the world, and the terms are much nicer than some typical credit card companies.



    Twilio

    Startups using: Beeminder

    If you want your application to have anything to do with phone calls or text messages, Twilio is the go-to API. It lets you plug your service into a phone line that can accept phone calls or deliver text messages.

    The best example was GroupMe in its earliest days, which let you send text messages through its service to multiple recipients, creating a text message "chat room."



    Rapportive

    Startups using: Beeminder

    If you can't afford an expensive customer relationship management suite, Rapportive is a great option because it shows profiles right inside your email inbox.

    Most startups today use Gmail, and Rapportive assembles a lot of information about an incoming contact and displays it neatly in your inbox.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    Please follow SAI: Tools on Twitter and Facebook.


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    ouya limited edition

    OUYA just finished up its Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, raising about $8.6 million.

    It's not stopping there — you can still pre-order the console on its website, and the site has already logged more than $20,000 in sales, OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman tells us.

    OUYA is a $99 Android-powered box open to any developer for hacking. That means you can crack it open, play with the hardware, and develop any kind of Android application for a television.

    It's the second-largest Kickstarter project so far and has raised more money than many startups raise through traditional fundraising.

    In addition to running Android applications, OUYA is going to carry a ton of games you can play for free. Developers, by default, have to make part of their games free to play, and can make money by charging for in-game items or features.

    We caught up with Uhrman for a quick update on the final hours of the Kickstarter process. Here's what we learned:

    • Now that the Kickstarter process is over, OUYA is still selling a lot of consoles. The pre-orders on the website have already picked up around $20,000.
    • OUYA is going to ship around 62,000 consoles. Those consoles are expected to be ready around March next year.
    • At one point, OUYA was raising $1,000 a minute. It was a crazy rally in the final hours of the Kickstarter campaign.

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

    BUSINESS INSIDER: It's over! How was the whole funding process?

    Julie Uhrman: It was exciting, at one point we were tracking $1,000 a minute. It was at around 6 in the morning, when we put out our first update. It varied throughout the day. 

    It was invaluable, it allowed us to take OUYA to market, it allowed us to open up a conversation with gamers and developers. You know gamers are the most vocal and educated audience out there, to have more than 60,000 backers telling us what they want, that's incredibly rewarding.

    BI: What happens now?

    JU: Everything just continues. In addition to running the Kickstarter campaign we were running a business. We are finalizing the industrial design, the manufacturing partnerships. We are continuing to talk to content developers. We have a lot of great things in the works, we'll share them when they are complete and ready.

    The extra money are going to go into games and features to make the platform better and to deliver more units. We're shipping around 62,000 units, it's unclear since some of the rewards didn't have an option for an OUYA. I woke up this morning and we already had orders for more OUYAs on the website, we're at about $20,000 from our website alone. Our website will be a place to get more information and to pre-order your devices.

    We're incredibly grateful and thankful to our backers, without them, OUYA would not be coming to the market. They have proved there is a designer and a need for an open, accessible console.

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    Ryan BlairTwo decades ago, Ryan Blair was the product of a broken family.

    At the age of 13, he was already heavily "involved in stuff" after his father succumbed to drug addiction, he tells us.

    Without anyone to turn to for his Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia, Blair dropped out of school in the 9th grade and quickly turned to the close-knit "familia" gang life.

    In his book "Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain," Blair writes:

    "I quickly saw how the system worked, how the street lords kept themselves in power through influence and manipulation. I observed how the older people used bribery and fear to get the younger kids to do their crimes, and I saw how the young people willingly went along with it because it seemed like the only power structure that had any kind of respect in the neighborhood." 

    His story was meant for a tragic end, but Blair is no longer even a shadow of his former self — except for the tattoos you see when he wears short-sleeved shirts. 

    At 21, Blair started his first company and today, is a serial entrepreneur who also happens to be a multimillionaire. 

    He writes:

    "Long before I became a millionaire entrepreneur, I was a kid with a criminal record, street gang experience, and a lot of emotional scarring from years of abuse from my father. My teenage years were hardly the typical starting point for a normal, productive life, let alone a successful business career. Turns out, that didn't matter."

    While dabbling in the criminal lifestyle, Blair was arrested close to a dozen times. He was 16 years old the last time he was arrested and facing a four-year jail sentence.

    Luckily, at the age of 18, Blair's mother "sobered up" and "started dating a guy in real estate," which, he says, allowed him to "see how the legal people do it."

    When he realized legal business tactics weren't so different from "street smarts," Blair decided to apply the survival blueprints he learned from his former life into the corporate world.

    "There's a hierarchy in gangs, a hierarchy of positions and power," he says. "A gang is an economic system, and there's a lot of similarities between gangs and some legal companies."

    "I know that it's not always the most powerful organization that's going to make it, it's the one that's most adaptable with the changing times, the one that understands how to manage their politics."

    Three years later, the former problem child launched his first company — 24/7 Tech — and his spotty past has made him the business man he is now.

    Today, he's the CEO of ViSalus and won the DSN Global Turn Around Award in 2010 when he actually turned the company around from a $6 million debt in early 2008 to $150 million in revenue 16 months later.

    “I learned my business skills living in poverty and having had a family that was heavily involved in illegal businesses."

    In the beginning, Blair tells us he was nervous about 'taking his skeletons out of his closet," because people are always "looking for a reason to see why they are better than you. People look at people who don't have pedigree upbringings differently."

    But "if you avoid it, or hide it, others might feel as though there's a dishonesty there, and hiding something is a very expensive emotional thing for you."

    It was something Blair decided he didn't want weighing him down, and tells us he applies this same belief when hiring his own employees. 

    "I am 100 percent open to [hiring someone with a criminal record], but only if the person is honest about it."

    The entrepreneur is also a contributor for Forbes.com and the Financial Times.

    Please follow Careers on Twitter and Facebook.

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    pay with square tour 1

    We finally got an opportunity to try out Pay With Square, a new app that lets you pay for things without taking out a credit card.

    Or your wallet. Or your phone. Or anything.

    It's a new app from Square, a $3.2 billion startup in San Francisco led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey that's redesigning the way we pay for things.

    Here's how it works: you link a credit card or debit card to your Square account and open "tabs" at places you'd like to buy things. Your phone automatically detects when you're close to that shop, and will show your name up at the register, along with your picture.

    When you're ready to buy something, just tell the cashier your name. They'll double check your name with the photo you have on file with Square, and then it's tap, tap, and you're done. You don't even have to take out your phone, or your wallet.

    It's the most seamless paying process we've ever experienced — and it's going to make you want to leave your wallet in your pocket from here on out.

    Lunch time! Let's see what's open.



    Senor Sisig is one of the best food trucks in San Francisco...



    ...and it looks like they're close! Second and Minna is right around the block from Business Insider West.



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    alexia tsotsis

    Just a few years ago, Alexia Tsotsis got her dream job — a reporter at TechCrunch, one of the top technology sites in Silicon Valley.

    Now she's running the show with co-editor Eric Eldon, and they've staffed it up with a ton of new writers.

    The tech reporting scene is cutthroat and takes some of the best talent to stay ahead of the curve. But it's often pretty easy to forget that there are still personalities behind those dozens of posts that flood the Internet every day.

    So we caught up with Tsotsis to find out what it is exactly like in the life of a Silicon Valley blogger at TechCrunch.

    My day usually starts at 8:30am, when I wake up and immediately open my laptop to check email, our company Yammer, Skype, Techmeme and of course TechCrunch (I'm actually wearing a commemorative shirt from the TechCrunch Disrupt where we announced the Aol sale in this pic). My Skype lights up like a Christmas tree the moment I log on.



    "One of the most exciting parts of my morning is tracking the tech news our and other East Coast and European tech writers have broken overnight. Sometimes the spin of the tech news hamster wheel is so engrossing that I'm stuck to my computer until noon coordinating the day's plan with TechCrunch co-editor Eric Eldon and our badass team of writers. "



    "When I finally get unglued from my laptop, I head to the office. Lots of other startups are infamously housed in our San Francisco office building at 410 Townsend Street, including TC Disrupt winner and recent billion dollar Microsoft acquisition Yammer."



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    jamie wong vayableFor the last week we've been asking everyone we talk to in Silicon Valley which startups are working on cool stuff.

    What follows is a round of what the companies that people are most excited about.

    Crowdtilt is helping friends pay for things more easily.

    Year Founded: 2011

    Space: Group-buying

    Why it's buzzing: Here's a situation everyone has probably been in: you're at a restaurant with a big group of friends and the check comes around. Then 17 credit cards hit the table.

    Well, with Crowdtilt, a startup that lets friends pool money together for an experience, that won't be around much longer.

    Crowdtilt often gets lumped in with the rest of the "crowdsourced funding" batches. But the reality is that Crowdtilt is attacking something else — making it easier to pay for experiences or meals among a big group of friends.



    Exec handles all the nitty-gritty odd jobs of a startup.

    Year founded: 2012

    Space: Crowdsourced task completion

    Why it's trending: Instead of hiring a brand new office manager — and having to fork out the costs for benefits and salary — you can just hire someone through Exec instead. It's rapidly becoming a go-to replacement for companies that need to complete around-the-office tasks.

    This is the third company started by Justin Kan, who previously founded Justin.tv. Instead of using an auction system to find someone to complete a task, you hire one of Exec's specially-picked professionals.



    Vayable is going to change the way you travel.

    Year Founded: 2011

    Space: Travel

    Why it's buzzing: It still takes far too long to organize a trip. The process can usually take around 30 hours, Jamie Wong of Vayable says.

    With Vayable, that process is shortened to about 5 minutes. You can buy an "experience" that handles all the nitty gritty details of having a good time while traveling.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    will harbin kixeye

    Will Harbin is Mark Pincus's worst nightmare.

    Here's why the CEO of upstart gaming studio Kixeye is such a threat to Zynga, the giant of social games.

    Zynga is having a lot of trouble trying to find a new business as its Facebook games stagnate or decline.

    One direction it's mulling over is producing a "hardcore" game that caters to a more male-centric audience, in the hope that it'll make more money than the games it's best known for, like FarmVille and Draw Something.

    But there's a problem—Zynga's game designers will have to deal with Harbin's Kixeye. Kixeye, based like Zynga in San Francisco, has been working on games like that for a while, and is already doing quite well.

    Instead of trying to appeal to a massive audience of gamers that spend a few minutes clicking cows on breaks, Kixeye caters to a hypercompetitive audience with games that glorify explosions and heavy-duty combat.

    Kixeye has a 250-person team going directly after that market with its own games like War Commander and Backyard Monsters. Its staff has some top game designers—including some former Zynga employees.

    And they go after that audience with a kind of swagger you don't normally see at a tech or gaming company. A recent recruiting video went for the jugular, mocking Pincus and the rest of the gaming world.

    Even its new office feels like a video game.

    Jump straight to a quick tour of the new office

    We caught up with Will Harbin, CEO of Kixeye, to find out how things are going at Kixeye now that Zynga's chokehold on the Facebook gaming market is slipping. Here's what we found out:

    • Kixeye is already working on four new games and plans on launching its own gaming portal. That's a lot of confidence in browser-based gaming. Harbin says he is also bullish on tablets.
    • Facebook games are far from dead. Because the audience is more competitive and skews male, they're more likely to pay for in-game goodies than your average FarmVille player.
    • Keep an eye on Kixeye's next game. It'll be "the first of its kind" for a browser-based game, Harbin says.

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

    BUSINESS INSIDER: What's your story?

    Will Harbin: I've been in tech for a long time, this is my first foray into professional game development. Games got me interested in technology and computers in the first place back when I was 6 or 7 years old. I started making games in my own spare time in high school after I learned how to program better. Found it pretty tough to break into the gaming industry, 12 or 13 years ago whenever that was. I set out to pursue my career in other areas of technology.

    A couple years ago when Zynga started getting success, obviously for women, I thought it was pretty interesting that someone had proven the virtual goods model worked in Western culture. Why not do it with games I want to play rather than these games like FarmVille and CityVille?

    Originally, Kixeye was another company called Casual Collective, it was two guys out of London. We decided to join forces and restart the company and really try to make good, free to play, hyperaccessible games starting with Facebook. That's the first phase of the business. Pretty soon we'll be launching our own portal. In the end, it's really the intersection of hyperaccessibility and fidelity when it comes to games.

    kixeye recruitingBI: It seems like you guys are hiring pretty quickly.

    WH: I don't think we've been growing insanely fast. There are many other growth stories that have surpassed us. We've grown from 30 people to over 250 people in the last year. There are other companies that have seen larger growth spurts. We're making sure every new person coming in the door meets a very high quality minimum bar.

    The business has really clicked since the release of Backyard Monsters almost two and a half years ago. We've been on this pace for a while, we've been very fortunate that we haven't had a miss. We have War Commander, which is really kick ass, and another four games in development. We could have spread ourselves thin, going with the sheep going after mobile, but fortunately for us we've seen the vacuum of competition with the browser space.

    "We could have spread ourselves thin, going with the sheep going after mobile, but fortunately for us we've seen the vacuum of competition with the browser space."

    It leaves us a lot of space for us to dominate. we're growing at our own pace, taking our time, when we see a good opportunity we seize it. We stay focused on what we know how to do and build on top of previous success.

    Our next game, it's a [role-playing] game with a full 3D engine, really exciting, extremely ambitious, it'll be the first of its kind to ever grace a browser. We're maybe three or four months out from that.

    BI: Not a fan of mobile?

    WH: Well, there's two categories: phone and tablet. For the phone, from a gamer's perspective, playing on such a small form-factor device is not really satisfying for the kind of games we're playing. We need a larger form factor that can accommodate the user interface. That right there is quite limiting for us. Look at it like a canvas, if you're an artist you don't want to be confined by a very small canvas.

    We want to be unbound by canvas restraints. To create something that works really well and is super immersive, small form factors like  phones are just not fun to work with. Sure, you can make a lot of cool things, but it's not in our DNA to build games that limit themselves to that canvas. We are doing some tests to see how one of our games would translate to that small form factor, Backyard Monsters mobile will be launching in a little bit. depending on how that does, we might do more.

    Tablets are perfect for games, it's good hardware matched with good accessibility with good user interface. I'm definitely bullish on tablets as long as consumer adoption grows. We'll probably have a tablet version of our RPG soon after it launches. For now, we're in a world of constrained resources and infinite amounts of runway, we're gonna stick with what we do best. There are far more laptop or desktop based browser systems than tablets, so we're still going after that.

    BI: You guys have a very unique marketing style. Where does that come from?

    WH: We're a video-game company, we can go crazy and wild. There are no expectations for us. We don't have to behave a certain way. We don't have enterprise clients, we can be crass and funny.

    "We don't have to behave a certain way. We don't have enterprise clients, we can be crass and funny."

    It's our collective personalities at the office, we're really entertaining ourselves. We don't give a damn of what others think, if they think it's funny that's great. If people are offended, fine, that's their opinion. We're speaking to our potential users and employees. That's kind of a nice thing being in the entertainment business, that's what this is.

    BI: You guys produce "hardcore" games. Can you explain a little bit about what those are?

    WH: The way our business works is like any other free to play company. We build up a quality title that's free to play, we have a well-balanced economy in the game to where our user plays for free who's equally competitive for someone who pays a lot of money. We focus on engagement in our game, that naturally encourages monetization if you have things properly balanced. It's a very different system from what companies in traditional social gaming space do, it's contrary to their approach. We never have things like an energy mechanic, when you complete an action you aren't picking up stars and bubbles. We make good, solid, competitive games and so far have been very successful in the real-time strategy space. We practically invented the massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game space.

    There's a good match between our audience and the kinds of content that we're making. I'd say the masculine sensibility inherently resonates with competitive game mechanics and we give them quality games with competitive game mechanics. There's a tight match between the audience and the type of game we're making versus a run-of-the-mill social game. It's really audience resonating that drives the engagement. It's not that we've laser-targeted the audience or found a person who's gonna do this. The audience finds the game.

    We certainly do a lot of targeting and marketing. But initially when you're launching a game you have a good audience mix that touches the game. As you see what works with the game and what doesn't, you certainly refine marketing to make sure you're reaching out to those users and letting them know about it. We're not trying to force a round peg into a square hole. We don't necessarily sit around in a room and say, ok, we're going to design this for 24-year-old males in Norway. We're certainly broader than that, it just happens to find its audience a little more naturally.

    Kixeye 1

    BI: The market for Facebook games seems to be softening a bit, though. What are your thoughts on that? Is there still room for Facebook games?

    WH: We're definitely seeing an uptick in male browser gaming, I would still be relatively positive in social gaming if things are executed properly. You have to look at the total market. If you look at the total market size, I will defend social gaming.

    It's like asking EA how can they coexist with Activision, THQ and everyone else. It's a big market. Gamers play more than one game. Backyard Monsters was innovative from a social gaming standpoint. There were no [massively multiplayer online real-time strategy] games before that. Our next genres that we're attacking will be new and will be something that people haven't seen on the platform. So far, as long as competitors are playing with yesterday's products, or our yesterday's product, I think we're in good standing. Even if we had competitors launching products lock step with us, as long as we stay focused on making quality games we're quite confident that we're gonna come out on top.

    BI: What are you guys working on now?

    WH: We're heads down on four new games simultaneously, we still have three games team working on our existing games. We have four completely separate game teams working on new games. We have our portal team working on the portal. There's no secret battle plan beyond that, we've nailed half the distribution, the rest of the distribution will come with our portal. We've nailed publishing and marketing of our games, but really what I'm keeping the company focused on is really upping our game and producing a better product. My dream is to produce triple-a quality gaming inside of a browser or some other hyper-accessible platform combined with the free-to-play business model. I just think the days are over for having to plug in a console sitting in your living room, I think those days are numbered and we want to be on the forefront of innovation and advancement.

    Here's the entrance to the office. It already has a bit of a military feel to it.



    There's one more check point to get in to the company's headquarters. Obviously they are trying to get a message across.



    Here's the reception area. It also sports the same industrial "hardcore" look.



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    juliette brindak

    A lot of young people are starting companies.

    But when you're young and inexperienced, you're more error prone.

    Nick Tart spoke to many young founders while co-authoring a book, 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs, What It Takes To Make More Than Your Parents.

    He told us the most frequent business mistakes they made.

    They listen too much to others

    We grow up listening to authority figures; it's a habit that isn't easily broken. 

    Tart spoke about a young Indian entrepreneur he interviewed, King Sidharth. He was successful in business by age 18, but he was taught to listen to elders even if it meant ignoring gut feelings.  Initially Tart says it inhibited Sidharth's business execution.

    Even Tart recalls the pressure to conform to others' opinions.  "When I was a junior or senior in high school, I had an idea: Mandles," he says. "They were candles that would have manly scents, like hot sauce and fire."

    Even though he thought it was brilliant, he says his family and friends called the idea stupid. Tart let his idea go, only to read about someone else pursuing the same thing years later on CNN. 

    "That guy deserves all the credit, he actually executed. I should have trusted my instincts," says a regretful Tart.



    They mismanage money

    Tart interviewed Andrew Fashion, a teenager who made $2.5 million selling mechanical rocket launchers, and blew it all before his 22nd birthday

    "Fashion spent it all on whatever his little heart desired -- girlfriends, trips to Vegas, fancy cars and friends," says Tart.  Now that he is older, the entrepreneur has learned to better manage his money.

    'Now Fashion has an investment plan set up for the next time he becomes successful," Tart tells us. He's also writing a memoir titled "Young and Stupid."

    Tart says another young entrepreneur he interviewed, Ben Weissenstein, made a similar mistake. He was never taught finance in school and struggled to keep track of his revenue and expenses.  At age 19, Weissenstein lacked basic accounting skills because he never had an opportunity to learn them.



    They have trouble focusing

    "Most of the entrepreneurs I interviewed were really excited by the next shiny object," Tart told us. 

    Lauren Amarante, the 23-year-old co-founder of World Entrepreneurship Day, suffered from this.  She scheduled the first gathering in April 2010 at the United Nations.  CEOs from 35 countries attended. After the successful event, she was bombarded with invitations and email requests. 

    "It was difficult for her," says Tart. "She was being asked to attend all of these great events all over the world, but it was pulling her away from her own goals." 

    Once Amarante started turning down invitations, she saw her business take off again.  "Usually, external interest is more distracting than helpful," says Tart. 



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    jamie wong vayable

    Vayable, a startup that makes it much easier to organize a vacation experience, is now seeing revenue growth of 30 percent every week.

    That's 30 percent week-over-week, every week, since May.

    That's pretty impressive for a startup that's only been around for a year and a half and which began life as a blog.

    But there's a good reason why—it's ridiculously easy to book a hotel or a flight, but it's still very hard to book a good experience.

    Here's how it works: a person willing to, say, take a group on a walking tour of Paris offers up the experience on Vayable at a certain price.

    Then people who want to sign up order the experience, sort out the final details, and meet the host at the appointed time. The whole process takes about five minutes.

    That's much different than the current way of doing things—which can take up to 30 hours, cofounder Jamie Wong tells us.

    And it's going after a huge market: Tours and other guided travel experiences amount to a $27 billion in the U.S. 

    We caught up with Wong to find out what makes Vayable tick. Here's what we learned:

    • It all started with a blog. Wong herself had spent a lot of time traveling and had developed a network of people to share her experiences with, including her family.
    • Now the site's revenue grows 30 percent every week. The wide array of unique experiences turned out to be a huge draw. The company is wrapping up a stint at Y Combinator, one of the top incubators in Silicon Valley.
    • The average Vayable tour guide makes about $130 for a three-hour trip. That means working as a tour guide through Vayable is becoming a plausible way to earn a living.

    Here's a lightly edited transcript of the conversation:

    BUSINESS INSIDER: First, tell me a little bit about yourself. 

    JAMIE WONG: My background is in journalism and marketing. I got my masters from Columbia, worked at the Daily Show. I consulted for various tech companies on marketing and design. I worked for clients like Juniper Networks and a bunch of other brands. My cofounder Tim Robertson was a senior engineer at Yelp [working on] search and data mining. Prior to that he was one of the first engineers at Justin.tv.

    BI: What's the story behind Vayable?

    JW: I put up a WordPress site about a year and a half ago. The idea sprang from me traveling to more than 35 countries and also living in New York and San Francisco. I was acting as an impromptu tour guide to friends and family. I was planning vacations, honeymoons, connecting them with people I met on the ground in destinations all over the world. I also speak several languages so I've been able to serve as a translator.

    So we really wanted to make that process easier, started a blog and put the people and experiences on that blog. I started doing that while I was at The Daily Show because we had nine weeks off a year. I was able to do some traveling and I really started seeing the opportunity to create a global platform for what I was doing. Millions of people like myself are passionate about traveling and want off the beaten path experiences, and want ways to monetize their experience. We released a prototype and got some early traction. Since then we've been growing our revenue 30 percent week over week and got accepted to Y Combinator.

    vayableBI: How big is the target audience? Why do we need Vayable?

    JW: The market research shows that people spend on average months and more than 30 hours visiting dozens of websites, reading reviews, purchasing guidebooks to plan a single vacation. What's at the heart of the vacation is the experience. The model, the way people have been planning their travels is a little bit backwards, but that's due to the way the technology has evolved. The problem of finding a flight and booking that online has been solved. Finding and accommodation has been solved. The third and largest chunk, as far as annual revenue has yet to be solved, which is experiences.

    Now we really follow through and make that as easy as booking a flight or finding a hotel. You have a free hour in Paris and want an art student to take you to the Louvre or you book a three-week trip in Nepal. Not only is this easier and many instances more economical, but it's the kind of travel most people want to do—getting off the double-decker bus and into the lives of individuals—with the peace of mind that the money is going directly to a local rather than a franchise. In the US, it is a $27 billion addressable market. The global numbers are an estimate, but travel is around $220 billion. We're a small part of that.

    BI: How's your experience with Y Combinator been? 

    JW: It's been great. It's really provided us with a very strong network as well as advice from people who have pretty much seen it all. The structure, I think, is really beneficial to getting early traction and getting things off the ground. Seeing the progress everyone has made, that's what's most important right now.

    BI: What are some of the most fun experiences you've seen so far? 

    JW: You can fish with someone on their own private island. You can fly-fish with the mayor of Kanai, Alaska. Those are two of people's favorites. There's a homeless man in the Tenderloin [a neighborhood in San Francisco]. A member from our team met him at a soup kitchen. He told him about Vayable, and he started offering homeless tours of the Tenderloin.

    "There's a homeless man in the Tenderloin. A member from our team met him at a soup kitchen. He told him about Vayable, and he started offering homeless tours of the Tenderloin."

    Several local journalists have gone on it. The deputy mayor of Atlanta has gone on it. For a while it was one of our most popular tours. He was able to make enough money to buy a cell phone and for a period of time moved out of the shelter.

    BI: What about the providers? Is it possible to turn this into a full-on profession?

    JW: We have people who are full-time professional tour guides. We have people who will offer one event a month, and others who just do the hobby. We have some people who have a day job that they aren't crazy about and want to transition into something they're passionate about. They are starting to grow their business on Vayable and they are transitioning their tours. An average tour guide makes $130 for a three-hour tour. Their hourly rate is pretty good. Of course, it's on their own schedule and it's doing exactly what they love. We have some guys that make thousands of dollars a week.

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    soundcloud hovercraft hackathon

    Hackathons are a tradition at Silicon Valley startups. Some of the best technology companies in the world—like Facebook, for example—rely on them to surface up the next top projects for the company.

    These marathon coding and hacking sessions aim to build new working products within the designated timeframe—typically 24 to 72 hours.

    Sometimes you get fantastic new products. Sometimes you get some weird pieces of technology.

    Like a hovercraft—built at a hackathon which happened over the past weekend hosted by SoundCloud, a startup that helps you store and share clips of sound and music online.

    Jump straight to photos of SoundCloud's Hackathon weekend 

    Surprisingly, the hovercraft wasn't the project that won the 48-hour-long contest—it was an actual service that could be useful to SoundCloud in the future called Never Ending Story.

    Here are some of the other neat projects built during the hack weekend:

    • Toybox: A toddler’s toy built on Arduino, an open hardware platform, and Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer, able to play back custom SoundCloud sounds in reaction to the physical world.
    • Never Ending Story (We Hack 2012 winner): The age-old kid’s game: start a story and pass it on. The narrative begins with a SoundCloud file; you create a never-ending playlist of new people who tell new parts of a story.
    • Soundifyificationizer: Turns text into music by mapping groups of characters to MIDI notes for melody and drums.
    • HOVA: The hovercraft mentioned above.
    • StreadCloud: A meme-ifying tool to turn a photo of SoundCloud's chief architect into a joke. Includes voting.
    • Ruly: "R U Lost Yet" gives your friends a map with audio-powered step-by-step directions.
    • Deutsch Dienstag: An English-German phrasebook. Click an English sentence to hear the German translation
    • SoundCal: Allows users to add SoundCloud tracks to a calendar via the artwork widget.
    • Foodbaby: A website for collecting favorite recipes via an “Eat Later” bookmarklet. Once you cook the meal, you can connect the recipe to an Instagram photo of the dish.
    • Desmond: A port of the Android SoundCloud app to Google’s new experimental media streaming device, the Nexus Q.
    • Day In Sound: A day in the life of a SoundClouder in 2012.
    • SoundChain: Record a sound and send it to someone to continue and eventually make into a chain of sounds.
    • TweetSpeak: Allows you to speak your own tweets. Pick your best tweet, record it, and post it to Twitter.
    • Wedoc: A documentation of the weekend from audio interviews and montages.
    • Lunchbox: A mobile app enabling SoundCloud staffers to meet for lunch.
    • Message In A Bottle: Short message broadcasting with anonymous replies. Think of anonymous twitter.
    • The Passion Project: Stories of individuals sharing their passion with the world, arranged in a sensible way—kind of like Pinterest.

    Here's the schedule! Two days of crazy hacking. Side note: 13:37 (or 1:37 p.m.) is a morphism of "leet," or "elite," into numbers.



    There was a huge turnout for the weekend, as was well-documented by its employees.



    One of the projects was screen-printing t-shirts for the events, with the help of Etsy.



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    Crowdtilt cofounders

    You've just decided to rent out party boat for your 25th birthday party. Now comes the hard part: finding enough cash to cover at least part of the cost.

    That's where Crowdtilt, a small-scale crowd-funding app, can help. It's kind of like Kickstarter, except instead of trying to start a company, you're just trying to get a group of friends pony up $5,000 for a party boat.

    And it turns out the idea has some serious traction: in its first six weeks of being open to the public, Crowdtilt — whose projects range in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, not millions — serviced more than $1 million in funding projects.

    We caught up with co-founder James Beshara to find out more about Crowdtilt. Here's what we learned:

    • After turning the service on, Crowdtilt served more than $1 million in campaigns in a little more than six weeks. Given that they are all small-scale projects, you can imagine how many funders and campaigns there were (though Beshara wouldn't give us specific details).
    • The funding projects range from a party on Alcatraz to changing your middle name to "Awesome Dangerous." They aren't exactly intended to be large-scale projects like starting a company through Kickstarter.
    • Still, some charities are using Crowdtilt. They saw some traction with charities and non-profits, which was originally the target audience, but saw a much bigger audience among the small-scale project funding. 

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

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Tell me a little bit about yourself — what's your background?

    JAMES BESHARA: My background is actually in development economics, that's what I studied. I worked in South Africa for two years in microfinance and microinsurance. While I was down there I built a crowd-funding platform focused on developing communities. That was my first kind of tech startup. We launched that in South Africa and when I came back to the U.S. I wasn't working on that full-time and thought the same software we'd built could similarly be used for grouping funds for any charitable cost or any kind of social effort. Crowdtilt was originally focused as a Kickstarter for charities and after launching, within a few weeks, friends started requesting to use it for much more trivial use cases like fantasy football and a party bus. Those two campaigns started spreading amongst our group of friends and they started requesting to use it more and more. Within a few weeks it was getting traction with some nonprofits but with groups of friends it was spreading like wildfire. After about five weeks, it was just so clear that we needed to build the site out for how it was already being used, for groups of friends to pool money online. 

    BI: So you guys don't consider yourself a crowdfunding site exactly right? It's a little different?

    JB: The biggest differences are that these campaigns are private amongst your group of friends. Your group of friends is kind of ambiguous, it's private amongst your network. The second biggest difference is that it can be used for anything. It's used mostly for shared experiences and shared purchases. Instead of a documentary or a creative project or your startup, like all the crowd funding sites, it'll be for a trip to Alcatraz for Halloween or a party bus for Suzy's birthday on Friday night.

    I think for the most part, we just have "crowd" in our name. It's pretty deliberate, we've taken those elements of crowd funding models out there. Part of it is on purpose. You put up an objective you gather support for it and no one is actually charged if the objective isn't reached. It's different from a year or two ago when you were collecting money, telling everyone to pay you by PayPal or check. That was such a frustrating experience, daunting for the organizer. It's very much like Kickstarter now — do you guys want to do this Friday, are we going to raise enough? No one wants to be on the hook for it. We'll either get enough money or no one will be charged a cent.

    BI: Why would I use Crowdtilt instead of something like PayPal?

    JB: We think there's this gap between PayPal and selling tickets on Eventbrite. PayPal is great for being able to collect money from anyone anywhere. Eventbrite is great for selling tickets from 50 to 80 to 100 people. But there are a lot of experiences of 15 people that want to do something. You have 15 friends, 20 colleagues, 25 fraternity brothers or bachelors. They want to have a barbecue. There's this massively under-served middle-market. You don't want to sell Eventbrite tickets to your friends, but you do need to aggregate funds. The reason PayPal doesn't fit that is because the same group of friends are usually the idea and the interest bubbles up from a very social place on the web. The same group of friends, when given the choice to go to a transactional, impersonal service or to use a social and collaborative tool, once they use the social tool it's hard to go back to a transactional tool like PayPal.

    The natural evolution of the connected web is for you to do things with your friends, to feel like the experience, even online, is inclusive and collaborative. I'm sure you're collected money from a group on PayPal before, it's a pain in the ass and there's no transparency to see who has and who hasn't paid. I's just not as simple when you can put up one little landing page and everyone can not only see who's paid and who hasn't, but everyone can pay without having to sign up to PayPal or enter bank account information. You can get paid from anywhere around the web. Within 2 to 3 seconds, it's actually even easier. In (Y Combinator Partner) Paul Graham's words, each service has to be orders of magnitude better than the previous service you're competing with.

    "In (Y Combinator Partner) Paul Graham's words, each service has to be orders of magnitude better than the previous service you're competing with."

    With Crowdtilt, it wasn't just about making it social and nice to see friends' pictures, it was making it even simpler than PayPal.

    BI: What are some of the weirdest campaigns that have been funded on Crowdtilt?

    JB: Renting out Alcatraz for Halloween. It was about $37,000 to rent it out and get ferry boats and the organizer wanted to do it with friends and not front the money. It got funded really quickly. On the totally other end of the spectrum, a guy in Arizona two or three weeks ago wanted to fund the changing of his middle name to Awesome Dangerous. The application fee was $350 and his friends funded that. I remember because within 15 minutes it was halfway there and I was laughing that friends would really come together on something like that. If he had tried to send out an email asking people, and this characterizes the difference, to send cash or checks I doubt it would have worked. But because it was online on something like Crowdtilt people felt like they could be a part of something.

    We see that ranging from Alcatraz to party buses and epic house parties, you feel like you're a part of something when you get to see the names and pictures of your friends much more than contributing to it in the dark.  

    crowdtiltBI: Are you guys opening this up to developers? Can anyone plug it into their site?

    JB: This fall you'll be able to plug it into other sites. The example would be Spring Break friends being able to pay for something on a vacation rental site, or three friends being able to buy a bigger bouquet of flowers on 1-800-Flowers.

    BI: What kind of traction are you guys seeing so far?

    JB: We launched in February and opened it up out of our beta in April. In our first six and a half weeks, we funded over $1 million in campaigns. It was extremely fast, out of the gate, because we really tested this out with a private beta to see what the real need was. We were able to hit $1 million, that totally floored us, it blew away even the Y Combinator partners. They were really stoked bout it, five of them re-invested in us because of this traction and the real need for a social payments model online. 

    BI: What's up next for you guys? 

    JB: It was our biggest day ever yesterday, and we have a really cool partnership in the pipeline.

    The biggest thing is focusing on the product and growth even more. That's kind of the biggest internal thing. We have a partnership with Reddit that launches later this month, to be their official fundraising partner, which is pretty huge. We're stoked about that. We've already started the testing for that and it's been pretty cool to see. Our biggest objective right now, the most important priority is just making the product as easy and effective as possible. You use it once and you'll never go back to PayPal or checks or cash again.

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    hacker dojo

    The very first "office space" where Pinterest was born is now at risk of being shut down.

    Hacker Dojo, one of Silicon Valley's most prized collaborative workspaces, is in the process of raising money to retrofit its office and avoid being shut down, The New York Times reports.

    Hacker spaces like Hacker Dojo (nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley) and Noisebridge (in the edgy Mission District in San Francisco, an up and coming startup-heavy neighborhood) are beloved among entrepeneurs because they bring a bunch of smart developers under a single roof. Whenever you have that many smart people in the same room, great ideas tend to emerge.

    Hacker Dojo charges rogue developers $100 a month to have access to the space, which includes office supplies, bike racks and other perks. Often they'll hold makeshift classes, such as a beginner's session on the Python programming language — resources you would never have access to otherwise.

    As a result, founders and curious would-be entrepreneurs can lean on these "dojos" instead of having to go through the arduous process of finding funding for an office space or getting accepted into Y Combinator or other incubators, and won't have to give up equity.

    The other option is to work from home, which in addition to being lonely and devoid of other entrepeneurs, can be disheartening and have an annoying lack of resources. You hear stories about entrepeneurs scraping together a prototype while eating dried ramen — with places like the Dojo, the reality is much softer and much more welcoming.

    In short, hacker havens like the Hacker Dojo actually lead to more entrepeneurs being willing to venture out on their own and try to build companies.

    But given that it's just a retrofitted warehouse, it doesn't have the requirements of an office building — like fire escapes and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. That's led city officials to come down on the hacker space, which also served as the west coast office of the designers of the Pebble watch, the Times reports.

    “If they can’t comply, they can’t use the building as they want to,” said Mountain View's chief building officer Anthony Ghiossi told the Times.

    The Dojo has so far raised more than $170,000 for retrofits amounting to about $250,000 — from Google included, the Times reports. It also has a Kickstarter campaign running, which has raised more than $40,000.

    Granted, it's for safety precautions, and it sounds like Mountain View is trying to work things out with the Dojo. But having visited a number of these spaces, getting snagged by a technicality is a horrible way to go down.

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    josh miller branch

    We're not quite sure what to make of Branch, a new discussion board backed by some of the biggest names of Silicon Valley.

    Is it supposed to be like Twitter, but without the 140-character limit? Is it like Facebook, where you are only talking amongst your friends? Is it a Quora killer? Or a message board?

    Whatever it is, the result is pretty nice: the site is filled with very intelligent discussions — if not skewing a bit on the side of armchair philosophy.

    The basic function of Branch to create exclusive discussions that only a few people can publicly engage in, yet anyone can tune in and watch.

    Membership is invite-only for now, so sign up here if you want to give Branch a go.

    With the co-founders of Twitter serving as advisors, New York-based startup Branch has raised about $2 million in funding, so they have to be doing something right.

    Branch, at least for now, is pretty exclusive. You have to request an invitation if you want to get in.



    You can't even view the main website if you haven't picked up an invite yet.



    However, you can view specific branches and subscribe to updates from them via email until you get an invitation.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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