Startup Tuneup: Pitches from 6 Australian Startups

E812: Startup Tuneup, Down Under! 6 Australian startups pitch me on VR therapy, food scrap collection, tree-planting robots, entrepreneurialism for kids, vets-pet owner platform, & homeowner all-in-one custom building

Receive these episodes in your inbox

Timestamps:

01:06 – Jason explains the Startup Tuneup: Six companies from Australia will pitch to Jason and he will provide honest feedback about their chances of raising money, the challenges they face, more.

Pitch: Neuromersive – VR-based brain rehabilitation

02:30 – Aims to reduce the boring and repetitive nature of brain rehabilitation programs through VR, with sensory feedback and electrical stimulation. Targets three-fold improvement in outcomes. Automated system measures and tracks progress. Hopes to capture 30 percent of the 300k US rehab centers.

06:06 – Jason compares the pitch to what investors look for: Founder is passionate about the idea but perhaps too understated. Work on monotonous speech. The persistent character is evident, strong team.

VR products are getting better, but are still too expensive. Plus side is that Neuromersive is targeting a niche market that buys high-ticket items. Customer acquisition cost is high at $1.5k. Jason requests clarification on neuroplasticity and how dopamine enhances it.  Also discusses its role in staying sharp and optimizing intellect.

12:24 – Cost to consumer is the same as more traditional treatments, but with much better results. Jason notes that citing huge, potentially addressable markets and working from the top down can make a startup seem less credible. Better to work from the bottom up: cite realistic numbers for an immediately addressable market.

14:10 – Jason asks about trials, medical device/service status, and regulatory concerns. He questions the flat rate model and the income per clinic.

16:20 – Jason asks about money invested to reach MVP ($75k, still working on MVP) and how much more is required to acquire paying customers ($950k).

16:54 – Jason thanks sponsor Walker Corporate Law, which specializes in startups.

Pitch: Kooda – Tech-enabled food scrap collection and composting

19:41 – Provides two apps: one for consumers, one for “Gatherers.” Provides homeowners, restaurateurs, etc with buckets for food scraps. Gatherers use their app for collections and are incentivized to perform quick, early pickups. Gatherers take the food to local composting centers, reducing the amount of methane generated by landfills. Produces soil conditioner.

23:36 – Jason asks about profitability, unit economics. Collectors get $1.50 per bucket base, $3 with speed incentives. The front-end collection service is break-even: customers cover collection. Subscription averages $20 per month. Revenue comes from product sales.

26:03 – Can the company reach venture scale or is it a boutique business? Response has been strong. People are asking about franchising. The company is working on numerous patents, is considering connected buckets, and is investigating blockchain integration.

28:52 – Jason likes that the idea is not obvious. The fact that people will question scalability means there’s an opportunity. People may be encouraging, but less likely to invest. Once the company figures out profitability, investors will come back looking to write checks. For now, the company has to prove there’s a real business. Jason also likes the positive impact on society.

Pitch: Sky Grow – Autonomous tree-planting robots

32:09 – Problem: Humans aren’t planting trees fast enough to compensate for deforestation. Solution: GrowBots plant trees 10 times faster than traditional methods and at 48 percent of the cost. Safer, easier. Can plant most tree species and add nutrients to the soil. Has contracted to serve its first customers, local governments, by the end of June.

34:44 – Jason asks for details on economics: The company charges $10-$15 per tree. Australian governments have targets for planting trees and isn’t meeting them. Sky Grow sells its services, not robots. Has considered growing trees and delivering and planting them.

38:06 – Jason says it’s exciting that the robots are out in the real world performing a job, but he isn’t sure how venture-fundable the company is in its early stages. Government grants might be a better starting point.

39:28 – Jason asks about the closest competition, which is a company using aerial drones to fire seeds into the ground.

40:58 – Jason thanks sponsor Athletic Greens, which makes superfood shakes. TWiST listeners get 20 free travel packs with first purchase.

Pitch: Kiddsbay – A platform enabling children to create and launch online businesses

43:42 – Provides a step-by-step wizard for creating a business, educational resources (including tutorials and quizzes), business templates, more. Kids can generate real money as well as virtual currency, which can be used for unlocking additional site features, adding features to their stores, more.

46:09 – Jason loves the idea of getting children involved with entrepreneurship. He asks about real-world sales, revenue, scalability. Notes the idea hasn’t really existed before in the world.

49:03 – Jason says there might be a bit too much going on. A sim system (no real-world sales) could be the best idea to pursue. Depends on early feedback. Jason says to stay open-minded about which features resonate and which should be abandoned.

Pitch: VetChat – Connects pet owners with vets for video consultations and chat

52:44 – Has served 2k pet owners. Not currently looking for funding but for introductions to marketplaces, pet-tech companies, etc, to learn about acquisition and growth strategies.

56:02 – Jason says the idea is brilliant: Nobody wants to take a pet to the vet when it isn’t necessary. Asks about pricing: $39 consultation works out to about $2 per minute. Cheaper than going to the vet, but gives vets the ability to earn at their convenience. Currently doesn’t support prescriptions and Jason says that’s key to everything – but the idea has legs.

Jason notes the pitch included specific numbers, the founder has passion, and she understands what investors want to know. She anticipated questions. This makes follow-ups more likely. Jason says to stay focused on metrics and margins until it’s time to raise.

Pitch: Udrew – DIY building plans and permit approvals

1:00:37 – Simplifies the process for home improvement projects: generating designs, ensuring compliance, listing materials, more. The system recognizes pipes, trees, etc. and enables the user to perfect a design before contracting. Piloting with fences will support more structures.

1:03:08 –  Jason says the idea is very innovative but it’s a complex area. He compares it to LegalZoom in that there are some legal difficulties when issuing permits. Udrew is a software company. The system recalculates strength, etc., as materials are changed to ensure everything is up to code. They have an in-house chief structural engineer. So far, the software has been more accurate than existing human-generated submissions.

1:07:44 – Cost: 70 percent cheaper than current standard price with an architect. Jason notes to be specific about numbers – it increases credibility. Regarding the product, Jason says mistakes could have a high cost, so it’s best to add support for new structures slowly and carefully. Jason says Udrew is super impressive.

Jason picks his Top Three:

  1. Udrew provides unbelievable value proposition and massive cost savings.

  2. Kooda is a wildcard that’s fascinating due to the concept and early traction.

  3. Neuromersive is interesting, has good timing. Efficacy is the question.

Jason speaks a bit about LAUNCH Festival Sydney

News Roundtable: Zuckerberg, Facebook, USPS, Youtube, Self-Driving

This Week In Startups

E811: News Roundtable! Iain Thomson, The Register & Brian Alvey, Clipisode: Zuck testifies to Congress, Facebook’s data dilemma, Trump orders USPS review, YouTube demonetization fallout, self-driving car accidents & the dangers of human distraction.

Receive these episodes in your inbox

Timestamps

00:30 – Jason introduces his guests: Clipisode founder Brian Alvey and The Register journalist, Iain Thomson.

Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress:

03:09 – Brian says Facebook users should be savvy and expect their data is for sale. Notes that Facebook and others charge per API call: it makes technical and financial sense for companies to retain user data once acquired. Jason expects Facebook to reduce its data gathering. Iain agrees and says the company will have to launch a paid service to make up for lost data revenue.

08:19 – Brian notes the brilliance of Zuckerberg’s response to questions about ad-targeting: with reduced targeting, the company would charge small businesses more to run campaigns – an implied threat.

10:51 – Brian says regulation is likely and it will inhibit competition because Facebook was able to achieve its position without those restrictions.

11:48 – Thanks ZipRecruiter for supporting This Week In Startups. Visit http://ZipRecruiter.com/twist to hire the perfect candidate for your business.

13:08 – Jason says Zuckerberg’s performance was very good and the questions he faced were not challenging. Jason does not expect new regulations. He challenges listeners to prove Facebook is lying about not being able to target individual users.

16:31 – Iain believes regulation is coming in the US, but it won’t be as intensive as the EU’s GDPR. Jason argues companies should be required to ask users if they want to see their stored data every 90 days, and to delete data regularly. Brian argues companies should show users how ads will suffer without targeting, then give them the option to opt in/out. Brian says service bundles would increase subscriptions for ad-free services.

Trump versus Amazon

22:12 – Regarding Trump’s accusation that Amazon is costing the USPS money, Brian says delivering letters is a dying business, while delivering packages is a growing business for the USPS. Iain says Amazon has been a savior for the USPS, but potentially resold bulk-purchased delivery services. Jason says the USPS needs to be significantly downsized.

28:54 – Thanks Squarespace for supporting This Week In Startup – Use offer code “Twist” for a 10-percent off your first purchase.

YouTube Shooting:

30:42 – Jason says while gun control, office security, and mental illness are obvious relevant topics, there is an important discussion to be had about YouTube and others changing terms and monetization opportunities. Brian notes such companies have a difficult responsibility because these decisions affect the livelihoods and potential earning power for some users. Jason says YouTube’s willingness to accept strange content and to monetize it is what made the company so powerful. Now, they’re shedding the bottom rung of creators. Iain says that bottom rung is where the next generation of superstars will emerge. The lesson for creators is to diversify.

NTSB removes Tesla from the investigation into fatal Model X accident:

39:01 – Brian says everything will be automated and self-driving vehicles will absolutely be safer than human drivers. Lain agrees but says the tech isn’t ready for full deployment. Jason accepts Tesla’s arguments that “Autopilot crashes” have been due to driver error.

46:11 – Jason asks if Autopilot should be paused. Brian says the tech should not be paused across the board – only for companies not ready for prime time. Speaking about the recent fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber, Jason says boredom is a problem. Brian notes that distraction is a huge problem for human-controlled vehicles so self-driving cars are a definite improvement. Jason argues for speed governors and stiffer punishments for distracted drivers.

51:05 – Iain says the trouble with implementing harsher laws for distracted drivers (car and phone impounded) is that voters would hate any politician who backed such an initiative. Says Finland has an interesting approach: Fining drivers a percentage of their annual salaries. Iain argues impounding distracted drivers’ vehicles could cause them to lose their jobs.

Sinclair Broadcast Group – Video shows various news stations reading the same script

53:56 – Brian notes similar videos have been circulating for years. Content services have been doing this in Radio and TV for decades: it’s the political agenda that has angered people. FCC will not take action.

Iain says next week will be big for security news.

Brian explains how Clipisode works.

Jason talks about LAUNCH Festival Sydney.

Abra Founder Bill Barhydt shares insights on ICOs (the good, bad & ugly), bitcoin’s euphoric rollercoaster, liquidity, mining, the IRS & crypto’s immutable fate to transform the world

This Week In Startups

E809: Abra Founder Bill Barhydt built the 1st global wallet to buy, store & invest 20 crypto- & 50 fiat currencies. In this episode, he shares insights on ICOs (the good, bad & ugly), bitcoin’s euphoric rollercoaster, liquidity, mining, the IRS & crypto’s immutable fate to transform the world.

Listen on iTunes



Timestamps:

2:22 Jason explains how he first met today’s guest, Bill Barhydt, Founder & CEO of Abra. Bill shares the fundamental vision behind Abra.

4:13 Jason asks Bill if his original idea for Abra is still in play, and how much his investment (from 3yrs ago) is worth now. Bill explains what worked & didn’t work.

5:43 What does the term digital gold mean?

6:32 Bill explains how Abra is using bitcoin as programmable money to create global financial inclusion.

10:45 Thanks to Walker Corporate Law for supporting the show. Call (415) 979-9998 to talk with Scott Walker directly, or visit http://walkercorporatelaw.com for more information about getting legal work done for your startup.

13:33 Bill explains his view on the current state of ICOs. (the good, the bad, the ugly). And why many ICOs are forbidding U.S. investors.

17:24 Bill & Jason explain the fundamental difference between ICO investors and Angel Investors.

18:42 Jason challenges Bill to list the companies (crypto projects) that have a product being used in the market, and how tokens are being used within those products.

23:18 Is the trading volume for cryptocurrencies inaccurate/fake? Bill explains the manipulation that occurred in China, and how it caused massive trade volume.

24:50 Jason & Bill talk about why bitcoin skyrocketed to over $19,000 within a short period.

27:57 Thanks to Asana for supporting this podcast. Visit http://asana.com/twist to try it out for free!

34:03 Will bitcoin become the ultimate winner in cryptocurrency? Jason believes that bitcoin will go to zero, and Bill explains why he thinks it will continue to be “digital gold.”

35:22 Why hasn’t anyone been able to hack bitcoin? Bill explains the complexity of which bitcoin was created with, which makes it 100% immutable.

37:28 Bill explains what Litecoin is, why Abra uses it in their smart contracts, and how Abra makes money.

40:34 Can the entire crypto ecosystem be ruined if something happened to Coinbase? Bill explains why this theory is false.

43:01 Where is crypto world headed? Bill explains what he wants to see, and what the market cap for cryptocurrency will be in 10 years.

50:25 How anonymous is cryptocurrency today? Bill explains the varying degrees anonymity associated with different cryptocurrencies.

53:27 Is the U.S being too conservative with cryptocurrency?

58:19 Bill explains why the IRS is not equipped to crack down on taxing all cryptocurrency gains.

1:01:03 Bill explains why he’s setting up a non-profit arm of Abra in Switzerland.

1:03:07 Will Abra do an ICO? Bill explains why he’s not interested.

1:06:02 Jason reveals his big plan for launching “J-coin”

1:08:04 Jason and Bill discuss the $1.7b Telegram ICO. Bill shares that Telegram will only need $50-$100m to follow through with their whitepaper. What will they do with the remaining $1.6b???

1:11:32 Jason ask Bill to come to http://launchfestivalsydney.com in June and present a keynote on Crypto. Bill accepts! (P.S.: we have 100 free tickets left for founders)

1:12:19 Bill explains why his career jump from Goldman Sachs to Netscape was one of his best career decisions.

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar & Disney Animation, & author of “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration”

EdCatmull_Pixar_groupphoto2

Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here. We were honored to have Ed Catmull in the studio with Jason last week for an epic conversation we had no choice but to split into two parts. 🙂 But you can watch them both here. Enjoy!

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/0UyJ0 ]

Subscribe in iTunes: http://bit.ly/TWiSTAV

Ed Catmull President of Pixar-Disney and author of Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is one of the greatest startup founders in the history of Silicon Valley. Today he joins Jason on This Week in Startups to share his own personal story, perhaps the best that has come out of Pixar. We learn about Ed’s journey from his early days as a pioneer of computer animation, being hired by George Lucas to run the computer division at Lucasfilm, working with Steve Jobs to form Pixar (ultimately Pixar-Disney) and leading it to meteoric success. Ed takes us into his existential crisis after megahit Toy Story, behind the storytelling scenes of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Inside Out, and around the risks, triumphs and failures that led to his building a massively successful and creative culture.

PART 1

Continue reading Ed Catmull, President of Pixar & Disney Animation, & author of “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration”

News Roundtable! Ari Levy, CNBC & Rolfe Winkler, WSJ: Walmart & Jet, Google & anti-trust, Uber & China, Elon & Energy, CEOs & bad behavior

Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here. Ari Levy of CNBC and Rolfe Winkler of The Wall Street Journal joined @Jason for a must-see News Roundtable on This Week in Startups. An amazing discussion that kicked off with big deal of the week, Walmart snapping up Jet.com for $3b, that crackled on to Google, the government, anti-trust, the entire U.S. debt problem, the Chinese Market, the very future of energy (featuring, naturally, Elon), and the latest in startup CEOs behaving badly. And more.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/00i8b ]

Subscribe in iTunes: http://bit.ly/TWiSTAV

And watch here! 🙂

Some key discussions
M&A

The big deal of week is Jet.com being bought for $3B by Walmart. What’s behind the deal? Walmart.com has been around since 2000 and has never bridged the gap with Amazon, remaining the #2 player in e-commerce. Could Jet.com & CEO Marc Lore be the answer?

Politics & Google

What’s the story of Google, the White House, and anti-trust? Google was investigated on anti-trust grounds by the FTC, but ultimately, the decision was made against pursuing any anti-trust case. The Obama administration has been pro-tech and pro-Google. And lobbying works — both parties have been fairly reluctant to launch any anti-trust campaign within technology in the US.

Debt in economy

Debt-to-GDP in the economy, even after some of the de-leveraging from 2009, is still at a level that is “mind-boggling.” The problem is in private debt (corporate, student loan, credit card, mortgage debt). Is this why millennials do not accumulate assets? Where do we go from here?

Bad behavior

Using the recent Hampton Creek controversy as a starting point, the panelists debate questionable CEO startup behavior of late. When Silicon Valley prioritizes growth over everything, yet any appearance of impropriety IS impropriety, where is that line … exactly?

Elon Musk & the future

How much do you want the future to arrive early? Elon would like the world to solve global warming and get off fossil fuels in his lifetime. But we have to decide as a society where to allocate funds. Is there a sustainable, bull market in electric- & self-driving cars? And when you factor in all of the capital and regulatory requirements required, do you bet on Tesla? (or Apple? Google?).

Ask Jason webinar this Friday 4/8: “How do I get into a great incubator?”

Launch -61

UPDATE: Today’s webinar is oversubscribed. Due to popular demand, Jason will host it again next week on Wednesday 4/13, at 1pm PT. Sign up here!

Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here.

A question that Jason and our entire team hear repeatedly is:

“How do I get into a great incubator like 500 Startups, Y Combinator, Techstars, or the LAUNCH Incubator?”

Well, this Friday we’re hosting a special “Ask Jason” webinar for 50 founders in an exclusive session, so that Jason can answer this in detail!

The webinar is Friday 4/8 at 3:00PM PT. Care to join us? Reserve one of the 50 slots by filling out this form.

Hope to see you there!

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending: http://ctt.ec/jWuw0 ]

On CNBC’s Squawk Alley 9/15/15: Twitter CEO delay, Evernote a dead unicorn?, Tim Cook gunning for Google

Producer Jacqui here. ICYMI, Jason was on CNBC’s Squawk Alley this a.m. commenting on why the Twitter CEO delay, whether Evernote is a dead unicorn, and how Tim Cook is gunning for Google. Check it out!

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/A0Y4c ]

On CNBC’s Squawk Alley 8/25/15: Investors react to market correction; will startups survive?

Producer Jacqui here. ICYMI, Jason was on CNBC’s Squawk Alley this a.m. talking about the market correction. How are investors reacting? Will startups survive? Some will still crush it, others will crash. Bold predictions abound.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/44b9c ]

On CNBC’s Squawk Alley 8/18/15: Zirtual latest, Donald Trump’s attack on #H1B visa

Producer Jacqui here. In case you missed it, Jason was on CNBC’s Squawk Alley this a.m. talking about Zirtual and the troubles encountered by fast-growing startups. Then onto Donald Trump‘s attack on the #H1B visa. Jason has choice words — and a solution.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/4gshj ]

 

 

TWiST 565: Ahryun Moon, founder of EtchApp & the return of “Ask Jason”!

Hi everyone,

Producer Jacqui here. A special two-parter for you. First up is Ahryun Moon, founder of EtchApp, a company that crushed the LAUNCH Hackathon and went onto product success, with their recent launch — and feature — in the Apple store. EtchApp is a multi-tasking replacement keyboard for devices so you can send messages and access services without switching — and just might be, as Jason predicts, THE killer Watch app. And it’s the return of #AskJason! Fans toss questions on a range of topics … from the Jobs Act to new avenues for startups to raise money, to why half of a college marketing class just doesn’t like Jason. Brace yourselves!

Watch/Listen: ThisWeekinStartups.com / iTunes audio / iTunes video / Soundcloud

Share: Click here to Tweet episode (can edit before sending).

Sign up for updatesthisweekinstartups.com

Thank you to our sponsors, InVision & Squarespace! Click here to tweet your support (can edit before sending).

InVision. Find out why so many hot startups are using InVision to prototype, present and collaborate on design in real-time. Sign-up for a 90-day free trial today at invisionapp.com/twist.

Squarespace. Build it Beautiful. Celebrating 10 years of making it fast and easy to create an exceptional-looking website! Get 10% off your first purchase at squarespace.com/twist.

Best,

Jacqui

PS – ICYMI: last 10 episodes!

Ep564: Julie Fredrickson, CEO & Co-founder of Stowaway Cosmetics, is a direct-to-consumer innovator taking on a $60b industry

Ep563: Ali Vahabzadeh, founder of Chariot, hopes to change the way we move around cities with the first-ever crowdsourced shuttle service

Ep562: Chuck Johnson, blogger & founder of gotnews.com, on being permanently banned from Twitter & his controversial journalism & belief

Ep560: Brian Hoffman’s OpenBazaar.org, a decentralized marketplace to buy/sell anything online with bitcoin, is a Big Idea with Big Backers

Ep559: Andy Weir, author of NYT bestseller “The Martian” (soon to be Ridley Scott/Matt Damon movie) on writing the year’s science fiction smash

Ep558: News Roundtable! Reddit’s game of thrones, tech outages seemingly everywhere, hackers gone wild, sex scandals, equity crowdfunding, luxury pot on demand (finally!), Tinder verified

Ep557: LAUNCH Incubator 2: Pinterest product Jason Shellen (formerly Google, AOL & founder of Boxer) on why people love stories not decks

Ep556: NYT bestselling author Steven Kotler (Tomorrowland, The Rise of Superman, Bold, Abundance) on science fictions turned fact, technologies becoming exponential, what terrifies scientists, & what triggers flow

Ep555: A.J. Daulerio, Ratter.com founder & former Deadspin & Gawker EIC, talks about the battles, triumphs, opportunities & the specter of bankruptcy in the content world

Ep554: TWiST/Inside Drones, Part 3! At Skycatch w/CEO Christian Sanz & the premiere of PixiePath w/CEO Bryan Elliot

Howard Stern’s easy billion dollar pay day — courtesy of Spotify or an app

There is little debate that the greatest radio host in history is Howard Stern.

In addition to reinventing himself multiple times, from the long-forgotten battles with the FCC in the 90s to giving Charlie Rose a run for his money over the past decade as ‘greatest interviewer alive,’ Howard’s savviest role is behind the scenes as a platform rainmaker.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/SKy6Y ]

First he syndicated his show across the nation after being told his New York humor wouldn’t fly in other markets — heck, they told him he wouldn’t work in Boston and DC! He hit 60 markets and 20m listeners.

Mind-blowing.

Then they told him he couldn’t do books, movies and TV, and he became the King of all Media.

When a new platform emerged called satellite radio, he jumped ship, made a couple hundred million, and literally put a Sirius and XM on his back.

Of course, what was great about satellite was that he could be in every market with one deal, but the drawback was that you had to pay. Can you imagine how huge Howard would have become if satellite radio chose to be ad-based?

Anyway, SiriusXM has reached the end of the line with satellite radio because, well, the Internet. With LTE/4G speeds and smart phones, listening to Howard on-demand is soooooo much better.

You no longer have to miss half an interview; you can simply listen to anything that occurred in the last 10 days. A huge benefit, but still only 1% of the potential.

It’s time for Howard to leave satellite and go direct to consumers or join Spotify. Either of these will make him $1b. Here’s what Howard 3.0 would look like:

  1. Howard tapes his show at any time. No more waking up at 4am and worrying about not being able to take Beth to parties. If you want to start at 10am or 1pm or 10pm, go for it.
  2. Howard tapes his show from anywhere at any time. Want to stay out in the Hamptons? Tape when you’re in LA? Sure, set up a couple of microphones and go.
  3. Never have another boss.
  4. Provide your entire catalogue free or for subscribers on the internet (Howard got his archive back years ago).
  5. Allow fans to remix and make clips from the archives — and repost to your site.

Continue reading Howard Stern’s easy billion dollar pay day — courtesy of Spotify or an app

SMARTCAMP: 30 cities, 10 finalists, 1 winner

We’re doing a global startup competition … with IBM!

I’m proud to announce that IBM and LAUNCH are hosting SMARTCAMP 2015: a 30-city startup competition.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/7bspf ]

$25,000 in funding (from me!) and acceptance into our 12-week, LAUNCH Incubator is the grand prize, and you can read all about it and request an application at smartcamp2015.com.

Competitions from Singapore to Sao Paulo are accepting applications, and live events will be occurring across the globe in the fall.

Finalists will travel to San Francisco to attend our SCALE conference on October 13th and 14th. The founders will learn how to grow their startups from 50+ speakers, as well as have lunch with me and four of the most powerful investors in Silicon Valley.

Those 10 finalists will work on their startups and come back to the LAUNCH Festival from March 2nd through 4th. The top three will make it to the main stage and compete for the grand prize: $25,000 from me and 12 weeks inside my incubator.

Visit smartcamp2015.com and signup with your email to get an application.

smartcamp2

all the best,

@jason and the LAUNCH Team

The most important piece of advice for folks starting their careers

[ From a tweet storm last week ]

1/The most important piece of advice I can give folks starting out: be great at an important skill.

The important skills in the world right now include:

a. sales
b. coding
c. product design
d. growth
e. design
f. corporate storyteller

2/Refine your skill faster than your peers.

If you’re a product designer, stop binge-watching TV & read every book on UX. Learn to use every tool you find on the internet.

Many folks will tell you that the world is not a zero sum game, with one person not having to lose at the expense of another winning. This is simply not true, as in most startups there is a very limited number of seats and they go to the people who work the hardest and who have the most skill.

In your career you will find that life is a zero sum game: the winners get the prime positions and the person who comes in second place for that position is the first loser — not the second winner.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/uUcf3 ]

3/Take your skills to a startup. Period. Full Stop.

Don’t worry about your salary, just get enough money to live in a closet close to work. Focus on providing your CEO 10x the value of your contemporaries. Your CEO will notice you, eventually, and she will love you.

CEOs love people who work hard and who refine their skills faster than everyone else (see #2) because those people remind them of themselves. How the f@#4k do you think she got the CEO slot, by waiting in line? By random luck? No, she f@#$king took that slot.

If you’re taking your slot by working harder than everyone else and by refining your skills faster than everyone else she will notice it.

Continue reading The most important piece of advice for folks starting their careers

Circa’s biggest crime was …

This week, a promising startup died: Circa. I was a small investor and a big fan.

There’s a special place in my heart for emerging news brands and curation, and Circa was both.

For background, the company spent $5m building and running a stunning, some say quirky, app powered by a respectable team of news junkies for the past three years.

Compare that to magazine launches in the 90s, which ran $10-20m per year, and you can see how efficient their effort was.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/4Qx3U ]

Sadly, Circa never caught fire. They did have a small, loyal following. Which is really what the first two years of a startup is about: you grab some kindling and light it up. You then hope you can get some embers burning hot. In the case of consumer products, those embers are your early true believers — the superfans.

They had enough of these burning hot embers that I believe they could’ve gotten 3,000 folks to pay $10 a month for it. Not huge money, but enough to keep the brand publishing.

After being shopped for an extended period of time, no one bought the assets, which is puzzling. There is still a possibility this will happen; in a wind-down like this, the board and founders are obligated (sometimes legally, always morally) to sell the assets to recover even a penny on the dollar for investors (which in this case would be ~$50,000).

Last I heard, another dotcom offered $500,000 to pick up the team and platform but the VCs blocked the deal, hoping someone else would pay more. Someone will debate that in the comments, I’m sure.

Continue reading Circa’s biggest crime was …

What I would do if I were CEO of Twitter — a seven-part plan

[ UPDATE: 6/18/15: Listen to Baratunde Thurston read this entire blog post on Soundcloud. Hilarious. ]

I was on CNBC on Monday talking about who would be the next CEO of Twitter. On that hit, I explain why Adam Bain is the next CEO. I thought I would expand upon my thoughts on Twitter in this 2,000 word essay, because it seems no one else has any thoughts. 

At the end of the day, Wall Street ran Twitter’s CEO out despite my piece explaining why this would be a mistake back in January.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/Y4lTQ ]

Technically Dick resigned, and is leaving next month, ending his five-year run as the CEO of one of the five greatest Internet companies ever created — Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Amazon lead that group. 

Here is what I would do if I were CEO of Twitter. Or, said another way, here is what Adam should do:

  1. Explain to Wall Street explicitly that Twitter is Not Facebook

Wall Street keeps comparing Twitter to Facebook, hoping that Twitter will become less complex, less intimidating, and more accessible to common folk. These analysts on Wall Street are wickedly smart when it comes to grouping and analyzing things, but in the case of Facebook and Twitter, this is a huge mistake.

Twitter’s users, the ones who are logged in and contributing content to the service, are the politicians, celebrities, business leaders, and journalists in the world who drive massive consumption of culture by passive, non-logged in users.

On Facebook, everyone is the celebrity of their own lives, which is exceptionally boring to everyone on the planet, except maybe the dozen or so people who are part of that life. That’s why, on Facebook, the trending stories in your feed are birth announcements, and on Twitter, it’s what you’re going to read in the New York Times and TMZ tomorrow.

  1. Steady Growth is Good Growth & The Reddit Paradox

Twitter has grown exactly 5-10% quarter over quarter since inception. The fact that it has not tanked, been disintermediated, or otherwise copied is due to the small miracle of network effects and Dick’s steady hand. 

While the analysts might want to see dramatic action to run Twitter from 300m to 1b users, there is a strong case that doing so would drive away Twitter’s already brilliant community. 

This is the so-called “Reddit Paradox” in full effect: live by your core community, die by your core community. In Reddit’s case, they’ve built a huge, engaged community of primarily highly intelligent, technically savvy, and frequently precocious boys (it’s mainly male) to a scale no one believed would ever be possible — and then you put the most polarizing female figure in Silicon Valley in charge of it! In the middle of the highest profile sexism case in our lifetimes!

How is that working out for Reddit? Can Ellen Pao convince a large portion (but not all) of the core users, who have defined Reddit for the past decade, to stop their gallows humor in the comments, their politically incorrect pugnaciousness, their hilarious-and-sometimes-scary criticism of people and their obsession with p0rn? 

Sure she can!

[ insert Facepalm meme here saying “Ellen Pao, the fearless leader Reddit wants!” ]

Continue reading What I would do if I were CEO of Twitter — a seven-part plan

Apple is launching search engine to destroy Google — and you’re already using it

whacked

Apple is launching a search engine called “Spotlight,” at a pace of 3% a quarter — if you have an iPhone or Mac you’ve been using it for a while!

Google has gone from unstoppable to “about to be stopped,” in the minds of the smartest folks in the industry. Search ads are Google’s cash cow; unfortunately, for them, it seems that Google is not advancing the platform (outside of slamming massive amounts of “paid inclusion”).

ads 1“Paid Inclusion” is basically the ads that consumers think are content, but are really ads.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/90f3g ]

You can see this on your desktop by doing a search for “used iPhone.” The majority of the screen real estate is now ads! In the example above 11 of the 12 links are advertisements!

Wow.

On top of that, < 1% of the screen real estate is dedicated to telling this insane fact to consumers! See the tiny ‘AD’ and ‘SPONSORED’ logos? Yeah, barely noticeable … by design.

In the old days Google used to highlight the ads with a background color … over time they have included smaller and smaller notes; this is, of course, a huge debate in the industry. In fact, people have done studies to prove that a large percentage of users don’t know they are clicking on ads.

Continue reading Apple is launching search engine to destroy Google — and you’re already using it

Jeff Dachis, Founder & CEO of OneDrop (previously Razorfish), on This Week in Startups

Jeff Dachis, former CEO/Founder Razorfish, is changing the way people manage diabetes with his new data analytics & social platform OneDrop

Producer Jacqui here. On today’s show is entrepreneur extraordinaire Jeff Dachis, former CEO/Founder of Razorfish & current CEO/Founder of OneDrop.today, an incredible management & social platform for people with diabetes that won Best Design at LAUNCH Festival 2015. Soon after Jeff learned that he had diabetes in 2013, he discovered the complete lack of tools available to manage it — and decided to invent them. OneDrop, a Waze for diabetes, pulls together data that is normally siloed, and gives users all the information they need, in one place: tracking glucose levels, meals consumed, exercise & activity information, and much more. OneDrop also connects users, letting them share their data & support each other’s endeavors. Jeff walks us through an awesome demo of his product, including sneak previews of features & new monitors coming soon. It’s a rich conversation in which Jason and Jeff also discuss the need for more prevention-based healthcare solutions in our problem-based system, health care versus self care, disease management as a market, the differences between diabetes types 1 and 2 (and the future/hope for each…), what Jeff has learned on his entrepreneurial journey since web 1.0 (hint: talent is everything) — and more. Join us!!

Never miss an episode! Subscribe to This Week in Startups on iTunes.

Follow on Twitter,  Instagram & Facebook.

Join the TWiST list for access to backchannel, chat rooms, and more.

Trading Open Standards for Corporate Ones

Twitter has a horrible trolling problem, and they’re tackling it head on by banning the accounts of uber-Trolls like Charles Johnson of gotnews.com — who is a true piece of work. Also, Twitter today warned white supremacist @rabite to stop encouraging his followers to harass people.

Trolls can ruin your Tweeting experience by flooding your stream with stupidity, hate, and threats — or as these evil bastards sometimes call their abuse, “criticism” or “satire.”

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/s97Ze ]

Sometimes these people call it both criticism and satire! Sometimes these people are mentally ill, other times they are drunk or high. In all cases they are saying things that we don’t need to hear.

Twitter has had enough and they are policing these abusive tweets. Tweets are famously 140 characters, and the customer service team is going to study those characters to figure out how to solve this problem.

However, after a lot of study it turns out the characters are not the real problem — it’s the words. Trolls are using words that hurt people, and the customer support team is going to put an end to these words, or more specifically, the combination of these words in sequences — also known on the platform as “sentences.”

Sentences are really the problem you see, because the individual words can’t actually hurt you that much. When put in a certain order, they form ideas.

Ideas are really the problem and I for one salute the anonymous human agents at Twitter who will sort through the ideas people are sharing on Twitter and remove the ones that make Twitter less fun for people.

No one deserves to wake up, open their Twitter stream, and be faced with ideas that they don’t like or agree with. No one.

Continue reading Trading Open Standards for Corporate Ones

#TWiSTLive at Samsung Global Innovation Center with Amir Rubin, CEO of Sixense

#TWiSTLive at Samsung Global Innovation Center: Virtual reality demo & fireside chat with Amir Rubin, industry pioneer & CEO of Sixense

#TWiSTLive!! Virtual reality is an exciting & hotly debated space. Its potential is massive, but will it ever really “arrive”? In today’s live show, recorded at Samsung Global Innovation Center, Jason answers this question with a resounding YES, as he demos the latest & greatest VR and hosts a riveting fireside chat with Amir Rubin, VR pioneer & CEO of Sixense, a premiere virtual reality platform. After a lively demo of Sixense’s cutting-edge, award-winning products, Jason talks with Amir about his inspirations, the state of the field, and what’s coming. We learn why VR is not just about gaming but about every industry (esp. healthcare, education), why motion sickness is no longer an issue, how technologies like 3D printing help VR immensely, how developers are building amazing applications on the Sixense platform, how every phone going forward will be VR ready, why VR is so effective in training for high-risk jobs like welders & pilots, why service providers will give VR headsets away for free, how VR is going to be a new way for creative people to monetize their skills, how movie studios can use VR for you to actually experience being the super hero, why the biggest challenge facing VR is educating consumers — and much much more!

Never miss an episode! Subscribe to This Week in Startups on iTunes.

Follow on Twitter,  Instagram & Facebook.

Join the TWiST list for access to backchannel, chat rooms, and more.

News Roundtable with Jessica Lessin (The Information) & Ari Levy (CNBC) on This Week in Startups

News Roundtable: Secret’s bank heist, Google as Game of Thrones, Apple TV’s fate, Facebook’s about-face in revenue sharing, the combustible combo of venture+journalism, weed on demand

It’s News Roundtable Friday! Joining Jason today is Jessica Lessin, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Information and Ari Levy, Senior Technology Reporter at CNBC. The three tackle the latest, greatest, juiciest stories of late in this epic episode. Nothing is left off the table. Secret’s bank heist, how Google is like Game of Thrones, is Android poised for world domination?, the combustible combination of venture + journalism, and several of the greatest existential questions of our time: what is the future of advertising on mobile, what happens when you give nerds $20m, and when will Amazon start delivering weed?? And, oh, so much more.

Never miss an episode! Subscribe to This Week in Startups on iTunes.

Follow on Twitter,  Instagram & Facebook.

Join the TWiST list for access to backchannel, chat rooms, and more.