How to land early adopters with Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a great platform for getting early adopters to sample your product, and it’s at least 20x more effective than getting a HackerNews or TechCrunch story today — and 200x more effective than getting on legacy sites like TechMeme.

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Getting the first 100, 500 or 1,000 people to engage your product is hard, so it’s certainly an awesome resource if you follow some simple best practices:

  1. Only launch when you have a clever product that can get to the top 10. If you don’t have a product that’s as good as the top 10 over the past week, it’s best to focus on refining your product — because you only get one shot to put your product up (or one shot for a major version).
  2. Like the iTunes store, your graphics matter, so make sure you have killer screenshots.
  3. You’re not supposed to ask for votes, but everyone does. So, instead of asking for votes, make a list of your top 50 or 100 customers, friends and investors and ask them at 7am and again at 10am to “check us out on Product Hunt.”
  4. Respond to every comment people make.
  5. Credit all the people who worked on your product.

Product Hunt can be a nice bump for a product, and it’s certainly more effective than TechCrunch or Mashable articles these days, but it won’t make a crappy product awesome — only you can do that.

Continue reading How to land early adopters with Product Hunt

Four days off social media

Monday I started my 100-day retreat from social media and it’s been wonderful for my productivity and longer-form writing.

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Here is what I’ve done to keep myself from accidentally checking my social:

  1. I took Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram and put them on the last page of my iPhone apps, inside a folder — out of sight, out of mind.
  2. I turned off desktop notifications and logged myself out of Facebook and Twitter.
  3. I’ve replaced my social apps and autoloading pages with Wunderlist and Google Docs / Evernote (I can’t pick between the two).
  4. I started taking my journal with me to meetings and taking many more notes — and now when I get back to my desk I re-read my notes and think about what I wrote.
  5. We have been posting to social media things that my team needs to share with our audience, like clips from This Week in Startups, my blog posts and updates from (which is having a little resurgency since we moved 100% to email).

Last night at poker I found myself wanting to check my phone over and over and I did open Twitter to do a search about a $600,000 bet by some degenerate poker players. They are basically betting that one of them can ride a bike from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It sparked a $10,000 free-roll bet with another poker player that she couldn’t do it in 72 hours (she did).

I couldn’t actually find that information anywhere else, so I spent < five minutes on Twitter.

If you look at, it’s now essentially an RSS feed for this blog.

But What about News?

It’s my job to be informed, so I’ve focused my energy on reading four emails every day: two editions of LAUNCH Ticker and two editions of Daily Brief. These take about three minutes each to read, with LAUNCH Ticker having 25-35 updates per email (too many, I told the team to pull it back to 15-20 per email), and’s Daily Brief email having 15-20 updates (but about 2-3 links per story capsul). If I have time, I like to click on all the links in a story from Inside as they are selected to be either informative or entertaining (which I find fun).

Continue reading Four days off social media

Founders: Do not waste money on TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley

Last month we had 15,000 registered attendees at the LAUNCH Festival and we gave 250 startups free demo pit tables and five tickets each based on merit. The way we did this is, candidly, we don’t make a profit off our event.

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Seventy-five percent of the people in the DEMO PIT reported they met an investor (the other 25% certainly did meet an investor, but those investors didn’t uncloak — many, investors, including myself, don’t uncloak at events).

Have you done TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley? Please take this SURVEY and tell us how it went:

TechCrunch Disrupt has taken my DEMO PIT model — which I came up with 9 years ago — and corrupted it. They are giving their demo pit tables to founders for only one day and they are charging founders $2,000 for two tickets.

If the Startup Alley is open all day, you’re going to pay $300-400 an hour to stand at your table. Not to mention you are going to have to fly to New York City with three people (what it takes to properly have a table), and you’re going to have to put yourself up for four days.

Four thousand dollars (with travel, at least) to do the Startup Alley is a huge waste of resources for your startup. Just think about what else your startup could do with $4,000. If your customer acquisition cost is $5 or $10, you’re going to get a lot more attention from angel investors by emailing them a chart that shows you’ve now got 200 or 400 new customers — trust me, this I know.

Continue reading Founders: Do not waste money on TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley

Have you done TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley ($4,000?! Rip off!)– email me!

I’m looking for some candid — and confidential — information around the experience startups have had buying a table for TechCrunch Disrupt’s $4,000 Startup Alley (which is based off my ‘DEMO PIT’ innovation from nine years ago — except I don’t charge for it).

Email me directly:

subject: Startup Alley

1. Which city, What year

2. How much did you pay

3. Did you meet investors?

4. Was it worth it?

5. How likely are you to recommend it to a friend? 1 to 10?

6. What was it like, candidly?

Email to (.co not .com). 🙂

How to select your angel round valuation (aka “the $4m rule”)

“What should I set my valuation at?” countless founders have asked me. It’s not a perfect science, but since I invest in 30-40 startups a year personally, I probably have better data and first-hand experience than any single human being on the planet at this moment.

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Additionally, since 95% of my angel investments ask to me to syndicate their deals, my check size has gone from $25-250k to $50-$1m, making me the lead or co-lead in my deals.

For example, I recently syndicated five deals on AngelList at one time — something no one has ever tried. Four of the five deals were oversubscribed, and the final one is on track to close shortly. When you syndicate a deal people sometimes tell you why they passed, so I get massive information from the minds of angels on what they want to back, and more importantly, what they pass on — and why.

[ Note: if you want to angel invest alongside me, you can apply at ]

Twenty-seven startups have finished my incubator in the past year and I’ve introduced each to well over 50 investors, and I always ask those investors, “which two companies are your favorites and why?” Then I watch which ones they actually write checks to — if any.

Continue reading How to select your angel round valuation (aka “the $4m rule”)

For Sale: A Dozen YouTube Channels with 4M+ Subscribers

Now that is 100% focused on our email newsletter, we’re looking for a new home for the following channels on YouTube. If you’re interested in discussing a deal, please ping me at this form.

My plan is to auction them off on May 1st if we don’t find a buyer by then.

It’s just amazing how much these channels have grown! My guess is that it would cost $1 to gain each subscriber we have on these channels (between content and marketing cost) — and three to five years.

The sale would include all of the videos and related IP.

100-day social media break

I’ve decided to take a 100-day break from social media in order to focus on some important projects I have brewing.

From March 21st until July 1st I’m going to attempt to focus on medium- and long-form content on my blog and’s Daily Brief email. Oh yeah, Brockman sold my book, and I’m going to spend the next year writing it, so it’s time to get off the social media crack pipe.

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I love social media. It’s given me a huge megaphone, but I’ve found myself starting and ending my days on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram for at least 20 minutes combined. Those minutes add up to around 1,200 a month and I need those hours back. Also, sometimes that 20 minutes at night turned into an hour, and it simply feels unhealthy to get wound up debating stuff at midnight.

Like many of you, I go into defensive mode during the day, constantly responding to notifications on my desktop, iPad, and iPhone — as well as important emails. I’ve turned all notifications off and I’m staying off social during the day unless it’s to share a medium- or long-form piece of writing.

No social during the day should save another hour — that’s about two hours saved per day.

Continue reading 100-day social media break

My Angel Syndicate After Two Years: 902 Accredited Investors, 42 deals

In March 2014 we launched a deal for to raise $200,000 on AngelList. That deal was oversubscribed and we closed $328,104 across 95 investors who ranged from $1,000 to $25,000 each.

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Eighty-four of the investors put in $5,000 or less, an amount considered impossible at that time, when angel deals had $25,000 minimums.

Today, my syndicate accepted its 902nd accredited investor.


In 24 months we’ve done 42 deals, which is about one every two or three weeks.

We recently closed five deals in one month … we’re picking up the pace.

I wanted to say thank you to the AngelList team — especially founders Naval & Nivi — on creating this very unique platform that has helped so many founders to raise money and find employees over the past two years.

You can join the Rebel Alliance — if you’re an accredited investor — at

Best regards, @jason

PS – You never know, I might figure out how to get all of you “non-accredited investors” into the angel investing game with this Title III stuff that the SEC approved.

PPS – I wrote about the “trench run” syndicate 20 months ago — interesting contrast.

Mullet Style: How we’re covering Trump at the Inside Daily Brief

trump grimace

How the media covers Trump is a big discussion at the moment, as insults and face-grimace memes have evolved into physical violence and the reality that Trump is going to win the Republican nomination. Covering Trump is a must for cable news because, in addition to being the frontrunner for the GOP, he’s transforming their wobbly businesses into ratings and revenue machines. Even if the networks protest, a Trump presidency increases their revenue. Print publications, which have lost more than half of their revenue base in the past two decades, are in a similar boat: he’s the frontrunner and he sells papers.

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The Daily Brief isn’t subject to the revenue pressure of the mainstream media (more on that in a minute), so we’re covering the Trump campaign two ways. First, here’s what you need to know, which you will find in the top news section of the IDB. Second, from a 30,000 foot level, here’s the commentary and cultural take on what’s going down, which is in the second half of the email.

We’re rocking the mullet: business up top, party in the back (of the email).

If you feel we are biased please hit reply and call us out — the email goes to the entire team.

By calling us out you’re calling out @lons who writes the IDB, and who, although he is a kind of a socialist, and living in Los Angeles, he has a long history of working in journalism, many of those years with me, and he works tirelessly to be fair and balanced. He works for what many have described as a “libertarian capitalist” (me) from Brooklyn, who wants the newsletter to grow and be steered by a guiding principle of links that are “important & fascinating.”

Some of you are probably wondering about the sustainability of the newsletter. With 17,000 subscribers already, and over half opening every single email, we can cover the ~$20,000 a month burn rate of the business by making $700 a day with either one or two advertisements, or by hitting 2,000 folks paying/donating $10 a month to keep the lights on. My guess is we try both and hit profitability by the summer.  


1. How do you think we’re doing with our coverage of Trump?

2. What do you think of our mullet?

Best @jason

LAUNCH Festival 2016: Hyperloop Tech co-founders Shervin Pishevar & Brogan BamBrogan are making the dream of high-speed travel a reality

In episode 629 of This Week in Startups, Jason is joined on the LAUNCH Festival stage by Hyperloop Technologies co-founders Shervin Pishevar and Brogan BamBrogan. They talk about the basics of Hyperloop – how it works, how much it will cost, where it will be – as well as several higher level issues affecting the development of the Hyperloop: government support, infrastructure and ‘new cities,’ and the real innovation taking place. Shervin even gives his expert opinion on how the presidential race could impact Hyperloop in the U.S. Here are a handful of the insights Shervin and Brogan give on how Hyperloop is a ‘moon shot’ opportunity.

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Hyperloop Will Levitate

Brogan gives a great explanation of the technology behind Hyperloop; if you’re not familiar with it, it will in fact be a levitating pod inside a tube, powered by electromagnets and taking advantage of reduced air resistance to travel at extremely fast speeds. It’s not magic, but it’s probably going to look like it.

Hyperloop Aims to be Cost Effective

Several times, both Brogan and Shervin underscore the fact that the technology to build Hyperloop currently exists – the goal at Hyperloop Technologies as a company is to make the Hyperloop cost effective. They assert that if the Hyperloop isn’t cost effective, it won’t be as revolutionary as they know it can be.

The First Hyperloop Test is Happening This Year

You might be surprised to learn that Hyperloop Technologies will run their first tests by the end of 2016. The team has been hard at work since signing a lease for their Nevada test site in December, and will have over three miles of tube and rails on which to run Hyperloop pods.

Continue reading LAUNCH Festival 2016: Hyperloop Tech co-founders Shervin Pishevar & Brogan BamBrogan are making the dream of high-speed travel a reality

LAUNCH Festival 2016: Chamath Palihapitiya on the state of tech, politics, diversity, choosing investors, & our changing morality

In episode 628 of This Week in Startups, Jason sits down with Chamath Palihapitiya for a fireside chat at the 2016 LAUNCH Festival. Chamath is a venture capitalist and CEO of Social Capital. In their candid conversation, they cover a range of conversations including the insanity of Donald Trump, the changing morality in America, diversity in technology, why we should hope that Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes will still be a success, and the four things you should look for when choosing your investors. Plus numerous other topics too — this is a meaty conversation that gives you a look inside the mind of one of the Valley’s most successful VCs. Check out some more about the topics covered below.

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The Morality of America has Changed

At several points in their conversation about the American political system, Chamath notes how morality has shifted in many significant ways in the past few years — we now value aspects like non-traditional education and racial and gender equality — which has produced opportunities for people like Donald Trump to take the main stage in our two-party system. Chamath goes on to point out that these changes in morality have implications for founders: there are new business opportunities now that wouldn’t have existed even five years ago.

Continue reading LAUNCH Festival 2016: Chamath Palihapitiya on the state of tech, politics, diversity, choosing investors, & our changing morality

Why I’m doing a reality show

As some of you might have read, I’m going to be doing a reality TV show starting this week at the LAUNCH Festival. I thought I would share with you why I’m doing it and what it’s going to be all about.

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My goal for the show is to inspire people to start companies that solve big problems in the world.

Reality TV is perhaps the most powerful medium today, and I hope to leverage every ounce of its power to inspire people to start companies — while taking 5% ownership in those same companies for myself. 🙂

The show is going to take an inside look at my weekly accelerator, the LAUNCH Incubator, which happens every Thursday night, for three hours, here in San Francisco. We’ve graduated 27 startups from the program so far. Fourteen of them are debuting on stage this Wednesday, March 2nd, at the LAUNCH Festival.

I can’t get too much into the format, and I can’t say which network bought the show, but I can tell you that it will be the most authentic show ever created about Silicon Valley and startups, because, well, I came up with the concept of the show myself. “Film my incubator!” (Very original, I know).

Continue reading Why I’m doing a reality show

This Week in Startups: Thinking Through the Funnel with Des Traynor, co-founder of Intercom

In episode 624 of This Week in Startups, Intercom cofounder Des Traynor speaks to the LAUNCH Incubator. His talk, titled “Thinking Through the Funnel,” leads founders through different issues they should consider when trying to acquire users. Des lays a foundation by saying that most companies have no difficulty getting their first hundred, thousand, or sometimes even million users; it’s keeping those users that is the truly challenging task for companies. Read on for a quick walkthrough of the four main steps of getting — and keeping — users.

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Market the Job the Customer Does to Get the Signup

Des says that in order to successfully keep users, you need to do more than just convince them to try your new technology or beautifully designed product: you need to communicate that you’ll help them “get the job done,” whatever job that may be. In order to successfully do this, you have to talk to the customer — yes, even the founder should have experience talking directly with your target users. When you hear their needs, wants, and desires directly, you’ll be able to figure out how to create and position your product to help them with whatever job they need to do.

Onboarding Users

Des defines onboarding as anything that occurs from between expressing an intent to use the product, and when they are actually fully able to use it. He says most founders and companies design an onboarding program, then forget about it. Within reason, each time there is a major change in your product, you should go back to your onboarding process and ensure it still adequately helps get the customer to being able to successfully use the product. Sometimes, this can be done through optimizing the page (making small adjustments), but often, it requires a redesign of at least some components.

Get the Customer through the Trial Period

If you think your product doesn’t have a trial period, Des says you’re wrong. Every product has a trial: every user has their own trial period to determine if the product or service provides them value. This is an important time to communicate with and support your users (and it’s why drip email campaigns have become an integral part of early communications strategies). This is also an important time to be soliciting feedback from your new customers: whether or not they are finding value, you need to understand why, and improve what you can.

Continue reading This Week in Startups: Thinking Through the Funnel with Des Traynor, co-founder of Intercom

LAUNCH Festival Speaker Line-Up: March 2-4, Fort Mason, SF

We’ve got an amazing line-up of founders and investors for the LAUNCH Festival this year and I wanted to share some of the crazy, awesome projects we’ll be showing and discussing:


How would you like to get from New York to California in 45 minutes? How about shipping containers full of electronics from Chinese factories to the port of Long Beach in two hours — instead of 14 days, and partly across an absurdly polluted frontier? Hyperloop is bringing us closer to that dream, thanks to co-founders Shervin Pishevar and Brogan BamBrogan.

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Keith Rabois has a fascinating new real estate startup, Opendoor, that will buy your home on the spot — truly a groundbreaking concept to create a fluid market for homes (which are one of the slowest assets you can move). He just raised $20 million in a new round of funding.


One of the legendary investors in Silicon Valley, George Zachary (CRV), and I will sit down and talk with one of the legendary creators in technology, Sebastian Thrun, who brought us Google Glass and now the surging Udacity (where anyone can take a course from Intro to Data Analysis, to Deep Learning, to Advanced Android App Development — for free).


3D printing has had a couple of stops and starts in its decade-long trek, but Joseph DeSimone’s Carbon3D promises to change all that. It’s basically the next big step to us all having a replicator from Star Trek, in my mind.


A new startup from my incubator will debut that will replace Starbucks with robots. I’m not kidding, it’s insane.

Continue reading LAUNCH Festival Speaker Line-Up: March 2-4, Fort Mason, SF

This Week in Startups: Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation for SecState Hillary Clinton & author of “Industries of the Future”

In episode 622 of This Week in Startups, Jason sits down with Alec Ross, author of The Industries of the Future to discuss technology, employment, and the future of the United States economy (as well as the world). Their conversation ranges from Alec’s experiences working as Senior Advisor for Innovation for Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State to how unemployment rates in the U.S. differ from elsewhere, from robots and technology replacing (some) jobs in the future to Alec’s three greatest global fears — and much more. Check out some of the main talking points below to spark your curiosity for the full episode.

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Working with the Secretary of State

Jason and Alec spend the first part of their conversation discussing Alec’s tenure working with Hillary Clinton. They both share personal insights into Clinton’s character and her desire to understand and empower innovation in the future of the U.S. Despite her commitment to knowledge and technology, one of the most salient stories told was about her understanding the importance of family and life outside work. Alec tells how she would often leave the office to work from home, so that her team could go home to spend time with their families.

Robots Will Replace (Some Of) Us

But probably not for the jobs you think. While robots and automation have consistently moved in to replace manual, repetitive tasks, Alec spends time exploring how the rise of AI and cognitive machines means that robots will also be able to do semi-cognitive, semi-routine tasks that have previously been done by humans. This isn’t for the worst: historically, he says, being replaced by a machine has almost always resulted in a shift in the working force toward more efficient uses for human time.

The Polarization of Wealth is a Problem

Alec spends some time discussing how massive wealth inequality is a problem, but it has also resulted in the quality of life improving for almost everyone over time. While massive wealth has been accumulated by some, many of these people have turned around and given back — either through private philanthropy, research, or by affecting policy change on a global scale, such as the fight against AIDS in Africa.

Continue reading This Week in Startups: Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation for SecState Hillary Clinton & author of “Industries of the Future”

Knowing when, and how, to pivot (or, why didn’t news apps work?)

I’ve been beating my head against a wall for the last two years trying to make a news app experience work, and despite great reviews, I’ve failed.

So, we’re giving up on the App and focusing 100% of our efforts on a medium that’s resulting in much better engagement — email!

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Why News Apps Failed

Very few people seem to want a dedicated news app, and while my team poured their heart and soul into building what I think was one of the two or three best news app experiences ever, we couldn’t get traction.

We got exceptional reviews, great press, featured by Apple, and tons of glorious feedback from users — but we didn’t have breakout success.

Neither did Circa, Zite, Trov, or Pulse.

Some readers that are part of big companies are still chugging along, like Facebook’s Paper and Yahoo News Digest, but even those well-constructed products are solid but not breakout hits.

News apps failed because social networks succeeded.

People want to get their news filtered through their social network. It’s just easier and more fun to click on news links your friends are sharing than to open a separate app.

Intellectually, you would think that people would have a unique app for each experience in their life: photo sharing, news, shopping, socializing, watching video, emailing, chatting, etc. It turns out that with these social platforms surging, many things are consolidating into them.

Lesson Learned: Social is eating the world. Photos, video, news, and messaging have folded into social, and we all know that Facebook and Twitter desperately want to pull ecommerce into their platforms (but have failed thus far, even though it has worked in Asia).   

Continue reading Knowing when, and how, to pivot (or, why didn’t news apps work?)

When your heroes disappoint you…

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Kimbal & Wolfgang after lunch in 2012 at Spago

For the past decade I’ve watched my good friend Kimbal tirelessly build his brand of “farm to table” restaurants, simply called “The Kitchen,” into a movement.

Like his slightly more famous brother, he focuses on the details relentlessly and the results are just stunning. The Kitchen has seven locations, and is one of the most recognizable brands in the food industry. People are literally begging Kimbal to bring his brand to their hotels and residential buildings around the world — it’s that special.

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Kimbal has moved slowly and methodically, which is exactly the advice that was given to him by one of his all-time culinary heroes, Wolfgang Puck, when they dined three years ago at Spago.

(Side note: Spago is one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, the schnitzel is better than any I’ve had — including in Munich, Bavaria, and Berlin).

The WSJ today outlines Kimbal’s meeting with Wolfgang, who sadly has decided to steal not only Kimbal’s locally-sourced concepts, but also, this is where it gets just bizarre, the brand.

“The Kitchen… by Wolfgang Puck” is launching soon with recipes that use “only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients.”

In the technology industry we have a long tradition of people mentoring each other, and sure, people riff off each other’s ideas, but the wholesale stealing of a brand and concept like this is just disappointing and strange.

Wolfgang is such a creative force I’m certain he could come up with a dozen viable names that don’t confuse the public and impede Kimbal’s ability to build his business.

I would love to say there is some grand lesson here about entrepreneurship, but I can’t find it. Sometimes your heroes just disappoint you, I guess.

A simple change like calling your efforts “Wolfgang Puck’s Kitchen” would do wonders Wolfgang — and it would trade on your legendary career, not Kimbal’s budding one.

This Week in Startups: Gagan Biyani, CEO & Co-Founder of Sprig

In episode 620 of This Week in Startups, Jason sits down with Gagan Biyani, CEO and cofounder of Sprig, formerly of Udemy and — Jason learns through the course of the conversation — Lyft. They discuss Gagan’s background in entrepreneurship and peer-to-peer services as a foundation for the work he’s doing with Sprig, a brand-new Sprig feature, and the tremendous future he predicts for the company. Here are a few other highlights from this episode.

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Technology Enables Innovation Upon Innovation

Jason and Gagan spend the first part of the episode discussing Gagan’s professional background and the elements that came together to lead him to co-found Sprig. In the course of this conversation, they mention how technology didn’t even present the opportunity for fresh, ready meal delivery a few years ago: without GPS, Uber and Lyft wouldn’t exist. Without driver-on-demand services, the idea for home delivery of meal delivery didn’t have a space to exist. They comment how this is often the case with major innovations: you don’t know what’s going to happen until the foundation is laid for an entrepreneur to take advantage of that opportunity.

Entrepreneurship Can Be About More than Just Making Money

At one point, Gagan makes a statement that may sound crazy to most entrepreneurs: he considers it his goal to be an activist, not just to make money. In that way, he says his personal mission as an entrepreneur overlaps with projects that help others: Udemy provided a new model of education, and Sprig improving the health quality of the food we eat. Especially for an entrepreneur with such an impressive track record (he also had a stints at TechCrunch and the aforementioned Lyft, as well as co-founding Growth Hackers Conference), it’s refreshing to hear that his ambition comes from a personal place.

Let Your Mission Drive Product Developments

During the episode, Gagan gives Jason a demo of a new feature in Sprig: labels on each meal that give deeper insight into the nutritional breakdown of that meal. The three labels “clean,” “balance,” and “fuel” help consumers gain information about the meal (calorie count, protein/carb/veggie breakdown) at a glance, and help distinguish Sprig on their mission and value proposition of providing healthier options to their users. Jason and Gagan discuss how this helps make a company stand out in a sea of competitors, too.

Continue reading This Week in Startups: Gagan Biyani, CEO & Co-Founder of Sprig

This Week in Startups: Brock Pierce, Blockchain Capital Managing Partner & Bitcoin Foundation Chairman

In Episode 618 of This Week in Startups, Jason sits down with Brock Pierce, Managing Partner at Blockchain Capital and Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation. Together, they discuss blockchain protocol, bitcoin mining and scalability, innovative use cases, and the future of cryptocurrency. Throughout the episode, Jason asks Brock important questions about the technology and future of Bitcoin and blockchain; these answers provide insight into the cryptocurrency industry as a whole, and the huge potential it will have to change the world. Here are some of Brock’s most salient answers, if you’re curious to learn more about Bitcoin and blockchain technology.

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What is the difference Bitcoin and blockchain technology?

As a relatively new development, Bitcoin is not a technology most people understand at a basic level. Brock explains that blockchain technology is the way that data is stored and authenticated, and Bitcoin is one of the types of data that can be transferred across blockchain technology (in the example of Bitcoin, the data itself is given a monetary value, and called a cryptocurrency). He says, “it’s like blockchain technology is the operating system and Bitcoin is the first application on that operating system.”

Why hasn’t Bitcoin become part of our day to day lives?

Brock explains that for the most part, the technology and security solutions that Bitcoin provides aren’t necessarily big enough to change banking and financial behaviors in developed countries with stable currencies and trustworthy governments and banking systems. In countries or parts of the world that don’t have such services and systems, Bitcoin presents an opportunity to establish security and trust that isn’t currently there. Just because it isn’t being widely adopted in the U.S. doesn’t mean Bitcoin won’t change the way currency is exchanged in other parts of the world.

Why do we need to have mining at all?

Mining is integral to the trustlessness of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, Brock says. While this may seem counterintuitive, the fact that you don’t have to trust the person you’re doing a transaction with (because the transaction is authenticated by ‘miners’ all over the globe) makes it a must more secure system. Just like reviews helped you feel better about not buying a fraudulent item on eBay, mining helps authenticate Bitcoin transactions so that everyone has access to the proof that they happened.

Continue reading This Week in Startups: Brock Pierce, Blockchain Capital Managing Partner & Bitcoin Foundation Chairman

Incubator hopping: Should you go to more than one incubator?

My pal Sam Altman wrote a post about a growing trend I’ll call ‘incubator hopping,’ in which he explains that going to another incubator may actually DECREASE your chances of getting into YCombinator, rather than giving you a better shot.

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Some incubator heads I spoke to read Sam’s post as a scare tactic designed to discourage founders from going to other programs. Let’s put that inside baseball stuff aside for now and focus on the actual question at hand:

Should you go to more than one incubator?

I’ll give you the correct answer, which is obvious, but dependent on your options. Specifically, it depends on a) how strong a reputation you have as founder, b) the overall strength of the business and c) how competitive a market there is for your equity (which is tied to points A & B above. At least in a rational market).

Here is exactly what you should do, in order of how strong you are (on a scale of “seemingly invincible” to “desperate”):

  1. (SEEMINGLY) INVINCIBLE: If you can raise an A-Round without ever going to an incubator, you should do that. You’re obviously awesome and don’t need help from an incubator. You can, and probably have, self-funded your MVP.
  2. VERY STRONG: If you can raise a seed round right now, you should only go to an incubator if you think it will increase your chances of getting an A-Round (which is very hard to do in 2016).
  3. STRONG: If you can’t raise a seed round, but you get into a high-quality incubator, do it quickly. Incubators are the way many angels and syndicates look for a signal that you’re worth a seed round — and they’re right! If you make it through a respected incubator, you should have been vetted to the point at which you have a working product, some customers and perhaps even revenue, which greatly improves the angel’s chances of getting a return.
  4. WEAK: If you can’t get into a ‘Tier One’ incubator, but can get into a second tier incubator in a second-tier market with second-tier mentors (i.e., folks without killer track records), well, that’s better than not starting a company in my book! Give it a shot, and if you fail, the only thing you’ve lost is six months of your life. You’ll have learned a ton and increased your chances of being part of the first three groups above!
  5. DESPERATE: If you went to an incubator and didn’t raise a seed round, or you did and you’re out of money, you’re going to want to take a deep look in the mirror and ask the following questions:

a) Does your product suck?
b) Does your team, ummm, suck?
c) Is your team awesome and you just picked a bad idea?
d) Is your team awesome and everyone else in the world is wrong about your idea?
e) Is your team awesome and you’re on the cusp of a breakthrough / pivot?

Continue reading Incubator hopping: Should you go to more than one incubator?