Category Archives: Events

Grab Your Seat at Launch 2014

LAUNCH Festival, an event where startup founders can pitch their ideas to investors, network with other startup enthusiasts and rub elbows with those who “made it” will be FREE in 2014.

The event was created by Jason Calacanis, who explained in an email why he is giving away tickets:

When I started in the industry in my 20s, I didn’t have a pot to piss in and was a ‘little rough around the edges’ – I was so lucky to have folks like Esther Dyson, Kara Swisher, John Battelle, Tim O’Reilly and (most of all) John Brockman include me in their events.

These events led to me rubbing elbows with Evan Williams, Yossi Vardi, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Ted Leonsis, Steve Case, Mark Cuban and countless other luminaries. Some of them became good friends and/or critical business contacts.

Now I’m trying to pay it forward for the 40+ startups that will launch onstage, the 150 that will be at demo tables, and the thousands of founders and technologists who maybe don’t have the budget yet to come to a world-class conference.

LAUNCH Festival is my legacy and I want as many folks to experience it as possible.

We had 6,000 people sign up last year and this year we hope to have 8,000 (stretch goal FTW!). This makes us the largest startup conference in the world – by far.

Grab your tickets here: http://launch.ticketleap.com/launch-festival-builder/dates

Thank you Jason!

 

 

Global Innovation Event Helps International Startups Raise Capital

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 10.44.57 AM

I just got an email about the  “Funding The Best In Global Innovation III” event, to be held in New York on May 16. In its third year, this 1-day conference is an initiative of the Worldwide Investor Network, a group that focuses on startups from all over the world (not just US-based) and assists them with mentorship and in raising capital.

As Elizabeth Lopez, their VP of Operations told me, “Our goal is to showcase only the TOP tech global startups and as such our business model is the most friendly for entrepreneurs. There is no fee to present at our events, and our process includes mentorship done by Top NY Investors (virtually), free access to our community event, and a spot to pitch to the most relevant NYC-based investors at our demo day”.

The lineup for their May 16th event include some top investors and experienced entrepreneurs:

  • David Aronoff – General Partner, Flybridge Capital
  • Brad Svrluga – General Partner, High Peaks Venture Partners
  • Lisa Wu – Venture Capitalist, Norwest Venture Partners
  • Jessica Lawrence –  Executive Director, NY Tech Meetup
  • Andrew Cleland – Venture Partner, Comcast Ventures
  • Hadley Harris – General Partner, Eniac Ventures
  • Jalak Jobanputra – Managing Partner, FuturePerfect Ventures
  • Charlie O’Donnell – Partner, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures
  • Tanya Prive – Founder, COO of Rock the Post
  • Alejandro Cremades – Founder, CEO of Rock the Post
  • Ann Li – Executive Vice President, Center for Economic Transformation, City of New York
  • Inaki Berenguer – Co-Founder, Pixable
  • Eran Gilad – CEO, Tracx
  • Shay Rapaport – CEO, FireBlade
  • Steve Peltzman – Chief Business Technology Officer, Forrester
  • Greg Satell – Contributor, Forbes Magazine
  • Joao-Pierre Ruth – New York Editor, Xconomy
  • Rebecca Fannin – Author, Silicon Dragon (2008) & Startup Asia (2011)
  • Ed Sim – Founder and Management Partner, BOLDstart Ventures
  • Eliot Durbin – Partner, BOLDstart Ventures

If your live outside the US and are looking to get exposure to your startup, make connections with the VC community and get advice and mentorship, then you should check out their website at www.worldwideinvestornetwork.com.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT

The Worldwide Investor Network has extended a courtesy discount for readers of this blog. Use the code StartupWebGuide to snatch 25% discount off the registration price.

Funding the Best in Global Innovation III – Details

  • When: May 16, 2013
  • Where: 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY
  • Register atwww.worldwideinvestornetwork.com
  • Discount code for 25% off: StartupWebGuide

WorldWideInvestorNetwork

SiliconHouse Launches, Provides Housing for Entrepreneurs

SiliconHouse_LogoI’ve hear more than once from startup founders that come to Silicon Valley that housing is one of the biggest challenges they face. Especially for those that only want to stay here a month or so to build their networks, make some presentations, and get back home. If ‘home’ is a foreign country, then the issue of housing is compounded by the fact that for many foreigners the Silicon Valley culture and way of life might seem weird and getting their bearings and learning how to best user their time is not easy.

With this in mind, SiliconHouse is trying to change the equation and provide not only a place to stay but also some guidance on how to navigate the Silicon Valley startup scene.

Check out my full post about SiliconHouse at the Startup Grind website.

Cool Startups at Pitch San Francisco

Pitch San Francisco ’11 is now over. An interesting gathering of over 90 startups presenting their products and services to VCs and the public, ended with the following winners:

Congratulations!

More Cool Startups

But other startups are worth mentioning. For example:

  • DealAngel: Could potentially do for hotels what HipMunk did for air travel, DealAngel has a proprietary algorithm that statistically compares hotel deals in an area to tell you which ones are actually good deals in a beautiful display that makes it easy to spot hotels and the best deals. According to Co-Founder and COO Bob Rogers, Expedia, Orbitz and the usual travel sites are not completely transparent when it comes to presenting you with the best price and they are aiming at disrupting this market. If they can crack the code and present users with a better way of saving on travel, that’s a huge market potential.
  • Let’s Listen: Yet another music site? Not quite. Let’s Listen is unique because it allows you to listen to music with your friends, online. It basically allows you and your friends to share your music library, then select a song to play and everyone will listen to the song at the same time while chatting. Simple, yet powerful. At first I was skeptic, but after watching my 15-year-old niece chat with her friends on Skype for hours while listening to music, I’m sold. Worth checking out.
  • CheckInOnMe: Want simple tech that works? I was impressed with this service. Imagine you are a girl leaving that late night study session at the college library, preparing for tomorrow’s exam. Now you have to walk all the way through the parking lot to your car or bus station. You activate CheckInOn.Me and every few minutes you get a text checking in on you. If you reply to the text, everything is fine. If you fail to reply or you reply without using the correct pass phrase, the service will alert your friends and family (you decide who) that something is not right. Is simple SMS tech used in a clever way. The possibilities are many (families checking on their kids, realtors going to other people’s homes, even babysitters).

If you missed this year’s event, make sure to sign up for the next one!

What Office Hours at YCombinator Looks Like

If you ever wondered what would be like to chat with Paul Graham about your startup, here’s your chance to take a peek at what’s like to be questioned, contradicted, and enlightened during YCombinator‘s famous “office hours”.

At TechCrunch Disrupt, they asked Paul to give a few startup founders some on-stage advice as if he were talking to his own incubator companies. The result is pretty entertaining and makes you think about the questions he poses and what you would answer.

The two key questions that came up during every single interview, are “what problem are you solving” and “who needs your product desperately”. Think about that for a moment and write down your answer. Now watch the video and see how others tried answering these same critical questions.

Click the image below to watch and enjoy!

TechCrunch Disrupt Office Hours

Choosing Your Angel Investors

Max Shapiro from People Connect Staffing turned me on to this great video of a recent gathering of Angels and VCs titled “How to Select Your Angels“, from a Total Access session sponsored by Orrick.

The panelists were Jeff Clavier, Jared Hansen, Rob Hayes, Mitchell Kapor, and Naval Ravikant and moderated by Larry Kane.

Here are some key points from the talk:

  • The bar for startups is set higher, you need more than an idea to get funding, need to show traction.
  • Investors want to see something that actually works, if you have revenue is better.
  • What’s your team structure? Investors want to know who’s going to actually do all the work. Make sure you have more “doers” thank “executives” in your team.
  • The product that gets funding is almost never the product that ends up winning, so investors are looking for a team that can move in a big enough market, take whatever they started out with, and make it work, become massive.
  • You’ve gotta know how customer acquisition, retention, and referral will work for your company. If you don’t, is likely investors may pass (higher risk).
  • Naval says “focus on the product, the team, when the time is right the money will show up” and what he means is that the funding process takes time and energy, don’t let that distract you.
  • On incubators, they suggest you pick one as if you were choosing the best college. Each incubator has its own culture, find one that fits you.
  • A key aspect of getting funded is showing you know where you are, how far you’ve come, and that you know the meaningful milestones you have to reach for your next round of financing.
Click below to watch the video.

How to Select Angel Investors

The Founder Conference 2011 Recap

Having attended The Founder Conference in 2010 with a great lineup of speakers, great venue (Microsoft Campus in Mountain View), and good networking opportunities I was looking forward to this year’s event. Unfortunately not all went well this time around, but there were some positive things. The conference was held on 05/03/11 at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts.

Here’s a quick recap for those who weren’t there.

Morning Sessions

Guy Kawasaki was the first speaker and focused on his new book, Enchantment. Guy is a really great speaker, but for someone that is supposedly in tune with the startup world I felt his standard powerpoint deck about his book could have been tweaked a bit to better relate to the audience (i.e. startup founders). Using examples like Ford, Apple and other big names work well for a mass audience that his book is trying to reach but how about bringing it closer to home and using some startups as part of the Enchantment story? Guy has delivered this same talk many times, so you can watch it online and judge for yourself.

Second up was Naval Ravikant, talking about The Rise of the Angels. Naval’s presentation was basically a repeat of a previous talk he gave at the Hackers&Founders meetup a few months ago. You can watch that presentation and judge for yourself. 90% of people I met said they had attended the meetup and so there was nothing new this time around, but others that had seen it for the first time enjoyed, especially knowing how AngelList is becoming a successful venue for raising capital.

Then there was a panel discussion with Loic Le Meur and Robert Scoble on “Building Traction with Social Media”, that had a few interesting insights, such as:

  • Think big. According to Scoble, some founders think only about reaching the local or national market and forget to go abroad, world-wide. That’s where European founders suffer, because they tend to create solutions for their specific countries instead of the whole continent or world.
  • The best way to make your idea/product viral is to tell a good story. Make it easy for people to spread the story.
  • The key metric to show investors is “how many people are actually using your product”.
The discussion also touched upon how to get press, how to recover from bad PR, and a few other topics. I expected more action items related to social media in particular based on the topic of the panel, but it was entertaining to listen them share their stories.

Afternoon Sessions

I liked the afternoon presentations better. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, had a great presentation where he shared all metrics he uses to track customer acquisition and customer engagement. For example:

  • Evernote has 9M registered users to date
  • 28K new registrations daily
  • 3.2M active users in any given 30 day period
  • Users that sign up for the free account and stay with them for 1 year have a 8% conversion rate (end up paying for the premium account), while users that have been using for 36 months convert at a 23% rate.
  • 38% of their active users come from the US, but Japan is the second highest market with 28% of active users.

I also credit Phil for the best quote of the day, saying:

Phil Libin’s Law: The number of things that will go wrong multiplies over time

That’s what every entrepreneur should have in mind, according to Phil who says you have to multiply Moore’s Law by Murphy’s Law and be prepared for bumps along the road.

Another panel came on, but this time it focused on founder stories of how they launched their companies. The questions were mostly about their experiences with the incubator programs they participated in, the conferences they used to launch, and lessons they learned from their experiences. Participated Jared Hansen, of Breezy, Aviv Grill, of Misomedia, and Olivier Desmoulin, of Supermarmite.

After that, twelve companies had the chance to deliver 1 minute pitches and to be critiqued by Brian Wong, in what was a really funny and engaging discussion. Most pitches sucked, which always makes me wonder why founders don’t come prepared for events like this, but I guess this can be a separate post. Companies pitching were (hyperlinks for those who seem to have a site):

Note: let me know if I missed any company and if there are sites for the ones I didn’t link to.

The next session was an interesting presentation by Tim Young, founder of SocialCast and About.me, talking about his now famous Magic of 5 Slides that ended being picked up by TechCrunch and generated 10,000 emails within 1 hour hitting his inbox, including some angry VCs for him disclosing his ideas on how to build a killer pitch deck. 

A few key points he raised during this presentation are worth repeating:

  • Think about the traditional deck versus telling a story. Tell a story, don’t give a presentation.
  • It’s not a pitch, is a religious conversion. Make people believe in your vision.
  • Don’t confuse idea with product or company. VCs fund companies.
  • Use only 30% to 40% of your alloted time to present your story.
Next up was Tommy McClung, talking about how he started CarWoo as the 2008 recession began hitting car makers and dealerships nationwide. Great story of how you can succeed and the importance of timing.
The final session was a pitch feedback panel with Rebecca Lynn, Jeff Clavier, George Zachary, and Tim Young. Some companies (don’t remember how many) had 4 minutes each to do a pitch (with slides) which were then picked apart, I mean, critiqued by the panel. Although I didn’t jot down their company names they were part of the original group of 12 that had presented earlier in the day. The best of any live pitch session like this, is to hear the feedback of the panel, and learn from the presenter’s mistakes how to better prepare for when is your turn on the spotlight.

Conference evaluation

Comparing to last year’s event, The Founder Conference 2011 was very weak. Some sessions were good but overall I was expecting much higher quality, especially not being the first time of this event or the organizers. Here are a few things that I hope they read and take as constructive feedback:

  1. Venue was horrible. Parking, for instance, was terrible and the staff wasn’t helpful in telling us where to find parking. And there was no Wi-Fi.
  2. No Wi-fi. Come on guys, a startup conference without Wi-Fi? And don’t blame Gooogle.
  3. No food. I’m not talking about lunch, but at least some cookies or something during break is not much to ask.
  4. No questions during sessions. This was perhaps my biggest issue, you listen to great people talk and can’t ask them questions?! Wow.
  5. Panels too weak. I was hoping for more insightful questions asked to the panels. Next time, I suggest opening up for attendees to ask questions so it’s more interactive.
  6. A/V sucked. There were many problems with sound, microphones, and slides. Some testing beforehand is in order.
On a scale from 1 (horrible) to 10 (outstanding) I would give the conference a 6. There were some good speakers and the networking, which is one of the most important aspects of the event, was good (I met several great people). The lesson is to learn from the mistakes and put on a better show next time.

How to Hack Your Funding Process

Last week Naval Ravikant did a presentation at the Hackers and Founders event about hacking your funding process. There’s a lot that is similar to other presentations from Naval but a few slides talking about what is angel list, possible startup bubble and tips for founders that make the talk worth watching.

You can watch the whole talk at the Hackers&Founders TV website.

 

Startup Success: What Can We Learn from Balsamiq

The Business of Software Conference is one of the best events I’ve attended. It’s not a startup themed conference, but most people attending are either working for one or starting one. Is a software conference at heart and a place where you learn what to do and mistakes to avoid.

I didn’t go to last year’s conference but they are now releasing some of the videos for BOS 2010. This one from Peldi Guilizzoni, the founder and CEO of Balsamiq, is especially interesting. I’ve been following Peldi’s blog for a while and he’s a truly remarkable guy. Not only was he able to get $2M revenue in 2 years with 2,800 customers but he did that in  a market that already has a couple of really strong competitors. How he did it? There’s a quote from Steve Martin he says is a key component to success:

Be so good they can’t ignore you

Listen to the talk and learn from his story.

Bootstrapped Startups Now Have MicroConf 2011

With so much talk about Angel and VC funding and a new startup bubble forming, is refreshing to see that self-funded startups still have a place to go to share ideas and best practices. That’s why MicroConf 2011 is worth checking out.

Put together by veterans of the startup world, Rob Walling and Mike Taber, MicroConf is a conference that was born out of the passion that the founders and their followers have for the bootstrapped and micro-ISV startups. Rob and Mike run the highly successful Micropreneur Academy, a site that teaches you how to get your startup off the ground and has a very active community. Is exactly this community that has been clamoring for some time now for a place where they can physically meet and exchange ideas.

If you are thinking about starting your own business, if you are a bootstrapped startup, or if you are a one-man show (micro-ISV or single founder startup) then this is a conference worth checking out.

To register, go to the MicroConf 2011 website (or click image below).

Conference Details

  • June 6 & 7 in Las Vegas, NV
  • Hosted by Rob Walling and Mike Taber

Speakers Include

Who Should Attend?
Anyone launching a startup with no outside funding who wants to hang out with and learn from 225 of today’s leading founders and entrepreneurs.