The Startup Killer No One Talks About

What happens when you give 2,000 companies each at least a million dollars?

Well…as it turns out, about 1,500 of them will fail. They will either slog along without growth or shut down altogether.

But, why?

James Allworth, of the Exponent podcast, has insight on this question — 

“At a high level, it’s going to be easier to start things at the bottom, but even harder to break through to get to the top. The middle is getting destroyed and that middle is what you need to get through to get to the top.”

Let’s unpack that statement.

It’s easier to build Google circa 2000, but way harder to build a company that turns into Google, circa 2017. 

Put differently — more companies can win small, niche parts of the market.

And, bigger companies can thrive with huge swaths of the market.

But, it is even harder to grow from a niche startup into a tech giant.

Hasn’t it always been hard to grow a company? What’s changed?

It’s easier to make startups that thrive in their niche.

There is more cash for startups than any time in the history of tech.

Early stage investment went from ~$2.5 billion per year in 2002 all the way to nearly $13 billion last year.

What else makes the journey easier for startups? 

Here are some key pieces:

You know what else? There are just more people making companies. The rate that US workers start new businesses is at one of its highest points in 15 years. More cash, more support and more companies. That’s the landscape for small players. If you want to go deep into why there are more startups, give a listen to this episode of the Exponent podcast.

What has changed for big companies?

It’s harder to challenge the incumbents.

Because tech giants have ballooned in size. You can use IBM and Apple as an example. In 1995, IBM brought in about three billion dollars in profit. In 2015, Apple brought in roughly fifty-three billion dollars in profit.

You can see this same effect amongst all the tech giants:

The ten biggest tech companies went from ~$9.5 billion in profits in 1995 all the way to ~$115 billion by 2016.⁵ The consequence is that they can out-spend and out-compete companies that would otherwise be a threat. Did you build the next platform for photos? Get eaten by Facebook. (Instagram). Or chat? Same deal. (WhatsApp)

Maybe you built the best, new ecommerce site to buy shoes? Or diapers? Or soap?

Get clobbered and then purchased by Amazon. (Zappos, Quidsi)

I know, these startups sold and made tons of money. Boohoo. But, for each example, there are lists full of stories from startups that got stomped by the big tech companies. 

Why are the tech giants so damn big? 

Network effects.

The internet creates a world where companies can make billions from connecting two groups who want to exchange value with one another. 

Uber drivers want passengers. Amazon sellers wants buyers. AirBnB renters want travelers. Facebook users want their friends. And, when a company becomes big enough to own a network, they become incredibly hard to challenge. Note — there are other contributors to the growth in tech profitability and size. See this a16z presentation for more.

Wait. What is the startup killer?

If it is easier to make startups that get investment, then why do so many companies fail? 

It’s all about the Valley of Death. It’s about the period in a startup’s life when it ramps up to take its solution to a bigger market. Specifically, it is the time when costs exceed revenue as the startup attempts to grow into a large, enduring business. 

You can see it here:

Sometimes, startups make the right decisions and take off.  Most of the time, they make the wrong decisions.

You can see how it happens, right? 

Everything changes as a startup scales. The customers, the product, the team, the competitors.

The Google of 2000 is not the same as the Google of 2002, 2004 or any year since. But, startups do not have time to pontificate about each change. They know there are accelerators pumping out startups to steal their market. 

And, on the other side, they know they must face off with tech giants that make billions of dollars and wield massive network effects. Startups are forced to operate with limited information while they burn tremendous amounts of cash to spur growth — all the while with other startups chasing right behind them and tech giants ready to clobber them.

That’s the startup killer.

Why bother? 

Why work with a startup when so many fail? It sucks when startups fail. I had one that flopped and it felt awful. But, we do it because there are problems that need to be solved.

We know the chance that we can help bring a solution into the world outweighs the likelihood that the startup will fall apart.

I do it because, no matter the numbers, I believe the right people, with the right commitment, working on the right problem can solve anything.

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Jeremy WebbThe Startup Killer No One Talks About
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Scaling AI + IoT Hardware: A Growth Hack

People are bad at knowing what they want in new product.

So how, then, do we scale expensive and long-lead hardware solutions for new products in uncertain markets? At Athelas we’re challenging the need to scale manufacturing through layers of process-limitation, choosing instead to focus on user and function.

Iterative methodology is powered by experimentation, consolidation, off-the-shelf integration, and a bit of Voodoo.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” — Henry Ford.

Source: Creative Commons


Our viewpoint on product is often narrow and iterative: focusing on issues with something that already exists and improving the product concept within that same context.

If a new product is to have staying power and isn’t an iterative improvement that ultimately ends in price and feature competition, it needs to change what we want and how we want it.

Since you can ask all the market questions you want and still flop like the recent Juicero juicer story, what resources do you commit to a product that is almost certainly wrong?

How much weight do you put behind what features? And how do you know when it’s good enough? In other words how do you manage massive uncertainty with conventional project management tools: scope, budget, and schedule.

The following is how Athelas is finding product-market fit in the diagnostic blood testing space through maximizing the number of product-iterations through driving hardware iteration time into Agile two-week sprints.

One of these costs $600 to purchase. Source: Bloomberg.

Iteration Limiting Factor: Mechanical Engineering

Since users need to see a product to know if it makes sense, a startup optimizes its chance of survival by controlling burn while enabling as many product-iterations as possible.

This is done through minimizing iteration time and maximizing learning from each product experiment, the Lean Startup model of Build, Measure, Learn.

Custom mechanical components will generally control the length of an iteration loop for hardware products.

The time required to design, mock-up, solicit vendors, agree to terms, order material, manufacture, inspect, integrate, test, refine, and repeat, can take months based on complexity.

The worst part is that if you have scoped the application or solution wrong, which you most likely have, the subsequent application pivot erases the effort, leaving you with lessons for next time.


Playing Catch-Up

The way for mechanical engineering to gain ground on electrical and software is to focus on the integration of highly-engineered mass manufactured components: cell phone components, actuation systems, and fasteners, and tie the system together with processes that enable quick-customization.

This product test can run at odds with the engineering tendency to look ahead to material and process informing design or Design for Manufacturing (DFM): optimizing your architecture based on the technical and economic constraints of these two areas.

The effort is merited, but I would argue only after product-market fit is confirmed, unless critical to the core value proposition. The inclination to complete DFM early is that manufacturing cost, which partially summarizes risk and complexity, kills scalability.

However, if you’ve optimized a product that isn’t accepted that forethought becomes wasted time and effort. Realizing the product opportunity first, the later optimization effort will be rewarded in its own right with revenue growth and eventually profit.

Challenge: Scaling Custom Housings

A challenge was tabled for our first 10x manufacturing output increase:

  • Do we really need to plan, design, and execute a solution around the various limitations of traditional manufacturing: subtractive methods including machining, etc?
  • Could we delay or eliminate all together this body of work and move directly to transformative (molding) processes at scale?

The driving force of our build project was to broadly distribute product to collect as much feedback as possible and model trends, quickly.

The thought of spending multiple-days or weeks on Design for Manufacturing that would likely be obsolete in a month, although accepted practice, seemed redundant.

Having done extensive prototyping by this point, our custom housings conformed with standard additive manufacturing terms: a few hundred dollars per part with a two-day turn.

At this price, the device would hardly be a consumer play unless we decided to significantly bleed on each sale until we reached scale.

Additive manufacturing is the standard quick-customization process for prototyping and low-volume manufacturing, but it is not great at speed, cost, and often resolution.

Segment of Voodoo Manufacturing’s Production Floor.  Source: Voodoo Mfg.

Enter Voodoo Manufacturing. Running a hedge on my subtractive path, I explored companies advancing high-speed and high-volume printing techniques.

Founded in the ocean between low-volume custom components and high-volume manufacturing, Voodoo is taking a sly approach to making custom products in a scalable, on-demand fashion.

After the collapse of additive manufacturing in 2014, Jonathan Schwartz and Max Friefeld, former MakerBot Product Managers, realized the issue with additive is that $200,000 industrial printers don’t offer much except better reliability when compared with the hobby-market MakerBot at $2,000.

Then came the realization that for one $200k industrial printer, you can establish a factory of 100 MakerBots and turn out 100x the product while hedging on reliability by leveraging your excess capacity.

Voodoo Manufacturing’s Project Skywalker.  Source: Voodoo Mfg.

Then came the realization that for one $200k industrial printer, you can establish a factory of 100 MakerBots and turn out 100x the product while hedging on reliability by leveraging your excess capacity.

Why you Need a Bit of Voodoo to Hit Scale

Voodoo offered Athelas the ability to forget about process optimization so we could prove out our verticals before locking in our designs.

Producing our custom enclosures for 80% less than those produced in an industrial printer and the ability to deliver over 100 units in as little as 48 hours instead of 7 days was a clear 10x, the bar for a win.

As we scale we can learn more about what we’ve overlooked in our market, model a solution, print in-house and test same-day, and fulfill a bulk order in two-days for user deployment. This is the first time I am aware of a startup being able to match the fulfillment capacity of a medium-size OEM, but without needing to finance large capital equipment or pay a large margin to a production partner.

The ultimate benefit for the business is that by hedging on our internal methods, we never need to hedge or compromise on our users from commitments made to process optimization, tooling, and inventory.

If you can gain the ability to forget about process optimization so we could prove out our verticals before locking in our designs.

A Final Thought

Custom mechanical components will generally define the speed of product iteration.

Additive process offerings have struggled as a scalable solution to mechanical design until Voodoo Manufacturing. By leveraging one process it allowed our business to achieve an 80% cost reduction on custom housings and find a fulfillment capability of 100s of units in as little as 48 hours.

The immediate benefit to the business is the elimination of Design for Manufacturing activities until product vertical requirements can become well-defined

This change give an advantage for integration and customer focus. The core advantage, however, is the ability to quickly and broadly deploy product for data collection without cost being a primary factor. 

This is my first post in what I plan to be quarterly insight into how we hack scale-up to drive at 10x growth. I’d love to hear your thoughts and make this a conversation. 

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7 European Startups Dominating Their Verticals

Europe finds itself in an interesting position right now as it begins to look inward for progress and development.

This has not been a surprise to me. In the past six months, I have found myself in Europe three times and I have been working with several new vendors and partners there. Before 2017 I had only been to Europe once and it was for vacation. So, it is obvious that there is quite a lot of new movement, expansion and growth there.

Indeed, there’s a massive opportunity for the continent’s various tech hubs to compete globally given a prevailing mindset of sustainability. European companies are found to be open to the growth markets moving to into their countries from their viable U.S. counterparts.

Companies in Europe are gaining ground in innovation as well. In the latest innovation ranking, Europe appears to have it’s own personal Silicon Valley incubator. Technology knowledge and science, with the accompanying processes and analytics seem to be staying in Europe — and bringing the growth hacking to their own countries.

Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the UK, and Germany are leading the charge. Even Central and Eastern European countries are emerging as strong tech players in the region. Homegrown ventures are doing quite well with a number of startups starting to dominate their respective verticals.

Here are 7 European startups that I believe are perfect examples of why European startups are moving ahead in the game.

Sales AI: Growbots

How do you improve upon sales and marketing automation? Use artificial intelligence (AI). Founded in Poland, Growbots uses machine learning to automate outbound sales activities.

Growbot’s AI algorithms can create a list of prime leads from its growing database of more than 200 million contacts at more than 90 percent accuracy. From there, these Growbots can send out personalized communication to its leads. They even schedule campaigns to nurture them.

This allows sales teams to focus more on building relationships with customers and closing sales rather than get stymied by gathering and engaging weak leads. Growbots has since build up a presence in San Francisco and Cleveland aside from its Warsaw office.

The company reported a 1,200 percent growth in revenue in 2016 with a monthly recurring revenue of $350,000 in 2017. Growbots’ impressive growth helped them land a $2.5 million investment round last month, bringing the company’s total funding to $4.2 million.

Employee Engagement: Smarp

Finland-based startup Smarp offers an employee communication app designed to boost engagement in the workplace.

The platform allows organizations to build private, in-house social feeds consisting of topic-specific posts. These posts serve as springboards from which team members can engage in internal discussions and schedule social shares with their own audiences.

Smarp also features a gamified leaderboard that encourages employees to earn points towards bonuses for their social media activity, allowing companies to help their teams to become influencers-in-residence.

Launched in 2011 and growing ever since, Smarp has raised more than €5 million in funding to date. This includes a €3-million round last summer, in order to finance their global expansion.

Fintech: Trustly

Swedish payments fintech Trustly allows merchants to accept payments from customers’ bank accounts. Fund transfers are a popular means of payment in territories like Scandinavia and Southwest Europe.

Trustly enables e-commerce merchants and gaming companies to cater to this particular payment method. Recently, the company reached a milestone after reaching an annualized run rate of €3.5 billion in processed payments.

The service currently covers 29 countries across Europe. The Financial Times recently included Trustly as part of the FT 1000: Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies.

EdTech: Brainly

Educational technology company Brainly has successfully gone global from its humble roots in Poland. The social learning service builds learning communities and encourages users to help each other. It has a collaborative peer-to-peer learning.

Brainly also applies gamification principles such as leaderboards to encourage user participation. It boasts of more than 80 million monthly users across 35 countries around the world. Funderbeam estimates the company to be worth $100 million based on Brainly’s last round of funding in 2016.

Health: Clue

Clue is a health app that tracks women’s period and ovulation cycles. The app aims to help women across all age groups understand what is happening in their bodies and what they are they go through. Clue helps women of all ages, whether they are in puberty, fertility, or menopause.

Clue leverages research and machine learning to provide personalized information to its users. Recently, Clue announced a new functionality that is aimed to help users understand the impact of birth control to their health. Clue currently has a user base of 2.5 million women from 180 different countries. The company is based in Berlin.

Cybersecurity: DarkTrace

DarkTrace is a cybersecurity company that uses machine learning (ML) to identify and handle cybersecurity threats. DarkTrace is based in the UK and boasts of having experts from the University of Cambridge and various intelligence agencies working with them. Its advisory board includes former CIA and MI5 officials.

Among its core technologies are self-learning algorithms that plot “patterns of life” for all activities within an organization to better detect unusual behavior in the target environment.

The company has already proven successful thwarting threats and data leaks. It has also garnered awards and recognitions from various groups worldwide.

Internet-of-Things: Playbrush

Oral hygiene is a must, but anyone who has kids would know how challenging it can be to make them brush their teeth properly — especially on their own.

Playbrush gamifies the act of brushing teeth by converting the toothbrush into a game controller. A Bluetooth device is attached to a toothbrush which controls a variety of mobile games.

Playbrush is founded by Austrian inventor Paul Varga with help from the University College London. The company has received €700,000 in seed funding. Recently, the company signed a deal with Unilever to launch a co-branded version of the device.

Towards global competitiveness 

The rapid rise of these startups lends proof that Europe is taking its share out of the tech world. Europe is also becoming it’s own monopoly of the tech industry.

These startups show that building a product or service that provides value to a target market is a recipe for success. Exploring niche and under-serviced markets also make it easy to lead such verticals.

These facts and the vast resources for them in Europe are inspiring entrepreneurs globally. These ventures have the global potential to compete because they are dedicated to innovation, as well as excellence — and they are proving it in Europe. 

Tech ecosystems and venture capital will always find their way to new markets who have the innovation — and into new countries who are proving they have it — and they are ready.

Image Source: Pixabay

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For Startups, Automation is a Key Ingredient to Success

Startups don’t generally flop from terrible ideas. In most cases, it’s due to a lack of planning, resources, or execution.

This is because startups usually lack the capabilities, in terms of human and financial capital, that other larger companies have. The answer, as thousands of other startups have discovered over the past few years, is automation.

Automation: Your Helping Hand

As the founder of a startup, you know just how difficult it can be to scale. You have a great idea, and perhaps even a few customers, but you just can’t seem to get things to the next level. It’s like the old saying that goes, “It takes money to make money.” In order to become a bigger business, you need access to big business resources. The problem is that you lack the money, people, etc. to obtain them.

This is where automation enters the picture. Automation technology lets you do more with less by allowing you to streamline certain tasks and continue scaling without requiring additional resources. Specifically, automation affords your startup the following benefits:

  • Saves time. The first benefit most people think about is the time savings. When you’re able to automate processes that you’ve otherwise been performing by hand, you suddenly have the ability to use your time and energy elsewhere. Theoretically, you should be able to double your output in some areas.
  • Centralizes communication. “When information is scattered across multiple systems or isn’t up to date, it’s difficult to find the correct information you need,” ConnectWise explains. For example, when a client calls and needs information on a specific project, they experience poor customer service when they have to wait for 15 or 20 minutes to get answers. “Automation streamlines the communications between different departments.” So, in this case, the client would be served in a much more efficient manner.
  • Establishes standard processes. With automation technology, standardization across the board is a much more realistic goal. You’re removing people from the equation, which prevents most inconsistencies from occurring. As a result, you don’t have to deal with as many errors and issues that startups typically have to work through in the beginning stages of growth.
  • Provides enhanced visibility. Another major benefit is multi-departmental visibility. As ConnectWise explains, “Automation tools increase visibility into your business’s operations by centralizing data in a way that makes it easy to figure out holistically how your company performs, in addition to the performance of each individual team member. You can even isolate the performance of one department.”
  • Better utilization of human capital. You’ll often hear people complain about how they believe automation technology does nothing more than lay people off and keep them out of jobs. Not true. What automation actually does is allow companies to better utilize human capital and give employees more engaging responsibilities. Instead of getting stuck doing mindless, repetitive tasks over and over again, your employees can do things that get them excited to come to work every morning.
  • Superior data and insights.  Finally, automation technology gives your startup access to superior data and insights that don’t always exist when you’re doing something manually. As a result, you’re able to better understand efficiencies, recognize areas of improvement, and get to know your customers more.

If you aren’t investing in automation, you’re missing out on a lot more than convenience. You’re missing out on a chance to push your business forward and improve your bottom line. While it will require some effort on your part to get started, this isn’t something you can afford to overlook.

Primary Areas Where Your Startup Can Leverage Automation

There’s clearly value in utilizing automation technology in your startup. However, most entrepreneurs don’t know where to start. Where does it make the most sense to integrate automation? Where do you get the most bang for your buck, so to speak? In most cases, these are the four primary areas to evaluate.

  1. Marketing

Let’s begin with the area that offers the most potential for budding startups: marketing. Marketing automation, or marketing personalization as JumpLead likes to call it, is the process of streamlining marketing activities without compromising on warmth.

In the past, marketing automation was something only big businesses with ample resources could use. But things have changed. Technology has become more affordable and startups are actually using automation to level the playing field.

Your startup needs marketing automation if you’re experiencing rapid growth and no longer have the time to manually reach out to every lead; you need to simplify complex marketing processes – or you need to create a marketing and sales process that’s more measurable.

As JumpLead explains, marketing automation involves two integral parts. The first is a contact activity trigger and the second is a marketing action. When the trigger is activated, the marketing automation is then automatically executed. An example of this would be a website visitor filling out a subscription form and opting into your email list. Once the user clicks the opt-in button (trigger), a welcome email (marketing action) is automatically sent to their inbox.

There are probably hundreds of different ways marketing automation can be used in your startup. Familiarize yourself with these opportunities and look for ways to ease the burdens you face on a regular basis.

  1. Human Resources

If you think about it, your startup’s HR department heavily relies on documents, forms, and processes. It’s impossible to have a functioning HR department without them. But the problem is that these require substantial preparation and involvement. Thankfully, automation can help in this area. 

When it comes to importing documents, filling out forms and applications, and reviewing job applications and resumes, HR automation tools can do the heavy lifting for you. They’ll deal with all of the things you don’t want to handle – all without compromising quality or accuracy.

Then, there’s the added benefit of security. “When automating human resources you can choose to back up your data to online servers, ensuring that in a fire or computer failure you won’t lose years of important information,” explains Unicorn HRO, a leader in the industry. “And you’ll also get security for your company, since human resources errors can lead to tax issues, legal troubles, and unnecessary expenses.”

  1. Supply Chain Logistics

Trying to manage your supply chain can feel like a full-time job. You’re having to change orders and processes from month to month, which removes some of the consistency that typically accompanies predictability.

By integrating some sort of supply chain automation into your business, you can perform better demand and inventory forecasting, increase operational and labor efficiency, streamline the delivery of goods through things like automated order entry, and respond faster to customer and supply chain partner requests.

  1. Competitive Analysis

What few startups realize is that automation technology will also allow you to conduct better competitive analyses, so that you can understand the marketplace and what’s going on. Considering how important it is for young companies to be hyperaware of their surroundings, automating your competitive analysis responsibilities is a huge bonus.

One thing savvy businesses do is implement automated price comparisons. “Automated price comparisons are a great way to benchmark against your competitors and incorporate business intelligence into your pricing strategy,” entrepreneur Angelica Valentine explains, using ecommerce as an example. “Online retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum and treating your online space and competitors as though they aren’t there is an easy way to lose customers.”

With automated price comparison tools like WisePricer, startups can understand the competition’s pricing strategies and create their own strategies that deliver greater value to the customer. It’s not a foolproof method for success, but it’s far better than manually checking prices, which can eat up valuable hours of the day.

Put Automation to Work for You

“Regardless of whether it’s as basic as pre-scheduling a couple of social media messages, or as intricate as constructing an email marketing funnel – automation is setting down deep roots and everybody is doing it,” entrepreneur Gaurav Sangwani says. While you certainly don’t want to do something just because everyone else is, it’s usually a pretty good sign that something is worth a second look.

The term “automation technology” is quite broad. It can be used to refer to any number of tools or platforms. But, in the most basic sense, automation technology is about making life easier on you and your startup. It streamlines mundane tasks, consolidates resources, and gives you the ability to focus your time, energy, and money on high-returning tasks that allow you to scale in an efficient manner.

If you’ve yet to invest in automation technology, now’s the time. Start slow and take things step by step. As you become familiar with one tool, consider adding another. Before you know it, you’ll have an automated network of systems that gives you hands-free control over your business.

From there, you’ll discover that the proverbial sky is the limit.

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9 Steps to Take When Your App Goes Live

Launching an app is a big moment for your brand. You’ve worked for months, maybe even years, to polish your app to perfection, and once it goes live, there’s no going back. The hardest and longest part of your work may be behind you, but the next phase of effort is only beginning.

How you choose to launch, support, and grow your app once it’s live will have a drastic impact on your long-term profitability, and it all starts with the actions you take as soon as that app goes live.

Immediate Steps to Take

Make sure you take these steps at a minimum:

1. Optimize for app stores.

First, start optimizing your app for app store searches if you haven’t already. User searches are one of the best ways to get found by unfamiliar and new users, so you’ll want to be as high in the rankings as possible.

According to App Radar, there are several factors used to determine an app’s ranking in both Apple and Google app stores. Some of these shared ranking factors include the keywords and keyword phrases that are included in the title of the app and its meta information, the types of engagements and number of downloads that those apps attract, the number and quality of the reviews they attract, and social signals that inform the app’s popularity.

It’s hard to gather good reviews and ratings this early, but you can at least optimize your app name and description with keywords that are relevant to your app’s purpose (and popular among your key demographics).

2. Run live tests.

Hopefully, you’ve already run a number of tests to make sure your app was running properly; otherwise, you wouldn’t have pulled the trigger to go live. However, it’s still a good idea to share the experience that your users will have, and go through the motions that they’ll be going through.

Sign up like a regular user (yourself) and download the app to your device, and make sure everything’s working properly. Last-minute hiccups aren’t common after a series of sufficient tests, but they’re devastating enough that you should check for them just in case.

3. Make an announcement.

As Hubspot explains, press releases aren’t a “magic bullet” in marketing that will instantly make you more successful, but they will help you build some early buzz and attract some strong backlinks in the process.

Before your app goes live, you should have a formal press release strategy in place—maybe even a draft of what you plan to submit to publishers.

From there, you can use a formal distribution site like PR Newswire, or submit your release to different major publishers yourself.

4. Get social.

Social media announcements should go hand in hand with your press release. If you aren’t already on social media, now is the time to claim your profiles. And if you are, you need to start marketing the heck out of your app.

Let your users know that everything is ready for them, and if you want an extra boost, consider giving them a signup bonus, such as a discount or bonus content for their early support.

5. Thank your early users.

Your first users will be pivotal to the success of your app. If they bail, or if they have negative impressions of your app, you might never generate the momentum you need to reach the top of the charts.

But if they stick around and have a favorable impression of you, they could be the momentum that takes your app to the next level of popularity. Go out of your way to thank them—personally, if you can, and give them incentives to keep coming back.

6. Gather reviews and ratings.

Your early reviews and ratings will be the most important ones you ultimately gather. They’ll be the foundation for your app’s early rankings, and they’ll form the first impressions of your second wave of users.

Make sure you have a feature in your app to encourage ratings, and remain active on social media to keep your brand top-of-mind for anyone who procrastinates rating you.

7. Learn from the early feedback.

Take the time to read your earliest reviews as they start to trickle in, and gauge users’ opinions of your app. Have they noticed any bugs? If so, you’ll need to fix them as soon as possible. Are they unimpressed overall?

You may need to recruit some UI/UX talent to investigate what could be going wrong. On the other hand, if reviews are strong, you can take them and use them to create your next marketing push.

8. Advertise.

Speaking of marketing and advertising, you may want to invest in some early advertising for your app, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads through Google, content marketing, or social media ads.

This practice is only sustainable in the long-term for some niches and profitability models, but early in your app’s existence, it’s a valuable tool to get those all-too-important early ratings and reviews.

9. Prepare for the next updates.

Most app developers end up pushing at least one new update every month, with some going as often as once a week. This is common practice to fix bugs, improve security, and keep up with other updates.

The minute your app goes live, you should be prepared with the next round of updates, with a strategic vision for major updates your app will undergo in the future.

The Ongoing Effort

Never be fooled into thinking that your job developing or supporting your app is done. Technology evolves at an astounding rate, and user preferences evolve with them, so you’ll need to stay on your toes if you want your app to keep making money.

Always be looking down the road at the next update, and keep investing in your app with marketing and advertising efforts. The more information you gather, and the more willing you are to adapt to new circumstances, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.

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5 Moves You May Not Have Considered for Your Tech Startup

Startups are known for the speed at which they convert an idea into a viable product. That is the exciting part. This bigger picture tends to eclipse the part where founders have to deal with day-to-day operational issues. But this part matters, too.

With so much ground to cover between conceiving an idea and launching your product into the market, you might have only considered these five things in passing, or not at all:

Working with a developer using the hybrid model

If you aren’t a developer, you’ll need to find someone else to help you turn your idea into a product. But should you hire or outsource this talent? Having in-house developers has its advantages, chief of which is working with the same member or team during iteration.

However, it can deplete your funds more quickly.

The hybrid model lets you hire developers on contract from an outsourcing agent or partner. You can manage the developers directly, pay them for the period agreed on, and choose not to renew the contract if the first version of the product fails. This model allows you to avoid obligations you aren’t ready to meet, including a monthly salary and employee benefits.

Finding unlikely co-founders in your support group

In other words, delay finding a co-founder. That is if you’re down to searching for interesting candidates on Google Search. If this is the case, then you might not have the right kind of relationship yet. Doing it alone seems to go against conventional wisdom in building startups. But it’s the same wisdom that says you and your partner should invest equally in the project. 

At this point, you are better off with your existing support group. Some startup founders stress the importance of having a spouse, partner, or best friend who can provide you with emotional support during hard times. Chances are you can rely on the feedback from someone close, too. You’d want someone who won’t mince words when your test product isn’t living up to its promise.

Protecting the source code

It is likely that licensees will attempt to request access to the source code and other materials critical to maintaining the software. Without the raw code, they have no guarantee that they can still use or profit from your product should you go out of business. On your end, keeping it secret is about protecting your intellectual property. It can be damaging to your business to let it fall into the wrong hands.

It is best to set up a source code escrow to mitigate risk on either end. In this case, a neutral third party holds the escrow materials and releases them to the licensee if and when a mutually-agreed-upon event occurs. As the vendor, you will gain the confidence of your licensees without losing control over your product.

Offer software as a service

Software vendors are not exempt from the effects of human nature. There exist elements that take others’ digital property without permission. They are freeloaders in a world of hustlers. It’s good to be aware of the threats.

Purchase-and-download product packages are more prone to piracy. These days, most startups feel more secure when they offer software as a service. Through the subscription model, they provide clients packages each with a range of features from simple to advanced. Clients need to enter their credit card credentials to complete a transaction, so the chances of theft are slim to none.

Having insurance for your business

Investing in insurance is a prudent move for anyone who’s starting a business for several reasons. There are several reasons and types of insurance to consider. You may take on a “key person” insurance for employees whose skill sets are very important to your startup. You may also choose to get protected from a potential liability claim. The insurance is useful in situations such as when a client files a suit against you because your product did not perform according to your intentions. (Yes, this has happened.)


The things pointed out here are supposed to help you avoid mistakes that might cost you not only your money but also your startup. So choose well.

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Jeremy Webb5 Moves You May Not Have Considered for Your Tech Startup
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Some people call me crazy and some call me jobless. I wouldn’t deny either but as someone wise said sometime way back, “When life gives you lemons you make a lemonade.” Still true today, and maybe even more relevant in business.

Currently, I’m making the best of my downtime exploring the freedom of doing some borderline crazy stuff besides writing for this amazing platform called Startup Grind.

Okay! Maybe it’s not too crazy, maybe it’s exploring — but I like the sound of it.


Like most of you out there, I was browsing a tech site during my morning routine when I came across an article on Letgo, a peer to peer sales platform, and was curious to know what they are doing new compared to others like craigslist, ebay etc.

The timing was so perfect that I decided to see how much I could get for my used iPhone 7 Plus and I listed my phone at a considerably high price hoping no one crazy like me would exist to buy it when for few hundred dollars more you can buy a new one with better warranty and feel.

Also, I was bored with my current smartphone, a 6 month old unlocked 32 GB iPhone 7 Plus, and when you keep binge watching YouTube about the latest tech news and reviews (LG G6 and Samsung S8), you’ll be tempted to ditch your phone for the latest fad.

This desire for a new phone was also enhanced because of, and in spite of my circumstances.

These circumstances included a temporary move to Toronto exploring new opportunities which meant I had lot of time to kill and I decided to try something new.

I was so ashamed to share my craziness with my friends back home in India — because I felt I’d be judged superficially as a spendthrift.

Anyways, I bit the bullet and was looking for avenues to minimize the loss from selling a relatively new phone while upgrading to the latest.

And in that process, I sold my iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB version, went for a few days without a phone, borrowed a 5 year old phone from a close friend.

Then, bought a so called ‘limited edition’ Midnight Black OnePlus 3T on launch day assuming it will be really in short supply just a day before the disappointing Samsung S8 launch.

I returned the now really exclusive and sold out Midnight Black OnePlus 3T when I found an irresistible deal (for $50 more than what I sold my 6 month old iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB version) for a brand new iPhone 7 Plus 256 GB version.

I then I lost this phone during my impulsive last minute 4 day trip to Cancun, Mexico, and travelled 2000 miles by road to ‘visit’ a cousin in US when in fact the purpose was to pick up an iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB (yeah!

The same phone again) in a tax free state at a discount that a friend of mine who is working at Apple was able to provide seeing my agony on social media from losing a phone.

Ufff! Such a crazy journey to end up where I began huh! If not for the lost phone, this experience was completely worth it in terms of value.


Besides the interesting ‘upgrade’ experience, my whole world seemed kind of strange when I had no phone with me for multiple days.

I was thinking twice to step out of my house because I wasn’t sure how I could manage any transit delays or change in weather that I could so easily monitor on my phone or even get notified of changes in my calendar or kill time while waiting for something.

This experience gave me an interesting perspective on life without a smartphone, one scenario that we might come across in the future and not just in Hollywood.

It showed me how much we have become reliant on technology that it put doubts in your mind about traversing this world.

Also, I hope this story can not just potentially give you a spark for a business problem to solve but also improve your current offerings keeping the worst case scenarios (life without our tech) in mind.


During the days I didn’t have my phone, I went to a close-by mall to see if I can get a feature phone till I figure out my next phone and I was so surprised to see how hard it is to get one these days.

I tried Walmart, Best Buy, and local carriers and all I could get is a contract option or an expensive prepaid phone that’s worth at least $60 and I felt anything above $30 is not worth the trouble because just few years back, that was what I use to pay for a basic phone while I’m travelling abroad.

So, when I realised my only options were buying something online where it would take at least 3-5 business days to get one or splurge $60 on a weirdly overpriced feature phone, I asked some of my local friends and a good friend of mine was nice enough to lend me his Nexus 4 as he recently upgraded to an iPhone 7.

Except for a dodgy battery life, this phone was perfect in every sense and I think it was on Android 6.0 version thanks to Andorid’s upgrade policy with Nexus phones.

So I was back to a familiar life with a smartphone and things seemed simple till I came across reviews of the new OnePlus 3T Midnight Black ‘Limited Edition’ phone.

It was just becoming available one day before the Samsung Galaxy S8 announcement and before mistaking the ‘exclusivity’ and availability of the phone, I preordered one just in case I was not happy with other options.

Soon I realised that I was not so happy with other options for various reasons and I was trying to see if I can continue using the ‘Limited Edition’ OnePlus 3T or go back to iPhone 7 (maybe the red colour that was newly launched!).

Anyways, I ended up buying a brand new sealed iPhone 7 Plus 256 GB version on Letgo from someone who was willing to sell it for just $50 more than what I sold my 6 month old iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB for. It’s one heck of a deal when you consider the fact that I should have paid at least $400 more for it.

I still don’t understand why this person sold it for such a low price but what I heard was that this phone was meant for one of his employees who got fired the same day. Poor him but lucky me!

I was all happy and chugged along well getting back to the Apple ecosystem, which by the way is a great tool for Apple to lock people in as I, like another crazy friend of mine who got the S8, found it very hard to move away from the ecosystem especially when you own more than one Apple device.

Maybe this is one reason why more people switch to Apple from Android than vice versa!

Within few days, the Easter weekend showed up and I was planning a getaway from Toronto as job search everyday can be so tiring. Montreal/Quebec seemed the best spot for backpacking till I was looking for vacations for another acquaintance of mine.

Soon, I ended up going to Cancun, Mexico myself as the off season round trip airfares were so low and I just felt the need of some sun at the beach.

Being the nerd who is jobless, I decided to use AirBnB and in this process I was required to use local cabs to commute from my place to hotels, from where the local tours start and stop. All was going well till I lost my phone in a cab and my happy, safe and friendly impression of Cancun bursted.

Thanks to a very supportive security staff at the hotel, I tried hard but in vain to track the taxi/my phone using security cameras at the hotel and iCloud, respectively. I realised when you switch data roaming off, all you could see is a location when the phone is turned on which by the way happened when I came back to Toronto.

Anyways, the taxi guy turned the phone off throughout my time in Cancun and hence iCloud was useless. It took me an entire day to get over the fact that I lost my phone and this time around being without a phone was entirely different from not having a phone.

Somehow I managed to finish my trip on a high note and I came back to Toronto in one piece.

As mentioned earlier, the phone showed up on iCloud few times as my SIM was still active and I didn’t erase the phone hoping the taxi guy would see my desperate bounty call.

I think the taxi guy still didn’t realize that my phone is going to be a costly paperweight as it’s in lost mode forever the moment I activated it on iCloud. Anyways, it was a lost cause, literally.

The 2nd Road Trip:

The next weekend I continued my Montreal/Quebec plan as Avis car rental offered me a healthy 30% discount for moving my reservation a week past the Easter weekend.

But before I took upon this trip, I wanted to figure out my phone scene as I’m traveling to a part of Canada that doesn’t speak much of English and I needed a navigation tool.

When I realized that S8 was launching in stores the same day as my trip, I wanted to see how the phone is in reality and I ended up buying it. It had a lovely screen and shot some amazing pictures.

Besides that there was nothing great about it. So, after a day or two, I decided to extend my road trip by a day and go visit my cousin in Weymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

No! The actual reason was to visit Nashua, New Hampshire in USA as it’s just a 5 hour drive from Montreal and I can get a new iPhone 7 Plus tax free and take up on the offer of my friend at Apple who could get me an additional 15% discount seeing my agony of losing a phone on social media.

Facebook is such a powerful tool I say!  

Anyways, I purchased a new iPhone (again!), got my Apple Watch replaced under warranty due to some cosmetic issues, visited my cousin as that trip was anyways bound to happen during my next visit to USA and traveled back to Toronto from Weymouth, MA in pretty much the same time as it would have taken from Quebec city in Canada. Life has been boring ever since then considering the craziness of the last one month.


To lay men ! I was doing a complete roundabout (from iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone 7 Plus) for pretty much nothing but being a business guy, I realized few gaping holes in our current technology.

Our apps have become too data intensive and memory intensive even though the utility has increased only marginally in the last few years.

Also, the duplicity of functions has become too much of an issue like in the case of Facebook’s messenger and WhatsApp. Both almost do the same job at the core of it but I’m forced to have both because Facebook, where most of my social life exists these days, thinks I need messenger as a standalone app and WhatsApp has become too ubiquitous to not have on a smartphone.

Anyways, there are quite a few other problems that for obvious reasons I can’t mention here (read not all ideas are dime a dozen and I wish to make a business out of one at least).

But what I would suggest to all who is either developing the next Facebook or working on a service that could become too ubiquitous to ignore by general public like WhatsApp is to actually live for a few days without these apps or service to understand how important they are to the end users.

If I can exist few days without an app/service, then I don’t see the point of that app/service.

Also, one should continue testing on legacy devices even after few years past their lifetime since a majority of our world is still living without a smartphone and that’s where the true value and potential is if you actually think of it.

Also, in case of a real emergency like a huge solar flare, which could potentially take out all networks, any app or service that is still functional with bare minimum or zero network usage could be a huge win for all. 

Now! Don’t test me on how an app or service can work in case all networks are down because I’m not sure if batteries can even power up but I hope you get the idea of contingency.

Prepare for contingency in your product development and build on a thin, lean or agile logic not just in terms of development but also architecture because the benefits are too huge to ignore.

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Steve Boom VP of Amazon Music's Strategy for Domination is Revealing Nothing at TechCrunch

It was great to receive a press pass and attend the Techcrunch Disrupt NYC 2017 conference as a Startup Grind media correspondent.

On the 2nd day Amazon Music Vice President Steve Boom, came to speak with Techcrunch panelist Josh Constine in a fireside chat style talk where he was asked a number of questions regarding;   

  • Will Amazon do for musicians what it did for book authors, democratizing access to an audience willing to pay?

  • Will streaming services have the same disruptive impact on record labels as they did on brick and mortar bookstores, by replacing the physical distribution channels with a convenient but alarmingly centralized repository of products sold online?  

  • How will Amazon Alexa and Echo’s voice search and voice control change music consumption?

  • What differentiates Amazon Music?

  • Will Amazon fund original audio content the way it produces shows for Prime Instant Video?   

  • What is the shifting dynamics of the digital music economy?      

Amazon which is also part of the four horsemen of tech has been optimizing every part of its business with machine learning and software so much that they dominate market share in enterprise cloud storage, eCommerce, Supply chain, same day deliveries, personal assistants etc.     

Like an army on the march, Amazon is marshaling all of its resources to succeed in this goal, and it’s already achieved a whopping  70% market share, according to eMarketer:

So I chose to watch this talk and was hoping for the same reasons that entrepreneurs come to learn from founders at Startup Grind events: are they going to teach us a lesson that could be applicable or will they reveal any tips or clues to new direction or projects they are working.   

Alexa’s voice control and Prime’s subscriber base has made Amazon a real possible contender in music alongside Spotify, Pandora, Apple, and YouTube. The audience was hoping that Steve would shed some insights into what is Amazon’s goal looks like for gaining market share and how it intends to disrupt the very crowded and competitive streaming music space.   

Here are the takeaways of what Steve Boom revealed

He mentioned that people have asked, “since Amazon has a television and film production arm called Amazon Studios, would Amazon ever consider being a studio record label?” His answer was just “No.”   

He also said Amazon has a different perspective on video and the music industry, pointing out that there are several differences between the way people create content, consume it, distribute and market it. He indicated he has respect for the role that traditional record labels play in the consumption of media.

Boom went on to discuss Amazon’s two fundamental core strategies regarding music, which are letting their users find and consume music through Prime and Alexa. Amazon’s sales funnel onboarding process includes moving people who were already streaming music, then moving them further down the sales funnel to convert to its paid service.

Steve Boom said, “and then we find with Echo and Alexa, is bringing people into premium streaming that had never used it before.” He continues, “And because it’s something that you use every day, and it’s so easy, the idea of paying a few bucks a month for a streaming service…you know, when we look at the conversion rates that we have from people using their free trial on an Echo, then converting into premium, we see subscription levels that the industry has never seen before.”  

Last October, Amazon released a full launch of its on-demand streaming music service, called Amazon Music Unlimited, which has three pricing levels;

  • Echo, individual and family, which ranges from $3.99 to $7.99 which are cheaper options than Apple music and Spotify’s paid monthly subscriptions.   

By merging and integrating Amazon music into the Echo and Alexa products, consumers are now able to take advantage and experience communal listening, versus the antisocial environment that the smartphone created (usually tuned out with headphones).

“In the smartphone era, we think of music as moving out of the home and living room,” Boom said. “With voice, it’s moving it back in.”    

Boom did not comment or criticize any of the streaming music space competitors like Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, and Pandora, but did mention that Amazon is still in its infancy of entering the streaming music market. According to Vanity Fair’s latest Global Music Industry report, streaming music just crossed the 100 million paying subscriber threshold.

“It’s literally just a drop in the bucket,” Boom said. “So we think there’s a ton of growth but what we do see is clearly already happening. For music streaming services focused on discovery and playback, it is consolidating around a relatively small number of global platforms and I think that trend is happening and I would expect it to continue to happen.”

He went on to say that while he does think there is room for radio-based services, like Pandora, Boom says on-demand music is “no doubt” the better user experience for people.   

Steve Boom’s takeaways about making a product that will become popular: “if you use it every day and it’s reasonably priced, and the experience is good, then why wouldn’t you pay for it”.

The final question that Josh Constine asked was “So where are the Alexa Headphones?” His response was “I was hoping to see one of the great startups here showing on the floor of this conference called Techcrunch Disrupt.”     


So I met up Josh Constine for a few minutes at the conference after the talk and told him that it was sort of disappointing that he did not really reveal anything that was groundbreaking as to their industry disruption plans or new products.  

And he also said “ya I know that is the problem with interviewing people that are not the CEO, they are afraid to talk openly and Amazon has always been a very secret and proprietary company,” and continued by saying that “he prefers interviewing CEOs compared to VPs because they have the control to give or reveal more.”  Check out the video to hear it first hand.  

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Jeremy WebbSteve Boom VP of Amazon Music's Strategy for Domination is Revealing Nothing at TechCrunch
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Advice For The Entrepreneur of the Future

John Spinale is one of the general partners within JAZZ Venture Partners, a firm dedicated to making intelligent bets on companies at the intersection of life sciences, biology, and technology.

At the time I sat down with John, we were sitting atop the prominent 4th-floor balcony of San Francisco Metreon Center and he was calmly gripping a bottle of cold water at the end of a busy day. JAZZ Venture Partners had just put on their notable annual conference, “The xTech Expo.”

At the time, I sat down with John and we discussed his experiences as a founder and investor. John has been a part of five separate early entrepreneurial endeavors all leading into acquisitions before he and his partners founded their current team.

If you’re like John, you probably have the same thoughts his team had when filing to officially launch their new firm, years ago; “Do we really need another VC firm in Silicon Valley?”

A fair question, indeed.

Silicon Valley seems to be littered with firms run by ex-entrepreneurs of the dot-com days who have proven themselves among their peers and now reap the benefits of “changing the world” from the reclines of a chair somewhere in Palo Alto.

Yet, there’s something about this team and John that has captured my attention as a writer, thinker, and startup marketer that screamed maybe these guys are of another breed.

“Ultimately, while we are a VC firm who looks for financial outcomes, we work hard to know that every single bet we make is moving humanity forward in some way…

…It’s hard not to sound pretentious when we talk about our goals because it’s easy to sound pretentious when we say that.”

For the past two years, I have attended an event which plays the role as a meeting grounds for people at the intersection of life sciences and technology.


“xTech,” as the event is called, is short for experiential technology. The event focuses on displaying breakthroughs and leading technology within the industries of neurotechnology, neurogaming, AR, VR, and then deeply investigate how they are improving human performance through channels such as health, wellness, learning, training, sports, and entertainment.

In other words – a big room full of really cool futuristic devices and insanely smart people talking about how it can all mash together into improving the human race.

A unique aspect of this conference is that all parties co-mingle as one. Leading Ph.D. Neuroscientists and physicists attend the event to see what’s going on alongside hobbyists, investors and even high school students. Yet – you find seamless intermingling. This is no middle school dance with closed off cliques by the punch bowl and snack table. Everyone meets everyone.

It’s a rare environment.

From this intimate exposure with the experts last year, I was able to pick up on a few key industry phrases like EEG (electroencephalography) and tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) which have really helped me sound way smarter than I am for the last 365.

For the curious, EEG is the process of slapping little pieces of rubber on your head called electrodes which can read the electrical activity in your brain. tDCS is the process of using those same electrodes to massage your brain with little baby microcurrents of electricity. Ideally, EEG gives you data on what the brain is doing, then you can use tDCS to alter what the brain is doing.

I told you it was cool.

To me, items like EEG and tDCS seem like a foreign language. But flying a drone with your brain, deaf people hearing sounds through their tongue and flying a rocket ship through your brain (all technologies presented at the conference) have been exciting enough for me to keep coming back and asking more questions.

That’s how I ended up speaking with John. The kid had some questions. I wanted to better understand how we could make these types of insane innovations more accessible to all entrepreneurial hopefuls and how to approach entrepreneurship in this space.

Here’s what he had to say:

Entrepreneurship Rule Number One: Solution to a Problem

Despite existing within technologies of the future, John was adamant about the fact that ideas and concepts within life sciences must be approached with the core, the fundamental truth of entrepreneurship; you must be solving a problem.

Sweet technologies can get us overly excited and lead us to craft really cool things that no one really wants. As John shared, “The question to ask yourself is if there really is a fundamental problem you are solving or is there a customer for what you’re doing and are you solving their problem.”

The possibilities are endless when it comes to life sciences. EEG and tDCS literally enable creators the ability to manipulate the firing power of the neurons in the brain. But it always comes back to what we actually need: solutions to problems.

As John shares, “This is the ultimate challenge.”

Find Trusted Counsel, Be It Your Mentor, Advisor or Sensei

John being a seasoned entrepreneur and advisor I asked him, “When is the time to give up and when is the time to be ignorant to the naysayers and to power on?” This question is more relevant than ever for the world’s mountain movers.

How do you know if electric cars will work or if a privatized rocket company makes sense? When do you double down?

“It’s essential to find trust counsel who cares about you and will give you objective feedback […] they will keep your best interests at heart, they will say hey I love that you are chasing the rainbow but I think you are chasing the wrong rainbow.”

This was a point John emphasized throughout our entire talk. When referencing building out your team, he spoke of minimizing the learning curve through great mentors and teammates. Be it life sciences and brain hardware, drones, AR/VR or just normal software, your goal should be to minimize the learning curve.

“Everybody goes through the learning curve, that’s okay but don’t surround yourself with a bunch of other people who are on the learning curve, get a Senior VP of Engineering who is smart and can teach you things.”

Be Careful Who You Take Money From

If you’re trying to change the dynamics of the world and bring to life something revolutionary, as many are within life sciences, you better have advisors who are in for the ride. “Be careful of whom you take money from, if there is not a good fit between vision and fit, things will become difficult when you hit rough waters, which will come, and at that time you want someone who will have your back.”

A case study for this is Jeff Bezos and Amazon. While not life sciences, Jeff Bezos aimed to bet big and change the world. If the investors for Amazon had not been locked in for the long-haul, board meetings would have been terrorizing hell for those 10-15 years Amazon was not profitable.

If your motivation isn’t money, which for most founder it is not, John’s advice is to “Raise just as much money as you need, money is the most expensive thing you’ll ever take. It comes with strings, you have someone on board who has the goal of financial profits and be aware of that.”

The Science Must be Proven

Entrepreneurship is hard. Convincing people you can actually manipulate the waves of the brain and lead to 10x productivity (or whatever) is going to be doubly difficult. For this, John recommends evidence. Very much proven evidence that you have got things figured out. Not just hypothetical lines are drawn connecting a few research studies.

“Our world is science meets technology. What is important here is that the science is proven. The table stakes are that the science is valid and new ideas, innovations, and companies have proven whatever it is are effective in a rigorous science study.”

What Technology Should Come Next?

Considering John lives within the realm of the coolest of the cool that is emerging from the sciences, I had to ask; “what next? what do you want to see?”

“There needs to be the next lightweight display platform before AR/VR. I think you see examples of what people are trying to make where devices are aiming to display information directly onto the cornea or you know laser based projection that are rasterizing images onto the eye.. those are potential outcomes.”

“Then, lightweight consumer exoskeletons and/or muscle amplification, companies like ROAM ROBOTICS are consumer grade exoskeletons which are beginning to generate lots of heat in that area.”

“The next generation of technology down the pipeline is going to be absolutely mind-shattering and I know that’s way down the pipe but that stuff is so fascinating.. once you know these things are possible you can’t unsee them”

Want to learn more about futuristic technologies? JAZZ Venture Partners invests in companies that “improve human performance.”

Keep up with them here.

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Jeremy WebbAdvice For The Entrepreneur of the Future
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Steve Case – Building Silicon Valley Outside of the Valley at TechCrunch

As I checked into the TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2017, I bumped into Steve Case, the founder of AOL Inc. and the author of the New York Times bestselling book: The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future, who told me he was here as a speaker for a talk for titled “Building Silicon Valley Outside of the Valley.”  

Steve Case is now the Chairman and CEO of a Washington, D.C.- based venture capital investment firm called Revolution Ventures LLC and is trying to find disruptive and interesting startups in cities outside of New York and Silicon Valley.

Case reminded me that “Last year, 78 percent of venture capital went to just three states—California, New York, and Massachusetts,” which  leaves “the entrepreneurs in the 47 other states fighting over the remaining 20 percent of VC money available.” He also says that most VC’s in California or New York don’t feel comfortable investing and sitting on the board of a startup if they can’t easily visit them via train, car or, [dare I say it?] a bicycle.  

This is the reason why Steve’s VC firm–for the 5th straight year has been doing the Rise of the Rest bus tour road trip. Last fall, he stopped in 5-second tier emerging innovation hub cities, including Albuquerque, Omaha/Lincoln, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City/Provo, Utah; and Phoenix. 

In each city he gave an entrepreneur a $100,000 investment.  To get the investment, local startups competed in a pitch competition like Startup Grind’s Global Conference Quick Fire pitch.  

Leveling the Playing Field   


Case tells us that in the cities he and partners have visited, there are some underrated early seed investment startup opportunities that are working on fascinating things.

As an example, places St Louis, Missouri, which the industry leader Monsanto is headquartered in, he has seen a healthy agricultural (AG tech) startup culture developing there. He said you may not know it but there are 5 unicorn enterprise software startups in the Provost Salt lake City, Utah area.

Although Uber, the unicorn startup is headquartered in SF, much of their driverless car technology research and technology was done in Pittsburg because of the talented tech community from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University.

This talent pool has helped spark major investments into developing autonomous vehicles and robotics sectors.

According to Case, there are two big reasons investors should look to communities outside of Silicon Valley and other well-known tech hubs of innovation.

One reason is that it’s better for the country. “It’s better if we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket,” he said The other reason: It’s better for investments and investors. In places outside of Boston, SF, NYC and Silicon Valley, he said that “startup evaluations were 35 percent less due to the fact that there were a lot less VC’s competing to get into the investment round, which can be an upside for the investors that do.”    

“More investors should pay attention to places like Detroit, Albuquerque, St Louis, Lincoln or Cleveland,” he said. “It’s a good way to generate returns.”       

Investing in the more traditional startup cities, he says, requires a lot of capital, and there’s a lot of competition. But in places like Cleveland, startups need less to get off the ground, affording them a good chance of success.          

The Takeaways on How More Cities can Grow their Startup Communities  

We are in a moment in time, if you look at the arc of the American story, the United States was once a startup, 250 years ago. We led the way in the industrial and agricultural revolution.  “It’s also worth remembering that Detroit, 75 years ago, was like the Silicon Valley,” said Case. “At the time, it was the hottest innovation city in the country, because the automobile was the hot new technology at the time. Silicon Valley was full of fruit orchards.”    

The key to growing the startup communities in other cities,”  he says, “is to capitalize on the unique skill set of each city.”  There are now dozens of regional micro VC funds popping up all around the country in different midwest cities.

Everything Begins With The Local Community

“When local investors put money into startups, it signals to outside investors that the company is worth their time. Everything begins with the local community,” Steve proclaims. 

After reading Steve’s book, The Third Wave, I can recommend it. It came out in April 2016. This book tells us how to really integrate the internet in a better, “seamless and pervasive way.”

We all know that the internet can change how we think about all parts of our lives. Case tells us that it will not just change thinking, but that it will require a whole different mindset — and that whole sectors of the country and economy will be effected — including food and healthcare.

In the book he also says that without investment and partnerships, AOL never would have gotten off the ground, “It’s about the partnerships.”

For building your early startup, build it where you are living now. Thinking you have to move to a big place wastes your time and money — but most of all — it wastes the valuable energy that only you have to invest in your startup. Energy your startup needs

It starts with the angel investor network’s (former entrepreneurs) and then getting these people to find out about what you are building. In this third wave, it’s not just about the app or software, if you really want to revolutionize health care it’s not the app, it’s about working with the doctors, hospitals and health plans.

As a new startup, it’s about creating that network effect to attract that early capital, and you have to educate investors who on the coasts to what happening in your city.    

We are seeing a slowing of the brain drain in these Rise of the Rest Cities, so if you are a successful investor in NYC or SF maybe it’s time to go back and take a look at your own hometown.      

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Jeremy WebbSteve Case – Building Silicon Valley Outside of the Valley at TechCrunch
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