Why Startups Want Their Employees To Have A Growth Mindset

It’s all in the mind.

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
– Carol Dweck, author of Mindset

There are so many unknown variables that you have to deal with when you work for a startup. What if your investor pulls out their funding after a verbal agreement? Or when the press writes a trash piece about your company like how Gawker ripped Helena apart. How do you react when you’re literally running out of money and only have 3 weeks left for your company to survive?

It’s not easy to navigate the waters as an entrepreneur. It's even more difficult when you’re responsible for a team depending on you to make things right. You know you can handle the tough journey you signed up for, always using your skills and talent to get over roadblocks. But how can you transfer the same mindset over to your employees who might be worried sick about job security? Or working extra long hours to make it over the hump?

This is why small startups and large companies alike are teaching their employees the difference between the fixed and growth mindset.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, differentiates the two mindsets:

“In a fixed mindset people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success — without effort.”

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

 

PROBLEM SOLVING

This mindset is crucial for all employees to internalize because when things do go wrong, your team will be prepared. This mindset turns any obstacle into an opportunity, regardless of their intelligence or talent.

You need your employees to not get caught up in their specific responsibilities or limitations so they can tackle complex problems head strong, regardless of their job description.

 

HIRING

Say you just hired an experienced editor-in-chief to join your media company who already had massive success. They’ve gotten millions of views on their articles. They have thousands of followers on Twitter. People see them as a thought leader within their space.

But because of their success, they may have fallen into a fixed mindset of the idea that they are just naturally skilled. So now, they might be afraid of making mistakes or ruining their image, which reduces the creative risks that could positively help your company. As an entrepreneur, you want to encourage creative destruction and innovation. But if your employees don’t want to stretch their comfort zone, this dream hire becomes a problem.

What if instead of hiring an experienced veteran, you hire a young writer who is quickly rising up in their field? This writer has no image to keep up or any societal expectations. This makes them fearless to take risks, fail, and or embarrass themselves in hopes to learn and grow. With the naive young writer, they give the company fresh eyes to try things that may have never been done before.

If you were the CEO, who would you hire?

DSC_9766.jpg

There are pros and cons to both candidates but in the long run, the one with more developed skills and the growth mindset would be the better candidate nine times out of ten. HR teams are now adding in behaviorial questions to test whether future candidates internalize this way of thinking.

 

EGO

This fixed and growth mindset is exactly why child prodigies are usually never the ones to create breakthrough ideas. They become fantastic doctors or lawyers, but because they had an image to keep up as a child, they never wanted to ruin their reputation by taking risks. They’re deathly afraid of failure. These child prodigies played it safe to earn the approval of their parents and teachers which holds them back to doing what they really want to do. It’s disappointing because these child prodigies could have massive breakthroughs in science, technology, art, or any subject if they had the humility to deal their own ego.

With the growth mindset, your employees will embrace humility, and not be afraid to pitch a bad idea or suggest a creative solution.

 

PROCESS OVER OUTCOME

The successful teams who teach the growth mindset are focused on the process, not the outcome. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Carol Dweck explained the reason perfectly,

“We’ve done a lot of work now showing that praising someone’s talent puts them into a fixed mindset. The whole self-esteem movement taught us erroneously that praising intelligence, talent, abilities would foster self-confidence, self-esteem, and everything great would follow. But we’ve found it backfires. People who are praised for talent now worry about doing the next thing, about taking on the hard task, and not looking talented, tarnishing that reputation for brilliance. So instead, they’ll stick to their comfort zone and get really defensive when they hit setbacks.
So what should we praise? The effort, the strategies, the doggedness and persistence, the grit people show, the resilience that they show in the face of obstacles, that bouncing back when things go wrong and knowing what to try next. So I think a huge part of promoting a growth mindset in the workplace is to convey those values of process, to give feedback, to reward people engaging in the process, and not just a successful outcome.”

 

CHANGE

So how do startups change the mindset of their employees to have a growth mindset? CEOs need to make this mindset a priority and live the values so they can drive the change from the top down.

Dweck shares an example of GE’s CEO Jack Welch who refused to hire based on pedigree, choosing Big 10 graduates and military veterans over Ivy Leaguers, and also spending thousands of hours and dollars coaching his employees on his executive team.

DSC_9721.jpg

“Focusing on pedigree…is not as effective as looking for people who love challenges, who want to grow, and who want to collaborate,” Dweck says. Google appears to be making such a shift, she notes; the company has recently begun hiring more people who lack college degrees but have proved that they are capable independent learners.

 

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Having a growth mindset can set you apart and will benefit any startup looking to solve big problems. Once the whole startup team internalizes this growth mindset, they can do their best work with humility, reaching the company's biggest goals.

 

44 Students from Around the World, Kick Off the Fall 16 Session.

Written by Eli Chmouni

On Sunday September 26, 2016, 44 students from around the world joined the ASU-Draper Hero Incubator Program in San Mateo, geared toward advancing their entrepreneurship mindset and launching their startup. Six of these students are juniors and seniors from ASU seeking degrees in engineering, business and design.

 

ASU and Draper University have joined forces to create a premiere entrepreneurial program that does not focus on generic startup concepts you read about in books or encounter in a classroom. Designed with students and young adults in mind, the program is designed to grow leaders, provide business operation education through world renowned speakers such as Elon Musk, and teach the tech tools needed to build a concept from ideation to revenue,

The 9 month program will be action-based learning divided into 3 modules. The first focuses on ideation and product market fit, the second teaches the technology tools required to build the company such as CAD and iOS/Android programming, and the third focuses on marketing and sales applications. At the end of the program students have the opportunity to pitch their business during demo day to various Silicon Valley investors including Tim Draper. During the entire program, students live, learn and grow in San Mateo, CA at the Draper University campus.

 

ASU juniors and seniors selected for the incubator get to build their business in Silicon Valley while earning up to 30 ASU credits and an entrepreneurship certificate from W.P. Carey School of Business. Program Director, Eli Chmouni said, “The incubator is the chance for every student to interact with top entrepreneurs from around the world, learn from experienced mentors, and transform their life forever, all while earning ASU credits.”

It is only the second day of the incubator and students have already broke out of their comfort zone with some quirky ice breakers, jumped into the pool with Tim as their first steps into getting started, and went on a scavenger hunt that tests their teamwork and communication skills.

 

The program is a global destination for people who want to acquire an entrepreneurial mindset, be it to build the next unicorn company or transform existing organizations. “Arizona state University was recently selected again as the #1 innovative university in the country and now with our partnership with Draper University we can continue to break the mold in building the new American university”, said Eli.

The first module (7 weeks) is currently in session and focuses heavily on the ideation stage of a startup while developing the necessary skills to reach market validation. This includes leadership hero workshops, CMS, basic CAD, introductory programming techniques, sales and communication classes all hosted and taught by actual entrepreneurs and business leaders. The rigorous classes will go from 10 am to 8 pm every day with no two days being the same. Every day offers a different class, mentor, and experience with the primary goal of getting students to a solid minimum viable product.

 

Roman Stephan from Anchorage Alaska is a junior at ASU seeking a BS in Entrepreneurship is currently attending the program. When asked about his participation in the program Roman said, “I wanted to grow as a leader and learn from the best to increase my chances of a successful startup.” Roman is currently exploring various startup ideas in the fields of outdoor adventure and fitness. All ASU students attending the incubator have received $22K scholarship to advance their passion to build new companies.

Interested in being considered for the ASU Draper Hero Incubator, apply here.

 

– About –

Draper University, based in San Mateo, is an institution backed by some of the most established names in the industry including Tim Draper, Mark Andreesen and Mark Benioff as well as boasting students from over 53 different countries with $24,000,000 raised in funding by alumni.

Follow their journey on Facebook
Twitter: @Draper_U
Instagram: DraperUniversity

The Must-Have Entrepreneurial Traits Founders Look For When Hiring New Team Members

Your new employees can make or break your startup, hire wisely.

These are the people that you’ll surround yourself with for countless years while you’re building your venture. It’s crucial that you get the right members on board who fit your culture and believe in your mission.

But hiring at a big corporation is much different from what startups really need because of the constant change and unknown variables. Startups need people who are comfortable going with the flow, quick to problem solve, and wear many different hats in order to achieve their goal.

So when hiring for startups, here are the top five traits founders should look for in potential employees:

 

Creativity

You want to look for people who not only have creative ideas, but are also not afraid to voice their opinions. They have to be willing to stand their ground even if it goes against conventional wisdom. Startup founders love this and encourage employees to share new ideas.

When I was working with Sam Parr, CEO of Hustle Con Media, he told me he would rather have me stand up for my poor article ideas instead of passively accepting his judgements. Now whenever I feel strongly about an idea, I refuse to back down.

I got over my fear of taking risks and started sharing crazy ideas that might just work. This was when my article, Nas’ Investment Portfolio Is Straight Nasty, got over a quarter of a million page views. My other article, Meet the People Making a Full-Time Living From Instagram, Kickstarter, and Teespring, got over 2,000 shares in less than a week. It was an amazing things to see me pitch these “bad ideas” and have my articles perform extremely well.

The trick to coming up with great ideas is you have to come up with a ton of bad ideas. I wrote dozens of articles that only received a few hundred page views. But the more you write, and the more ideas you come up with, the more “hits” you’ll get.

When you’re creative and not afraid to take risks for innovation, you’ll fit right in at a startup.

 

Passion

People usually join large corporations for security and they join startups for their mission. Potential employees feel extremely passionate to the cause and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Founders look for employees with passion because when obstacles come up like failing to raise money or losing their biggest client, they need to see these failures as minor setbacks and bounce back to accomplish their big goal.

When a sophomore classmate beat Michael Jordan for the final spot on his high school varsity basketball team, Jordan was crushed. But Jordan used this moment to fuel his obsessive passion for the game. He eventually made it to the NBA and led the Chicago Bulls to six national championships, earned the NBA’s MVP award five times, and led the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in 1984 and 1992.

If your employees had the passion for your startup like Michael Jordan had with basketball, your team would be unstoppable.

 

Compassion

In order for startups to make an impact on the world, they need to affect the lives of others in a positive way. They need to understand the pains, problems, and needs of their customers so they can help provide a solution to solve these challenges.

The messaging app, WhatsApp, started as a way for founder Jan Koum to post status updates on his phone with the original plan to make it a paid app. But through compassion, it became something much much more. Koum shared the Whatsapp story at a Mobile World Congress event,

“There was a turning point when we realized we were actually onto something else here. I got an email from this girl who lived in Australia who was an exchange student… she said, ‘I’m all by myself in Australia. I don’t have any family here and it costs [too much] money for me to send them a message or call them. I cry myself to sleep because I’m all by myself.’ I couldn’t say no so I gave her a link [to the app] … and that’s the moment when I realized we have a mission here of making sure people can communicate easily and affordably no matter where you are in the world and that’s what we set out to do.”

 

With 450 million users worldwide, this change in direction led to Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19 billion in Febuary 2014. Koum seized this moment of compassion and used it to bring value to the people that mattered most to him.

 

Focus

All startup employees need to have a clear vision, goal, or purpose with their job. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg taught this lesson immediately to his early employees including Noah Kagan, the company’s 30th employee.

Kagan explained in a 2014 interview with Ramit Sethi, author of the bestselling I Will Teach You to Be Rich, that he would consistently approach Zuckerberg with ideas to help Facebook make money. But Zuckerberg always asked the same question, "Does it help us grow?" If no, he would tell Kagan he wasn't interested.

Zuckerberg's clear focus on growth "helped us clarify every decision," Kagan said. With Kagan’s own company, Appsumo, he sets one goal per year and all the team’s effort has to contribute to that goal. His 2016 goal was to grow his marketing tool, SumoMe, to 1 billion users. Kagan broke the company’s yearly goal into monthly goals for example, if the next month goal is to get to 600,000 users and he sees that they're only at 500,000, he says, "What do I need to do this week to go from 500 to 600? What are the three things I can do this week?"

 

Hustle

Hustle is doing whatever it takes to hit your goal. Hustle is running a marathon until you finish. Hustle is finding the strength to take one more step each time you’re ready to quit.

In 2009, Tristan Walker wanted to work at the hottest startup in Silicon Valley, Foursquare, but got no responses after applying on the website and emailing the CEO seven different times. So what did he decide to do? He started working for them unofficially.

Walker wanted a job in business development so he started cold calling companies (without permission) asking if they would be interested in advertising on Foursquare. After a few companies said yes, Tristan emailed Foursquare’s CEO again and told him about the advertisers he had waiting for him and this time, he replied. They met the next day and Tristan went on to run Business Development at Foursquare.


 

What All Startups Can Learn From Pokémon GO

What All Startups Can Learn From Pokémon GO

Written by Draper University Alumni Niles Lawrence

“Pikachu, I choose you!” is a phrase most millennials know. For those of you who don’t it’s the catch phrase of Ash Ketchum the lead character in the Pokémon TV show. Why is this important? Well it’s the first exposure the masses in North America had to the beloved Pokémon franchise. And this franchise has just released its newest (and most impactful) game yet, Pokémon GO.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Pokémon or Pokémon GO it’s definitely something to watch closely. Niantic (the team behind Pokémon GO) has done what most startups can only dream of: they’ve built a viral product that has high retention and a scalable business model. These points are so crucial for startups to succeed that it is worth diving into each one specifically. Hopefully you can take a thing or two from this and apply it to your own startup.

Creating a Viral Product

Niantic has captured and built a community around a generation of casual and hardcore gamers alike. They took something as familiar and loved as Pokémon and brought it to the real world using a little known piece of future tech called Augmented Reality (AR). This is something most people, myself included, dreamed about as kids watching Saturday morning cartoons. And this kind of impact causes virility.

 

A wild Pokémon in the real world thanks to augmented reality (AR)  

A wild Pokémon in the real world thanks to augmented reality (AR)

 

Pokémon GO has already created both a viral product and a community around said product. Pokémon GO was released on July 6th and within 2 days (July 8th) it had already been installed on about 5% of Android phones in the US, almost double Tinder’s installs (around 2.5%). It has also been downloaded over 7.5 million times in the US from the Android and iOS app stores.

SimilarWeb’s July 8th chart of the Pokémon GO android installs vs Tinder

This is immediately apparent as you walk down the street in any metropolitan city. Everyone is out on his or her smartphones trying to catch Pokémon. As I walked home from work on Monday at around 9pm there were almost 200 people gathered in the park outside of a mall trying to catch new Pokémon and this is with a game that is not even officially released in Canada.

200+ people gathered outside Toronto’s Eaton Centre at 9pm catching Pokemon

200+ people gathered outside Toronto’s Eaton Centre at 9pm catching Pokemon  

200+ people gathered outside Toronto’s Eaton Centre at 9pm catching Pokemon

 

All of this buzz and traffic is what startups strive to do and Niantic has done it in less than a week. Considering that there are hordes of people gathering right now to play by themselves, imagine the impact of upcoming updates that allow trading Pokémon or battling other trainers will add to this insane growth.

Nurturing a Habit

One of my favorite books is Nir Eval’s Hooked. The book talks about habit-forming products which ultimately lead to huge retention of users. Think of apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, that make you come back for more everyday. Eval says that all habit forming products lead users through a process called the “Hook cycle” consisting of four stages: Trigger (both external and internal), Action, Variable Rewards and Investment. If you’d like to read about the full model click here.

Pokémon GO has nailed all of these steps:

  • You get a nudge when you pass a Pokestop or a Pokemon appears (Trigger)
  • You take the action of capturing the Pokemon or Pokestop (Action)
  • You don’t know which Pokemon you’ll find next or what the Pokestop will give you (Variable Reward)
  • And you keep catching Pokemon “to be the very best” (Investment)

Habits are what make a product go viral and it’s something Niantic has done well. As of July 8th, Pokémon GO was well on its way to pass Twitter’s daily active users and already has a higher “Time on Site” of more than 43 minutes a day, which is higher than WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, and even Messenger.

SimilarWeb’s July 8th chart of the Pokémon GO Android installs vs Tinder

SimilarWeb’s July 8th chart of the Pokémon GO Android installs vs Tinder

Building a Scalable Business Model

Finally, what Niantic has also done really well is their business model. Most people will just see it as the freemium platform where you can buy more potions, lures, poke balls, eggs, etc. This has already racked in about $1.6M a day making it the highest grossing freemium app on the app store. But the more exciting model to me is the Pokestops and Gyms.

Pokémon GO has these pit stops called Pokestops that players can stop at as they are walking around looking for new Pokémon. These Pokestops provide items like potions and pokeballs for free to players. The interesting part of this is that they are often landmarks in cities conveniently located outside of restaurants and stores.

If businesses are smart and capitalize on this (which some have started to do) they have a new way to get people into the stores. Just by dropping a Pokémon lure (essentially brings nearby Pokémon in the area to you) at the Pokestop outside of their store/restaurant they can increase their foot traffic ten fold as players hustle to get the benefit of the lure while the business gets the benefit of the increased foot traffic.

I even see it being possible in the future for companies to buy their own Pokestops for certain periods of time much like Snapchat’s geofilters that allows people to buy custom filter in a specific geographical area for their weddings, conferences, birthdays, etc. Snapchat’s custom filters range from as little as $5 to $1000+ based on the duration of the filter. Something that would we easy to replicate in Pokémon GO for business to leverage and in both cases the user wins.

The vast world of Pokémon GO, filled with pokémon, gyms, and pokéstops

The vast world of Pokémon GO, filled with pokémon, gyms, and pokéstops

I know some people think Pokémon GO is just a fad but I think it’s the future of gaming and business. Putting the user first when building a product is key. That user is the one that will tell all their friends (and helps build the community without them even realizing it), come back to use it because they love it so much, and even drive business to cater to them.

I encourage all of you to try and be more like Niantic and work on build something that is able to engage a generation and be remembered as the game (or startup) of the decade.

For the original post, click here.

Draper University is Hiring!

 Draper University is seeking to hire a rockstar Admissions & Recruiting Manager. As the “frontline” person that applicants first meet, this is a critical role whose major areas of responsibility are creating a larger awareness about Draper University to potential students and running the entire admissions lifecycle.

Primary responsibilities are to recruit qualified students for our programs; to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive recruitment plan, including the development and continual improvement of systems and processes designed to meet enrollment goals.

Recruiting

Build University awareness to potential new students and assist in developing and implementing recruiting strategies and activities that enhance enrollments. Some evening and weekend hours required; light travel required.

Admissions

Responsible for application review, scheduling and fielding admissions calls with qualified potential students. Must be able to manage data in MS Excel and run analyses and projections. This person would also be responsible for working with admitted students on tuition and financial aid. This person must possess excellent oral and written communication skills, strong attention to detail and organization skills.

Required Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Strong public speaking and communication skills and the ability to present Draper University in a positive way to diverse populations
  • Demonstrated ability to work effectively both independently and as part of a team
  • Strong organizational skills and computer literate
  • Excellent telephone skills required
  • Must be sales oriented and enjoy networking
  • MS Excel proficient - Experience with CRM tool a plus
  • Enthusiasm for working with young entrepreneurs
  • Must have US work authorization 

Salary & Benefits

This position is full time. The salary for this position is $55,000 - $70,000 depending on experience and includes full benefits (medical, dental, vision, disability insurance. 401k retirement plan offered.) Work in a fast-paced, exciting environment where you get to constantly grow and learn new things from our team and have access to amazing Draper University speakers. Learn more about the company at www.draperuniversity.com!

Interested in this position? Please contact Carol, carol@draperuniversity.com.

Draper University & ASU to partner on cutting-edge entrepreneurial program

 Draper University and Arizona State University announced today that they are partnering to launch what they expect to be the #1 entrepreneurial program in the country.

The Draper/ASU Entrepreneurial Program will combine Draper’s innovations in education for entrepreneurs with ASU’s entrepreneurial curriculum and access to a large group of talented students. The program will offer the most exciting and practical academic experience in entrepreneurship, culminating in a business plan competition, where Tim Draper will invest at least $1 million.

The residential program will run for nine months starting this fall and will be held at Draper University in San Mateo. The program will combine Draper’s signature “Hero Training” and out-of-the-box teaching methods with ASU’s outstanding content.

The curriculum will include forward thinking simulations, headline speakers, “Survival Training,” team challenges, and hack-a-thons. Key coverage areas will be finance and empowerment, design and coding, robomarketing, and growth hacking. The final module of the program will be entitled, “Go!!!,” and will include personal mentorship and career guidance.

“We are thrilled to be working with ASU,” said Tim Draper, Founder of Draper University. “Our program will be enhanced by ASU’s full curriculum. Because of ASU, more and more students will learn the challenges and excitement of starting a business.”

Amy Hillman, dean of ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, called the new partnership “a fantastic combination of academics and practical application of entrepreneurial lessons.”

“Draper U is an innovator in real-world education and we are a highly ranked creative business school grounded in research,” she said. “Our students will have the best of both worlds and they will emerge from the experience stronger and better prepared for the modern economy.”

The Draper/ASU Entrepreneurial Program is currently accepting applications for the pilot program, which starts on September 26th.

Those looking to change the world are encouraged to apply at www.wpcarey.asu.edu/draper (ASU students) or http://www.draperuniversity.com/masters/ (non-ASU students). Applications will be read on a rolling basis; the deadline to apply is August 12.

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About Draper University

Draper University has innovated entrepreneurial education. Their 500+ students have started 250 companies raising over $24 million. Students have come from 60 different countries. The Draper University teaching process is unconventional, challenging students emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually through a team-based, inspirational, and activity-based curriculum, with the ultimate goal of launching something innovative and important.

To learn more visit www.draperuniversity.com

 

About Arizona State University

Arizona State University developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to excellence, access and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it. In the fall of 2015, ASU enrolled around 70,000 full-immersion students on five campuses in Greater Phoenix.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it Time to Disrupt Government?

Recently, Draper Associates closed its $190 million seed fund. Draper lists FinTech, GovTech, Healthcare, Education, Insurance and Logistics as ‘ripe for transformation’, and says that the fund is open to any entrepreneur who is willing to challenge the status quo. However, this is not the first Fund targeting Government for the next disruption. In 2013, a $22-million GovTech Fund was established for the same reason by Tim O’Reilly and Ron Bouganim. Total funding received by GovTech startups is already more than $1 billion.

 

So what is GovTech?

GovTech startups primarily focus on local, state and federal government and derive the majority of their revenues from the public sector.

 

Why is GovTech HUGE?

Worldwide annual spending on IT is $2.7 trillion according to Gartner. If we look to the worldwide spending on IT by verticals, Banking & Securities is first ($485 billion), followed by Manufacturing ($477 billion) and Communications ($429 billion). Meanwhile hot verticals such as Healthcare ($105 billion) and Education ($64 billion) are 9th and 11th.

 

Surprisingly, Government is 4th on the list with annual spending of $425 billion on IT. While the number is huge and from the first sight promising for a better governance, governments manage the spending dramatically inefficiently both in developed and developing countries. According to the Office of Management and Budget under Obama, 27% of Federal IT spending is mismanaged. As a result, there is a reasonable assumption that in developed countries 20-30% of government spending on IT is mismanaged, while this number in emerging markets is more than 40%.

 

 

On the other hand, within governments there is a trend of outsourcing IT development to businesses. Today 23% of IT development and services of US counties is already outsourced to businesses; and the number grows about 15% annually.

 

So, we are living in an age when governments own huge resources, but dramatically mismanage them. On the other hand, Silicon Valley introduced Lean Methodology to the world which helps innovative entrepreneurs build new types of companies with a different culture. I strongly believe that with YC funding a study on Basic Income and Google experimenting with Liquid Democracy the world will see serious changes in governing systems in the next 15-20 years.


Written by Hambardzum Kaghketsyan, DU Spring 2015 alum, who is currently building WISESTONE GovTech accelerator. Previously, Hambardzum worked for government and the World Bank Group.

The Immigrant Entrepreneur

Doing anything new is challenging;

combining this with doing something new in a new place. This is both challenging and overwhelming considering the relearning of social norms, activities, networks and more. We often hear of many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who came in as immigrants, migrants and more and have excelled beyond even natives to achieve outstanding success. This then leaves people who are immigrants coming in, aware of this illustrious track record feeling more overwhelmed. No one will understand how hard this is because “so many” people have done well. Now we really have no excuse. To be honest – that is the truth. There is no excuse, for anyone – unless a genetic or mental disorder or an event simultaneous a disaster has occurred in ones life – there really is no excuse. This article is not to debate those viewpoints, or to make the immigrants feel even more burdened or to take away any sympathies. It is rather to recognize the challenges and to give support to those who have made that decision to found their start-ups in the US and those who are thinking of making the steps.

Why would you make take this particular step rather than found the company in your home nation:

Answer: Getting to the heart, the source materials of the start-up ecosystem


Steps to help the process become easier

Incubators

If you have a start-up or have going through ideas that can birth a start-up joining onto an incubator can be a great way to mitigate the challenges of establishing a business in the USA. This because of the community feel and network you form, plus the material taught can be a massive boon to your overall understanding for business.


Accelerator

An accelerator is further ahead of an incubator for a founder and you usually need to have started your business and showcased some traction or growth. It is also an incredible way to build a strong network, make some friends with shared passions as well as support in the early stages of the entrepreneurial journey for those who are away from family and friends.


Volunteer Work

Doing volunteer work will make you feel good as well as help you make incredible friends. Often times when mired by the challenges and overwhelmed by pressures, supporting others and helping those who are going through much steeper problems helps to better manage personal challenges and gives a better perspective on your troubles. Plus, it works your idea muscles and strengthens your ability to make connections with ideas and people.


Meet-ups and Networks

Meet-ups and just over networking type of events are incredible ways to meet like minded people. In our digital era, joining in on meet-ups that are tied to Entrepreneurships and Start-ups can be quite easy and help in making friends, meeting co-founders, checking out new locations and more.


Things you Enjoy

Sounds silly but doing things you enjoy as an immigrant entrepreneur is an incredible way to manage the challenges of this stage of the journey. It better helps bring Serendipitous encounters into your life which can be significant. If you enjoy reading, try going to the library once in a while and say hello to the librarian, if you love working out – join the gym and run around a few parks once in a while – use the jungle gym. You’ll be surprised by the kind off people you meet at a park once in a while, or the insight you gain from doing fun things you enjoy.


Conferences

Conferences and exhibitions are great ways to immerse yourself in the happenings of the new environment you are in. Tickets for some premier events might be pricey but you can volunteer to help out and be of assistance with either the logistics or general support with operations. At these programs, thoroughly maximize the period by meeting with people, sharing stories and showing interest in the happenings about what the conference and exhibitions are about.


Managing finances

Besides the cost of moving here, or managing yourself – an unconscious challenge is finances: whether you have abundances of cash or not. For me: coming here from London everything seemed super cheap and it was. So it is easy to get carried away because you make calculations in comparison to your local prices. It is best to speak with people and locals and find out what the right pricing is. Even ask the person selling the items – “will you pay this much for this?”.

The other key thing in managing such finances is not to buy too much things. The great thing about the US is the availability of so much stuff, in shops or by online shopping, but the best part are the people and the experiences. Make this period of acquisitions of friendships and experiences and not just stuff.


There are so many things that an immigrant entrepreneur can do to make the transition into the start-up ecosystem better to make an impact, however what can often happen is people revert inwards into their shell and do not engage fully with their surroundings until they are defeated or only want to return to the security of home. To steal an adage from the gym: “the best workout is the workout that you do”. All in all, take a look at the things that you can do, perform a brainstorm and generate personal ideas on the things you can do and select the easiest one or the best one you earnestly believe you can get started on. Take the first step.


Wrriten by Alumni Einstein NtimCo-founder Bloomer Tech, Immigrant Entrepreneur.

Producing Disruption with TechCrunch COO, Ned Desmond

Entrepreneurs love two things:

networking and competition.

This is why every weekend Silicon Valley has hackathons, conferences, demo pits, meetups, and panel discussions galore. None of these events pack every facet of startup culture into one event quite like TechCrunch does, however, at their annual TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.

Tickets top two grand and attendance clears 5,000 people, while most startup conferences weigh in at a few hundred attendees. TechCrunch combines everything entrepreneurs love: a grand hackathon, exhibiting startups from all over the world, star studded panel discussions, and their famed Startup Battlefield, where the top startups compete to be the next big thing for the entire years and $50,000.

Although the rest of America will be talking about the Startup Battlefield winner and their Virtual Reality Pavilion, little time is spent looking at the event itself. How can one put on the most notable startup event of the year? Luckily this tech blogger scored tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt SF and managed to network with Ned Desmond, the COO of TechCrunch himself. Get the scoop on how TechCrunch produces disruption straight from the source.


What did you do before TechCrunch? How did you become COO?

I ran the digital businesses at Time Inc. I was also founder of social media startup that failed.


What is your main job as COO of TechCrunch Disrupt? What does COO really mean?

Chief Operating Officer. I am responsible for the business [side of things- read: not editorial] and answer to AOL [which acquired TechCrunch for $25-$40 million in 2010].


When do you start planning the next TechCrunch Disrupt? In general, what is the planning process?

We are pretty much always working on the next Disrupt. We currently do them three times a year.


How do all the TechCrunch Disrupt’s vary from each other around the world?

Same format, same approach, but local flavor. So more speakers from the east coast when we are in NYC, for example. But they are all pretty international.


How many employees does it take to produce TechCrunch Disrupt SF?

All of them [250 employees listed on crunchbase]. Everyone has a role.


What is the most difficult thing about producing TechCrunch Disrupt?

There are many moving parts, and many success metrics. It’s hard to orchestrate them all.


To you, what is at the heart of TechCrunch Disrupt? How is it different than LaunchFest, Startup Grind, and other startup conferences?

1. Media reach: TechCrunch Disrupt is the only tech event that is tied to a media company with extensive reach online. Our video and reporting from the show reaches millions of viewers, in addition to those present at the show.  

2. Editorial Integrity: TechCrunch’s onstage interviews are editorial — they are conducted by editors who ask whatever they want. There are no “paid” sessions on stage.

3. Startup oriented: Our Battlefield startup competition provides 15-25 companies (selected from 500-1000 applicants) coaching, onstage pitching to world class judges, and huge media and investor attention. We do that all for nothing — we take no needs, equity or anything. As you can see here, the results are tremendous for startups: http://techcrunch.com/startup-battlefield/

4. Well run: Our shows are run by a very experienced team, and participants appreciate that we’re usually on time and very buttoned up.


For startups seeking to be apart of TC Disrupt, what is the selection process and how can they stand out?

http://techcrunch.com/startup-battlefield/about/


What tech trends do you think are here to stay? Which ones are changing the world?

Mobile is very important. Data-driven everything.


Do you have any advice for those who love running ops on how to be successful?

Build a great team that you trust and are no less committed than you are.


Learn more about Ned Desmond by visiting Techcrunch.

Are You Ready for a Startup Accelerator?

 

So you’ve started your company, talked to way too many strangers to validate your idea, and have gone to work building your prototype. But what’s next?

The path to IPO is long with many forks in the road. If you’re a B2B company, how do you really get that sales process started and a pilot out? How do you even price a SaaS program? If you’re B2C you know you need millions of app downloads- but how can you get noticed in a crowded app marketplace? And if you’re hardware… good luck navigating crowdfunding, manufacturing, and distribution!

 Most companies realize that in order to scale their company and really grow, as well as attract investment, they need mentorship, office space, and just a wee bit of startup cash. Startup accelerators are typically 3 month programs designed to accelerate your growth with workshops, coaching, office space, and a vast network of partners that you can rely on. The programs usually provide a small portion of funding designed to tide your team over for the duration of the program and culminate in a Demo Day, where you pitch to a room full of investors and press.

Here is a checklist to make sure the time is right for you.

 

Validated Idea + Market

Many people will tell you that the idea isn’t that important, but the problem you’re solving. This is great advice when you are just starting your company, because if you continue to try to solve for the problem you will eventually find the right idea that does just that. The thing is, by the time you get to an accelerator, the idea IS very important. Don’t only validate your idea, but also your target customer and market. If you’ve got a great arrow but no target, you really can’t aim.

 

A Team of Hustlers

People are fond of saying that every startup needs a hustler, hacker, and hipster, which is Silicon Valley speak for sales, development, and design. While it’s true that those areas typically have to be covered, we would say that absolutely every team member needs to have a “hustler” personality. Hustle is the only way you can achieve a year of growth in three months, and it needs to be reflected in everyone. Everyone on the team needs to talk to customers, to work around the clock, and participate in product meetings on where the product is going and what features it needs to include. A team where the CEO hands down decisions to all other members may work as a large corp, but not as an agile startup.

 

Be Ready to Commit

Make sure that you’re ready for your life to turn upside down. An accelerator is a big commitment- often you will have to relocate to its location, sometimes on another continent, and handle the challenges of a new apartment and city along with everything else. If you aren’t ready to quit your corporate job and make this startup the priority, that’s a sign. You also need to be ready to leave your ego by the door. The best advice you will get is when a mentor rips a certain section of your business plan apart ruthlessly- make sure you can take that criticism with a smile and have the fortitude to implement changes the same night. Be ready to change virtually anything about your business- agility is one of the hardest and most essential lessons a founder can learn.

 

To review, we've included a great checklist we found from Startup Bootcamp:

Let’s do the test!

1. Awesome product? - Check

2. Expected time to market less than a year? - Check

3. Awesome team? - Check

4. Wrote everyone I’ll be gone for a while - Check

5. Why did I pick this idea to work on? - Work on that answer

6. There are plenty of people who need what I’m making? - Check

7. Left ego at the door - Almost there

 

Scenario 1: Checked less than 4 points? Then we recommend you try to nail a few more of those first.

Scenario 2: All checked? Congratulations! You’re all set up to join an accelerator.

 

Meet Draper U’s Fall Class of 2015

At the heart of Draper University is our residential program, where we cram an MBA’s worth of startup knowledge into just seven weeks.

We put our amazing students through 10 hour days of speakers, workshops, and conferences, which they of course take like a champ. In just under two months our students pitch their business to investors during the Draper Demo Day, and prove to the world that they are ready to take on Silicon Valley and often international markets. Many of our alumni describe their time at Draper University as life changing, and where they found the courage to pursue their passion in life.

But what do our students think as they enter the program? How much will they grow in just seven weeks? I’ve captured four new students here to pick their brain on their experience, expectations, and of course their own startup! And you can bet that we’ll be returning to them at the end of their experience to crystallize their metamorphosis.

 

Meet Einstein.

A financial manager and elderly care home owner in a past life.

Tell me about your idea?

I am making clothing and fabric intelligent by putting washable flexible circuits in bras to help them fight disease. Visit www.bloomertech.com to get your hands on one!

What is your biggest goal for your time at DU, besides gaining investment?

I am trying to transition from small business to startups and learn as much about that culture and industry as possible.

What keeps you awake at night about your business?

I’m scared it will become a commercial product, and it might not actually help people fight disease. I am also afraid of getting enough traction while I am here, there is a lot of pressure.

What makes you awesome?

I love people and want to truly understand how they work

 

Meet Chi.

Former Googler and Manager of the South African Anzisha Award.

Chi.png

What’s your idea?

My idea ResSpot, is a communication app for residential complexes in Africa. We help residents communicate through their neighbors and manage their local community. We’re like Nextdoor for Africa! Visit www.resspot.com to join the community.

What is your biggest goal for your time at DU? (not funding)

I really need to find a technical cofounder while I am here so I can build my app! Luckily Silicon Valley is teeming with developers.

What makes you awesome?

I have a really good instinct and vision. I can see things other people can’t, such as opportunities and the potential in other teammates.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

It was unbearably hard for me to leave Google. I had to trust my intuition that following my passion was the right thing to do. I started my life all over again in South Africa, and now as I am returning to American I am bootstrapping my own startup. It’s much harder than people say it is.

 

Meet Shane.

Nearly a lawyer, now a riskmaster CEO.

Give us the details on your idea?

My idea, Shortcut, is to bring instacart and uber together into Papua New Guinea. This will be astronomical there since people have such limited transportation and it’s dangerous to be a pedestrian. Although it’s a third world country and many people are poor, often families have 3-4 cars because it’s too unsafe to ever go out on foot. Visit www.shortcut.png.com to find out how we’re making a difference.

 

What brought you to DU?

The CEO of Younoodle contacted me when he heard about my startup. He thought this would be a great opportunity for me since I am part of the first and biggest entrepreneurship program in the Pacific- Kumul Gamechangers.

What is your biggest goal for your time at DU?

I want to soak up as much learning as possible in this ecosystem, since there is no startup culture in Papua New Guinea. Everything there is run by slow moving multi-national companies, so I need to gain all of my traction here in Silicon Valley.

What did you expect of DU before you came here?

I expected this to be a collection of like minded people with differing perspectives. I didn’t everyone to have such a similar personality, we’re all quite “Type A” here.

 

Interested in applying?

We'd love to sit down and chat.

HackingEDU: The Education Hackathon That Will Get You Funded

Hackathon: A massive 48 hour programming competitions for thousands of people

Hackathons are at the heart of entrepreneurship. A hackathon is where a maker or hustler can wipe the slate clean on their startup and build something entirely new in just one weekend, and have the ability to demo it to win exorbitant prizes. 

HackingEDU, the largest student run hackathon in the world, has come along to change all of that. They set out a year ago to create the first hackathon centered around Ed-Tech, a booming new field in tech. After the founder, Alex Cory, was discouraged by even his professors in college from creating Ed-Tech apps because there was so many regulations and red tape involved, he’d had enough. As Alex describes it, “I can only build a few Ed-Tech projects in a year, but with a hackathon not only am I bringing people together but it’s for a good cause, because in one weekend hundreds of Ed-Tech products can be built. I really want to bring in a variety of speakers, so that people who aren’t interested in Ed-Tech yet will get interested. So I am growing the community itself.”

While hackathons are definitely not lean businesses, this one is definitely trying to educate its attendees about more than just programming cool hacks. As Alex told me, “We’re fixing the problem of hackathon projects getting abandoned- we are giving those top prizes opportunity to get an interview with 500 startups, GSV labs, Learn Capital, and Draper U, so they aren't monetary prizes. The problem with hackathons is most hacks don’t go forward. My vision is that we will have the best of both worlds to build something that is solving a real problem."

Q&A with Alex Cory of HackingEDU

What were some of the biggest struggles you faced? How did you overcome them?

We had the chicken and egg factor- how can I get money for a venue without sponsors, but at the same time sponsors want to know you have a venue. After we got initial money it was easier to get more sponsors and play on their fear of missing out on a good recruiting opportunity.

You have to be scrappy and cut deals with people to get them in the door- we gave one company a free senior package worth $20k for them to get the venue and intros to other sponsors and speakers. Now as we talk to sponsors since we have created value with these deals for other companies, now we can charge market price.

It’s very difficult because alot of our teams are remote because we work from different universities, and its hard to find people who are dedicated and still dilligent even when remote. Our teams are marketing, sponsorship, technical, operations, and core team (directors) with 35 total team members. Most people need to be hand held and get on a call and work with them regularly, in the beginning I was on a google hangout for 4hrs a day. We found that work sessions work really well, where you will be on google hangout just working so if you have a question it can be answered immediately.

If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?

I would have gotten speakers first, because if I had gotten big speakers it would have been easier to get good sponsors and get the ball rolling.

What advice would you give to others starting their own hackathons?

Put together a really strong team and interview people. You need to interview people. When youre talking to sponsors, even if you have no venue or date locked down, come up with one and pretend its final to help you get sponsors faster.

A starting point is imaginary date and location, make a website, then sell sponsors. Differentiate yourself by finding speakers that are relevant to what you’re doing. Do cool activities that arent normal, like a silent disco. Work really hard on the documents, with good graphic design. Make a great video with a recruitment event at your school- that will get you good team members and footage. Here is ours.

How do you know if you should take the plunge to start a hackathon?

If youre considering doing it, then do it. It’s going to put you further in life than anything else you could do, like a club on campus. Benefits I got was insane networking, now I know every recruiter at every company that is sponsoring us. You learn how to raise a bunch of money which is really valuable if you’re going to start a company and learn how to run a team really well. And split second decision making teaches you critical thinking and how to lead the right way. I learned to be results oriented and drive people for results, since people can work a lot but never get anything done. Leadership, networking and fundraising are key.

What is the future of hackingedu?

Our next event is HackingEDU Inspire. It will feature a day of panel discussions with people like Reid Hoffman and Sam Altman and Marissa Mayer and breakout sessions. Its a day where students and business people come together and learn about Ed-Tech then add their own experience to the mix with 3 tracks: Learn, Build, Inspire.

How do you plan to accommodate popular complaints like need for high quality food, blankets, and pillows?

We created a guide called “10 things to bring to a hackathon” that includes things like blanket swag and sleeping bags. We have 600 blankets from google but that won't be enough for everyone. We’ll be providing healthier food but also some junk food too. Instead of always getting pizza we also have a caterer preparing meals all weekend like barbecue and wings.

 

Make sure to attend their Hackathon on 10/23 at 6pm in the San Mateo Event Center!

5 things you learn at Draper U that no one will tell you about

Written by Summer '15 Alum, Ana Clara Otoni

 

I was at Draper U last Summer (2015) and I have to tell you: it took me a very long time to understand that I was having a great time and that I was in the right place.

I’m a journalist and besides having interviewed some of my entrepreneurial friends throughout my career, I had never thought about starting my own business until I got to Draper U. I had a vague idea of what a startup was, pivoting an idea, or building your pitch deck. Every time my mentor gave me  homework I got anxious and extremely stressed. I wanted to deliver my best but I had no idea of how I should start. Almost two months have passed since my graduation and  I am still working on my business idea. Yes, you read right: not my startup, not my business, but my business idea. And you know what? I’m totally fine with it. During the five-week program, Draper gave me all the lessons on “how to open your startup” but I’ve learned more than that from them. Here are the top five lessons I learned at Draper U that no one will tell you about:

 

1. Leaders go first

The survival week was a really intense experience. They taught us how to survive extreme situations using a military model (a method which I have serious reservations about). In the middle of one of the activities one of the instructors asked for a volunteer. In the first round he got three boys and no girls. In the second round I was ready to change that score and I volunteered. I remembered the instructor’s quote: “Leaders go first”. The sentence happened to also be the title of a book written by Mark Miller, but the way the instructor said it in that moment touched me in a very powerful way.  If you want to succeed you cannot be afraid of the unknown.You go to the front and you support your team. You go first and meet the challenge of learning to teach first and inspire others later.

 

2. There is always a different way

Draper U’s schedule definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. I remember the day we had a workshop with Felix Lin and Gina Kloes from the EOS Program. After an interesting afternoon learning about NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) techniques we were challenged to break a wooden board. I still have clearly in my mind everybody’s face. Some people were extremely excited and some were considerably doubting themselves. Mr. Lin enjoyed the process and taught us his techniques. He was confident: “We won’t leave until everyone here breaks a board. We made two big lines and cheered for each other. Sounds like “Bam”, “crack”, applause, cheers,  and some groans later… it was my turn. I tried once, nothing. Twice, and I almost broke my hand. Three times, nothing again. I stopped. I tried to relax. I watched the others. I took some advice. I practiced. Next round. There I was again and this time, this time...nothing again. Damn it! I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t break the board with my hand but it wasn’t about not being alone, it was about achieving a goal. I was tired and really frustrated. I heard the crowd rooting for me, yelling my name and I felt like I was disappointing my friends. At that moment, Mr. Lin showed me how to break the board with my foot. One try and it was done! I was relieved but not actually happy. “Why  couldn’t I do it like everybody else?”. And that was the moment when Gina whispered in my ear: “You are not not like everybody else. And remember: there is always a different way”. 

 

3. People will surprise you

At Draper University I had colleagues from 33 different countries and I confess, I didn’t know much about those different cultures. I remembered having a long conversation with a Lebanese girl about sex, homosexuality and drugs. Of course there are big differences between Brazil and Lebanon, but in general, a teenager facing any of those topics is always someone seeking for adventure and knowledge no matter where they are from. Getting to that conclusion surprised me. And I am pretty sure I surprised some people too. I remembered at least one episode during the meditation section when the fantastic Kirsty MacGregor asked us to hug each other. I’m Brazilian and in Latin-American culture, we give a nice, long and warm hug followed by a kiss or two. Considering that some people in our section were used to side-hugs for their whole lives, you can guess how surprising my hug was for them. That’s something about being open to learning and interacting with people: not knowing their culture shouldn’t stop you from interacting with them.

 

4. Take the risk

Draper has great relationships with some of the most popular and biggest companies in the Valley. So, it is not rare that DU’s students get to go on tour at companies like Tesla and Google. I was picked to go to Tesla, but one of my friends, Felipe Martinez, a smart Chilean who is working on sustainable energy production, asked to go in my place (Maybe he would get a chance to ask Elon Musk to sponsor his startup, who knows?). So, a few weeks later everyone was excited for the next tour. The final destination: Google. Unfortunately I wasn’t chosen to go even though I was crazy about going. We were in the middle of a section about the legislation to open a startup in the U.S when suddenly the people selected to go to Google’s Headquarters started leaving the room. I felt sad. I wanted to to go with them. I thought to myself “If I want to, I need to do something about it”. I left the room at Hero City with nothing but my cellphone. I left behind my purse, computer, books...everything. I needed to move fast. When I got to the street I saw the bus with my colleagues leaving. I started running and the driver surprisingly stopped, opened the door and said: “Are you going?”. I saw the IER (Internal Entrepreneur Resident) in the front seat and asked if I could go. You will never guess… somebody was missing and they had one spot! It was one of the most exciting and fun moments of my Summer. If you want something, take the risk and go get it!

 

5. Always follow your heart


During survival camp we had to do a “buddy trap” with our team in order to find a “treasure” in the middle of the forest. We crawled through the dirt and climbed ropes with a huge sense of warning and caution. At some point, we started talking about trust and commitment. Our mentor that day cleverly said, “When in doubt, always follow your heart”. It touched me in a tremendous way because I truly believe in intuition. Somehow I have a feeling about people and their intentions. This “power” helped me know and choose who I want around me. Gandhi has a great quote that says, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission”.  I love that sentence because it says more about your relationship with yourself than it says about your relationship with others. You better follow your heart and take care of yourself first.

I remember telling my good friend Daniel Gaspersz, from The Netherlands, on that day: The most beautiful way to prove love to someone is taking care of yourself first, because whoever loves you wants to see you happy and healthy. Daniel went crazy about that idea. He told me, “Wow, I want to write that down. That really makes sense, Ana”. I was happy to see that he understood my point.

 

Inside TechCrunch Disrupt

TechCrunch Disrupt is the granddaddy of all the hackathons, startup exhibitions, and pitch competitions in the whole country. 

TechCrunch is arguably the largest and most visible online tech publication in the world- if you’re a startup getting written about in their blog is a must. But a couple times a year they throw a giant event celebrating startup “disruption” of big corporations and stagnant products all over the country. San Francisco TechCrunch Disrupt is the gem of all Disrupts, with investors, startups, and journalists travelling from all the corners of the world to view the world’s latest innovations and top startups. 

First of all, although Disrupt is ostensibly a high profile event with a hefty price on tickets, it was housed in a large rusty sort of warehouse on the Pier that didn’t even accommodate toilets inside the building. After initial perplexion I chalked it up to lean startup methodology- the Disrupt experience was largely reflective of a real startup: chaotic, gritty, exhausting, and so very inspiring.

The startups who are competing for the Disrupt Cup are pre-selected by a committee to be allowed to perform, and from there only the best are called back to the Finals on the last day of the three day event. Here’s a rundown on the final pitches.

  1. Preemadonna is a women’s lifestyle hardware company that is building a Nailbot, 3D printer for nail art. You just put your painted fingernail under its sensor, and then it will print nail art, such as a star or flower, on the center of your nail. Right now they can only paint nail art and not the entire nail, due to big size variations in womens’ nails. What I loved about them is that they’re targeting inner city girls after-school programs and clubs so that girls can enjoy making their own nail art. Where I felt their business plan fell short was in how this bot can really disrupt the manicurist industry and if it could really replace nail technicians in salons.

  2. Stitch is like Slack, one of the slickest corporate instant messaging startups, but specifically for the healthcare industry. They are HIPAA compliant, so all information between doctors and patients, and the rest of the medical staff stays confidential. I really liked their go to market strategy, but for something like the Disrupt Cup they really weren’t differentiated enough from Slack and other communications startups to win the prize.

  3. If you’ve seen all the recent startups that promise you will love cooking with their “kits” that they send you in the mail of all the pre-chopped ingredients, then you’ll recognize Scrumpt’s kid friendly approach. Scrumpt sends parent’s “school lunch kits” that are nutritious and mostly prepackaged. Parents just have to assemble a few ingredients and include some “staples” like fruit. This was another company I liked, especially since the Mother and daughter founder duo on stage were so genuine. But ultimately there isn’t anything proprietary or groundbreaking about Scrumpt, and is easily something that Munchery or another company could move into. Until they are out-serving the school cafeteria they probably aren’t too disruptive.

  4. Leap Financial offers a sort of “CFO in a box” that automates things like burn rate and key performance metrics. They are a lot like InDinero, but more finance oriented rather than accounting. I honestly didn’t understand too much of their pitch or think it was very compelling. If you’re starting a company it’s an awkward conversation to explain that you don’t have a CFO because instead you bought a software package.

  5. Greenbits was a real dark horse out of the gate. They are a streamlined point of sale checkout system for marijuana dispensaries in Washington, and soon every other state that legalizes the drug. Due to state regulations, heavy cash dependency, and the recent legalization of cannabis in certain states retail stores for marijuana have been buckling under the lack of solutions for their inventory and sale management. Greenbit provides the fastest checkout time for cannabis retailers and has taken 45% market penetration in Washington since their recent launch. Greenbits was awarded the runner-up award from TechCrunch, which suggests that the ecosystem of startups to support canna-businesses will be growing immensely in the coming years.

  6. Agrilyst analyses greenhouse farmers’ crop data and provides insights that can increase yield 15% and save small farmers up to $50,000 do far. Agrilyst had an amazing pitch with compelling data and really knew their customers. They only launched their beta two months ago but have such great results that they were awarded the Disrupt cup and the $55,000 prize! They were most likely chosen for innovating in the new but explosively growing AgTech market, with a lot of potential to completely disrupt farming in an age where food shortages are on the horizon.

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SF Fashion Week

In SF, tech intrinsically permeates every idea, business, and art.

Every event added a new dimension to the fashion world and how they are increasingly incorporating technology into their business model, specifically with retail technology and in the proliferation of fashion blogging. As the events’ organizer, SF Fashion and Merchants Alliance says,

“No other city embraces the intertwined relationship between fashion, technology and the future more than San Francisco.”

Afterwards we caught up with one of the organizers of SF Fashion Week to get the scoop on how this whole stylish week went down behind the scenes. Romulo Delgado is not just an organizer of the SF Fashion and Merchants Alliance but also an entrepreneur in SF fashion tech- of course! He is launching his app,TRiFT is an outfit assistant that provides a fun tool to make everybody aware of all the items in your wardrobe. Find it here at Trift.co.

Interview with Romulo Delgado


How did you get into planning fashion week, when do you start?

I started thinking about it when I launched my fashion app, Trift. I met Owen there, the lead organizer, and then I jumped right in behind the scenes. Its a lot of people from organization and on the other side there's a huge demand for Fashion tech shows. You don't even need marketing because our events get packed without much effort!

How do you know fashion week went well, what are signs if success?

We ask for feedback. The hackathon went well, everyone loved it with 87% satisfaction. People here are doing their best and bringing their hearts to the runway.

To you, what is fashion? And what is Wearable technology? How do the two combine?

Fashion is a way to demonstrate my style. Wearables are things that make my life easier. They need to be savvy, to make my life more productive and look good. More people are focused on the fashion aspect but I see wearables as still in the prototype phase of the market and am not so focused on that.

What would you like to see in Wearable technology to make it perfect?

This is tricky. Clothing that detects temperature and work with your skin to make your cooler. It could improve on R&D, traditional fashion brands don't like to change even though they should be putting money into it. Sometimes they are too trendy but it depends on your perspective.

Fashion Blogging Unlocked

It’s true that fashion bloggers are taking over the once elitist and exclusive apparel industry and making it accessible to all of their millions of fans.

Bloggers used to have to sit on the sidelines of fashion and make use of bookmarked web pages and thrift store finds to ply their trade. Now they are an essential piece of fashion marketing and as important brand influencers are teaming up with fashion labels. Bloggers are given free tickets to fashion shows and a share of the profits of clothing they endorse because designers need them to spread the word and make high fashion reachable to the larger audience of normal people out there who don’t wear couture. When 17 Magazine polled tens of thousands of girls and asked them who their inspirations were, the top two answers were “Fashion Bloggers” and “Female Entrepreneurs”.

We attended the SF Fashion and Merchant’s Alliance’s #SylePOP Fashion Blogger Meetup to get to the bottom of how certain bloggers are so successful. Here's what happened...

 

Exclusive Interview with Britt + Whit

What made you two decide to run a fashion blog together? What differentiates you?  

We have both worked full time while running our fashion blog, BrittandWhit.com, and in the beginning it started out as a creative outlet from our day jobs.  Since we both loved fashion it seemed natural to start a blog together and 5 years later it was the best decision we have made!  It's so helpful to have another person to bounce ideas off of and to support you through the process.  

We are a bit different than your typical blogger, as we blog together! So you get double the style. The best part is that we each interpret fashion differently.  We will often end up buying the same pieces but style it in completely different ways.


How did you first monetize?

We monetize our site in a few different ways.  Affiliate sales through companies like Reward Style and Shopsense help to provide a consistent baseline of revenue.  We also do a number of brand partnerships with companies such as Rebecca Minkoff, Stuart Weitman, Old Navy, DSW, etc...which provide a mix of both compensation and additional blog exposure.


What technology do you use to help you run your blog efficiently? What technology do you blog about?

We leverage a number of social media channels (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat) in order to promote our content to our readers.  Platforms such as Hootsuite and Facebook's scheduled posts help us to schedule content which is important as we work full time.  Our blog tends to be focused on personal style and fashion so tech is more of a means to an end versus content for us at this point.  


What's your opinion on Wearable technology and the new Apple partnership with Hermes? How well do you think Wearable technology blends fashion with tech?

We are keeping an eye on the wearable tech space and are excited to see how it evolves and begins to move out of the functional space and more into the fashion space.  As of right now there is more of a focus on the technology behind the product versus making a product that is fashion forward.  The Apple partnership with Hermes is a start to move in this direction but not attainable for the vast majority of consumers.  


What most excites you about SF Fashion Week? About fashion in general?

It's honestly the people.  We have met so many inspiring women and bloggers. It encourages us to continue to keep up with our blog and evolve our content. We have also had the opportunity to work with huge brands and attend fashion weeks in San Francisco and New York. All of that would not have happened without starting Britt+Whit.  Plus we get to do it together - there is nothing more fun than working on something you love with your best friend!


I hear you have a new startup- mind telling us about it? What advice do you have for a female entrepreneur starting a fashion oriented company?

Our new startup is called To Wear With. To Wear With allows you to curate and share our style with a community of fashion enthusiasts! So whether you are looking for that perfect look for your next job interview or you want to share your own interpretation of the latest trend - we are here to make fashion fun and accessible!


Advice: Don't underestimate your value.  You are more capable than you realize.  The hardest part is first, taking the initial step to start a company and second, having the strength to continue even during setbacks. Success is hard work and doesn't happen overnight so always think about your end goal.  It will help during the difficult periods. Also Network, network, network! It's so important to start creating genuine connections early on in the industry you are interested in.  You will gain exposure to opportunities you didn't even know existed and meet people going through the same process as you who can give you support and advice.

Don’t Take Startup Advice... & Other Startup Advice

Don’t take startup advice- that is, except for this.

Jolijt Tamanaha gleaned 7 key lessons from her first founder flop with her startup, Champio. Founders often make great bloggers- when it comes to their successes. Google “How to Get Into 500 Startups” or “How to Close a Series A” and thousands of blog posts from accomplished founders celebrating their wins will pop up, but a search for “Founder Mistakes” often yields cold articles written by tech journalists instead of the failed founders themselves.

Jolijt was a student in St. Louis with a moderately successful startup, Farmplicity, before she started Champio. Jolijt is not a glamorous or wildly successful entrepreneur with a huge track record. She is probably much like you, a young entrepreneur with some good experience under her belt. Her startup Champio is probably much like yours, as an early stage pre-funding company with a beta out. Her advice hits spot on for the vast majority of entrepreneurs out there who aren’t employing staffs of 100 or mamanging cash-flows of millions of dollars. Here are her takeaways summarized below- but please, read her full article on Medium here.

 

1. Solicit a ton of advice & actively ignore most of it

Getting advice from a trusted source is always important- but not because it should be followed. Tamanha writes that advice is “an opportunity to learn about approaches to the problem that you might otherwise not know exist. Never, ever turn to a source of advice in search of an answer. Nobody can give you an answer because nobody has successfully done exactly what you’re trying to do”.

2. Time is King

Instead of instantly committing full time to your idea, Tamanha advises that first an entrepreneur should work part time or come up with some way to provide for themselves as they find product market fit. Unless the entrepreneur has a track record of acquisition then VCs won’t fund a product without a validated market. Ways to do this could be to “work on your startup as a side project while you grow in a full-time position or as a student. Set up sources of passive income that give you a small salary. Charge customers from Day 1. If that’s not possible, start the company as a consulting practice while you finish building whatever it is you need to execute on your main business model”.

 

3. Focus on the numbers

She cautions to avoid getting caught up in customers, advisors, or authority figures bolstering your product with statements that lack commitment. Numbers, like user adoption, activity, and payments tell the real story about product market fit, because “even complete strangers on the subway will tell you what you want to hear”. Numbers don’t lie.

 

4. Hire for challenge-fit

Building a dream team is one of the hardest things out there; without the right team the right product can’t be built. But often hiring decisions are made based on credentials, past experience, or connections the candidate has. Employers rarely screen for attitude, and particularly the type of attitude that is necessary for an early stage startup. Tamanha’s “early stage team needs to be in it because easy things bore them. You will be hit by challenge after challenge and when that happens, you need a team that gets excited. They should to look at you, smile, and say: “let’s figure out how to solve this.” Build a team energized by difficulties and you’ve won half the battle”.
 

5. Celebrate small successes with Champagne*

Many entrepreneurs have a drive-it-forward attitude that can make it difficult to celebrate the small things. As Tamanha writes, “People need to be celebrated. And not celebrated in my improve-some-more-stuff way but just celebrated. With Champagne or at least a cookie.”

 

5. Stop trying to draw a straight line

The ideate-prototype-test-build-scale model for startups is ubiquitous, but everyone shouldn’t get hung up in finding that perfect J-curve exponential growth model. Most startups are all over the place in the beginning, and that’s a good thing. Jolijt assuages, “I am telling you not to give up just because the path doesn’t look like what you had imagined it would when you started going down it. Straight lines exist for lawyers and bankers and TechCrunch journalists, not entrepreneurs. Do what it takes to make the next dot appear, and the dots will eventually connect themselves”.

 

6. Don’t take blind risks

Since entrepreneurs characteristically do well under pressure, often last ditch efforts to buy time or cobble together funding can actually be mildly successful. But the point isn’t to buy another few weeks- it’s to maintain that long term vision that the startup was founded on. Sometimes it’s better to take a step back rather than take the money, especially if there is more desperation than data behind your decision. Tamanha concludes with, “I can’t take an informed risk right now. I don’t need to see a straight line but I need to see the next step, the next dot. The money from family and friends will get us 10 months of runway if I’m the only one working on Champio. And if I’m the only one working on Champio, I don’t see a next dot”.

 

It’s better to refuse the money if you have no clear exit for your investors. They will recognize your honesty and come back later when you’re ready. To be clear, this isn’t Jolijt giving up. She is still working on Champio, just also taking a normal job as well. She hasn’t given up, and hopes the same for every other aspiring entrepreneur out there.

Will the Pipeline Really Bridge the Gender Gap in Tech?

The “gender gap,” or disproportionality of men to women in technical professions, is always a common thread in Silicon Valley.

Despite the rise of tech idols such as Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, Silicon Valley is still largely seen as a man's world. The American Association of University Women reports that:

  • Women made up only 26% of computing professionals in 2013 (which hasn’t moved the needle since the 1960s)
  • Women made up only 12% of engineers in 2013

Universities, coding bootcamps, and primary education have been working hard to encourage girls to become interested in math and science at an earlier age. The idea is that more of these female students will decide to major in a STEM field, resulting in a more diverse workforce with a narrower gender gap in a few years.  This is the concept of the “pipeline”, or fixing tech gender representation by funneling a more diverse student group into tech companies.

women-stem_0.png

Hackathon Hackers, with over 18,000 members, is the largest group on Facebook dedicated to attendees of Hackathons. Why? Because the best student programmers attend hackathons, and Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the rest are jockeying to employ them. Thus, this Facebook group is the best compilation of data on the active involvement of the tech pipeline. How gender is represented in this group will foretell how gender is represented in the tech industry in 3-8 years when these students graduate and go to work.

Megan Ruthven analyzed every post and comment since the birth of the Hackathon Hackers group to answer these.

To do this, she wrote code in python that analyzed all the pronouns in all the posts for male or female representation. For example, a post containing he, his, nephew, Dad, or brother would be male representative. A post containing she, her, niece, Mom, or sister would be female representative. The idea is that if a girl joins the group and sees only posts saying things like, “My brother just got hired at Apple because he and his bros made an awesome app,” then they might think this group was not for them. This measures not just female attendance in tech, but active participation. The results? The pipeline is no cure-all.

 

Q 1) Are Hackathon Hackers gender representation percentages better than industry?

Ruthven found that of all posts that contained gendered words, such as bro or she, only 13.7% contained female pronouns. To compare this to female representation in tech companies: 18% of Groupon’s tech workers are female, while Apple clocks in at 22% and Facebook at 16%. Hackathon Hackers, a snapshot of the tech pipeline, actually has a larger gender gap in their posts than tech companies today.

 

Q 2) Has gender representation changed over time in Hackathon Hackers?

Ruthven took a three month average of female representative posts and found that there was actually no trend up or down. Which means that the amount of content that represents women posted in the group isn’t getting worse, but not better either.

So what does this mean for the tech pipeline and the future for the gender gap in tech? Although many authorities have faith in the tech pipeline bridging the gender gap in tech, because the numbers of women enrolled in technical degrees has risen, data from the largest Facebook group representing the pipeline has shown otherwise.

 

How should the gender gap in the tech industry be addressed if the pipeline isn’t improving? Read the full story by Megan Ruthven here.