Posts tagged Startup
Medium There was a time not that long ago that Sonar was one of the most promising startups around, which included a lot of hype at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2011 and SXSW in 2012. Never heard of the app? It was a social discovery app that used platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare […]
The post What You Can Learn From the Failure of Social Discovery Startup Sonar by @albertcostill appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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Guest author Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council.
The early stages of a startup can seem like the exact wrong time to invest in hardware of any kind. But certain technology is worth the upfront cash. (And quite a few of the items on this list can probably come right out of your pizza budget.)
I was curious about what equipment passes muster even when budgets are tight, so I asked nine successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) what their first major hardware investments were and why. Their answers are below.
1. MacBook Pro
I’ve put so many hours on my MacBook Pro working anywhere, anytime. When you’re doing a startup, you need to put in a lot of hours, and you’ll find that it’s best if you can squeeze in work anywhere you can. For instance, after a meeting at a coffee shop, I might spend another 15 minutes getting caught up on emails and other busywork because I’m already there with my laptop. At night, I might find myself at home with Netflix going on in the background and my laptop propped up in front of me as I’m doing work.
2. Mac Mini
Unlike many other startups, our first hardware purchase was a Mac Mini. We needed more computing power so that we could process more data, and the Mac Mini proved to be a great machine. We were able to ramp up data processing while also having another machine that we could use for a slew of other tasks, such as design and word processing. I highly suggest that any startup processing large amounts of data invest in a Mac Mini.
3. Dell 1U Servers
We bought Dell 1U servers that we racked in a level three data center. We did this specifically to host our custom voice platform (the piece of Speek that actually hosts the audio on our conference calls). This was very expensive for where we were at the time, but we deemed it extremely important. We knew that the audio quality on our conference calls would make or break us.
By putting this part of the system on physical hardware and in the same data center as the vendor providing our connectivity to both the Internet and the telephone network, we aimed to reduce variables to the bare minimum. This allowed us to quickly troubleshoot and fix any audio-quality issues we faced early on.
4. Paper Shredder
When I began my last startup, the first piece of hardware that I purchased was the strongest cross-cut paper shredder I could find on the market. I learned this lesson the hard way.
At my first startup, criminals went through my trash and stole documents that helped them commit fraud and identity theft. I later discovered that some of my employees had been routinely throwing other important documents directly into the trash as well, such as early drafts of contracts and transcripts from marketing strategy brainstorming sessions. If my competitors had gained access to this information, my company might have never lifted off the ground.
5. WD Livewire
We started operating out of my garage, which was a great way to stay lean. But we ran into major issues with my home’s Wi-Fi not being able to reach or provide the level of connectivity and reliability we needed.
After frustrating attempts with extenders, we landed on Livewire, which produces Cat 5 Internet over electrical lines. For $70, you plug it into any electrical outlet and you get super fast and reliable hard-wired Internet. It’s great for any startup operating in scrappy locations. We have an office now with better Wi-Fi, but still use Livewire at our desks because of the increased reliability.
6. High-Resolution Webcam
A high-resolution webcam was our first hardware purchase. I run a virtual company, and video conferencing is one way we bridge the gap between typical company structures and our structure. It improves team collaboration, and video-based interaction develops personal relationships within our team and with clients effectively.
I bought MiFi devices for myself and Poshly’s CTO Bradley Falk. MiFi devices, which allow us to get online wherever there is a cell signal, keep us connected at all times no matter the location. They have proven to be lifesavers when we needed to answer important emails or allocate tasks to the team on the go.
Also, MiFi devices are useful for client meetings. Instead of going through the trouble of connecting to guest Wi-Fi, we’re able to get up and running to do a demo of Poshly much faster because we carry our own MiFi devices. Because entrepreneurs have hectic schedules and so many tasks to complete, MiFi is an ideal piece of hardware for always staying connected.
8. Apple AirPort
We think MacBooks are cool and decided it’s worth the extra cost to get the fancy aluminum laptops. I didn’t realize the full benefit of this decision until we bought an AirPort. It allows us to plug in any USB printer for simple wireless printer sharing, has great coverage and was a lot faster than our Netgear router. For the price, it’s a great purchase for any startup.
9. Reliable Power Supply
Our first office was in a basement with “dirty” power, so we often had sudden dips and spikes. Basically, we lost power all the time. (At least it seemed like it happened all the time!) Losing power meant losing work and then having to spend hours redoing it. Investing money in a back-up “battery” that powered our computers long enough to save work was a huge timesaver.
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One of the more oft-repeated memes about Amazon Web Services’ cloud compute and storage service is that startups love it. Why buy the hardware when you can just rent it from AWS, the conventional wisdom goes.
But one takeaway from today’s launch of AWS Activate, a new program geared to provide startup companies with resources they need to build applications on AWS, could be that startups may not be the easy get for AWS that we all thought they were.
Amazon CTO Werner Vogels’ blog post was resplendent with examples of successful startups that have made their fortunes using AWS cloud infrastructure: Instagram, Spotify, Pinterest, Dropbox, Etsy, AirBnB and Shazam, to name a few. And Vogels was positively giddy about the future.
“The democratization of infrastructure means that an internet startup in Bangalore or Sao Paulo or Manila has access to the same compute power as Amazon.com; the same durability as Dropbox; the same scalability as Airbnb; the same global footprint as Netflix. The result is we’re beginning to see more and more startups grow up in more places,” Vogels wrote.
The disconnect here is, what’s preventing the rest of these new startups from jumping on the AWS bandwagon, too? This could just be Amazon trying to accelerate the growth it already has, but there may be friction points that AWS is trying to overcome, too.
Increasingly, there are signs in the cloud community that AWS may not be the be-all-end-all for startups that it is purported to be. A recent blog entry from search engine vendor Blippex outlined its case for moving away from AWS over to infrastructure provider OVH.
Blippex co-founder Max Kossatz wrote that at first the attraction of using AWS was readily apparent. But as time went on and operating costs mounted, the Berlin-based startup was running up a big monthly bill:
For running Blippex on AWS we needed machines with at least 16 GB of memory for the databases (Mongo & Elasticsearch), so we used M1 extra large, the cheapest server with that amount of memory. This machine costs you around $340-$380 per month (depending if in the US or for example in Europe). Now you can say: use reserved instances! Ok, for a one year contract this machine would then cost around $284/month and three years is way too long for a startup where even one year can be too long. We need two of this, so make it around $700/month just for the two database servers. Then you need of course for example EBS volumes to store and to backup the stuff (sending 40+ GB every day to S3 takes quite long and is not that cheap either). Then of course Web Server, crawler, etc. so we payed around $1000/month for running Blippex on AWS.
By migrating to OVH, the search engine company was able to pare their bill down to about $225/month and, according to their tests, get a 4-5X performance gain over the AWS setup with which they started.
Signs Of PRISM Fallout?
Another reason AWS may not be the shiny lure for startups was something Kossatz alluded to in the same blog entry: for non-U.S. companies, using AWS in a “post-Snowden world” is something that is an increasing threat. European companies in particular, may have legal reasons to shift away from U.S.-based services like AWS offers.
No wonder, then, that all the potential startup locations Vogels mentioned—”Bangalore or Sao Paulo or Manila”—were decidedly not in the U.S. Given Brazil’s very open frustration and hostility towards recent revelations about U.S., and Canadian intelligence-gathering activities, the inclusion of Brazil’s largest city seems no accident.
Again, this may be AWS stoking an already-hot fire to get more startup business. But it could also be the first quiet steps in responding to a world that is becoming more hostile to cloud services based in the U.S. or seeing better and cheaper alternatives to AWS no matter where they are located.
Image courtesy of Reuters/Richard Brian.
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Lavabit, a secure-email provider startup that counted NSA leaker Edward Snowden as one of its customers, abruptly closed down in August rather than “become complicit in crimes against the American people,” as founder Ladar Levison wrote at the time. And now we know why.
Federal court records unsealed yesterday reveal that the FBI demanded access to Lavabit’s private SSL keys, which would have allowed the feds to decrypt the email of any Lavabit user, not just that of Snowden—the FBI’s presumed target, although the documents redacted names associated with accounts sought by the feds. (The government denied any interest in reading email unrelated to its target.)
“[T]hey wanted to break open the entire box just to get to one connection,” Levison told the New York Times.
Levison initially refused until threatened with fines and criminal contempt charges—at one point, he printed out the keys in a four-point font that filled 11 pages, which U.S. government lawyers complained was “illegible.” Finally, however, he ran out of options. So he turned over the digital keys, but simultaneously closed down Lavabit, rendering further surveillance impossible.
Levinson is appealing the lower-court order; opening briefs are due by October 10. See the unsealed documents in the case here.
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You worked long, sometimes fruitless hours to make your startup a reality. Endless meetings, pitches and late-night work sessions later, it’s hard to imagine walking away. Or is it?
We asked nine successful entrepreneurs from YEC what exactly it would take for them to walk away from their startups. Here’s what they said:
1. Realizing Someone Else Could Do It Better
I am always cognizant of the fact that good founders don’t naturally make good managers, executives or leaders. We have to work at it and try our best to evolve with our companies as they grow from startups into small- and medium-sized businesses. Responsible founders owe it to their stakeholders to always check themselves by asking, “Am I the right person for this job?” If the answer to that is no and the gap can’t be closed, then it is time to consider moving on and begin succession planning.
2. Losing the Passion Completely
To walk away from my business, I would need to have reached a space where the passion I once felt was gone completely. I’m not talking about those moments in business where you’re burnt out, tired and don’t feel like producing a single other thing, but rather those moments where you stop and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
If I reached that stage, I’d begin looking at how I could exit the business in such a way that would still preserve the essence of the business and the passion and power that it currently has driving it forward. If I couldn’t do that well, my team and clients would suffer, and I couldn’t deal with that. For me, it all boils down to that: the business has to feel good and do good in order for me to stand strong behind it.
3. Learning Much More About Myself and Business
Besides an income, the most important thing for me in continuing to work on my company is the constant challenge and learning it provides. I have no idea what I don’t know, but every week I discover something new. I can’t imagine walking away unless I was presented with an opportunity that would stretch me more than I’m being stretched now—along with the tools to help me understand it through mentorship, training, and an amazing team to work with.
4. Walking Away Would Be the Last Resort
I couldn’t imagine completely walking away from admitted.ly. I absolute love what our team is building and, most importantly, love my team. I can’t imagine not wanting to work with them. That being said, I also know when to let go. If an idea isn’t working out, I’d never stick with the idea just because it somehow works in my head. Instead of totally walking away, I’d just walk down a different path with my team. I know that we’re flexible enough to abandon our initial idea, but also creative enough to dream up another amazing idea to work on together.
5. Having the Chance to Start Something New
We almost sold our business a while back because we got carried away with the idea of someone writing us a big check. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that selling to (and working for) the other company would force us to give up the lifestyles we had built for ourselves along with years of potential revenue, growth, control and excitement from owning our own company. If I were going to walk away today, I would want to know that I have the resources (both financial resources and the right team members) to start something new and equally exciting.
6. Being Unable to Pay Employees
Although every startup business will have a lean period when it is hard to pay the bills, it is not morally or ethically acceptable to avoid paying employees. If I were unable to pay the workers who are giving me their support and offering their skills to help my company grow, then I would give up on the business.
Even if I am still working on paying loans and other debts to creditors, I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that my employees have a safe home environment, food on the table and a way to care for their children. If I ever discover that I will not be able to pay my employees in the future, then I would give them the appropriate recommendations and fair warning that the business will come to a close so that they could find another position.
—Jay Wu, A Forever Recovery
7. Being Given a Significant Payout
If I am looking for an excuse to walk away from my startup, then I’m in the wrong business. I absolutely love what I do; that’s why I do it. Sure, if someone offered me a significant payout, it might be time to move on, but until then, I’m not going anywhere!
8. Lacking the Ability to Do Well
If I ever became physically incapacitated and could no longer do a great job operating my company, I would hand over the reins to someone else. Short of that, I don’t see anything convincing me to give up control.
9. Having an Opportunity to Do More
I really love my business and lifestyle, so it’s hard to imagine walking away from it. But if I were to do so, it would be for an opportunity where I believed that I could make a bigger positive impact than I do now. We only have one life to live, and I want to be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been given.
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Starting Tuesday, the shopping discovery site Polyvore expands its expertise from just fashion to home goods, too. But this deceptively simple announcement reveals nothing about the technical hoops Polyvore’s developers have had to jump through to make this happen.
Polyvore is best known as a place where users can make collages, or “sets,” out of their fashionable finds. The 20-million user community certainly isn’t the only fashion discovery site out there, joined by the likes of Wanelo, Wish, Fancy and others.
But while the e-commerce sphere has clearly nailed down fashion, home decor has proved to be a difficult beast to tame. Pinterest, while not self-defined as a shopping site, has shown just how popular home goods curation can be. Why do competitors like Wanelo only dabble in home decorations and why is Polyvore only just committing to it now?
“It turns out home is a lot more complicated than fashion,” said Jess Lee, Polyvore CEO.
According to Lee, Polyvore’s had to revamp its search algorithms, which previously were fitted only for fashion. For example, the algorithms realized that there is only one use for a clothing item like a shirt—it goes on your body. But a lamp? That could go in a bedroom, bathroom, any room in the house. And that’s to say nothing of home items’ collisions with fashion.
Same Search, Different Meanings
“Because Polyvore supports both fashion & home, we often have to disambiguate queries and usage. For example, if you search for ‘glasses,’ do you mean drinking glasses or eyeglasses?” Or if you search for ‘floral,’ did you want floral dresses or floral throw pillows?” said Lee.
“We had to build separate search indexes for fashion and home, and then try to figure out which one you meant.”
Originally, when Polyvore began in 2007, founder Pasha Sadri used it to create mood boards while remodeling his home. But while users have technically been able to work with home goods since the beginning, the site’s search just wasn’t robust in that department. Polyvore’s search could only tell if you were looking at a lamp, and suggest other lamps. Starting today, it can categorize and add recommendations for stylistically similar lamps by popularity and taste.
“Training our machine learning classifiers and categorizers took more work because there was more ground to cover,” said Lee. “Generating product recommendations required a deep understanding of the product features that matter. For example, chevron prints on pillows and modern stylings for beds.”
Polyvore gets points for ambition, but don’t expect the service to be perfect. Unlike fashion, which shopping discovery sites have had years to perfect, home is just gaining traction. The more data Polyvore algorithms learn from users, the more accurate it will eventually become.
“Data quality is one of those areas where it’s impossible to achieve perfection and you can only asymptotically get closer,” said Lee. “Users always notice if results are bad, however they won’t applaud you for ‘not’ screwing up your search results and recommendations because it just feels like part of a natural and delightful user experience.”
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SEO Checklist For Startup Websites
Search Engine Land
Startups have a lot going on. Staffing, outreach, overhead, paperwork, development, testing, financing — and that's just before lunch. Regardless of the industry, startups are by their nature volatile businesses that are stuck bootstrapping much of …
Understanding SEO Terms for Small Business
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Startups have a lot going on. Staffing, outreach, overhead, paperwork, development, testing, financing — and that’s just before lunch. Regardless of the industry, startups are by their nature volatile businesses that are stuck bootstrapping much of the heavy lifting early on in their…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Oyster, the latest startup to offer subscription access to books much the way Netflix does for movies, launched its app for the iPhone today. Subscribers can browse more than 100,000 e-book titles for $9.95 a month, although most of the big publishers aren’t participating and the service offers few new bestsellers. The e-books startup is currently invite-only.
Image courtesy of Oyster
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If you live in the northern hemisphere you must’ve noticed – It’s too damn hot these days. If you feel the urge for an ice-cream every hour, even something simple as cooling yourself requires you to think about two things: What kind do I want and why? How do I get it fast? When it […]
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