Posts tagged Startup

PayPal’s Startup Guys Have Seized The Company’s Reins

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, PayPal announced it plans to roll out tap-to-pay NFC payments in the UK and Australia this summer, and has acquired a company which developed a rival group’s retail payments service.

But the real news, ReadWrite has learned, is a reorganization by Dan Schulman, the company’s new president, who will become CEO after the payments company spins off from eBay. Schulman has elevated two executives, Hill Ferguson and Bill Ready, to posts running the company’s consumer and merchant businesses respectively.

Significantly, Ferguson and Ready are both executives who joined PayPal in recent years through acquisitions of startups. Ferguson, previously PayPal’s chief product officer, worked at Zong, a mobile-payments company, and Ready ran Braintree, which PayPal acquired in 2014.

Braintree specialized in a fast-growing category of merchants—Web and mobile-app developers. Increasingly, though, large retailers are interested in the same kind of services Braintree and PayPal has provided to app developers. 

PayPal Acquires Again In Mobile Payments

That’s part of the reason why PayPal announced Monday that it was acquiring Paydiant, a Massachusetts-based software developer which has developed mobile wallets for Subway and Teeter Harris, among other retailers, as well as for MCX, the retailer group which includes Walmart and Best Buy.

The Paydiant buy immediately poses a problem for Ready to solve: Can he woo MCX’s large retailers, who want to lower the fees they currently pay to payment processors like PayPal?

Ferguson has a different challenge, which is boosting PayPal’s reach among consumers. While PayPal has a large customer base, there are a host of rival mobile wallets, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet, which recently beefed up its capabilities by buying technology from an erstwhile rival, Softcard.

PayPal is adding NFC capabilities to its PayPal Here mobile card reader, which currently can read swiped cards or newer credit and debit cards with chips. Apple Pay uses NFC. While it accounts for a small percentage of total transactions, the payment service has spurred demand by merchants for NFC-capable card equipment. 

Supporting NFC is just one of many moves PayPal is making to make its payments attractive to consumers and merchants alike. Ferguson and Ready will have their hands full.

Photo courtesy of PayPal

View full post on ReadWrite

Weighing the pros and cons of SEO for a startup – Yourstory.in


Yourstory.in
Weighing the pros and cons of SEO for a startup
Yourstory.in
Most entrepreneurs understand the importance of SEO (search engine optimisation) and how it can lead to business growth. Without a doubt, SEO is important for any business of any size. But the question is — does it make economic sense for a startup to …
Why Google Says Building Links Can Harm Your SEO EffortsForbes
7 SEO Tips To Improve Google Ranking Of Your WebsiteBusiness 2 Community
Local SEO For Franchises Means TeamworkSearch Engine Land
Tech Cocktail -Digital Journal
all 18 news articles »

View full post on SEO – Google News

This Startup Wants To Lock Up Your Collaborations

If security is the first, second and third priority for your business, then does a Vancouver startup have a collaboration suite for you.

Witkit, founded three years ago by serial entrepreneur Sean Merat, aims to offer multiple enterprise software functions—messaging, groups, file-sharing, etc.—under one roof. Most important, it plans to do so securely, by encrypting your data so that neither the company nor anyone else can read it.

Why a suite? Merat said that in the course of running prior companies, he felt overwhelmed by the number of disparate solutions for work collaboration. 

“There were too many solutions,” he said in an interview with ReadWrite. “Stuff like Hipchat, Dropbox, Evernote…. Individually they’re all great, but the problem becomes when you’re trying to juggle too many things.” So together with two co-founders, Sohrab Merat and Ma’en Haq, Merat started Witkit.

Security First

Witkit’s Sean Mirat

This concept isn’t brand new—Huddle, for instance, is also based on an all-in-one functionality. Where Witkit plans to make a name for itself is security—in particular, by encrypting all data on the user end (using a technique the company too-cutely calls “Witcrypt”) and storing it on the Witkit server in protected fashion. 

What that means, a Merat explained in a Witkit press release (no link), is this:

Witcrypt technology ensures that the encryption and decryption of user data is only done on user devices locally. All data that is sent to the Witkit servers is fully encrypted and can only be decrypted by the user’s WitCrypt passphrase.

In his interview with ReadWrite, Merat argued that end-to-end encryption for all functions of a work suite—file sharing, group discussions, calendars, cloud storage, instant messaging, etc.—is Witkit’s main selling point. With all data encrypted, he said, a company or organization could have online group discussions with members from outside that company as well as internal discussion channels without worrying about compromising security. Witkit calls these virtual discussion spaces “kits.”

Locked In A Box

Of course, the drawback of any suite like this one is that you have to be happy with all the components. If you like Witkit’s security and calendar but aren’t crazy about its messaging, you’re still stuck with it. And at this point, it’s impossible to say how Witkit’s individual services stack up.

But Navid Soofi, the founder and president of Qube Film studios in Vancouver, has been using Witkit in a beta form for several months. The security aspect of it has been the primary allure.

“Cyber security has been a very prominent concern in my industry the past few months,” Soofi said in an email interview, making an obvious allusion to the major Sony hack in December. He continued:

My team and I have been actively looking for secure ways to sync files, records, documents and conversations. I can confidently say that Witkit fitted the bill perfectly. Our IT team has gone through the security code that has been made public by Witkit and reassured me that our conversations, contracts and footage would be as secure as keeping everything offline.

Merat said Witkit is in the process of having its code, which it has also posted on Github for public perusal, audited by another company for any vulnerabilities. Witkit has no definite plans for making money quite yet. Right now, all the features and storage will be free. 

“We can confidently say that we’re not going to charge for what we’re offering today,” Merat said. “The base functionality up to 50GB will always be free.” He said the company would wait to develop a strong user base and develop revenue streams based on their feedback. Witkit has received $5 million in funding so far. 

Lead photo by Anonymous Account; photo of Sean Mirat courtesy of Witkit

View full post on ReadWrite

Looking To Share Secret Photos On Facebook? This Startup May Help

One of the big drawbacks to using “secret” or secure messaging is that everyone you want to contact needs to be using the same service. Even when they are, there’s usually no easy way to share something with large numbers of your pals where they’re most likely to see it, in a way that keeps it for-their-eyes-only.

See also: Suddenly, Messages Are Disappearing All Over—On Purpose

You might think that’s a natural tradeoff between security—that is, preventing the wrong people from seeing your texts or photos—and convenience. But Wickr, a service that lets you send secure, self-destructing messages, thinks it has an answer—by letting users post a “fake” photo to Facebook that will lead other Wickr users you trust to the real thing.

Starting today, Wickr users on Apple devices will be able to share self-destructing photos with up to 151 of their closest friends using a feature the service calls Wickr Timed Feed, or WTF—and that acronym probably isn’t an accident—that combines cats, ephemerality, and a little sleight of hand. (Android and desktop versions are in the works.)

WTF, Wickr

At heart, WTF is basically just an ephemeral photo-sharing service that lets users annotate and share snaps that will self-destruct in 24 hours. This is not too different from Snapchat, although Wickr uses security techniques designed to keep the photos from sticking around after they’re supposed to disappear.

What’s new is the way WTF aims to let you post private photo feeds on Facebook so that only your intended recipients can see them. When you share a WTF feed with other Wickr-using friends, it will ask if you want to post it on Facebook. If you do, the service will post a random cat photo instead of what you’re actually sharing. Clicking on that photo will open up Wickr, where the friends you’ve shared with will be able to see the hidden message. Everyone else on Facebook sees only the decoy cat photos.

Here’s Wickr’s promo video of the feature:

Security Hype 101

WTF is a clever way of snaking around the usual security/convenience tradeoff, but it’s not completely foolproof. It also doesn’t quite live up to Wickr’s security hype.

Wickr has claimed the hashtag #stegocat for this campaign, since it considers WTF an example of steganography, an ancient technique in which secret messages are hidden in plain sight. Some modern examples of steganography include hidden pixels in printers which reveal printer serial numbers as well as time and date stamps, digital watermarks used in ebooks, and, of course, Russian spies who were caught hiding secret images in photos.

Wickr Timed Feed, though, isn’t really steganography; the shared images aren’t embedded within the decoy kitty pics. Instead, they just link back to the Wickr app itself. That doesn’t really affect how the service works. But it’s a little unsettling when a service that prides itself on its security chops feels compelled to co-opt a technical security term in a misleading way for marketing purposes.

In a similarly disconcerting fashion, Wickr has long billed itself as a good privacy app for human rights activists working to fight dictators, claims that are difficult to verify. Unlike competitors such as Silent Circle, Open Whisper Systems, and CryptoCat, Wickr uses proprietary cryptography, making it difficult for security experts to assess the quality of its code—or to know if anyone has built secret back doors in it.

Wickr CEO and co-founder Nico Sell says the startup used proprietary code to give itself a commercial head start. She points to four independent security audits the app has passed, as well as Wickr’s large hacker budget and $100,000 bug bounty for anyone who can find vulnerabilities that severely impact users.

Wickr has recently added a feature on its app in which users can verify each other’s identities by reading their personal key codes via video, and is working on revising a white paper properly documenting its security protocols in response to feedback from security experts.

What Facebook Knows

Sell says she got the idea for WTF from her daughter. “I have two kids, and one of them is a teenager, and a couple of years ago, she said, ‘Hey, Mom, I know you don’t approve of Facebook, but I’d love for you to find a way for me to use it safely,’” Sell recalls.

Of course, convincing users that it’s OK to post secret—read, naughty or gossipy or otherwise revealing—photos on Facebook, even disguised as cat photos, could take some doing. Sell argues that Facebook only sees who’s using Wickr, but not what they’re sharing.

“Facebook is only going to own the pictures of the kitty cats,” Sell says. “Their servers will never see your real pictures.” WTF offers one further advantage: It lets Wickr users share with more than ten people at once, sidestepping a limitation in the direct messaging app.

As with most other “ephemeral” messaging services, it’s also still possible for Wickr users to screencap secret photos or to make permanent copies using another camera. But Sell argues that any ephemeral protection is better than none.

“It’s not usually in the beginning of a relationship where someone is trying to screw you over, right?” she says. “It’s a lot further down the line.” Which makes a kind of sense, although you could also argue that receiving a bunch of short-lived photos from a new romantic partner might just increase the temptation to save them off.

Lead photo by Jessica Keating Photography; other images courtesy of Wickr

View full post on ReadWrite

9 Unique Ideas for Onboarding New Startup Hires

Guest author Scott Gerber is founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council.

The last thing an employee wants to feel on their first day of work is lost and confused. Each company should have an organized, specific system in place to make the onboarding process go as smoothly as possible.

To learn more about how to make this possible, we polled nine entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) on unique ways they welcome and orient new hires. Their answers are below.

Have Them Spend Time In Customer Service

Each person in our company spends two to three weeks in customer service and support. We want everyone to be able to jump into this position if needed. This also helps every person in the company know our product and what our real customers are saying. It also helps the C-level executives get to know almost every person in the company and truly understand what they are going through.

In addition, we make every person spend 40 hours a quarter in customer services—even the CEO. This engrains in them that we’re all about our customers.

John Rampton, Host

Hold Informal Second-Round Interviews

Typically when a company employs a multi-tiered interviewing process, they use the second-round to ramp up intensity. I take the opposite approach. During the first interview I ask the typical questions; and then, if I feel the candidate has potential, I invite them out to dinner or happy hour.

I do this for a number of reasons. First of all, my work environment is informal and seeing the person in that context gives me an idea of how they might fit in. Another reason is that a laid-back setting can help lower an applicants defenses and be more open and honest. I’m really not interested in hearing about your biggest weakness (which is inevitably somehow a strength in disguise). I want to hear about your hobbies and quirks and (most importantly) what makes me want to work with you every day?

Brian Honigman, BrianHonigman.com

Hold A Scavenger Hunt

To preserve that “everyone knows each other” vibe our company enjoyed back when we were a smaller team, we’ve developed an in-depth scavenger hunt for new employees that encourages them to meet and talk to other people at the company to find out their interests, hobbies, nicknames and professional functions. It’s helped preserve our company culture as we grow our numbers.

Jeff Fernandez, Grovo Learning

Make Sure There’s A Welcoming Environment

For new hires the most stressful part of a new job is the nerves around all of the unknown and all the “new”: new faces, new programs, new systems. We try to make each individual feel welcome by making their desk on their first day feel like home.

We ready the desk with fun office supplies, write a hand-written welcome note and, depending on the season, have fresh flowers waiting for them on their desk. Making a new hire feel welcomed and appreciated from the moment they arrive sets the tone with how your team will work together moving forward.

Kim Kaupe, Zine Pak

Start With The “Why”

We do our two day onboarding where we teach the strength finders, our core values, and our “why.” We watch TED talks, have a company-wide team-building event and weave in an interactive training. It is very well received.

Darius Mirshahzadeh, Endeavor America Loan Services

Fly Everyone in for a Team Meeting

We spend a couple of days together so they can take part in critical team operations and we can have dinners and drinks together.

Eric Schaumburg, eventr.io


Hold A Company-Wide Lunch

Whenever we have a new hire, I always buy lunch for the whole team on their first day. Lunch together allows the new person to meet everyone in an informal manner and share a little bit about themselves.

It allows them an opportunity to identify people who they have common interests with and could converse with later. By the end of the day, the newly hired employee feels like they know everyone and the anxiety of meeting new co-workers is gone.

Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders

Connect Them to Our Core Mission

It’s easy for a new hire to get tunnel vision around learning the tasks of their job, and in doing so, lose sight of where they fit into the vision of the company. During their first week, every new hire—from analysts to customer service—spends an hour with our logistics team packing a product box for shipment.

We do this so they stay connected to our mission and experience what our customers receive after making the decision to use our products.

Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia

Use LearnCore

Onboarding a new employee can be a long and difficult process. The software LearnCore is great, especially for sales teams. Employees learn faster and can get feedback as well. It’s very efficient.

Adam Stillman, SparkReel

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock

View full post on ReadWrite

British hacker Gary McKinnon launches SEO start-up – Techworld.com


ITProPortal
British hacker Gary McKinnon launches SEO start-up
Techworld.com
In a bid to market his talents, Glasgow-born McKinnon has set up a consultancy business, dubbed Small SEO, that pledges to manipulate certain aspects of company websites so that they appear higher in search engine results – a process known as search …
Hacker and UFO hunter Gary McKinnon launches SEO businessComputerWeekly.com

all 7 news articles »

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Facebook Acquires Top Voice Recognition Startup, Speech Commands Coming? by @mattsouthern

Wit.ai, a Y combinator startup founded 18 months ago, has been acquired by Facebook with the intent for the company to help the social network create an API for building voice-controlled interfaces. Facebook could potentially work together with Wit.ai’s development team to create voice controlled tools, such as a voice-to-text input for Messenger. This acquisition could also further Facebook’s understanding of semantic voice search, and maybe even lead to a Facebook app that could be controlled entirely with one’s voice. Wit.ai boasts a team of 6,000 developers who have collectively built hundreds of apps. Its platform will continue to remain […]

The post Facebook Acquires Top Voice Recognition Startup, Speech Commands Coming? by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

View full post on Search Engine Journal

Facebook Acquires Top Voice Recognition Startup, Speech Commands Comming? by @mattsouthern

Wit.ai, a Y combinator startup founded 18 months ago, has been acquired by Facebook with the intent for the company to help the social network create an API for building voice-controlled interfaces. Facebook could potentially work together with Wit.ai’s development team to create voice controlled tools, such as a voice-to-text input for Messenger. This acquisition could also further Facebook’s understanding of semantic voice search, and maybe even lead to a Facebook app that could be controlled entirely with one’s voice. Wit.ai boasts a team of 6,000 developers who have collectively built hundreds of apps. Its platform will continue to remain […]

The post Facebook Acquires Top Voice Recognition Startup, Speech Commands Comming? by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

View full post on Search Engine Journal

15 Signs That It’s Time to Start Really Expanding Your Startup

Guest author Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young Entrepreneurs Council.

Feel like a big fish in a small pond? Sales numbers healthy but not growing anymore? There are a lot of moving factors to weigh before you start seriously scaling your business. When should you pull the trigger and take things to the next level?

I asked 15 entrepreneurs from the YEC how they knew it was the right time to scale their businesses and why. See what they had to say, below.

When I Outgrew Old Goals

The timeline that I had set for myself when I originally started was hit in a shorter time period than I had anticipated, and I knew I had reached that point of being a “big fish in a small pond.” My goals were too big, my vision was too great and I knew I needed to expand and scale my business into something greater.

It’s just that simple. Once you’ve realized you’ve made your original goals too attainable by the standard you’ve set, then scale—expand, but make sure you have the right resources and funding to do so.

Rob Fulton, Exponential Black

When I Calculated My Efficiency Ratio

The efficiency ratio is calculated by dividing operational expense by revenue. A lower ratio demonstrates higher efficiency. When the ratio is low, demonstrating higher efficiency, I tend to initiate scaling.

Phil Chen, Systems Watch

When We Made Magic

At RTC, it took us eight years to refine our model because we were inventing an approach to our industry (book writing and thought leadership) that never existed. We had to invest significant time and energy to arrive at a model that loves our clients (authors/thought leaders) through their entire journey (writing, branding, publishing, community building, monetization).

Over the years we created a collaborative writing model, publishing house and design divisions. While our quality has always been good to great, earlier this year we started seeing our work become beautiful, magical. Then later this year, we became a HubSpot Agency Partner to solve for community building. Now it’s time to scale. My first step was to free my staff to do whatever it takes to create their most brilliant work.

Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

When We Reached 80 Percent Capacity

We scale a little before we feel we’re ready. If you wait till you feel 100 percent ready, the moment has likely already passed you by. First step: We add resources—both foreign and U.S. service companies—to scale. This has been easier and faster for us than going the employee route. The rule of thumb we use—when you’re at 80 percent capacity, scale up.

Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority

When We Had a Strong Financial Buffer

As an advocate of bootstrapping, I knew it was the right time to scale when we had more than enough funds to hire new team members and operate comfortably for the next few months even if sales took a sharp downturn. We made sure that we would never have to lay off anyone after hiring too aggressively, and knew our own limitations in terms of how quickly we could scale.

With this self-awareness, we avoided a lot of other problems overambitious entrepreneurs run into, which is excessively high burn rates and underwhelming growth. We want to build a business that has staying power, and have made enough mistakes in the past that we now know how to avoid them.

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

When We Increased Monthly Sales Growth

We knew it was time to scale our business because we were running out of inventory all while having month over month sales growth. The first step we took was effectively starting to forecast, which we didn’t do prior, especially as a startup not knowing which bags would sell the best and at what volume.

We now look six to 12 months out and we start planning our manufacturing so we know what we’ll have on hand and when. We also make sure it’s reflective of our overall sales objectives for the coming year. It’s all about effective planning. That’s key.

Mark Samuel, Fitmark

When We Realized the Opportunity Cost Was Too High Not to Try

About 18 months into building Modify, I started to think about our growth and what could be next. We had a strong brand, a small but passionate fan base, some major licenses (Major League Baseball), distribution (Best Buy) and press (New York Times, Men’s Health), but we just weren’t scaling. And I realized that everyone on our team could be more successful if they worked elsewhere.

We had a nice foundation, but in a meeting, our entire team decided that we would rather aim high and flame out than not even try. After building consensus, our first step was to build an investment pitch deck that revolved around a vision that we could stand by. We had so much alignment that if an investor said she would give us money only if we followed our plan exactly, we would say yes. We then raised money!

Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

When We Didn’t Want to Lose First Mover Advantage

One of the best ways to know you’re ready for scale is when you start to notice competitors trying to shift into your space or offerings. You should start to scale more rapidly to not lose first mover advantage. It’s important to start scaling once you really understand your business in-depth and have the systems in place to run smoothly even at larger growth.

Once we determined we were ready for scale, we raised additional capital to grow our resources and bandwidth so that we could pursue larger market share and solidify our position in the market with our unique offerings.

Doreen Bloch, Poshly

When We Had to Turn Down Potential Business Opportunities

We otherwise would have accepted this business, but our resources were engaged and we wanted to associate ourselves with good brands and interesting projects. We also discovered that the pain points we address are the same across state boundaries. We knew if we could replicate our model in two different cities in different states, then we were onto something. We knew it was time to scale.

Jyot Singh, RTS Labs

When We Reached a Point of Comfort

Our user experience was fantastic and our processes were in line. At this stage of our product, we realized it was time to scale. We began by building our team and putting the right hires in place. We focus on bringing in those that can both lead a team and help build our infrastructure.

George Bousis, Raise Marketplace

When We Were Able to Define a Repeatable Sales Model

Once you’ve taken an entire sale from prospect to close in a predictable and controlled fashion, you’re ready to teach that model to multiple salespeople, partners, resellers, or automate it. When we landed our first Fortune 500 company via intentional efforts, we realized that this model can be repeated by others many times over. We hired a number of salespeople and empowered a number of partners to do so and started to see the process grow faster than linearly.

Brennan White, Cortex

When Sales Growth Stalled

When my business started to hit ceilings and generate similar sales from previous quarters, I knew it was time to scale. When it comes to scaling a business, my approach has always been the same—to grow the business by becoming a stronger brand.

The first step was finding the right person for the job. I hired an employee with experience in branding and made sure to hire someone with experience in the social media marketing, content marketing and public relations. Upon hiring who I felt best fit my requirements, I explained the situation and the goals and worked on creating a plan of action and a timeline, allowing us to work on everything step by step and move forward.

Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

When Successful Realtors Wanted to Join Us

We knew that a franchise model was a logical next step because we were constantly getting inquiries from successful brokers who wanted to know more about our model. When we chose our first franchisee, we deliberately aligned ourselves with a professional who had a solid reputation for ethics and high performance. That’s a strategy we’ve used in every market we enter.

Kuba Jewgieniew, Realty ONE Group

When We Noticed Healthy Customer Traction

Don’t wait until you have a huge customer base to reinvest in your business. Scaling can mean different things to different people, but early on, we knew to keep investing in our business. This doesn’t happen instantly or at a specific point in time, but I think you can say: If you’re getting customer traction, they’re paying for it, they’re happy and they’re continuing to use your product, then keep investing.

Then you can scale in different ways, like raising your first investment round. Those investors will want to see that customer traction. Then you start scaling in terms of adding salespeople or building more product.

Kristine Steuart, Allocadia

When We Had Proof of Concept and a Scaleable Infrastructure

In order for it to make sense to scale, you need to know that there are enough buyers for your product, so you should start by determining the addressable market. When we started Yodle, it was always our goal to scale because we knew we had a large addressable market—small business owners.

We knew that the time was right when we had a product that could scale. Don’t try to go big on a minimum viable product. Before you decide to scale your business, ask yourself, “Do I have proof of concept? Have I proved that the product will sell? Do I have the infrastructure in place to scale?”

Ben Rubenstein, Yodle

Lead image by JD Hancock

View full post on ReadWrite

8 Great SEO Tools Every Startup Should Learn How To Use – Small Business Trends


Small Business Trends
8 Great SEO Tools Every Startup Should Learn How To Use
Small Business Trends
However, just because most professionals realize that a website is important, many lack the background in search engine optimization (SEO) to make it easier to find by search engines and target audiences alike. Below are some great SEO tools that can …
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Think twice before hiring an SEO agency for your startupVentureBeat
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