If you haven’t seen Andrew Mason’s Groupon farewell memo, then you should check it out here.
After this came out, New York startup Rap Genius added the farewell memo to its site.
Investors, Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, added notes/explanations of what the letter really means. It is pretty epic, and you can read it here.
There are very few startups with no ceiling and Rap Genius is one of them. Annotating the internet is going to be amazing in the next few years. I’m excited to see where Rap Genius goes.
I do think they will need to change their name eventually :D
As you may have seen on the Dwolla blog this morning, on November 28th, Dwolla is teaming up with Derby Jackpot to throw and awesome event in NYC.
We have rented out a bar, Tavern on Third, and will have a night of horse racing with your favorite people in NY tech. Derby Jackpot is a completely legal and safe way to bet on horses online and we have partnered in way so that you can deposit money from Dwolla into Derby Jackpot to bet on horses.
We’ve also upped the ante, so that anyone that comes with a Dwolla account (you can create one here) and a Derby Jackpot account (you can request it here and they will push you through before the event)- will get a free $10 to bet on horses and drink!
So in summary- come to Tavern on Third + get free $10 + bet on horses + drink alcohol + hang out with your friends + meet new people in the tech scene = profit!
You can RSVP here.
We have added another full-time employee to our team in New York City. It is my pleasure to welcome Nicole Cook to the business development team at Dwolla. She will be based in New York City with Michael and me.
Nicole interned with Dwolla during Summer 2012 in between the first and second year of her MBA at Wharton UPenn. She made a big impression on the team in New York and in Iowa and we knew we couldn’t let her go back to school. Anyone who was involved with eCommerce Hack Day knows what I am talking about. If you were there you would have seen how much she killed it while organizing and running the event.
Even more interesting, and I think perhaps an upcoming trend in the startup space, is the fact that she is leaving school before finishing her MBA. It takes a lot of guts to do that and I salute her. The only two reasons, I can think of, to actually do an MBA is either if you are looking to switch careers or if you are looking to advance in your corporate position.
In Nicole’s scenario, she was looking to switch careers, having been in banking for five years. Once she found a great startup and something she loved doing, it made sense to jump to it. I think we will be seeing many MBA folk doing exactly this in the next few years as they are looking to switch careers and end up figuring out their passion before they complete their degrees.
Anyway, welcome Nicole Cook to Dwolla. You can find her at @niccook on Twitter.
Dwolla NYC is a-growing…
I’ve been meaning to make a list of people to watch in the NY tech scene for some time. Well here it is.
This list is a mix of young founders and people in junior positions in the NY tech space (not all are junior positions, some just don’t have a boss who is over 30 years old :D). They are on this list because they are each doing a great job and people are taking notice.
The startup space is a complete meritocracy and if you do well you can move up quickly. It’s not uncommon to accelerate your career by five years in no time because of the amount of hands-on work you get to experience.
Here are some people who are doing great things:
Scott Britton- Anyone who knows Scott knows that he is an awesome guy. He works in business development at Singleplatform as Kenny Herman’s right-hand man. Scott has a terrific blog called Life-Longlearner that everyone should check out.
Erin Tao- I had the pleasure of working with Erin at Aviary. She has since moved on and has become Employee #1 at BarkBox. Erin puts the whole team on her back with her work ethic and she can beat any guy in the NY tech scene on the dribble (she played basketball at Columbia University).
Will Peng- I think Will is well known in the NY tech scene, but after all he has been involved in sometimes people forget how young he is. Will was working at Hot Potato and Drop.io when they were both acquired by Facebook. He is now an investor at Raptor Ventures. He also is a pretty frickin good writer. Check out his blog here.
Stephen Yang- This young blood is starving. Stephen worked as an apprentice to Mike Karnjanaprakorn (CEO of Skillshare) and then became a product manager at Skillshare. Stephen is super passionate about Skillshare’s mission and a huge asset to their team.
Megan Towe- Megan made headlines a few months back when the story of her landing a job at LiveIntent after sending a hand-written thank you note became public. Getting to know her over the past year I can definitely agree that she is someone to watch in NYC.
Eric Stromberg- Many people recommended that I include Eric in my young and hungry list. I met Eric once, briefly, when he was at Hunch before it was acquired by eBay. Eric has since gone on to start Oyster, which seems like a startup around digital books. Eric has some great blog posts here.
Nicole Cook- I’m a little biased on this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was reporting to Nicole within a year. A student finishing up her MBA at Wharton, Nicole interned in business development at Dwolla this summer. Definitely someone to watch in NY tech.
All in all this is a solid list of people doing great things in the NY tech scene. If people like this list, maybe I’ll do one every year.
Missing anyone? Put them in the comments below.
Dwolla and Etsy organized eCommerce Hack Day yesterday. It was awesome. I’ve written posts about hackathons before, but never about how to win one. After starting and running Photo Hack Day 1 and 2, and being involved in 5-10 more hackathons, I think I now have the experience to point out some do’s and dont’s for hackathon winning.
- If you are a good developer, team up with a designer. If you are a good designer, team up with a developer. You need both to be successful at the hackathon. This past week ShopPapaya (a one-click tool that helps you shop smarter) won second place. The team was an awesome developer and designer (that met each other that morning). I would say that the designer is much more needed for those final touches
- You have typically 2 to 3 minutes to demo. Either show a killer designed and functioning product and let it speak for itself or make sure you have a funny spin to make them laugh (chance to win a people’s choice).
- Work on something that does one thing really well. Show it off- focus on it for your demo.
- Tell a story. If you think you are solving a problem (big or small), tell everyone about the problem and how you solved it. People like stories. If you are solving an interesting problem and have a cool/working product you have a high chance of winning something.
- While you might not win the top place, by focusing your project on a specific API you may come away with the best use of the API. I’ve seen people enter hackathons saying they want to win Face.com or Twilio’s prize (whether an iPad, Kindle, etc) and focus their project entirely in that direction.
- To be successful at the presentation you need to be able to get through your demo. You can slave away all night working but if you can’t clearly express your project/hack you won’t have a chance of winning anything. Make sure you don’t waste time talking about pieces of the project that aren’t essential to the crowd’s understanding of what you have built.
- Don’t bet the house on a project/hack joke. They are always seemingly transient and don’t have a high chance of lasting after the weekend, which is traditionally one of the criteria that the judges use when voting. You should make jokes during your presentation, but just be wary of making your entire pitch a joke.
If you follow these do’s and dont’s your chances of winning will definitely increase.
Any other tips? Leave them below.
Most people in the early-stage tech space have big hearts (at least in my experience in NYC). They want to help. There is a ton of camaraderie. It is all great until you hit a tipping point. This happens when trying to help too many people at the same time. Then it becomes a problem because you become less effective to the people who you want to be helping the most. You also become spread too thin and fall behind on things you need to focus on (like your actual job!).
Many people experience it and change is needed once you feel the onset of TMHPP (too-much-helping-people-problem). I think the best cure for TMHPP is three-fold:
1) Take fewer meetings and push out ones you have for a month or so.
2) Give yourself a few hours one day every two weeks for office hours. I try to do this on a Friday every two weeks or so.
3) And lastly, empower the people needing help to help themselves.
These three are pretty self-explanatory, but I want to talk about the third one for a moment.
There is a Chinese proverb and it goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
This applies for people looking for help in this industry. Instead of catching that one fish for them, try to help them understand how to go about catching fish. This could be by pointing them in the direction to the correct readings/thought leaders, events to attend, and people to connect with.
For example, I recommend anyone looking to move into the tech space to read everything written by Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Fred Wilson, and Chris Dixon. Just read it all and then come back (Fred Wilson’s AVC is probably the hardest to read all, but at least read the last two years of posts). These writings will give you insight on the thought process behind some of most prolific players in the startup space. If you aren’t obsessed with startups after this, then you probably shouldn’t be working in the startup place.
I try not to tell them what to think, but rather how to think about things. This will help them in the long run and is a repeatable process to help streamline helping for all.
December 21st, 2012. The end is near. Just kidding ;)
I remember hanging out with Jon Teo, a general partner at General Catalyst Partners, a few months back and he was telling me that NY tech won’t be a true competitor to SF tech until consolidation of top talent moves to a few thriving startups. Once this happens, those companies will be big winners, the employees will gain more experience, make some money, and go out and create more awesome companies (with their newfound experience/success).
I personally think we are going to see some major consolidation in the next 6 months. Teams of six or lower that have raised in the million range are going to be acqui-hired in increasing rates. These will be small wins for the angel investors (one friend called it “sticker wins/exits”) and a reprieve for the team that was most likely going to go under (Michael Hershfield is doing these at Sailthru, already two this year).
This is good. There are too many features being built and not enough companies. I welcome the impending end. Or is it just the beginning?
I currently run three events in NYC and need help with all of them.
Since I’ve joined Dwolla I have not had the time to organize the events I typically run:
BD Meetup, Digital Learning Series and the NYVC Speaker Series.
Even though I only do BD Meetup and DLS every two months, I don’t have the bandwidth to get everything set up for them.
That is why I am writing this post, I would like to find someone to help run these events with me. Megan Towe already helps me with BD Meetup, but because it has become a massive meetup I’m sure even she could use the help.
Here is what I need for each event:
The event is looking for a new location. We have outgrown Cooley, General Assembly and any other place. We need a place that will seat 200. Megan helps me run the event, but could use help from someone looking to take some initiative with the event. The person would figure out a new venue, help pick the next topic, be involved with choosing the panelists and helping the day of.
Digital Learning Series
This event is held at General Assembly and there are typically five education companies demo’ing. I need someone to help pick those companies and lead correspondence with those chosen. They would talk with GA about setting up the event and making sure everything is ready. This event takes place once every two months.
NYVC Speaker Series
This event is held at Dogpatch Labs and there is one investor who gives a short presentation and fields questions from the audience. The event is once a month (Monday of the last week). The person helping would lead correspondence with the investor who is talking at the event and help set up the day of.
If you are interested in getting involved, this is a great opportunity. Only reach out if you are serious about helping. Email me at Ataub24(at)gmail(dot)com
Here is my latest Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/JsyL6V
Let me know your thoughts!
I was having a sit down with @msg a week or so ago and our conversation landed on how everyone is reading the same things, going to similar events, and generally thinking about the same ideas.
@msg called this collective thinking.
He posited that anyone who is thinking of building something right now should be aware, that at least a bundle of other people are thinking and planning the exact same thing.
I was talking to a friend this past weekend about a hack off LinkedIN I would love to see/build. One of the most important things on LinkedIN is when your connections change jobs. I want a tool that can track your connections moves and send you an email summary of them.
Collective thinking, I like it.
So, if you have a startup or product, get moving, because there are a ton of other people planning the exact same thing.
I know a founder of a NY startup who is working on something cool that definitely has potential.
No one knows who he is.
His venture, being his first straight out of school, gives him no previous record to point to. Working from home in the suburbs, he rarely attends any NYC networking events.
Last week we had a chat about his product and about getting out there. I told him that it is one thing if you are a well-known entrepreneur, in stealth-mode, while people are waiting breathlessly for your next project. But if you are a newbie with the greatest idea, you’re still just a newbie with a great idea. Waiting for your project to be ready and launch is not a good idea and an act of hubris that has no place in entrepreneurship.
I told him to start going out to every single (relevant) event in NYC. I told him that he should be discussing his venture with every person he meets. He should put together a google document with people’s feedback and share it with his partners.
I told him to think about it this way- You are a few months away from launch. No one knows who you are or what you are working on. Not investors, not press, and not customers.
So you can either wait until till you have your product ready and then begin efforts to enlighten these people. Or you can start talking to them now, educating everyone you meet on what problem you are trying to fix is, and why you are the right person to do it.
Either way, you’re going to have to get in front of these people eventually and, personally, I would rather have a few-month head start.
I’m happy to say I saw him working the crowd at the next event I attended.