Archive for the ‘Anniversary’ tag
This week, San Francisco-based Virgin America is celebrating its fifth anniversary. That’s an anniversary that few startups hit and very few startup airlines hit. And it’s quite the feat given that oil prices have increased 45% since the airline launched and that the economy has, at best, been stuck in neutral in that time.
“We’re the first real startup since jetBlue,” Virgin America CEO David Cush told me in an interview earlier this year. “When you’ve got 10 years between startups, then that tells you it’s a very difficult business. Our obituary has been written many times, but we’re here and we’re doing well.”
Low-cost carriers have generally followed a standard playbook when launching:
- Lease ancient airplanes that would otherwise be parked in the desert.
- Fly in and out of secondary or far-away airports, like Manchester or Providence instead of Boston. Westchester instead of JFK.
- Have a single class of service, with no first class.
- Offer bare-bones service.
The big thing these carriers offer is a lower price for some extra degree of inconvenience.
That standard playbook triggers a standard response: legacy carriers put extra seats on those routes from their more convenient airports. They price all of this extra capacity so low that the upstart airline can’t make a profit. They lure in their frequent fliers with generous rewards to keep flying on the legacy carrier. (When Independence Air launched in Washington, United offered frequent fliers the opportunity to earn a trip around the world to keep them flying United.) Upstart airline goes out of business.
Too many companies try to compete on price, which is a hard competitive advantage to sustain. Someone can always undercut you, and the price-sensitive customers you attract are happy to jump ship. One of my recurring themes when I talk to companies is to sell value, not price. Virgin America exemplifies that.
Virgin threw out the playbook. It launched with brand new aircraft. It flew to prime business airports like San Francisco, LAX, JFK, and Washington Dulles. Its first-class service is infinitely better than typical domestic first class and almost in the same league as international business class. That’s not to say that it doesn’t sell price — just the existence of a competitive carrier tends to drive down price — but it’s not the sole reason to choose the airline. Virgin has created a brand that many people will pay a premium for.
But it also offered a lot of things that weren’t easy for other carriers to match: power at every seat, an in-flight entertainment system with both on-demand and live TV, and an embrace of social media. Virgin was also the first carrier to offer WiFi on every plane in its fleet. “It’s a game changer for us,” Cush said of inflight WiFi.
Legacy airlines can adjust fares several times a day. But they can’t completely retrofit their fleets. Five years later, many United aircraft still have only a few ancient tube TVs in the cabin with vapid content that has to appeal to everyone and, as a result, appeals to no one.
Among airlines, Virgin has been one of the most active on social media and in experimenting with startups. It was the first airline to use Twitter’s promoted tweets. The first airline to run a Groupon. The first airline to run Loopt’s u-deals. The airline was born of social media, with a Let Virgin Fly campaign that launched to help get support for the airline when it seemed that U.S. ownership rules for airlines might threaten its launch.
“It’s where our guests live,” Cush said, explaining why the airline is so focused on social media. Given the demographics of the Bay Area and its younger audience, “It’s how people want to communicate with us.”
Over Thanksgiving, Virgin America ran a promotion with Gilt City that, for $60,000, gave the purchaser and 140 some guests a roundtrip flight to anywhere on its network along with naming rights for one Virgin plane.
A group from Stanford business school purchased that ticket for a spring break party to Miami. Instead of just flying the trip as a charter, Virgin America created an experience out of it. The whole plane, including the passengers and flight crew, got groovy and dressed in ’70s clothes.
“When we came to the gate, they had music playing and greeted us with amazing ’70s roleplaying like ‘Welcome aboard to the groovilicious flight to Miami. We’ll be rocking the whole way so get your gogo boots ready,’” said Don Hoang, who does business development for Klout. ”Virgin is awesome. That’s it — they used this flight as a PR campaign, but they really won over all of us. We will remember this for the rest of our lives and talk about it as one of the best weekends ever. They are truly an amazing brand and understand the LTV of a customer. I don’t think of Virgin as just an airline but a lifestyle brand.”
Part of the airline’s quirkiness has been driven by having to compete with much larger rivals. Virgin America does a lot more with event marketing and social media than most carriers.
“As a new airline we certainly don’t have the large advertising budgets of many of our competitors, and because we have a unique product largely driven by word-of-mouth about how different the onboard experience is, when launching into new markets we have had some success with cost-effective live events that tie into that product message and drive awareness about it in new ways that are relevant to our guests and social media audiences,” said spokeswoman Abby Lunardini. Lunardini points to several examples, including a YouTube promotion when the company launched Wifi on its first flight back in 2008, smaller live events at mobile food trucks in San Francisco and LA, offering two-for-one flights via Loopt when it launched its Mexico flights in 2010, and, at its Philadelphia launch, partnering with an entertainment outlet for a live event to celebrate the live TV product onboard, something new for an airline in that market.
“Because we’re launching into new markets [where] local folks may have never flown with us, there is a value in introducing the unique cabin product to the local community (including corporate sales) with aircraft tours etc — which is always incorporated into the launch events we do,” said Lunardini.
As part of its anniversary celebration this week, Virgin is tossing out the ceremonial first pitch at Saturday’s Giants game aboard a flight bound from Seattle to SFO. That will be broadcast live via WiFi to AT&T Park.
Startups are often in the same boat: They’re competing with giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter for attention from consumers.
They need to think hard about these questions:
- What is going to create real value for consumers that will be hard to replicate?
- How do I get people to talk positively and enthusiastically about my product? (Much like Hoang’s comments above.)
- How can I launch events that generate buzz? Clearly, most startups can’t afford events at AT&T Park, but an event focused on the right audience can be much more effective (and less expensive) than traditional marketing.
One place to look for inspiration is Virgin America’s twitter feed, @virginamerica.
“We’ve got a lot of creative people here who like to try new things,” Cush said.
I agree. They’re among the best marketers I know.
[Top image credit: VirginAmerica.com]
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Popular music streaming startup Spotify has brought free Pandora-like radio streaming to its Android app, the company announced today.
Spotify just celebrated its one-year anniversary of launching in the U.S., with Americans listening to more than 13 billion songs so far. On the radio front, Spotify has offered its own personalized radio service inside the Spotify desktop application since mid-May and added it to its iPhone and iPad apps in June.
What’s so good about offering radio on Android is that both free and premium Spotify users can take part. Previously, free Spotify users had no reason to use the Android app because you have to cough up $10 a month to stream whatever songs you wanted. Now, free Spotify users with Android phones can get some use of the mobile experience. Free users will have advertisements and not have unlimited skips, but premium users will have no ads and unlimited skips.
“The radio feature we’ve added to our Android app gives users the ability to discover, listen, like, and save tracks on the go — for free,” Spotify product manager Donovan Sung told us via email.
Check out the Spotify radio app on Android below:
Baby listening to music: TedsBlog/Flickr
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Black Hat Conference here, a panel of experts got together to expound on what they see as the privacy and security mess of our times, and they had plenty to say about the U.S. government, cyberwar and Google. Read more » about Black Hat panel: Which do you trust less with your data, the U.S. government or Google?
As lovers of technology and slaves to the news cycle, we all get caught up in the next new thing. The cynic in me notes that the 43rd anniversary of the moon landing – an occurrence that changed the course of history with a completeness and intensity that few warmongers have ever been able to induce – is just another moon landing anniversary. It isn’t the 25th or the 50th or the 100th. It’s just something that happened 43 years ago today at about 8pm UTC. In short, two men – born helpless as the rest of us – through time, training, and sheer will, were thrust into space by the greatest minds of our generation and then stepped onto a lunar soil that the New York Times reported as being fine and powdery.
Why, then, commemorate this date? Because, aside from World War II, the space race was the thing that put us firmly on the path of technological advancement we are taking today. Had we not dared when we did, at a time when our technology was woefully primitive, I wager that we would still today think the moon and the stars were out of reach.
That is why this anniversary is so important, and why it is important to remember the things the put us here. In an increasingly wired world, news flashes at us from all angles. Nothing is new, nothing is “cool,” everything is derivative. But as those first sharp bursts of electromagnetic energy passed from a camera on the moon to the waiting ears and eyes of a rapt public, this world of instant everything was born in a blaze of black and white. If we could see what men there were doing, how could we ignore that which was happening down the block or around the world?
The promise of the moon shot is great and the rewards reaped are many. There is still a ways to go. The moon shot was an important beginning and our creativity has expanded from that initial point to bring us behemoths of industry that deal primarily in ephemeral bits, new transportation technologies, and companies dedicated to recreating that first landing and going beyond its meager goals. Man may not live in a sea of tranquility on earth now, but we may one day find it within ourselves to put away fear and pettiness and politics to build a new world on top of the old.
Shark Week doesn't kick off until Aug. 12, but Discovery is trying to frighten you with promos well in advance. Remarkably, it's the 25th anniversary of Shark Week this year. The theme for the ads this time around: "Any closer, you'd be bait." mOcean in Los Angeles did the ads. Credits after the jump.
Client – Discovery
Lara Richardson – VP, Creative
Jason Turner – Sr. Writer/Producer
Chris Adams – Director of Marketing
Marina Anglim – SVP Marketing
Kyle Russell – Marketing Prod Mgr
Agency – mOcean
Peter McKeon – Creative Director/Director
Teresa Antista – Executive Producer
Zach Lyall – Post-Production producer
Quico Encinias – Animation Supervisor
Jez Colin – Composer
Candace Reid – VP Broadcast Accounts
Don Anderson – Live-Action Producer
Kevin Sarnoff – Director of Photography
Santiago Padilla – Colorist
Jerry Spievack – Visual Effects/Ring of Fire
John Myers – Visual Effects/Ring of Fire
Brian Keith Namanny – Lead Puppeteer/Legacy
Neil Smith – On-Set Water Effects
Keivn Aratari – EVP Entertainment Marketing
Venables Bell & Partners celebrated their 10-year anniversary with a contest that would let entrepreneurs rent out space in their office for $10 a year and save some money while getting their businesses up and running.
They placed an ad on Craigslist, and it all went from there, resulting in renting space to 3 very deserving winners. Check out the video that recaps the experience.
Ten years ago today, eBay announced an acquisition that might rank as one of the most successful Silicon Valley purchases ever. In fact, it sits third on Ranker’s list of smartest tech acquisitions.
I’m talking, of course, about PayPal, the “subsidiary” that now accounts for well over a third of eBay’s total revenue — and gaining.
Since the deal completed, PayPal has moved more than half a trillion dollars in payments and grown from 23 million regular users to over 110 million. VentureBeat spoke to PayPal’s senior director of global communications, Anuj Nayar, about the anniversary.
“There’s very few of these acquisitions that are universally seen as a success story,” Nayar said. “But eBay buying PayPal was maybe the most successful acquisition in Silicon Valley history. PayPal now accounts for 38 percent of the total company’s revenue.”
The purchase price was $1.5 billion dollars, but not a penny was actually paid. Instead, the deal was a tax-free stock-for-stock exchange: .39 eBay shares for every PayPal share.
In return, PayPal has generated about $20 billion in revenue for eBay over the past decade. In fact, this year alone PayPal expects to process more than three times the initial purchase amount — $7 billion — in mobile payments alone.
There’s some irony there, as Nayar notes:
“In 1998 the original business model was to move money between two Palm Pilots … and the online payments was a side business.” Now, he says with a trace of humor, “the hot new thing is to use your mobile phone as a wallet.”
Money on a mobile device is essentially how PayPal began. And a recent re-organization by eBay president David Marcus has refocused the company on mobile, putting former mobile chief Hill Ferguson in charge of all PayPal product groups.
It’s a needed change, says Nayar.
“The payments market is getting more and more competitive … every morning I check VentureBeat and there’s another digital wallet company starting up. We are definitely doubling down on accelerating innovation.”
Of course, it’s not just small startups challenging PayPal.
As we reported late in June, competitors include Facebook, Google, and Apple. None of those are competitors to be taken lightly: one owns the world’s largest social graph, and the other two have a stranglehold on the mobile devices that hundreds of millions of people currently use … and billions more probably soon will.
Nayar knows PayPal is in for the fight of its life, but likes the company’s chances.
“There’s a very different level of consumers buying in when you’re talking about your money. You need scale and you need trust.”
PayPal will need to grow both to have a future decade as successful as its past decade.
A brief history of PayPal:
- 1998: Peter Thiel and Max Levchin develop a service named PayPal as a secure way to beam money between Palm Pilots
- 1999: Nokia Ventures and Deutsche Bank “beam” Peter Thiel $4.5 million in venture funding from a Palm Pilot
- 2000: PayPal enables eBay payments
- 2001: PayPal goes public on the NASDAQ
- 2002: eBay acquires PayPal for $1.5 billion and begins to integrate PayPal into eBay
- 2004: PayPal launches its first API and introduces Web Services
- 2005: PayPal introduces micropayments
- 2010: PayPal launches the new Send Money application for mobile devices, processes $750 million in mobile payments
- 2011: PayPal processes $4 billion in mobile payment volume for the year
- 2012: PayPal partners with Home depot: can be used for payments at 2000 stores
Image credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/ShutterStock
Tmura, an Israeli non-profit, is closing on its 10-year anniversary. In a decade’s worth of work it has contributed a whopping $6.3M+ to educational programs.
The extraordinary amount isn’t the result of efficient fundraising, rather, of having been allotted small amounts of options by early-stage startups. Tmura then exercises these options when the startups see a liquidation event.
Out of a portfolio of 240 companies, 40 saw exits, the most recent of which XtremIO’s acquisition by EMC netted Tmura $450,000.
Baruch Lipner, Executive Director at Tmura, attributes the good fortune these companies have seen to a combination of karma and an improved corporate culture in participating startups. Why argue with success, right?
Over 100 educational organizations have received contributions from Tmura in its 10 years of activity. These include:
- College4All: An enrichment program focusing on students with potential to excel.
- Krembo Wings: A national youth movement for children with special needs.
- Machshava Tova: Computer centers in peripheral areas aimed at ‘narrowing the digital gap’.
- Shiur Acher: Volunteers from the hitech industry delivering lectures in schools.
Participating companies can decide themselves to which project(s) funds from their exits are allocated, or allow Tmura to do the choosing itself.
Are there similar organizations in your area that make use of startup exits for good in the community? Share with us in the comments below.
Disclosure: I’m on the Advisory Board of Tmura.
“Mobile phone” is a misnomer that is leading industries — especially media — astray as they try to develop services and business for the next wave of connectivity. So what would a better name be? I’ll have a nominee in a second. On this, the fifth anniversary of the iPhone, it is appropriate and long overdue that we rename this disruptive wonder. But first, let’s dispose of these old descriptors.
“Phone” doesn’t work anymore, of course, because we — especially the younger among us — are using these devices to call people less and less. Note these stats in the UK from O2 via Shane Richmond in the Telegraph:
“Mobile” doesn’t work because that makes us envision a user on the road or on the sidewalk when, in fact, most of the use of tablets — which often fall into the mobile-device category — is at home. I use my “mobile” phone all the time in my office and even at home and certainly in boring meetings, when I’m quite sedentary.
Mobile = local = around me now. Mobile is my personal bubble. It is enhanced convenience, putting the device and the world in my hand. But next imagine no device: Cue the war between Siri and Google Glass to eliminate the last mediator, the thing.
I see companies assuming that mobile requires maps and geography or apps and closed worlds. But I think what we now mistakenly call mobile will instead be about getting each of us to what we want with fewer barriers and less effort because the service has gathered so many signals about us: who we are, where we are, what we like, whom we know, what we know, what we want to know, what we buy…. The power of what we now call mobile, I believe, is in signal generation and the extreme targeting and convenience that enables.
What we call “mobile” is disruptive in ways we can’t yet figure out. We call it “mobile” but we should call it “what’s next.”
But what do we call it, really? I asked for a new name on Google+ and at last count got 164 responses. None satisfied me. I also asked on Twitter and there I got an answer I like:
In Germany, they call this wondrous device the “handy.” Actually, it’s “Händy,” but to paraphrase Mark Twain, “we’ll bring the vowels, let the Germans bring the umlauts.”
“Handy” is wonderful because the device fits in the hand. But even when it won’t — when Siri or Glass replace it — the word still works because it is, indeed, handy. It is the ultimate in handy: convenient, personal, nice to have.
iHändy. Sounds like iCandy. It works, ja?