Archive for the ‘firm’ tag
Fish farming in estuaries and protected waters may seem to offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional deep-sea fishing, but it still causes effluent accumulation and interactions with wild stocks that can disrupt the surrounding environment. That’s according to Hawaii mariculture firm Kampachi Farms, whose Velella Project is raising fish in open-ocean “Aquapods” with virtually no negative environmental effects.
In an effort launched last year, marine biologists at Kampachi Farms have been raising hatchery-reared, native Kampachi fish in a 22-foot Aquapod tethered to a manned sailing vessel in the deep open ocean near the Big Island of Hawaii. The fish are fed a sustainable diet that has replaced significant amounts of fishmeal and fish oil with soy and other sustainable agricultural proteins, the firm says. The setup drifts in eddies off the west coast of the Big Island in Federal waters from three to more than 150 miles offshore and 12,000 feet deep. Marine biologists on board monitor and feed the fish while a GPS system tracks the vessel’s drift and transmits data to land-based research headquarters; the tender vessel’s engines are used minimally to correct course. “We’re very excited about the results so far,” said Neil Anthony Sims, the company’s co-CEO. “The fish are healthy, growing well and are where they’re meant to be – in the ocean. This technology has the potential to revolutionize fish farming, making it the most impact-free form of food production on the planet.” The video below explains the effort in more detail:
With support from a wide range of organizations including NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the Illinois Soybean Association, Lockheed-Martin, the International Copper Association and Ocean Farm Technologies, the Velella Project has made its environmental monitoring data available for public access on its site. Sustainability-minded entrepreneurs around the globe: one to get involved in?
Joe Kraus isn’t just a Google Ventures partner. He’s also a poker player, and I think he knows that both pursuits involve a certain amount of gambling, regardless of how much skill you think you have.
“In poker, if my analysis doesn’t agree with my gut, I’ll usually go with my gut,” he tells me in his corner office in the Google Ventures building in Mountain View.
“As an angel investor, I made a bunch of one-meeting investments based on feeling. In the venture world, that doesn’t work. … You have a gut read in your first meeting, then you do all of this analysis, and it either confirms your gut or not.”
In our meeting, I wouldn’t have taken Kraus for a gut-feeling risk-chaser. As he speaks, he is incredibly thoughtful and deliberate. He’ll close his eyes, take a breath, introduce a pause in the conversation. I can imagine him in a board room or at a poker table the same way — deliberate, rational, always with a balance in his hand to weigh fact, emotion, ideas, timing, circumstance, and luck. Everything, every word, is measured.
His manner is a good match for the philosophies behind Google Ventures. It has a Googley provenance of big data-meets-brain trust, and its partners operate somewhat differently than other VCs I’ve met in Silicon Valley.
People walk around the venture world thinking they’re such good pickers. It’s like Lake Woebegone, where everyone thinks their children are above average.
Joe Kraus, partner,
Google Ventures is a separate entity from Google, Inc. It operates on the same campus but in different buildings, and while it pulls its talent and knowledge resources from the Google pool, it’s very much its own beast. The fund kicked off in 2009 with a goal of investing $100 million each year. Its known portfolio companies currently number 115; if you look for themes among them, you’ll find they range so widely across any criteria you choose that finding such themes is nearly impossible.
Aside from the Google connection, the firm and its partners are obviously different from anything else in their league in a few major ways.
For one thing, Google Ventures partners don’t really put as much emphasis on the almighty picker: the magic 8-ball in every VC’s back pocket that tells him whether or not a company is a good bet. Primarily because such a device doesn’t exist.
“Picking plays a role, don’t get me wrong. But people walk around the venture world thinking they’re such good pickers,” Kraus says. “It’s like Lake Woebegone, where everyone thinks their children are above average.
“We believe helping companies plays more of a role than most people give it credit for.”
Meet the brain trust
And when Google decides it wants to help a young tech company, the resources it puts behind the effort are mammoth.
Working on artificial intelligence? Google Ventures will likely call one of its advisors, Peter Norvig, an AI expert who used to head up computational sciences at a NASA research center. If your startup is more about energy efficiency, the firm could tap Kenneth Davies to help out; he heads up Google.org’s clean-tech work and the company’s data center energy procurement. Google Ventures also has serial entrepreneur Don Dodge on its list of advisors. It can call up the best of the best hackers, open-source activists, data scientists, you name it.
Part of that is Kraus’s fault. His wiki company, JotSpot, was acquired by Google in 2006, and by 2009 (the year Google Ventures began), he was ready to cash out and go start a new company. In fact, he had a spreadsheet of all the other Googlers he wanted to poach for his next startup.
Instead, Google convinced him to help get Google Ventures off the ground, and his dream-team spreadsheet ended up becoming his first stop for recruiting new Google Ventures team members, people he considered as the best Google had to offer in marketing, design, engineering, and so on.
We’ve all heard those great stories about well-connected angels and VCs making incredible introductions and changing the course of a young company’s fate. But that effect is multiplied many times over for Google Ventures.
“The No. 1 resource is our networks,” says Carrie Farrell, the GV team’s recruitment chief. Farrell spent the better part of a decade fine-tuning Google’s own recruitment process, and in an industry where finding and hiring engineers and designers has practically become a contact sport, she brings some of the most valuable secret sauce of all to the Google Ventures goulash.
“The value-add is immediate,” she said. Looking for a Java developer? “We can give a founder 50 Java resumes in a day.”
“Our biggest problem was recruiting,” said another Google Ventures partner, new kid on the block Kevin Rose. His last company, Milk, had closed a round of funding when it hit a hiring snag.
“We’d had an open spot for an engineer for four or five months, and we just couldn’t fill it,” the Digg founder said. “The candidate flow we got [from Google Ventures], you don’t see that at other VC firms. It was unique enough that I decided to open our round up again.”
That kind of power helps a Google-backed company hire its first five employees and then teach the founders how to hire their next 20. The Google Ventures team keeps a close eye on culture to ensure candidates are a good fit for the growing startup, while prevetting design and engineering candidates with veteran Googlers.
Farrell is just one of the all-stars working on the Google Ventures team. Adam Ghobarah is another. A stats Ph.D with a penchant for big data, his presence saves these startups from having to hire a Ph.D of their own “to tell them where the million-dollar mistakes are.”
After all, he said, “You don’t always need a Ph.D to get value out of the data. But these are complicated things, and it helps to have experience.”
Ghobarah said it’s a “dirty secret in the data community” that the quality of data in these big data sets falls apart due to the way it’s gathered by sensors, server logs, and other machines. “You end up finding patterns that aren’t really there.” But he also says that data quality and insights from the info can prevent startups from flashing in the pan, so he and his big-data cohorts work with 100 percent of the firm’s portfolio companies.
As I learn through spending more time with more Google Ventures folks, this is the firm’s method: Do a lot of hands-on, teach-a-man-to-fish work with founders; dig deep into everyone’s vast networks to get the best help that can be found; and keep pumping time and effort into the portfolio companies, willing them to succeed and generate a return for the firm.
Filed under: Entrepreneur
We’ve seen a lot of leaked iPhone 5 parts, including a new battery and longer cases, but so far we’ve had to imagine how they would all fit together. Thankfully, a new diagram from the folks at iFixYouri makes sense of the madness.
Using what’s supposedly a leaked version of the next iPhone’s motherboard, the repair firm was able to make educated guesses of where many of the other leaked components would fit in, 9to5Mac reports. While it’s far from conclusive evidence that any of these parts are legitimate (especially since it’s not scaled for size), the diagram certainly hints at some interesting connections.
Or maybe we’re just reading way too much into images of mystery hardware.
Don’t expect the iPhone 5 rumors to slow down anytime soon. The closer we get to the phone’s announcement, currently expected for September 12, the more gadget geeks will scoop up any crumb of new information. And the potential for juicy revelations will be huge, since the next iPhone will likely be a major revamp on the iPhone 4′s design.
The next iPhone (which will likely just go by “iPhone,” like the new iPad) will likely sport a longer screen around 4 inches (compared to the standard 3.5-inch screen), as well as a thinner body. Sharp has said that it will begin shipping displays to Apple this month, which should be enough time for Apple to make a September launch. Sprint has also lowered the price of its iPhone 4S models, which is a sign that it needs to clear out stock to make room for something new.
The latest WikiLeaks release has shone a spotlight on an alleged domestic and foreign surveillance program run with cloud-based software provided by Texas company TrapWire, many of whose top leaders and employees are former members of three-letter American intelligence agencies.
WikiLeaks tweeted about it today, and the story quickly became a trending topic on Twitter:
WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 10, 2012
TrapWire produces software that is currently in use by Homeland Security, the military, U.S. intelligence agencies, and local police forces including the LAPD and the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC (whose chief recently praised the software). Private sector clients include major corporations in the energy, chemical, and financial industries.
TrapWire does three things: protect critical infrastructure by analyzing CCTV footage with face and pattern recognition algorithms to detect pre-attack patterns, provide online reporting systems for citizens to report suspicious behavior, and gather and analyze many sources of information to allow law enforcement to make sense of the masses of collected data.
If TrapWire does what it is intended to, it’s potentially a critical innovation that can help protect the U.S. from terrorism. Tying together disparate facts from multiple sources across geographies might have prevented 9-11. On the other hand, the secrecy, the integration with government, and the thought that a private corporation could have access to huge amounts of private citizens’ data is concerning to say the least.
The data WikiLeaks released was taken from more than five million emails allegedly stolen from a company with close ties and inside information about TrapWire, security information company Stratfor. Stratfor had a contract with TrapWire in which each company agreed to promote the other company’s products, and Stratfor agreed to feed its intelligence reports into the TrapWire system.
Then Stratfor was hacked by Anonymous in 2011, and Anonymous provided the emails to WikiLeaks.
In those emails, Stratfor says that TrapWire is in use in “Scotland Yard, #10 Downing, the White House, and many [multinational corporations].” Another talks about the Nigerian government being interested in TrapWire, and others imply that organizations as diverse and powerful as the Secret Service, MI5, and the Canadian RCMP are all clients.
And yet another leaked email from Fred Burton, Stratfor’s CEO, says “God Bless America. Now they have EVERY major [high-value target] in [the continental U.S.], the UK, Canada, Vegas, Los Angeles, NYC as clients.”
TrapWire was not always so secretive about its software. Company founder Richard Hollis spoke about the software in 2005, say that it:
… can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists. The application can do things like “type” individuals so if people say “medium build,” you know exactly what that means from that observer.
And in 2007, the company elaborated on how TrapWire works:
… the TrapWire rules engine analyzes each aspect of [reported security incidents] and compares it to all previously-collected reporting across the entire TrapWire network. Any patters detected — links among individuals, vehicles, or activities — will be reported back to each affected facility. This information can also be shared with law enforcement organizations …
The question becomes: Where does national security start and the public’s right (or need) to know end? And, to what extent should private companies be embedded in public surveillance?
Even tougher: does our security depend, at least in part, on our ignorance? Because if we learn about anti-terrorism methodologies, you can bet the bad guys do too.
There is as yet no statement from Stratfor, TrapWire Inc., or any of the named public security agencies.
Image credit: ShutterStock/Steven Finn
At the end of the day, your business comes down to numbers — low overhead, high revenue, increasing net profits, and even expanding social media reach. A valuation is an incredibly attractive number that intimidates competition and attracts potential investors, but how can entrepreneurs accurately value their business when it’s still a fledgling startup?
We asked 10 young entrepreneurs for their top tips for putting an accurate valuation on an early-stage company. Here’s what they had to say:
Forget the potential
Your business is pretty useless for valuation purposes because you can’t put a value on it, or even say with a certain degree of confidence that it will grow as big as its potential. MySpace and other players in social networking had the same potential as Facebook, but today, each of them have different valuations. Look at facts and capacity, not potential.
As an early-stage startup, you’re probably not going to be valued based on revenues or other typical metrics used for valuing larger companies. Your valuation is going to be much more subjective. To get a sense of what it might be, ask different players what they would value you at — VCs, angels, advisors, big companies — and see if the figures gravitate towards a similar number.
Consider the ramifications
Entrepreneurs in early-stage firms can benefit from low valuations. When your stock is cheap, it benefits new employees and investors who can still get in at the ground level. Before pursuing a 409A or other formal valuation of your firm by an accounting or advisory company, make sure you speak with advisors and understand the implications of getting your firm formally valued.
Be reasonable and relative
Look around and see what other companies similar to yours are being valued at. If you’re in Chicago, you need to look at other Chicago companies, not the latest and greatest in Silicon Valley. Then pick a number that’s justifiable to both you and your potential investors. Make sure not to make it too high, or you will scare off investors or risk having a down round later in the process.
There’s no such thing!
Valuations for early-stage companies are all over the map. Tech startups always demand higher premiums than retail companies. Businesses with traction and paying customers are usually better valued than mere concepts, and the history of the team and even their geographic location can impact valuation by up to three times. It’s more important to have the right investors than the right valuation.
Read up on intellectual property
Most of the value in a startup is the intellectual property, but the average entrepreneur doesn’t know enough about the topic. Since you can’t copyright an idea, you need to know what your company owns that you can put a dollar value on.
Don’t be scared to ask for help. Turn to a mentor or advisor who has a background in valuations. Accurate valuations could have more variables than you would consider. Someone with more experience in the industry and in valuing companies is less likely to miss a material influencer in value.
Comparables are key
Nicolas Gremion, Foboko.com
Comparables are essential. Base your valuation, and support it, using industry comparables. The closer they represent your company — not only in model but also in size — the better. It’s the most accurate comparison you can make.
Are your projections valid?
Be reasonable. Investors are looking for returns, so the higher the possibilities, the less ownership they will have to take for the same amount of money to generate a higher return. Your job is to convince them that your projections are valid.
Free cash flow to the firm
I see a lot of entrepreneurs value their company based on future values, invested time and money, emotion, and other unsubstantial metrics. The only thing that matters (besides patents and intellectual property) is your free cash flow to the firm — what does the firm make when all of its expenses and obligations are paid? That’s the number you want to use in your valuation.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.
Image via gingerbeardman/Flickr
The past two weeks of the London 2012 Olympic Games have certainly been a time of drama, high emotion, success and failure, and a general lifting of the spirits to witness such displays of intense effort and much achievement by athletes from over 100 countries.
The positive focus on this wonderful sporting event has just about excluded any other news from anyone’s attention as our TV screens, newspapers and favourite social networks have given us so much to consume, share and interact with over all that’s good about humanity and society.
It’s as if we know reality will resume this coming Monday, so let’s make the most of it!
You could apply similar thinking about a corporation or a brand from being associated with such goodness, where such a groundswell of positive feeling and perception rubs off on that corporation or brand.
As marketing intelligence company Warc reports, that’s exactly what’s happening with regard to Visa, BP and Acer – three of the main sponsors of the 2012 Olympic Games – which have recorded the greatest uptick in buzz among US consumers, citing new figures from the YouGov research firm.
[...] Visa, the financial services provider, registered the largest improvement on this metric, as its index score rose from 8.2 points before the competition to 22.7 points once it began on July 27.
Second place in the YouGov rankings went to BP, the oil firm, which has been tackling negative perceptions ever since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Its total climbed from –5.9 points to 2.6 points, an 8.5-point lift.
Acer, the IT group, took third, improving by 5.1 points to 8.9 points overall.
Warc’s report adds that Coca-Cola, the soft drinks maker, accrued an additional 3.5 points, taking it to 24 points in all. McDonald’s, the fast food network, was also up by 2.3 points to 16.1 points.
BP’s rise is especially impressive, given the still-ongoing reputational challenges the energy giant faces following the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
I think a key element in the success of BP and the others Warc mentions is how such corporate sponsors have been presenting their corporate selves and brands’ association with the Olympics in TV and other advertising.
Take Visa’s example of explaining the economic value they say will result for London and the UK in general, following the games, as shown in this infographic (a portion of which you see at the top of this page).
In TV advertising, BP’s a good example of how a public perception of selflessness is positive, such as in this corporate spot shown on US television a few months ago focusing on athletes and their potential to win, with next to nothing said about BP’s business.
(If you don’t see the video embedded here, watch it on YouTube.)
BP has been showing similar-focused ads on TV in the UK.
YouGov’s concise report makes good reading as it adds commentary to the numbers including the other brands covered in the latest research – see the chart here (and check the three sponsors showing less buzz in the US than before).
Public opinion is a fickle thing, to be sure, but Visa, BP, Acer and others show that public relations benefits on reputation can result if you get it right. I wonder what such research would show for buzz about all these sponsors in the UK.
Greylock Partners announced tonight that it has added a new member to its team, with Mike Hanson joining the firm this week as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Hanson joins Greylock from Mozilla, where he has been a principal engineer at Mozilla Labs for the last three years, playing a central role in conceiving the company’s distributed identity verification system, also known as BrowserID, and developing APIs and apps for Firefox’s apps platform — among other things.
Prior to Mozilla, Hanson was a principal engineer at Cisco, working on app delivery, particularly device virtualization, clustering, as well as data center strategy. Hanson also co-founded and was the chief architect at Reactivity and spent several years at the Apple Research Lab working on Sherlock, perhaps better known as the precursor to Spotlight. He also counts 16 patents to his name.
Greylock’s former Entrepreneurs-in-Residence include Josh Silverman, the President of Consumer Services at American Express and former CEO of Skype, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Google VP of Engineering Venkat Panchapakesan, among others. Michael Callahan, the former CTO of PolyServe, is also currently an EIR at Greylock.
John Lilly, a partner at Greylock and the former CEO of Mozilla who worked with Hanson at Mozilla among other places, penned the firm’s announcement today — which you can read here. Copied below:
It’s with great pleasure that I get to write this post letting you know that Mike Hanson has joined Greylock this week as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
He’s what I call an “Anytime, Anything, Anywhere” person: someone who I would drop whatever I’m doing to get a chance to work with him on anything, anytime, anywhere. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Mike many times, dating all the way back to his time at Stanford, where he studied computer science and interaction design.
When he was there, Mike did seminal work on early web search, and worked in some technology for the company that would eventually become Excite. After that Mike worked at the Apple Research Lab on Sherlock (precursor to Spotlight) before co-founding Reactivity with me and a couple of others. He’s worked on startups at the very beginning, but also massive organizations like Apple & Cisco. Most recently he’s been at Mozilla, working on web-scale identity and application systems.
I’m particularly excited he’s come to Greylock now because we’re in such an incredibly fertile innovation period. The widespread adoption of both mobile and cloud technology, and their sudden pervasiveness have created a massive opportunity to reinvent huge industries, and to rethink many of the ways we live our lives and spend time with each other. Mike is an especially perfect person to think through these opportunities because he’s a “full stack” thinker, from deep server-side technologies all the way through to engaging and durable and useful user experiences.
It seems to me that there’s never been a better time to work on “thick innovations” that marry the best of deep technology and amazing user experiences. There are few people in the world who can think like that better than Mike, so we feel very fortunate to have him here at Greylock, thinking about and building the next big thing.
4moms, the small Pittsburgh-based company that’s re-imagining the baby products industry by incorporating robotics, electronics, and innovative engineering into things like strollers, infant seats and playpens, has raised $20 million from Bain Capital Ventures. The firm also has investments in Toys R’ Us (Babies R’ Us) and Gymboree, so there’s the opportunity for some knowledge-sharing and marketing opportunities here, it seems.
As for the 4moms products, in case you haven’t seen them – well, they’re pretty crazy. TechCrunch’s gadgets team has been going hands-on with these things for years, and doling out compliments like “the coolest gadget I have ever seen since the original TiVo…and it’s just a damn stroller.” Seriously, these things almost make you want to pump out babies (or more babies) just to try them out. Well, almost.
What makes the 4moms products so different? For starters, they’re not your typical baby products – they’re basically gadgets. This Origami stroller opens and closes with the tap of a button, for example.
If you don’t have kids, you may not realize exactly how impressive some of this technology is. True story: my husband and I had to google “how to set up a playpen” on our first attempt. We had to watch a YouTube video to figure it out, I’m embarrassed to admit. Another time, we forgot to set it up for the sitters (ahem, grandparents) in advance, and later found out they just let the kid stay up until 1 AM because she had nowhere she could get comfortable sleeping. Let me just tell you, the fallout from her sleep deprivation is not something I’d wish on anyone. Ever. So, yay: someone is working on building better versions of all this stuff, and making products that anyone could use.
That being said, there are some downsides to the 4moms products. The stroller is still a bit hefty, for example. But the bigger concern for some parents will be the price. These products are seriously high-end. A good chunk of the baby-making demographic can’t afford to spend nearly $900 on a stroller. But then again, maybe the grandparents owe us one?
With the London Olympics now in its final days, Fast Company's Co.Design blog has an interesting interview with two executives from Wolff Olins, the design firm behind the much-maligned (though, by some, avidly defended) Olympic logo. Brian Boylan, the firm's chairman, and Ije Nwokorie, its managing director in London, explain some of the reasoning behind the branding, and look back at some of the critcisms, too. A few highlights:
Boylan: "The mark itself came from an energy grid we drew of lines that moved around, contained within a rectangle, which we stopped at one particular moment. This was used in a very random way to create a pattern, so this idea of freeform is right at the heart of the brand. The typeface very much links back to that. We never recommended anything with horizontals or verticals—it was always slightly to one side, to make people look at this thing and think twice. We used the term 'prescribed anarchy'—it wasn't [that] we just wanted to draw something spiky."
Nwokorie: "When you do something like this you expect to get a very mixed response. … The critical reviews tend to point out the rules we've broken, and in that sense they tend to be correct; the only disagreement is whether those rules need to be broken. Take a look at the attacks: 'It's too dissonant.' Absolutely, the dissonance was intentional. 'It doesn't reflect any of London's famous landmarks.' Absolutely, the world knows about those, we don't need to tell them. 'It's too urban, it's too young.' Absolutely. It's really interesting that even though the tone might be off, they shine quite an acute light on exactly the points we were trying to make."
How do you feel about logo now?
Free lunches are a myth. The same, it seems, applies to free Wi-Fi.
While selling banner advertisements is one thing, Cloud Nine Media’s strategy ensures that Wi-Fi users know who’s funding that free access. In one example campaign, a welcome page forces Wi-Fi users to view an advertisement for Google Maps before they are allowed to start web browsing. You probably can’t find a better example of a captive audience than that.
Besides Google, Cloud Nine Media has also worked with companies like AOL, Amazon, Symantec, and Hipmunk.
Boingo, however, isn’t new to the model of sponsored Wi-Fi. Earlier this summer the company announced a deal with Google that give users free Wi-Fi in exchange for their eyeballs on some Google Offers deals. The Cloud Nine Media buy is a clear extension of model and proof that Boingo is invested in pursing the sponsored Wi-Fi strategy.
Boingo has its eyes on other projects as well. The company is a big part of a ongoing effort by New York City to bring Wi-Fi to 277 New York City subway stations over the next few years.