Archive for the ‘Vaporware’ tag
A selected bunch of social media idealists are now taking up residence at App.net, the would-be status update safe house for consumers running away from advertisers and developers seeking refuge from hostile platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The network charges its members $50 for rent in exchange for freedom and trust. The only caveat is that enough people have to financially back the cause if App.net is to exist. The project needs to raise $500,000 from supporters by August 13 should it wish live on for at least a year. As of this afternoon, close to 2,000 people have pledged $154,400, which means Caldwell and team have just ten days to rally the troops.
Friday’s early release is an alpha one, and the consumer-facing web app will certainly disappoint the person who expects a better Twitter on day one. But the release has been purposefully timed to give early backers and supporters more than a little glimpse at the platform.
For Caldwell, it’s both an opportunity to prove that his platform is anything but vaporware — an accusation thrown around by disbelievers — and a way to stimulate excitement around the social experience. The latter is clearly the case, at least on App.net, where early users are praising Caldwell en masse and gushing about the platform’s potential.
The product itself echoes the simplicity of Twitter’s status update network with streams, follow buttons, profiles, mentions, and so forth. It also gives members a tad more space in the form 256 characters to opine as they see fit. The network is lacking in several features, including avatars, cover photos or backgrounds, a way to tell when you’ve been followed, notifications, photo uploads, or anything fancy or flashy. That’s partially point.
App.net the web app is really just a proof of concept, Caldwell explained to me earlier this week. The real dream is that developers take the API, which already exists, and create the fun tools that make this communication channel useful. Mobile applications, desktop clients, product clones repurposed for other uses, Caldwell wants it all. He doesn’t care that he won’t get to own the experience. In fact, he’d prefer it that way.
The service, however, won’t stay alpha forever. Caldwell has plans to push out updates rapidly and make fixes to the interface and add new URLs later today, he told me. The service is opening up to just a small group of people today. All backers will get access at a later date.
What App.net lacks in features it more than makes for in spirit. It’s as if Caldwell has pushed the reset button on Twitter and has gone back in time to rewrite history, this time attempting to ensure that people feel safe and developers who take up residence aren’t thrown out on the street.
Photo credit: Vicki France/Shutterstock
Filed under: social
Editor’s note: Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 15-city event series hosted around the world to help educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. He’s also ex-Electronic Arts, the founder of Commonred and Vaporware Labs.<
A few weeks ago a founder called me to commiserate. He told me about how his product had taken longer than expected to build, how his co-founder was gone, and how he was almost out of money. There was desperation, but more than anything he longed for pity and a shoulder to cry on. My response? “Please shut up and get back to work.”
In 2010 Forbes called FLOODGATE general partner Ann Miura-Ko “the most powerful woman in startups.” While speaking at Startup Grind in Silicon Valley last week she said, “There is this notion that being an entrepreneur is a romantic ideal. There’s nothing romantic in working 100 hour weeks, not seeing your family, and throwing out code you’ve been working on for two year because your co-founder decided you’re going to pivot.” The Social Network often gets blamed for the onslaught of recent founder canonization, but in reality it has been going on for much longer than the last few years.
Whenever someone tells me how incredibly difficult it is to be an entrepreneur I think how foolish we look. Does it say “Chief Sulking Officer” on my $5 startup tee shirt? So your initial product didn’t get traction; how tough. Your cofounder just quit; what a calamity. I’m guilty of moping around for weeks after a potential company changing deal fell through, and I cried (no shame) when I realized that a product I poured my soul into turned out to be a spectacular failure.
But let’s not kid ourselves; this is what we signed up for. You don’t join the army and expect room service, just like you don’t have lunch at McDonalds expecting a boost in self-esteem. If being an entrepreneur is your professional life calling, then at least attempt to be up for the challenge you accepted. Ann told me, “When you present our best entrepreneurs with these obstacles, it’s almost like the don’t see it.” Cowboy up people.
Part of being in this for the long haul is about maintaining some sort of balance in your life. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently said, “I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6:00, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids.” Unfortunately when you’re trying to build something from nothing you usually don’t have that luxury.
As the mother of three children aged 10 months, 3, and 5, Ann wakes up each morning at 5am to get a head start before her family gets going. When asked if she wants to be the CEO of Yahoo, Ann responded playfully, “Why is everyone making such a big deal about Marissa Mayer? She has one child. It’s not a big deal yet. Have three or four, then I’ll be impressed.”
But work life balance is less about keeping everything equal as it is making sure everything is in order. “It’s really hard to think about balance from that perspective because balance implies you get home and everything is quiet, dinner is cooked, kids are really well behaved. Mine aren’t. My house is usually a crazy mess and someone is screaming. It’s never a balance. It’s never a moment where you feel good about everything. I just work to try to keep it together and hope that no one gets hurt in the process.” Everything isn’t perfect, and no one is acting like it is, but you do the best you can and you carry on. With companies like Twitter, Chegg, Modcloth, and Zimride in FLOODGATE’s portfolio, Ann says that their most successful companies are the ones that work the hardest.
“I’ve never done better because I was smarter. It’s just because I worked a whole lot harder. People will (succeed) because they work harder. That’s 90% of it.” Considering Ann is an ex-Yale undergrad and Stanford PhD, this provides idiots like me and 99% of YouTube commenterssome hope. If we work hard enough, don’t paint ourselves into a corner, and never give up, maybe 20-years later we’ll still be standing. Or as Dave McClure eloquently put it we will be able to say, “It’s been a wonderful life.” We’re founders not heroes. Let’s get to work.
Editor’s note: Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 12-city event series growing around the world to help educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. He’s also ex-Electronic Arts, the founder of Commonred and Vaporware Labs.
A recent email from an entrepreneur and complete stranger read: “We need to raise money. Who can you introduce us to?” I quickly encouraged him to submit his startup to AngelList but a few days later he returned with, “I messaged the AngelList founder and he didn’t respond. Can you give me some tips?” This post is for you buddy.
Approaching a well known Silicon Valley angel investor cold with the expectation that they’ll fund you, is like walking up to a beautiful stranger and expecting you’ll be planning a wedding by the end of the conversation. For the masses, if you want top tier funding, there is a process or roadmap in most cases you can follow (ignore the geniuses and exceptions). Attempting to bypass it shows a lack of consideration and basic intelligence of how the funding process works.
Why Is There Protocol?
Well known angel investors and VCs are inundated with inbound requests for meetings and funding. A few months ago I interviewed Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC, one of the top investment brands in Silicon Valley, and who one of his entrepreneurs recently told me was “simply an awesome investor.” Jeff explained that SoftTech VC receives between 2,000-3,000 inbound email requests for meetings every year. If they took a 30 minute phone call with each team, they would be stuck with 90,000 minutes worth of meetings. Lets say they work 50-hour weeks, it would take them 35 years to get through the first meetings, plus a couple more if the partners take off July, August, or December. I’m not implying SoftTech VC does, but a lot do. Trust me you don’t want to see the math on the due diligence that would be required.
As founders should we be offended when a VC doesn’t even respond to our cold email? Of course not. After looking at the numbers can you blame them? In most cases they physically don’t have the bandwidth. That doesn’t mean they won’t take a meeting or don’t want to invest, you just need to find the right channel to reach through their filters in a way that they’ll respond.
How To Get A Meeting
I am able to get top tier speakers on a weekly basis for our Startup Grind events even though I rarely I know these people beforehand. The protocol for getting them almost always involves a referral. Here’s an example. We started hosting our events and had around 20 people who would come regularly. I had met a very good but not overly well known venture capitalist and invited him to speak. He had a good experience and encouraged Steve Blank to come speak. Steve had a good experience and encouraged Ann Miura Ko (FLOODGATE) who is speaking this week.
Getting investor meetings is the same process. You need an intro from someone sitting between the founders and the investors. A trusted entrepreneur in the portfolio, an investment partner, or people that have relationships with the investor and can vouch for the entrepreneur. In SoftTechVC’s case, Jeff says they use this social proof to “cut through the deal flow and 200-300 (monthly) opportunities, to get to the top 20-30 to meetings that we’ll actually take each month.” If someone is consistently doling out bad intros to investor friends, then those emails will quickly fall on deaf ears.
What not to do? Jeff says, “Don’t reach out to us by phone, fax, tweet, singing in front of our door, or reaching out to my children – that’s really bad.”
The Meeting And Followup
When the investment team finally sits down with a founding team, Jeff looks for, “A smart a** team, building a kick a** product, in a big a** market.” While your product doesn’t need to be perfect, most experienced investors would expect to see an advanced prototype and at a minimum some customer development. Jeff and his team look for companies that fit their firm’s clearly identified investment focus. While most firms might not be quite so clear, with a bit of effort you can look at companies funded and make assumptions on what types of markets or categories an investor in interested in.
Any good investor I know will not invest in a portfolio company’s competition. If they have, start pitching to one of the firm’s competitors. Maybe they missed on the opportunity or were waiting for the right team. The best recent example of this is Andreessen Horowitz who having invested heavily in PicPlz, passed on Instagram’s later round because they concluded that “funding Kevin to compete with Dalton would be a violation of the original implicit commitment made to Dalton—to not fund competitors to PicPlz.”
If the meetings go well, an angel will likely engage in a due diligence process where they’ll call references to check on you and the team personally. They’ll speak with market experts to vet the product and opportunity, and they’ll look at the team’s compatibility with the firm. In SoftTech VC’s case all the partners must agree on an investment. If there is any dissent then they will pass.
The Offer, Funding, and Beyond
The length between meetings and receiving an offer or even an answer can vary greatly. Some Y Combinator founders get offers on the spot or in email later that day. Some people meet with you and never give you a clear answer either way. In SoftTech’s case they’ll go from the inital chat to making a decision within 10 days.
If you receive and accept an offer, depending on the type of financing you’re taking, you can expect a wire transfer anywhere between a few days and several weeks. Most VC will not pay in cash or unmarked American US dollars. Take it from someone who has tried.
An investor likely only sits on 5-7 Boards so if you’re gunning for them to take a board seat then do your homework and see how many they’re already on. Following funding Jeff says the best entrepreneurs leverage their investors by being specific with needs and ways to help, or quick phone calls to talk about product or strategy concerns. But he adds, “some early stage entrepreneurs or first timers forget that just because you are spending time with your investors doesn’t mean you’re spending it wisely.”
If you’ve had just about enough of “leveraging infrastructures” and “cloud-based platforms-as-a-service” and 10-year-old engineers raising $100 million for fancy-sounding vaporware, this is a good interview for you to watch.
Vineet Jain has been around the block when it comes to tech industries, and the guy knows how to turn a trend into a profitable business. Previously, Jain founded and sold Valdero, a supply chain software provider. These days, he’s working on Egnyte, a hybrid cloud technology company.
At the CloudBeat conference today, we talked with Jain about how the current bubble — including a few “cloudy” companies — is likely to pan out, and what to make of expensive-sounding technologies in a rapidly evolving business environment.
The CloudBeat conference is wrapping up for now, but you can relive the magic by watching our other interviews with luminaries we’ve met with at the conference.
In July, we covered the launch of a new Vaporware Labs (a software company that makes social, mobile, and web apps, like Steve Young Football for the iPad and iPhone, and MEETorDIE) service, called Commonred, which is attempting to take the “cold call/email/approach out of the networking process”. Commonred was essentially launched to not only help startup founders — but anyone in need of some professional networking — to more easily find shared points of interest between themselves and those they want to meet, network, or learn from. (Without the awkwardness.)
To beef up its offerings for entrepreneurs and founders out there looking to have their ideas heard by people who matter, Commonred has launched a series of VIP meetings contests in which founders and entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to pitch VCs, journalists, Angels, and tech big wigs in an effort to push their businesses forward. The pitch with the most votes then wins a meeting with the person of interest, and, hopefully, the rest is history.
Traditionally, for those founders and entrepreneurs who may not necessarily have access to VCs or angels, or may not have had success with AngelList, accelerators, or pitching their ideas to media outlets, the road to victory can be a tough one. Which is what makes Commonred’s contests appealing to aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
What’s more, the startups has already run contests for people like Tony Conrad, the founder of About.me and True Ventures, Ryan Spoon of Polaris Ventures and Dogpatch Labs, and Nick Efstratis, Managing Director of Epic Ventures. TechCrunch’s own MG Siegler was even a participator; you can see his contest here, which led to a meeting for the winning startup, GetComparisons (and to TC coverage last week).
Commonred is currently running contests to get meetings with notables like David Bradford, the Chairman of publicly traded Fusion-io, who also has advisory and team roles with companies like Omniture, Novell, SCP Worldwide, as well as product designer, angel investor, TechCrunch contributor, and former CEO of Ustream, Chris Yeh.
Generally speaking, Vaporware and Commonred Founder Derek Andersen told us, it takes between 10 and 100 votes to win constests, and once an idea is chosen, the founder receives a meeting of up to one hour in duration with the VC, angel, or journalist hosting the contest.
For VCs and journalists, this is a great way to meet an awesome new entrepreneur without clogging their inbox with pitches, and for VCs et al to give back to the community — with the process allowing the best founders and ideas to rise to the top.
The contests are ongoing, with five contests usually running at any given time. This week in particular, Commonred will have eight to ten running simultaneously. As to how entrepreneurs and their ideas might stand out amidst the onslaught of pitches from eager founders? Anderson said that submitting parties should find common threads with the person reviewing pitches: “If the VIP went to MIT, mention that you did too. If they invested in a company like yours 10-yrs ago, mention the link. Show that you care enough to do some homework”.
And, again, with winners receiving coverage from tech publications and beyond (Anderson told me that one winner received a referral and interview for 500 Startups’ program), this can potentially be a game changer for startups looking for a jump start.
For more, check out Commonred’s VIP Contests here.
Commonred is a project incubated VaporwareLabs in Mountain View CA. Vaporware Labs creates fun, useful applications in the social and mobile space. We’re comprised of young entrepreneurs, game developers, designers, and marketing experts.