Handwritten Letters Meet Technology


Do you remember the days of pen pals? You’d write a letter on paper with a pen, and you’d put a lot of thought into it because it would be your only communication with that person. You would fold it up, put it in an envelope, stamp it, and stick it in the mailbox. Weeks later, you’d get a response and know your friend had put the same kind of effort into communicating with you.

Sounds idyllic, right? Fast forward 20 or so years, and we all know that’s not what we call “scalable.” In today’s world, thanks to email and social media, we’re meeting people all the time, and we need to interact NOW, not weeks from now. Emails and texts get business done faster, and often more efficiently.

Still, on the rare occasion you get a handwritten note, isn’t it a memorable experience?

That’s what the team at MailLift is betting on. Founders Brian Curliss and Daniel Jurek believe that with the rise of technology, we’ve lost the habit of personal connection. So, they’ve figured out a way to automate a quintessential part of personal connection: handwritten letters.

At his last company, CEO Curliss rented homes by the night, and he would write a real handwritten note to leave for the guests to find at check in. Obviously, they loved it. When a mentor asked him what one part of his business he would have gladly paid for, he knew what his next company would do.

Now, MailLift isn’t for writing notes to Grandma. (She’s your grandmother, for crying out loud! Write your own damn note!) Instead, MailLift focuses specifically on sales and marketing professionals. Handwritten letters break through the marketing noise in email and on social media, which MailLift believes will increase sales for their clients.

“Our customers love it because they can turn a high-touch action to a set-it-and-forget-it system,” Curliss told me.

The system is easy enough, with clients doing most of their part online. Then a team of retired teachers and artists does the actual handwriting. They also address the envelopes by hand and use actual stamps to send the letters. The website even says that Curliss insists that every letter or  envelope be photographed and verified by 3 people before it goes to the post office. That’s commitment!

MailLift is participating in the recently announced 500 Startups class. In the coming months, they will roll out Salesforce integration, which will make the process even easier on their clients.

Find out more about MailLift on their website.

5 Tips On Design From Dave McClüren Swedish Design Genius: More At Warm Gun!

500 Startups, Dave McClure, Warm Gun, Design conference, startups


daveswedish1. Design is color. And by color, I mean primary colors, everywhere.

2. Comic sans is so hot right now.

3. Design for conversion, not for aesthetic. So long as it adheres to point #1.

4. When your design induces seizures, you know its good.

5. Designers & startups are like Dolce & Gabbana. Put them together + its magic!

500 Startups is at it again with one of their awesome one day conferences for creatives, startups, and innovators. This time the focus is measurable design. 500 Startup’s Warm Gun conference takes place November 22nd, and you’ll get to enjoy intoxicating amounts of design knowledge from some of the best speakers in the world.

You’ve heard of Tryptophan right? That’s what makes you sleep the day away after Thanksgiving dinner. Well at this 500 startups conference, you’ll experience 500-o-phan, a chemical overdose of 500 awesomeness which will leave you napping the following day. Hence, the reason it’s only a one day conference.

In true 500 Startups fashion they’ve left the pikers on the side and promise only the hottest “gun slingers” and “hot shots”. You won’t find any posers, just people that know what they’re talking about in regards to design. Here’s the lineup so far.

Jared Spool, CoFounder and CEO UIE
Julie Hovarth, Designer, GitHub
Cap Watkins, Product Design Lead, Etsy
Joshua Taylor, Product Designer, Evernote
Andrew Watterson, Designer, Asana
Luke Wroblewski, CEO & Co-Founder, Polar
Carrie Whitehead, Product Manager, Zappos
PJ McCormick, UX Design Lead, Amazon
Joshua Porter, Founder, Hubspot
Marc Hemeon, Senior UX Designer, YouTube
Karen Hanson, VP of Design Innovation, Intuit
Frederico Holgado, Lead UX Developer, MailChimp
Michelle Haag, Director of Design, Ebay
Michael Boeke, Product Manager, BrainTree
Christine Tsai, Partner, 500 Startups
Christen O’Brien, Partner, 500 Startups
Frank Yoo, Mobile Product Lead, Lyft
Drew Domm, Design lead, Sosh
Cesar Salazar, Venture Partner, 500 Startups
Bjorn Jeffery, CEO & Co-Founder, Toca Boca


500 Startups is looking for startups that use design to dominate – consumer, b2b, they want it all. Are you transforming something mundane or necessary into beauty so stunning that unicorns weep? Are you using design to inform, inspire, and delight your users while watching your conversion multiply? Are you making everyone’s day better, one UX at a time? Apply for the Double Rainbow Double Unicorn Startup Design Award for a chance to rock the mic & score a 25k investment from 500 Startups.

Warm Gun is November 22nd at Hotel Kabuki 1625 Post Street in San Francisco.
You can register here.

And don’t forget about this amazing conference:


Andrew Warner, Wil Schroter, Naithan Jones & Andy Sparks Added To Everywhere Else Cincinnati Line Up

Everywhere Else Cincinnati, EE Cincy, Startup Conference, Nait Jones, Andrew Warner, Andy Sparks, Wil SchroterWhen we announced our next national conference Everywhere Else Cincinnati this past Monday, we promised more big announcements all the way up until the event itself. (September 29-October 1st at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati, by the way.)

The time has come to announce 4 more great speakers coming to celebrate startups and entrepreneurship everywhere else.

Nait Jones the founder of AgLocal, Andrew Warner the founder at Mixergy, Andy Sparks co-founder of Mattermark, and Wil Schroter, serial entrepreneur and founder of popular crowdfunding startup, Fundable have all joined the amazing line up of speakers that will take to the main stage.

nait-speakerNaithan Jones, AgLocal:

Nait Jones comes from a family of chefs, and delicious fresh food has always been a part of his life. Living in the Kansas City area, Jones observed a problem connecting independent and family meat farms to wholesale and retail buyers. He created AgLocal in 2011 to deal with that problem head on.

Jones is no stranger to startups and entrepreneurship, he left his last full time job as the Director of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Aspiring Entrepreneurs FastTrac Program to start AgLocal. He obviously made the right decision as AgLocal was able to attract marquee venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to lead their $1 million round last summer.


AndrewWarner-SpeakerAndrew Warner, Mixergy:

Andrew Warner is one of those life long entrepreneurs who has a brilliant sales mind. He and his brother Michael created their first company when they were in their 20’s. They called their company Bradford and Reed because they figured with a name like that, people would always take their calls. Warner explains in this post that a name like Bradford and Reed sounded like a law firm, which could mean trouble, or a VC firm, which could mean opportunity.

Bradford and Reed hit it big making online greeting cards, which resulted in nearly $40 million in annual sales.

After taking a break about 10 years ago, Warner was refreshed and wanted to take on mentoring and help entrepreneurs in an entirely new way. Mixergy was born. Chances are if you read Nibletz and plan on coming to Everywhere Else Cincinnati, you are well aware of Mixergy, a platform that allows you to learn from proven entrepreneurs through courses, interviews, and events.

In a Nibletz story in June Derek Capo the founder of Next Step China said this about Mixergy: “My investment in Mixergy’s premium membership has paid itself back 1 million times over. I have learned so much from the interviews, the classes, and the discussions. I’ve gained an MBA-type network without the $200K tag. Andrew Warner, the owner of Mixergy, is great at getting guests who can contribute tangible advice to other entrepreneurs, regardless of what industry they are in.”

Warner’s got a great story and his brain is exploding with entrepreneurial nuggets of wisdom from one of the biggest networks in the world.

AndysparksAndy Sparks, MatterMark,

MatterMark is one of the best weapons in many VC arsenals to help sniff out the best startups. The company was founded by Refer.ly founder Danielle Morrill, her husband Kevin, and Andy Sparks who was brought into the Y-Combinator backed Refer.ly team when they acquired his 500 Startups backed, LaunchGram. Just four months later Refer.ly was shut down to create Mattermark.

With roots in Y-Combinator and 500 Startups, the rockstar team behind MatterMark is now backed by NEA and Andreessen Horowitz.

Sparks founded LaunchGram in Columbus before relocating it to Mountain View to go through 500 Startups.

Sparks has ties to 500 Startups and Y-Combinator, and he’s a facilitator for Startup Weekend. He’s also a huge believer in the fact that startups can come from anywhere.

WilSchroter-SpeakerWil Schroter, Fundable and several other amazing startups.

Wil has literally been an entrepreneur since the age of 19. Now at the age of 36 he’s still never “worked for” anybody but himself in his entire adult life. His entrepreneurial journey started when he created Blue Diesel, an interactive marketing agency that eventually merged with inChord Communications where Schroter helped build the company to $700 million in annual billings.

At least 10 years before incubators were the “in thing,” Schroter created Virtucon Ventures, an incubator for startup companies that is still running today. Schroter’s other startups include Startups.co (2004), Gotcast.com (2006), Affordit.com (2008), Bizplan.com (2009), Unsubscribe.com (2010), and finally Fundable in 2011.

Fundable is a crowdfunding site that’s seen a lot of traction. Fundable offers both rewards and equity based campaigns, and often attracts out-of-the-box winners for funding on their site.

Schroter has been named the Young Entrepreneur Of The Year by the US Small Business Association, Ohio’s Business Person Of The Year, and named to Business First’s 40 under 40. Schroter was also recognized by Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year Program.

Jones, Warner, Schroter, and Sparks join this already great list of startup speakers from across the country who will be in Cincinnati September 29-October 1st for Everywhere Else Cincinnati:

  • Jake Stutzman, founder evlevate.co
  • Jonathon Perrelli, Managing Director, Fortify Ventures
  • Justin Gutwein, Filmmaker and Entrepreneur startupland.tv
  • Mark Hasebroock, Founder Dundee Venture Capital
  • Jason Healy, Founder, Blu
  • John Bracken, Founder e-vite and Speek
  • Dave Knox, CMO Rockfish, co-founder, Brandery
  • Patrick Woods, Managing Director a>m ventures
  • Sarah Ware, Founder Markerly
  • John T. Meyer, Founder lemon.ly
  • Raghu Betina, Managing Patner, The Starter League
  • Ryan O’Connell, VP Influence & Company
  • Blake Miller, Managing Director, Think Big Accelerator
  • Michael Bergman, Founder Repp.

Attendee tickets are available at the early bird discount rate of just $99. Startup Village booths, are available at the early bird discount rate of just $495 (only 18 remaining).


500 Startups Is Looking For The Unsexiest Startups, Everywhere

500 Startups, Unsexy conferense, startups, startup events500 Startups the name brand accelerator out in Silicon Valley, that takes great pains to bring cohorts together from around the world, is looking for the “unsexiest startups”. 500 Startups founder Dave McClure is a ninja, renegade and pirate and would take a martian founded startup if they had a good product, a good team and the possibility of growing with one of the best mentor networks in the universe. Now, that startup doesn’t even need to be sexy.

500 Startups knows that even unsexy startups, bring home the bacon. 500 Startup is hosting a conference specifically for those ugly startups, ok not ugly but “unsexy”.

“Even Silicon Valley, the mecca of innovation, sometimes misses the point. While everyone drools over “sexy” consumer verticals that often lack business models, some of the most high-growth, profit-wielding companies are incredibly underrated and overlooked.Covering SMB/Enterprise, financial services, communications, email, data, infrastructure, and more, unSEXY is a 1-day conference about tech startups and companies who are actually doing something incredibly sexy—they’re making money!” 500 startups wrote on their page for the event at unsexy.coTop speakers from some of the most successful unsexy startups in the world are tapped to speak at the one day conference happening August 9th in Mountain View. Isaac Saldana (SendGrid), Rashmi Sinha (SlideShare), Jeff Lawson (Twillio), Ken Gullicksen (Evernote), Doug Wormhoudt (Lovely), Patrick Collion (Stripe), Matt Tucker (Jive), and Kathryn Minshew (The Daily Muse) are all slated to speak at this first of it’s kind startup conference.They’ll be speaking on topics like:

  • GET UR BLING ON: Strategies for Marketing, Branding, & PR
  • MAKIN’ BACON: SaaS, Freemium, Subscription, & More
  • DESIGN THAT CONVERTS: UI & UX for the SMB/Enterprise
  • CUSTOMER ATTRACTION: Acquisition in Fragmented Markets
  • BABY GOT BACKEND: New Tools for HR, Finance, Operations, + more
  • SOFTWARE HEARTTHROB: Building Raving Fans in Non-Consumer Markets
  • SCALING WITHOUT FAILING: Solutions for Customer Service

and more.

You can register for Unsexy.co right here.

And this huge startup conference is specifically for startups everywhere else!


What SEO And The Matrix Have In Common

Sarah Ware, Markerly, 500 Startups, Guest Post

When writing for blogs and websites, you may feel like you are entering a world with a different set of rules – especially as you try to understand how to write for SEO.

Do you remember the movie The Matrix? In it, the main character Neo discovers that the world he has been living in is actually an elaborate computer program. When he is rescued and taken to the real world, Neo learns techniques that will give him an advantage whenever he re-enters the matrix.

The following will help you learn some of the rules of SEO and hopefully give you an advantage in your daily online writing. SEO is important, but it can harm you if not done correctly. Relevance is everything, and SEO is a game you need to win at.
What is SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a means of boosting your website or blog’s ranking in web searches. The higher you rank, the more likely it is that the person doing the search will actually click on your link.
Identifying your Keywords and Phrases

Perhaps the most important tools that SEO writers have are keywords and phrases. These are words or phrases that a potential searcher might key into a search engine in order to find specific information. For example, if someone was looking for information on vegetable gardening they might search: gardening, vegetable gardening or planting seeds.

You might start by writing a list of all the keywords and phrases you think would be used by the searcher and then work them into your content.
Keyword Density

Don’t let keyword density harm you! Keyword density – how often you use a keyword – will also play a huge factor in your search ranking. But be careful not to overdo this as sites with very high density are likely to be labelled as spam by search engines. Sites that use too many keywords also result in very high bounce rates. These sites are overly optimized and provide low value for the reader. Identify your goals, and if the goal is to keep readers engaged, make sure you are not optimizing purely for SEO, resulting in a quick page view and a bounce.

Content has to be interesting, engaging and relevant. That’s why Markerly weighs page views and engagement rates differently. Some pages with very high levels of page views have extremely low engagement rates – meaning that the real estate is essentially worthless. Other pages with very thoughtful, well-written content have very high levels of engagement and a lower number of page views, but for anyone looking for real impressions, this is the metric to measure.

Have you noticed that more and more websites and blogs are incorporating links to other sites/pages in the body of their content? Using this technique not only makes your site more SEO friendly but if the searcher discovers that a particular blog or site isn’t exactly what he was looking for, it gives you first dibs on directing him to another of your pages (or at least a page that you endorse) rather than allowing him to search again and possibly end up on a competitor’s site.
SEO Plugins

Even the best writers can benefit from a little computer analysis. SEO Plugins are programs that analyze your writing and “do the math” to help determine how SEO friendly your particular content is. They will show you what areas are good and what you could do to beef up your SEO. There are many of these programs and several can be downloaded for free online for bloggers. Markerly optimizes SEO for bloggers with free micro-content a sharing tool that emails bloggers once a week with the most popular words and quotes that readers are copying and sharing. This helps bloggers better understand their audience to write more content that resonates with their reader’s interest levels.

Markerly also optimizes SEO for brands that use Markerly to advertise through content campaigns. Markerly monitors search queries, traffic referrals, most engaged with quotes, specific content shared to social media, copy and paste and keywords and phrases within different demographics and amplifies the reach for brands.
Stay Human

Finally, remember that after SEO has done its job, your reader will be human, meaning, they will either move on to more interesting content or stay engaged. If the writing is boring or difficult to understand your reader will move on. On the other hand, create engaging and useful content and you will keep them coming back for more.

That’s why Markerly ranks engagement over page views when monitoring content campaigns. Markerly tracks when readers are selecting text, hovering over specific content, copying content, right clicking and pinning photos, selecting text, scrolling down the page, sharing to social media, discussing on social media, clicking on links, and more. Markerly knows when content is engaging, when page views are being faked by bots, when content is overly SEO optimized (high drop off rates) and when a writer has successfully done their job.
Before you head back into the Matrix, remember one thing to win at the game: SEO is important, but more importantly, relevance is everything.


Markerly makes publishing tools that we’ve proudly been using since their alpha stage over a year ago. Right click on anything on Nibletz and watch Markerly go to work. For more info visit markerly.com


Now check out the Top 5 Reasons Startup Founders Blow Through Money!


Follow Friday: 50 500Startups Mentors To Follow

500Startups, Mentors, Twitter, Follow Friday, startup500 Startups is one of the  most diverse and influential startup accelerators in the world. Although they are based in Mountain View (Silicon Valley) the 500 Startups team, including founder, Dave McClure, go out of their way to curate and vet startups from across the country and around the world to their cohort-based accelerator.

For this Follow Friday, here is a list of 50 500Startups mentors to follow on Twitter:


Deepak Gupta

Olga Khroustaleva

Sahil Jain 

Diane Loviglio

Ilya Lichenstein

Marvin Liao

Victor Belfor

Karl Dotter

Andy Johns

Bryan Sivak

Justin Smith

Patrick Vlaskovits

Shiva Rajaraman

Elliot Loh

Michal Kopec

Roger Dickey

Gagan Biyani

Aaron Lee

Ethan R Anderson

Marcus Ogawa

Prema Gupta

Missy Krasner

Sara Mauskopf

Oren Jacob

Sami Inkinen

Hong Quan

Joe Hyrkin

Benjamin Joffe

Dave Baggeroer 

Peter Rosberg 

Luke Shepard

Brian Witlin

Arjun Sethi

Paul Ford

Roy Rodenstein 

Paul Hsu

Maneesh Arora

James Hollow

Wendy White

Matt C Monahan

Roberto Lino

Anu Nigam

James Levine

Leonard Speiser

Blake Commagere

Jeffrey Kalmikoff

Rob Garcia

Victoria Ransom

Mike Greenfield

Eric Ries

Also make sure you’re following Dave McClure

Now follow these 100 Techstars mentors.





Andreessen Horowitz & More Back DC 500 Startups Company Spinnakr

Spinnakr, DC Startup, 500 Startups, Andreessen Horowitz, Startup Funding

We’ve been in DC meeting startups from 1776 DC, hearing Mayor Vince Gray speak, attending a party for Speek, and also attending AngelHack. And, there’s other big news.

This morning Spinnakr announced a substantial seed round led by iconic Silicon Valley venture firm Andreesen Horowitzh. Co-founder Michael Maynerick wouldn’t comment on the exact amount, but he told Nibletz that the round was “substantial.” It also included 500 Startups, Point Nine Capital, Sand Hill Angels, and others.

Last year the Washington, DC company was chosen for the 500 Startups accelerator program in Silicon Valley. While the team moved across the country (and is still out there), Mayernick is still firmly planted in the DC Tech scene. He’s one of the organizers for the DC Tech Meetup, the curator for Startup Digest DC, and was named a Tech Titan by Washingtonian Magazine in 2011.

Back in March when we visited 500 Startups, we spoke to Mayernick, who talked about how important it was to lay foundational roots in Washington DC before trekking out to 500 Startups. Dave McClure, the founder and Managing Partner at 500 startups, grew up and went to college not too far from Washington, DC. Paul Singh, a 500 startups partner who has now ventured out on his own, is also from the DC area.  Markerly, founded by Sarah Ware and Justin Kline, is also a DC startup that went out to 500 Startups for the 2013 winter session.

For the past year, the company has quietly been working on a novel approach to web optimization. “We found it intolerable that users should have to do all this work to extract any value from their analytics,” noted Spinnakr co-founder Adam Bonnifield in a statement. “We saw a future of analytics where insights are simply delivered to you, alongside actionable recommendations that you can deploy instantly.”

Here’s how it works: Spinnakr’s novel real-time insight engines analyze the endless stream of visitor data the instant a visitor arrives to a site. These insight engines can detect changes and trends on the fly, such as the arrival of a certain type of visitor, a spike in a set of search terms, or a surge of traffic from an article. Site owners are notified immediately of the event and are empowered to “respond” to these events by changing their site or adding custom messaging targeted to that visitor segment. These changes can be made directly in the Spinnakr application, sent from an email, or crafted using Spinnakr’s on-site editor. Once the changes are made, this custom messaging is shown to arriving the visitor segment. Over time, this leads to a powerful and complete personalization of a site owner’s content.

Spinnakr’s real leg up on the competition: traditional analytics products require you to analyze meaning by working through charts and graphs, a process that takes time and expertise. “Spinnakr automatically discovers these insights in real-time, and tells you exactly what you need to do to benefit from that intelligence, closing the loop as quickly as the data comes in,” Maynerick said.

Bonnifield adds, “All of our evented insights contain actionable recommendations to boost signups and sales for our users. They can choose to accept the recommendation, and if they like, deploy custom, targeted messaging to their site to respond to the traffic event directly from the app.”

Notably, Spinnakr has found so far that this approach to website optimization produces strong and immediate improvements in conversions that significantly outperform existing approaches. Spinnakr users frequently see over 100% conversion lift on messaging compared to the 10 – 30% typical of traditional web optimization methods like A/B testing.

Spinnakr’s founders believe this represents a new web analytics paradigm for the big data era. “When people think about website optimization they think of a slow-moving, marginal process,” said Mayernick. “But the world is filling up with data, creating an endless stream of opportunities. The real winner is the person who can discover them instantly and react in moments. We see a future where analytics will work this way, and we believe we’re building the product that will help define it.”

Spinnakr currently serves SMB, ecommerce, and emerging enterprise customers, while currently optimizing 10 million page views per month.

Spinnakr founders Mayernick and Bonnifield had previously built some of the first online targeting systems used in politics, working with Congressional, Senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns while setting fundraising records in 2006 and 2008. Spinnakr was previously awarded the top startup at both the Data 2.0 Summit and the Founders Showcase.

Check out Spinnakr here.


See what DC Mayor Vince Gray had to say about DC Tech this week!

Check out this must attend conference early bird deals are almost up!


Top 5 Reasons Startup Founders Blow Through Money

Markerly, Sarah Ware, Startup Tips, Guest Post, DC Startup, 500 StartupsThere’s a lot of reasons why companies don’t make it, and sometimes it’s not that the idea or product isn’t good — it’s just that you run out of money. Even though we know that blowing through money is a “bad” thing, I’ve been talking a lot with founders and investors about what “bad” means. What have they noticed as common themes when they sit down with founders that exhausted their money too quickly at the seed stage?  So here are the top 5 reasons startup founders blow through money.

Let me know your thoughts and if this aligns with what you’ve personally seen. What have you regretted spending money on, or what do you roll your eyes at as an investor?

1. “I have a business meeting in Thailand!”

We all know these founders. They travel somewhere new every week. Their meetings take them around the world–frequently. They are always tired and busy from travelling, and they make sure to check-in at every luxurious hotel they stay at.

Why this fails: The desire to pre-maturely live a life of luxury through funding raised for business development extends to other poor choices. It goes — fast.

Understanding this entrepreneur: Typically extroverted and commands control of the room. Works efficiently on little sleep and cares a lot about appearances.

Can benefit by: Making sure that meetings are efficiently scheduled. One entrepreneur told me they combat this by making a “day trip” rule. If the meeting is important enough to fly for the day and return, it’s a go. It helped this entrepreneur cut down on meetings that could be conducted via phone without sacrificing quality.

2. “That’s way too expensive!”

This is another extreme–founders that don’t want to spend anything and opt for cheap solutions…cheap everything. This sends bad signals to clients and investors and often costs the entrepreneur more in the form of lost opportunities.

Why this fails: Some founders are very conservative. They need money in the bank–a cushion. They are risk takers with anxiety and they want to ensure that they get the results that they need for the next raise.

Understanding this entrepreneur: Typically introverted and mathematical. Usually overly conservative in their predictions.

Can benefit by: Giving up some control and working with investors and advisors to create healthy budgets.

3. “It’s a marketing spend!”

We all enjoy celebrating successes of startups for special launches or funding announcements. Sometimes startups plan evenings with open bars and chalk it up to a good use of marketing dollars. Chances are this isn’t the best use. Same can be said for overly-spending on trade shows, fancy promotional videos, or sponsoring an event before the time is right.

Why this fails: Marketing is extremely important, but many startups will exhaust their “marketing spend” without focusing on basic things first — like establishing a healthy blog presence, or discovering ways to become “experts” in a topic by speaking at conferences. If you’re spending money on marketing and you don’t have a blog, you’re doing it backwards.

Understanding this entrepreneur: Typically extroverted and creative and full of ideas. Too focused on big picture instead of steps to get there.

Can benefit by: Forcing themselves to write plans about their spends. Marketing is about ROI, so if you are planning on spending money you need to know what a worthwhile conversion will be for you. Are you looking for customers, users, app downloads? What result will make you happy?

4. “We’re going to hire salespeople!”

A great mentor told me that you only need one salesperson. She didn’t mean literally one – but she meant that you, as a founder, need to be able to sell your product yourself before trying to hire others to sell it for with/for you. Managing a sales team without getting your hands dirty in the sales process only makes you disconnected from your product, and will frustrate future early sales employees.

Why this fails: As a founder you are the product, don’t expect to hire and watch the numbers soar. Your product won’t sell itself unless you sell it first. It doesn’t matter how many sales people you hire if you don’t have the sales process down in the first place.

Understanding this entrepreneur: Typically they don’t have a background in sales and think that hiring sales employees will magically make numbers appear on a sales board. Typically technical, sometimes egotistical.

Can benefit by: Selling the product. That’s all there is here. If the founder is technical and won’t be doing sales, someone on the founding team must be a hustler. Founders are either selling or building. Choose one and do it well.

5. “I’ll never work for anyone, ever!”

This entrepreneur is right out of college. They don’t want to get a job, or can’t last at a job for more than a few months. They have great ideas and plans and want to change the world, but need some reality first. These founders just spend money in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons, which could be anything from 1-4 mentioned above. Great mentors seem to make or break these types of entrepreneurs.

Why this fails: If you haven’t had a job before you may lack judgement of certain realities and what it really requires to start a business.

Understanding this entrepreneur: Typically driven, these founders need to get broken in a bit before reaching the point of being able to successfully manage others.

Can benefit by: Getting a job and showing that you can work well with others and under the management of others. The goal is to show that you are able to learn and adapt.

Sarah Ware is the co-founder and CEO of Markerly, next generation publisher tools. Markerly is a recent graduate of 500 Startups. Nibletz has used Markerly’s publisher tools since their launch last year. Right click on anything on the site and see the magic happen.

Last year Sarah appeared on Bad Ass Female Founders From Everywhere Else and the “I Survived An Accelerator Panel” hosted by GAN’s Pat Riley,at everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference! Find out more about the next everywhereelse.co here.


Paul Singh Turning Backburner Project Into Bloomberg/Motley Fool Of The Private Markets

Paul Singh,Dashboard.io,500 startups,dc startup,startupPaul Singh, the Washington DC based entrepreneur, who became a household name in many startup circles while he was a partner at 500 startups, has began sharing much more about his startup Dashboard.io.  We had started hearing rumors that Singh was stepping down at 500 startups during SXSW and it was confirmed in March.

Singh returned to his DC roots to continue growing dashboard.io a project he says he started on the back burner. Dashboard.io quickly grew into a huge tool that 500 startups founders and other accelerator startups could use to reach investors, share information and talk with each other.

We recently took a trip to Silicon Valley and had the chance to talk with several 500 startups founders who found the dashboard extremely useful.

Singh explains on the dashboard.io blog how the idea came about:

It began with the innocuous “initial commit” and a pitch of “Let me peek at your traffic data. I promise to keep it private, and I’ll anonymously show you how you stand up to everyone else on the platform.”

Once he started the initial project and it made it’s way on to Hacker News over 300 startups started flooding the system and adding their data. Soon after that Singh “turned off the spigot” and went back to focusing on 500 Startups.  500 was still young at the time and they resorted to using Google Groups to communicate with founders and mentors.

“The turning point came when a well known founder and mentor had enough and, frustrated and angry, handed in their resignation. They couldn’t see through the clutter to mentor our community, and just like that, one of our best was gone. That same night I revived Dashboard.io with a renewed mission — to build a better platform for the 500 family.” Singh writes.

As 500 startups grew, so did the internal dashboard system.  The dashboard system has allowed 500 Startups founders, and 400 accelerator companies to communicate internally with VC’s, Angels and Mentors. Sarah Ware, CEO and Founder at 500 Startups alum Markerly, told us “The dashboard system gives us access to people that may not necessarily correspond with us outside of the system.” Being a 500 Startups company certainly gives a startup credibility but Ware added “potential investors and mentors get back to us quicker when the message comes through the system.”

Fast forward to today and Singh seems motivated by the ability to really help young companies grow through the use of dashboard.io. The tool, coupled with AngelList provides an unparalleled resource for startups. The best part is it’s free.

Singh recently explained in a Facebook post how dashboard.io will make money.

“we give the software away completely free — and in a Yammer-like way.  We use the aggregate anonymous data to create content and sell portions of it. Think of us as the Bloomberg / Motley Fool of the private markets. We give away a ton of content (soon) via our blog and then monetize on the extremes”

One of Singh’s biggest priorities is confidentiality and privacy making two big promises to the Dashboard community.

  1. I will keep your information safe. I will never sell or share your data with anyone, including your investors.
  2. I will use that data anonymously to benefit our entire industry and move it forward.

Check out Dashboard.io here.

More stories on the ninjas and pirates of 500 Startups here.


OFFICIAL: Paul Singh Unveils Dashboard.io Steps Down From 500 Startups

Paul Singh,Dashboard.io,startup,startup newsA few weeks ago during SXSW we had heard some rumblings that DC area native Paul Singh was tapping his network back east and preparing to launch a startup of his own, sort of.

This announcement from TechCocktail says it’s official. Armed with a $250,000 investment from DC based NextGenAngels, Singh is embarking on a mission to take a system he developed that has been used internally at 500 Startups and bring it out to the world.

While we were in Silicon Valley last week we stopped by for a three hour tour and a cool session with 500 Startups Fire Chief George Kellerman. Kellerman reiterated the positive things that many of the 500 Startups founders we’ve talked to have said about their internal dashboard system, which is the Dashboard.io product Singh is now working on full time.

The dashboard system has allowed 500 Startups founders, and 400 accelerator companies to communicate internally with VC’s, Angels and Mentors. Sarah Ware, CEO and Founder at 500 Startups alum Markerly, told us “The dashboard system gives us access to people that may not necessarily correspond with us outside of the system.” Being a 500 Startups company certainly gives a startup credibility but Ware added “potential investors and mentors get back to us quicker when the message comes through the system.”

“This thing is so deceivingly simple, but it’s amazing that no VCs have really innovated in this space,” Singh said to TechCocktail.

New startups sign up for the system using Angel List. Dashboard.io gives them access to their investor’s networks where they can start having discussions, send private messages and make comments. If a startup shares their analytics, the system gives investors access to comparative data on how the startup stacks up against other startups and their competition.

As of this writing there have been 18,509 interactions, 2,224 mentor sessions across 1,044 funded startups.

For more info check out dashboard.io

500 Startups Founder Dave McLure says Buying a house is far more risky than investing in startups.


Dave McClure: Buying A House Is Far More Risky Than Investing In Startups

Dave McClure,500 startups,investing,startup news, TWiSTStartup people love to hear about Dave McClure the founder of 500 Startups and early stage investor. Most clamor at the opportunity to get just a glimpse of facetime with him and everyone hopes that their startup makes it into the 500 program so they can learn from one of the masters.

A lot of people love to hear him speak because his speeches and appearances are always riddled with curse words, GASP, but really he’s just using language that allows him to communicate as fast as his brain is moving.

In talking with a mutual friend who grew up with Dave McClure, the friend said “Dave is like a whirlwind, like the tasmanian devil. I used to worry that his brain would explode”.

So needless to say people listen because McClure is always making great points. One of those points was in his appearance last month on This Week In Startups (TWiST).

While everyone is waiting for the SEC to stop twiddling their thumbs on crowdfunding, McClure was talking about what a pain in the ass it is for someone to invest in startups and get “accreditation”.

It’s much easier to buy a house than it is to invest in a startup, but as McClure pointed out in the interview with Jason Calicanis, buying a house is a far more risky endeavor.

There’s a certain amount of money that anyone should be able to fucking burn or blow on startups. We encourage a ridiculous amount of money to go into the residential real estate market which has burned people fucking terribly in the last five years. Ridiculous numbers of people in this country are upside down on their mortgages and bankrupt because legitimate, regulatory-approved agents have shoved real estate fucking mortgages down their throats. We have subsidized this with our tax dollars, we are the people.

Like you fucking blame the investment bankers? Fuck You.

It’s you voting for your representatives who are in the pockets of Sallie Mae Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, whatever who are shoving shit down the pipe. Like Moody’s and all these other people who have crap verification. . .

If you want to protect the small investor, don’t let them buy a house in this country, because that is the most dangerous thing you can do with your money. Period.

Investing in startups which might fail? You only lose $1. You invest in a house, you put 5% down or sometimes 0% down and you can lever up a ridiculous amount of money. You can lose 20 times your investment and people do it every day and they think it’s a good idea. McClure said on the show.

When you trace back the super genius that is Dave McClure, Sith Lord of 500 Startups you’ll come to find that he isn’t some Zillionaire throwing money at startups for fun. He’s done well for himself but he’s still raising money as fast as he’s investing it. Sure, like everyone else he wants to make money but he’s looking more at making an impact on the world through the technology companies he and his partners touch.

Many people don’t realize that even if they saved up say $50,000 over the course of two years to do some small angel investments, if they’re only making $150,000 they can’t technically be an accredited investor. Of course they could put a down payment on a house, or two.

See the TWisT here.

Source: Ian Kennedy’s Everwas

We’ve got more from 500 Startups here.

500 Startups Company Waygo Talks To Nibletz [video][500 startups]

Waygo, 500 startups,Rhode Island startup,startup,startups,everywhere elseEarlier this morning we brought you the interview with Spinnakr founder Michael Michael Mayernick who talked with us about laying their foundation in Washington DC which helped them prepare for and then graduate from 500 Startups in Silicon Valley.

Ryan Rogowski, the cofounder of translation startup WayGo, also talked with us about their experience in Rhode Island before being chosen for 500 Startups.

In the video below Rogowski talks to us about  the much lower cost of overhead in Rhode Island, and how it allowed them to speed up their development process. Waygo was able to catch the eye of 500 Startups founder Dave McClure, who is a very frequent traveler, the kind that Waygo was designed for.

As for what they do?

Waygo is a mobile app that allows you to hover your smartphone camera over text or images and get a translation. For instance, if you want to order Chinese Food from a Chinese menu written in their native tongue, Waygo would allow you to scan the menu and get real time translations. The best part? Everything is done locally on the device side which makes the translations come extremely fast.

Waygo is designed with the tourist in mind. You can use Waygo to translate Chinese food menus, and signs on the road, bars and restaurants.

The idea came about over two years ago when Rogowski was living in China and realized how hard it was to translate things in real time.

Check out our video interview with:

Check out more 500 Startups coverage from nibletz!

500 Startups Alum: Spinnakr On The Importance Of Laying A Foundation At Home

Spinnakr,DC startup, 500 startups,startup,startup interviewThis week nibletz, the voice of startups everywhere else, is participating in the first annual LaunchYourCity, mission trip to Silicon Valley. The trip, sponsored by American Airlines and Uber, is a chance for startups, and ecosystem influencers from Memphis to experience the high paced startup life in the Valley.

Through Memphis native and 500 statups alum Frank Langston, and our good friend Sarah Ware at Markerly, we got to spend a good portion of the day at 500 startups.

Internally at nibletz we actually debated taking this trip up until the last minute. So while we’re the voice of startups everywhere else, there is a lot to be learned from founders out here in Silicon Valley. First things first about 90% of them aren’t actually natives, most have moved from somewhere else.

To that end, we got a chance to talk with two startups, Spinnakr and WayGo, about the role laying foundations in their hometowns played in building their startups prior to heading out west.

500 Startups has no requirement on where a startup has to reside after the completion of their 4 month program. We gathered that about half of the founders in each cohort choose to stay in Silicon Valley while the others either move back home or to cities that strategically work better for their companies.

Spinnakr is one of the startups that stayed in the valley. They actually graduated out of the 500 startups accelerator in 2012 (the 2013 class just graduated last month). Michael Mayernick, co-founder at Spinnakr, talks to us in the video below about the importance laying roots and a foundation at home played in Spinnakr’s growth and success.

Maryernick is still intune with what’s going on in Washington DC, itself a city where innovation is progressing at a very fast pace. Mayernick was named a Tech Titan by Washingtonian Magazine in 2011.  He curates the DC Startup Digetst and co-organizes the DC Tech Meetup.

Check out the video below and for more info visit: Spinnakr.com

Check out more of our 500 Startups coverage at nibletz.com 

Dave McClure Does The Harlem Shake At SXSW 2013

Dave McClure, 500 startups,SXSW,SXSWi,startupsSXSW 2013 wouldn’t be complete without a bunch of epic Harlem Shake videos, but to the startup community this is the most epic of all.  Sith Lord at 500 startups, Dave McClure led a panel discussion that in true form, began with a harlem shake.

Check out the video below.