Boston VC Files To Run For Governor

Jeff McCormick, Saturn Partners, Boston VC, Boston startups, Massachusetts Governor


Massachusetts has a new candidate for the Governor’s Mansion. The Sentinel Enterprise reported on Monday that Saturn Partners founding partner Jeffrey McCormick has filed papers to run for government as an independent candidate.

McCormick founded venture capital firm Saturn Partners in 1994 to support early stage growth companies. Their portfolio boasts 35 companies that are still active. Crunchbase reports that the firm’s latest startup investment was Oregon-based Chirpify, a company that facilitates financial transactions via Twitter. Saturn participated in Chirpify’s $6 million dollar series A raise back in July. 

McCormick’s firm has a reputation of being hands-on in a good way. According to many online sources, including some of the companies that they’ve supported, Saturn lends their expertise in developing companies in a strategic partnership tied to their investment.

As for the governor’s race, politics is no stranger to startups. Techstars co-founder Jared Polis is a congressman from Boulder who uses his background in startups and investment to help champion legislation that will spur the economy through startups and small businesses.

In fact, McCormick isn’t the only candidate with ties to venture capital. The only Republican candidate at the moment, Charlie Baker, is part of the venture capital firm General Catalyst.

On the Democratic side McCormick is facing off against Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Obama administration Medicare and Medicaid chief Donald Berwick, biotechnology executive Joseph Avellone, former state and federal homeland security advisor Juliette Kayyem and Sen. Daniel Wolf.


Mark Cuban Never Sleeps: Backs Harvard Startup HourlyNerd

HourlyNerd, Boston startup, Harvard Startup, Mark Cuban

(HourlyNerd team photo: HourlyNerd)

Just yesterday we reported on Mark Cuban’s two most recent investments. Now we have a third. Back in July we reported that Mark Cuban had backed Harvard startup Tivli, a company that brings live TV over the internet to college students. The company allows college students to view their live TV content over any connected device no matter where they are on campus.

Well Cuban is back at Harvard investing in another high growth potential startup, again in a totally different industry.

HourlyNerd, the Harvard startup, is the latest startup trying to connect MBA’s to work. The company says they have 900 MBA’s who are willing and ready to work for small businesses on an as needed basis. The service is ideal for “small businesses that want to access premier quality professionals at reasonable rates and on an ‘as needed’ basis,” HourlyNerd told the Boston Business Journal.

There are a lot of MBA graduates and MBA students that upon completion (or nearly completing their MBA) struggle trying to find the ideal long term placement for themselves. There have been a handful of startups that are trying to find ways to connect these MBA’s to work, be it extremely short term or on a project by project basis like DC based MBA Project Search which we profiled back in November.

In regards to HourlyNerd, Cuban said in a statement that the company “fills a need every entrepreneurial company faces,” and said he expects to use the service “heavily.” Cuban is investing rapidly in several startups that run across a variety of industries, often times outside of his direct scope.

Cuban led HourlyNerd’s $750,000 round with a reported investment of $450,000.  The company was founded in a Harvard University course by Rob Biederman, Peter Maglathlin, Joe Miller, and Patrick Petitti.

The Business Journal notes that Accanto Partners and Connect Ventures also participated in the round.

See how our co-founder Nick Tippmann directly  helped Atlanta startup Badgy get an investment from Mark Cuban.


Boston Startup HelmetHub Has The Helmets To Go With The Bike Share

HelmetHub, Boston startup, bike shareBike sharing is becoming the in thing when it comes to green transportation in most major cities. Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, and several West Coast cities all have significant bike share programs in place. Bike sharing allows users to “rent” a bike using an automated kiosk. In most cases you can rent the bike for the day at one location and return it at a different location, kind of like Red Box.

Bike sharing is perfect for when it’s pouring down rain in the morning but brightens up by lunch time or after work. You wouldn’t schlep your bike to work in the rain, but having a bike share kiosk near by means that you can get some exercise in the afternoon if the weather permits.

One of the hurdles that bike share programs have encountered is safety, and more specifically helmets. Whether it’s a matter of law or just people conscious about protecting their noggin, helmets are a significant barrier to people bike sharing. Sure you could go buy a helmet and carry it in a backpack, but at that point you might as well buy your own bike, get a lock, and forget the bike sharing concept all together.

Two Boston entrepreneurs, Breanna Berry and Chris Mills, are hoping to solve the helmet problem by making helmets as easy to rent as bikes.

The two have developed a kiosk called HelmetHub that allows users to swipe a credit card and rent a helmet for $2 per day to go along with the bike they just rented. To test out the service, HelmetHub is being installed in four locations alongside bike sharing kiosks. When a rider rents a bike they can pick up the helmet and be on their way. According to the Boston Herald, users rent their helmets from one side of the machine and return them to another. This keeps the used helmets separate from the sterilized helmets. Each helmet is cleaned and sterilized between uses.

“It’ll be the first real automated bike helmet vending machine in the world,” said Nicole Freedman, Boston’s so-called bike czar who heads the city’s Boston Bikes program. “What we want to do with HelmetHub is make helmets as convenient as renting the bikes.”
Berry told the Herald that she hopes that HelmetHub goes well in Boston so that they can branch out to the other cities offering bike share services.
Find out more about HelmetHub at

After Building Up The Neighborhood MassChallenge Priced Out Of Boston’s Innovation District

MassChallenge, Boston startups, Innovation District, Accelerator
Although the news may not be good for MassChallenge, the fact that they have been priced out of their own neighborhood is actually a testament to the success the accelerator/incubator program has brought to Boston. Many in Boston’s Innovation District believe without MassChallenge there would be no district.

According to, one of the country’s biggest and most successful accelerators needs to be out of their 14th floor space at One Marina Park Drive on Fan Pier by next July.

masschallengelogoMassChallenge is currently housed in prime real estate in the heart of what’s now known as the Innovation District. The area got its name from the startups and young entrepreneurs it attracted to the area, many of which were part of the MassChallenge program. Since 2010 MassChallenge has consistently helped over 100 startups a year through their program. Many of them choosing to stay in the Innovation District to grow their companies

MassChallenge has about 25,000 square feet at their current location, which they were able to stay in rent free.

“We’re basically like a marketing amenity for the building,” MassChallenge founder John Harthorne told

Since they moved in three years ago Enernoc, Goodwin Proctor, and Battery Ventures have signed leases in the same flagship building. Countless smaller startups have taken up space in the surrounding neighborhood.

Now, with all of these startups and companies moving into the area because of the groundwork that MassChallenge has laid, the owner and developer feels like he can attract a paying tenant to the same space.

While Harthorne wants to remain in the Innovation District, he’s not worrying about the accelerator having a roof over its head. They are currently in negotiations for a possible spot at Landmark Center near Fenway Park and the Bronstein Center, also in Innovation District. Both landlords see the value in having MassChallenge as a tenant, so they are also offering free rent.

“We’re kind of torn,” Harthorne says. “We love the Innovation District, but Landmark is close to the medical center, which is a thriving area of the city. Our current lease is up in July of next year, and so we do need to do something ahead of next year’s program. We’re eager to make a decision really soon,” he says.

They expect to announce their decision at the October 30th awards ceremony for this year’s class.

Find out more about MassChallenge here.



Boston’s HackFit Puts A Healthy Spin On The Startup Building Hackathon

HackFit, Boston startup, startup weekend, startup hackathon

We’ve been to several Startup Weekends, Angel Hacks, 48 Hour Launch events, and other hackathons. On the surface they attract a similar “type” of person: the guy or gal who sits around and codes around the clock eating pizza, drinking beer, and keeping their eyes open with 5 Hour Energy and RedBull. Justin Mendelson, the founder of a new hackathon in Boston called HackFit, is preparing to change that.

In addition to coding and building, HackFit attendees will also have ample time to sleep, a variety of workout classes, healthy foods, and of course sessions for coding developing and company building.

Mendelson has been an entrepreneur, product builder, mentor, and business developer throughout his career. He’s also a runner and an athlete, which is why he founded HackFit, a natural mesh of his two passions.

“I’ve participated in a lot of other startup weekends because of previous ideas that I had for fitness-related startups, and I learned that the best teammates were often the ones who were runners themselves. However, I felt like any time I attended one of those startup events, I’d aged a year when the event was over. I wanted to create an active, healthy startup event system since none currently exist,” Mendelson told

The inaugural HackFit event will be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 20-22nd.  “Like a typical startup event schedule, people will first pitch ideas that pertain to the fitness tech space,” Mendelson says, explaining the weekend schedule. “But instead of people just coming up to you after your pitch and asking to join you, we’ll have a physical exercise ice breaker that will help people meet each other. Then people will form teams and go home for the night to sleep.”

In addition to a schedule that includes ample time for fitness and team building, all of the startups created will be fitness and health related. Like most startup-building hackathons there will be a judging panel on Sunday. Participants will receive prizes from area sponsors including gym memberships.

To find out more about HackFit click here.

This startup event may not be so healthy but it’s gonna be a ton of fun and huge.


Mark Cuban, NEA And More Back Boston Startup Tivli

Mark Cuban, Tivli, Startup, Boston Startup

Mark Cuban (photo: JD Lasica flickr)

Tivli is a startup that’s bringing college students live TV over the internet. The company streams live TV, including broadcast channels, to students on their web connected devices, no matter where they are on campus.

The Boston Business Journal reports that Tivli was founded by 2009 Harvard engineering graduates Tuan Ho and Nicholas Krasney. They also beta tested the product on Harvard’s campus in 2011.  The Tivli service has since expanded to Yale, Texas A&M, The University of Washington, and Wesleyan University.

“Tivli is a fast-growing entertainment service for college campuses that streams live, time-shifted and on-demand TV content to students on their terms — when they want, where they want, and on the devices they want,” said Christopher Thorpe, the company’s CEO in a news release on their website. “Tivli also provides an innovative service to the universities with cost-effective, secure video distribution over their existing data networks.  Moreover, students tell us that Tivli makes their on-campus living experience even better.  We’re proud to have earned the support of our world-class investors and look forward to working with them as we build a great company.”

On Wednesday the company reported that they had closed a Series A round led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from Felicis Ventures, Rho Ventures, HBO, Mark Cuban’s Radical Investments, WME, and CBC New Media Group.

Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, ABC Shark Tank shark, and angel investor routinely invests in startups in a wide variety of technologies. Tivli was especially appealing to him because it’s in the video space ,which he is very familiar with. Cuban is also the founder of HDNet which is now AXS TV. He also made his first billion selling to Yahoo.

“I’m excited to be part of Tivli and think they are the future of entertainment on college campuses,”  Cuban said in a statement.“Tivli is a great complement for AXS TV and my other entertainment investments.”

You can find out more about Tivli here.


Here’s a way not to get an investment from Mark Cuban.


Boston’s Firefield Is THE Idea Accelerator

Firefield, Boston startup, startup accelerator, online startup accelerator

Accelerators are great. We cover a lot of startup accelerators from across the country and around the world here at Nibletz. Accelerators are great for companies that have a product. We’ve seen a handful of wireframes and ideas evolve out of an accelerator, but typically to get your “idea” into an accelerator, you also need a proven track record.

Startup Weekend is a great place to flush out an idea and start working on a prototype. But even with over 700 events worldwide, some people can’t get to Startup Weekend. Others want to develop their idea a little more intimately and without presenting it in front of a group of strangers. For those idea-preneurs there’s Firefield.

The team behind FireField started as a company building internal web applications. They quickly realized through this process that there were a lot of other people in the same boat that may not have the access to the same resources they had. That is, people with great ideas and nowhere to go.

Firefield pivoted to an external facing company that wanted to help people with ideas become real startups. Now, they offer an online accelerator with access to curriculum, mentors, designers, developers, and people who’ve actually been through the startup process.

The program lasts 16 weeks and has a rolling start, meaning you can sync up with the Firefield team and program when you’re ready.

Traditional accelerators ask for a huge commitment from founders. Most founders who get into an accelerator think about one thing and that is getting into the program. Once they’re accepted they worry about the little details like taking a sabbatical from their day jobs or quitting altogether. They also take a risk in relocating. Some accelerators have temporary housing worked out, but other accelerators require teams to rent a place to live. Since most rentals are annual so you’re moving to a strange city and getting into an year long lease.

Accelerators are awesome, but there are plenty of risks.

Since there’s not  as much risk with an online accelerator, Firefield asks for each startup to invest $5,000 into the program so they have some “skin in the game.” That may seem expensive, but without an accelerator like this you may end up paying tens of thousands of dollars in college courses.

The model seems to be working for Adam McGowan and his cofounders at Firefield.

Here’s a quick interview with McGowan.

What is Firefield?

Firefield offers a 16-week program that ignites ideas into early stage products. We partner with entrepreneurs, providing them with the strategy, design, and web or mobile development needed to launch. We do this for partners with funding, but we also accept equity from select entrepreneurs. By bringing a co-founder’s mentality, an ability to execute, and a proven track-record to our partners, we help build not just products, but successful businesses.

In layman’s terms, how does it work?

Entrepreneurs come to us with great ideas that they cannot build themselves for any of a number of reasons: no technical team, limited funding, lack of experience, etc. We then work with them for 16 weeks to design, develop, and deploy their web or mobile-based application. We become very involved in their business, acting like a co-founder, and providing help in every area we can. After 16 weeks, entrepreneurs exit the program with a minimum viable product they can share with users, demonstrate to potential investors, etc. Moreover, they remain part of the Firefield network that will support them through its technical, strategic, and financial connections in the startup ecosystem. Members can enter the program by purchasing our services or by applying to be accepted in exchange for equity in their business.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Adam McGowan is the CEO and founder of Firefield. He is an entrepreneur at heart, but did an 8 year stint in finance working at an investment bank followed by an upstart hedge fund — a period when he evaluated hundreds of deals, scrutinized piles of business plans, pitched investors around the world, designed and built tools he needed, and helped put billions of dollars to work. He witnessed huge successes and failures first hand. Although unconventional — as an entrepreneurial training ground — that experience was second to none, and it taught Adam what he does well and what he should leave for others.

That experience highlighted problem solving, relationship building, analytical thinking, and collaborating with others as the key strengths that Adam is really passionate about. And while he’s pretty damn good at building cash-flow models too, he’s hoping to never have to do that again.

Finding the intersection of his skills and passions led Adam to conceive and build Firefield. Since its inception, it has allowed him to present at conferences of venture capitalists and web innovators, take on founding-team roles with multiple upstart ventures, manage the agile launch of many interactive projects, collaborate with dozens of entrepreneurs at various stages, and foster a great team of thinkers and do’ers.

In short, Adam loves creating great stuff and at Firefield, that’s happened in the form of valuable products, successful businesses, and lasting relationships.

Jeremy Sewell is Firefield’s Principal Collaborator. A writer and entrepreneur, Jeremy hails from Maine and has been working in New York City for the past 11 years, where he’s taken an unconventional job path with many pivots and resets. Despite having studied creative writing and theater in college, when he arrived in New York, Jeremy took a job as a medical office assistant at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, working for a program that provided free treatment for World Trade Center responders.

Within 4 years, based on his strong writing and communication skills, marketing acumen, unique blend of creativity and organization, and ability to lead, Jeremy was named the Director of Marketing and Communications for the entire Mount Sinai Medical Center (at the age of 26), giving him the opportunity to lead a courageous team of writers and designers.

Jeremy then became obsessed with the web and user experience — moving into project and account management roles at a number of prominent New York City agencies including ID Society, Domani Studies, and True North, working with clients that included American Express, Sony, AT&T, Crown Royal, Disney, and Starwood.

Having produced hundreds of successful sites and projects, Jeremy brings a wealth of experience in online marketing, strategy, user experience design, community building, and interactive development to Firefield’s clients. His main focus is on getting things done, efficiently and intelligently. He believes in wireframes, but thinks most functional specs are a waste of time. He has found his groove with the agile approach he’s helped develop at Firefield.

Where are you based?

Adam is based in Boston and Jeremy is based in New York City. The remainder of our team works remotely across multiple continents.

How did you come up with the idea for FireField?

Firefield has evolved over time, originally starting as a venture that built its own internal web applications. Over time we realized that many other early stage companies had the same needs that we did when trying to launch products and businesses. More importantly, our skills and expertise would be really valuable to them. We tested the water and started working with one client. One turned into two, and so on. Now we’re rolling out a program to help dozens of startups.

What problem does FireField solve?

Startup teams get accepted into programs like TechStars only AFTER they build a great product. Investors get interested in new ventures only AFTER they start getting traction and usage in the market. But what about all those entrepreneurs with a great idea but no ability to build and launch it? In most cases these ventures stall, or more likely, fold. We want more of them to have an opportunity to succeed.

What’s your secret sauce?

Over the years, we’ve cultivated an agile team of designers and developers that can execute quickly, efficiently, and foresee issues and opportunities early on. We love putting this team to work on new projects. When we combined our team’s abilities with an entrepreneur’s vision and expertise we find so many things become possible.

Our secret sauce is that when these entrepreneurs finish our program, they actually have a real product to market, sell, launch, etc. Traditional accelerator programs give you some office space, access to mentors, and maybe some cash. After that, you’re on your own. Because we take a vested interest in entrepreneurs and actually build their product with them, we don’t speed up companies, we ignite them.

Why Now?

Too many great ideas are failing to get started because they lack the experience, technical expertise, funding, connections or all of the above to launch their product. It’s time more entrepreneurs start getting the opportunities they deserve.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

While he may not have been the easiest boss to work for, Steve Jobs had an incredible vision and ability to execute that inspires us. From a company point of view, we are big fans of the approach at 37 Signals, a development shop that lives and breathes the agile business and software model.

What’s next for FireField?

We are going to continue to work with entrepreneurs to launch more successful businesses. In the future, we also hope to provide a training ground for aspiring “hustlers” or “hackers” looking to launch or join an upstart venture.

Where can people find out more?

You can learn about us at our website


This huge startup conference is specifically for startups “everywhere else”



MassChallenge Startup ZoomTilt Announces New Analytics Product

Zoomtilt, MassChallenge, TechstarsAnna Callahan is a bad-ass startup chick. First she was a hackstar for Techstars Boston, but she got the startup bug herself and decided to apply to Boston’s other mega-huge startup accelerator, MassChallenge. It was there that she grew her startup ZoomTilt, which was named a finalist in last year’s MassChallenge program.

But what is ZoomTilt?

Well, think 99designs for film. Callahan loves film making; in fact it was reading a script while working as a Techstars hackstar that made her decide to take the plunge and launch her own innovative idea. The idea: link filmmakers to people who want to build a brand using short films, mini TV shows if you will.  If you’ve got a brand and want to see film and TV stars in a video featuring your product, ZoomTilt is the answer. If you want to have an engaging YouTube miniseries or Facebook page video series that highlights your brand, ZoomTilt is the answer.

Callahan tells Nibletz that they’ve got hundreds of filmmakers waiting for the chance to work on your brand’s short video project. By leveraging the talent and creativity within their network ZoomTilt is able to offer unparalleled engaging video marketing solutions without a gigantic budget.

Callahan joined forces with cofounder Chris Bolman and ditched their first name, CrewTide, which Callahan says made people think they sold nautical supplies. Then they hunkered down over the summer as one of the 125 startups in MassChallenge and emerged as a finalist.

On Wednesday Zoomtilt announced ZoomTilt Analytics. It’s the first of its kind A/B testing platform for video.“The information our analytics will provide for brands, agencies, media companies, and content creators will allow [them] to make better audience targeted content, quickly identify areas to improve upon allowing for [their] videos to be more effective, engaging and shareable,”  Bolman said in a statement.

zoomtilt1 ZoomTiltanalyticsscreen

The software allows for the online video marketing community to lessen the pressure to create a video that will “go viral” and increase their video marketing return on investment (ROI). ZoomTilt Analytics makes this possible by generating fast feedback directly from target audience members.

Callahan adds: “When using video on the web, [advertisers] must create entertainment – too much money is spent on videos that get low viewership and have no impact. Our analytics tools help you understand which of your videos really engages your target audience. With this you can make better decisions about which videos are right for you to promote.”

ZoomTilt has been helping brands obtain affordable, crowdsourced content from independent filmmakers since early 2012. Besides being a 2012 MassChallenge finalist, they were also members of the 2013 Betaspring class and participated in the 2013 SXSW Interactive Accelerator, where they were featured as a finalist in the entertainment and gaming industry.

You can check out the ZoomTilt dashboard here.


Now read what Drive Capital’s Mark Kvamme thinks about the Brandery.


Startup Founder Spotlight: Alex Schiff, FetchNotes

Alex Schiff, FetchNotes, Startup Spotlight, Founder Spotlight, Guest Post, YECAlex Schiff is the founder and chief executive officer of Fetchnotes, which makes productivity as simple as a tweet. Prior to Fetchnotes, Alex was the vice president of Benzinga and a student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Follow him @alexschiff.

Who is your hero?

Aaron Patzer is one of the entrepreneurs I look up to most.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

Optimize for speed, not cost. Your entire organization should be structured around how you can accelerate progress and learning. That $20 a month here or $50 there is NOT going to mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but if it frees up a few hours of your life, then it’s worth it.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

Not focusing on one thing. At one point, I was working on three startups, working for another, and still in school full-time. They all suffered from my lack of attention. I learned that when you’re a founder you need to be thinking not “What do I need to do today?” but “What can I be doing to advance my business forward?”

The former has a finite amount of work; the latter is limitless.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

I take care of all the little things. Respond to email, complete quick tasks, etc. I actually purposefully put off anything that will take more than 30 minutes until after lunch because then I know I have the longest period of uninterrupted activity.

What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

You can make money in weird ways. We offered to sing karaoke to any of our users who donated money.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

The best part about being an entrepreneur is that you get to choose who you work with — don’t take that for granted!

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

Honestly, I have no idea. There will always be a new mountain to climb.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Check out Alex’s guest post, Here’s A Better Way To Ask For An Email Introduction.


Startups Here’s A Better Way To Ask For An Email Introduction

Alex Schiff, Fetch Notes,Startup Tips,Guest Post,YECI ask for and receive a lot of requests for introductions. Whether it’s someone at a company looking for a partnership or job, an investor, a journalist, or someone else, it’s an integral part of pretty much any profession. At the same time, such requests often arise in the least efficient way possible for the middleman: in person, in the middle of another email exchange talking about the other party, or simply with no details at all.

Once I got involved in the startup scene with Fetchnotes, I found that the startup crowd has email introductions down to an exact science. I’m sure similar rules apply outside our bubble, but inside it there are a very specific set of expectations, and it was a bit cryptic and counterintuitive to pick up at first. But hopefully this helps you maximize the success of your introduction requests.

First of all, no matter where the request for an intro arises, always send a separate request email. That way, the receiving party can act on it directly (since most intros are over email). You’re asking someone to spend their social capital on you, so your number one goal is make it as easy as possible. Here’s how:

Hey Alex,

Hope all is well! I saw you’re connected to Mark Zuckerberg (contact) on LinkedIn. I was hoping to connect with him about a partnership (reason), the details of which are below. Do you know him well enough to make an intro (gives middle-man a way out in case they don’t know each other well)?

StartupWithFriends is an awesome new app that lets you start a company with your friends, right on Facebook (what you do). We have 150K+ active users, and on average they’re starting 1,000 companies per day (credibility + traction). We’ve been integrating with OpenGraph already (shows you’ve done work already, otherwise they often point you to their API page) but we think that we can make it a huge revenue driver for them if we get access to some of the data not available in their APIs, specifically the number of times a user looks at the profiles of their ex-girlfriends (basic benefits + needs outlined).

Let me know if you can make the connection. If not, no worries, I can reach out cold (shows them you have confidence that this is going to happen one way or another).

Networker McAwesome

When I receive an email like this, I forward it to my contact and ask, “Hey, these guys were looking to connect. Can I make an intro?” If he says yes, I make the connection. If not, I say I tried but he doesn’t want to talk. Unless you know someone really well (or know they are looking for such opportunities), you want to give them a chance to say no. Otherwise, they’ll feel obligated to take it and have bad feelings toward the person from Day 1. Not only is it just good etiquette to give them a choice, but it prevents the value of your introduction from being diluted too.

Is it contrived? Obviously. Does the other party realize its contrived? Usually. And yet I write every email intro request in this exact format because it does three really, really important things:

  • Makes it easy for the middleman to make the intro (just hit forward and type a sentence)
  • Gives the person you’re trying to get connected with a basic overview (so they feel more comfortable taking a meeting)
  • Limits the amount of aggregate back-and-forth.

That makes the intro more likely to happen, the person you’re trying to meet more likely to take the meeting, and most of all, makes the most efficient use of everyone’s time.

Happy connecting!

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Alex Schiff is the founder and chief executive officer of Fetchnotes, which makes productivity as simple as a tweet. Prior to Fetchnotes, Alex was the vice president of Benzinga and a student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Check out our interview with FetchNotes here at The Voice Of Startups Everywhere Else

MassChallenge Startup Recovers.Org To Aid In Oklahoma Tornado Relief, Boston startup,MassChallenge,startup news, Oklahoma TornadoTwo sisters, Morgan O’Neill and Caitria O’Neill took a tornado ripping through their hometown of Monson Massachusetts in June of 2011 as a signal for a call to action. The sisters began working on a startup called that makes disaster response smarter by providing easy to use software that empowers communities to prepare together, mitigate risk and locally match resources.

They aren’t the only members of the team that have come face to face with natural disasters. The startup’s CTO Alvin Liang grew up in Norman Oklahoma which is close to Moore where the tornado touched down on Monday.

The company, which can put together a site, when disaster strikes in less than two hours, went through the MassChallenge program last fall and graduated with a $50,000 “gold” win just a week before got a huge chance for real life case study in Hurricane Sandy.

Now the Boston Herald reports that Morgan O’Neill along with Liang and Chief Operating Officer Chris Kuryak are headed out to Oklahoma where they will spend several days teaching residents how to operate their relief website.

“Our mission is to facilitate local recovery,” O’Neill, told the Herald. “We can give them tools and institutional knowledge we have and they use their expertise in their own community to put themselves back together.” has already seen 1500 volunteers sign up through their Moore Oklahoma website. During the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy the startup saw 30,000 volunteers sign up using their platform.  Hurricane Sandy spawned several sites including;,, and

Everyone is accustomed to the Red Cross springing into life when disaster strikes. Typically, within hours, others try to launch informational sites, volunteer sites and fundraising campaigns. With already in place it allows people in disaster affected areas to concentrate their efforts on recovery knowing that the infrastructure is already in place through

While no one wants to find themselves the victim of a natural disaster, the fact that the team has been through disasters of their own gives them “street knowledge” or the benefit of actually going through a disaster, and experiencing not only the recovery but the emotion as well.

You can find out more at

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Paul Graham turned to Watsi, and then joined their board.




photo: Boston Business Journal


Animate Your Life With Techstars Cloud Alum Skit [video]

Skit,Skitapp,Boston Startup,Techstars Cloud,San Antonio,startup,TechCrunch DisruptBoston Startup  Skit is a mobile app that lets you take your photos, and drawings and easily turn them into an animated story. The user doesn’t need to know a thing about animation. The app itself is all gesture based and easy for anyone with a little bit of mobile experience.

Skit is a lot more than an animated gif creator you can take your photos and drawings, turn them into a story, whatever story you want. Then you can share them with the Skit community and all of your friends through your social channels. Once you’ve shared your animation, anyone can “remix” it and make it their own.

You start with a blank canvas and Skit allows you to choose from art they provide for free or you can use your own photos and drawings from your iPad’s library. You can choose weather the photo or drawing is a character or a background, and the app provides you with tons of props as well.

Robin Johnson and Max Woon the cofounders of Skit both have animation backgrounds. Johnson has experience working on the Medal of Honor franchise, among others, while at Electronic Arts. Woon tells Silicon Hills founder Laura Lorek that he also have gaming and animation in his background but became obsessed with this animation idea after watching the making of South Park. In the video interview at SiliconHills website, he talks about how the creators of Southpark would sit in a studio and do the script first and then the animators would get to work.

Both Johnson and Woon wanted something easier and quicker to animate whatever the user wanted and to tell stories.

After the user finishes creating a skit they can save it locally or share it via Facebook and Youtube.

The team behind Skit launched it to the iTunes App store back in February and were chosen for the coveted last pitch position in the recent Techstars Cloud investor day pitches.

Check out our interview with Johnson below and for more information visit

We’ve got more startup stories from TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 here.



Mark Cuban Backed Apptopia Tops $1 Million In Sales

Apptopia,Boston Startup,Mark Cuban,startup newsBoston startup Apptopia is another startup we’ve been tracking for quite some time. We first brought you the story about this company that helps app developers actually sell their apps and app businesses, back in March of 2012.

While app markets seem to be a dime a dozen these days, Apptopia is not an app market at all. Apptopia allows developers to take their developed app projects and sell them for whatever reason they want. Perhaps they just got a thrill out of creating something and they’re ready to move onto the next idea. Or maybe developers are just creating apps to sell in a marketplace like Apptopia.

The vision for Apptopia caught the eye of ABC Shark Tank shark, and investor Mark Cuban, who likes to invest in original ideas that can cause a disruption. Cuban led the startup’s $1 million dollar seed round.

Last October we reported that Apptopia had cleared $25,000 in sales. Last week the company reported that they had participated in over 275 app acquisitions which amounted to over $1 million dollars in sales.

With growth like this in an entirely new market, Apptopia was named one of the “World’s top 10 most innovative companies in mobile” by Fast Company.

Apptopia isn’t just like “ebay for apps” they have a sophisticated algorithm built into the background that is able to take an apps current downloads, ratings and other metrics and triangulate it’s current valuation, to project future earnings.

“Take the popular app Temple Run, for example. Apptopia’s unique algorithm uses public data about Temple Run (245.7 million downloads, 4.7 million ratings) to triangulate its current valuation ($41.2 million) and project future revenues ($11.2 million over the next six months). Apptopia can perform this analysis on any app, making it an extremely useful tool for developers and investors alike.” an Apptopia spokesperson told us by email.

To find out more about Apptopia or sell your own app check them out at

Here’s a way not to get an investment from Mark Cuban.

Boston Startup: CareerApp Gives Jobseekers The Building Blocks For Success

CareerApp,Boston startup,startup interviewWhile there are hundreds of startups in the jobs space, Boston startup CareerApp has a totally different approach. They aim to give job seekers the building blocks to success. Building blocks are the foundation to the app itself.

CareerApp is divided into 15 building blocks that are easy to understand, navigate and use to build a user’s CareerApp profile. The 15 blocks are:
Basic Info
Web Presence
Work Experience
Technical Skills
Personal Skills
Passions & Hobbies
Awards & Certifications
Interview Questions
Office Preferences
Skill Tests

These 15 building blocks give a round picture of the overall candidate. The blocks are also extremely thorough. This allows the user, or jobseeker, to complete a detailed profile and then through one click, send that complete picture to jobs they want to apply for.

Phoebe Farber, the founder of CareerApp told in an interview that the next piece they are working on is a tool for career fairs. By working with the producers of job/career fairs, CareerApp can allow on-site candidates to quickly apply to each job or career they are interested in, while they are at the career fair.

This is going to save both job seekers, and recruiters a ton of time. It’s also green-er.

We got a chance to interview Farber, who was named “Ms. Future Business Leader” in 2009. She says she’s still trying to live up to that name.

Check out the interview, below.

What is CareerApp?

CareerApp is the “Common App for jobs” – candidates create a single, strong job application and can apply to multiple positions with one click.

Our focus is to allow new grads to showcase their past achievements and positive traits, in and out of formal work experience, and express their potential. Employers then receive a robust application and also have the opportunity to search the candidate pool to find candidates. We don’t believe that a resume is enough and we’re addressing pain points for candidates and employers.

We’re also just starting to build a Career Fair tool that’s centered around CareerApp and helps students and employers connect before, during, and after the event. So we’re excited about all that’s ahead!

In layman’s terms, how does it work?

You can visit our site,, register, and complete our well-rounded application. We bet that it’s not like any other job application you’ve filled out! From there you can share the profile that’s generated and/or go apply for jobs at participating companies. We’re also building out a mobile app that should launch in the fall with our Career Fair product.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Phoebe Farber is the Founder & CEO. She grew up in scenic town in “upstate” New York – as true New Yorkers would call it – although the sleepy town of Carmel is about an hour north of NYC. As a child and young adult she was heavily involved in Tae Kwon Do where she earned my 3rd degree black belt and over the course of 8 years learned discipline, respect, and a passion for sales and business.

She was active in the Future Business Leaders of America all through out high school and had the honor of serving as a NY State Officer for two years. She met the most amazing people there and stay involved with the state organization to continue working with officers and helping out in any way she can. FBLA helped set the foundation of her business skills and her crowning achievement was winning Ms. Future Business Leader in 2009- an award she is still trying to live up to.

In late 2011, she got the idea that if there could be a Common App for college that there could be a parallel for entry level jobs, and she started Prospective Plus and the CareerApp. She is currently working on her venture full time as a senior at Northeastern University and will graduate in December 2013.

Jake Wood is the Co-Founder & CTO, Jake has been writing code since he was six, back in the days when Visual Basic was somewhat popular. Nowadays, most of his work has been in enterprise web development, creating solutions for the finance, insurance, and airline data industries. He is a junior at Northeastern University, and has over 2 years of technical internship experience under his belt, in addition to the first-hand experience of starting a non-profit radio station at his high school, as well as other local business endeavors. When not trying to start something crazy successful, Jake likes rock climbing, hiking, and camping in his home land of Colorado.

Where are you based?

Phoebe and Jake are students at Northeastern University, so the company is based in Boston, MA.

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

Boston has an amazing start-up culture. There are over 100 start-up’s coming out of Northeastern alone with a great venture accelerator and the #6 best Entrepreneur’s Club in the country. Boston is a hub for investors, successful start-up’s, networking and learning events, and much more. It’s definitely one of the top places in the country to be when starting a country.

How did you come up with the idea for CareerApp?

I was applying for my second co-op and just spreading my resume around. Even with what I considered a polished resume and the experience I had – I was still getting passed over for interviews for amazing positions.

I had an immensely frustrating week where I had 6 interviews in 4 days with no offers, so I started applying to jobs on career portals and searching through job boards. After a couple hours I was left with a headache and was confused about why we needed to fill out different applications for each job. This issue was solved for college applications when the Common App came about I wanted to see if the same could be done for entry level jobs.

What problem does CareerApp solve?

We are offering a gateway for new graduates and employers to meet for potential employment. Employers today are not getting enough information from a resume and have no way to access that necessary information. We make it easier for qualified candidates to offer more information about themselves and get to that initial interview.

Also, a lot of start-up’s and SMB’s are currently accepting applications via email and CareerApp allows them to organize their available jobs through our platform. Our technology can also multiple applications – like accepting applications for temp agencies and staffing firms, a portal for VC portfolio companies, and a Career Fair tool.

What’s your secret sauce, what makes you different?

We’re a very passionate, persistent, and curious team. We’re always learning, meeting new people in the industry, and looking to see how we can go to market. We’ve also had it drilled into our heads for the past several years what employers are looking for and how we can express our potential to compensate for our lack of formal work experience – so we’re interested in solving this problem.

Why now?

There is also a lot of innovation in this space as the archaric and intensely new solutions compete fiercely. Professional networking, the resumes, interviewing, and more are all growing and changing and now seems like a feasible time to change things up.

Have you faced any challenges specific to being a woman founder?

This is a tough question. Since I’m still in college, I’m not married with kids so I haven’t faced any of those work/life balance issues. I think that I’m still figuring out how to be in certain situations and how to be likable and confident while pursuing my professional goals, which I consider a female founder challenge. We’re also fundraising and I see that few investors are women and as a non-technical female founder I might face an uphill battle. Overall, I haven’t faced any true discrimination and think that my journey is like any other entrepreneurs’ – I’m working on myself as a young professional and my product and learning as I go.

What are some milestones you’ve achieved?

I was offered a scholarship to go on co-op for myself, so that gave me 2 wonderful assets- time and money. I’ve also brought on a great co-founder, so after working on this venture solo for awhile, I now have a great team.

We also launched and got our first students and companies involved in the site – so that’s been great. Seeing that people are interested in what we’re doing is very encouraging.

What’s your next milestone?

Right now we’re looking to be accepted to a summer accelerator – the mentorship, capital, and incubation would be amazing at this point. We’re also fundraising and looking to build our team and advisory board as we focus on biz dev.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

I really respect successful entrepreneurs – people who started amazing companies and either exited them, stayed on to grow them, or left to continue on as a serial entrepreneur. People such as Reid Hoffman (Co-Founder of LinkedIn), Jeff Taylor (Founder of Monster), Jeff Bussgang (Co-Founder of UPromise, General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners), Dave Balter (Founder of BzzAgent, Co-Founder of Smarterer, Co-Founder of, Seth Godin, Dharmesh Shah (Founder of Hubspot), Art Papas (Founder of Bullhorn), and more.

I also have several female business role models such as Ivanka Trump (EVP of Dev. and Acquitions at Trump Org.), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), and Barbara Corcoran (Founder of The Corcoran Group).

I’ve enjoyed reading these people’s books and blogs, article about and by them, and, in some cases, got to meet them. They’re all so creative, knowledgeable, insightful, intelligent, and innovative and I look up to them as I begin my professional life.

Where can people find out more?

Be sure to visit us at, follow us @CareerApp

Check out these great startup interviews at the voice of startups everywhere else.