DC Startup yourClass A Market Place Offering Free Live Classes

yourClass, DC startup,startup,startup interview, EdTechOnline education is broken. Or so says Jacob Ruytenbeek, CEO and co-founder of DC startup yourClass.

Online education has plenty of faults. For starters, although technology is vital to education, in most cases education is the last segment to benefit from changes in technology. Consider this: while there are a lot of startups tackling online education and online learning, most of them are doing it with video courses which are “so 2000s,” Ruytenbeek told us in an interview.

yourClass is connecting real teachers with real learners in a virtual classroom setting. This isn’t new, but what sets them apart is the fact that it’s free for the first 50 live students. The classes are given live and then archived for those that can’t participate during the live date. Students can purchase the archived classes, which is where the revenue comes into play.

The other thing that sets yourClass apart from similar startups is the social component. Student profiles highlight the students social networks where students can get to know each other and collaborate well beyond the live class.

Check out our discussion with Ruytenbeek below.


NIBV2VWhat is your startup called?


What does your company do?

We are a marketplace for live online classes.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Paul Flynn (Chief Technology Officer) brings his knowledge as an eBay engineer with experience in U/I and marketplace design.

Matt Stock (Chief Learning Officer) is a renowned photographer, educator, and TEDx Coconut Grove speaker. He’s a former University of Miami MD student who decided to follow his passion into photography and teaching rather than continuing medical school to become a doctor.

Jacob Ruytenbeek (Chief Executive Officer) is an attorney who started two previous micro-startups including PaperChace and YachtBlogs Network. He’s a 2009 graduate of the Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management.

Where are you based?

Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

The #DCTech scene is incredible and supportive. We’re surrounded by tech like the huge AOL campus which is about 10 minutes away and comScore, which is located about 2 minutes away. At the same time, we have access to the downtown DC tech scene with places like 1776, the DC Economic Partnership, and a host of other accelerators for startups. People are approachable, mellow, and looking to help each other out.

What problem do you solve?

Let’s face it: Education is broken. Institutions capture much of the value that teachers create in the classroom; the cost of education restricts access to those who need it most; present e-learning solutions are mediocre at best; and MOOC’s are just the internet’s version of overcrowded classrooms. On top of it all, the virtual classroom is stale and boring. Everyone hates them.

Why now?

Education is ripe for disruption. The problem is humongous and growing by the day. Competitors like MOOCs are not sustainable since they don’t fix many of the underlying systemic issues with online education like we do. We need to change it and we can’t wait – so the real question is why not now?

How it works (more detail)

We fix education by creating a marketplace for learning where anyone can take or teach a class on almost any topic. We do it by removing the institution and connecting the prime source of value, teachers, directly with students. Our live classes are 100% free, so that anyone, regardless of ability to pay, can learn on our yourClass. Live classes are capped at 50 people per session and are recorded. Students can purchase forever-access for a fee set by, and shared with, the teacher.

Our virtual classrooms also help form relationships between students with deep social media integration embedded right into the classroom. Learning from fellow students and developing lasting relationships with them has always been a critical element to a successful classroom and we make that possible. Seriously, the yourClass virtual classroom is as good, if not better than the traditional classroom.

Teachers earn at least a majority of the revenue from class sales and are therefore incentivized to develop high quality classes and they’re share depends on the rating of the class (teachers receive a higher percentage share of revenue for five-star rated classes than they do three-star rated classes) .


At it’s core, yourClass is a virtual classroom that offers synchronous one-to-many and many-to-many live video. It has the standard virtual whiteboard, screensharing, notes, and raise-your-hand features that you’d expect to find in a virtual classroom, but it goes further. For instance, to help students build relationships with their classmates, student profiles incorporate information from social media profiles. When you click on a student’s profile, you’ll see information about who they are and how you know them, who your shared connections are, and what your shared interests are. It’s a wonderful way to create relationships in a virtual classroom.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

1. Passed first successful internal technology test (translation: our software works)


2. Announced our upcoming beta on 7/10/2013


3. Landed our first big partner (can’t say who yet)


4. Reached our first 100 signups within 24 hours of announcing the beta.


What are your next milestones?


1. 1,000 signups before beta opens.


2. 100 live classes at launch


3. Deliver 10,000 hours of live online learning


Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

Come by yourclass.net and add your name to our beta invite list. Users can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook (links below) to get free swag like t-shirts, stickers, sneak-peeks, and early access invites.

Twitter: @yourclassedu



This Florida educational startup won 25,000 at the startup conference below.


Fortify VC’s Carla Valdes Knows What It Means to “Have It All”

Fortify.vc, investor spotlight, interviewOn the outside, it looks like Carla Valdes has a life any woman would want. Husband, kids, interesting job. She’s beautiful and pulled-together, and it definitely seems like she “has it all.”

And she’s okay with that illusion.

“I’m great with the world thinking I’m pulled together,” she laughingly told me over Skype. “But, really I’m just like any other mom trying to make it all work.”

“It all” for Valdes is a day that typically starts before dark. She’s up at 4:30 so she can head into her office with Fortify Ventures by 5:30. The commute is anywhere from 1-2  ½ hours depending on traffic, but her husband’s teaching and coaching gig keeps them in their current location, close to family. There aren’t many phone calls to make that early in the morning, so in her head, Valdes makes lists of all the things to do that day. Around 6:30 she talks to her 2 kids—ages 5 & 3–before they head off to school.

When she finally gets into the office, the day could go a thousand different ways. As a General Partner at Fortify, Valdes oversees the accelerator, The Fort. She also plans events, participates in investor relations, and works on deal sourcing. Despite meetings throughout the day, she also joins us all on the quest for inbox zero. She tries to leave the office by 3:30 so she can be home by 5-5:30.

Jonathon Perelli, Managing Director of Fortify, knows he has a stellar partner on his team. He confided over email:

Carla Valdes is the hardest working unsung hero I’ve ever had the opportunity and pleasure to work with. Her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is contagious and she has a passion for startups that is second only to her passion for her children. Carla’s impact goes well beyond the Fortify portfolio and Washington, DC region. She is a firecracker whose strong heart and sharp mind are fantastic assets and having her as a partner has been a blessing.

After a full day, Valdes does the evening dance we all know and love to hate. Dinner (healthy, if she’s lucky), baths, story, bed. She often falls asleep with or before her kids, alarm set to do it all again the next day.

Yup, it seems like she has it all. But, like any of us, Valdes can point out the things she’s missing.

When I spoke with her via Skype this week, she had the luxury of working from home and was at a local Starbucks for the afternoon. This rare break from the killer commute was only possible, though, because her kids were at the beach for the week. With the kids gone, she and a few interns were working out of her house, and she was excited to feel so productive. But…

“You always have parental guilt,” she pointed out. “The kids are at the beach, and I’m missing the fun. But if they were here, I would feel guilty they weren’t at the beach.”

Parental guilt aside, Valdes doesn’t plan to quit any time soon. Like many moms, she knows if she didn’t work, she would go crazy.

For women that feel the same way, Valdes has a few tips:

  1. At work, don’t be too nice. It took her awhile, but she finally realized that the polite behaviors—offering drinks, stepping out for a call—made her seem like a secretary. While these behaviors come natural to many women, it can make others second guess your role in the deal and not take you seriously.
  2. Let the men think you’re pulled together. Valdes thinks the whole conversation about women and work is good for women to have in small circles. It’s good to know we’re not alone in our struggles. But, as far as anyone else needs to know, this whole thing is effortless.
  3. Forget what you think a perfectly balanced life looks like. It’s like when you give a speech. You may think you bombed it because you forgot this point or didn’t put in that punch line. But the audience doesn’t know what you meant to say. Give yourself a break on those things you think you should be doing and focus on the things you have done.
  4. Get some “me” time. Valdes admitted she’s actually not the best at this herself. Still, once every month or so, she gets a pedicure all by herself—no kids allowed. “Even if the laptop’s on my lap!” she laughed.

In the middle of a national conversation about work/life balance, Carla Valdes just does it, with a lot of grace. She knows it won’t be perfect, but that’s okay.


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!


Founder Spotlight: Danny Boice Co-Founder Speek.com

Danny Boice, Speek, Guest Post, YEC, Startup InterviewDanny Boice is the CTO of Speek, a 500 Startups funded startup that lets users do conference calls with a simple link (speek.com/YourName) rather than using phone numbers and PINs. Danny contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, PandoDaily, Fast Company, and other publications. He attended Harvard undergrad and did advanced studies at MIT. Follow him @DannyBoice.

Who is your hero? 

Lemmy from Motorhead.

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

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” – Charles Bukowski

I take this quote to mean that you should find the thing that you are intensely passionate about first and foremost. Once you have found that thing then spend the rest of your life working your a*s off to be great at 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?

Only get in bed with people you really like. This applies to co-founders, partners, you name it.

When my first company was acquired I was heavily incentivized to join the management team of the company that acquired us. I really did not get along with the founders of that company and we rarely saw eye to eye. I felt marginalized and believed that my talents were under-appreciated. It was an absolutely miserable experience for me and I spent a couple years being unhappy. It’s just not worth losing years of your life.

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

I put together a to-do list for the day using todoist. Then I get myself to inbox zero.  I like starting the day with a conscious plan of what I want to get done and I don’t like checking email throughout the day because it is a barrier to getting things done.

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

Keep your nut low. This applies to personal life and business. The lower the expense structure the more freedom you have.

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

Become an expert in the Lean Startup methodology. The best management approach I have found to date is using data and science experiments to make decisions.

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

Success means having the freedom to do what I want when I want to do it. Money, time, obligations, and contracts should not be a factor. I call it “airplane money.” If you can wake up in the morning, isolate the place you really want to go today and jump in a plane and go there, then you’ve achieved success.

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.


Danny Boice spoke at this huge startup conference last year and he’s back again this year.


CoFoundersLab Goes Global!

CoFoundersLab, DC startup, founderdating

Last week, while we were in the nation’s capital celebrating Independence Day, DC’s tech superhub, 1776 announced that they were going global on a number of fronts. 1776 founders Donna Harris and Evan Burfield were ecstatic to report that they are offering virtual memberships, helping other similar centers across the globe, and holding a global contest, bringing founders from across the globe to DC for a huge tournament-style finals. They also announced some pretty big strategic partnerships.

Well it turns out that 1776 wasn’t the only DC-area startup resource to expand outside the borders of the United States. Our friend, Shahab Kaviani announced last Wednesday that CoFoundersLab was opening up its virtual doors to entrepreneurs across the globe.

Kaviani had this to say in the monthly e-newsletter:

“After more than 13,000 entrepreneurs in the United States and Canada joined CoFoundersLab in a short year-and-a-half, we’re proud to announce that membership is now open to any entrepreneur across the globe who is looking for a co-founder, mentor, or advisor.

We have already held numerous Co-Founders Wanted matchmaking events internationally including in Tel Aviv, Mexico, and Chile, and look forward to bringing our very popular Meetups to more cities across the globe throughout 2013.

Allowing international membership was one of our most frequently requested features, and we’re excited to introduce the rest of the world to our community of entrepreneurs!”

We’ve had the chance to meet a bunch of founders that have used CoFoundersLab over other more exclusive platforms, like FounderDating. Last year we got to interview Devin Partlow of Baltimore startup Kithly who found his co-founder, Stacy Weng on CoFoundersLab.

CoFoundersLab was also instrumental in linking the founders of Los Angeles based HaterApp. A startup that’s gained notoriety since launching their platform that lets people say what they hate at SXSW earlier this year.

CoFoundersLab is a valuable online networking tool but they also take it offline with events across the country. People using the platform get more into the nitty gritty and actually get a better glimpse of the people who could possibly be your next cofounder.

Check out CoFoundersLab here.



1776 Goes Global On Multiple Startup Fronts

1776, Startup News, DC Startups, Donna Harris, Evan Burfield

Donna Harris, co-founder of 1776dc chatting with an entrepreneur (photo: NMI 2013)

1776, the startup, entrepreneurial and tech campus that serves as the epicenter for Washington DC’s tech and startup community, announced new initiatives which take their programming, and core, to a global audience. Founded by two Washington DC entrepreneurs, Donna Harris and Evan Burfield, the co-working, incubator, accelerator, co-working and event space has been packed full with startup activity since they opened. One of 1776’s biggest fans is DC Mayor Vince Gray.\

“We’ve wanted to pursue global initiatives since Day 1,” says Donna Harris, cofounder of 1776. “1776 is a fantastic resource for startups in D.C. It [could also be] a fantastic resource for any startup in the world.”

1776 has announced three main global initiatives; a virtual membership program, similar to the program in DC, and Startup Federation, an initiative that will help other cities, globally, prepare their own 1776 counterparts. The final piece of the global initiatives launched this week is the “Global Challenge Cup”.

The Global Challenge cup is an NCAA final four style tournament. Startups from 16 cities (DC, New York Boston, Chicago, Austin, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berlin, Moscow, Capetown, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Beijing and Sao Paolo. Each city’s startups will compete in one of the following categories; health, education, energy and metropolitan challenges. The finalists from each city and each category will come to Washington DC next May to compete amidst a big week long festival that 1776 is hosting, according to elevationdc.com

The Global Challenge Cup is being backed by $180,000 from The Office of The Deputy Mayor For Planning and Economic Development. Burfield also reported to ElevationDC that they have more strategic partnerships to announce.

The virtual membership program will allow startups located outside Washington DC to have access to the 1776 community. In addition to serving as DC’s tech and startup hub, 1776 can help other startups get access to the Federal Government, the largest “enterprise customer” in the country.

Prior to founding 1776 Burfield was the Washington DC Regional Champion for Startup America and the founder of that region. Harris, was a director with Startup America. They see the virtual membership and federation initiatives as ways to continue sharing and collaborating with similar startup communities across the country and around the world.

You can find out more at 1776dc.com


Source: elevationDC


Startupland: The Movie, Chronicling Real Life In A Top Metropolitan (everywhere else) Accelerator

StartupLand, DC startups, Fortify.vc, The Fort, Jonathon Perrelli, startup movie

Justin Gutwein is a film maker and startup junkie who has combined his love of entrepreneurship and startups with his love of filmmaking with a little help from the most recent graduating class at Fortify.vc.

Gutwein has taken to Kickstarter to fund the post production and finishing costs of the Startupland documentary series. Startupland chronicles the lives of LegCyte, RidePost, SnobSwap, TrendPro, and TripTribe, who were all part of the spring cohort at Washington, DC’s “The Fort” accelerator, led by Jonathon Perrelli.

There have been a few spins on a “startup series.” Techstars did a series with Bloomberg that was great for entrepreneurs, but it looked more at the program and the program’s founders. Then there was that Randi Zuckerberg mess that didn’t really relate to any startup founders. What makes Startupland different, and necessary, is all the raw footage that Gutwein shot. None of it was scripted or orchestrated, aside from editing each episode for time, and to capture the story. It’s a real look at what an accelerator is like.

“JP [Jonathon Perelli] didn’t even want to be in the movie. He let me have full access to the startups and the program, but Startupland is about the startups and the stories are told by the startups themselves,” Gutwein told us in a phone interview.

Gutwein has a goal to have the post production done by the fall, just in time for–oh wait you’ll have to find out about that later this month!  To get there he’s looking to raise $75,000 on Kickstarter.  At the time this article was written, Gutwein had already had $25,000 pledged.

Startupland is going to be good for anyone involved in startups. For the beginner it will provide a good look into what it really takes to get into an accelerator program. For a startup in acceleration to seed or series A, it will show that every startup goes through similar issues. For the hardened veteran it will be both entertaining and educational.

Check out the rest of our interview with Gutwein below:

What is your startup called?


What does your company do?

Startupland is a documentary series that weaves together the stories of five early stage companies in an accelerator together with interviews and advice from seasoned, veteran entrepreneurs.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Justin Gutwein is the Producer / Director. He is the founder of ShineOn Storytelling and has produced numerous documentary projects including The Entrepreneurial Spirt and the video content for Creating Innovators.

Where are you based?


What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

It’s energized, growing and supportive…you’ll have to watch to find out the rest!

What problem are you hoping to solve by releasing Startup Land?

The vision is to inspire and educate entrepreneurs globally on the ins and outs, ups and downs, successes and failures of starting and building a company and provide an accelerator-like experience to those who may not have access to an accelerator.

Why now?

With new accelerators sprouting up all over the world, it seemed the right time to capture what happens at an experienced one to teach those that may not have access.

How much have you completed already?

Five companies have been documented going through an entire accelerator course. Hundreds of hours of footage have been shot. The storylines that will be the backbone of the series are being developed and fleshed out.

What are your next steps?

We are in the final stages of confirming some legends of tech and venture capital to be interviewed for the series. We are also working on developing graphics and animations to help breakdown some of the more complicated topics, like the ins and outs of cap tables, the many methods for leveraging stock as a currency and sourcing tech talent.

Where can people find out more?

Back StartupLand on Kickstarter here.  find out more at startupland.tv 

This is an absolute must attend startup conference for any startup everywhere else.


Steve Case Re-Affirms Faith In Startups, Raising Another $150 Million Dollar Fund


Washington, DC-based Steve Case, founder of AOL, Revolution, and the founding Chairman of Startup America, has made some bold moves over the past few years when it comes to startups. He’s also been a strong advocate for startups everywhere across the nation and on Capitol Hill.

Monday, Case put his money where his mouth is again by announcing through TechCrunch. The AOL-owned website reports that through his venture capital arm, Revolution Ventures, Case and partners are raising another $150 million dollar fund to support early stage startup ventures.

Revolution is calling the fund “Revolution Ventures II,” and like the previous fund, it will back early stage tech companies. Some of their previous portfolio companies include ZipCar, Living Social, and HomeSnap.

TechCrunch also reported that they’ve heard $125 million was already committed.

Two and a half years ago Case launched Startup America, a three-year initiative to spur startups, innovation, and job creation. Two months ago Case, along with several others,  announced that Statup America was joining forces with Startup Weekend to take the initiatives global. Now we know that Case wants to continue to do his part directly by launching more companies.

Steve Case: Passing Immigration Legislation Victory For Startups

Steve Case, Startups, ImmigrationWhile Nibletz isn’t going to pontificate on the southern border issue in the United States, the recently passed Senate Immigration Bill is solving a huge problem for startups. One that the likes of Steve Case, Scott Case, Marc Nager, Brad Feld, and others have been championing.

In the most basic of laymen’s terms, it’s somewhat easy for a foreigner to come to America, attend an accelerator, get funding for their company, and go home. It gets rocky when they want to stay and build their company in America, one of the reasons Startup America and other organizations are even around.

It’s also somewhat easy for a sharp foreigner to come and work for Google, Microsoft, or Facebook, but when they have that great idea and want to build their startup in the U.S. things get a lot more dicey.

The new immigration legislation includes “startup visas” that according to The Washington Post, will “allow entrepreneurs from around the world to start firms and create jobs.”

Earlier this year at SXSW Steve Case and Scott Case (no relation) spent a lot of time celebrating startups across the country. However at Startup America’s huge SXSW party, Steve Case took to the stage to talk about immigration and how we needed this reform in order to help spur innovation from great minds who, in most cases, have come over to the United States and seen what they can do here.

Steve Case told The Washington Post: “This important step demonstrates the capacity of our elected leaders in Washington to come together across party lines to advance what is clearly in our nation’s best interest – an immigration system that meets the needs of our 21st century economy. The Senate’s bill will attract the world’s best entrepreneurs and innovators and be a key ingredient to sustaining America’s long-term competitive edge.”

Steve Case, the founder of AOL and Revolution has done some major lobbying on Capitol Hill over the past 4 years to help spur entrepreneurship and innovation across the country. He is the founding chairman of Startup America, which recently merged resources to go global with Startup Weekend as UpGlobal.

Steve Case is also trying to save social local commerce


Meet Your Neighbors And Have A Conversation–A Neighborsation

Neighborsations, DC startup, 1776 DC, Woman owned startup, Allison Sheren

Neighborhoods are everywhere; they come in all kinds of shapes, and sizes. It could be a neighborhood in a metropolis like New York City or a neighborhood in Anytown, USA, or around the world. Chances are you live in a neighborhood and can count on one hand the close friends you have in that neighborhood.

Even in the suburbs, neighborly conversations have become rare, never mind neighborly friendships.

Well DC-based entrepreneur Allison Sheren  is hoping to spark conversations between neighbors with her startup Neighborsations.

Through their online community Sheren hopes to take online conversations off line, learn from one another, teach someone something, get to know your neighbors, and build stronger communities.

The website is divided into four categories that any neighbor can relate to; Town Hall (the bulletin board, safety updates, vendor recommendations), Neighbor Favors (need a cup of sugar or to borrow a lawn mower), Neighborhood News, and Block Party.

Currently Neighborsations is only open to neighborhoods in DC, but Sheren sees the value in Neighborsations anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Check out our video interview with Sheren below:

Now read: DC Mayor Vincent Gray celebrates Speek, DC Tech and 1776.


SocialRadar is 8 Weeks Old, Raises $12.75 Million

Social Radar, DC Startup, Funding, Startups

The 10-person team over at SocialRadar is asking, “What Series A crunch?”

Eight weeks after formally founding the Washington D.C.-based company, they are now announcing a $12.75 million round, led by New Enterprise Associates, Grotech Ventures, and SWaN & Legend Ventures. Notable angel investors such as Dave Morin, Steve Case, Kevin Colleran, Ted Leonsis, and others are also joining in.

So, what is SocialRadar? The company’s website describes it like this:

Today over 1.1 billion people have smartphone devices that can broadcast their locations. Over 2.8 billion people have social profiles online. In the future, the power of your smartphone’s location will inevitably be combined with your social network – allowing you to walk into a room and already be aware of the people around you and how you are connected to them.

SocialRadar believes they are building this technology now.

At the 2013 CTIA expo, CEO Michael Chasen explained that they first developed technology that monitored all the top social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. Then, when a SocialRadar user walks into a room, the GPS on their smartphone will locate all the people they might know and explain how they know them. No more standing around awkwardly in a bar, only to realize your best friend from college is sitting just a few seats over. When  you enter the bar, your phone will let you know who’s there.

What differentiates them from other “people finder” apps is privacy. With SocialRadar users control who–if anyone–can locate them.

The company is preparing for their beta launch, coming soon to iPhone and Android. They’re also building a version for Google Glass, which seems to be a perfect fit.

Chasen was formerly a co-founder and CEO of Blackboard, the online learning platform that sold in 2011 for $1.7 billion.

You can sign up for the public beta on SocialRadar’s website.

Distil Networks Is Following Us Around The Country Because They Block Bots

Distill Networks, Southland, DC Startup, startup pitch

We were in Washington, DC and Baltimore last week as part of the Sneaker-Strapped Startup Road Trip. That’s where we ran into Distil Networks CEO and co-founder Rami Essaid. A few days and 665 miles later, we’ve run into Essaid again, this time at Southland in Nashville, Tennessee.

Distil Networks was one of 50 regional startups chosen to exhibit at Southland’s Startup Village. They were also one of 20 startups selected to pitch onstage at the conference as well.

We first reported on Distill Networks back in August when they were going by the name Distil.it. Since then, they’ve added more features, more employees, more users and changed their name to Distil Networks.

The company offers a very useful service. Through a simple line added in a websites DNS entry, Distil is able to quickly check a website and identify and disable “bots” that can often pirate content, hype statistics, and do other aggravating things. Their technology allows content sites big and small to function faster and stop worrying about their content being auto-posted to thousands of blogs world wide.

One of their customers is the site ripoffreport.com. Ripoffreport came to Distill because they suspected that bots were stealing their articles. One quick analysis and Distil found out that they were correct, but that was just the beginning. After turning Distil’s service on they found that they were stopping 50,000 malicious bots a day that were reducing their server load by a whopping 70%. Distil increased the site’s load time by 50% and by stopping the theft of their content, for the first time in years, ripoffreport saw an increase in visitors to their site.

But malicious bots aren’t just about stealing content and hogging band width. As Essaid says in his Southland pitch below, malicious bots steal e-commerce site data, post fake posts to forums, auto-click on ads and other things that are harmful to businesses who rely on their server infrastructure.

Distil is constantly updating their base of malicious bots. When they find a new malicious bot on one of their client sites, they test all of their client sites for the same bot. They also have other safety features in place, like randomizing their code every few minutes so bad bots can’t penetrate it.

Check out Essaid’s full pitch at Southland below and for more information visit them at distil.it


Here’s more coverage from Southland 2013 at Nibletz.com The Voice Of Startups Everywhere Else.



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!


AngelHack DC Attracts Over 100 Hackers To 1776

AngelHack, DC startups, 1776, Anton Gelman, hackathon

It wasn’t a big weekend in DC Tech this past weekend. Launch and startup parties at DC’s technology hub, 1776, are regular occurrences, as are startup events, designer events, and even hackathons. With the amount of tech and startup activity in DC, they are well on their way to becoming the “Silicon Valley of the East” as DC Mayor Vince Gray said in his remarks Friday.

Hackathons are awesome and are becoming more and more common. They come in any number of sizes and formats; there are informal hackathons called at a moment’s notice, hacking for a specific project, social hacking, and building companies. Two of the biggest hackathon formats for building companies are Startup Weekend and AngelHack.

Both events are ongoing and have meetups at multiple locations throughout the world. Startup Weekend’s happen every weekend and in multiple cities per week. AngelHack happens twice yearly and multiple cities compete over one weekend. Hackers, developers, designers and coders are encouraged to come on day 1 and pitch their project idea. Hackers in the crowd will vote on the best projects and build them out over the remaining hours in the weekend (24). From there judges select one winning team that they  will send to the AngelHack “finals” in Silicon Valley with over $100,000 in cash and prizes on the line.



The Washington DC AngelHack is chaired by DC startup mega enthusiast Anton Gelman, CEO and cofounder of Cont3nt. Gelman is no stranger to hackathons and pitch contests. He won the New York Angel Hack last year.

“Over the summer, I happened to be in New York and decided to check out AngelHack New York. Crazy enough, I won! They sent us to San Francisco in the following month to compete with other winners from other countries. It was probably one of the coolest events I’ve been to, and then I thought, this was such an amazing experience in New York, why can’t we have one in D.C.? So I arranged a few meetings, made a few phone calls, and was able to convince them to host an event here in D.C” Gelman told Nibletz last year before the first AngelHack competition in DC.

This year, AngelHack DC attracted over 100 hackers to 1776 dc, the epicenter of technology startups. They pitched a wide range of ideas from big data to health tech, to social entrepreneurship, and even Kickstarter tracking. Check out some of the Saturday morning pitches in the short video below.


Mobile Polling Done Right, Check out 1776DC startup YoPine here.