4 Ways to Find the Right Pain Point for Your Startup

old man with aching head

I overheard a joke the other day. And while it was, admittedly, a little silly, it did hold a nugget of truth.

In the joke, an optimist and a pessimist are arguing over a glass of beer at a bar. “It’s half empty,” says the pessimist.

The optimist disagrees, claiming it’s half full.

The bartender, annoyed, comes over and promptly drinks the rest of the beer. “Now you’re both wrong,” he says.

The bartender is an opportunist — and a good one at that.

As an entrepreneur, you are, by nature, an opportunist. You see problems (and their solutions) where no one else does, and like the bartender, you’re inclined to capitalize on those situations and react.

You realize that a smartly timed move can create a niche for yourself and reach untapped markets with products and services your customers and competitors didn’t even know were needed.

That’s not to say you’re launching a risk-free startup. After all, there’s really no such thing.

But by pinpointing where people need a particular product or service and arming yourself with a powerful value proposition, you can carve your own place and make the market work for you. The hard part, of course, is knowing when and where your opportunity will strike.

Here are four tips to help you find your perfect opportunity and determine whether your ideas are viable:

Ask for Advice

When you come up with a stroke of genius or think you’ve found the perfect product idea, ask around. By questioning the potential market clientele, you’re gathering valuable feedback on whether your product idea is worth your while or even feasible.

While it’s easy to ask your friends and family, try to resist. Unless your buddies will actually be using the product or service you’ll be offering, don’t even bring them to mind. Head straight toward your potential client base, ask around, and take notes.

You should also seek advice from someone who has already launched a successful startup—especially if you’re new to entrepreneurship. They’ll have great insight into the unique nuances of the business world and help you avoid mistakes they’ve fallen trap to.

However, critically think through every piece of advice you receive. Just because it came from a “smart” person doesn’t mean it’s always right.

Calculate Your Costs Carefully

After you’ve gathered feedback, make sure you can afford to launch the project. No idea —even a great one — is immune to failure. Clients may like what you’re doing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pay you enough money to make a profit.

Before you set your price, make sure it’s fair to your clients, but more than that, make sure it’s fair to you. People are often inclined to set their product or service at a cheaper price, but that could set a bad precedent, and it might make your investors unhappy.

Lastly, overestimate your overhead costs. Things are always more expensive than you expect, so account for that.

Reevaluate Your Plan

When in doubt, talk to a professional investor. He spends all day looking at business plans and can help you identify the flaws in yours. After the shortcomings are addressed, you can fine-tune your plan.

On that note, don’t be afraid to redraft your business plan a few times. You’re breaking new ground, after all, and there’s very little chance you’ll get it right the first time. Fixed problems are an entrepreneur’s best friend. They represent progress, so embrace it.

Take the Risk

When Airbnb and Uber surfaced, they didn’t twiddle their thumbs and wait for managers and taxi drivers to grant them permission to run their businesses. If they did, they wouldn’t have survived.

Instead, they went ahead with their business plans. By throwing regulatory caution to the wind— which, admittedly, is a scary risk — you can find a niche market that people don’t even know they need yet.

Assess whether the risk could take down your company (i.e., whether you could survive if the worst happened), and adjust accordingly. After all, for every Uber, there have been a dozen failures — but that’s how you succeed. To help mitigate this risk, ask your lawyer to see what the best course of action would be.

Thinking back to the optimist and pessimist at the bar, it’s evident that the real victor in the situation is the opportunist. By knowing the best time to act, you can corner your market and succeed in business, and your customers will flock. All you have to do is find your niche and act.

Benjamin Geyerhahn is an experienced entrepreneur, healthcare policy expert, and member of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Health Benefit Exchange Regional Advisory Committee. He is the founder and CEO of BeneStream, which uses a combination of technology and a multilingual call center to guide employers and employees through the Medicaid enrollment process.

 

11 Marketing Tools Your Startup Needs For Launch

Startup Tips, YEC, Guest Post, Launch

Startup Tips, YEC, Guest Post, Launch

Question: What ONE must-have tool should small businesses include in their marketing campaign when launching a new product? (events, pop-up shops, swag, social media campaigns, etc.)

Mailchimp Is a Must

“For every new product launch, we collect emails via MailChimp. We use their email campaign and auto-responder functionality to draft countdown emails so that our customers receive regular updates and pre-specified intervals prior to launch. These email campaigns get customers excited about our launch and result in increased conversion.”

Landing Pages with Unbounce

“Landing pages are a must when launching a new product. They let you easily focus the potential consumers attention on the actions that you deem desirable. With new products, money is scarce, so having the highest conversion rate is of necessity. My product of choice is Unbounce — it’s dead simple to use, and they also have new and improved features for the advanced user.”

Create a Dedicated Email

“As you’re building buzz for your product, there must be a customer and sponsor support team ready to handle incoming questions. Put your email out there everywhere and encourage questions, ideas and communication. Don’t just have the email account, but be ready with resources, FAQs and engagement specialists to nurture your early adopters and raving fans and help them promote you further.”

Set Up Google Analytics Properly

“You can’t have a good marketing campaign without tracking in-depth analytics throughout the entire process. Not only is Google Analytics great because it’s free, but they continue to add more robust features for tracking every detail of each visitor on your site, which will help you understand the location, referrers/keywords, behaviors, site usage, and transactions of each of your visitors.”

Incorporate Retargeting Pixels.

“Use a service like ReTargeter or AdWords Remarketing in order to drop cookies for first-time visitors to your website, so that you have the opportunity to remarket to them later and stay top of mind. Start building your remarketing list from day one.”

Utilize Hacker News

Hacker News is a great place to launch a product. If you submit your site correctly, it could drive thousands of visits within a few hours and collect excellent feedback. Make sure to read how to use Hacker News first though!”

Ben Lang | Founder, Mapped In Israel

Put In a Squeeze Page

“If I had to recommend one tool for any product launch, it would be a “squeeze page,” also known as an opt-in page. Get an account with an email service provider (ESP), create a squeeze page, and point potential customers to it during your pre-launch. Send emails to your subscriber list building anticipation for the launch, and then offer your subscribers a limited-time offer upon the launch.”

Pete Kennedy | Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Main Street ROI

Let People Use Your Product!

“If the goal is to get people to use your product and talk about your product, then it seems logical that you should get that product into as many hands as possible. If it’s online, this means a trial. If it’s food, it means having tons of samples. If it’s jeans, give away your jeans. You can talk and hype something all you want, but the product speaks for itself. A worthwhile investment.”

Luke Burgis | Director, ActivPrayer

Bloggers Create the Buzz

“A lot of small businesses focus on long-lead, print media without realizing the power of blogs. Even relatively small blogs have the power to convert sales with links in a much more powerful way than print ever can — and even have the potential to take on their life of their own through social sharing.”

Alexis Wolfer | Founder/CEO, The Beauty Bean

Coordinate a Social Media Push

“Including fans in the conversation or decision-making process prior to launch is by far the most valuable pre-promotion you can do. We generally narrow new watch designs or colors down to three or four options before running a vote on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. It’s our “Threadless meets Kickstarter” model: whether we receive 100 votes or 1,000, we learn from our biggest advocates!”

Aaron Schwartz | Founder and CEO, Modify Watches

Collect Real Testimonials and Reviews

“No matter what else you do to market a new product, you need to have proof that it does what you say it does. Getting people outside your company to try the product and talk about it is the only initial source of that proof that you can set up before the product goes on the market. So make the effort to get testimonials and reviews from beta testers and pre-launch customers.”

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.

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Silicon Prairie Startup Flywheel Launches, Words Press Hosting Re-Designed

FlyWheel, Dusty Davidson, Silicon Prairie News, Omaha startup, startups, launchOften times when we talk about our friends at Silicon Prairie News we talk about our friend Jeff Slobotski, as the “Chief Community Builder” Slobotski is often times the face of SPN. His co-founder, equally as vested in the Silicon Prairie region, Dusty Davidson, is often times very busy building something.  Well after six months in beta his latest “something” is now launching, and it’s a relief to many designers reliant on the WordPress platform.

Davidson along with partners Rick Knudtson and Tony Noecker have launched “FlyWheel”. The team, which Davidson calls a “…dream team of founders” has launched a “premium” WordPress hosting platform built for designers. “We’re re-imagining what it means  for designers to host and launch sites on WordPress, and for them to collaborate with customers and other designers and developers. ” Davidson told us an in email.

flywheelscreenOne of the things that sets FlyWheel apart from other hosting platforms is that they strictly WordPress. “All we do is WordPress, our servers are tunes specifically for WordPress, ultrasecure and have top performance” Davidson said in a statement. That makes “light speed’ normal speed for designers that use FlyWheel for their sites.

dundee-spFlyWheel allows design firms to launch demo sites for free and then easily transfer files to a client site to “go live”, a feature which Elevate’s Jake Stutzman, finds particularly useful. FlyWheel will allow a webspace for actual collaboration rather than having to send stills back and forth through collaboration platforms like BaseCamp.

To that end, FlyWheel has made it very easy for a designer to grant access to their site without having to send usernames and passwords back and forth through email, which may open up a client to a designers entire portfolio.

FlyWheel also caters to designers by cutting out a lot of the technical jargon found with hosting companies. Even with a technical background Knudston told Silicon Prairie News  “I joke … what are acronyms like CGI? Or what version of PHP is it running? Or things like SSH access,” which is one of the reasons he came up with the idea for FlyWheel.

flywheelscreen3“The problem that we’re trying to solve is specific to web designers and agencies who manage large numbers of sites,” Davidson said. “Somebody like (Omaha design firm) Grain & Mortar will design 30 WordPress sites a year, and they need to manage those … they have to log into 30 different hosting accounts, or they have to remember passwords and user names or they have to do things that make managing that many sites and launching sites in that manner very difficult for them.”

FlyWheel also features an integrated management tool that allows design agencies to quickly get an overview of all of their WordPress projects and quickly login to a clients site, share credentials with a client or even bill a client for their FlyWheel hosting.

You can check out FlyWheel now at getflywheel.com

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Minnesota Startup Theory.io Launches NoteSuite, A Safer Syncable Notebook

NoteSuite, Minnesota Startup, Theory.io, Startup Launch, Privacy

Ever since Prism and Edward Snowden became household words, people that resort to keeping their lives managed on their mobile devices have been worried about the security of their personal, professional, and most intimate notes.  If their notes are living in the cloud, are they actually safe from prying eyes?

The other big problem with note taking apps and notebook apps today is that users are worried about being trapped in a proprietary ecosystem. What happens if the app they’re using shuts the service down, or they just don’t feel like paying anymore? Sure there are a ton of simple notebook apps that may work. There are also a ton of Microsoft Office solutions, but familiar names like Evernote mean you’re stuck in the Evernote ecosystem.

That’s why Peter Tamte, President of Theory,io is releasing NoteSuite for iPad. This new notebook app has all the syncing functionality of other cloud-based note taking apps, but the notes live device side. Also, equally as important, they can be quickly exported.

NoteSuite for iPad is also the only mobile app that allows users to take notes, manage to-dos, clip web pages, annotate almost anything, and read/search PDFs, MS Office files, and web clips together in one app. It makes it easier to stay organized while mobile. NoteSuite for Mac automatically syncs with NoteSuite for iPad and combines note-taking, to-do management, web clipping, and document organization.

Different from most note-taking apps, NoteSuite does not require a subscription. NoteSuite stores users’ data safely on their iPad or computer, employing popular cloud services for syncing and backup rather than primary storage. This ensures users’ never pay extra to access notes offline, data will not vanish if their web service gets cancelled, access to notes will not be jeopardized by security concerns or lost Internet connections, and users’ data can never get held hostage for higher fees in the future.

NoteSuite is a sequel to Theory.io’s Projectbook, which launched in August 2012 as the #1 best-selling paid iPad productivity app. NoteSuite is an original app, with more than 100 new features and changes and is available as a free upgrade for Projectbook users.

“Web services are ideal for syncing, backup, and collaboration. But, our notes hold our most important ideas and information,”  Tamte said in a statement. “Our research shows that 62% of notes app users are worried about trapping their data inside a proprietary, subscription-based system. NoteSuite lets users stay on top of everything that matters in one organized place and never lose control of their data.”

EE-FORENTREPRENEURS

Here are just some of NoteSuite for iPad’s features:

– Capture Anything: Type, make lists, take photos, record audio, and capture to-dos collectively within notes pages. The iPad version also lets users draw and handwrite directly on notes pages.

– Clip Web Pages: Save clutter-free, fully searchable articles, shopping pages, recipes, and PDFs directly from the web into the app to enjoy anytime, anywhere – even offline.

– Manage To-dos: Track due dates and start dates, set reminders, and match to-dos and projects with relevant notes and documents using comprehensive to-do management features.

– Annotate PDFs: Markup, highlight, sign, fill out forms, type, draw freehand, write, and more on iPad using the PDF capabilities.

– Annotate Anything: Convert MS Office and Apple iWork documents to PDF on iPad, draw or type directly on photos, and convert PowerPoint slides into notes pages for note taking during meetings and lectures.

– Read and Search Documents: Read and search Word docs, PowerPoint files, PDFs, notes, web clips, and to-dos.

– Find Things That Aren’t Organized: Find notes, Word docs, PDFs, and PowerPoint files even if they haven’t been tagged or filed in folders, and without having to remember keywords.

– Sync Across Devices: Tapping one button allows users to sync their data automatically via iCloud from that point forward, without creating a new account or remembering more passwords.

Normally priced at $4.99, NoteSuite for iPad is available at a special introductory price of $1.99 through July 15, 2013 and is a free upgrade for Projectbook users. NoteSuite for iPad is available on the App Store here.

Normally priced at $9.99, NoteSuite for Mac is available at a special introductory price of $4.99 through July 15, 2013. NoteSuite for Mac is available on the Mac App Store here.

 

These are the top cities for women entrepreneurs.

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Michigan’s Newest Accelerator, Coolhouse Labs, Launches Tomorrow

jordanbreighnerMichigan’s new startup accelerator is launching its first cohort tomorrow. It’s not in Detroit, Pontiac, or even Ann Arbor.  The Coolhouse Labs accelerator is based in a resort town off Lake Michigan called Harbor Springs, the hometown of 27-year-old Jordan Breighner, co-founder and Managing Director of Coolhouse Labs.

Harbor Springs is a small town with under 2000 year-round residents. It was once a popular summer destination for autoworkers, the life bread of Michigan’s economy. Like many others, Breighner sees the path to improving an economy is through entrepreneurship and startups.

Although he has no “formal” entrepreneurial experience, Breighner has a diverse background, including a stint working for the Obama administration and going to college in Utah to become a ski racer. His vision, passion, and tenacity to get things done has helped him secure the seed investments for the first five teams in this first cohort. He’s also stocked his team with a Program Director, Resident Designer, and Resident Developer.  Breighner has also been able to attract a top notch advisory board.

Now, just four months after launching the idea, the first cohort is ready to move into Coolhouse Labs. Coolhouse has attracted teams from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Taiwan.  3 out of the 5 teams have a female co-founder, 3 out of the 5 teams have an international co-founder, and the average co-founder is traveling over 2700 miles to be part of Coolhouse Labs.

Here are the five teams.

Every Last Morsel – Every Last Morsel is a community marketplace for locally grown food – like an Etsy for small farms and backyard gardeners. It provides growers with web-based record-keeping tools and easy-to-use sales outlets that allow farms to focus on doing what they love: growing good food.

Lorious – Lorious is an online marketplace for expertise, where users can buy and sell one-on-one live video chat consulting services, at any time and from any location. Lorious empowers people to gain skills, from crafting to accounting, and to take ownership of their professional identities in response to this ever-changing economy.

Novi Times – Novi is aiming to redefine mobile news discovery through search. They have developed an editor-guided algorithm that helps users discover news through topics they want to follow.

QuickFixNow – QuickFixNow delivers fast and reliable home repair, connecting consumers with contractors on-demand through a mobile and web-based platform.

TRNK New York – TRNK New York is the online shopping destination for the discerning male who seeks an inspired and character-filled home.

Find out more about Coolhouse Labs here.

 

See what accelerator Drive Capital’s Mark Kvamme said was “One of the best outside Silicon Valley”

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If You’re Serious About Email Ditch Mailbox For Boxer, Launching Today

Boxer, Taskbox, Austin startup, Mailbox app, sxsw, relaunch, startup launch

Earlier this year the startup world was abuzz about the brand new Mailbox app. You remember, the one that made you download a countdown timer, and for most, wait several days before getting your hands on the app. However, people who get high volumes of email, quickly saw that Mailbox was a hype machine. The hype got so loud they quickly got acquired by the team at DropBox.

While all that was going on, tens of thousands of people descended upon Austin, Texas, for the annual Woodstock of startups, SXSW Interactive. It was there, at the Capital Factory and then on one of the startup stages, we found Taskbox. 

boxericonsmWe got to hear about the meat and potatoes baked into Taskbox during a pitch session focused on startups that were immune to the series A crunch. All the startups in that pitch session had an investment ask at the end of their decks, but we were just longing for a really good email app designed for people that actually get email.

Taskbox proved to be that app. In fact, the Taskbox team accelerated at Capital Factory which just happens to be founded by Joshua Baer, who made most of his fortune in–you guessed it–email.

After downloading, I discovered immediately that the team behind Taskbox had loaded the app with easy to use features, an appealing UX/UI, and had actually considered people who received a lot of email.

I receive anywhere from 350-500 fresh email messages a day that can’t be marked as spam. If I factor in “spam,” we’re closer to 1000.

 

serious

So Andrew Eye tipped me off a few weeks ago. He told me that during SXSW he had met  Xoogler Jason Shellen. Shellen has a very strong background having worked with Google, AOL, and his own startup Brizzly. During their time together at SXSW, Shellen told Eye that he was working on something new called Boxer. Boxer had even simpler, easy to understand features. The Taskbox team quickly acquired Boxer and brought Shellen on as head of product.

Boxer-Like

Shellen helped the Taskbox team revamp the UI by flattening it and adding some features that I’m really excited about, like the ability to “like” an email. This feature will let the writer know “Hey, I’m not ignoring you.” Sometimes that’s all you need to say in an email: message received and understood! It’s like a 10-4 button.

Other features include:

  • Powerful swipe gestures to help triage, respond, and manage on-the-go
  • Inline profile images & helpful contact cards
  • Works with all your existing email accounts (including Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo and more)
  • Dropbox integration for adding files to email from the cloud
  • Adds elements of social tools to email to make email more fun and like-able again

While the Taskbox team had a great product to start with, in reforming and launching under the Boxer name, they’re going t take email to yet another level. They also added more heavyweights to their founding dream team. Adam Cianfichi. formerly with Accuvant and Ciphent, and Ian Ragsdale who worked with Baer on OtherInbox and also Skylist, round out the new Boxer team. Andrew is the CEO, Adam heads up Design, Ian runs Engineering, and Jason runs Product.

The app is gesture based (yes like Mailbox), but what you can do with the gestures is infinitely more powerful. You can swipe to earmark an email for a set later date, you can archive it, like it, use a quick response or add it to the “to do” list. They’ve also integrated a favorites list and the ability to call up all email exchanges between you and another person with a click of a button. It’s almost like a mobile email based CRM.

Currently, Boxer is only available for iOS. Find out more here at getboxer.com

Now read: Am I the only one on earth who thinks Mailbox Sucks?

EEBOTHDiscount

Crowdfunding For Charity Gone Wild With Chicago Startup VideoJuice


Videojuice, Chicago startup,startups,startup grind
The latest innovative startup coming out of the windy city is a video startup focused on crowdfunding for charity. The company, called VideoJuice, is helping people raise money for their favorite charities through “challenges” or “stunts”.

With videojuice, if you’ve got an idea and a cause you can make a quick “video juice” video to encourage people to donate money on behalf of your cause. If you raise the money you set out to raise, you fulfill the challenge and your charity gets the money.

For example, Startup Grind Chicago organizer Tom Denison was one of the first to upload a “video juice” for his he wants to raise $1,000 for the Susan G Komen foundation. If he raises that money, through crowdfunding on the videojuice.co website, Denison will have to color his hair pink for a month.

Their hilarious promotional video shows people running in a Leukemia benefit in skin tight orange suits.  Another one of the challenges in the video is a young man who picks up trash in a park wearing a french maid’s uniform.

Videojuice encourages users to be as creative and daring as possible. Presumably, the more interesting, or crazy, your stunt is the more likely it is to raise more money.  There’s even a videojuice posted right now where the person who created has pledged to play golf in a dress and high heels if he can raise $1000 for the Jimmy V cancer foundation.

So what’s your cause and what are you willing to do for it? Head over to videojuice.co

 VideoJuice and Startup Grind Chicago were major sponsors for our TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 Coverage.

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Chicago Startup Project Travel Launches Peerfunding For Students For Educational Travel

ProjectTravel,Chicago Startup,Startup LaunchIt seems that more and more things we did as younger students are making their way to online platforms. Memphis startup Boosterville is disrupting the school fundraiser and bringing it online and to the mobile phone.  Gradfly is helping students manage their online portfolio.  Boston startup Abroad101 is the trip advisor for students studying abroad, and that’s just a few.

Now, a Chicago startup called ProjectTravel has launched their crowdfunding platform to the public.

ProjectTravel allows students that are going on educational trips to crowdfund that trip well beyond their tiny network of local family members who have been left holding the boot.

“We help students take an active role in affording their program when financial aid and scholarships aren’t enough,” said Jennifer Thomas, Project Travel Founder & CEO. “Financial barriers should not block a motivated person from having an educational travel experience.”

Project Travel partners with academic institutions, non-profit and third-party program providers to help more students and program participants go abroad, while directly advising them on how to successfully peer-fund and offering online international education resources. The fundraising platform launched its private beta in January 2013 and has been honing the online experience for travelers in preparation for its public launch. Taking advantage of current web design trends and online crowd-funding best practices, the platform offers a user-friendly way for Project Starters to connect with potential donors and supporters.

 

Thomas has just completed an extensive beta test of the platform and sure enough there is wide interest. Now the “peer funding” site is launched and anyone who is raising money and support for educational travel experience through a school or organization can use the platform. To Project Travel, educational travel includes: studying abroad, volunteering, interning, teaching, service language, language and cultural exchanges and much more.

 

Project Travel vets all of the applicants before their projects show up on the site but they’ve left the criteria incredibly open ended so almost anyone can take advantage of it that has a legitimate educational travel mission planned.

 

You can find out more about Project Travel here. 

 

Check out this other recently launches Chicago travel startup BTSocial, the social network for business travelers.

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DC Startup Speek, The Easiest Way To Conference, Comes Out Of Beta

Speek, DC Startup,startups,We’ve been reporting on Speek, the easiest way to conference call, since we saw co-founder John Bracken pitch at TechBuzz in Washington DC last May. If Bracken’s name sounds familiar it’s because he was also a co-founder of e-vite, the easiest way to invite people to an event, which was the precursor to things like Eventbrite and Facebook events.

We quickly hopped on board the Speek train as soon as the beta was ready. In fact I was such an early user that my Speek page is http://speek.com/kyle. This URL allows anyone to conference call me anytime, on the fly and without the use of long, hard to remember toll free numbers, pin numbers and crappy elevator music.

How it works:

1. Head to speek.com
2. register your preferred username (it’s free)
3. direct people who want to conference call you to go to your speek.com page and click the button

It’s that easy. You can also use Speek as a way to give people access to you by phone without having to reveal your number. Speek’s mobile apps deliver the same easy to conference functionality in the palm of your hand.

While UberConference was the winner of the TechCrunch Disrupt battlefield last year at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, we stil found Speek to be easier to use, and much more intuitive. We got to interview the 500 startups backed, Speek team last year as well.

Now Speek is ready to come out of beta. Their official launch is coming with a new app, new ux, new design, new features, pay wall, webrtc client for VOIP and much more. They’ve seen growth double in every key metric every two months since launching in beta. Not only that but along the way Speek’s other cofounder Danny Boice, pitched their startup at SXSW this year on the Tech Cocktail stage, resulting in Bracken getting the Speek monkey tatooed on his ass.

Both Bracken and Boice are diehard startup guys. Boice even spoke at the inaugural everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference, delivering a talk he called “You Only Launch Once” (YOLO).

We’re excited to be joining Speek in two weeks at their official launch party in Washington DC. In the meantime we highly suggest that you get over to speek.com and start using the easiest way to conference.

We’ve been tracking Speek since the beginning.

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Norfolk Startup “The Pitch” Can Help You Vet Your Pitch

Thepitch,thepitch.co,Zack Miller, Startup,Startup pitchDo you have an idea for a startup? Are you not sure if it’s viable or if you should pursue it?

If you have a full weekend, one of the best places to vet a startup idea is at a Startup Weekend or 48 Hour Launch style event. However not every idea at Startup Weekend gets built. Also, with over 500 events a year there is still an off chance that you can’t get out to a startup weekend.

What if there was a place to vet your startup pitch online. Well now, thanks to Zack Miller, Norfolk startup community leader and the founder of the Hatch accelerator in Norfolk, you can do that.

Thepitch.co is a new site that for just $10 you can test the waters of your startup idea with a panel of industry experts. (*disclaimer I am a “judge” on thepitch.co). Your startup idea can be heard by people who listen to pitches for a living and have had success in the startup world and as entrepreneurs.

According to the Small Business Administration 95% of businesses fail within their first five years, primarily because business ideas have not been validated or socialized through the proper channels.  Additionally, entrepreneurs invest valuable time and resources into their business ideas despite the huge risk that is at stake.  The Pitch allows users to validate and socialize their business idea before investing time and resources.

The Pitch offers critical feedback to an entrepreneur’s business idea without the need to invest resources first.  Pitches are validated by experts and voted by peers.  Although The Pitch can’t guarantee the success of your business idea, it can help better predict the level of interest and the amount of traction behind your idea.

“The Pitch proved to be extremely valuable when it came to our Start Norfolk 3 win,” said Nate Fender, co-founder of HiQualia, an early stage startup that enables video content producers to protect their videos from unauthorized online redistribution. “I was able to receive instant feedback on our go-to-market strategy and in turn strengthen our Start Norfolk 3 presentation.”

Got an idea? Go test out at Thepitch.co

Check out this pitch video from “eatwith” at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013

Memphis Startup ScrewPulp Launches Disruptive Self Publishing Platform

ScrewPulp,Memphis startup,startup, Seed Hatchery,AcceleratorWith one week to go in the Memphis based Seed Hatchery startup accelerator program, one of their startups, ScrewPulp, has officially launched (isn’t it nice to see real products at demo days).

Long time readers of nibletz.com, The Voice Of Startups Everywhere Else, are very familiar with ScrewPulp and it’s founder, Memphian Richard Billings. Billings comes from a wide background of creativity, and media. At one point in his career, Billings was a radio disc jockey. Throughout though, he’s been a tinkerer on a very grand scale. For instance his home has a full movie theater and he’s building arcade and pinball machines in his spare time.

So what’s ScrewPulp? It’s a way for self publishers to generate traction by trading their wares for social media mentions, reviews and ratings. In it’s simplest form the model works like this:

– Author publishes their book on ScrewPulp
– The first 25 copies are given away free
– Those people are expected to engage with the material through reviews, ratings and social media mentions
– Readers can continue to get the newest books free as long as they support the model.

After the initial free period, publishers start making money on their book. Pricing is based on how well the book was received, or sales. What’s especially nice for publishers is the platform is non-exclusive and publishers get 75% of the take.

“I want to change a broken industry,” Billings said in a statement. “Screwpulp is removing the obstacles that discourage so many authors, and empowers everyone to take control of publishing’s future.”

ScrewPulp is a product of the entire LaunchMemphis ecosystem. The idea was conceived at a 48 Hour Launch event in June of 2012. From there, ScrewPulp was one of the startups selected to compete in a Global Entrepreneurship Week challenge, which included pitching the concept to Federal Court Judge John Fowlkes. At that contest, ScrewPulp won over $5,000 in cash and prizes.


ScrewPulp founder Richard Billings pitches his startup to Federal Court Judge John Fowlkes.

It was only natural for ScrewPulp to continue iterating and preparing for launch under the development and instruction of Seed Hatchery, Memphis’ cohort based technology accelerator.

“It’s been a fun uphill battle all the way, but we have our work cut out for us after investor day next week.” Billings told nibletz.com in an interview. He’s also very excited about the progress they’ve made to date. ScrewPulp soft launched last week with four books and four authors. In just one week, and with no promotion, marketing or media they now have 23 books from 23 authors, and 250 readers signed up for the platform.

To add to that momentum, ScrewPulp’s mentor, Publishing executive Joe Wikert, will be flying into Memphis to introduce the ScrewPulp team at Seed Hatchery Investor Day next week. Wikert was the Publisher and Chair of O’Reilly Media’s Tools Of Change conference. Wikert has also had executive positions with publishing giants, Wiley and Macmillan Publishing.

You obviously like to read, so go read a book at ScrewPulp.com

Here’s ScrewPulp’s first ever pitch at 48 Hour Launch

This Memphis founder also launched her startup at 48Hour Launch and is now a finalist in the Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch Contest.

Chicago Startup BTSocial Launches The Social Network For Business Travelers

BTSocial,Chicago startup,travel startupAt Chicago Techweek 2012 we met Tim Hines the founder of BT Social. BT Social is “The Business Traveler’s Social Meeting Place”.  It’s geared towards business travelers that travel a lot. Whether they travel by plane,train or automobile, as long as they stay in hotels and “travel” this is a place for them.

Think about that George Clooney Movie Up In The Air, where Clooney plays the role of a man who travels all over the country firing people. He lives a very disconnected life, he is rarely home and then meets a woman who travels just about as much as him. They spend the night they meet each other comparing loyalty cards and loyalty status for airlines and hotels.

Although it’s just a movie there are people out there in the world that travel as much as Clooney does in the movie.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could make travel buddies. You could find out if one of your travel buddies is in the hotel lounge that you’re staying at or maybe picking up a bite down the road. You could share travel itineraries with friends a lot and get alerts when you and one of your travel buddies is in the same city/state as you.

Well now you can as BTSocial has finally launched to the public.


The BTSocial team is solving the traveler’s problem of drinking alone at hotel bars or reading the same tired newspapers during airport layovers. The new app puts the power of networking in the hands of business travelers while on their trips. “Business travelers can now find current friends and colleagues and meet new ones through the app,” said Tim Hines, President. “The app is for business travelers looking to get out of their hotel rooms and create a social experience by meeting other travelers in real life,” he continued.

Built for the mobile web, the BTSocial Travel App is accessible on web-enabled phones, tablets and traditional web browsers. “We built a responsive app so that it works on any device business travelers prefer,” said Karl Jackson, CTO. “All of our features, including check-ins, function on any device. Plus users can avoid the clutter of a multitude of apps on their devices,” Karl continued.

The app’s features are what really set it apart from other travel tools. Users can check-in to any location around the world, whether it is a specific venue or an entire city. Once checked-in, users are visible to other users within the vicinity. “Checking-in is our way of raising your hand and saying ‘Hi. I’m here and I’d like to network,’” said Hines. “Check-ins are what truly drive the social experience of the app.”

btsocialscreenUsers can also use the Trips feature to plan to network during their travel downtime. Unlike other travel apps, it doesn’t ask for your itinerary, but focuses on the gaps of time during trips. When users create a trip, they can enter gaps like layovers or time between meetings to meet other travelers. The Trips feature also allows users to see other travelers that share similar gaps of time to entice meeting up.

The most unique feature of the app is Socials, where users can plan their own social events during their trips. Whether hanging out in the hotel bar or airport lounge, users can create a Meetup using the simple feature and invite other travelers. In addition, the events are visible to users that check-in in the vicinity.

In addition to the social features, users can also store their loyalty account numbers to avoid carrying those pesky cards. That’s not all, BTSocial even packed in a stats tracker so users can see how active they are on the app.

For more information on the BTSocial Travel App and to access it today, visit app.BTSocial.com.

Check out this Chicago startup that’s caught first lady Michelle Obama’s eye.

sneakers

CES 2013 Preview: zoomStand To Launch Giving Your Device More Positions Than Karma Sutra

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Laptop and Tablet stands are great. They can keep your laptop or tablet propped up for movie viewing, set at a good angle for typing, or they can sit your tablet upright for displaying. A Phoenix startup called zoomStand is about to rock the stand world that allows you to set your tablet or laptop in more positions than the Karma Sutra.

The zoomStand is extremely flexible because of its unique build and telescoping legs. It’s height adjustable guaranteeing your workspace, no matter what it is, is what you need.

“zoomStand is the first modular and portable laptop and tablet stand that doesn’t sacrifice ergonomics or comfort in the name of simplicity. zoomStand fills the need for a singular accessory that can hold any device, in nearly any position and is easily portable. Coupled with the dire need to be able to get out of a chair and still be able to comfortably use a mobile device is where zoomStand fills the void. A single zoomStand can be used as a desktop riser for a laptop, as a standalone desk or as a theatrical holder for your favorite tablet while lying in bed or on the couch while watching a movie. The possibilities are nearly endless. ” co-founde Chris Piper told launch.it

Piper and his team are set to debut the first manufactured prototypes at Eureka Park the startup zone at the 2013 International CES. They plan to finish manufacturing in time for a spring 2013 release.