Zulily Is An IPO for Everywhere Else


There’s been a flurry of activity since Twitter filed their S-1 last week. Will it be a repeat of Facebook’s IPO? Why aren’t there any women on the board? Does that matter? And, by the way, isn’t the company still losing money?

So much digital ink has been spilled over the Twitter filing, it’s hard to remember what we wrote about before it.

Thankfully, the cycle has turned, and we have something new to write about. Two days ago another startup filed to take the IPO plunge. It’s probably safe to say that Zulily is much less well-known than Twitter and hasn’t had quite the same impact worldwide as the social media company. If you aren’t a mom, you probably haven’t heard of Zulily.

The Seattle-based flash sales site is the picture of a successful company from everywhere else. In 2009, founders Darrell Cavens and Mark Vadon saw a problem: it was difficult to buy unique, inexpensive clothes for children. If they bought clothes from Target, 20 other kids had the same shirt, but if they shelled out more money, the clothes were stained or torn in a matter of hours.

The two dads figured out a fun way to solve the problem and how much users were willing to pay for it. When all the other daily deals and flash sale sites were struggling, Zulily doubled down and continued to grow.

3 years later, they’re running a company with the coveted $1 billion valuation and filing IPO paperwork.

Twitter and Zulily have completely different business models, but thanks to filing IPOs in the same week, the comparisons are inevitable. Twitter undoubtedly has more users and more impact worldwide. However, Zulily has figured out how to get cash from their customers, which means they bring in more revenue than Twitter at the moment. Money in the bank is always, always a good thing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Twitter is a bad company or a bad investment. Without a doubt, Twitter is changing the way information is spread, and there’s plenty to like about that. And with millions of users worldwide the potential (social media’s favorite word) for revenue is massive.

Zulily’s story is an inspiration to companies everywhere else. Not everyone can–or should want to–build the next paradigm-shifting social media company. Silicon Valley has proven particularly good at that, and the world is different because of it.

However in the next 20-30 years, entrepreneurs everywhere else will prove very good at building black ink companies that solve problems in other aspects of life. Education, healthcare, government, and logistics are all ripe for disruption, and who knows what industries will be invented in the coming decade. Big problems will be solved in hubs all over the world, as well as Silicon Valley.

A flash sales site may not solve a “big” problem, but Zulily’s IPO is more step in proving the power of everywhere else.


Seattle: TechCocktail Is Coming To You May 23rd

Next Wednesday as a lot of eyes are on Pier 94 in New York City for TechCrunch Disrupt NYC, the west coast attention will turn to Seattle. Seattle’s startup scene will come alive at the Pink Ultra Lounge.

TechCocktail mixers are known for their excellent networking, casual startup pitches and libations. I mean how could you have a media conglomerate known as TechCocktail without libations.

TechCocktail hasn’t posted the startups yet but we’ll be watching out for that, and you can too just visit this page at TechCocktail.

There’s about two days left in the general ticket sales for $15.00 but then they only go up $5.00. Tech Cocktail is also having an event in Washington DC the next day, so if you’re on the east coast you can head over here for more info on the DC event which will feature Startup America CEO Scott Case and startup evangelist, Georgetown Professor and author, Rohit Bhargava.

TechCocktails recent Baltimore event was a huge success they had 13 startups competing in their startup throw down.

If you’re ready to strut your stuff at TechCocktails Seattle mixer head over here and get registered. If you’re in the other Washington (DC that is) head over here.


Microryza: Crowdfunding for scientific research with only one prize: learning

Seattle, Washington: Microryza is tackling the lack of funding for scientific research using “crowdfunding.”  Thinking differently regarding what should drive the bidding and decided to not follow along the lines of Kickstarter with prizes or exclusives, instead the offer the gift of learning. In the companies FAQ they explain the decision to forgo the prizes,

Other crowdfunding websites provide tangible returns. Why doesn’t Microryza researchers provide tangible rewards?

We believe the real value is in the process, regardless of whether or not you meet your project aims. While providing donors with tangible rewards is good at getting funding, we don’t want you to be held liable if you don’t achieve your promised rewards.We understand that sometimes, your research project just doesn’t go as expected. That’s alright, because that is just the nature of research. If you knew things what to expect, then you wouldn’t be doing anything new.

Co-founder Denny Luan states,  “what matters is the process, not the results,” says Luan “You can’t really offer things like ‘I will name a newly discovered butterfly species after you’” in the hope that you can deliver that if you get funded.

I am going to borrow a paragraph from the website Insidehighered, due to both their outstanding story and the fact that they’ve followed the progress of Microryza for some time now.

There’s a strong social component to the startup that Luan is building with Microryza – it’s not just a place for funding, but a place for networking and sharing research. In fact, Luan describes Microryza as a “social learning” site, and he’s clear that while the goal is certainly to have scientific research projects funded, the emphasis isn’t just on the outcomes of that research. It’s on the process itself.

What is the cost for either donor or researcher? “We take a small transaction fee for all successfully funded projects, which is 10%. This includes the 3% processing fee we have to pay for payment processing.For details on how the payment processing fee is calculated, please view Stripe’s pricing. If your project does not meet its goal, we won’t charge to you or your donors.” Are donations tax-deductible? They will be soon! We’re currently working on channeling your donations directly to the researcher’s host institution so that you can receive a tax receipt from the Institution’s respective 501(3)c entity. Stay tuned for more info.

The overall design of the site is very attractive yet is also usable.  There are currently only 8 projects up on the site and they are cycled through in the top three slots highlighting the projects.

Each project is given space to include a brief introduction of the project, researcher, and includes a place to include any relevant publications or papers they’ve contributed on. The researcher is then asked a number of questions some of which are more generic as seen below and others are more targeted to their project:

  • So what is your project all about?
  • What inspired you to pursue this idea?
  • So this project challenges (this or that idea or problem)
  • Why does this project matter to you?
  • How do you define success?
  • What do you plan to share with your backers?
  • What’s the risk associated with a project like this?
  • If you could tell your backers any one thing, what would it be? Seriously, anything.
  • And what does this project depend on in order to be successful?
  • What are the next steps for this project?
  • What if it succeeds?


Some of the Denny Luan quotes are from this article over at insidehighered UNFORTUNATELY, I did not manage to note who the original source was for this story, I saw it in our Google+ Stream


Seattle Based Beamit Receives Funding From Schmidt And Bezos

Seattle-based Beamit, specializes in international money transfers for ordinary people. For the most part, when people wanted to send money to relatives in other countries it often meant spending time in long lines at Wal-Mart or other retail establishments, filling out long forms and waiting for Western Union or Moneygram to take in all the information and then finally the recipient would receive the funds.  This was of course, after paying outrageous fees to the service provider.

Beamit’s founder Matt Oppenheimer discovered this pain first hand while overseeing mobile and internet banking at Barclays Bank Kenya.

“Many Kenyans received money in an old and antiquated way using a cash-based system on both ends but it was an expensive and a painful customer experience,” Oppenheimer told Seattle based tech site Geekwire. “I knew that there was the opportunity to leverage digital channels, including mobile phones, to improve the lives of our customers.”

More after the break
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Seattle Based Urban Spoon Sees Big Growth In Reservations

While OpenTable is still by far the giant in the world of table reservation apps, Seattle based Urban Spoon is making great strides in a territory that once exclusively belonged to OpenTable.

UrbanSpoon has been known since it’s inception for it’s slot machine style interface for serving up great restaurant suggestions. When you open up the Urban Spoon app on your Android or iPhone you shake it and the three bars rotate like a slot machine. They eventually land on a restaurant recommendation.

UrbanSpoon reported to Geekwire that last month they sat one million people using their reservation system. That’s not a lot considering San Francisco based OpenTable claims they’ve sat over 280 million people since coming online in 1999. Opentable also claims to have 25,000 restaurants in their system.

Urban Spoon on the other hand says they have restaurants in the thousands, the San Francisco Chronicle says that Urban Spoon has 4,000 restaurants in it’s network.

More after the break
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