A shot of Whiskey, a Shot of Espresso, and $22 Million from Andreessen Horowitz


The following interview was conducted at Millennial Media’s Annual Developer Summit by Clark Buckner from TechnologyAdvice.com (they provide expert comparisons on the best crm solutions for entrepreneurs, marketing automation tools, project management platforms for small businesses, tech conferences and much more).




“Let’s wait.”

CEO and Co-founder of Skout Christian Wiklund was prepared for those answers. After all, he’d heard them before and he was pitching his social network to one of the most well-known venture capital firms in the world, Andreessen Horowitz.

Wiklund consoled himself with the fact that Skout didn’t necessarily need their investment. They’d already attained profitability, but who wouldn’t want to be invested in by that firm?

Following Wiklund’s keynote address at the Millennial Media Developer Summit in Baltimore, I spoke to him about that rapid-fire, 48-hour series of events that landed him in a pitch meeting with two of the world’s top venture capitalists.


Pitching from the Hip

Wiklund’s initial meeting with Marc Andreesson was to simply tell him about Skout’s upcoming fundraiser, an event still a few months into the future. On that particular Thursday night, Wiklund had no intentions to pitch Andreesson, but Wiklund had an 80-inch TV behind him during this meeting showing four key graphs outlining Skout’s health.

The numbers Andreesson saw in regard to revenue, daily active users, daily messages sent between users, and daily new connections caused him to call in his business partner Ben Horowitz. Andreesson then began pitching Horowitz on the site.

The next morning Wiklund received an email requesting his presence at a formal pitch meeting the following Monday.


Up on Deck

Over the weekend, Wiklund assembled a twelve-slide pitch deck to present Skout to the thirty or so venture capitalists he’d soon be seeing. His deck focused on three compelling areas:

  1. Robust Recent Activity – In the previous eighteen months, a majority of Skout’s tracked metrics had increased tenfold. With such an obvious uptick in engagement, Wiklund used these stats to convey an instant sense of credibility, growth, and possibilities.
  2. Core Identity – Investors want to know whether a company can sustain success. Consequently, it’s important for them to have an understanding of the company’s origin and history as well as the company’s value proposition for its customers (as well as its investors).
  3. Future Potential – Lastly, Wiklund focused on what the investors most what to know about: future growth. To that end, he described how Skout would continue to generate and grow their revenue, how the social media site would continue to increase their user numbers, and what the company would do to smartly increase the size of their team when necessary.

Out of the Park

For other entrepreneurs seeking venture capital, Wiklund offers a few pieces of advice: don’t give up, create a simple yet compelling pitch deck, and try as hard as you can to raise money when you don’t need the money.

18: CEO of oDesk Gary Swart Explains How To Grow Successful Companies

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Gary Swart is the CEO of oDesk, the world’s largest online workplace—which has more than 4 million freelancers, and on which more than $1 billion of work has been done. Gary is a thought leader in entrepreneurship; how best to hire and manage teams; and the future of work, including online work. He is passionate about helping small businesses thrive, fueled by his extensive experience working with startups and small businesses that use oDesk, as well as by mentoring entrepreneurs and business school students. Gary has spoken at the Inc. Leadership Conference, The Economist’s Ideas Economy panel, South by Southwest, TechCrunch 50, TiECon, GigaOM’s Net:Work Conference in 2010 and 2011, and at Harvard Business School which teaches a case study on oDesk. His commentary has appeared in a variety of publications including Forbes, TechCrunch and The Washington Post. He has also appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, including BBC, National Public Radio, and the Fox Business program “After the Bell.” Previously, he led SMB Sales for the Americas at IBM’s Rational Software Product Group, and also served as VP of Worldwide Sales at Intellibank, where he was responsible for leading the sales organization.

Episode 6: Jon Ferrara Explains How To Build Your Startup Without Marketing Capital (Part 1)

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Jon Ferrara is an American entrepreneur and the founder of Nimble LLC, his most recent venture. Ferrara is best known as the co-founder of GoldMine Software Corp, one of the early pioneers in the Sales Force Automation (SFA) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software categories for Small to Medium sized Businesses (SMBs).

Our conversation with Jon covered so much great insight into success we turned decided to create two episodes. In part one, he talks about:

  • Growing your startup without marketing capital
  • Importance of relationship building
  • Gaining income and investment capital
  • Long term sales logic
  • What is social selling

Importance of relationship building

Jon had lots of great quotes but one that epitomized importance of social selling and relationship building came from Mae West: “Out of sight is out of mind, and out of mind is out of money honey!”

Insight into the startup journey

Just like so many entrepreneurs Jon got frustrated with sales options in his early days, decided to jump ship and get started on his own with Goldmine which revolutionized the CRM concept. Built, grew, sold and is now on to doing the same with Nimble.

John and Ledge hear this story in every interview. The urge to start is so overwhelming that we just can’t help chasing down that idea and starting a company! Leave us a comment if you’ve ever felt that way and followed it. If you haven’t followed the feeling, why not?

What is social selling?

Jon explains the growth of the internet and its use in sales and business development over the past 20 years, with amazing insight into how social selling has become the new way to grow companies, build relationships and achieve success as an entrepreneur. We also discuss how social media is becoming common place and will likely begin to fade into a standard business practice from today’s “hype”.

How to get in touch

Make sure you follow Jon on Twitter and check out Nimble, a fantastic platform that enables you to manage all your social platforms in one place from a business perspective.

Episode 3: David Meerman Scott (Part 2)

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In this packed episode with David Meerman Scott we covered such a broad list of topics that we had to cut it into two episodes. Start with the first one and then jump in here.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we discuss throughout the two episodes:

  • How and why getting fired from his corporate gig was a gift
  • How going on your own is less risky than working for a single corporate entity
  • Why job #1 is creating content assets no matter where you are in your career
  • How content marketing is largely free and gives you a huge advantage
  • Who you should hire (personnel and staff) to tell your story
  • Whether experienced business people from industry are better entrepreneurs than scrappy 20-somethings
  • Why you should say “no” to the wrong investor
  • Is a self-employed consultant a “real entrepreneur?”
  • How to setup with an advisory role at another company

Pilot Jim McKelvey Continues Empowering People With An Individual Accelerator For Programmers

Jim McKelvey, LaunchCode, Startup, St. Louis startup

(img: Flickr)

How the death of a St. Louis Pizza Delivery Boy Sparked Jim McKelvey’s Latest Startup:

I got to spend a lot of quality time on a 1:1 phone interview with Square co-founder Jim McKelvey yesterday. After bumping into McKelvey at numerous events and talking startups or otherwise shooting the shit, I finally had time to dive in with one of St. Louis’ biggest startup community advocates.

We wasted no time during the interview call, so I went right for the “how does a glass blower get into startups, investing and now being a catalyst for the St. Louis startup community?” McKelvey explained that so many people are eager to give just one label to others, when in fact there are multiple labels for just about everyone. McKelvey is a professional, now hobbyist, glass blower. Blowing glass is something he enjoys when he can now, and he hasn’t been a professional glass blower since 1992.

McKelvey was formerly trained as an engineer and making things is something he’s great at. Over the years, one of his other hobbies, flying, has filled a lot of that time that he had for glass blowing, adding “pilot” to the list of labels attached to him.

We were supposed to talk about Six Thirty, the new St. Louis accelerator specifically for fintech (financial tech) startups. McKelvey is one of the co-founders of the Six Thirty accelerator. With companies like ScottTrade, MasterCard, and Wells Fargo (plus many more) based in St. Louis, a fintech accelerator is a natural fit. They even have a fintech fund in St.Louis called FinServe Tech Angels, which is headed by Kyle Wellborn.

McKelvey points to the launch of Square for the reason there was a need for a fintech accelerator

“We were able to build the technology for Square in 3 weeks. We were running transactions in no time. It took 18 months though to get legal,” McKelvey told me. He firmly believes that anyone with a great team, a good idea, and money behind them can launch a product to market. Launching a financial product is a whole other can of worms. Insurance regulations, PCI compliance, licensing and other legal hurdles stand in the way of a great startup just going for it with a financial product.

Through a cohort-based model, 4 companies will get the mentorship, training and connections they need to hopefully see their fintech startups get to market.

That was the quickest part of our talk, though. McKelvey is actually knee deep in two current working projects. One is Six Thirty; the other is still an “experiment,” but one that he is truly passionate about. LaunchCode is something that truly seems to fulfill McKelvey’s calling right now.

Jim loves teaching, and he loves empowering people. We briefly talked about how now you can walk the streets of Baltimore before a Ravens game or Cincinnati before a Reds game, and see the street vendors accepting credit cards through Square. “I love those kinds of stories” McKelvey said. Those stories show Square has been able to empower people to take their businesses to another level.

LaunchCode is another way people can get to another level.

“There’s only one industry I’ve ever seen where you can go from zero knowledge to a $100,000 salary in one year, and that’s programming,” McKelvey said. There are tens of thousands of folks out there who would absolutely agree.

You need to be driven, have a little bit of scientific or computer knowledge and want to learn, besides the technological tools like a computer. If you have those things you can learn to program.

Throughout his career McKelvey has seen all types of people learn to code and become legitimate programmers. Of course there are the high school computer science misfits, the college graduate engineers, and even people like a WalMart maintenance man who taught himself to code on the side. McKelvey knows that one personally. “He literally mops the floors at a local Walmart and he’s taught himself to code, and he’s good at it”.


Before diving into what LaunchCode is, it’s important to know how McKelvey, who’s admittedly been “rich” for decades, got started with this latest project.

This story begins with pizza, but not in the way you would think with startups.

A friend of McKelvey’s had brought his family over to the US for a better life from Russia. That dream turned tragic for that family in May of 2012 when their 22-year-old son Daniel Maksimenko was shot and killed delivering a pizza in St. Louis. The young man was shot and killed before he even got out of the car, “and for–what–maybe $60,” McKelvey said.

This story has been eating away at McKelvey for quite some time. He didn’t understand why anyone would do something like this. It’s not like the pizza guy carries a lot of cash, and there obviously wasn’t time for an argument.  McKelvey came to the realization that these people weren’t crazy. They did it because they thought they had no other hope.

In the same breath McKelvey points out that there are over 5,000 programming jobs available in St. Louis right this second, but the system is flawed and LaunchCode is changing that.

“When Boeing announces they are bringing 700 jobs to St. Louis, they aren’t bringing 700 jobs. They are bringing 700 job openings,” he points out.

LaunchCode doesn’t have an exact label just yet, and besides everything has multiple labels (see above). I likened LaunchCode to an individualized accelerator for programmers, and McKelvey liked that description.

LaunchCode is bridging the gap between the number of “job openings” and the talent pool. You see, most companies (and when we say most it’s most) require two years experience before hiring a programmer. Schools are churning out programmers left and right, and thousands of people are teaching themselves how to code through online courses and other study at home classes. So when these people are finished learning, they have nowhere to go because they don’t have that experience.

Through LaunchCode Mckelvey has teamed up with 100 businesses in St. Louis ranging from the city’s corporate flagships like ScottTrade, Energizer, and Entreprise, to St. Louis startups like aisle411.

“If you take those 100 startups, just two of them were hiring programmers with less than 2 years experience,” McKelvey said. The other 98% basically just swap employees around.

As an example, McKelvey explained “Say Boeing is working on a new plane and they need developers. They put out a call to their HR channel and recruiters recruit developers from Ralston Purina and Enterprise.” Then those companies hire away someone from another company and so on down the line. New people weren’t put to work; people were just moved around.

The problem has been apparent and glaring at people for decades, and now LaunchCode is fixing it.

McKelvey has convinced these 100 companies both big and small to take a crack at an experiment in peer programming that worked well for Square.

New programmers sign up for LaunchCode. Candidates need to have the basic skills, be eager to learn, take criticism well and a handful of other attributes outlined here. Nothing too hard, really.

While in the program, the new programmer will be paired with an experienced programmer, “mentor” on location with a participating company. During that time the programmer will make $15 per hour and gain a vast knowledge of programming in the real world.

“While we were paying double for one output at Square, we were getting a better quality product,” McKelvey said of peer programming. “When you pair an experienced programmer with a junior programmer, the junior programmer picks up quickly.”

Then you have two experienced programmers.

The program (like an accelerator) lasts 2-3 months. After that time the participating companies will evaluate the new programmer through a more equal lens and decide whether to hire them on full time. These companies all have programming openings, and the candidate will have then spent 2-3 months in their company, in their company culture, and with their company work flow. It seems that staying employed with the company will be pretty easy.

LaunchCode is disrupting the way talent is being hired. McKelvey reminded me several times that LaunchCode is still an experiment. He’s hoping with some success to evaluate LaunchCode to see if expansion vertically, horizontally or both is the next step. In the mean time many have their eyes on what’s going on in St. Louis.

Check out LaunchCode here.







Jim McKelvey image: Bob Lee, Flickr

Show Your Team Pride With Your Socks With Sock 101’s New Kickstarter Campaign

Sock 101, Kansas City startup, startup, kickstarter

Sock 101 is all about the socks. The startup built in Kansas City is bringing fashion back to socks. We’re not talking about your average Gold Toe or even the latest in argyle socks. Sock 101 makes a fashion statement with socks that complement any man’s fashion-sensible wardrobe.

Speaking of fashion sense, the durable, nice looking socks are affordable as well. Every pair of socks the company sells are only $7. The have awesome names as well like the blue infused “KC,” the red, white, and blue “Patriot,” the polka dotted “Dapper Dot,” and President George H.W. Bush’s favorite “The Johnny,” a crimson and white sock that the former President insists will be “perfect for days in College Station, Texas.”

In true startup fashion, Sock 101 also offers a subscription sock service where you get a new pair of socks delivered to your door once a month without even having to think about it.

If you’re like me and have a different pair of shoes to match every outfit, the socks from Sock 101 are absolutely perfect.


Now the company is looking to expand on their “Johnny” sock and do color combinations to match every major school.

Not convinced yet? Sock 101 offers these 5 ideas where your socks from Sock 101 will be a huge hit:

1. At the Game

Lift a little pant leg and show of your school spirit at the game. You have hats and shirts. Why not socks?!

2. At the Office 

The first thing that most people notice about your look are your shoes. The second? Your socks! Imagine sitting down in a meeting and crossing your legs. The next thing you know, somebody is wide eyed staring at your socks. Will they think you are cool? You betcha.

3. At the Bar or Party 

Whether you are watching the game or looking for love, our socks are guaranteed to make you stand out. Please see our warning above. Although we’d love to hear from you, please do not send us complaints about too much attention from the opposite sex.

4. On a Date

Do you want a second date? Wear our socks with your outfit. You will look more fun and more stylish. We guarantee it. If you don’t want a second date or are designated wingman, just wear plain white socks or gold toes.

5. On the Course 

These socks are great for golf! They are lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and durable. One of our owners has walked eighteen holes over a dozen times this year in the same pair of socks with no holes, rips, or tears. They still look great. As you can see, our socks are seriously versatile!

They’ve got several winning testimonials on their Kickstarter page where they are looking to raise $25,000 so that they can bring the team line to fruition. Nothing is as telling as the testimonial from President Bush, sent in a personal letter you can even read on the Kickstarter page.


Softbank’s Joe Medved: Diligence Is For Entrepreneurs Too

Joe Medved, Softbank Capital, Investor, Startup, Everywhere Else Cincinnati
The national VC investors and angels who spoke at Everywhere Else Cincinnati loved the concept of talking to and educating entrepreneurs from everywhere else. In the months leading up to Everywhere Else Cincinnati, we fielded a lot of emails from investors asking about pitch contests and deal flow. Joe Medved joined Blair Garrou (Mercury Fund), Mark Hasebroock (Dundee Venture Capital), Mark Richey (West Capital Advisors/Draper), and Bob Coy (Cincy Tech) on the stage at one point or another during the conference to help educate early stage startups and entrepreneurs. The general consensus was if entrepreneurs are more in tune with the investor community, a lot of time will be saved.

Medved took that idea to the extreme by cramming down probably an entire college course worth of entrepreneurial content into a 30 minute talk and equally robust slides.

Our Managing Editor Monica Selby already covered the truth about getting VC attention, almost immediately after Medved left the stage.

Medved’s presentation was filled with important information. Equally as important as getting VC attention is the fact that due diligence is just as important for the startup as it is for the investor. Too many times startups are so excited about getting a “yes,” they are willing to take money from anyone.

Entrepreneurs need to make sure that the investor is the right fit for their startup. Does the startup see eye to eye with the investor? Does the investor bring value to the startup outside of just money? Taking on an investor is a partnership almost like a marriage. Just as a marriage, it may take a while to get into but it’s a lot harder to get out of. In that respect it’s even harder to get an investor out than it is to get divorced.

Medved offers these tips for doing due diligence on your investors:

  • References! Speak to entrepreneurs the investor has backed before, including those who have crushed it and been crushed.
    – Is there healthy engagement with the investor? And their team?
    – Where can they help & what types of board members complement them?
  • Leverage their network for customer references
    – On top of your existing customer references, ask to pitch your business to potential customers in their network
  • Follow on investments
    – If they’ll follow, how frequently do they?
    – How much would they reserve?
  • If you’re working with a fund what is their capital health
    – What percentage of their fund is invested and reserved
    – If they’re raising soon, is your individual lead in good standing?

All of these points are very important to a startup. As painful as it may be for your pocketbook or bank account or even your startup, if the answers to these questions aren’t comfortable for your team, product and startup you may need to look for another investor.

Follow Joe Medved on Twitter @joevc

Check out more coverage from Everywhere Else Cincinnati here.


8 Mandates To Finding Your Meaning From Elevate’s Jake Stutzman At Everywhere Else Cincinnati

Jake Stutzman, Elevate, Startup, Startup Tips, Everywhere Else Cincinnati

At most startup conferences, there’s a speaker or two who makes everyone get up from the chairs and do something, get the blood flowing, meet new people–you know orchestrating meaningful collisions. That speaker at Everywhere Else Cincinnati didn’t come until Tuesday afternoon when Jake Stutzman the founder of Omaha’s Elevate took the stage.

Stutzman, whose firm spearheaded the “experience” part for Everywhere Else Cincinnati, wanted to make sure that the attendees in the room were doing what they were supposed to. After testing moving the group closer to the front and closing the gaps, he tested the audience participation and moved on with explaining 8 mandates to finding your meaning as part of his discussion, “Find The Meaning Find The Money”.

The eye opening talk led off with Stutzman throwing some basic words on the screen and asking the audience to say what brands those words represented in their minds. For instance when he put the word “coffee” on the screen the crowd quickly blurted out Starbucks. For computer, most said “Apple”, and for the word “Phone” most shouted out iPhone, although one person went retro yelling out “Motorola Razor”.

While most of the brands said here made the list of the “World’s Most Valuable Brands”, they are extremely valuable because they own the category in people’s minds. How does a product go beyond just a product and become that category owning brand? Stutzman mapped it out clearly with these 8 mandates. “Usefulness only lasts until something better comes along,” Stutzman told the crowd. Need an example of that, just look at Blackberry.

These 8 important mandates are:

1. Know Yourself

2. Know Your Audience. Who’s your audience? Is there an audience for your product? How do you engage that audience?

3. Know Your Competitor and your category. Do a competitive audit, and know what your competitor does

4. Be Different.

5. Cast a Vision

6. Make it accessible, have brand identity, create memorable experiences and make sure your brand is infused in everything

7. Be Consistent. Consistency is the key to all of this. “It’s the difference between a chaotic brand and a charismatic brand,” Stutzman said.

8. Empower brand champions, find those champions for your brand those people that are extremely loyal and give them the tools to help grow your brand. These brand champions will work for you because you want to.

Nick and I got to experience all of this first hand starting with a two day workshop at Elevate’s Omaha, Nebraska office. There the Elevate team asked us hard questions about exactly what we wanted to do, who attended our conferences, who read our website, who shares our content. Who do we want to come and what do we want them to do? This is why Elevate is so much more than a design firm.

Elevate helped our brand appeal to multiple senses. Visually how was everything going to look? How were we going to direct people and what were they going to do on site?

Moving into 2014 we will have three conferences and continue to work with Elevate, who will help us make sure we continue to drive home these mandates.

Find out more about Elevate at elevate.co


How to Ensure Your Employees’ Productivity

Productivity, startup, startup tips, guest postThe last thing any employer wants is to have a workforce that puts procrastination over productivity. Unfortunately there are just some employees who are going to push against that envelope at every chance they get. It’s one thing if you have someone who works best under pressure and can still turn out a fantastic product reliably in a short time frame. It’s another if that someone is simply easily distracted or doesn’t mind producing a lackluster product and would rather spend time playing games on Steam.

So what do you do? How do you make sure that your employees stay on track?

1. Monitoring Software

Some companies will install monitoring software that will allow them to “log in” and see what any employee is doing at any given time. If you have some particularly problematic employees, this might be a good way to “catch them in the act.” Another good way to go is to use Network Monitoring Tools that track and record details like traffic, resource allotment, etc. This way, even if someone minimizes a window when you walk by (or in case you “log in”) you can see how much bandwidth they are using. If you know the volume of resources they should be using, telling who is spending more time surreptitiously watching YouTube will be obvious.

2. Regular Reviews

Performance appraisals (some employers choose to call them, simply, Performance Reviews) are a great way to improve employee productivity (nobody wants a bad review!). The trick is to have them regularly. Most employers will only do them once every twelve months because, frankly, most employers hate doing performance reviews more than the employees! It’s better to have them at least every six months. If you have the time or your employee pool is small enough, having them every three months can keep productivity levels high. It also helps you maintain contact and keep tabs on how your business as a whole. It is helpful, particularly if you are going to have them more often, to strive for an informal and conversational style. Encourage feedback from your employees as well as asking them to accept the feedback you give to them.

3. Provide Helpful Tools

There are lots of different productivity apps out there that you (and your employees) can use to help manage time, stay on task and increase productivity. Embrace the technology and implement it on all of your work-related machines. Foot the bill for the better, and more expensive, apps so that your employees don’t have to.

4. Offer Great Benefits

In addition to basic health care benefits, other benefits like company cars (or gas allowances), free childcare (or as close to free as you can offer it), paid kid sick days and allowing employees to telecommute when they need to can all help improve your employees’ productivity. Why? Who would want to risk losing a job with all of those sweet benefits? Further, those benefits help your employees relax while they are on the job. That relaxation feeds into their desire to give their best performance at work. Everybody wins.

There are lots of ways to incentivize your employees to stay on task and to be as productive as possible. The hardest thing is not deciding whether or not to offer those incentives but which incentives you want to focus on.

Kelly Jane Brown is an aspiring writer, entrepreneur and student at UCLA.










From Conference Volunteer To Startup Founder, Audrey Jones Is In The Zone

Everywhere Else, Kids360, Startup, Audrey Jones, Everywhere Else Startup Conference, startupLast February I had no idea who Audrey Jones was. We were preparing for Everywhere Else Memphis and knee deep in getting ready. diPR consulting’s Danielle Inez was recruiting volunteers and handling many of the pre-show logistics.

When the conference time finally arrived, we met up with all of the onsite volunteers. Audrey Jones was one of them. She told us in an interview that she had heard good things about the conference and was curious about what it was all about. She received an email from one of the civic groups she works with for volunteers and decided she would sign up for one shift.

That day, she took control of registration and front end organization and then stayed on throughout the entire conference, never missing a beat. It was like we had planned and rehearsed her role for months, but for Jones, organization and execution come naturally. It’s one of the qualities her full time employer, Memphis based AutoZone loves about her.

In fact several people from AutoZone’s marketing and IT departments attended at least some part of the inaugural conference in Memphis. At some point during the conference an AutoZone employee came up to me and congratulated us on a job well done. He then said that we could have Audrey for the remaining two days of the conference, but not only that she wouldn’t have to take time off, AutoZone was paying her to work for us.

Marston-1But this story isn’t about a great conference volunteer or a great company in Memphis. The story continues.

Jones was so intrigued by what she witnessed at the Startup Conference that she started spending her free time with Start Co, the Memphis organization that serves as an umbrella for many of Memphis’ startup efforts. Jones stayed in touch with many of the people she met at the conference from across the country and started to work on an idea.

What intrigued Jones most about Start Co and their various startup initiatives was Upstart Memphis, a women’s startup initiative that included a women’s only 48 Hour Launch and a women’s only startup accelerator.

Jones’ preliminary idea revolved around the way that parents, loved ones, family members, and caregivers communicate. There’s so much technology out there now that phone trees are pretty much dead wood.

“It’s a platform that allows parents to list their children’s emergency contact information electronically. It’s the alternative to the cluttered file cabinet in emergency situations. Parents can grant access to whomever needs access, like sittrs, tutors, daycare and childcare providers,” Jones told us.

Jones had no idea she was an entrepreneur or a startup founder in January of this year.  By spring she was talking to people about this idea. Then Start Co put a call out to women led startups to apply for their inaugural summer cohort for their women’s accelerator. Jones admitted she felt like she didn’t think she would get in, but went forward with the application process, even citing Nibletz as a reference after her work with the conference.

Kids360 was one of the four startups selected for the women’s only cohort that puts the women founded startups through a bootcamp-style, intense business and entrepreneurial accelerator. The hope for Start Co co-presidents Andre Fowlkes and Eric Mathews is that founders will be launch ready at the end of the accelerator, which is really just the beginning.

For Jones it’s been non stop since the accelerator kicked off at the beginning of the summer. She continues to work full time for AutoZone and spends another 40-50 hours a week on Kids360.

“Audrey is a great example of the type of entrepreneur we find here in Memphis. She is constantly grinding whether it’s her own startup, helping others or on her job. She’s putting the resources of StartCo to work for her every chance she gets,” Mathews told us by email.

It helps that Audrey works for AutoZone, a company founded by serial entrepreneur Pitt Hyde. The company was very supportive during those few days of the conference and continues to support Jones with a little extra flexibility in her schedule while she is going through the accelerator program. This isn’t the first time that AutoZone has supported one of their employees going through one of Start Co’s accelerator programs. In fact it’s their third go round and they would continue to do it over and over again, Jones tells us.


“Because entrepreneurs make the best employees,” Jones told us. She is very open about her startup and what she is doing in the program. Everyone on her team all the way up to Pitt Hyde knows that she’s in the program. “Whenever I see Mr. Hyde in the halls I smile with my AutoZone uniform on and re-pitch him again,” Jones said.

“We’ve seen quite a few entrepreneurs come through the ranks at Autozone, which is very supportive of our young entrepreneurs and Start Co.  Audrey markes the third time that we’ve been able to help an Autozone employee hone in their inner entrepreneur,” Mathews said.

Hyde is also very supportive of entrepreneurial efforts in Memphis. He is a major supporter and director for Memphis Bioworks and their Zeroto510 accelerator, which is run in partnership with Bioworks and Start Co.

So now with just weeks to go before demo day at the UpStart accelerator, Jones is gearing up to have a booth at Everywhere Else Cincinnati’s Startup Avenue. She’s looking forward to real life pitch practice, talking to investors, and of course helping out the Everywhere Else team.

You can find out more about Kids360 at kids360now.com

It’s not too late to get your own booth or attendee ticket for Everywhere Else Cincinnati.

LA Startup Roometrics Wants To Be The GoTo Place For Roomates

Roometrics, Los Angeles startup, startup, startup interview

Finding a bad roommate sucks. The sites out there to find the perfect roommate are far from perfect. Of course there’s also the newspaper and Craigslist, but you’re opening up yourself to a whole world of trouble. Often times when you find and interview a potential roommate from the classifieds or Craigslist, it’s much like a job interview. You get someone showing off their best, and when they move in the worst can kick in.

A Los Angeles startup called Roometrics is trying to create that perfect platform for finding a roommate. Call it the “match.com” for roommates.

And that’s exactly what they do. Roometrics allows users to create a roommate profile that encompasses many facets of living with someone. The answers users give to the profile questions are then securely saved and can be shared with potential roommates and compatibility scores.

We got a chance to interview the team behind Roometrics. Check out the interview below.

What is Roometrics?

Roometrics is a web app that lets users find roommates that match their lifestyle based on over 50 specialized criteria. Think of it as an eHarmony meets Craigslist meets Carfax, but for roommates. The company has spent over a year developing the algorithm that shows users how well they would get along with a potential roommate. The idea is to get rid of the guesswork that often comes along with roommate finding through the current services.

In layman’s terms, how does it work?

To put it simply, users fill out a series of questions that will be used to calculate a “roommate profile”. We ask questions regarding current lifestyle and personality. Users are given a link which they can share with potential roommates they find on services like Craigslist. On the site, users can see how well they match overall with a person as well lifestyle and personality. The answers users give for questions are NOT shared with anyone and are simply used to generate compatibility scores.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Founders are Ardy Rahman and William Tran. Both are 26 and from Los Angeles, CA.

Ardy has an MSc in Developmental Neuroscience from University College London and completed a graduate fellowship focusing on addiction psychiatry at Yale University. He’s taken his experiences with neuroscience, psychiatry, and programming to develop the core personality metrics used in Roometrics.

Will has his BA from Pomona College and has spent his career in education as a high school English teacher and admission counselor. He’s mentored students at different stages of their development and has seen how the social dynamics of high school and college can impact that development. He and Ardy work together on developing the technology that drives Roometrics as well as marketing the service to befit our target demographic.

Where are you based?

We are located in Los Angeles, CA

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

Relatively small (compared to SV), but hugely passionate. We have some strong tech startups out here and with a growing enthusiasm, we are moving closer to the tech renaissance that has graced places like Palo Alto, Austin, and Cambridge. There is tremendous talent in SoCal, it just needs to be given the opportunity to express itself.

How did you come up with the idea for Roometrics?

Through a mixture of bad roommate experiences and even worse roommate searching experiences. There has never been a “go to” place for people that need roommates. The services are all disjointed and our market research shows that many still rely on word of mouth. We decided that needed to change.

What problem does Roometrics solve?

Currently, to find a roommate, one can use a handful of services with Craigslist being the most used resource. But what about the intangibles; the things a CL posting doesn’t tell you. Like what kind of person they are, if you have similar living styles, or if you have similar outlooks on life, etc. Our research shows that even if you don’t know it, these are all important factors to consider when living with someone and will directly affect how comfortable you are at home. Roometrics gives you that extra tool when trying to find a roommate. A bit like when you ask for the Carfax, roommates can ask for the “roometrics” from people they meet on craigslist to see if they are compatible before ever signing a long term lease.

What’s your secret sauce?

We’ve developed both a unique assessment and algorithm which is used to specifically assess roommate compatibility. It’s based of empirical research that others have conducted as well as our own novel research on roommate dyads/triads. We’ve collected and analyzed data on over 200 roommates to construct the foundation of our technology. Combined with our user interface, we’ve created an easy to use system for roommate matching.

Why Now?

Our market analysis shows the 2008 economic crisis has had a horrendous effect on the housing market. The age at which people buy their first house has shifted to the right, resulting in a larger amount of the population renting apartments for longer periods of time. Moreover, because the economy had tanked, more people are looking for roommates to split costs of living in order to save some money. The process to find roommates is lackluster and the process to find GOOD roommates is even more discouraging. That needed to be changed and that’s what we’re doing.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

Ardy: I profoundly respect Bill Gates. If you want to talk about a man who had the brains and the tenacity to take an idea and change the world, he’s your guy. But what sets him apart from other insanely successful individuals is his compassion and down-to-earth personality. Both he and Warren Buffet’s insistence on social responsibility are commendable. In a time when we need to restore faith in the practice of business, they are setting amazing examples for their students and peers.

Will: I am a fan of education technology. Even though it’s not a longstanding crowd, individuals pushing the envelope with products like Khan Academy, Udacity, and Coursera are my biggest fans (hope I can join them). I may not wholly agree with the internet classroom but I think this innovation is integral to ed reform. I’ve taught classic novels written ages ago but I recognize that we can’t continue to teach students the same way we have in the last 100 years.

What’s next for Roometrics?

Launching our beta. We have a few key collaborations that we are developing and hope to introduce our technology to the public shortly. After that, growth!

Where can people find out more?

You can check us out at http://www.roometrics.com where you can sign up with your email. Or you can read up on us at http://blog.roometrics.com. 


How To Build A Semantic Startup

Semantic startups, guest post, startupHow to Build a Semantic Startup

Google’s “semantic search” concept is an innovative approach to search queries. Queries on the search giant aren’t just analyzed as individual words, like the way most search engines deliver results. Google’s algorithm is trained to read and understand a user’s query, drawing on past queries and lots of Web browsing data to determine exactly what the user is searching for and deliver those results.

You can build a semantic style startup too, one that that tests theories and uses that data to help increase conversions and improve the quality of your product.

Learn Your Industry

A unique skill that entrepreneurs must possess is the ability to look objectively at one’s competition to discover what they do better. The copy and messaging your competitors use has often been finely tuned to get the most conversions for that niche. If you see others advertising on AdWords, try running a campaign there with some ad extensions to direct customers to your product pages or get more phone calls.

Websites like Alexa collect some statistics on your competition that you can view publicly, like the age range of people who visit your competitors or which part of the country they live in. With this data, you can learn and make guesses as to what customers expect when they visit your page. You’ll get a better return on your investment if you study your market carefully instead of shotgun blasting your ads around the Web.

Educate Yourself

Any individual in business for himself must resign to a life of hard work and constant education. For instance, the health industry is in for some major changes that software developers can capitalize on if they know what’s expected. Changes to health information technology have created openings for developers to design the programs and infrastructure needed to connect patients, doctors and health care professionals. The old generation of office paperwork is on its way out, and candidates looking to get into this field can now learn more than ever from online universities offering degrees and certifications in those fields.

Educating yourself does not necessarily mean returning to school. Independent certification or accreditation from institutes and seminars can also help someone with an existing skillset expand their abilities. In the case of software developers, a certificate in health care will help teach the necessary jargon and common practices hospitals face to make software design for that industry more intuitive and easier to understand.

Test Your Ideas

Very rarely is your first campaign a huge success, so you’ll often need to test out new ideas to increase conversions. Even a campaign that launches with a strong conversion rate can often undergo testing to increase the efficiency of that campaign. That means writing new copy, playing with the arrangement of the elements on your Web page and trying new forms of customer outreach is crucial to expanding your business.

You should also figure out which forms of traffic are the main factors behind your conversions. Perform testing on those platforms, then port the successful changes you find to other sources of traffic. If you work primarily with PPC and find a formula that works, try that formula in a cost per view campaign and see if you can grow your niche on other networks.

Invest in Technology

Just like Google had to invest in its search algorithm, so too will you need to invest in technology for your business. Software that automates your workload or keeps track of your task lists are all small investments with large payoffs overtime.


Juggling Motherhood And Entrepreneurship

Female Founders, Guest Post, YEC, startupAs a young entrepreneur, your business is likely to take over your life. Never mind the 9-to-5, being captain of your own ship can be more like 9-to-9. But then you didn’t start your own business because you were afraid of hard work, did you?

As a business owner who always has a multitude of projects going, is location independent (i.e.: a lifestyle of almost permanent travel) and as the mother of a toddler, I know what it’s like to be juggling too many balls. If I’ve learned anything about how to get things done and be happy with what you’ve achieved, it’s this:

Learn to leverage time zone differences
As a location independent entrepreneur – or if you work with clients, customers and partners in different parts of the world – time zones can leave you scrambling to catch up with clients and customers at odd times of the day and night but they can also be used to your advantage:

  • Set project deadlines to take advantage of the fact that your clients may well be sleeping, leaving you to get ahead with your work.
  • Process emails at a time when you know your clients have finished for the day so you won’t get an influx of new ones as soon as you clear your inbox.
  • Send work that needs feedback when your clients are starting the day so they can have it ready for when you start yours.

Instead of seeing it as a tricky challenge, there are plenty of ways you can turn working with global clients in different time zones to your advantage.

Perfectionism is over-rated
Motherhood has taught me that “good enough” is good enough. It can be very easy to spend (waste) time getting everything so that you’re 110 percent happy with it. Your website needs a few more tweaks. That proposal needs to be refined some more. That product needs a bit more testing.

But when you are pushed for time – which you usually are as a nomadic, entrepreneurial mother – good enough has to do. That extra five percent  that you know wasn’t done? No-one else is likely to notice it’s not there, they probably won’t know it was even meant to be there. Get used to shipping things that are good enough, gather feedback and then perfect.

Follow your own path
As a young entrepreneur, you no doubt have lots of people giving you advice. You’ll read columns like this, soak in the advice of people you respect and try to emulate the success and approach of those you admire.


The only way you’ll find true success is to follow your own path. What worked for others might work for you or it might fail. What someone else says you should do might be a good fit or it might totally bomb. Nobody knows better or is as passionate about your business as you are. And nobody knows you, better than you do.

What you try might not always work out. But what you learn from those mistakes and failures will be key insights into what will work for you next time. If you look around at the people whose success you admire, you’ll probably notice a common trait: they did things their way, no matter what anyone else advised. Be bold and do the same.

Use your hidden strengths
You’re young, you have energy, you have time on your side. Obvious, yes? But have you realized that these are real strengths you can leverage as a young entrepreneur?

Before becoming a parent, I wish I’d known how difficult it is to juggle parenthood with being a business owner; never mind living a life of travel to boot. I often wonder what I did when I had all day to write a single blog post and didn’t manage it. I look back at what I’ve achieved since being a mother and realize how much I could have achieved before I had the parental responsibility , and didn’t.

You can work twice as hard, fail twice as fast, and learn twice as many times as entrepreneurs older (and supposedly wiser) than you can, and you’ll probably still be under 30 with all of that experience under your belt. If you’re not a parent or you have fewer responsibilities than some of your peers and competitors, use this as a competitive advantage – when the time comes, you’ll be glad you did.

As a young entrepreneur, if you can get good at getting things done early on in your business no matter what pressures or responsibilities you face, you’ll already be ahead of the game. Make it your goal to stay that way.

Online entrepreneur, community builder and digital publisher, Lea Woodward is the founder of Kinetiva – an organization dedicated to helping people with a natural talent create a sustainable business from their talent.

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.

We’re looking for a few good female founders!