Skip navigation
Help

startups

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Enter Winamp, the skin-able, customizable MP3 player that "really whips the llama's ass." In the late 1990s, every music geek had a copy; llama-whipping had gone global, and the big-money acquisition offers quickly followed. AOL famously acquired the company in June 1999 for $80-$100 million—and Winamp almost immediately lost its innovative edge.

“There's no reason that Winamp couldn’t be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition,” Rob Lord, the first general manager of Winamp, and its first-ever hire, told Ars.

The problems began early, since Nullsoft wasn't interested in being a traditional corporate unit. For instance, in 2000, just a year after the acquisition, Frankel released (and open sourced) Gnutella, a new “headless” peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol that understandably steamed the bigwigs at AOL corporate headquarters in Dulles, Virginia.

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

0
Your rating: None

You're making the mistake of not thinking like your customer. Right now, you're approaching the problem from the position of "how can we stuff our bank out the fastest?" but you should be asking "what is most appropriate for our customers?".

When a potential customer is deciding whether to subscribe to a service or not, they're considering ROI and risks:

  • ROI/value:
    • For how long will I need this?
    • How quickly will I get some value out of this?
    • If I subscribe for 3/6/12/24/etc months will I continue to receive benefits after X time?
    • Do I have the funds to pay for 3/6/12/24/etc months at once?
  • Risk:
    • What will happen if I no longer need the service but it had been pre-paid for X time ahead?
    • What will happen if the company no longer provides the services but it had been pre-paid for X time ahead?

So when you're devising your payment schedules these questions should your top priorities. Otherwise, you'll end up offering $200 annual subscriptions to a low-value service needed only a couple of times a year and wonder why you can't sign any customers.

@bangdang has made a good point that sometimes monthly subscription charge is too low and isn't financially feasible so you have to charge in larger packages. However, it all still comes back to the value and the risk: if you pre-paid for a year of $2/mo. service ($24) and the company folded after 8 months, you lost only $8, a negligible amount, as oppoosed to $80 or $40 had the service cost $20/mo. or $10/mo.

0
Your rating: None

I would like to hear from those folks that have gone through their initial market research and idea validation stages of their start-up and would like to share how they went about making sure their idea was something worth wrapping a business around.

Much appreciated!

0
Your rating: None

readyforce logo

Dozens of startups have launched in the past few years claiming to fix the broken recruiting and hiring process. One of them, Readyforce, has already signed up some well-known startups with a relatively straightforward and compelling idea, and it’s opening up its beta test today.

When it comes to finding the right job applicant, CEO Alex Mooradian says that “it’s all about data.” And when Mooradian says “data,” he also means videos, which are a big part of a Readyforce profile. Unlike other sites that just ask people to record videos on their own (often resulting in stilted, awkward videos), Readyforce has actually hired interviewers to do 20-minute webcam conversations with the applicants, which can be edited down into a 3-minute highlight reel. (If you’re not happy with the interview you can do it again.) Users can also fill out something called the “infinite quiz” (in reality, Mooradian says there are more than 100 questions) which tests their interests and skills.

Employers probably won’t make hiring decisions based on Readyforce profiles alone, but they should be a provide a much better filtering mechanism than a generic resume (though yes, you can upload a resume too). As an example, VP of Client Services Anna Binder recalls one user who was not hugely impressive on paper — he was a CS major at not-particularly-prestigious school — but comes across as intelligent and articulate in the video: “Within 30 seconds, you say, ‘I want that guy.’” (You can see a real, sample profile here.)

To start out, Readyforce is targeting a specific group of applicants (college students who are looking for internships or jobs) and a specific group of employers (tech startups) who want to reach them. After all, executives at pretty much any startup will complain about how hard it is to find talent, particularly technical talent. Colleges could offer one of the main solutions to that challenge, but building a traditional college recruiting program is tough. A Silicon Valley company might never have the time or budget to travel to schools outside the Bay Area, but with Readyforce, they can find promising students at those schools and reach out to them directly.

With the beta, students nationwide can create Readyforce profiles (though for now, the video capabilities are largely limited students at UCLA, Boston College, and Stanford), and companies can request to join the program. More than 300 companies are already using Readyforce, and some of them, including Bloomspot, Reputation.com, and SinglePlatform, have actually made hires.

Readyforce has raised $14 million from Menlo Ventures, US Venture Partners, Founder Collective, and First Round Capital.

0
Your rating: None

2961565820_3d59b7bdfb

Editor’s Note: This article is co-authored by Nir Eyal and Jason Hreha. Nir is the founder of two acquired startups and blogs at NirAndFar.com. Jason is the founder of Dopamine, a user-experience and behavior design firm. He blogs at persuasive.ly.

Yin asked not to be identified by her real name. A young addict in her mid-twenties, she lives in Palo Alto and, despite her addiction, attends Stanford University. She has all the composure and polish you’d expect of a student at a prestigious school, yet she succombs to her habit throughout the day. She can’t help it; she’s compulsively hooked.

Yin is an Instagram addict. The photo sharing social network, recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, captured the minds of Yin and 40 million others like her. The acquisition demonstrates the increasing importance — and immense value created by — habit-forming technologies. Of course, the Instagram purchase price was driven by a host of factors, including a rumored bidding war for the company. But at its core, Instagram is the latest example of an enterprising team, conversant in psychology as much as technology, that unleashed an addictive product on users who made it part of their daily routines.

Like all addicts, Yin doesn’t realize she’s hooked. “It’s just fun,” she says as she captures her latest in a collection of moody snapshots reminiscent of the late 1970s. “I don’t have a problem or anything. I just use it whenever I see something cool. I feel I need to grab it before it’s gone.”

THE TRIGGER IN YOUR HEAD

Instagram manufactured a predictable response inside Yin’s brain. Her behavior was reshaped by a reinforcement loop which, through repeated conditioning, created a connection between the things she sees in world around her and the app inside her pocket.

When a product is able to become tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a pre-existing habit, it creates an “internal trigger.” Unlike external triggers, which are sensory stimuli, like a phone ringing or an ad online telling us to “click here now!,” you can’t see, touch, or hear an internal trigger. Internal triggers manifest automatically in the mind and creating them is the brass ring of consumer technology.

We check Twitter when we feel boredom. We pull up Facebook when we’re lonesome. The impulse to use these services is cued by emotions. But how does an app like Instagram create internal triggers in Yin and millions of other users? Turns out there is a stepwise approach to create internal triggers:

1 — EDUCATE AND ACQUIRE WITH EXTERNAL TRIGGERS

Instagram filled Twitter streams and Facebook feeds with whimsical sepia-toned images, each with multiple links back to the service. These external triggers not only helped attract new users, but also showed them how to use the product. Instagram effectively used external triggers to communicate what their service is for.

“Fast beautiful photo sharing,” as their slogan says, conveyed the purpose of the service. And by clearly communicating the use-case, Instagram was successful in acquiring millions of new users. But high growth is not enough. In a world full of digital distractions, Instagram needed users to employ the product daily.

2 — CREATE DESIRE

To get users using, Instagram followed a product design pattern familiar among habit-forming technologies, the desire engine. After clicking through from the external trigger, users are prompted to install the app and they begin using it for the first time. The minimalist interface all but removes the need to think. With a click, a photo is taken and all kinds of sensory and social rewards ensue. Each photo taken and shared further commits the user to the app. Subsequently, users change not only their behavior, but also their minds.

3 — AFFIX THE INTERNAL TRIGGER

Finally, a habit is formed. Users no longer require an external stimulus to use Instagram because the internal trigger happens on its own. As Yin said, “I just use it whenever I see something cool.” Having viewed the “popular” tab of the app thousands of times, she’s honed her understanding of what “cool” is. She’s also received feedback from friends who reward her with comments and likes. Now she finds herself constantly on the hunt for images that fit the Instagram style. Like a never-ending scavenger hunt, she feels compelled to capture these moments.

For millions of users like Yin, Instagram is a harbor for emotions and inspirations, a virtual memoir in pretty pixels. By thoughtfully moving users from external to internal triggers, Instagram designed a persistent routine in peoples’ lives. Once the users’ internal triggers began to fire, competing services didn’t stand a chance. Each snapshot further committed users to Instagram, making it indispensable to them, and apparently to Facebook as well.

Photo credit: Dierk Schaefer

0
Your rating: None

Cheek'd, Cards-1

I’ve covered a few online dating services in my day, but this one has got to be the most creative.

It’s called Cheek’d, and I’d categorize it as a place where business cards meets picking up prospective boyfriends/girlfriends/one-night stands.

Here’s how it works: you go over to the Cheek’d website, at which point you take a couple minutes to fill out a profile. The fields of personal representation are actually a bit more novel than most dating sites, asking things like where you’re most likely to be found, the most played song on your iPod, and your favorite board game. Upload a pic, and the fun really begins.

You then must order a deck of cards, which say things like “act natural, we can get awkward later”, “don’t overthink this”, and “emotionally available.” There are literally hundreds of different sayings, and there’s even a Wall Street deck with lines like “add me to your portfolio” and “all my bank accounts are Swiss.”

The cards also have a short ID code on them, with a URL for the Cheek’d website. When a suitor receives the card, the idea is that they’re so filled with curiosity that they enter the code on Cheek’d and are taken to your profile page. Cheek’d calls it online dating in reverse.

See, Cheek’d wants to take out the online part of online dating. It forces real-life interaction, even if that interaction seems a bit awkward to me.

You get the first month free, and can also get a free deck of five cards (shipping and handling not included.) Past that, you pay $9.95 for a monthly subscription (which basically means you pay $10/month to keep your profile live). Cards you still have to pay for, and decks come in various sizes with corresponding pricing.

I grilled the founders yesterday at the NY Tech Day because, upon first impression, this sounds like one of the creepiest things ever. Why would I hand someone a card that says “hi,” (yes there are cards that simply say “hi”) instead of just saying hi myself? You know, with my voice?

But they threw out some instances where I could possibly, maybe, potentially see the idea materialize into something helpful.

For example, let’s say you’re out at a crowded bar, and a girl who seems relatively attractive catches your eye. But there’s one problem: she’s surrounded by five of her closest girlfriends, and no man (or woman) has come anywhere close to scoring with any of them all evening. It’s girls’ night.

But you, being the clever, “Cheeky” man (or woman) that you are, decide to send over a drink to the hottie along with one of your Cheek’d cards. Maybe the one that says, “I couldn’t find a napkin.” By the time she gets the card and the waiter tries to point you out to her, you’re walking out the door, all mysterious-like.

I’m not saying it will work, but I won’t say with certainty that it won’t work either.

(Note: Cheek’d is offering our readers a 50 percent discount on cards if they use the promo code “TECH”.)

Click to view slideshow.

0
Your rating: None

estimize

Estimize is a startup trying to discover the true “whisper number” of public stocks — not just the official analyst consensus, but what Wall Street really believes. To make that happen, it’s encouraging investors to post their own estimates — and they’re getting a little more incentive starting today, thanks to the new Estimize Challenges.

CEO and co-founder Leigh Drogen previously worked at social finance startup StockTwits, where his roles included product manager and media director. Drogen says he first had the idea for Estimize there — he sees it as the quantitative flip side to the conversations that you find on StockTwits. So each quarter, Estimize members can post their guesses for a company’s earnings per share and revenue. Then you can see the aggregate prediction of the Estimize community, as well as current and past predictions for individual users.

One of the first things that you see on the Estimize website is a jar full of marbles, and that hints at Drogen’s big thesis — that as a group, investors can be smarter than any analyst. It’s the same principle behind the carnival game where you have to guess how many marbles in a jar. Usually, if you average the guesses out, you’ll get an answer that’s more accurate than all or most of the individual guesses.

Of course, to tap into the wisdom of the crowd, you need a crowd, and in the case of Estimize, Drogen says he originally thought he’d need to reach around 10,000 estimates per quarter before the data was interesting to financial companies. Estimize got 2,500 estimates in its first quarter, but Drogen says he’s already starting to get interests from major hedge funds. After all, he says the 3,600-member Estimize community is already more accurate than the analysts 63 percent of the time.

Since you can see each user’s track record, there’s already some social pressure to do well. The Challenges take that a step further with a gamification layer and prizes. Drogen says The Challenges cover five investment categories: Internet, software, hardware, consumer, and retail. (There’s a sixth prize that’s not category-specific, and is sponsored by Investors Business Daily.) Each category includes 30 stocks, and competitors have to make estimates in at least 15. The best estimators will get cash (there’s a total of $10,000 at stake) and badges for their profile page, which Drogen says is being transformed into a “Fitbit-like dashboard” for tracking your progress. NASDAQ is sponsoring the five sector-focused contests.

Drogen says the contest is the first step in his goal of “providing tangible benefits and a way to really promote yourself as a great analyst.”

0
Your rating: None

Snapterms

You might not think that something like a website’s Terms of Service would be all that interesting, but you’d be wrong. After that post about how awesome 500px’s Terms of Service are (tl;dr: they translate them into human speak), the inbox kind of blew up with questions. Is anyone else doing this?, emailers wanted to know, can I talk to them? (Also: hey, stupid, Aviary has done this forever. Thank you, thank you, and yes, the post is updated.)

Regardless, one email stood out from the crowd. It described a newly launched legal service called SnapTerms, which provides startups with simple, reasonably priced, and personalized Terms of Service and Privacy Policies.

The Sarasota-based company, only a few months old, was founded as a side project by legal entrepreneurs Mike Kolb and Aaron Kelly, the latter who’s an attorney specializing in Internet law. With the SnapTerms service, startup founders on limited budgets have an alternative to the naughty little practice of copy-and-pasting from another website’s Terms of Service or having to dive deep into their own pockets to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars via billable hours.

Explains Kolb, SnapTerms is sort of the sweet spot right in between the copy-and-pasting and paying big bucks.

At SnapTerms, users can choose from one of the three different packages: a Pro plan ($149) offering Terms of Service and a Privacy Policy; a Pro Plus plan ($299) that adds a few things like a complete site review, support for sites that take credit cards, and a 30 minute consultation; and finally, a Custom Plan (starting at $299), which adds COPPA compliance support, and support for SaaS companies.

The plans offer different levels of support for revisions, too. For example, on the basic plan, you get one revision within the first 48 hours. On the mid-level plan, it’s one within the first three month. (Custom plans vary).

Oh, and they can also make your Terms funny, so your customers will actually read them. For an example of how funny legalese can get, you can check out SnapTerms’ own Terms here.

Kelly has experience writing terms for sites other than startups, including celebrity fan sites, affiliate, e-commerce, diet sites, and more, so the company isn’t limited to supporting early stage startups, although it does have a couple of startups that have been featured here on TechCrunch as paying customers.

Attorney-client privilege means I can’t blog about which ones unless they give word, so we’ll update if any agree to come out of hiding. In the meantime, you can check out Photodropper, Sevacall, or Murderdate for some current, legally-approved examples. SnapTerms has about 100 clients to date, despite not having done press or having advertised (save for once on Startups.com). Almost all the sign-ups have been word of mouth, Kolb tells me.

Assuming this takes off, Kolb says they may expand to offer a network of lawyers, many of whom would likely do the work on the side.

Address a need. Fulfill it for an affordable price.

Not a bad idea, SnapTerms. Not bad at all.

0
Your rating: None

echonest

Music intelligence startup Echo Nest, which you might know better as the company powering Spotify Radio and Vevo’s recommendations, is announcing two new partnerships today which will give developers access to more data to build their apps with. The company is teaming up with JamBase, which provides concerts listings and tour schedules, and SongMeanings, which you’ve surely come across while Googling to find out what the eff that guy is actually singing about.

The new services will become part of The Echo Nest’s Rosetta Stone project, essentially a data resolution service aiming to offer a common language to music applications. Currently, the platform includes lyrics from LyricFind and musiXmatch, music from Spotify and Rdio, tweets from artists on Twitter, concert tickets from Seatwave, and links to relevant Facebook pages.

Specifically, JamBase will integrate its artist IDs into Echo Nest’s API, to make its concert listings available. At present, JamBase says it has access to the show listings for 80,000 artists across 50 genres who perform in 100,000 venues worldwide.

SongMeanings, a community-oriented website for discussing the meaning behind a song’s lyrics, reports having 2 million lyrics with over 1.7 comments available in its database.

While Echo Nest isn’t yet announcing any of its companies on its API will be rolling out support for the new additions, it certainly would make sense for music streaming apps to continue to make their apps more intelligent and feature-rich in the future.

In addition to Spotify and Vevo, The Echo Nest has deals with Nokia, EMI, and Clear Channel. Companies building on top of its APIs also include MOG, the BBC, MTV, and Discovr, to name a few. The Echo Nest is backed by $8.31 million in funding from Matrix Partners and Commonwealth Capital.

0
Your rating: None