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The Ludum Dare jams are splendid occasions, bringing designers together in person and across the strands of this electronic web. Every event throws out at least a handful of games (I can reliably carry seven games in one hand) that are either brilliant proofs of concept or miniature masterpieces in their own right. Now that the voting results for the Ludum Dare 28 are in, I’ve been playing through the crop’s creamier portions. The league tables are sorted into categories – Overall, Innovation, Fun, Theme, Graphics, Audio, Humour and Mood – and I’ve included the winning entry in each. There is a well of free gaming goodness below.

A quick runthrough of the Ludum Dare rules first of all. Every

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Summly CEO Nick D'Alisio

LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) - Got a tech idea and want to make a fortune before you're out of your teens? Just do it, is the advice of the London schoolboy who's just sold his smartphone news app to Yahoo for a reported $30 million.

The money is there, just waiting for clever new moves, said 17-year-old Nick D'Aloisio, who can point to a roster of early backers for his Summly app that includes Yoko Ono and Rupert Murdoch.

"If you have a good idea, or you think there's a gap in the market, just go out and launch it because there are investors across the world right now looking for companies to invest in," he told Reuters in a telephone interview late on Monday.

The terms of the sale, four months after Summly was launched for the iPhone, have not been disclosed and D'Aloisio, who is still studying for school exams while joining Yahoo as its youngest employee, was not saying. But technology blog AllThingsD said Yahoo paid roughly $30 million.

D'Aloisio said he was the majority owner of Summly and would now invest the money from the sale, though his age imposes legal limits for now on his access to it.

"I'm happy with that and working with my parents to go through that whole process," he said.

D'Aloisio, who lives in the prosperous London suburb of Wimbledon, highlights the support of family and school, which gave him time off, but also, critically, the ideas that came with enthusiastic financial backers.

He had first dreamt up the mobile software while revising for a history exam two years ago, going on to create a prototype of the app that distils news stories into chunks of text readable on small smartphone screens.

He was inspired, he said, by the frustrating experience of trawling through Google searches and separate websites to find information when revising for the test.

Trimit was an early version of the app, which is powered by an algorithm that automatically boils down articles to about 400 characters. It caught the eye of Horizons Ventures, a venture capital firm owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, which put in $250,000.

That investment attracted other celebrity backers, among them Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, British broadcaster Stephen Fry, artist Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, and News Corp media mogul Murdoch.

That all added up to maximum publicity when Summly launched in November 2012, but the backers brought more than just cash for an app that has been downloaded close to a million times.

"It's been super-exciting, (the investors) found out about it in 2012 once the original investment from Li Ka-shing had gone public," said D'Aloisio. "They all believed in the idea, but they all offered different experiences to help us out."

His business has worked with around 250 content publishers, he said, such as News Corp's Wall Street Journal. People reading the summaries can easily click through to the full article, driving traffic to newspaper websites.

"The great deal about joining Yahoo is that they have a lot of publishers, they have deals with who we can work with now," D'Aloisio said.

He taught himself to code at age 12 after Apple's App Store was launched, creating several apps including Facemood, a service which analysed sentiment to determine the moods of Facebook users, and music discovery service SongStumblr.

He has started A-levels - English final school exams - in maths, physics and philosophy, and plans to continue his studies while also working at Yahoo's offices in London. He aims to go to university to study humanities.

Although he has created an app worth millions, D'Aloisio says he is not a stereotyped computer geek.

"I like playing sport," he said. "I'm a bit of a design enthusiast, and like spending time with my girlfriend and mates."

Copyright (2013) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions

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darren dodge

Meet Darren Dodge, founder of About Last Night.

He and his brother Derek Dodge, both sons of tech legend Don Dodge, have built an app that's designed to be the "operating system of your night life."

It's an application designed to help you share your night life experiences and figure out what you're doing tonight.

In short, it's a young person's best friend. You can post photos and connect to others that are already looking for things to do in the evening, and figure out the most fun thing to do at the time.

We caught up with founder Darren Dodge to find out just what he's creating. Here's what we found out:

  • The founding team are sons of Don Dodge, but don't let that fool you. Derek is a proficient coder and Darren has a lot of experience doing marketing, after working with Ashton Kutcher.
  • This isn't the only company the Dodge boys are working on. About Last Night came up as an off-shoot of the Dodges' existing company.
  • About Last Night is based in Boston, and it's quite a different pace from San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg said himself that he would keep Facebook in Boston if he had a second chance, Darren Dodge said.

Here's a lightly-edited transcript of the interview:

about last nightBUSINESS INSIDER: What is About Last Night and what do you guys do?

Darren Dodge: About Last Night is your social network for your night life. We allow you to share your nightlife experiences. We allow you to share your nightlife experiences, vote up experiences, follow your friends, follow celebrities. You can see what other people are doing with their night last night but also what they might be doing tonight. Very quickly you can get the relevant information from your friends, but also suggestions of where you want to go tonight and where the good bars are.

BI: Where did you guys get the idea?

DD: It was actually born out of another company we had that's still in stealth mode. It just didn't quite fit in with that company so we decided to shoot it out on its own. But we realized people are already in the rhythm of checking in on Foursquare and other apps, so we decided, why not do something that's completely centered around nightlife. That's really teh good information for people my age. We wanted to share that stuff.

BI: You guys are based in Boston, right? How does that feel compared to starting a company in San Francisco?

DD: Yes, that's right. I love Boston. I'm born and raised there, the tech scene is thriving and there are great startups. You have the best colleges in the world, some of the smartest people int he world. The venture capitalists in Boston, if you tell them you're from Boston and you want to stay in Boston, they'll immediately do what they can for you. Mark Zuckerberg said it himself, if he could go back in time and had the ability to keep his company in Boston, he would have.

It's definitely a unified startup scene. In Boston, we try to build the strongest business we can.

darren dodge pullquoteBI: What's your background?

DD: My Brother comes from a much more technical background, he worked with IT and did coding pretty much his entire life. I'm a more artistic background. I graduated Friday and on Monday I was interning with Ashton Kutcher. I was interning with him for about four months, after that I went to the largest local news studio in Los Angeles. After that I went to Funny or Die... after that I went to tech with Jason Calacanis. I've had a whirlwind tour, but growing up with the family I did, the Dodge family, tech and business has always been drilled into me from day one. I have a long-term 21-year bachelor in business.

BI: Where did the inspiration for the design come from?

DD: We took a look at a bunch of different things that had small features that were working. We wanted to build an app using smartphones the way they were meant ot use. No drop-down menus, just swiping. We wanted to see scroll down feeds, menu feeds, we think that's really the way the touchscreen was meant to be used. 

BI: What kind of challenges do you face now?

DD: Right now we're just acquiring users, taking to big brands. We want to go into the local night spots and help them out as well. The Android version is coming next in two to three months, and from there we're talking to club promoters. We're just trying to go nationwide and worldwide. We are completely centered around nightlife, so we believe this is the best place we can share what you were doing last night or what you're doing tonight. We're the operating system for your nightlife.

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i do

The right investor, the kind who can help startups get over the inevitable “We’re Fucked It’s Over” (WFIO) moments, can turn a startup into a multi-billion dollar company.

The fact is that choosing the right investors, whether it be at the seed level or at a Series B or C stage is a life-changing decision for an entrepreneur and a startup. The wrong investor match could derail a startup. “It’s like a marriage and it might even last longer.” That’s how Kleiner Perkins partner Chi-Hua Chien describes the relationship between investor and entrepreneur. And he’s not joking in the least bit.

It’s a dilemma that many entrepreneurs face when it comes to signing term sheets—which angel, seed, and/or venture investor do I choose?

What got me thinking about this particular subject was hearing Dave Morin chat with PandoDaily’s Sarah Lacy about Path’s road to success. Referring to the company’s reported $100 million-plus acquisition offer from Google, Morin (who in the conversation didn’t elaborate much on the offer), did highlight that he didn’t want to sell, and having his investors on board with that decision was incredibly important for the company’s future. As Lacy had reported last year, the weekend Morin was making the decision, he consulted Moskovitz, who gave him the confidence to go with his gut feeling. As for being able to make the decision to turn down the offer and continue iterating on Path, Morin credited the importance of having the right investors who shared his vision for what Path could become. Which is now a $250 million-plus company.And rumor has it that someone with the power to do so has stated that Path would be worth buying for a billion

Survey any number of entrepreneurs, investors and VCs on the subject of choosing the right investors and you’ll find out that it’s actually a pretty controversial subject filled with horror stories of investment-entrepreneur matches gone bad. Here are some of the observations and advice that I put together from a number of startup founders, investors and VCs.

Asking The Right Questions

“What baffles me is the lack of questions that come from entrepreneurs at the table,” says Tony Conrad, who is a partner at True Ventures, and co-founder of and Sphere (both companies were acquired by AOL separately). “You really need to look at the person across the table and understand what your needs are.” He explains that entrepreneurs are in as much of a buying position as investors.

Conrad says that in conversations with potential investors, it’s extremely important to understand how they think about cultural DNA and how these investors, with their experience and approach to involvement, could impact the culture of the company. “Entrepreneurs don’t realize it but early investors can play a significant role in shaping a company,” he says.

Bo Fishback, CEO and co-founder of mobile-focused peer-to-peer marketplace recommends asking specific questions around the nature of a VC or investor’s decision-making process within the firm. Fishback, who has raised $15 million in funding from angels like Ashton Kutcher, Paul Buchheit and Bill Lee, as well as from investors including Kleiner Perkins, and CrunchFund (*Disclosure: TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington also founded CrunchFund), says that one of the things he didn’t realize was important in the investor-startup relationship was understanding the decision-making process inside a VC firm.

In particular, he advises startups to ask questions about how autonomous a partner or investor is in terms of decision-making within a firm. Specifically with Zaarly, Fishback said that they ended up working with an investor (and declined to name names) who didn’t have full control over how much could be invested in the Series A round, terms and other issues, and slowed the whole fundraising process down. “These were decisions and conversations that should have gone fast,” he explains. “Ask a lot of questions about who at the firm ultimately makes decisions.”

With Kleiner Perkins he says, partner Chi-Hua Chien was able to make decisions independently, which made the investment process with the firm much easier. Fishback’s one piece of advice when it comes to choosing the right investor is not to fall in love with the a firm’s name or reputation but really focusing on whether the actual person leading the deal is the right fit.

The reverse of startups asking questions is also important, Fishback adds. He felt more confident with investors who actually asked compelling questions about the startup, the market, competition, business and more. It’s not just about acting interested, but actually doing the research to come into the meeting with educated questions, he says.

J.R. Johnson, serial entrepreneur and founder of recently launched social travel site Trippy agrees with Fishback’s view on investors and question-asking. Johnson has just under $2 million from Sequoia Capital, SV Angel, Rob Solomon, Rachel Zoe and others. “They need to find a balance between asking the hard questions and showing enthusiasm,” he explains.

He says the old school traditional VC mentality is that companies pitch VCs and they get to choose, but some of the investors and firms getting better deals are the ones who feel and act as if there’s a two way street in the decision making. Part of showing this mentality is coming to the table with research and thoughts about where the startup is heading, challenges in the industry and thought-provoking questions, he says. In the end it’s about finding a balance between asking the hard questions and showing enthusiasm, Johnson adds.

Due Diligence

VCs and angels tend to do a tremendous amount of diligence on a company and founders before investing. From a financial point of view, this just make sense. But many of the VCs and founders I spoke to agreed upon one trend: not enough entrepreneurs do the same sort of diligence on investors, and can thus find themselves in dissatisfactory relationships down the line with these individuals and firms.

Andreessen Horowitz general partner and entrepreneur Scott Weiss firmly believes in reference checks. Weiss was the co-founder and CEO of IronPort networks, which was acquired by Cisco in 2007 for $850 million. “Always do reference checks on the investor, especially if he or she is going to be a board member.”

Chien, who has served as a company founder, early employee of several startups as well as an investor in his career, compares the choice of investor to dating someone, and potentially making a long term commitment (i.e. marriage) to them. He says entrepreneurs should evaluate how many investments an investor makes in a given year, and ask for references from 3-5 entrepreneurs who worked with the investor. And it’s important to get references from startups who have both succeeded and failed with the investor (if applicable).

“Talk to as many CEOs of the companies angels or firms have invested in as you can,” warns Fishback. “Many founders take it for granted that an investor will be the right fit because they have done a lot of investments or had big wins but you have to do your due diligence.”

Bringing Value

It seems like a given that you’d want to choose investors that bring value to the table, but strategically it is important to understand what that value is ahead of signing any term sheets.

Weiss’s advice when it comes to finding investors who could bring value stems from his days founding IronPort. “When we were first launching the business, we tried to find people that know and understand the market. Find experts in the field, perhaps the top ten individuals, and just ask for advice and thoughts about your company and your idea.” He says that if you can get them excited about the opportunity, many of these individuals could end up investing in the company. And because these investors also happen to be involved and knowledgeable in the market, they “have driven through potholes you’re about to drive through and typically have a lot of contacts and potential employees for your business.”

When raising his seed round for Trippy, Johnson said that one of the main objectives when evaluating potential investors was “How can this person support the business.” With Brian Lee, a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded ShoeDazzle, LegalZoom, and The Honest Company; Johnson felt his insight from a product standpoint would be invaluable to Trippy. Johnson said that Factual CEO and founder Gil Elbaz as an investor made sense because he was one of the smartest people he knew and because Trippy is dealing with so much data, Elbaz’s experience would be helpful. And with some of the less traditional angels such as celebrity fashion stylist Rachel Zoe, and musician Jason Mraz, Johnson felt that each had a unique following of people who would trust their recommendations, and their brand would help grow the business in different directions.

Zaarly’s Fishback is also of a similar mindset to Johnson. “I’m a big believer in the Ocean’s Eleven model for the seed round with lots of people putting in small amounts of money,” he says. “It’s about putting a network of people around you.”

Fishback raised seed funding from Ashton Kutcher, Felicis Ventures, SV Angel, Paul Buchheit, Bill Lee, Michael Arrington, Naval Ravikant and Lightbank. In fact, Fishback says that even in the actual arrangement of the seed round, he started to see some of the benefits to having a well-connected group of angels. According to Fishback, Kutcher felt that SV Angel would be a great fit in the seed group for Zaarly, but the round was full. So Kutcher dialed back his investment to let SV Angel into the round.

While having a group of well-connected angels can be a huge win for an early stage startup, Conrad advises startups to have an anchor in larger rounds. “Rounds with 20 investors where there is no leadership can be really messy,” he says. “Having an anchor in these seed rounds is very important.”

Weiss also has advice to help entrepreneurs extract value from larger seed rounds. He says that from the round, put together an advisory board of the four people from the round that will be most helpful to the startup and have that board meet every month to six weeks.

Chien says that he asks founders to give him actual jobs. Each week, he spends a day or an afternoon (depending on his to-dos for each company) at his portfolio companies, which include Path, Klout and Zaarly, and has a set of responsibilities for each of them. “Having that kind of hands-on support from investors in both the good and difficult times inspires confidence in startups,” he explains.

The Warning Signs, WFIO And The Hard Times

Weiss says there is a term in the Valley for the challenging moments startups face: “We’re Fucked, It’s Over” (a.k.a. WFIO). He says that so many startups go through WFIO, but sometimes it’s the investors that can help pull companies from these “Valleys of Despair” as he puts it. At Andreessen Horowitz, part of the mentality of hiring partners who are previous founders and CEOs of technology companies is that these individuals can help during the WFIO times as well as the peaks.

He adds that it is important to have at least one investor who has experience as a founder, or in the particular market a startup is tackling, and can help calm the CEO during a storm, which will inevitably arrive during the course of a startup’s life. “Having old hands on the table that can be a calming force is very important,” he says.

Chien says that in his experience as a founder, employee and investor, what separated the winners from the losers of every one of the companies that went through periods of significant challenge was whether or not the investors stuck with the company.

Conrad says that founders should look for investors who have reputations amongst portfolio companies for having steady, predictable behavior. One of the warning signs he has seen both as an entrepreneur and as an investor, is that when things are going well at a company, “investor x” is awesome, but when things get weird or there is a challenge at a company, the investor is uneven emotionally, or even unsupportive. He believes that many times, these scenarios occur with younger investors. And he doesn’t mean by age—he says experience as a founder or early startup employee tends to make investors more reliable in times of crisis as well as during the good times.

As for warning signs of what could be red flags for startups when it comes to investors, many times this can be a gut feeling, specific stipulations in a term sheet or even responsiveness. Many of the individuals I spoke to said a potential investor who is not responsive via email or phone during the fundraising process is likely to be the same post-raise as well.

Conrad highlights blocking rights to the sale of a company as a term he dislikes in the VC and investment world. “I think it is inappropriate for us to have a blocking right on the sale of a company,” he says. He used Kevin Rose’s recent sale of mobile development lab Milk, in which True Ventures was an investor, to Google. “Kevin felt like it was the right thing to do. Would I have liked to see him to go deeper and longer. Yes. Do I think he could have? Yes. But this is his decision not ours,” he explains.

However, whether you have the pick of the investment litter or are more on the “beggars can’t be choosers” side of things, it’s helpful to think through some of the advice mentioned above when deciding to whom you give that final “I do.”

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Features and Essays – James Nachtwey: The Moment: Thailand (TIME: May 2010) Nachtwey shoots the violent end to the standoff in downtown Bangkok

Interviews - Eugene Richards (CPN: May 2010)

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Videos - Teaser trailer of the Bang Bang Club (YouTube: 2010)

Videos – Guillaume Herbaut: “LA ZONE: chronique en terre contaminée” (Institute: May 2010)

Features and Essays – Dana Romanoff: Wild No More: The Future of Americans Wild Horses (Reportage by Getty Images: May 2010)

Photographers - Dana Romanoff : website

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Features and Essays – Christopher Morris: Ashton Kutcher (VII: May 2010)

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