Haiku Deck & Techstars Seattle Summed Up

When Giant Thinkwell got accepted into the 2010 Techstars Seattle class, they were working on an idea that used celebrities as main characters in games. It turned out to be harder to convince celebrities to participate in this idea, than they had hoped. The Techstars program was going at full speed and they were running out of time. Despite not having any celebrities on board, the team decided to create a game loosely based on Lady Gaga and launch it. In just 24 hours they managed to get tens of thousands of users to play 500,000 times. Unfortunately, they also received a few friendly notices from lawyers. They had hit a road block and needed to come up with a different idea. 

Like many other Techstars companies they pivoted. Instead of making games, they decided to create a mobile presentation app, that was simple; beautiful; and fun. Haiku Deck was born.

Techstars Seattle created a deck that sums up what Haiku Deck and Techstars are all about. Check it out below.  

Try scrubly and clean your contacts TODAY!

At launch party for scrubly -- my friend Bob Thordarson new company.  Interesting story. Single business guy started out with the observation 3 years ago that "contacts" -- i.e. info on people like phone, cell, and email are something that you want to synchronize across multiple devices.  Good insight. He then went about trying to build a product with a development group in India. It's taken him and them longer than they'd like but I have to say that the result is a very nice designed first step toward the original vision. I recommend that you try it out here and give him feedback @bobthordarson 

You should check out Simply Measured

Simply Measured is a great story. The company started just over a year ago and was known as Untitled Startup (truly www.untitledstartup.com was the URL).  Damon Cortesi and Aviel Ginzburg were the original co-founders.  The company attempted to crowdsource their way to a business in the social media space. In the process of doing so, they created row feeder over a weekend. RowFeeder gained instant traction because of it's simple message and implementation -- the site was known for tracking tweets in a spreadsheet.  But it wasn't until Adam Schoenfeld, the third co-founder, joined the company in April that the company really started to make sales and realize that it was in the business of taking data and giving the data back to customers so that they can manipulate it, play with it, and analyze it -- usually in a spreadsheet. Their customer list is friggin impressive -- Major PR companies, Fortune 500 companies, and social media elite all use the product.  They have over thousands of customers relationships in less than a year! Check out the products rowfeeder and exportly. Guess what -- simplicity sells -- when executed well. This is going to be a big company one day soon -- you should check them out now!  



NWEN First Look Forum

NWEN is looking for innovative, growth-oriented, pre-funded companies who could use some expert coaching (and for a lucky 12, some great exposure)  to get them to the next level. Because NWEN supports innovation across practically every industry (clean-tech to consumer products, web 2.0 to medical devices), some of the awesome companies could really benefit from this mentorship program.   Full disclosure--Chris Devore -- my partner is one of the 20 coaches for First Look Forum. 

I highly encourage you to apply-- it's a great forcing function to distill your business into one page, and no matter what the outcome, you'll get great support.  
 applicants get a hosted reception with insider tips. Every applicant gets feedback on the exec summary, and a workshop on how to pitch to investors.  The top 20 also get in-depth coaching from a pair of investors.  The final 12 get all that and exposure to 20+ funding groups at our invite-only investor event on October 12. 
Click here for more info and to apply! Earlybird applications close July 26.   Please note-- if you don't have time to complete the application to meet the earlybird deadline, just register online to get your invite to the reception. You'll be all set as long as you get the exec summary in by August 18. 

Seattle tech community takes a step forward with Seattle 2.0 Awards

I commented earlier this week on how well Marcelo Calbucci publicized the Seattle 2.0 awards event.  Well, no wI want to comment on the event itself. 
Simply put, the event was excellent.  Why?  Because.....

  • Attendance was great. By nominating lots of people and inviting lots of people, Marcelo was able to get critical mass of people to the event
  • Agenda was solid.  Copying the Academy Awards gave the night an air of excitement and pageantry that is rare in the tech industry and almost non existent in Seattle tech scene.
  • Marcelo paid attention to the details. Even the trophies looked cool -- and simple trite plaques .  

All in all, I have to hand it to Marcelo and everyone that helped. It was an event that seemed to pull a normally disparate tech community together.
My suggestions for next year are:

  • Keep the awards event to no more than 1 hour. It started to drag (just a bit) for the last 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Open bar (with hard alcohol) -- charge more but make the event even more festive!
  • More appetizers -- food makes the world go round. Fed people are happy people.

Seattle 2.0 awards should be fun...Marcelo Calbucci deserves his own award!

Below is a portion of an email I got from Marcelo Calbucci today. It's basically a primer on buzz building using social media and SEO.  I've been totally impressed with Marcelo's efforts as he has created Seattle 2.0.

No -- this post isn't me paying Marcelo accolades because I'm a finalist in the angel award category. Simply put, Marcelo has done an awesome job and I'm impressed as you all should be in what he's been able to do "part time" and on weekends with Seattle 2.0. Nice job - Marcelo! Truly Kudos to you!

Twitter, Pictures, Blogging & Facebook

You can make a huge impact for Seattle. We want to achieve enough buzz to get picked up on Twitter trends, TechMeme and for all of our friends to find out about how great Seattle is for startups. We invite you to:

·         Tweet (or update your FB status) on the afternoon that you’ll be attending the awards. Use hashtag #seattleawards (on Twitter) and feel free to link to http://www.seattle20.com/awards/

·         Blog if you can before the award and on the next day about your experience.

·         Feel free to bring digital camera and camcorders. If possible, tag them “seattleawards”.

·         Tweet throughout the evening with hashtag #seattleawards.

Tell Your Friends to Watch Live

We’ll be live streaming the event on http://www.seattle20.com/awards/live/

Send email to your friends, share on Facebook, Tweet it and blog about it. Jason Calacanis from Mahalo, which is a huge personality in startup-world, bragged about getting 600 viewers on his live show. Help us get to 1,000! Live Stream will start around 5:30pm.

Seattle Start Up Shout out: GIst

Gist announced it raised 6.75 MM from Foundry Group yesterday.  TA has done a great job of moving this companny from its origins of 1.5 years ago.  I helped Gist and Vulcan Partners for a short bit around the founding of the company and have tracked its progress till now.  I think the company has a lot of potential and an exciting potential as it re-invents the inbox from what it is now into a great tool for sales people (and everyone else). You should check the company out -- I expect good things to come from them!

Define Counter-intuitive: Starting a company in the recruiting industry now

I met with Bryan Starbuck, CEO of TalentSpring, at Louisa's, my favorite coffee jaunt on Eastlake.  As we were sitting down, I asked him what market he operated in. He told me recruiting. I smiled and kindly told him that Founder's Co-op would not be a good capital source for him.  With unemployment going to 10+% in the near term, we definately didn't like the recruiting marketplace as a market to be investing.  I told him it was nothing personal and nothing about his company and that I'd be glad to listen to his pitch and see how else I might be able to help him. Well, I'll be the first to admit it -- 30 minutes later, my initial assumptions about TalentSpring were very wrong. 
After learning about what Bryan is doing, I think TalentSpring is a very interesting company with lots of potential.  Simply put, he helps big and small companies deal with the generation and filtering of resumes to arrive at a pool of 100 resumes that a human should look at and sift through.  TalentSpring uses very sophisticated algorithms and processes to filter through thousands of resumes so a human recruiter can start with the best qualified base of potential candidates.  The company charges big companies an enterprise fee which is small enough ($500K+) when considering the value of getting high quality candidates into the right positions. Even in an economy with lots of unemployment, his business makes lots of sense.
Kudos to Bryan for ignoring my initial protestations and methodically taking me through his pitch. More Kudos to Bryan for making such an interesting company with such potential.  I think Bryan may still have an issue with his cost of sale and perhaps with his valuation in this round....but he definately has the makings for a decent size business! 

techflash looks cool

Just thought I'd give a little shout out to John Cook and Todd Bishop's new Seattle area tech beat.  These guys left the Seattle PI (The PI's loss) and have joined forces with the Puget Sound Business Journal to launch TechFlash. If you want to know what's going on in the Seattle technology scene you won't be able to beat these guys (pun intended). In typical fashion, they launch their site with some interesting news about Bill Gates new company. They're rock star reporters and I for one am happy to see them freed up editorially speaking with their new gig. Good luck guys.

Seattle Start Up Shout Out: Butter London

Every now and then, I look at investment opportunities outside of technology. Over the weekend, I met Sasha Muir, CEO of a simple new consumer company based in Seattle called ButterLondon.  The idea is simple: affordable luxury nail salons in airports.  The CEO, Sasha Muir, impressed me when I met her. She seems to have her hands, mind and nails all over this opportunity. And yes -- she has nice nails. Unfortunately, one of the drivers of the business is increased delays and wait times in airports! I haven't decided about investing yet -- but I think the company is pretty neat and I think this one will be successful. 

Seattle Start Up Shout Out: Zoodango.com

James Sun, recent runner up on the Apprentice, founded Zoodango.com just before meeting Mr. Trump.  He built Zoodango to help business people and aspiring entrepreneurs meet.  He wants them to meet in person.  9000 Starbucks locations are even integrated in the site to facilitate the interactions.  Zoodango’s essentially local business networking.  Think LinkedIn meets Facebook. 

The tough part for zoodango is the lack of differentiation from LinkedIn, the obvious market leader. LinkedIn facilitates interactions between business people’s existing associates, and helps them meet people within a degree of separation.  Zoodango’s meant to be more about people you don’t know, about fostering relationships that can help you or your business out.  As any web entrepreneur knows, building a community where one doesn’t currently exist is a tough thing to do. 

Where Zoodango may have a play is as the bridge between networks.  A whole lot of students will be graduating out of Facebook and MySpace soon, going from 300 social network friends to about five on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn doesn’t offer much to the un-networked twenty something.  If Zoodango can be first stop upon graduation, and help young business people build the network to eventually make LinkedIn work for them, it MAY have a market....but I'm not that optimistic.  The question is, how many business people are eager to meet at Starbucks with twenty-somethings?

Note:  Zoodango’s ratings multiplied ten fold the day Sun announced the site in Trump’s office....check it out here While the plug may have cost him the apprentice job, it certainly has to be the first social network to launch on national television!

Naming your company

Increasingly it's hard to come up with a name for your company. Fortunately, there are experts out there who are good about these sorts of things. If you need some help you might want to check out this blog: the name inspector. Also, if you're interested in reading about how noonhat got it's name -- read this post on the process. It's fun and interesting.

Seattle Start Up Shout Outs: NoonHat for lunch

I attended the Seattle Open Coffee this morning which continues to go strong as an informal networking event for entrepreneurs. Attendees are mostly high tech start up folks -- mostly 1 to 10 person pre-funding  companies. It's a good bastion of ideas, networking, and support for the next generation of web and software start ups. I decided that I was going to start to give shout outs to some of these small companies.
Today's shout out is for Noonhat. It's a start up or project run by Brian Dorsey .  The idea is relatively simple: log on, put in your location, and have lunch with people you don't know. It might sound weird -- but I think it's kind of cool. It's not a dating site like Just Lunch though I think it may end up being one. It's about meeting new people and having interesting conversations (period). Not really a business -- more of a cool project....and that's what Brian intends. Check it out and give Brian feedback. I'm going to go have a lunch and I'll let you know what happens. Should be fun....or at least worth blogging about.