Archive for the ‘Start ups’ Category
13th November 14
The first ‘tech’ conference I attended was SXSW in 2007. Screens in every hallway were showing a live stream of this thing called twitter. Everyone had a Second Life strategy, plan or notion. And no-one, as far as I noticed, was talking about Facebook which had only opened up to the general public six months earlier. I met some extraordinary people, I heard some outstanding talks and returned to London having drunk *all* the Kool Aid.
Last week, at WebSummit 2014 in Dublin, among the hundreds of eager start-ups who pay fancy money for the opportunity to meet more money, I saw a number of startups who wanted to be ‘The Tinder for real life encounters’, all using the word ‘spotted’ in their names. There were dozens of variations of ‘A social network/platform/app enabling friends/family/strangers to share photos/videos/plans’. There was even ‘A social network that allows you to share short updates with friends by answering the question ‘what are you up to?’ – something familiar about that particular concept, I felt.
Clearly, then, WebSummit made me feel old, grumpy and nostalgic and I don’t want to be old and grumpy. Not yet, anyway. It’s very tempting to hark back to 1994 or 2004, when the internet was a wide open frontier and everything was up for grabs and wax lyrical about all the big dreams being dreamt. But as Kevin Kelly says, right now, today, in 2014, is the best time in human history to start something. There are “more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside,” than ever before, and the evidence of this optimism, this can-do spirit was certainly present in Dublin, even if the some of the ambition seemed a little slight.
Of course the majority of the startups exhibiting at WebSummit won’t get beyond year one, let alone year five – but all these young people (and these were young, young people) have all started something, raised a little capital from friends and family, worked late nights, called in favours and launched their own thing into the world. And they are keen and smart and committed and will learn from success and learn from failure and make better things and bigger things. And they’ll solve harder problems than what happens if you see someone you like the in the street but can’t find them on Tinder.
And, because they are not tired and old and jaded and grumpy and nostalgic, WebSummit was probably a great experience for them. They’ll have met their peers, discovered new technologies, allies, funders, competitors. They might decide to go back to the drawing board and start again, or refine their proposition, or perhaps decide that they might need some old-fashioned marketing to differentiate themselves from the other startups who are doing similar, but not exactly the same, things.
But I’m sure they won’t stop starting something new. They’re entrepreneurs, startups, founders, dreamers. It’s who they are and what they do. In Dublin last week there was lots of Guinness downed, but also plenty of a new vintage of Kool Aid. At WebSummit both tasted pretty good.
10th March 14
In his new book on creativity Sir John Hegarty cautions the creative industry to not become enthralled with technology, but instead allow technology to liberate great ideas. This is the idea behind Pie, a tool for modern teams to save and share inspiring finds and ideas.
Pie originated in the BBH ZAG bakery and we spoke with Pieter Walraven, formerly Product Director of BBH ZAG Asia, about the things he learned during his journey from an idea to a funded startup.
So what is Pie and how did you get the idea?
Pie is a link-sharing tool that helps teams share and organize the zillion things they see at work every day. At BBH me and Thijs Jacobs (former BBH Asia Pacific Head of Creative Technology) noticed that people are constantly sharing and discussing inspiring things over email. We loved the culture of sharing, but we saw that sharing ideas over email is broken. It clutters inboxes and relevant finds easily get buried. After talking to other companies and clients about this issue we learned that they have the same problem. This is when started thinking about a technology enabling an open culture of sharing with the bigger vision of liberating great ideas.
When you say you ‘started thinking about a technology’ what does that mean, how did you translate your idea into an actual product?
What we did early on was look at the current relevant software offerings out there such as Yammer and Sharepoint and didn’t really like what we saw – who decided that enterprise software has to be dull?! So we shifted our focus to consumer apps as they’re much better at creating a great user experience.
Obviously, we liked the visual aspect of Pinterest and found that boards are a great way to organize things. We’ve used elements from Pinterest and other popular consumer applications to design our first MVP and tested 2 hypotheses: ‘do people want to use this?’ and ‘will people be drawn in by the visual consumer-like design?’.
(An early iteration of the Pie MVP)
So you tested your assumptions, what was the next step? When did you actually set up Pie as a company?
To maximise our chances of building a successful global SaaS company we knew we had to raise external funding and attract top talent. Most high-profile strategic investors only invest in strong and autonomous founding teams so shortly after we’ve completed testing our MVP we set up Pie as a separate company with myself and Thijs as founders and major shareholders.
As we both have prior experience of tech startups our pitch deck was mainly focused on the founding team. It also included the positive market outlook – “Adoption of Social Enterprise is Booming” – and the findings of our MVP which consisted of both usage data and the interest of potential clients.
(Pie pitch deck: market opportunity slide)
For structuring our financing we used a model called convertible notes. A convertible note is basically a loan that converts into shares of preferred stock upon the closing of a the next round – Series A – round of financing. Here’s a great TechCrunch article on convertible notes with all the pros and cons.
After a few hectic and uncertain months we managed to raise our target of $800K from a list of notable investors including BBH Asia Pacific’s former ECD, Steve Elrick, a U.S.-based VC, Siemer Ventures, and Peng Tsin Ong, founder of Match.com and widely considered one of Asia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.
So tell us a bit about your daily routine at Pie, what keeps you busy?
It might sound obvious, but I underestimated the amount of time I have to spend on hiring. Our culture is our most valuable asset and it takes time to carefully select people that match the rest of the team. Of course it doesn’t help that these kind of people already have a great job! Basically hiring great people takes time, but luckily it gets easier as Pie’s exposure grows and we gain more international traction.
(Pie’s stream where you can see what coworkers are collecting and sharing)
Other than hiring me and the rest of the Pie team are 100% focused on growth. Everything we do is directly or indirectly related to growing our user base. We’re constantly iterating on Pie to improve either the user engagement or the virality. We’ve also been writing and seeding content for our target audience to attract users and have had some success with this – we’ve been live for 1.5 months and over 700 companies are on Pie ranging from Spotify to Shell. We’re seeing companies saving and sharing industry news, innovations, market data, trends, but also funny videos. Companies such as Edelman and IDEO use Pie to keep track of market trends and collaborate around certain topics. Besides internal sharing they also use Pie to share inspiration and links to relevant articles with clients.
Proximity (BBDO) uses Pie to collect and organize UX best practices. They create boards with finds that can be used for later use. Before Pie was introduced people were storing things in email drafts or spreadsheets invisible for their coworkers to see. By collecting things on boards knowledge that was previously hidden in silos now gets exposed to the rest of the team.
(A library of posts collected by a team on a ‘collaborative board’)
11th March 13
Author: Saneel Radia, Founder Finch15
When Ben and Mel set up BBH Labs long before I was ever given the keys here in NYC, one of its core ambitions was to birth new offerings. Well, I’m lucky to say this certainly panned out, which is exactly why I had to say goodbye.
One thing that became clear after years of conversations with clients about innovation was that many big, mature brands look upon startups with joy (and a touch of envy) as they see the culture of innovation with which they are imbued. At the same time, there are plenty of very big companies innovating at a speed and scale that no startup could ever comprehend (P&G and AmEx are two companies I find myself applauding all the time, even if the awe isn’t mutual). That’s because web innovation and product innovation are not the same thing – unless your core product is on the web. For companies that primarily create analog products, this innovation landscape can seem like a foreign land with a different language and odd custom
At the same time, more and more of these big companies are talking about their marketing outputs as assets. Thus an idea was born. These assets could provide real commercial value if they were used to create a competitive advantage in the digital space. If a brand has strong brand equity, distribution, consumer data and other “brand assets” that can help create digital businesses, that’s a well-lit path to product innovation. We created Finch15 to identify this path and guide clients down it.
In a nutshell, Finch15 creates revenue-generating digital businesses for brands. We identify market opportunities, quantify their value and determine the best way a brand can stretch profitably into that space using those precious assets. It’s a form of lateral innovation. The client stays true to their business and brand, but we help move them into a new, digital category. We mitigate the risk of this effort by ensuring whatever we do is good for the brand. So, if things don’t pan out, they have a self-funded marketing effort. If they do, they have a completely new source of revenue in what is likely a fast-growth market.
We certainly aren’t the first to pursue this, and hope we aren’t the last. In our effort, we aspired to create a unique mix of marketing, rokettube porno investment banking and tech talent that gives us a chance to create innovative, successful businesses for our clients. Yes, we do have clients. And no, we aren’t telling yet (you’ll see them when the businesses launch).
It’s exciting to found a company birthed at BBH Labs and incubated at VivaKi. VivaKi’s network of tech, media and strategy talent is a huge resource for a small startup. We couldn’t be more excited. I’m especially honored they’re letting me serve the concurrent role of EVP, Product Innovation for them. I get to work with VivaKi clients across the globe and actually talk to those very innovative companies accomplishing things at a scale few others can imagine.
Wish us luck. Or just “ooo” and “ahhh” at the dynamic logo Tim, Victor, Lasse and other BBH Labs members created here.
2nd September 11
The BBH Labs team had a chance to attend Dave McClure’s 500 Startups NYC Demo at General Assembly this week. Dave is a Super Angel who has invested in startups like Mint.com and Twilio. The room was packed with enthusiastic entrepreneurs, inventors, geeks, developers, cooks, fashion hounds, drunks, Bloggers and investors waiting to get a glimpse into the freshly born companies.
During the course of the evening we learned some new lingo that 500 Startups seems to use for all ventures:
Advisory Round – All the startups had an advisory round of funding. These rounds were typically under $150k
Double Down – This is a focus on a target audience, occasion or time of year when the startup will win
Angelist – The website that houses all startups and makes it easy for angel investors to get information on founders and concepts
Cobra High-Five – A celebratory hand gesture between two people simultaneously that mixes a normal high-five and moving your arm and hand in cobra-like motion
Every idea was impressive in its own right. At BBH Labs we tend to like ideas that fix fundamental human problems in innovate ways. Venture Beat did a great write up on all the ideas but here are a few that we would like to highlight:
DailyAisle: Reinvent the wedding planning process
The DailyAisle is the Kayak of wedding planning. You can search for venues, photographers, DJ’s for a wedding by budget, dates and the like. Daily Aisle takes a 10 percent reservation fee for each wedding venue booked through the site. They currently only serve the San Francisco area but we expect to see them in towns across the States soon.
Ovia: Reinvent the interview process
Ovia is an online video interviewing service. Job candidates record un-rehearsed answers to questions using their webcam and then ship the video over to a human resources provider. The candidates are all asked the same questions in the same manner. Recruiters can then watch and evaluate candidate responses. OVIA Presentation
Skipola: Reinvent the restaurant phone order
Skipola is a service that calls a restaurant for you when you want to order something. Less than 10% of restaurants have online ordering. Restaurants can also use the iPad app to retrieve the orders in a “ticket” like manner. Skipola Presentation
StoryTree: Reinvent the family bible
StoryTree is an online site that keeps track of a family’s significant moments — like a baby’s first steps or the death of a loved one. You record videos and add photos to build out a “tree.” Social Networks are in the moment and StoryTree makes the moment last. Storytree Presentation
Which of these startups do you like most? What other startups are you following? We want to hear from you.
29th March 11
Author: Adam Arnold, Partner, BBH
Today sees the launch of The Black Sheep Fund – which we believe is the first venture capital fund of its kind. It is a venture between Zag (BBH’s brand invention business) and Spark Ventures – the London based VCs that backed start up phenomena including lastminute.com, Kobalt Music, notonthehighstreet.com and Moshi Monsters.
The background is increasingly obvious: There is a dearth of seed funds for start ups. If things feel tighter than they used to be in the States – then it is ten times harder to raise money in Europe right now. The banks demand personal guarantees for business loans (!), and institutions are incredibly risk averse. If you are proven entrepreneur with a string of successful exits under your belt, then you will get by. But if you are young, hungry and full of belief in your big idea – you might well get nowhere. The thing we spotted was that the next big digital business is just as likely to come from new entrepreneurs – and that is why we set up this fund.
The premise is simple: We offer a unique cocktail of business building and brand building in one investment package. All VC’s invest cash and sit on boards. Our fund will do this plus it will help to ensure the business captures the imaginations and loyalties of consumers too. We call it ‘creative capital’. We aim to invest this creative capital in businesses that intersect consumers, technology and content. Examples would include smart new social tools, disruptive e-retailing concepts or contagious GPS games. The portfolio will be broad so long as the role of the brand is business critical. The Fund was announced today in the Financial Times, and we already have our foundation funds in place. Over the next quarter we will be meeting prospective start ups and raising the rest of the fund – targeting £10m GBP.
The invitation is open: If you or anyone you know is currently sitting on a great start up idea that they plan to take to market – then do consider the Black Sheep Fund on your short list of VC’s. We are primarily a UK based fund, but we are idea led – and a good enough idea with the right management sex sikis porno could be invested in overseas. And, if you are an angel, with a growing desire to re-enter or join in the start up scene, then do get in touch for more information. The fund will qualify as an Enterprise Incentive Scheme (EIS) – which the UK government made increasingly attractive in the Budget last week.
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on the Black Sheep Fund, BBH and Spark Ventures: