I AM INTO THIS. Who are the Cambridge Satchel Company and why should we care? The company started in 2008, and they sell old-style 1950s/60s era British school satchels. Originally meant for kids (the founder states, "I honestly thought that it would be schoolchildren and parents buying my bags!"), the satchels have become a more modest and budget-friendly alternative to designer bags. As a small startup company, they relied on enthusiastic word-of-mouth from the internet to bolster their profits; Deane states,"I think online was the only way that we could really engage and get traction really quickly" (warning: autoplaying video). This is the perfect storm of internet obsession: you click the link, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. [more inside]
The 2nd episode of the new podcast Reply All is about the "unsettling" Instagram for Doctors app "Figure One". [more inside]
“The home runs have really been anything we can do to target our actual users,” Budman reflects. “You want to get as narrow as possible. If we can find Mac software developers in the Mission or in Brooklyn, it’s awesome.” Fast-growing online backup company Backblaze tried all kinds of marketing ploys to get new customers, from Adwords to an appearance on Ellen Degeneres: here's what worked and what didn't. (Previously)
Shubham Banerjee is an inventor who earlier this year unveiled a braille printer that he was able to assemble with a Mindstorms LEGO kit and a few very inexpensive odds and ends from the hardware store. Here he is presenting a demo of the device in action. He has named the device a Braigo and has created a startup company with the intention to refine the design and put it on the market. Earlier this week, Intel Capital announced it would invest in the company. And what's the kicker to this story? Banerjee is only 13 years old.
"Using contractors it calls "brand ambassadors," Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection. The effort, which Uber appears to be rolling out nationally, has already resulted in thousands of canceled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for its rival to gain a foothold in new markets. Uber calls the program "SLOG," and it’s a previously unreported aspect of the company’s ruthless efforts to undermine its competitors."
A series from Re/code exploring the explosion of tech startups that cater to our every need and desire, on demand. [more inside]
Editor’s note: We don’t publish many anonymous pieces on Forbes.com, but this compelling first-person account of sexism in the startup world merits an exception. I met the author several months ago and was floored by the stories she had to tell about her dealings with mostly male investors. Like many men (as she writes), I knew women in tech faced a certain degree of chauvinism and harassment, but I’d had no idea it was so barefaced and routine, in an industry that thinks of itself as egalitarian and forward-looking. After much persuading, she agreed to write about her experiences but asked that I omit her name, for several reasons. First (again, as she writes), the startup community is a small one, and founders rely heavily on social capital and goodwill to navigate it. Speaking up carries big risks. But fear of retribution wasn’t her only concern. While putting an individual human face on an issue, it can also be a way for critics to short circuit the discussion by engaging in ad hominem attacks. ”I don’t want it to be about me, but about the issue at hand,” the author says. “When we get into a witch hunt around particular personalities, we lose sight of the problem we should be tackling.”
But what about those tech entrepreneurs who lose – and keep on losing? What about those who start one company after another, refine pitches, tweak products, pivot strategies, reinvent themselves … and never succeed? What about the angst masked behind upbeat facades?
"Hi, Marc... You seem to think everyone's worried about robots. But what everyone's worried about is you, Marc. Not just you, but people like you. Robots aren't at the levers of financial and political influence today, but folks like you sure are. People are scared of so much wealth and control being in so few hands... Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn't going to make it happen." [more inside]
"In Silicon Valley, where The Work of creating The Future is sacrosanct, the suggestion that there might be something not entirely normal about this—that it might be a little weird that investors are sinking millions of dollars into a laundry company they had been introduced to over email that doesn't even do laundry; that maybe you don’t really need engineers to do what is essentially a minor household chore—would be taken as blasphemy."
Wired's Gideon Lewis-Kraus reports from the trenches of the Silicon Valley "ecosystem". [more inside]
TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler delivers a 12,000-word deep-dive on San Francisco's Housing Crisis. Touching on: rent control, the Ellis Act, Dianne Feinstein, the mission, the Fillmore, Angelo Sangiacomo, Howard Jarvis, the failure of the Greater San Francisco movement, the perfidy if the Mountain View city council, and the Byzantine machinations behind the Twitter tax. If some of those names are unfamiliar to you, strap in: the story of San Francisco's property law may have found its Gibbon.
Egyptian startup culture vs. Silicon Valley: how to lock down bugfixes & VC funding in midst of military takeover? Via
The Columbia Journalism Review interviews Evgeny Morozov: Evgeny vs. the internet
The entire Morozov aesthetic is in this sentence: the venom, the derision, the reverse jujitsu of his opponents’ sanctimony, the bald accusation that all the talk about a new age of human flourishing is nothing but an attempt to vamp the speaker’s consulting business. Tech enthusiasts channel hope. Tech skeptics channel worry. Morozov channels anger, and this can be a very satisfying emotion to anyone unconvinced that everything is getting better. Leon Wieseltier, who has published some of Morozov’s most acid criticism at The New Republic, compares him to the ferocious jazz musician Charles Mingus, who once responded to an interviewer who accused him of “hollerin’ ” by saying, “I feel like hollerin’.” I asked Morozov if he considers his Twitter feed, which spews a constant stream of invective and absurdist satire, to be performative. This was a bit like asking Mingus if he considers jazz performative. “Absolutely,” he said. “I consider it art.”[more inside]
Snapchat represents the greatest existential threat yet to the Facebook juggernaut. Today’s teens have finally learned the lesson their older siblings failed to grasp: What you post on social media–the good, the bad, the inappropriate–stays there forever. And so they’ve been signing up for Snapchat, with its Mission: Impossible style detonation technology, in droves. [more inside]
Turntable.fm (previously), a virtual DJ room where users streamed music together, has lost the fight (previously) to stay alive and has gone silent. Are other streaming music sites like Spotify and Pandora also in danger?.
As a long-time Couchsurfer, I felt that once management put the values of venture capital funders over the organic, self-organized traveler base, and reorganized with a top-down, “start-up” mentality, the fall was inevitable.
The data analysis group that used Facebook and set top TV data to help Barack Obama win the latest election is taking its talents to the private sector. (SL NYTimes)
PayPal locked down the developer’s account, and said it could only have 50% of the funds. The rest would be released as development continued, based on PayPal’s assessment of the situation. PayPal was, essentially, going to become a producer going forward. Crowdfunding's Secret Enemy is PayPal
How to Advertise on a Porn Website. Startup Eat24 explains how they advertise on porn sites and the advantages in doing so.
Launching my first product :
Brand, Make, Sell Sell, Make, Brand
"Inside a Startup's Plan to Turn a Swarm of DIY Satellites Into an All-Seeing Eye" - Wired on Skybox Imaging. [more inside]
Are coders worth it? We call ourselves web developers, software engineers, builders, entrepreneurs, innovators. We’re celebrated, we capture a lot of wealth and attention and talent. We’ve become a vortex on a par with Wall Street for precocious college grads. But we’re not making the self-driving car. We’re not making a smarter pill bottle. Most of what we’re doing, in fact, is putting boxes on a page. Users put words and pictures into one box; we store that stuff in a database; and then out it comes into another box.
You should care because the unexotic underclass can help address one of the biggest inefficiencies plaguing the startup scene right now: the flood of (ostensibly) smart, ambitious young people desperate to be entrepreneurs; and the embarrassingly idea-starved landscape where too many smart people are chasing too many dumb ideas,
How can a company that earns no money be worth a billion dollars? How you answer that question will determine whether you believe that what is now occurring in the office parks and strip-mall coffee shops of the San Francisco Peninsula is the last gasp of another speculative financial bubble or the early articulations of a new world order.
The credit card processor Stripe has an interesting policy of email transparency within the company (previously).
Kevin Roose of Nymag.com posted about a brand new North Carolinian hedge fund that seemed less than impressive. The fund then started to use a sarcastic quote from Kevin's post as a kind of ringing endorsement on their website. Uh oh.
Being deaf. A young programmer's personal account of being the only deaf employee at a startup.
Before naming your startup, read this. "This guide is divided into three, independent sections: Why Bad Names Hurt You, Coming Up With Names, and Examples of Strong and Weak Names." [more inside]
Whartonite Seeks Code Monkey (SLTumblr).
Prime Minister David Cameron set out his plans for making Britain more innovation and startup friendly. [more inside]
Who Creates Jobs? Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post discusses a paper "Who Creates Jobs? Small vs. Large vs. Young" (behind paywall, pre-publication PDF). The thesis is that long term job growth really comes from new start-ups. [more inside]
"Pile is a new, radically relationist approach to data, structures and computing" invented by Erez Elul and supported by Peter Krieg (obit, much more in German here) promised much. In 2000, a company was founded (pilesys on archive.org), later a book was published ("The paranoid machine", by Peter Krieg.) [more inside]
It's more of a "how are you paying?" than "what are you doing?" kind of business. Square Inc. is a new startup cofounded by Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Jim McKelvey which will allow businesses and individuals to take credit card payments from customers anywhere. Receipts and confirmations are paperless and get sent to buyers via text message or email. While the media believes it is set to shake up the credit card processing industry, it has also committed to donate a penny on every transaction a merchant takes to a cause of their choice. Square is starting business with $10 million in venture capital funding and is of course tweeting the process; you can see it in action here or try it at Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco.
Reddit founders Kn0thing and Spez have left the building. The social media juggernaut's founders Alexis (Kn0thing) and Steve (Spez) have declined to renew their contracts, prompting much discussion and speculation on reddit itself, and the incubator that helped it start up, Ycombinator.
Like iScribble and Oekaki before it, DoInk.com is a place for people to create collaborative artwork online. The difference? It's for animation. [more inside]
What happens when a former NASA software engineer and a co-founder of Wired magazine decide to start up a chocolate company? TCHO Ventures is trying to make single-bean varietal chocolate varieties that best express the component flavors of chocolate, which they've identified as "chocolate", "nutty", "fruity", "floral", "earthy", and "citrus". To test this concept, they've been "beta-testing" their chocolate in plain brown wrappers, and collecting feedback. The result is good chocolate, with just a hint of viral marketing.
So apostrophree corrects these kinds of errors before people see them, preventing employees from spending time posting corrections and engaging in online flame wars about English usage?
Start-up Junkies. An eight-part documentary on hulu about the genesis and growth of a multi-million dollar startup company.
The head of a small company may still choose to be a tyrant; a large organization is compelled by its structure to be one
In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally. Or: You weren't meant to have a boss. On the other hand, maybe you are.
They claimed they would destroy all television with their business. $100 million and one cast member of First Kid later, all they had were massive amounts of failure, tremendous parties with Bryan Singer, and many, many, many allegations of sexual molestation. Now they hide in the Spanish Riviera and hire Chinese sweatshop workers to mine for World of Warcraft items. Check as well the original 2000 LA Times expose on the company, to say nothing of the "gay pedophile version of Silver Spoons" which remains their finest artistic achievement. via boingboing [more inside]
Pixoh is a new online simple image editor in the vein of PXN8. Pixoh, however, allows quick image import and export from Flickr or upload any other webpage via bookmarklet. At the moment, only the most basic of editing tools are available, but the creators - in the spirit of Web2.0 openness - promise new features based on user votes. Effect for MeFi? Oversized inline images won't know what hit 'em.
Can't think at home? Working from home, but feeling isolated?
Is this the latest new fangled fad in office space concepts?
Is this the latest new fangled fad in office space concepts?
People are talking. Now, someone's listening. Late-from-the-gate tech startup BuzzMetrics "analyzes, measures, monitors, & influences the unaided consumer discussions that naturally occur in online communities." If that's not spooky enough, they continue: "Some consumers have more influence over public opinion than others, but targeting them has always been extremely difficult." BuzzMetrics is happy to identify negative posters and research their posting histories, among other services. Does this toe an ethical line? Does it change how you post to online conversations? Oh, yeah -- they're hiring.
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