In April, Startup Grind Washington DC had the privilege to speak with Dr. Magid Abraham, co-founder of comScore. This event marked Startup Grind DC’s first time hosting a speaker out of 1776, DC’s newest (and very promising) co-working space. The event was certainly an interesting and eventful occasion for all those involved: interesting due to Dr. Abraham’s remarks, and eventful due to an unexpected fire alarm that temporarily moved the event to the building’s lobby, stairwells, and sidewalk (not even kidding, on the street networking definitely happened). It was certainly a Startup Grind first, but in the end, we all came away with some insightful and powerful points provided by comScore’s legendary leader.
Zimride is the largest ridesharing community in the US with over 200 million miles shared. We provide private ridesharing networks for 150 universities and companies across the US. Zimride also partners with hundreds of events each year such as Coachella, Bonaroo, and the Dave Matthews Band tour.
Halle is responsible for building partnerships and overseeing Rock Health’s strategic direction. She previously worked for Intel and Apple, and founded YogaBear.org. She earned a BS at Case Western Reserve University and an MBA at Harvard Business School. Halle was named one of CNN’s “12 Entrepreneurs Reinventing Healthcare” and Forbes “30 under 30″.
Personally the first Startup Grind event I ever attended, complete with Cash Money Records music, free pizza, and great networking. I was lucky enough to see one of the legendary VCs from Silicon Valley, Jeff Clavier. Throughout this interview he goes over a variety of topics any entrepreneur will still find valuable today such as how to get a meeting with SoftTech VC, how to perfect your pitch, and what NOT to do when trying to get a VCs attention.
[00:00:05.20] QUESTION: What about this thing right now, are you seeing, there’s been a lot of talk of, that just there’s all these companies that were funded at the angel level, they’re now coming in for a series A, not able to get that funding. Are you seeing that with your companies that you’re having, or not you specifically but companies in general, that is this a real trend that’s happening that companies raised angel round are now struggling to raise series A, maybe because they shouldn’t have deserved an angel round or some other reason?
One of the first big interviews Startup Grind ever hosted was with Jason Calacanis. Jason was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule during his meetings in Palo Alto to come and speak to small intimate group at the Startup grind offices. Watch and learn more about Jason’s early entrepreneurial ventures during Web 1.0, what catches his eye in an entrepreneur and how to perfect your pitch.
[00:02] DEREK: On that note, let me introduce Jason; he needs no introduction, he’s worldwide.
In one of the earliest Startup Grind interviews, David Cowan from Bessemer Venture Partners joined us to discuss a variety of things going on in Silicon Valley. From what VCs are really looking for, seeing potential in the right entrepreneurs, and being on the board of one of the most successful app developer, Smule.
[02:34] DAVID: OK. I didn’t mean to get involved in the technology industry, it was an accident. I loved computer science and studied it in college. I had some friends that worked with me in the Science Center and we were called Terminal Watchers. They told me when I graduated that I had to interview with a company called Oracle. I didn’t know what it was or care, I was all set to get a job at some investment bank or management consulting firm; that was more glamorous back then. My friends urged me to go to the interview so I did. Back then, Oracle was hiring like crazy and didn’t know who I was, just that I was a computer science major.
Mr. PENG Jie at talks to co-organizer Chance Jiang at Startup Grind Guangzhou
Half an hour before the event I sat down with Mr. Peng Jie, our guest for the Startup Grind Guangzhou March 15 meetup. In his Scottish tartan shirt, Mr. Peng impressed me as a typical software engineer, like I’ve been seeing around town. He came with Mr. Chen Gangqiang, CEO of ShareSDK.cn. Not long after we started the conversation, he spoke in a slow but clear voice, “we are looking for a co-founder who can help the ShareSDK product service international markets, please send us referrals if you have some.” I replied, “Hey, you came to the right place!”
During the fireside chat, we shared Mr. Peng’s career story, about his rise from obscurity to a tech entrepreneur/investor today. Here are a few interesting points summarized from our chat.
Can you share your story on why you got started building software
products? How did you get started?
I graduated from a polytechnic college nobody knows with a degree in computer programming. With such a degree, I felt self-conscious and lucky enough to get a job in a small company, other than seeking jobs in big name corporations. I felt lucky to land on a programming job in a small company, and earn 3k RMB/month, enough to survive in Guangzhou back then.
The only thing I could do was focus on my job – programming. Besides programming, I also had to do some marketing, customer support work and everything else necessary to keep the small company going. Since my first job, I have never worried about seeking a job because my friends and acquaintances kept referring new and higher-paying jobs to me. I worked on different roles in those companies from programming to customer support, and I finally focused more on marketing. As a result, I learned early on all aspects of running a software business, which I could not have learned if I were working for a big name corporation in a single role.
Back then, SMS/MMS was the big new thing and applications around this technology seemed hot. I followed it up by building and selling apps around SMS such as analytics tools for corporate clients. Everything seems to happen so naturally, I just scaled everything up with San Ji Networks Tech LLC in 2004.
In recent years, many companies, big or small, are exploring their own ‘mobile strategies’ whether the pressure is from outside or inside. What general advice you would give them?
Small mobile app teams have the greatest opportunities if they build apps for corporate clients to address their business needs. Most companies lack software DNA and it’s in their best interest to outsource the work to specialized teams.
What kind of early startup business or technologies you haven’t funded but you wish you can find such teams to work with?
I’m looking for teams that can do big data, but have yet to be convinced by anyone I’ve met. I think big data technologies built for the corporate market in China can probably have the greatest impact. Mobile games could also be big in China. The 3rd kind, which I have already funded, are startups who build tools that enable people or companies to achieve what they want from using or releasing a mobile app, this is what ShareSDK.cn does.
Comparing 2004 and now, what are the new opportunities you can see
for software startups from the perspective of access to capital and
collective knowledge on software tech?
Between 2000 and 2004, I saw growth patterns that nobody can copy now, such as the 3 big name Chinese Internet companies. In recent years, it’s getting harder and harder to achieve overnight success if you only copy their models.
In coming years, I expect to see more and more small but beautiful mobile app companies. They build mobile apps that target a specialized area and make it so good that user adoption is driven only by word-of-mouth, such as Find Something, a leisure game, and Moji Weather, a weather gadget app. They are typically valued between 5 million and 10 million RMB. They don’t aim for big IPO. Instead, they aim to build good product for users and good income, good life and work balance for employees. You may think they work for niche market. But when you factor in Chinese mobile user base, the absolute user number of a niche app’s in China could be 100 million, which by no means is considered small in western countries.
In between my questions, Mr. Peng is not shy sharing his philosophies on life, such as “Everything that happened to you has been the best arrangement”, and “The amount of wealth you can live with is determined by the level of your personal quality. In Chinese, 厚德载物。”
Our Dave McClure interview is easily one of the most memorable Startup Grind interviews ever. Dave came to the stage and talked about everything from farting unicorns to expanding out to international cities with 500 Startups. Watch and learn how to get the right VC’s attention, expand into new markets, build a great product, and get a meeting with the pirate VC himself.
[00:01:22.08] QUESTION: Welcome to the Startup Grind. We like to start these things out by just getting to know you a little bit, hear about your background. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up tell us about –
[00:01:30.26] DAVE: I know I’m really hard to find on the web, so it’s all a big secret.
[00:01:37.25] QUESTION: We’re going to dive deep, man, we got handkerchiefs, we got everything. We expect the tears to flow. So, tell us about West Virginia, tell us about your family and tell us all about it.
Vinod grew up dreaming of being an entrepreneur, despite growing up in an Indian Army household with no business or technology connections. Since the age of 16, when he first heard about Intel starting up, he dreamt of starting his own technology company. Upon graduating with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Vinod failed, at age 20, to start a soy milk company to service the many people in India who did not have refrigerators. He came instead to the U.S. and got his master’s in biomedical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University. His start-up dreams attracted him to Silicon Valley, where he got an MBA at Stanford University in 1980.
Upon graduation he was one of the three founders of Daisy Systems, which was the first significant computer-aided design system for electrical engineers. The company went on to achieve significant revenue, profits, and an IPO, but Khosla, driven by the frustration of having to design the computer hardware on which the Daisy software needed to be built, started the standards-based Sun Microsystems in 1982 to build workstations for software developers. At Sun he pioneered “open systems” and RISC processors. Sun was funded by longtime friend and board member John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In 1986 Vinod switched sides and joined Kleiner Perkins, where he was and continues to be a general partner of KPCB funds through KP X. Through the years there, with other partners, he took on Intel’s monopoly with Nexgen/AMD (the only microprocessor to have significant success against Intel, sold to AMD for 28 percent of AMD), incubated the idea and business plan for Juniper to take on Cisco’s dominance of the router market, formulated the very early advertising-based search strategy for Excite, and transformed the moribund telecommunications business and its archaic SONET implementations with Cerent (sold to Cisco for $7B). He helped in creating value, having fun, succeeding, failing (remember Dynabook?), and driving impact in partnership with entrepreneurs and the partners at KPCB.
In 2004, Vinod, driven by the need for flexibility to accommodate four teenaged children and a desire to be more experimental, to fund sometimes imprudent “science experiments,” and to take on both for-profit and for “social impact” ventures, formed khoslaventures, funded entirely with family funds. His goals remain the same: work and learn from fun and knowledgeable entrepreneurs, build impactful companies through the leverage of innovation, and spend time in a partnership that makes a difference.
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Carel van Apeldoorn
Carel is CEO and cofounder of Ink361.com, the leading web based Instagram photo sharing network. Carel is a serial entrepreneur and holds a MSc degree of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He has worked in investment banking prior to becoming an entrepreneur and has founded three successful companies over the last 12 years.
Google is offering startups $1,000 of credit to start building applications on Google App Engine. App Engine is a development platform that makes applications easy to write, simple to scale, and trivial to manage. Use verification code: SGAE-02