Category Archives: Entrepreneur Profiles

Foursquare Copy Cat to $1 Billion Photo Empire | Startups Iterate (Pivot) | Inc.

More interesting background on Instagram. Includes pivots, university ecosystems, and the idea of focus in the early days of a startup. Wow does location matter! From Eric Markowitz at Inc.:

Systrom’s first hire and eventual co-founder was Mike Krieger, a Brazilian-born 25-year-old engineer who worked at Meebo at the time. The pair had met at Stanford’s Mayfield Fellows program, a nine-month work-study program at Stanford designed to educate eager young students in running technology companies. Kim-Mai Cutler, writing for TechCrunch, describes Krieger as one of the “sweetest, most self-effacing engineers and user-experience designers.”

“Once he joined, we took a step back and looked at the product as it stood,” Systrom reflected on Quora. “We decided that if we were going to build a company, we wanted to focus on being really good at one thing.”

But Systrom and Krieger were unhappy with Burbn.

It was “cluttered” and “overrun with features,” Systrom noted on Quora, adding that the photo feature was by far the most popular. So in August, the founders made an incredibly risky, but perhaps prophetic, decision: They’d scrap Burbn almost entirely in order to build an entirely new app from the ground up.

“It was really difficult to decide to start from scratch, but we went out on a limb, and basically cut everything in the Burbn app except for its photo, comment, and like capabilities,” Systrom continued.

Read the entire article, its interesting and highlights many interesting concepts about new ventures, apps, silicon valley, etc.. (BTW, the photo below, apparently was from when the instagram founders were renting a desk at a coworking space for $500 a month)

via How Instagram Grew From Foursquare Knock-Off to $1 Billion Empire | Inc.com.

Sht Entrepreneurs Say – YouTube

@Bindlebags just posted this on the StartUp Mason Facebook page.

Sht Entrepreneurs Say – YouTube.

A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups | Chronicle of Higher Education | #Edtech #hackedu

Nick DeSantis of the Chronicle of Higher Education writes about the incredible surge in investing in education technology start-ups. While people in the article claim ‘this time is different, I am not so sure. (I was at the University of Chicago when a bunch distinguished professors created UNext.com during the late 1990s — BIG BUST just like the startup I joined in 1999). From DeSantis:

Investments in education-technology companies nationwide tripled in the last decade, shooting up to $429-million in 2011 from $146-million in 2002, according to the Na­tional Venture Capital Association. The boom really took off in 2009, when venture capitalists pushed $150-million more into education-technology firms than they did in the previous year, even as the economy sank into recession.

“The investing community believes that the Internet is hitting edu­cation, that education is having its Internet moment,” said Jose Ferreira, founder of the interactive-learning company Knewton. Last year Mr. Ferreira’s company scored a $33-million investment of its own in one of the biggest deals of the year.

The scramble to make bets on a tech-infused college revolution has led to so many new companies that even Mr. Ferreira can’t keep track.

Udacity, Udemy, and University­Now all have plans to revolutionize online learning. There’s the Coursebook, a young online-learning start-up. And Coursekit, a nascent challenger to Blackboard in the market for learning-management software. And Courseload, the Indiana-based digital-textbook enterprise. And CourseRank, the class-sorting outfit acquired by the textbook vendor Chegg two years ago.

This isn’t the first ed-tech boom to crowd the market with companies whose names sound alike. A similar wave hit in the late 90s, during the larger dot-com frenzy. But today’s investors believe this round of growth is different. Michael Moe, co-founder of the investment-advisory firm GSV Asset Management, said the first ed-tech wave had been based mostly on euphoria that anything digital would work.

“There were just a bunch of things that were, candidly, thrown against the wall,” he said of the 90s start-ups. Some companies pitched ideas that had no sustainable business model. Others, Mr. Moe added, were years ahead of their time. (Courseload, the digital-textbook start-up revived in 2009, was born in 2000, but its leaders say tools weren’t available to support it until more recently.) When the dot-com bubble burst, investors fled the market.

The piece highlights that students are perfectly positioned to play a role in the revolution in higher education (campus as market). A number of students and recent grads I work with through Startup Mason on working in the higher education space:

Mr. Staton said his fellow entrepreneurs had also flocked to education because they know its chal­lenges better than any other industry.

“When you ask a 19-year-old what problem in the world they want to solve, it’s highly likely that the problems that they’re most familiar with are problems from their own education,” Mr. Staton said. By the time they graduate, he added, many of those students are “looking two opportunities in the face: a substandard job market, or creating their own company and trying to be Mark Zuckerberg.”

And entrepreneurs like to solve problems that they care about, Mr. Staton said: “There are a lot of people that are passionate about this, that know it, that want to do something about it.”

While the piece discusses the amazing activity that has occurred in recent years (startups and funding) it says little about value created for students, professors, and universities and nothing about the profitability of any of the firms that are mentioned. This is a clear sign of a bubble in education technology.

via A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Engineers or MBAs: B Schools Losing According to Facebook Study | Inc.com

Inc on an interesting study pointing to Engineers over MBA’s.

You’ve finished your undergraduate degree and you’re peering into the haze of your future. Would it be better to continue on to an MBA or do an advanced degree in a nerdy pursuit like engineering or mathematics? Sure, tech skills are hugely in demand and there are a few high-profile nerd success stories, but how often do pencil-necked geeks really succeed in business? Aren’t polished, suited and suave MBA-types more common at the top?

Not according to a recent white paper from Identified, tellingly entitled “Revenge of the Nerds.” The company, which analyzes Facebook profiles, combed through its database, culling information on the profiles of CEOs and founders to see what path they took to entrepreneurial success. The result: Three times as many had advanced degrees in engineering than had an MBA. When it came to company leaders with only an undergrad education, the number with degrees in business and engineering was about evenly split.

The company also found that the age of founders is falling. In 2008 the average was 36. This year is was 33. And while 90 percent of the profiles analyzed were for U.S.-based entrepreneurs, that doesn’t mean the founders and CEOs were originally from the U.S. The Institute of Technology Bombay, Canada’s University of Waterloo and China’s Tsinghua University joined perennial American favorites Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, CalTech, and Carnegie Mellon among the most common training grounds of top engineers.

So why are nerds triumphing these days? Identified speculates that the boy king of Facebook may deserve some credit:

Perhaps the widely chronicled nerd-inspiring story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg–the fact is that more engineers are striking out on their own to launch new endeavors, particularly in the IT, social and mobile industries. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2011 saw “an across-the-board increase in the rate of entrepreneurial activity has not been seen in the U.S. in the last ten years,” and “the majority of entrepreneurs were motivated by improvement-driven opportunities to start new ventures.”

via Engineers or MBAs: Who Triumphs as Entrepreneurs? | Inc.com.

Inspiring #SOCENT Story from ASU | Forbes College Social Innovator Award

Inspiring story of Nicollette Lewis, a social entrepreneur out of ASU that made her own personal loss a starting point to solve a difficult social issue — that of kids ‘aging’ out of foster care at 18 and being unprepared for independence and adulthood. From ASU:

The idea for the program grew out of an assignment from a leadership action course at the W. P Carey School of Business, in which Lewis and Nathan were asked to present their ideas on how to take action in the community. After solidifying their ideas and coming up with a business plan, Nathan and Lewis went on to enter and win the spring 2011 Innovation Challenge.

For Lewis, the cause holds special meaning, as she became an orphan after losing both her parents by age 15. Although fortunate enough to live with family members, Lewis says was still forced to grow up quickly at a young age.

“I didn’t know how to navigate the legal system to receive social security benefits and how that fits into paying for college,” Lewis said. “There are a lot of other kids who are in that same situation where their needs get ignored because they don’t have the state looking out for them to help with the things that parents would normally do.”

After visiting ASU while in high school, Lewis said she immediately gravitated to the business management degree from the W. P. Carey School of Business. After four years of hard work, she received her bachelor’s degree in December.

For now, Lewis is enjoying dedicating all of her energy to Partnered for Success and the youth in her program. In the future, however, she dreams of traveling to India to study religion and spirituality, while simultaneously donating her time working in a boarding school in the Himalaya Mountains.

And although she misses her family, Lewis says their words of wisdom will always stay with her.

“My parents instilled a lot of great values in me while I had them. I know they wouldn’t want me to mope and let the negative aspects of everything overcome my life,” said Lewis. “I may as well turn this tragedy into something that I can use to benefit other kids facing similar situations.”

Pretty amazing and another really interesting entrepreneurial story coming out of ASU — the New American University.

via ASU alum wins Forbes College Social Innovator Award | ASU News.

Why We Love Student Entrepreneurs: X-Men References that Old Reporters Don’t Get!

Inc story on Groupon Founder Andrew Mason’s interview with 60 Minutes highlights why we love student entrepreneurs and don’t watch 60 Minutes.

He said of getting rapped by regulators: “I’m not going to pretend like its been fun to have something that we poured our hearts into over the last three years, and see it criticized while we have our mouths taped shut.”

Then he added, sounding more like Groupon’s wacky deals copy than the CEO of a company that employs 10,000 people in 46 countries, “We’ve now been hazed, we’re like Wolverine and our skin has been melted off. We’ve had adamantium fused onto our bones. And it’s made us stronger as a result.”

(Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” failed to get the X-Men reference, saying “I’m not sure what that means.” Wolverine, for the record, is a near-indestructible mutant. He has a metal alloy, also nearly indestructible, called Admantium bonded to his skeleton.)

Later Mason, who came up with the core idea for Groupon while studying Public Policy at the University of Chicago, stated, “It was just this rocket ship ride that you couldn’t let go. But you didn’t want to let go either,” he said.

via Groupon CEO Andrew Mason: We Made a “Bush-League Mistake” | Inc.com.

Research Sample: Case Study Campus, University of Chicago | Bump’s David Lieb On 60 Million Downloads | Video

One of the cases that I am completing is of the University of Chicago. Perhaps the most prominent venture out of the University of Chicago in recent years is Groupon. Another great success out of the Booth School of Business is Bump Technologies.

Two of the founders, David Lieb and Jake Mintz, conceived of the initial idea while in a first year accounting class and eventually won the school’s 2009 New Venture Challenge. Below is an interview with Lieb via Tech Crunch.

(Founder Stories) Bump’s David Lieb On Getting To 60 Million Downloads | TechCrunch.