Archive for ‘Editorial’

December 14, 2010

5 Boston Consumer Web Companies to Watch

What city comes to your mind when you hear consumer web startups? Did you say Boston? Ok… probably not.

Yes, it is true that we are much more well rounded in the variety of companies that we foster, but keep an eye on the ever increasing number of consumer ideas popping up here.

The following is a list of a spectrum of consumer sites starting with a extremely successful $200 Million+ revenues site and ending with promising new entrants.

logocsn

CSN Stores With revenues topping $200 million, CSN Stores is a top 3 online retailer of home and office goods and until recently, one of the unheralded successes in Boston web businesses.  Now that they are a force in the industry they have decided to seek the recognition they deserve.

logopunchbowl

Punchbowl Battling huge entrenched competition, Punchbowl has steadily grown into a one stop solution for party planning. By offering a service that goes well beyond sending invitations, Punchbowl has differentiated themselves by helping users through all stages of planning and hosting a party.

logogrommet

Daily Grommet is a gem of a web site. Featuring one unique product a day and making great use of video, they have created an engaging and informative shopping experience. Take a look and you will surely find something you can’t live without.

logoturningart

TurningArt , described as a Netflix for art was launched this summer.  A monthly fee allows users to put up a new piece of art every few months and of course purchase a print or even the original when you decide you want to own it. The art selection is high quality and varied enough to fit most any taste. It also seems like a good venue for artists to gain exposure and hopefully make some additional sales.

Svpply is a social shopping site following in the footsteps of StyleFeeder before it. Decidedly more design hipster oriented, you probably won’t find any recliners or Deluxe Marge from the Simpsons costumes. What you will find is a pleasing minimalist aesthetic and products recommended by users with an eye for design.

As you can see, there are some interesting things going on in the consumer space here. These examples are just a few of the web companies starting up in the Boston area. If you have any favorites you feel deserve recognition, please add them in the comments.

October 16, 2010

The Keys to Brand Transformation: Learn From Local Success Stories

mitx banner

MITX is hosting an event next week at the Arnold Offices. It’s called: The Keys to Brand Transformation: Learn From Local Success Stories, and it’s from 8am – 10am on Wednesday, October 20.  See here (http://www.mitx.org/events/2382.cfm) for full details.

Featured Speakers:

  • Mark Minelli – President, Minelli, Inc. (winner of a 2010 Rebrand Award for the YMCA of Greater Boston)
  • Sam Hammar – Communications Strategist, City of Boston’s Innovation District
  • Dan Marques – Director of Online Marketing and Analytics, Gemvara

It looks like an event that will provide a lot of valuable information to both new and established companies.

MITX was kind enough to let us give away 4 tickets (2 remaining) . If you would like to attend, please email tickets”at”talentgraphz.com with  “Brand Transformation” in the subject line.

The first 4 emails will receive the tickets. You must register before Deadline:October 19, 2010 at 12:00 PM.

This is a $70 value if you are not a member of MITX.

September 24, 2010

Great Upcoming Events for Boston Entrepreneurs

Between October 4th to October 21st, Boston will enjoy an even higher concentration of Entrepreneurial focused events. Thanks to two Weeklong Event Experiences being put together by local organizations.

Future M is the first ever multi location experience dedicated to what is new in marketing.  October 4-8, 2010, dozens of events and activities will showcase the leading ideas, thinkers and companies on the future of Marketing. Panels, summits, roundtables, user groups, virtual events, demos, parties organized throughout greater Boston – all focused on what’s new and what’s next in Marketing.

http://futurem.org/Calendar.aspx

Boston Region Entrepreneurship Week  or Brew Boston, is shining a spotlight on the entrepreneurial spirit in and around Boston.  Brew is happening October 13th – 21st.

http://www.brewboston.org/

Although all events look to be valuable, three in particular stand out as must attend. One is already sold out so if you are interested, don’t hesitate to register.

Customer Development: The Second Decade — with Steve Blank’s co-author Bob Dorf

Tuesday, October 05, 2010 from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM (ET)

Speakers: Bob Dorf, Author, “Customer Development: The Second Decade;” Simeon Simeonov, CEO, FastIgnite

This event is for:
* Entrepreneurs and CEOs who want to build capital-efficient businesses
* Geeks who want to be founders
* Marketers who want to find the right customers cheaply
* Angel investors and VCs who want to generate great returns

“Scalable Intimacy: The Next Step in Social Marketing”, coming up on October 7th at FutureM! (SOLD OUT)

Speaker: Mike Troiano – founding CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Interactive and current President, Holland-Mark Digital.

If you’ve gotten your brand up on Facebook and Twitter, and are starting to wonder why you bothered, this session is for you.

Startup Marketing Bootcamp: Workshop + Lessons Learned Friday, October 08, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM (ET)

Flybridge Capital Partners and Highland Capital Partners have teamed to help consumer facing and online B2B start-up companies navigate the new world of marketing. This intense start-up marketing boot camp will bring together leaders from across the marketing world to provide attendees with insights, roadmaps and real-world case studies for incorporating new marketing technologies and approaches into their business

It’s shaping up to be a great October, so see you out there.

September 10, 2010

A Boston Angel You Should Know

Yes, we have  already heard about the dearth of Consumer Web Angel Investors here in Boston. So you might be interested to find out about a local Angel that has a pretty impressive track record in both quantity and quality of deals.

The fund Lead Dog Ventures is  run by John Landry and has been active locally since 1994. He has been a fixture around Boston since the inception of the enterprise software industry as CTO of companies like Cullinet , McCormack and Dodge and Lotus.

Here is a photo I pinched from his blog (hope he doesn’t mind) to show you that the guy has gravitas.

jobs and Landry photo

As you can see the portfolio is not completely Consumer Web, but the recent fundings of oneforty, Daily Grommet, Ayeah Games and Blueleaf demonstrate the trend towards web oriented businesses.

Take a look at John’s talk at the Angel Boot Camp to get a good feel for how he invests.

So it is not all gloom for Web companies seeking angel funding here in Boston. Some of the traditional enterprise oriented angels will be able to make the transition as John did, and we need more coming from operational experience in web companies to make up the slack for those that don’t, but there are good  angels are out when you’re looking.

August 16, 2010

Paul Graham is a Brilliant Recruiter

I am sure the epithet recruiter is not something PG will lay claim to, but the facts speak for themselves. Their recruiting program may have developed organically but the new application that lets would be aspirants apply to all of the YC companies at once, makes it clear that recruiting hackers is one of the factors that drives the YC startup creation engine.

For an example of  a world class technical recruiting program, look no further than Y Combinator.

Sequoia Capital calls Y Combinator “The startup scouting system”. It could just as easily be called “the hacker scouting system”.

Yes, I have written about this topic before.  In Paul Graham is Seilling the Children I described (a bit tongue in cheek) how PG cannot go wrong in making money from the YCombinator investments.

The premise was simple. Pay about $ 6,000 for an  engineer that will be worth between $ 500k to $ 1 M+ at acquisition. The product doesn’t matter that much. Maybe they make something that generates revenue, but even if they don’t, a talent acquisition can still make a good return. (Parakey, Divvyshot, reMail)

Take a look at this recent interview where he states  “the founder is a lot more important than the idea” about 42 seconds in ( a bit out of context, sure, but the point is, YC has more of a recruiting bias than a business idea bias).

A highly successful recruitment program consists of the following components;

Sell your Dream: Why work for the Man when you can start a company, make something people want and possibly get rich.

Build and Nurture a Talent Pool:  The YC alumni network alone is probably approaching 1,000 hackers. Add that to the participants on HackerNews,  the potentially thousands of companies that apply every year, and it is clear that YCombinator has amassed the largest affinity network of hackers, startup founders and would be start up teams in the world. They also host their version of a Job Fair where the portfolio companies present to groups of vetted candidates.

The latest creation of http://ycommonapp.com/ further increases the reach of the Y Combinator recruiting effort and helps them build an even larger talent pool with the promise of  introducing you to 30 startups for 10 minutes of effort .

Source candidates from the Professional Graph: YC companies have been known to acquire each other, presumably these are hackquisitions, (acquiring company for the hackers) “hey I think I coined a phrase”. They regularly hire from other YC companies.  They also promote YC through the growing professional network of portfolio companies, their employees, mentors/advisors and investors.

Utilize Social Media: http://paulgraham.com/articles.html and   http://news.ycombinator.com/ PG’s series of essays is widely read and each new entry is propigated around the web. NewsYC is a highly engaged community of startup enthusiasts, hackers and has probably the best discussions of all things technical on the web.

Generate Media Buzz: YC companies probably get a dis proportionate quantity of  ink on TechCrunch.

Other media:   MixergyIncMotley FoolTimeBWNYTNewsweekUSA Today

Stay on Message:   Hackers good:Suits Bad.  Read any of these articles and you will see the recurring theme….  http://www.paulgraham.com/future.html or http://paulgraham.com/yahoo.html or   http://www.paulgraham.com/boss.html

Conclusion:

With a  pool worth over a $ Billion dollars (acquiring value) of engineering talent to draw upon, it is clear that the YC recruiting effort is paying off. This fact,  I’m sure is not lost on Sequoia Capital and well worth a $ 10 million investment, to tap into.

What does this have to do with Your Company?

First of all, realize that recruiting is a form of direct marketing. Then notice that the marketing YC is doing is permission based.

Your company should; know the audience that will be receptive to the message and focus on that group. Craft a story that will be attractive and draw candidates into the talent pool. Then promote the opportunities on multiple fronts using traditional media, social media and professional networking.

One can only hope to be as effective as Y Combinator at recruiting. What you can do is take these concepts and adapt them to your program to attract and build your talent pool.

What do you think your company can take from the YC recruiting playbook to improve your results?

June 25, 2010

Do Anchor Companies Have an Effect on the Start-up Eco-system?

This article originally appeared as a guest post on Greenhorn Connect on Tue, 06/15/2010

Starting and growing companies that become or have the potential to become huge, is a goal of several initiatives and members of the entrepreneurial community in the Boston area. The reasoning behind this is the premise that huge companies provide a proving ground and talent resource that feeds the local start-up economy.

So let’s do a little research to observe this effect and see the companies that can be traced back to a local behemoth in our area.

Since EMC is the 800 pound gorilla in our woods, that should be a great place to start.

To view a dynamic and more legible EMC company graph use this link.

emc connected companies

As you can see, a company the size of EMC has a large graph of connected companies. This represents many acquisitions as well as large public companies from which they now recruit executives.

But what we are interested in are the companies that have spawned from EMC and where EMC executives have moved to the start-up companies.

Let’s start with some acquisitions we selected from the larger group. This list includes Equallogic which is the largest most recent liquidity event in the New England Area, at a purchase price of $1.5 Billion cash. Several sales and marketing executives were from EMC.

Archivas was formed by founders from EMC, Abuzz, AppIQ and Network Integrity and built a solution for fixed content archiving which was bought by Hitachi Data Systems within three years of inception.  Some of the founders have gone on to found Nasuni, a cloud based storage company.  iBrix was purchased by HP in 2008. Another cloud based storage company founded in 2009, TwinStrata has benefited from the addition of an  iBrix executive.

Each of the acquired companies had executives from EMC whose leadership contributed to the successful outcomes.  It is no surprise that these companies are in the storage market, the ‘bread and butter” and seminal business for EMC.

Mature start-ups are well represented with storage again a major sector but also moving into cloud computing and Rich Internet Applications.

The founder of  Nexaweb, building RIA software, was an architect from EMC, who has now gone on to found another company Yottaa, in the cloud services space.

Cloudswitch a Matrix company has technical leadership from an Architect/VP that used to be a Distinguished Engineer at EMC.

Sepaton is an interesting case. EMC executives still are part of the leadership team, but the original CEO from EMC was forced to exit due to a “non-compete” lawsuit. It turns out that EMC is not shy about suing companies here in Ma, as they also went after Nexaweb, but that suit was settled.

Several Series A VC investments with EMC connections represent the trends towards virtualization,  data management and grid computing.

The CEO of PeerApp, a grid compuing company,  started at EMC as a key developer of the  revolutionary storage platform that yielded as much as $6 Billion in annual revenues.The CEO of Certeon led the product development and marketing of streaming solutions at EMC after the company he founded, Bitcasting was acquired. The founder and President of Lattice Engines was director of business operations at EMC.

Lastly these seed round companies have roots within EMC.  Sadly both messageSling and Carespace are now defunct. Such is the nature of bootstrapped companies. The storage market is  very mature here in the Boston area.  It makes sense that companies founded by executives with significant domain experience can go straight to Series A VC investment without the need for a seed round.

Conclusion:

Storage is a mature and thriving sector in the Boston area. Along with EMC the  anchor company, there are many new companies and returning successful founders that perpetuate innovation and a thriving industry cluster which is now pushing the trends in cloud computing and virtualization.

Based upon this simple analysis, we can conclude that anchor companies have a significant effect on their geographic markets. While this example is not exhaustive and there may be many other downstream companies impacted by EMC, it is clear that the Boston area could benefit from several other large companies in other Industry Segments.

June 1, 2010

Still Time to Snag a Ticket to MITX Awards Wednesday 6/2

As we wrote about in our April postmitx awards logo, we think the MITX Awards are very cool and give local companies some much needed exposure.

This year is no different. There are tiny bootstrapped startups and VC funded startups all competing to be top in their category.

These Ten Categories have very interesting companies vying for the award:

Go check it out if you haven’t been before, you won’t be disappointed.

May 5, 2010

Local VCs Return to Entrepreneurship: NOT !

So we were totally wrong on this. It turns out word has it that along with David Beisel, Rob and Lee are forming a new fund to make early stage investments. So much for jumping back into the ranks of entrepreneurs. 🙂

Recently, a couple of local Venture Capitalists have made the jump out of the investment ranks and into the struggling entrepreneur cohort.

This is good news that we are adding to the ranks some potentially important new companies to the local New England startup community. This is a much preferred trend than the opposite where successful founders become VCs.

The new companies that they are working on are as yet unannounced, but we will be tracking their progress and profile the new companies as soon as some information is available.

Rob Go a former principal at Spark Capital made his announcement at the end of his post Top 3 Things I Learned as a VC

“I’m starting something new that I am very excited about.  My co-founders and I have already begun laying the groundwork, but we aren’t ready to talk openly about what we are doing just yet (stealth mode is back in vogue again, after all.)  That said, I’ve always been a pretty open and transparent guy, so I’m sure I’ll be sharing more details soon.”

On Monday May 3rd, Lee Hower announced his transition from a principal at Point Judith Capital to work on his new project in his post Changes… my transition & new plans.

We wish them both the best of luck and look forward to watching their new companies grow successful here in the Boston area.

April 30, 2010

What is Cool about the MITX Technology Awards

The MITX Technology Awards is coming up June 2nd at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, and you should consider going. I went to the 14th Annual MITX Interactive Awards show last November and they put on quite a production.

Some of the past winners of the Technology Awards include public companies like Logmein and Netezza, upcoming VC backed startups like the juggernaut HubSpot, SCVNGR and many acquired companies like StyleFeeder, Imlogic and iBrix. MITX and their judges seem to have pretty good track record for identifying winners.

The coolest thing about the event is that they give companies of all sizes and stages great visibility and a shot at coming away a winner.

Check out the list of finalists below and you will see one founder bootstrapped companies with less than a thousand monthly uniques up against public companies and well funded VC backed start-ups. This “level playing field” is a great opportunity for these newer companies to get the recognition they deserve and a chance for the limelight. I applaud MITX and the judges for their choices.

Analytics and Business Intelligence 2010

  • Project: Mobile application analytics service
    Company : Localytics
  • Project: Netezza TwinFin
    Company : Netezza
  • Project: Panjiva
    Company : Panjiva
  • Project: Vertica Analytic Database
    Company : Vertica Systems

Cloud Computing 2010

Devices 2010

E-Commerce/Alternative Retail 2010

Marketing/Customer Relationship Technologies 2010

Mobile Applications 2010

Mobile Infrastructure 2010

Online Advertising 2010

Rich Media 2010

  • Project: Brightcove online video platform
    Company : Brightcove
  • Project: Episend
    Company : Episend, Inc.
  • Project: Gotuit Video Metadata Management System ™(VMMS)
    Company : Gotuit
  • Project: myBrainshark
    Company : myBrainshark
  • Project: RAMP MetaQ (pronounced “meta cue”)
    Company : RAMP
  • Project: Wistia
    Company : Wistia, Inc

Social Media 2010

Technology Enablers (Previously known as Enterprise Software) 2010

April 28, 2010

When Will They Launch Q2 2010

Every quarter we will be compiling a list of new web properties that are in private beta or “coming soon” stage. We hope to give them a bit of exposure and help with early customer sign up.leonardo walk on water

The other goal is to encourage them to come out to the public and start to get feedback from the user community. We are rooting for you, so launch that leaky boat or take your first steps on the water.

First let’s recap the list from last quarter to see what progress has been made.

http://www.adharmonics.com/ Hard to say if they have any of these micro-targeted sites up. Here is all we can find, which is on the home page.   AdHarmonics helps consumer find exactly what they’re looking for with micro-targeted sites.  We bring innovation to the lead generation industry through micro-targeted sites that are open, easy to use and transparent to users.  We answer consumer’s queries for education, legal help, mortgages and other categories with narrowly targeted websites.  By focusing on small sets of users and providing them with the best possible options, AdHarmonics delivers high quality leads to its partners. AdHarmonics is based in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA.

http://apartly.com/ has launched. Turns out the company is based in San Fran however.

http://www.careerelement.com/index/add has launched. Turns out the company is based in San Fran however.

http://exoprise.com/ still in stealth mode, though we can cut them some slack since it is not a web company. They are seeking funding for a virtualization play.

http://www.fantourage.com/ Has launched. Easy signup go check it out.

https://www.mercavo.com/ still in private beta

http://openmile.com/ Launched, although not a consumer site of interest to you and me, they have both logistics domain experience and web backgrounds. We wish Evan and company good luck.

http://socialgrow.com/ they have launched. check it out and give them feedback on usability etc…

http://www.talentreef.com/ not launched yet. They do have a survey and form for prospective customers to sign up for a consultation. No web app at this point.

http://www.yana.com/ Launched. It is a community to help people live happier and healthier lives. Join and set some goals and let the community encourage you to fulfill them.

http://www.zaang.com/ Launched. It is a web site where people can have conversations on a specific topic with people who are like them. Check it out, you can search for a topic of interest. As always with user generated content, there is not alot a first but it grows over time. Also Zaang is hinting that this is just the beginning and their “really big” idea is coming this quarter. Stay tuned.

So there you have it.  Half have launched and it is a varied and interesting group. Please take some time and give them a little user love.

Now we come to the new list of sites to watch in the coming months. Give them some sign-up love if you are interested and encourage them to take the plunge into the light of day.

http://www.fashionstake.com/

http://localot.com/

http://www.universalmetaphor.com

http://www.jumpseewow.com/

http://www.blogcastr.com/

http://tutorialtab.com/

http://mogoterra.com/

https://alpha.wattzy.com/

http://www.waysavvy.com/

http://www.fanzanimal.com/