Tech in China

by Andrew on April 22, 2014

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I have written about the rising tech trends in China lately. With companies such as Weibo and Alibaba filing for their IPO in the US, we will only talk about this topic more. I am a fan of a16z’s tech podcast series. In this particular episode titled “Tech and China,” Chris Dixon, Connie Chan and Benedict Evans discuss the tech in China, and what western companies can learn from Chinese tech companies.

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More On MBA: Is It Worth It?

by Andrew on April 14, 2014

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MBA - Master of Business Administration

I have written about this topic at length before. NYEBN also held an event this month called “Do Entrepreneurs Need MBA’s.” Here is another interesting read I had over the weekend, from an HBR post titled “An MBA Holds its Perceived Value, Even in Lean Times.”

The study was conducted for nearly 21,000 business school alumni around the world. Here are the findings:

  • 95 percent of recession-era graduates rate the value of their MBA or master’s degree in business as good to outstanding, compared with 94 percent of those graduating in other years.
  • 95 percent of business school recession-era graduates agree that the degree was personally rewarding, compared with 94 percent of those graduating in other years. Findings are similar when alumni consider whether their degree was professionally rewarding (91% of graduates in a recessionary period compared with 90% of others).
  • Knowing what they know now, 96 percent of both groups of business school alumni would still pursue the degree.
  • 79 percent rate their degree financially rewarding, compared with 75 percent of business school graduates during non-recessionary years.
  • 69 percent agreed that their job adequately compensated them, compared with 67 percent of graduates outside of recession years.
  • 84 percent said their degree was essential to their employment, compared with 83 percent of the other graduates.

The author went on to draw the following conclusion:

Perhaps no one wants to graduate into a recession — but for those who got their graduate business degrees during recessions, our findings suggest that regrets are not in order. Holders of MBA and other graduate business degrees overwhelmingly feel they are better off having earned the degree. The skills, experience, and networks gained during business school yield returns regardless of the job market at graduation and may be even more valuable in a tight job market.

Another finding from our alumni survey suggests that the payback on an MBA degree accrues over the long term. Analyzing responses from graduates as far back as the class of 1959, we find that earlier graduates are more likely to rate the value of the degree highly than recent graduates, consistent with findings from previous years. Our interpretation of the result? The knowledge, networks, and experience gained in graduate business programs yield rewards – financial, professional, and personal – over the course of careers, come good times or bad.

So how much is your MBA degree worth? Is it worth it to make an investment to get one? Will it advance your business career? There is no right or wrong answers. It depends on who you are and what circumstances you are in. But every piece of information helps. You have to understand how others feel about their MBA’s in order to make a decision on your own. So let us know what is your experience with your MBA degree in the comment area.

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Hollywood

We all know that there is a thin line between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. The recent signs indicate that the overlapping audience for both industries is incredibly large. As a matter of fact, technology and media companies are both innovating in an attempt to gain a foothold in each other’s business. Amazon (technology company) launched FireTV (my review) last week, its answer to Roku and Apple TV. And HBO (media company) debuted a new show called “Silicon Valley” last weekend which is geared towards their startup audience.

I believe this is the right timing to showcase the innovative DNA’s for some best entertainment and media startups in New York and around the world. NYEBN’s Startup Demo Night #23 focuses preciously on that space. It’s worth pointing out that Cheek’d has been featured on Shark Tank before. And this will be their second time pitching at an NYEBN event. Here are the entire lineup for next Thursday’s event:

  1. Metodi Filipov - Co-Founder at Flipps Media ( @FlippsTV )
  2. Nathaniel Casey - Co-Founder and CEO at Blazetrak ( @Blazetrak )
  3. Lori Cheek - Founder and CEO at Cheek’d Inc. ( @Cheekd )
  4. Steven Rosenbaum - Co-Founder and CEO atWaywire ( @waywire )
  5. David Larkin - Founder and CEO at GoWatchIt.com ( @GoWatchIt )
  6. Jeb Balise - CEO at PuzzleSocial ( @PuzzleSocial )
  7. Michael Jaschke - Co-Founder and CEO at 48Bricks Inc. @48Bricks )
  8. Paolo Gaudiano - Founder and CEO at Infomous, Inc ( @InfomousClouds )
  9. Paul Canetti - Founder and CEO at MAZ ( @mazdigital )
  10. Katerina Vorotova - Co-Founder at Try the World@TrytheWorldBox )

The event hashtags are #NYEBN and #CBS (a.k.a Columbia Business School). Tickets are on sale at http://demonight23.eventbrite.com.

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Amazon Fire TV Review

by Andrew on April 6, 2014

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Amazon-Fire-Tv-4

This would be my first gadget product review. I am a user of almost all Amazon-related products – Kindle, Audible, IMDB.com, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Prime. So when Amazon launched its own set top box “Fire TV” this week, I jumped on the bandwagon right away. My FireTV arrived early Friday morning. I have been testing it over the weekend. Here is what I’ve found. Hope this is useful for you to make a purchasing decision.

1. Faster Speed – Fire TV has a quad-core processor and a 2GB memory, which is superior to Roku 3, Apple TV and Chromecast. The speed is insane when you navigate through different apps, movies or TV show titles.

2. Voice Control – The painful experience of using your Roku remote to slowly spell out your search keywords has become a thing of the past. The voice control feature on Fire TV now lets you speak into your remote directly and a list of related titles will pop up in front of you right away. Fast and efficient!

3. IMDB Integration – I buy these streaming players not because I need their functionalities (they are more or less the same). The reason I buy them is because I feel the need to adapt to an ecosystem, such as Apple TV (Apple) or Chromecast (Google). With Fire TV, I absolutely love the fact that now I can see the IMDB show ratings right on my TV. No need to use a second screen to search for a movie. Honestly, Amazon has surprised me with this feature.

4. Gaming - I am only a casual gamer. I only play games to relieve stress. I think the ability to use a game console to play games on Fire TV is a game changer. Especially for a casual gamer, you probably don’t need to buy an Xbox or PlayStation as those are more sophisticated gaming platforms.

In the end, I am not disappointed with Fire TV. It has so much potential. I think Amazon can do so much more in the future to make it better. To begin with, I certainly want HBO GO and MAX GO added as it currently only has Showtime Anytime. Also, it would be nice to include third party titles from Netflix and Hulu Plus in the voice search results. Again, this is a very crowded market. As a big Amazon Instant Video user, Fire TV is a must-have for me. I hope Amazon will keep enhancing its features and increasing its app selections with future updates.

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Do Entrepreneurs Need MBAs?

by Andrew on April 3, 2014

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We partnered with Stratus Prep to host a business seminar titled “Do Entrepreneurs Need MBAs?” this past Tuesday. The event was held at the Bitcoin Center by Wall Street. Shawn P. O’Connor, the CEO of Stratus Prep is very knowledgeable about the topic. Happy to have him as the keynote.

As entrepreneurs, we found ourselves asking this question a lot – “what’s the value of a college degree?” Well, I think the answer depends. 7 years ago, I was actually debating whether to get an MBA after graduating from Kelley School of Business at IU. Eventually, I skipped the MBA. Today in hindsight, I actually believe I made the right decision back then. The knowledge I accumulated and the network I built over the past 5 years far outweigh a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) for sure. Most importantly, the hard lessons I learnt are not something that can be easily learned in a classroom setting.

That being said, I am not against getting a college degree or MBA either. Billionaires such as Sheryl Sandberg (Harvard MBA) and Mark Pincus (Harvard MBA) have both put their education to good use.

My friend Matt Capala raised another issue here in the comment section:

I think another relevant question is whether entrepreneurs need a college degree – while it’s great to get education and build network while in school – the problem is that college education = debt so graduates starting businesses are already DEEP in debt, which is inhibiting lean growth.

He also teaches a graduate class at NYU to which I will be a guest lecturer later this month. It’ll be interesting to ask his students to answer this question. What do you think? Does getting MBAs help you with your business career?

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Last week’s NYEBN fashion demo night was a sold-out event. Over 200 attendees signed up. 8 out of the 9 presenters were female founders, which was fabulous!

The panel judges featured at this event were (from right to left in the video) Keegan Forte (Bowery Capital), Yolanda Wardowski (Avalon Group Ltd.), Brian Smiga (Alpha Venture Partners), Joshua Siegel (Georgetown Angels), Lori Hoberman (Chadbourne & Parke).

The event kicked off with StyleUp, a YC startup. Kendall Herbst did an excellent job keeping the audience engaged during her presentation. The event ended with Corey Stanford, CEO of Fashion Advance. Among other presenting startups, it’s worth pointing out that SquareKey is a 500 Startups alumnus. There were 11 presenters altogether, including 2 sponsors. Check out their presentations below.

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Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

by Andrew on March 25, 2014

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The entrepreneur journey can be lonely. Good entrepreneurs know how to maximize their productivity and learn from others’ mistakes. Sometimes, you do not have to taste failures and make mistakes yourself. All you need is mentors and books. I enjoy reading non-fictional books. So I sent out an email 2 weeks ago to ask for recommendations about good business books. After the email, the suggestions just started pouring in. Today, I’d like to report my findings. Let’s start with my personal all-time top 10 list.

10. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – by Brad Stone (book)

A masterpiece about Amazon.com’s visionary founder Jeff Bazos and how Amazon.com is able to offer limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices.

My main takeaway:

Founders must know when to reinvest their profits and plan the seeds for long-term prosperity.

9.  The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World – by David Kirkpatrick (book)

An epic story about the world’s largest social networking site, and the social implications of the site.

My main takeaway:

Sometimes, in order to get to the top, you have to make a few enemies along the way.

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Reward-based Crowdfunding for Your Success

by Andrew on March 23, 2014

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We held a crowdfunding event at our partner’s space (Sheppard Mullin) last Tuesday. The event was thorough in terms of covering some basic topics related to crowdfunding campaigns (both equity-based and reward-based ones). I was moderating the reward-based panel, which features Stefan Loble from Bluff Works, Amanda Barbara from Pubslush, and Matt Hornbuckle from Stantt. The equity-based panel was moderated by John Hempill from Sheppard Mullin, and the panel includes Daryl Bryant from StartupValley, Sang Lee from Return on Exchange, and Ameet Padte from SeedInvest.

A friend in the audience recorded the panel that I moderated. If you are thinking about crowdfunding your business on a reward-based platform, you should check this vid out. Topics discussed in this session include:

  • why choose crowdfunding other than other fundraising vehicles
  • checklist of things to prepare for a crowdfunding campaign
  • how good a PR firm can be for your campaign
  • challenges business owners encounter during a campaign
  • how important a video can be to the success of a campaign
  • do you need a budget for your campaign
  • differences of main reward-based crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Pubslush

Hope you enjoy this video. Feel free to leave questions in the comment area.

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The Future of Crowdfunding

by Andrew on March 18, 2014

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Last weekend, I met with an entrepreneur to discuss her new project – a new type of crowdfunding platform that she’s been thinking about for a while. Our conversation definitely got me thinking a lot about the crowdfunding industry and what it means to our future. Kickstarter has released some interesting data recently ($1 billion in pledges). Indiegogo also raised $40 million in Series B lately to make themselves more competitive in the marketplace. With lots of new players in this space, crowdfunding is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. This post is to outline what the future of crowdfunding holds relative to other industries it may disrupt.

 

1. Startups

Crowdfunding has become a viable funding alternative to early-stage startups who decide not to take VC fundings before gaining tractions. Raising funds via crowdfunding is not only a way to extend their runway, it’s also a great marketing strategy to build a group of loyal followers and early adopters. Startups such as Pebble (Kickstarter) and Canary (Indiegogo) have raised millions of follow-on venture capitals proceeding their initial crowdfunding success. To investors, crowdfunding is no longer perceived as a competitive platform but a much-needed validation test with regard to target audience and addressable markets.

2. Entertainment/Hollywood

“Veronica Mars” raised $5.7 million on Kickstarter last year, more than any other film or video project in the history of Kickstarter. The film’s debut last week was a hit. Will the success of “Veronica Mars” be enough to convince Hollywood executives to embrace crowdfunding? According to Mike McGregor, Kickstarter’s head of communications, answer is a resounding “yes.” “A year ago Hollywood executives would have thought it was laughable that ["Veronica Mars"] would open in more than 250 theaters nationwide and be on the cover of Entertainment Weekly,” McGregor said. “Now it’s very much a reality.” (source)

3. Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin is making big waves lately. The virtual currency can actually be used as a supplementary means of donation on existing crowdfunding sites. There are already bitcoin-enabled crowdfunding sites like this one. You can only expect more in the future.

4. The Internet of “Crowdfunding” (Other Niche Markets)

I will be moderating a panel tonight. One of the panelists is Amanda Barbara, Vice President at Pubslush. Pubslush  is a platform for authors to crowdfund the publication of their works. Just like Pubslush, there will be more and more niche marketing being disrupted by crowdfunding in the future (i.e. gaming, design, fashion, food.) But why the need for niche when someone could just as easily launch a campaign on Kickstarter? When asked, this is Amanda’s answer to a TNW reporter, to which I agree:

“I think that we’ll see a need for more niche platforms in the next few years. Why? Because I think it’s important to identify who your audience is, and know you’re going to a platform that specializes in attracting that specific audience. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both amazing platforms, and they’re obviously doing something right. But I really do find that the struggles with these types of platforms will always be that they have so many projects going on at one time, that some will be overlooked.”

 

The crowdfunding concept can also be extended and applied to peer-to-peer lending and microfinance, both of which have deep implications to small business owners. I believe in the potential of the crowdfunding market and recognize its benefits to the world. But in the meantime, as I told that entrepreneur over tea time last week, the crowdfunding space will get more competitive and crowded as more startups enter the play. In the end, I really enjoyed our conversation and wished her good luck.

If you want to learn more about the “crowdfunding” topic, join us at our panel discussions tonight at 6:30 PM – www.startuproundtable20.eventbrite.com.

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Last week, we finalized the demo startups at our next demo night event. I know we said we’d only select 8 final participants. But out of the hundreds of applications we received, there are just too many great startups in the fashion, retail and e-commerce space. So we ended up adding 9 startups to the March 25 final lineup. Check out more details here.

 

1. StyleUp (@TheStyleUp)

We are creating a unique media experience that gives you fashion and style inspiration relevant to who you are — to your weather, your profession, your taste. We’re extending that same personalization to advertisers, allowing them to target specifically the kind of women they want to speak to. Our initial product is a daily email that includes a woman’s weather for the day and an aspirational outfit. We sent 3M of these emails in 2013 and 78% were opened.

2. What Goes With This? (@wgwthis)

What Goes With This? is a fashion community and marketplace that gamifies style. Everyone has asked the question: What Goes With This? Our website is a simple, social solution. Users post photos or images of items and ask for specific style advice around outfits or general style inspiration. The community gains reputation points for making great recommendations, per a voting system. We’re building an online mall that is truly social. Sites like Pinterest and Wanelo are about collecting things, but fashion is much more than a collection, it should be a storry and a conversation. WGWT is the best way of finding style inspiration around particular items and trends.

3. M.M. LAFLEUR (@mmlafleur)

The Story: Sarah was your typical woman in finance whose wardrobe was one bleak suit after another. She discovered her colleagues shared her dismay in their industry’s unfashionable apparel. Inspired by memories of watching her ever-sophisticated mother dress for work in the mornings, Sarah asked professional women to answer the question: What do you really want in workwear? The ideal was clear—a stylish yet professional dress that fits like a glove.

Sarah joined forces with luxury designer Miyako, formerly of Zac Posen and Jason Wu, and the two set out to address the void: somewhere between wear-to-work and high-fashion play was a great grey space of stylish office-appropriate apparel. They determined to bridge the gap between form and function with a brand that perfectly married the two.

Enter M.M. LAFLEUR. The ethos is simple: to make the purposeful woman look and feel beautiful.

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