Archive for the ‘Aaron Schwartz’ tag
On Saturday, August 25, 2012, I attended a trunk sale at D-Structure, a clothing boutique and art gallery at 520 Haight Street in San Francisco, California USA.
Modify Industries, Inc. was the guest of honor at this trunk sale, showing their fashionable colorful Modify Watches brand wrist watches. The vibe at this trunk show was outstanding, due in part to the trendy location of D-Structure, between Mad Dog in the Fog at 530 Haight Street and Cafe International at 508 Haight Street, in the Lower Haight neighborhood.
I got to meet Devon Chulick, one of the co-owners of D-Structure.
Chulick told me that Aaron Schwartz came into his store to propose that D-Structure carry the Modify line.
Schwartz is the CEO of Modify Industries, and I didn’t know he made sales calls like this. Chulick told me he is totally bombarded with pitches from companies asking his store to carry their products, so Schwartz had to clear a high bar to get his product into D-Structure, which, from what I can tell, is well curated for its location and apparent target customers.
Schwartz, Chulick and Ayo Oluwole are pictured together above. Each is wearing a Modify Watches watch.
Oluwole is the VP of Marketing for Modify Watches. He used to live in New York where he did marketing for true luxury brands like Salvator Ferragamo. At Modify, I see evidence of Oluwole’s past experience with luxury goods — even his business car looks luxurious, with one rounded corner and muted pastel colors.
Schwartz is a great salesman, once selling thousands of watches to a Silicon Valley company that’s known world wide after he was randomly seated on an airplane flight next to a buyer from that company.
The watches are named Modify Watches because they are so easy to modify, without tools. The strap is made of soft and pliable silicone rubber, so one may take out the hard plastic time piece just by pushing it out of the strap. In the photograph above, you can see two complete watches on the left, and an empty watch band on the right, with the time piece sitting next to it. The time pieces and straps come in small and large — for women and men. The straps come in dozens of colors and the time piece inserts come in dozens of designs. Companies can order custom faces for the time pieces, in quantities as small as 200, the last time I heard. The swap-ability of the straps and time pieces gives buyers more fashion looks for less money. Modify Watches are simply fun, so I can see people buying them even if they carry a mobile phone, which, after all, is close to carrying an atomic clock in your pocket, because cell phones would not function if not for the extreme precision of the clocks the carriers use to make cell phone networks operate.
I’ve written about Modify Watches brand watches before, so I’ll tell you a bit about D-Structure. The store is beautiful — hip, quirky, warm and energetic. There was a quality DJ on hand for the event, and the sound system had quite good fidelity, and was loud enough to make you feel like music is a key element of the marketing strategy for the venue. It wasn’t loud like a nightclub, but it wasn’t soft either. It made the event feel like a real event, not a sales pitch.
Devin Hexner, an intern at Modify Watches, kept busy, and seemed to be doing a good job. I overheard him talking to some fans who work at a big national retailer, and Hexner sure looked like he was making a good impression, from all the smiles and laughter I saw.
I met a lot of people at the event. I spoke for a bit with Julia Garcia and her friend Shane Rand, pictured above. Garcia introduced herself to me because I had on my crushed red velvet sports jacket I got at a pop up sale for 90% off its original eye popping four figure price. I almost didn’t buy that jacket because I worried it would make me look like a young Hugh Hefner. I am thankful I bought it, since I have never owned an article of clothing that has garnered more compliments.
I would love to conduct one of my photoshoots of models in this store, with the model or models wearing some of the outfits the store has for sale. The location is very photogenic, as you can see in the photographs that I took that illustrate this post. Garcia and Rand are photogenic, so perhaps I can photograph them in the store, if they find this post and are interested.
Hana Alyssa Sidia and Mary Frances Knapp, the only two models I introduced myself to at the event, are photogenic, and I would enjoy having a chance to photograph them properly, with my lights and reflectors.
This trunk show was at night and I used only the ambient light available. This means I had to choose an ISO setting of 4,000, so these pictures are more grainy than usual. I upload my photographs at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. To see the full size versions, click on the pictures twice in delayed succession.
The artwork is interesting — not something I would buy for my home, but it was engaging and fun. Totally appropriate and it improved the aesthetic of the shop. I especially liked the ‘antiques’ on display as decoration, including several manual typewriters from 50 or 75 years ago, and several cameras from the same time period.
Yellow 108 brand hats looked great. I need to get into wearing hats.
Look, a Schneider-Kreuznach lens on a camera that didn’t display its own brand where I could see it. I love old cameras.
Modify Watches are water resistant, a point hammered home by the three watches on display in a bowl of water, above.
Modify Industries is on a roll. I enjoy attending their events. Schwartz has allowed me to borrow some of his company’s products, which I have some of the models I work with wear on camera. I will return all these watches, and I did not write this or any post about Modify in exchange for this loan. Schwartz is my friend, and I like writing about companies where I know the founder or founders. I make this disclosure because it may be legally required.
Modify Watches retail launch party at Hangr 16 boutique in San Francisco, California USA, August 9, 2012
On Thursday, August 9, 2012 I attended the retail launch party for Modify Industries, Inc.
Modify Industries is the company behind the colorful and fashionable silicone rubber Modify Watches brand watches that feature time pieces that without tools may be interchanged between bands. You can see people wearing Modify Watches in the top three photographs that illustrate this post. The watches come in two sizes. There are dozens of time pieces and dozens of straps (bands) to select from.
Modify Watches was a finalist competitor in the 2012 Berkeley Startup Competition at the University of California. That competition is very competitive, and it’s very difficult to become a finalist, as there are only eight per year, while most years more than 100 teams apply to compete.
I am friends with Modify CEO Aaron Schwartz.
Modify has focused its attention on eCommerce sales and enterprise sales. It has achieved impressive success in both areas, selling to big companies including Google.
Now Modify is moving into retail by selling to boutique retailers.
One such boutique is Hangr 16 at 3128 16th Street in San Francisco, California USA, near Valencia Street. Hangr 16 carries the Modify line of products. The store’s energetic and charismatic buyer, Liddy Parlato, decided to sell Modify’s eye catching line after she opened an email targeted to her store from the company. Parlato told me she gets 30 pitches a day by email. Parlato’s store is spare and elegant, with a well curated selection. It’s not jammed with hundreds of product lines like many boutiques. Thus, Parlato’s decision to carry Modify’s products is a win for Schwartz and his team. Parlato is one of four owners of Hanger 16. She comes from a background in advertising, not retail.
While researching this blog post, I learned that Hangr 16 was voted the Best Clothing Store for Men by readers of the San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly newspaper. That makes the store’s decision to sell Modify Watches all the more special.
Abie Hadjitarkhani and Nathan Dintenfass attended the launch party. I know Dintenfass from the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. I met him while he was getting his Masters of Business Administration degree. I participate in many events at Haas to help the students and by extension The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Dintenfass and Hadjitarkhani run Hotel Delta, a boutique consultancy that helps entrepreneurs create great products.
Hotel Delta produces the Products are Hard conference.
Nathan Dintenfass is one of the smartest entrepreneurs I know. I have spent hours listening to him advise startups, and his wisdom is evident and deep.
Congratulations to Schwartz and his impressive team at Modify Industries. I predict great things to come.
I took the pictures that accompany this post. I uploaded them at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them in delayed succession to see the full size versions, which are larger than your screen.
Legal disclosure — Schwartz let me borrow six of his company’s watches so that I may photograph them being worn by the female models I photograph. I pursue photography as a hobby, and do not charge for my work, so perhaps this disclosure is not legally required. To cover my bases, I am disclosing this loan. I proposed this arrangement, not Schwartz. I would have written this post even if Schwartz did not let me borrow any watches. I will return the watches to Schwartz once I photograph them with some additional models.
Last night, on April 24, 2012, I attended a reception at the University of California Berkeley Clark Kerr Campus. The reception was held to announce the finalists for the 2012 Berkeley Startup Competition. This event used to be called the Berkeley Business Plan Competition. I competed in the finals of this competition in its inaugural year, and have sponsored the competition every year since, including in 2012.
This year I was a mentor to semi-finalist team University Gateway, lead by Dorian Walden. I got to know Walden over four meetings, some of them stretching to 3 hours around my dining room table. Sadly, University Gateway did not progress to the finals, but it was easy for Walden to understand why.
Two teams I know personally were in the same judging category as University Gateway — Products and Services. University Gateway is an Internet company, but the track for Internet companies apparently was filled up already. This meant University Gateway was competing with companies that make and sell physical goods.
The teams I know that competed in the Products and Services track both were advanced to the finals. I was 99.9% confident that this would be the result, even though I knew nothing about the other competing teams. I was so confident because the teams I know are so strong, and I have been a judge for this competition for the past 8 years or so. I know from experience that teams this strong always make it to the finals.
I also know that teams this strong are very rare, so it was unlikely that the Products and Services track had any other teams so strong. I have never gone home from judging thinking that a third team from my judging track should have gone on to the finals.
University Gateway has a good idea, and I hope that Dorian Walder and Julian Riediger make their venture a success. The company is still in stealth mode, so I won’t tell you what they do yet.
The Products and Services teams that advanced to the finals are Modify and Back to the Roots. Both are unusual companies for this Berkeley competition.
Modify makes wrist watches that you can change easily to suit your tastes. The straps are made from silicone, similar to what silicone bake ware is made from. One can pop the time piece out of the strap/case in just a second, with no tools or special skills required. The straps are available in bright colors, and I describe them as chunky chic. The team from Modify are each wearing a Modfiy watch in the photograph I took at the top of this post. I am friends with Modify founder Aaron Schwartz. We see each other most months at the Haas Founders group I wrote about March 11, 2012.
Schwartz is a likeable and modest guy — only when researching this blog post did I discover he’s been profiled in a blog published by The New York Times newspaper. The New York Times is worth tens of millions of dollars less than photo sharing smart phone application Instagram, but I’d much prefer to be written about in a blog by The New York Times than in a blog by Instagram.
Back to the Roots makes and sells affordable oyster mushroom growing kits. I’ve written about Back to the Roots when I saw their CEO Nikhil Arora speak on a panel at a Food Startups Meetup run by my friend Matthew Wise, the co-founder of both Founderly and Tableslice. Back to the Roots has 20 full time employees, or so I was told when I interviewed a staff member at their booth at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show on March 24, 2012.
Back to the Roots has received lots of press coverage, including two minutes and forty seconds on the national CBS Evening News in the United States on March 15, 2012. The newscast says that Back to the Roots sells its products in over 1,000 stores and has 28 employees. Impressive.
Both Modify and Back to the Roots have businesses that are well along. Modify has sold _____ of thousands of watches to companies as well known as _____ and _____. [I'm waiting to hear from Schwartz to fill in the blanks in the last sentence. I know the values, but I want to verify the numbers and names I know are meant to be public information.] Back to the Roots sells its kits at Whole Foods Market and Home Depot. While Modfiy and Back to the Roots are still startups, they are making big strides and are companies to watch.
The reception was well attended and busy. I got to talk with my fellow judges from past years of this competition. I captured video. I took hundreds of pictures. I didn’t eat until the event was technically over. What I didn’t get to do, sadly, was interview the finalist teams that I didn’t know. If they are reading this and would like to be the subject of a future blog post, I invite them to contact me. I’ll meet you for coffee and you can give me your pitch and I’ll write about your venture.
Here is a list of the 2012 finalists for the Berkeley Startup Competition. The descriptive text that follows was provided by the teams themselves.
- Kloudless, Inc.
Kloudless is a free service that helps you manage all the things you put in the cloud. We enable users to search for, access, and manage their information that is spread across the Internet. We’re starting with email attachments, the black hole of cloud services, and will expand to other cloud services in the near future. Our solution addresses an increasingly large problem as more and more information moves into the cloud.
Traverie is an explorer focused startup that leverages the emotional, personal and inherently social aspects of travel discovery to make the process visual, fun and trustworthy. We bring structure to the current ad hoc and offline model of discovering and selecting destinations. We blend user-generated content, professional content and advertising to deliver a compelling user experience. Our founding team comprises a designer, engineer and product manager from MIT, Harvard and Berkeley-Haas, respectively.
AdrenaRx is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the prevention and treatment of heart failure due to toxicity from cancer chemotherapy. Each year, 1.6 million Americans are affected by cancer, and a third of these patients receive chemotherapy that can damage their heart. AdrenaRx has identified a new therapeutic target and a potent, selective drug that can protect the heart from damage by chemotherapy, and reduce a patient’s risk of developing heart failure after surviving cancer.
- Calcula Technologies
Calcula Technologies is developing a novel urological medical device for the removal of kidney stones outside of the operating room. Our patent pending technology will treat 4M patients/year in the US and EU. With clear FDA predicates and existing CPT reimbursement codes Calcula will be a major disruption in the field of Urology.
- Claro Energy
Claro Energy provides solar-powered water pumping solutions to meet irrigation needs of farmers in remote power-deficit agriculture areas in India where costly diesel generated power is the default choice. Claro Energy’s solar-powered pumps have near zero operating costs, are longer lasting and highly reliable when compared to dieselpowered pumps. In combination with sales, marketing and business development competencies, Claro Energy has also developed in-house integration and implementation expertise in remote rural regions of India.
- HARBO Technologies
During the first critical hours, oil-spills spread, split, and create escalating irreversible damage. HARBO develops the only emergency oil-spill containment solution for immediate response. HARBO’s Zero Time to Spill system is at standby position on-board oil-tankers/rigs and other ships and deploys a boom (floating barrier) within minutes to contain spills. HARBO’s advantage: Minimizing environmental damage, avoiding large containment/cleanup expenses, offering superb costefficiency and preventing a PR nightmare. “Containing oil-spills when they’re small, preventing big disasters.”
- Back to the Roots
Back to the Roots, started by two Haas Business School undergrads, promotes sustainability and zero-waste, while reconnecting people to food through its grow-at-home mushroom kit. Our gourmet mushroom kits are made with 100% recycled coffee grounds, and produce 2 pounds of fresh oyster mushrooms in just 10 days! People of all ages can actually grow and eat their own mushrooms all at home, a unique experience in today’s urban lifestyle.
Modify is a brand built on freedom of expression. Customizable for individual style, Modify’s interchangeable watches offer dope design for anyday wear. Available in two different sizes and over 250 combinations, Modify is a brand made for anyone—anytime, anyplace. A proponent of exceptional personalized service, we engage organizations and fans to help create (and name!) watches. Modify Watches are available for corporate gifting and licensing.
Here’s the handheld video I captured of the finalist teams learning of their advancement and collecting their certificates documenting their achievements. Andre Marquis, the Executive Director of The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, delivers the opening remarks. John Steuart, Managing Director at Claremont Creek Ventures, comments on the judging process. Steuart’s firm is a financial sponsor of the competition, and Steuart is one of the judges.
Anthony Franco of Better Cater, pictured above, contacted me and asked me to link to his startup’s website. Sorry for the delay in creating the link — I just saw your Facebook message from April 25th a few minutes ago. Kevin — May 3, 2012 @ 12:47am.