Archive for the ‘TechCrunch’ tag
Launch party for Apple iPad fashion magazine and shopping app Monogram, at La Boutique l’art et la mode in San Francisco, California
On Tuesday evening, November 27, 2012, I attended the launch party for a company run by Leo Chen.
Chen runs Fara, Inc., which recently released its first product, an app for the Apple iPad tablet computer.
The application is named Monogram, and that’s how I’ll refer to the company and product for the rest of this post, as the company doesn’t seem to promote the Fara name.
I met Chen July 18, 2012 at the Demo Day for the 500 Startups Accelerator program. Monogram was one of the presenting companies. I attended the Demo Day as a blogger so I got to meet all the graduating companies. Thank you to Dave McClure for getting me an invite to Demo Day. McClure is the founding partner of 500 Startups.
Chen stood out because he was the most stylishly dressed. See my picture of him I took at Demo Day at the bottom of this post to see his pure white sports coat paired with jeans, a hip wristwatch and a pink shirt. Not many guys can pull off this eclectic look. That Chen can suggests he will have the fashion sense to make the right calls at Monogram, which, when you really study it, is a company that requires good taste to have a chance to thrive.
His app, which he demonstrated to me personally, was sumptuous, glorious and stunning — and it was still unreleased code.
I don’t have an Apple iPad, so I have not seen the released version of Monogram. Chen wasn’t showing off the app on his iPad at the party either, so I simply can’t write a review here of the app — sorry!
The famous TechCrunch technology blog covered Monogram on November 1st, 2012 in an article entitled 500 Startups Alum Monogram Raises $400K More, Launches iPad App To Aggregate All Your Favorite Fashion Brands.
Since I can’t write a review about the Monogram app sight unseen, I’ll give you just the basics. You download the free app from the Apple App Store. You browse through pages of the app as if you’re looking at a fashion magazine. If you see something you want to buy, you can tap on it and get transported to an online retailer that sells that item. You’re presumably transported to precisely that item, not the front page of the retailer’s site. If you buy, Monogram collects an affiliate payment from the retailer, and that’s how Monogram makes money.
I met many of the attendees at the Monogram launch party, and I can say that Chen and his team have smart and impressive friends. The venue for the party, La Boutique – L’Art et la Mode, was perfect. Carole Harari, the owner of the boutique, has created a 2,500 square foot oasis that is part women’s clothing boutique, part art gallery, part furniture store and part event space. The women’s fashions for sale are eclectic and desirable.
The pop up furniture store on the second level was so photogenic I took an architecture style picture while I was up there to get a shot of the crowd below. La Boutique is so photogenic that I asked Harari for permission to photograph models there.
I met Justin Kan for the second time. I met Kan for the first time — you probably have heard of his as Justin of Justin.tv fame — at a Stirr mixer in Palo Alto, California in about 2008. I spoke with him back then for perhaps 10 minutes, and they were a stressful set of minutes because he had a video camera strapped near his head and wore a backpack with four 3G wireless cards whose bandwidth was combined through software so the laptop in the backpack could broadcast Kan’s every move live to the Internet. This can be done with a smart phone today, but back then live streaming was rare, and my talk with Kan then was the first time I had been live streamed before a meaningful audience.
On Tuesday, Kan was wearing one of the largest watches I have ever seen, and it was so eye catching I asked to photograph it. I already had my macro lens on my camera, so it only took seconds to capture this shot you see here of Kan’s Nixon brand watch on his arm.
Leo Chen went to high school with Kan.
Kan told me about his latest project, named Exec. Exec is an Apple iOS app that lets users hire an assistant for short term projects for a fixed rate currently of USD $25.00 per hour. An Exec assistant was stationed by the front door to La Boutique to make sure only guests on the list were admitted. I spoke with her for several minutes, and was impressed. I would use Exec if I needed an assistant for a project that Exec was suited for. One suggestion: When funds permit, buy the domain exec.com. The current url, iamexec.com, on quick viewing of the web browser address bar, reads as ‘lame exec’ because I saw the lower case i as an l. I had a good laugh about this, but I still recommend paying out the dollars to get the shorter url once it’s easily afforded. The url exec.com is currently up for sale, and has no developed site associated with it. Don’t wait too long, or the price will keep going up.
I also had a nice talk with the husband of Monogram co-founder Kristen Slowe. Kristen is Chief Creative Officer of Monogram. Her husband Christopher Slowe, is Chief Scientist at Hipmunk, which, according to their introductory video, ‘takes the agony out of travel search.’
Christopher and my father studied the same subject at the same university.
I got to talk with Jim England, a co-founder at Publik Demand. I met England at the same 500 Startups Demo Day where I met Chen. I absolutely love Publik Demand, a website that gives representation and power to consumers, so that they can insist that wrongs done by a company are addressed.
I also got to talk with Cheryl Yeoh, co-founder and CEO of Reclip It, a website that brings together more than 200,000 online coupons & deals from many other coupon websites, for one stop access to money saving offers. I met Yeoh the same day I met England and Chen
I conclude with a photograph I love of Monogram co-founders Chen and Slowe that I took July 18, 2012 at the 500 Startups Demo Day, held at the headquarters of the publicly traded game company Zynga, at 699 8th Street, San Francisco, California USA.
I love Monogram, and that’s why I attended their launch party. I wish them the best of success. This is one of the few companies that truly counts on beautiful photographs for its success. Since I am an avid photographer, I connect with this company more than many.
On Friday, March 16, 2012, I attended the first ‘graduation’ of the first ‘class’ of companies funded by the new seed stage venture capital firm mexican.vc. mexican.vc is run by four sharp General Partners — David Weekly, Santiago Zavala, Lisa Seeman and César Salazar.
After the presentations, the teams dispersed around the conference room at Microsoft’s office at 835 Market Street in San Francisco, California USA. There were seven teams altogether. Three of the teams were set up along the left wall and three of the teams were set up against the right wall.
I introduced myself to and interviewed all those teams on Friday, and I wrote a long blog post about them that night.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the seventh team had set up their station up front in the room, where there was not a table, but a podium. That arrangement never registered with me that day, even though I had several lengthy conversations with people by that podium after the presentations. I didn’t know a team was there engaging with attendees. So that team, ClasesD, missed out on the commentary I wrote for my Friday blog post.
I was upset that I missed a team, so I wrote in that Friday post that I was willing to meet with the team I overlooked. The team found my blog post and reached out to me via my Facebook page.
I met the team yesterday afternoon, March 18, 2012, and we had an enjoyable meeting at the San Francisco Main Branch library at Civic Center in the City. I signed out one of the glass work rooms on the 4th floor so that we could talk without disturbing others.
Luis Enrique Aguilera and José Eduardo González described their company to me, and I had time to ask questions.
Before I get into my remarks, here is what the website for mexican.vc has to say about ClasesD:
“Interested in learning Spanish? Want to take yoga during your lunch break? You are in the right place! ClasesD is a marketplace for in-person lessons taught by independent professionals. Earlier this year when founder Eduardo was looking for dance lessons for his sister, he realized there must be a better way to advertise classes than flyers tacked on corkboards around town. Now, his team is helping people craving for knowledge find the right tutor in their city.”
Here are my comments about ClasesD:
ClasesD is SkillShare for Mexico. This is my observation, not something I heard from Aguilera or González. SkillShare is based in New York City, USA, and they have raised millions of dollars to pursue their business.
Although comparisons to airbnb have grown somewhat tiresome, such a comparison to ClasesD is inevitable. airbnb turned everyone that’s not homeless into a potential operator of a bed and breakfast. SkillShare and ClasesD turn everyone into a potential operator of a one teacher school.
If you’re a good cook, musician, painter, photographer, writer or mathematician, you can list your qualifications on ClasesD by creating a profile. Potential students can browse listings and read about the widely varied offerings. Of course, classes can be about anything, not just the example subjects I listed in this paragraph. Teachers set their own prices.
Students indicate their interest in a class and then the ClasesD website connects teacher and student together by telephone. This gives the teacher an opportunity to sell themselves to the student to increase the chances that prospects become customers. This highly personalized sales process might be unwieldy at scale, but I think it’s preferable in these early stages where the parties are still getting used to having an online marketplace to find each other in Mexico.
ClasesD makes money by charging a fee, currently 100 pesos (USD $7.93 at today’s exchange rate), to the teacher for providing the lead. Teachers keep all of the fee that they charge to attend their classes.
mexican.vc graduated 7 teams on Friday, including Fontacto. As I wrote in Friday’s post, Fontacto is Ring Central for Mexico. Fontacto helps small organizations appear big by offering a virtualized phone system that in its physical version is generally too costly to purchase and install at the organization. In a bit of portfolio company collaboration that would make any investor proud, ClasesD is a savvy consumer of Fontacto’s impressive telephony services.
One of the many impressive features offered by Fontacto is the ability to set up apparently numerous extensions on one physical telephone number.
ClasesD publishes a Fontacto powered phone number for students to call teachers on. Each teacher has an assigned extension number in the Fontacto system. Student’s calls are routed to the teacher, who can answer on whatever phone is most convenient at the time, including their mobile phone or their Skype connection. All the teacher’s assigned devices ring simultaneously, I presume, since that’s one of the features offered by Fontacto, and it makes sense to enable it for this application, where the students are probably most likely to become paying students if they reach the teacher on the first attempt.
ClasesD has a chicken and egg dilema — they need lots of teachers before they can get lots of students, but it’s tough to get lots of teachers until they have lots of students.
Marketplaces such as SkillShare and ClasesD are compelling to me. The operator of the marketplace does not have to stock and finance inventory. People expect to pay for services delivered through such marketplaces. The margins can be attractive given what needs to be done to operate the marketplace.
Aguilera and González struck me as passionate and determined. They’re learning quickly, and have tested several business models already on their search for the best model for Mexico. Their enthusiasm was evident from the moment they contacted me. I am not running TechCrunch, GigaOm or VentureBeat. I’m writing a personal blog. I will get perhaps 12,000 visitors to this site this month (I had 10,321 visitors in February, 2012). I still haven’t cracked the top million sites on Alexa. This is easy for others to check out. That Aguilera and González tracked me down and patiently explained their business to me to get a tiny amount of press shows to me that they are really trying to make ClasesD a success. They are well spoken and likable guys, and I wish them all the best.
My advice to them is to find a prove a business model that works, and then raise a million or more US dollars immediately to accelerate populating the site with more teachers and students. If you don’t solve the chicken and egg problem, a competitor will spring forth to do it for themselves, using your research to move more quickly.
Here are the biographical introductions for Aguilera and González, again from the mexican.vc website:
“Luis Enrique Aguilera graduated from ITESM Guadalajara with a B.S. in Business Administration. He is an entrepreneur, creative mind, and music aficionado. He is passionate about web marketing and SEO. He previously worked as a marketing and business consultant, which taught him to create powerful and innovative business models that he is eager to apply to his own startup.
José Eduardo González graduated from ITESM with a B.S. in Computer Science. Before founding ClasesD, he worked for 2 years as a Ruby on Rails developer in a startup called Inovaz (now a 500 startups company with their product Ovia), where he got his first taste of entrepreneurship and learned agile development practices.”
Aguilera and González graciously posed for pictures at the end of our meeting. I used the photogenic interior of the San Francisco Main Branch library as the backdrop. It was fun showing Aguilera and González around the library as this was their first visit. I attended the grand opening of the library on April 18, 1996, which featured a dramatic special delivery of the door key by skydiver Carl Prigee to Mayor Willie Brown after Prigee jumped from a biplane and landed right on target in front of the library, to the applause of the thousands gathered in attendance.
Fortune First, Fame Later – Why You Should Aim for the Enterprise by Geoff McQueen is worth reading.
I’ve been thinking about the enterprise lately as I try to figure out what to do with gOffice, which currently is not a good product, and needs to be completely reworked.
It was 10 years ago today that a mobile product I helped create — Mobile Office — won a CNET/PC Expo award.
To commemorate the day 10 years ago I wrote the blog post Mobile Office, a product I helped create, wins CNET/PC Expo Best Business Solution Award.
I wrote the post as I would likely have written it 10 years ago, so I assigned it a publication date of June 28, 2001. I disclosed that fact in an afterword at the bottom of the post.
I am writing this brief additional post to alert you to the ’10 year old post’ that you probably would never see otherwise.