startups – Social media business strategies blog Fri, 29 Dec 2017 08:16:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Great tech startups begin with a great development team Mon, 10 Aug 2015 10:44:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]> ela-coders-mill
Ela Goczyńska-Han, COO/Business Development Chief of Coders Mill, at the company’s table at the Launch Festival in San Francisco in March (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is part one of a five-part series on “Rise of a startup: Cruiseable.” Today’s installment looks at the decision to hire an overseas development team, Coders Mill.

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, angel investors, venture capitalists, developers, businesses, innovators, educators, students, journalists, travel analysts.

JD LasicaDuring the past 16 months, as longtime readers know (and this blog goes back a long way, to May 2001), I’ve gone full throttle into startup mode, working with my co-founder Giacomo Balli on a travel tech startup called Cruiseable. We’re out to make it much easier and more fun for people to discover, plan and book great cruise vacations.

Over that span, friends, colleagues and strangers have asked me to write about our journey. And while I don’t lay claim to unlocking major new business processes or media insights, I do think some of what we’re doing will be of interest to other entrepreneurs (current and aspiring), as well as journalists, innovators, analysts and anyone interested in how the travel tech and cruise worlds work.

Unlike most startups that come out of Greater Silicon Valley (which includes San Francisco, which now spawns more startups than the original Silicon Valley), we decided not to spin out a few prototypes, test them, iterate and move on to something else if things didn’t immediately click.

That approach doesn’t work if you’re setting your sites higher — and we’re out to bring some rockin’ new social and mobile innovation to the $38 billion cruise industry. So we spent the first few weeks not coding, but researching. Learning. Absorbing all kinds of reports about the connected traveler, millennial travelers and the next generation of collaborative and empowered travelers.


The plumbing & development process come first

We decided to pursue Gretzky economics. Skate to where the puck’s gonna be.

Game plan in hand, target audiences identified and branding solidified (I managed to purchase the domain a few months earlier), our next step was not to build out a team, or whip up some prototypes, or invest months of time in pursuit of angel investors who shared our vision of empowered travelers.

No. We began by finding a great development team that could help construct the basic scaffolding for Cruiseable.

The quality of overseas development houses has risen markedly in recent years, especially in Poland, Ukraine, Romania and elsewhere on the Continent

We knew we wanted to be a “mobile priority” startup. While the rest of the world is moving to mobile, discovering and booking cruises is chiefly done on the Web. So we decided to create a single database that would simultaneously feed both a mobile app and our website. Any action you take on the site would be instantly reflected on the app, and vice-versa.

We did it, and it’s very, very cool.

With that single-database, no-jerry-rigging requirement in mind, we looked around for a solid development house. My co-founder is an all-star mobile app developer, but Objective C for iOS is a completely different animal than Python, PHP, Joomla and all the other code bases and development frameworks out there. (And from my years as the chief executive of Ourmedia, I sure as heck knew we weren’t going with Drupal.)

We had a finite budget and big ambitions. The quality of overseas development houses has risen markedly in recent years, especially in Poland, Ukraine, Romania and elsewhere on the Continent. I had given a talk in Krakow, Poland, two summers ago on The Social Startup to a large audience of developers and entrepreneurs. So it didn’t take much convincing from Don Dodge of Google Ventures, one of our advisors, to point us to Coders Mill, whose CEO put on the conference I spoke at.

Settling on Python and a development process

After several deep dives into our vision for the site and app, we agreed that Python was the most industrial-strength programming language and code base that could scale to thousands and eventually millions of users.

We’ve developed quite a relationship. Giacomo has flown to Krakow and met with the team, and the Coders Mill COO, Ela Goczyńska-Han, flew to San Francisco in March to meet with me and attend the Launch Festival. (In fact I introduced Ela to Launch founder and longtime friend Jason Calacanis.)

Scrum methodology

The language barrier reared up once or twice early on (my Polish is limited to the occasional Na zdrowie), but it was really just a communication rhythm that we needed to establish. The developers’ English is quite good. We’ve been using Trello as our project management system, to good effect, supplemented by emails and monthly “sprint calls” over Skype, where we discuss the deliverables for them to tackle in the next sprint. (In fact, the latest one just ended, at 2:30 am, a few minutes ago.)

We use Moqups as a prototyping tool, a beta site before pushing code to production, Google docs for listing and checking off tasks, Github as our code repository, Linode as our hosting service, toggl for tracking hours, and Scrum as our incremental agile software development method. (Hey, after working at Microsoft and at three startups, I actually know what all this stuff does. And it’s awesome.)

Oh, and I’ve been using Bank of America quite a bit to wire funds to Krakow, until we find the right set of angel investors who have the insight to join us on our quest for world domination. (Here’s our impressive team — more on them, and other tools we use, and the launch of Cruiseable, in our next installment.)

Would I recommend Coders Mill to other startups? Yes. It’s always good to work shoulder to shoulder with your developers, but when funds are limited, a development house like Coders Mill is a life saver.

]]> 1
The recipe for success that earned a $1.5 billion payday Tue, 23 Jun 2015 10:20:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Lynda Weinman
Lynda Weinman at the Traction conference in Vancouver (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is the second of a two-part series on the Traction conference. Also see:
• Part 1: Traction: How to spur growth for your startup

Target audience: Startup teams, entrepreneurs, small businesses, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaYesterday I highlighted some takeaways from the cool new Traction conference that debuted last Wednesday and Thursday in Vancouver. The event drew roughly 800 entrepreneurs, startup team members, marketers and angel investors.

One of the inspiring keynotes of the event came from Lynda Weinman, founder of, which LinkedIn purchased for $1.5 billion in April. (She mentioned that she’ll be leaving LinkedIn soon to pursue another entrepreneurial opportunity.)

Lynda recounted her journey from running in-person computer training courses to the dotcom crash of 2000-2001, which forced the company to pivot to online tutorials. That early mover advantage gave the ability to set the pace for all the e-learning sites that followed.

A journey that started with humble beginnings

In one telling slide, Weinman traced the journey from tiny startup to a $1.5 billion exit. Her story was not only impressive but instructive: To become a successful business, you need a singular driving purpose and someone who’s relentless at the helm.

Here’s her “What I did” slide in full:

  • Believed in myself
  • Stuck my neck out
  • Proved that I had marketability
  • Tried and iterated
  • Didn’t take no for an answer
  • Followed my heart and passion
  • Thought a lot about my audience
  • Seized the opportunity
  • Listened to others and to myself

It’s as good a recipe for success as any I’ve seen.

Traction: How to spur growth for your startup Mon, 22 Jun 2015 10:51:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> traction-audience
Attendees at last week’s Traction conference in Vancouver (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is the first of a two-part series on the Traction conference.

Target audience: Startup teams, entrepreneurs, small businesses, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaI‘m just back from one of the best inaugural tech events on the West Coast: the two-day Traction conference, which drew some 800 entrepreneurs, startup team members, marketers and angels to Vancouver last week.

Speakers included marketing superstar Neil Patel, Lynda Weinman (whose was purchased by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion), Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez, SurveyMonkey president Selina Tobaccowala, Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, and a host of others.

Here’s my Flickr album of 23 photos taken at the conference.

Highlights of the Traction conference

I’ve been on Twitter for eight years, but I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I think a blog post summary will offer more long-term value than thousands of uncontextualized tweets, so here are some of the highlights I gleaned while attending the conference as both an entrepreneur and journalist:

• “In a world where 1,200 startups are launching every year, the hard thing is no longer, Can you build a product as a startup? The hard part is, Can you get traction? … Traction trumps everything.” — Justin Mares, co-author, “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers.”

• Mares on Marc Andreessen and his famed venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz: “The No. 1 reason they pass on entrepreneurs they’d otherwise back is because the founders focus on product to the exclusion of everything else.”

• Great insights from Aliisa Hodges, growth manager at Mixpanel: “If you’re not using A-B testing, you’re not serious about growth.” And: “Pick just one metric of success and focus on that.” And: “Focus not just on user acquisition but on user retention.”

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite: "Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, at Traction conference “One of the pieces of advice I have for anybody is just look for the big waves, If you can find a big, economic seismic shift in the market and get in front of that, you are going to be in a way better place than trying to change something that is not as progressive,” he said.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite: Look for a big wave and get in front of it.

• Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite: “One of the pieces of advice I have for anybody is just look for the big waves. If you can find a big, economic seismic shift in the market and get in front of that, you are going to (do well).”

• Aatif Awan, head of growth at LinkedIn, agreed. “Your one metric shouldn’t be your sign-up number, it should be something like your weekly users and looking at what are they doing for you.”

• “Revenue per customer is the ultimate metric, even more important than conversion rate,” said Ben Yoskovitz, co-author of “Lean Analytics.”

• Nate Moch, VP of growth at Zillow: “Build urgency into your product. Include messaging like, ’50 other people are looking at this right now!’” … “When you send emails to your customers, you should be sending them content, not marketing.”

• Robert Cezar Matei, head of growth at Quora, offered this secret of success: “It’s about dozens of small or medium-size wins.”

• Ivan Kirign, CEO of YesGraph, offered this tip on getting things done: “Some people on the Airbnb growth team learned Android just so they could make changes to the code base directly.”

• Brian Balfour, VP of growth at HubSpot: “The most powerful word in metrics is ‘Why?'”

• “It’s significantly harder to get traction for apps than for the Web,” observed one speaker.

• “Hitting the gas pedal on growth prematurely can spell disaster,” said another.

• Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio: “A/B testing, followed through to its logical conclusion, would lead every site to become a porn site.”

Startup Grind: ‘Find your golden purpose’ Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:16:03 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Jeff-Hoffman
Jeff Hoffman, who was part of the founding team at Priceline and now runs ColorJar.

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, businesses, anyone who cares about innovation.

JD LasicaI‘m back from Startup Grind 2015 in Silicon Valley’s Redwood City, an annual two-day affair that attracts thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world.

Here’s my Flickr photo set of 47 shots from the conference, which featured Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, Bill Maris of Google Ventures, Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison and Houzz co-founder Adi Tatarko, among many others.

But the talk I was most taken with was by Jeff Hoffman, a veteran entrepreneur and public speaker who was on Priceline’s founding team and now runs ColorJar. Jeff encouraged the assembled startup founders to “find your golden purpose.”

I’ll be writing about my new startup, Cruiseable, in the coming weeks, and during my entrepreneurial journey I’ve come across many of the two-dimensional characters that Hoffman inveighed against: founders who are in it for the money, entrepreneurs who can’t decide which of a half dozen great ideas to focus on, investors who probe for an exit strategy before the startup has a solid entrance strategy.

Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, at Startup Grind and part of my Flickr set

Steps to achieve your golden purpose

Some of Hoffman’s admonitions may sound familiar to those who’ve been in the startup trenches for a while. But it’s worth holding up as an example of stellar advice to anyone who’s looking to make a difference in the world, whether you’re working at a startup, a nonprofit or elsewhere. New entrepreneurs in particular should find his advice salient.

First, solve a real problem. When you encounter it, see if others have that problem too and want it solved.

Second, don’t focus on the money. “Focus on excellence, because money follows excellence when you build something amazing. Until then, it’s just a PowerPoint.”

Third, if you have six excellent ideas, set five of them free and focus on one. “You achieve excellence by finding something in the world that you can be the best at.” Amazon, he reminded us, “won a gold medal in books” instead of starting out as a marketplace for everything.

Fourth, you can’t do it all yourself, so assemble a great team. “Hire people smarter than you. From day one you should be planning to hand off everything you’re not great at.”

Fifth, find and understand your customers. “You can’t talk to them in sales mode or service mode. Go and hang out with them, have pizza and beer. Find out about their lives and desires.”

And finally, Hoffman advised, find your golden purpose. “You’ll find your golden purpose at the intersection of three things: Are you doing the thing you’re the best at? Are you doing the thing you love? And are you doing something the world values? If you are, then amazing things happen.”


]]> 1
Top takeaways from a growth hacking conference Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:01:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Rand-Fishkin
Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, speaking at the Weapons of Mass Distribution conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Make sure your content is unique, relevant and looks great

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaToday, it seems, just about all startups — and even more mature companies — want to wield the growth hacking buzzsaw. Growth hacking was the theme that drew several hundred marketers, entrepreneurs and business strategists to the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco on Thursday for the fancifully named Weapons of Mass Distribution conference put on by 500 Startups.

And while growth hacking may be hot hot hot right now — even marketing consultant Sean Ellis, who coined the term, was on hand — the impressive lineup of speakers made it clear that to succeed, a new enterprise can’t spin flax into gold. You’ve got to have some kick-ass idea to begin with, and you have to have a product team that knows how to execute. And then, yes, by all means, call in the growth hackers and marketers to run the numbers, size up your analytics, get feedback from customers, and create a virtuous product development loop that fast-tracks your company on to its inevitable trajectory of fame, riches and a guest spot on Jason Calacanis’s “This Week in Startups” podcast.

I captured some of the magic on stage and in the room in this Flickr photo set. (Ah, Flickr, you were on that fast track once!)

Rand Fishkin: Create great genuine editorial content

Let’s begin with the awesome presentation SEO Tactics to Love vs. Leave given by Rand Fishkin, founder and CEO of SEO/marketing firm Moz.

Some tips and takeaways from Rand’s talk:

• Thousands of companies are now flocking around the banner of content marketing, believing that Google will reward them for their efforts. Ditch that approach, Fishkin said. Google is looking for genuine, organic editorial content that fosters conversation and community, not manufactured storytelling. See Rand’s equally astute Slideshare preso, Why Content Marketing Fails.

• “Make sure your content is unique, it’s relevant, it’s helpful, it’s uniquely valuable, and has a great UX.” So says Rand. Now go make it so.

• With Google Analytics becoming something of a black box, check out, the best (free) keyword tool in the market these days. Check it out, it’s magnificent.

• Another of his favorite new tools: BuzzSumo, a tool for content marketing and SEO campaigns.

• 6 billion searches a day take place on Google, and already 50 percent of them are coming from mobile.

• Use Google Plus, even if you think nobody else is.

Who said, ‘War is 90 percent information’?

Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics: “The ideal number of questions to ask in a survey is five.” And: For multiple choice questions, limit it to no more than four choices. And: Add images to your survey to dress it up.

• Sean Ellis: “How do your customers describe the product? Ask them. They usually do it more accurately than the CEO.” I just ordered Sean’s Kindle edition book Startup Growth Engines on Amazon.

• James Currier, co-founder, ooga Labs: “Your growth person should be the most aggressive person on the team, so much so that the CEO has to tell him he’s going too far.”

• Brian Balfour, VP of growth at HubSpot: “Every good answer starts with a question.”

• Holly Liu, co-founder of Kabam: Create rewards to help people on Facebook become helpful to their friends instead of being spammy.

• Gustaf Alströmer, Growth Product Manager, Airbnb: “Our philosophy is simple: Our users tell the story better than we do.” And: “We never compromise on user experience. No tricks.”

And I’ll leave you with this:

• “War is 90 percent information.” – Napoleon, as quoted by Aihui Ong, founder & CEO, Love With Food.


• Growth Hacking Distribution For Your Startup (Scott Allison in Forbes)

How to build a content marketing strategy (

Content marketing: How to get discovered in search (

]]> 4
Lean Startup: Highlights, photos & takeaways Wed, 11 Dec 2013 13:01:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Steve-Blank
Steve Blank at yesterday’s Lean Startup conference. Blank developed the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Insights from founders, execs & Lean practitioners

Target audience: Startup teams, founders, innovators, product managers, business executives, social business strategists, educators, Web publishers.

JD LasicaOver the years I’ve attended or spoken at scores of conferences, across the country and on four continents. Lately I’ve been drawn to startup conferences like Launch (the next one is coming up Feb. 24-26) and TechCrunch Disrupt.

Monday and Tuesday I attended my first Lean Startup Conference, at San Francisco’s Masonic Center and Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. Here’s my festive Flickr set.

The Lean Startup movement, inspired by author and Stanford professor Steve Blank and popularized by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, is, in Wikipedia’s words, “a method for developing businesses and products [to help startups] shorten their product development cycles by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and what he [Ries] calls ‘validated learning.’ “

Can these lessons be applied to your business?

Here are some highlights I caught on stage and in the breakout sessions in between interesting conversations in the hallways.

• “The bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle” — Intuit president Brad Smith channeled the great Peter Drucker quote.

• Smith on the philosophy at Intuit: “We are the world’ s greatest thief of great ideas. If you stole it from us, you stole it twice because we got it from someone else.” Bravo. You can’t copyright or trademark an idea.

• Christie George talked about Lean Impact social good principles and noted that social change sometimes takes a long time. Only 4 percent of the public supported interracial marriage in 1958; 50 years later, that figure grew to 86 percent.

• Patrick Vlaskovits: Penicillin, which saved more than 100 million lives in the 20th century, didn’t “go viral” when it was discovered. It had to be rediscovered some years later before it began to be widely deployed and embraced. Just because something is great — even monumental — doesn’t guarantee quick uptake.

Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn turned venture capitalist, shared some smart and pithy observations to startup teams in his short time on stage. At Eric’s request, Reid claimed ownership of what has become a startup maxim: “If you wait until you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve waited too long.”

• Hoffman to startup founders: “Figure out the money, or you’re dead. If don’t get distribution, you’re dead. If you’re not thinking about your product, you’re dead.” But, he noted, each startup has a different playbook or growth strategy on how to achieve all of that. “There’s no single playbook,” he said.

• More Hoffman: “I have yet to see anything that’s truly viral that isn’t free or at least has a free component.”

Wyatt Jenkins, VP of product at Shutterstock, urged startup teams to go big and not focus only on those 1 percent improvements. “If you only test small changes, you’ll never take a big swing.”

• More Jenkins: “Growth is a series of experiments.”

• Daina Burnes Linton: “Create opportunities to learn from your customers on day one.”

• Dan Milstein, co-founder of Hut8Labs: “You should stop working if you’re not working on the most valuable thing for your startup.”

Testing, testing

Testing — a key ingredient of Lean Startup principles — was a mainstay of the two-day conference (which wraps up today with a series of workshops.)

“Ditch the meaningless wins and go after the big visions with systematic validation.”
— Andres Glusman, Meetup

Andres Glusman, VP of Strategy and Community at Meetup, gave perhaps the best-attended breakout session in a talk about “How Validation and Vision Co-exist.” (Andres was on a panel I moderated at Blogworld Expo in 2010.)

Glusman recounted how Meetup went about executing “a design-driven vision” through a series of “iterative tests to validate or invalidate the vision.” For instance, two years ago anyone who wanted to launch a new Meetup had to go through a five-step process that “had all the charm of a tax form.” A developer came up with a prototype that looked nothing like Meetup’s website or design, but after a series of tests and iterations, it led to a much simpler experience.

“Beware the small win,” Glusman also warned. “Whenever someone says, ‘This will only take a day or two,’ you should be wary,” because it may take resources to support over the long run and drain from time from more important tasks.

In other words, he said, “Ditch the meaningless wins and go after the big visions with systematic validation.”

Check out to get Meetup’s “playbook,” particularly this presentation on Lean Usability.

Download the speakers’ presentations on the conference website.

Photos of Launch conference for mobile startups Wed, 02 Oct 2013 12:01:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> pablo-sandoval
Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants, former World Series MVP, demonstrated Zepp at Launch Mobile.

JD LasicaIspent the past two days at Launch Mobile & Wearables, a gathering of several hundred entrepreneurs, technologists and startup staffers in San Francisco organized by entrepreneur/VC Jason Calacanis and his team.

As usual, I did more tweeting than blogging, but I also captured more than 60 photos of the event, seen in the Flickr set above. (I still love you, Flickr!)

The grand prize winners were three startups:

SoundHound, a brilliant bit of software that helps users identify songs, summon up song lyrics on the spot, conduct voice search (including identifying radio segments) and much more.

Zepp Labs, which trotted out Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants and former Giants star JT Snow to show off a multi-sport training system, tiny sensors — and big crack of the bat.

MyTime, which lets you book appointments online with top-rated merchants, such as massage therapists, dentists, hair stylists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other services.

I agree with the judges — terrific selections, all worth a look.

Photos of TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 Thu, 12 Sep 2013 10:29:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> mark-zuckerberg

JD LasicaIthink this is the seventh year of TechCrunch Disrupt in all its incarnations, and I’ve been to them all. Yesterday I wrote about some new social travel startups making their debut, and today I’m sharing my photos of the event.

Here’s my Flickr set of TechCrunch Disrupt (remember Flickr? I still prefer it to Facebook for sharing photos), and I’ll be adding more later today.

While some of the mainstays of the tech scene — Marissa Mayer, John Doerr, Jeff Weiner — remain the same from year to year, the new founders and startup teams — from startups like Udacity, Lyft and Snapchat — are what give TechCrunch conferences their sizzle. See if you recognize anyone! 

Top social travel sites at TechCrunch Disrupt Wed, 11 Sep 2013 11:01:44 +0000 Continue reading ]]> TripTease
A taste of the Triptease site for crowdsourced reviews.

Triptease, OutTrippin, Diveboard ply the new waters of community-powered trips

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, travel companies, social startup managers, digital marketers, advertising agencies, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaOne of the most interesting trends in social media in the past few years has been the rise of social travel sites and apps. The newest of this new breed is on display at TechCrunch Disrupt, ending today in San Francisco.

I’ve attended every TechCrunch conference from the beginning, and rather than write about the entire event, I tend to focus on a handful of startups that catch my eye.

Today, it’s social travel sites taking part in the Startup Battlefield. Tomorrow, it’s photos of tech titans, startup entrepreneurs, industry thought leaders, angel investors and attendees.

Triptease: Visually rich, people-powered travel reviews

Triptease: Community-powered reviews that cover the best of travel.

Triptease: Community-powered reviews that cover the best of travel.

I first met Triptease founder Charlie Osmond at last spring’s Launch Festival and immediately felt lured in the aesthetics of his startup and new site, which has a high-gloss magazine feel to it. You can almost smell the perfume.

“Travel reviews are broken,” with little innovation happening in online review sites over the past 12 years, says Charlie, a former UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year. “Our reviewers cover the best of travel — not just the five-star hotels but quirky trips and fun things to do along with the higher-end travel destinations.”

At the very beginning, the focus was on short reviews of amazing hotel stays, and that still seems the clearest path to profitability. In recent months the scope has felt a bit broader, with a look at the Surajkund Crafts Mela near Delhi, India, the Mount Panorama Bathurst Motor Racing Circuit in Australia and other adventurous, sometimes exotic locales. The reviews are short and to the point — sometimes only a paragraph of text accompanying the eye candy roll of images, provided by the reviewer, the hotel or another source.

Community is at the heart of Triptease. About 100,000 users visit the site (or visit via the tablet app) each month, and people have contributed 10,000 reviews, all for free and all through word of mouth. The point, as in much of social media, is to showcase one’s expertise and good taste (if you want to sock it to a fleabag hotel you stayed at, look elsewhere). And besides, Charlie points out, “if you pay someone to write, you’ll get biased entries.”

Triptease will make money chiefly through partnerships and affiliate fees from hotels, and hotels have begun promoting Triptease to their guests. The community is growing at a robust clip. And now I need to decide which of the venues I visit deserve a writeup in Triptease.

OutTrippin: Pick a travel expert, not a guidebook


I like the premise behind community-powered OutTrippin: Enter where, when and what sort of trip you have in mind. Let OutTrippin go to work, with top-tier bloggers and travel writers pitching you suggestions based on the info you entered and based on their own experiences and knowledge. Then choose your favorite trip and receive a detailed itinerary with hotel and tour recommendations, insider tips, “local hacks” & ideas that only a fellow traveler would know.

There are probably a dozen startups focused on tapping into locals’ knowledge, but OutTrippin is focused on experienced travelers’ knowledge, and it seems to do it well, at least on a small scale.

The expert gets a piece of the action, and the startup gets a piece. Still, at this point, it amounts to just a micro-payment. (I didn’t want to test it out because I don’t have any upcoming trips and don’t want contributors spinning their wheels. But I will in a few months.)

CEO/Founder Kunal Kalro and his team have big ambitions for the brand, with a nascent series of brands — OutTrippin HoneymoonsOutTrippin World Cup 2014OutTrippin Family Travel and OutTrippin Experiences — already live.

The challenge, of course, is to get to scale by creating a thriving marketplace. Are there really enough bloggers and underemployed travel writers out there to power a service like OutTrippin? Maybe, if great brands like Lonely Planet continue to shed employees and slide toward marginalization.

Locish: Travel like you live there


Perhaps the holy grail of location-based travel apps is the ability to get personal, real-time, location-based recommendations from local experts. A raft of startups — including America’s Gogobot, TouristEye and AFAR, Australia’s BagsUp, Estonia’s Like a Local Guide and others I wrote about recently — is taking dead aim at the market opportunity.

Count Athens-based Locish as a contender, too.

Here’s how it works. Download the app. Register and answer a few quick questions about your taste and preferences. Ask for a recommendation about what to do in a particular city or location. Your question gets sent out to a network of participating online locals “who have a similar lifestyle and taste.” Check out the recommendations, select the one that looks best and get a set of recommendations, including venue, location, contact information and photos.

Tripsidea: Pack in more enjoyment during your next trip


Co-founder Sunil Ayyappan

Co-founder Sunil Ayyappan

Tripsidea offers a simple proposition: How can you be more productive with your fun during your vacations?

They don’t quite phrase it like that, but co-founder Sunil Ayyappan showed me how the site maximizes your free time. Screen one showed a series of random activities that a traveler or family might spend a typical week in the city. But answering a few questions about preferred attractions, things to do, places to eat and things to see, press a button, and behold! Tripsidea will reorder your itinerary so that it makes much more sense, with activities grouped in continguous areas. It then lets you review your itinerary and print out an itinerary of all your destinations, making for a more memorable trip.

As the site suggests, “Focus on enjoying your vacation and let us do the planning for you.”

Sounds good to me. Why not squeeze more fun out of your next trip?

Diveboard: The social network for scuba divers


I love passionate communities that bond over common interests. And while I’m not a scuba diver (I snorkel, though), I’m impressed with the social community that Diveboard has pulled together.

Open since April 2011, Diveboard lets scuba divers track and share their scuba diving experiences by providing them with a multimedia online logbook — chiefly a pretty series of photo albums. You can fetch dive profiles through a plug-in. Through partnerships with non-governmental organizations and universities, Diveboard helps scuba divers get involved in monitoring the undersea world and provide valuable data to scientists.

But the real value to scuba diving enthusiasts comes from its extensive database of diving spots, helping divers spot alluring species and enabling them to plan for their next dive. The service is free and will be supported through affiliation fees, mostly from dive shop operators.

Flights With Friends: Collaborating with friends on trip choices

flights with friends

Oakland, Calif.-based Flight with Friends helps you find and book flights — with a little help from your friends. If you’re traveling with a group of co-workers, family members or friends, agreeing on optimal choices becomes an ordeal when you’re not in the same room, says founder Kyle Killion.

It works like this: Select the friends or colleagues you’ll be traveling with, then select where you are going and when. The site — no smartphone app yet — searches more than 150 sites for airfare and hotel information, pointing to the lowest prices. Once your group comes to a consensus through the site, booking is just a click away. Selecting seats together looks like a fun task because you can see where everyone wants to sit and you can book together.

Spotsetter: An online social search portal


San Francisco-based Spotsetter lets you get personalized recommendations on the best places to go, ranging from weekend brunches to spots for your evening jog to special restaurants. A social search engine for Apple’s iOS devices, Spotsetter mines the big data of your social networks to obtain relevant recommendations based on the content that your friends have created on popular social networks. Definitely worth a look.

Related articles
]]> 6
Worst business advice given to women founders Wed, 28 Aug 2013 12:00:58 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Women 2.0 - Business Advice to Ignore

The entrepreneurs of Women 2.0 received & ignored the following advice

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startups, small business owners, developers, venture capitalists (VCs).

David SparkIn April, I wrote an article 20 Pieces of Business Advice You Should Ignore. It was filled with often hackneyed advice that’s offered with little attention paid to the recipient’s business.

I followed up on this article at last month’s Women 2.0 Founder Friday event at Google’s offices in San Francisco, where I asked attendees about the worst business advice they’ve ever received. Here are their answers.