February 11, 2011

Startup 101: Put the product first, revenue will follow

Social activity in Manhattan from The Hotlist, a mobile startup.


Advice from three startups on the digital creation process

Jessica ValenzuelaIn any project you decide to embrace, there are key ingredients that must fall into place to build a solid foundation for success. We caught up with a number of new mobile and Web app startups and a user experience design expert from the agency side to pick their brains on the key ingredients needed to make that perfect risotto. That is, to build a startup from the ground up.

After years of working with brands and startups, it amazes me how great ideas get muddled when it reaches the execution phase. When I was part of a product management team, it was a challenge to convince executive management how design needs to be an integral part of the process. $3 million down the drain later, they’ll circle back and say, “Jessica can you show us those architectural sketches again?”

Here is a summary of the advice from all three startups with perspective from my personal experience in the digital creation process.

Timing is everything

When the visual search startup Search Me launched in 2005, the tech world was excited! $43.6 million later and only 1.8 million users to show for it, they had to shut down. The world was not ready for visual search at that time.

However, timing has worked very well for Tango.me, a free mobile video calling service with 6 million users available in 135 countries and on 45 different mobile devices. Uri Raz, founder and CEO, adds that “the improvement of smart phones and video was excellent timing for Tango.me. Why limit video calls on the PC when improvement in mobile technology makes it more accessible and convenient.”

In the million and one ideas that you have in your “ideas” folder, look for one that the market is ripe and ready for. Observe the changes in the space that you would like to service, do your research, find the gap and improvements you can implement, then make your bet.

Find your product’s focus

Most startups don’t find the sweet spot of their product the first time they launch. It takes a number of prototypes, many days of testing, collaboration and iteration to get to the phase where it is finally ready for public consumption. Uri adds: “When your product is able to provide something useful to a massive group of consumers, you won’t need to convince them about its usefulness — they will make sure you succeed by supporting your product.”

A powerful example of this experience is when Tango.me first launched in Korea. “Korea is one of our first adopters,” Uri says. “When we first launched, there was a flaw in our platform. Our system was not working with the structure of Korea’s phone number system. A user discovered a way around this and posted it in his blog. The next day Tango had 120,000 downloads. We’ve fixed that issue, yet this memorable act of love from our users is a testament to how our product is connecting lives.” Continue reading

October 4, 2010

5 standout start-ups that rocked TechCrunch Disrupt

The Hotlist

See what your friends are up to in real time with The Hotlist.

The Hotlist, DataSift, MobilePay are worth a look for businesses & individuals

Jessica ValenzuelaAt last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, I met a number of startups that I thought were really cool. They may not have made it to the Top 7, and they didn’t win the TechCrunch cup, but I think these are companies that will be useful for businesses, organizations and individuals.

This is my first list on Storify, which makes it easier for content curators to weave great content together in a presentable format. (See MavinDigital for a look at how Storify formats your blog posts.)

Use Storify to share stories on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter

The main reason I love services like Tumblr and Posterous is that they make personal blogging simple. While you certainly still can write long-winded pieces about whatever you want, you can also just use a bookmarklet or email to send in individual pieces of content quickly. Storify seems like it could be the next step in that evolution. The new services, launching today in beta at TechCrunch Disrupt, is all about content curation from other social networking sites. Say there’s a tweet you see and want to build a story around (we do it quite a bit), with the click of a button, you can drag it into your Storify story. Maybe there’s a Flickr picture about the same topic — same idea, just drag it is. Maybe there’s a YouTube video, or a Facebook status update — all of this stuff can be easily pulled in. This creates one story of all this curated content.

Datasift: Tune into relevant tweets

In his explorations with the Twitter button, Tweetmeme founder Nick Halstead discovered that there are millions of tweets a day producing a stunning amount of valuable information. The only problem is separating the wheat from the chaff, the signal from the noise. Datasift, in the same space as HootSuite and Tweettronics, is attempting to make this process of sifting through real-time data easier for companies. The Datasift platform, accesible through a drag and drop graphical interface, is a curation engine that relies upon real-time filtering, providing developers with alerts, analytics and a real-time API.

MobilePay: A wallet in your mobile device

I absolutely hate carrying around both my phone and my wallet in my pocket. What if I could just carry around my phone and my driver’s license? That would be awesome. If MobilePay USA takes off, my wish will come true. The company, which was the TechCrunch Disrupt attendee pick to come out of the Startup Alley, seems amazing. It’s an iPhone app (right now, but they will expand it to many mobile platforms) that replaces your credit cards and loyalty cards. You simply enter in your credit card data (but don’t worry, it isn’t stored on your device, it’s securely stored in the cloud) and you can pay for things with the click of a button rather than fumbling around for and carrying all your credit cards.

The HotList: Keep your social life fresh

Want to know which spots are truly hot in your area? The Hot List will tell you in any city in the world. A social aggregator that enables you to find out what’s going on among your friends, within your neighborhood and around the world, the Hotlist has just announced that the company closed $800,000 in angel financing. Funds from the angel round will be used to to launch full mobile integration of its service to consumers (iPhone, BlackBerry and Android apps are on the way) and to support The Hotlist’s platform development. Continue reading