On Thursday, September 27, 2012, OLC attended the Entrepreneurs' Roundtable 51 at NYU's Stern School of Business. Here is our recap:
Raju Rishi of Sigma Partners was the speaker. He gave a very short speech—about his beliefs and what he does in the tech community. Rishi said he focuses on five value propositions: 1) team, 2) market status, 3) product—features, application, and is it a stand-alone product, 4) competition, 5) business model. He also gave four stages of what a startup looks like. The very first stage, which he called "Phase 0," is the idea and the founding team trying to validate the business. The next step was to repeat and prove that the business has value. The third step was the transition from repeating to scaling. Finally, the business is to scale in different ways—vertical or through partners trying to sell the product. Rishi, however, said the "companies fail because they try to do too much work." Companies need to focus. He acknowledged that there is "a lot of pressure to scale, but you need to resist that as long as you can. Figure out where the scale point should go." Rishi added that after the founding team, the "next five hires are critical to your company. They will define the company culture and will define success or failure of the company." He went on to say that "you can train priority, but you can't train judgment." Finally, he wrapped up his mini lesson with, "everybody in your company is in sales."
VocalizeMobile was the first to pitch. The representative claimed, "yellow pages are not effective anymore." VocalizeMobile is a mobile solution to local businesses on advertising. Its advertisements will change how businesses sell products. The company currently works with 200 clients, most of which are small businesses. VocalizeMobile works to optimize their directory listings. The representative was keen to distance VocalizeMobile with Yext, as Yext is focused on "synchronization, not optimization," whereas VocalizeMobile is focusing on the latter.
Michael Chang of MatchPuppy took the stage and pitched his startup as the "OkCupid for dogs." MatchPuppy matches dogs and their owners to other dogs and owners. It all started when Chang looked online for a platform to arrange playdates for his dog, but realized that there wasn't one. He ended up on MeetUp.com, which only showed profiles for humans, not dogs. He came up with the idea to develop a website and mobile application to arrange dogs to play with other dogs and unite dog lovers. MatchPuppy is in talks with Petco and is building a mobile app. MatchPuppy is not relying heavily on advertising. They have also developed a "Dog B&B," which works only if the dogs have met (as well as their owners) and have developed a relationship. It takes the stranger out of the mix and arranges it so that people and dogs that have met before (and in the area) can dog-sit when the owner goes out of town for a period of time.
Wurk Happy was next and Marcus Ellison presented his pitch. Wurk Happy is a platform, which simplifies interaction between employers and freelancers, contractors, and consultants. Ellison said that risk for freelancers are decreasing, although a problem that rears its head over and over again is the fact that freelancers sometimes make verbal agreements and do not sign binding contracts. Wurk Happy works to solve that issue by providing a simple way to invoice freelancers and employers by the click of a button. Wurk Happy focuses on simplicity—operations between freelancers and the employers. The startup currently makes money by taking a small percentage of transactions. They've settled on 1.5% and do not market themselves. It is all done through word of mouth. When asked why employers would want to contract freelancers through Wurk Happy, Ellison answered that clients (employers) use Wurk Happy because it places an emphasis on payment relationships and provides a simply payment solution.
Larry Levine of MintEye, formerly called AdsCAPTCHA pitched the company to the audience, asking if anyone likes to solve CAPTCHAs. The audience overwhelmingly (but not surprisingly) voted "No". MintEye works to help companies monetize page views that aren't monetized. It is the replacement—the solution—to CAPTCHAs. According to Levine, it can be used with any IAB ad unit. He gave examples of prerolls before watching videos and that websites do not get any money once the "Skip" button is pressed, and that some websites force the view to watch the advertisements for fear of losing ad revenue. MintEye, however, engages the user. It guarantees that the user has engaged with the ad because it is a puzzle. The picture is solved through a "slide bar technology." Levine said, "this is a more eloquent solution" to CAPTCHAs.
Kwado Juantuah was the final startup to pitch his startup, Mankola Inc. He said that it is almost impossible to find African products online in the United States. He explained that no one thinks of African entrepreneurs because no one in America knows the products are out there. Mankola Inc. is currently in "Phase 0." Juantuah and his team are trying to find out where and what the company will shape up to be. Juantuah knows, however, that the company wants to contribute to the growth of African countries. Currently, he plans to develop a platform in which American-based Africans and companies that want to expand their snacking to purchase items through Mankola and ship it in bulk to the customers. Mankola plans to target approximately 1.5 million Africans living in the US and is reaching out to the more tech-savvy younger generation.