Going Global in the Best Way

Todd Crosland Startup SiteFew startup companies are able to become the perfect blend of profitable, unique, and philanthropic. Usually, they are just two of the three. However, some startups have created a product, and are driven by a mission, that helps them be all three. One such company is Proof Eyewear. This startup is run by three brothers from rural Idaho, who grew up around sawmills. Now, these brothers own a wooden eyewear company that has taken its mission all over the world.

The company was initially begun with the desire to create eyeglasses using sustainable materials. Having come from a family of sawmill workers, they were already quite familiar with raw materials. They first experimented with a pair of wooden sunglasses. The concept only grew from there. Proof morphed from a company operated out of a garage to one operating all over the world, and they launched in 2010.

One of the most interesting things about this company is that it is managing to make money in a world filled with eyewear companies using plastic. It is doing this by branching out from wood to use other sustainable materials as well. For example, the company produces glasses made from recycled aluminum and cellulose acetate as well. These materials allow eyeglass frames to be shaped in a number of different ways, as opposed to the blocky frames that are made with wood.

While Proof excels at product development and fundraising, it also has delved deeply into entrepreneurial philanthropy. It has adopted a give-back policy in which a percentage of its profits is donated to eye-based nonprofits and camps all over the world. It also partners with other eye-based companies all over the world, ones that are also making revenue, to provide a philanthropic service. Furthermore, it funds trips to the countries in which its philanthropy is practiced for all employees. The founders of the company believes it is important for their employees to be deeply entrenched in the mission of the company. Therefore, anybody in the company can go see the work Proof is funding firsthand.

This has created a company culture of sustainability, closeness, and giving back to the community. No wonder Proof was able to start a new line via the popular crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. What is more impressive is that this global organization was started on just $15,000 dollars. Each of the brothers donated $5,000 of their dollars to get Proof up and running.
Proof’s business model is one for which more startup companies should aim. Their perfect blend of product, profit, and philanthropy has helped them a great deal with fundraising, and will most likely keep them generating revenue into the foreseeable future.


Doing One Thing Well

Todd Crosland Startup Site

Historically, file sharing startups have not done well. While attempting to disrupt the file sharing industry, many companies build out their platforms to include too many other tools. One such platform could have not only the ability to transfer files, but also a collaboration aspect, amongst other things. This is distracting, raises prices, and becomes the ultimate reason why such startups fail. One Dutch file-sharing startup, however, seems to have figured things out. The company WeTransfer has successfully disrupted the technological industry by keeping their product simple. Through WeTransfer, people are allowed to share large files, and nothing else.

WeTransfer quickly grew after being created, as shown by it reaching profitability in 2015. The company now has 80 million users and is preparing a move to the United States. When using WeTransfer, a person does not even have to sign up to send anything that is 2GB and smaller. To send files above 2GB, a user must sign up for a premium service that costs only $12/month. However, the company makes sure not to push any users toward signing up for their premium service. With this service and the extensive advertising on their website, they are able to make a large amount of money.

Currently, WeTransfer is experiencing a demand in the United States from creative people, such as designers. Therefore, the company is planning to open up an office in Los Angeles and take on some already lucrative startups in this country. Of course, it will come with challenges. Startups such as Hightail, formerly YouSendIt, have shifted their focus to appeal more to creative people. WeTransfer will have to shift its marketing to appeal to more Americans. They are, however, hoping the ease involved in their marketing at home will carry over.

It will be interesting to see how WeTransfer fits into the Los Angeles startup community, but their move to the United States should not overshadow the progress they have already made. This is a company that does not actively push a paid product onto its customers, and created its platform without the bells and whistles that other platforms may use to attempt to stay current. Rather, WeTransfer is focused on transferring files. They began their platform, found this one thing that they were really good at, and stuck with it.

A focus on what works above constant expansion should be a trend followed by more startup companies.


Startup Quality and the Economy

Todd Crosland

It has long been thought that the number of entrepreneurial ventures in a society is what matters. This makes sense. The more small businesses that are formed in one place, the more jobs become available, and the more money is generated in said place. However, Jorge Guzman and Scott Stern, both of MIT, have found in a recent study that quantity may not be as important as quality.  Their paper takes an in-depth look at the startup field in America, and makes a few predictions about its future.

What Guzman and Stern do in this paper is describe ways to determine if startup companies are going to grow. Startups are known for bringing jobs to wherever they are based, but some types of companies have to hire more than others. If a small mom-and-pop shop opens in a city, for example, it will most likely only need a few employees. However, if an innovative company with the potential for a large amount of future growth is begun, it adds a lot more value to a community. These are the ones that help the economy the most.

The researchers refer to a company’s potential for growth as the ‘quality’ of the company, and link it to predictions about the future growth of a particular area. They mapped out the quality of different startup companies, and how quality linked to each company’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth. They found a significant correlation between quality and GDP growth in larger quality companies, but no significant correlation in smaller quality companies.

Of course, everyone who has ever taken a statistics class knows that correlation does not equate to causation. The GDP growth of specific companies could be directly related to the area in which the companies are growing, for example. However, this is an interesting concept for further study.

In order to predict the quality of a company, Guzman and Stern formed an algorithm. It tells them if a company with either go public or be bought for a large sum. This algorithm does not churn out highly specific results from company to company, but it gives a broad understanding of if a company will expand in the future or not.

While this paper leaves much to be desired from a research standpoint, it is also sends a powerful message to America’s entrepreneurial community as a whole. It disproves the idea that entrepreneurial ventures in this country are on the decline. It also challenges the idea that America’s economic growth is slow going. The amount of quality startups is increasing, which means that economic growth must be increasing as well.

Overall, this paper brings America’s entrepreneurial potential into the light. I am intrigued to see what the startup community will do with this information.


Startup Takes on Quantum Computing

Todd Crosland

We can all agree that the advancement of technology, even from 10 years ago, has been profound. We now have phones that are, effectively, miniature computers, 3D printers, and self-driving cars, amongst many other life-changing inventions. Looking at the vast array of technology available today, it is difficult to predict what will come next. However, a new project that has taken over the technological sphere involves quantum computers, and a young startup company seems to be a front-runner in making the first functional one.

Rigetti Computing operates in a small Berkeley office space, working on producing a prototype quantum computer chip by the year 2017. Why by 2017? Apparently, the company, which is only a couple of years old, is attempting to release one of these chips before Google has a chance. They are working around the clock to make complex quantum computing, a concept that was once merely theoretical, a reality.

Quantum computers have been an unreachable technological goal up until now. Qubits, small devices involved in the quantum computing process, must be able to work together, but so far they are only known to interfere with the processing of each other. According to the company’s founder, Rigetti Computing has manufactured qubits that are stable and can work together on a much larger scale. However, Google’s CEO has said the same thing, which makes it unclear as to who will be able to release a prototype of a quantum computing chip before the other.

Rigetti Computing is aiming to create a chip that makes machines operate and learn more quickly, as well as able to run complex simulations in scientific fields. These computers will be complex problem-solvers, which could revolutionize industrial processes by making them more efficient in their energy usage than they are today.

Not only does the company want to create a prototype quantum computer chip, their ultimate goal is to send quantum computing into the cloud. They want to form a quantum-powered cloud computing service that is accessible to all with internet access. For a fee, any person or company would be able to run their problems on the quantum-computer chips, for quick and accurate results and solutions. They also want to be able to someday allow other companies to write code for their quantum hardware.

Of course, even just creating the prototype costs millions of dollars, which is money that Google has, but Rigetti Computing, as a small company, does not. However, the startup is not fazed. Rather, they believe that working in a smaller environment gives them an advantage over Google because their efforts are more focused.

The idea of quantum computing becoming a reality is exciting, but I believe what is more exciting is the prospect of a small startup company releasing such advanced technology. This could change the technological startup environment in a big way, and could spur intelligent young people to start their own companies in an effort to disrupt the technological sphere. I am hopeful, but there is still a long way to go to see if Rigetti Computing will be able to make quantum computing a reality, before much larger companies.


Continuous Crowdfunding

Peak Design is a San Francisco-based startup company that generates accessories for small cameras. It recently just finished a Kickstarter campaign to launch its newest product, the Everyday Messenger Bag. The Kickstarter finished on a great note, with a countdown and celebration.

Interestingly enough, this is not Peak Design’s first Kickstarter campaign. In fact, it is its fifth. The company has been using Kickstarter to launch its new products since it first formed. The founder sees it as a great way to not only raise more money, but also to rope in initial customers who are already excited about the product. It seems to work, as Peak Design is doing very well.

Also, the company refuses to take on venture capitalists. This may seem counterintuitive, but Peter Dering, the owner of the company. wants to maintain his control of Peak Design. Their work model may not fit in with the work model of a venture capitalist, as Dering is constantly working from remote locations and employees are not given specific times in which they must be at work. They are encouraged to get out in the world and be active instead. Despite this, the company’s sales tripled in 2015 and, within its first year, Peak Design was profitable.

Dering’s launch of his company occurred at an ideal time. He created his first product, a clip that locks cameras to belts so they do not swing around, when Kickstarter was beginning to become a household name. Dering saw the investment platform as a built-in marketing plan for his products, and, $13 million in sales later, he still thinks along those lines.

Apparently, fully formed companies returning to websites like Kickstarter with new products is not an uncommon practice. However, Peak Design is part of the 1% that has gone back to the website 5 or more times. This is not for lack of trying, however. Peak Design got all it could with its credit out of a bank for its new product before going back to Kickstarter. The money from the bank would have only allowed them to order 5,000 bags, but using Funding Circle and Kickstarter gave them the money to order 45,000 bags. They would not have been able to do this otherwise without a venture capitalist, or having to sell a part of the company.

Overall, Kickstarter and platforms like it have proven to be a great resources for launching companies, and startup companies that have already launched. Startup founders like Dering prefer working in close-knit teams without any backer influence, which is exactly what crowdfunding has allowed him to do.

Whether or not this is sustainable in the long run has yet to be seen.

For more information on Peter Dering and Peak Design, check out this article in Forbes.


Japan Rethinks Startups

The startup industry in Japan is struggling. The country is known for its large companies such as Toyota and Nintendo, but such large companies make it difficult for newly-formed companies to distinguish themselves. Younger people in Japan are more likely to take jobs at established firms, as they value having stable career paths and do not like the risk involved in starting their own companies. Therefore, startups do not thrive in Japan, as funding is difficult to come by. The government, however, is looking to turn this around.

The government is hoping to change many things related to their startup industry. They have already been attempting to encourage the launch of small businesses, but now they are paying more attention to companies that support the small businesses as well. For example, the government is focused on venture capital firms, as well as on creating a supportive startup environment and attempting to change the mindset of the less adventurous younger generation.

Obviously, this will take time and a lot of change.

The Japanese government is looking to start by instituting entrepreneurial classes in some schools, to encourage students to think outside of the box in terms of career paths. This will take a large amount of extra education, as much of the young Japanese population is hesitant to get into a precarious financial position.

The government is also working alongside Japan’s Venture Capital Association to push investors into making venture capital investments. Having large companies work with startups will, they hope, encourage professionals to take risks in starting new companies, as the professionals will now have some support. A large portion of this partnership is educating younger people on how venture capital works. They believe a better understanding of venture capital will lead more people to see venture capital investment as an option.

The government is also pouring a lot of money into the startup industry. They have put billions of dollars into helping the industry for the last two years, and the number appears to be rising every year. Events pairing startups with investors have become a trend as well. Basically, the government is working all possible angles to try and make their startup industry competitive.

The Japanese government wants its companies to be able to tap further into the global market. Their efforts to expand their startup culture will assist them in their goals overall, but they certainly have a long way to go.

For more information on Japan’s startup industry, I encourage you to go to this article in The Japan Times.


11 Ways a CEO Can Improve His Brand Via Twitter

Todd Crosland TwitterAccording to data from Statista. Twitter currently has 302 million active users. This is a huge market that can really boost a brand if used correctly. An article in Chief Executive lists 11 ways a CEO can use Twitter to effectively develop their company’s brand.

  1.  Create a social media policy – The marketing director should have a social media outline that would apply to all departments. The policy should include parameters that define boundaries between postings as a professional persona vs. a personal account.
  2. Find your audience – This is a standard marketing question: who is your audience? Are they using twitter? A CEO wants to find the right followers who are engaged and interested in what the company has to say.
  3. Do it right, or don’t do it at all – Tweeting is meant to be a continuous activity throughout the day. If you are reading a relevant article associate with work, Tweet it. Some experts suggest 30 minutes a day.
  4. Manage your own Twitter – If people are truly following the company, they will be able to tell if the person Tweeting is not actually the CEO.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get personal – Followers like to see real commentary and personality. Don’t only talk about work. Also talk about your favorite hobbies and tastes. This adds personal depth, which has proven to be successful in the Twitter world.
  6. Share your opinions – Going along with personal information is the CEO’s opinions on something topical. Engage in the Twitter community by re-tweeting an opinion from someone else’s account.
  7. Act fast when criticized – Effective CEOs are able to neutralize criticism on their company’s brand quickly. As the CEO, you should understand why and how your product works, thus understanding how to defend the brand in your own words.
  8. Don’t hide if your company isn’t doing too well – Twitter can be a great use of crisis management. Take to your online community and explain your situation. Customers like transparency, and know when you’re trying to hide something. Trust is instrumental for growing a customer base.
  9. Be careful of who you decide to follow – A CEO’s followers might be interested in the company they keep. The individuals a CEO decides to hang around say a lot about the CEO, just like the followers they decide to follow.
  10. Influence media – CEOs are in their position because they are seen as leaders. Use Twitter to promote thought leadership through interacting with reporters, bloggers, editors, and other influencers in the industry. This is also a way for CEOs to build positive relationships with media outlets. Twitter can be a great networking tool.
  11. Twitter is a PUBLIC sharing platform – A CEO needs to understand that even though some Tweets might be deemed “private,” there are still ways in which the public can get a hold of this information. Don’t let an inappropriate Tweet go viral.

Xiaomi: The Fastest Growing Startup in the World

Todd Crosland Xiaomi StartupThe Chinese smartphone startup, Xiaomi, has raised $1.1 billion from venture capitalists in the last four years. The company has been valued at $45 billion. The company’s co-founder, Bin Lin, made the news public on Facebook. Xiaomi has surpassed Uber for the fastest growing startup in the world, and is currently ranked 3rd among global smartphone producers. Xiaomi attributes its continued success to their lower-cost products.

In an industry where many of Xiaomi’s competitors are taking huge hits, the Chinese smartphone startup was able to take advantage of the opportunity in the market. Their current valuation is more than four times their valuation in 2013. The startup company has surpassed other smartphone makers, such as Samsung Motorola, and HTC.

Although the company has endured a vast amount of success in the early stages, there are still some foreseeable challenges. As Xiaomi continues to expand, they face intellectual property issues when entering developed markets. A smartphone producer based out of Sweden, Ericsson, has sued Xiaomi for copyright infringement, banning the sale of their product in India for a short-while. Apple’s design chief, Jony Ive, accused Xiaomi of being lazy and stealing the Apple design.

Xiaomi differs from Apple in their business plan. Whereas Apple makes their profit from selling high-cost products with exceptional margins, Xiaomi’s business goals cater to making small profits on each product shipment. Their margins, therefore, are much smaller, but the demand is greater due to the products low cost. Xiaomi’s goal is to have their phones in as many people’s hands as possible. After this, they can sell their software and apps to generate a greater opportunity for profit.

The startup company focuses their business mantra on creating the best user experience. Xiaomi’s most notable investors include DST Global, Yunfeng Capital, All-Stars Investments, and Hopu Investment Management.


Bootstrapping for Young Startup Entrepreneurs

Todd Crosland Young Startup EntrepreneurA recent article in Young Upstarts deliberates the developmental phase that every startup company goes through: taking the idea and implementing it into a real, tangible product that creates revenue. A lot of young entrepreneurs might turn to accelerator programs, venture capital, or angel investing. However, this leads to sacrificing equity and freedom at an early stage of their company, which isn’t necessarily ideal.

The term bootstrapping is where young entrepreneurs will max out their credit cards and turn their homes into permanent working locations where they work late nights and early mornings. The article continues to give five pieces of advice from entrepreneurs who have gone through the bootstrapping process and come out the other side.

The first words of advice are from Samuel Huber, founder of Betify. He states, “Budgeting is king.” It is important to know exactly how long your company can last without revenue and external investments. Huber says to create a month-by-month revenue log and multiply that by 1.5 to be on the safe side.

The next word of advice is from Martin Brinkmann, founder of Deez.io. His word of advice is “prioritize.” Prioritizing funds and development is crucial to getting the product out on the market. A lot of time could be wasted nitpicking on “your baby” when the product is ready to hit the market.

Steven Lammertink, founder of cirqle.nl, tells us to master the pitch. The products pitch is how an entrepreneur will let investors and high-profile individuals know about the product. It is important to have a strong pitch to act as a good first impression. The pitch should include what the product is, the market opportunity, and value propositions.

Entrepreneurs should take on investors on their own terms, says founder of chekk.me, Pascal Nizri. A startup needs to be at the right stage of development to take on investors. Entrepreneurs are ready to take on investors if they want to expand their business or receive mentorship. Bankruptcy and last resort should not lead an entrepreneur to seek investors.

The last piece of advice is from our very own, Todd Crosland, founder of Seed Equity Ventures. His advice is to preserver. Nowadays there are thousands of venture capitalists controlling the startup industry, but soon enough individual investors from all around the world will start influencing the startup industry more and more. There are more funding options in the future, so there will be plenty of more opportunities for entrepreneurs in the near future.


Impressive Startups in Emerging Markets

Todd Crosland startup global entrepreneurshipForbes recently came out with a group of new tech startups that have the edge in their own perspective emerging markets. Seedstars World, an affiliate venture capital firm to Seedstars, created this list of emerging markets and dominating startups associated with these markets. There were 19 startup companies mentioned in the article in varying emerging markets.

The first emerging market mentioned is the fast-growing finance infrastructure market. The two startups mentioned for this industry were Accra and Remit.ug. Accra is a Ghana based startup that is developing an online payment platform based on Bitcoins. Remit.ug, based out of Uganda, is building a money transfer platform that allows people from all over the globe to transfer money to people in Africa with a simple click of a button.

The mobile is the next emerging market written about in the article. Many new startups are developing mobile at the beginning of their development stages now that mobile has fully developed as an emerging market. The startups mentioned in this emerging market were Blocks, ChannelKit, Manads, OkHi, StudyPact, and Krowdpop. Blocks is a Tehran based startup that developed their own smartwatch. ChannelKit, from Moscow, is Pinterest for links. Manads is based out of Baku, Azerbaijan and developed advertising for after call screens. OkHi, based out of Nairobi, is developing physical addresses for every cell phone. StudyPact is a Tokyo-based startup that pays students for meeting their study goals, while charging them for not reaching their study goals. Krowdpop is a crowdfunding platform for pop music in South Korea.

Another emerging market in the discussion is mobile delivering services. These services make it easier for the consumer to obtain a good or service by just using their cell phone. Washbox24 is based out of Bangkok, and they use communal locker locations as drop-off points for customer’s laundry.

Fixing world-class issues is another emerging market that multiple startup companies are focusing on. These companies are replacing old technology with new technology to fix the bigger problems facing certain environments. The startups in this category are Khusela, KinTrans, myVLE, and Green Energy. Khusela is based out of Cape Town and is developing a low-budget fire alarm system for slum environemnts. KinTrans, based out of Dubai, is working on their platform that translates sign language in real time, into voice and text. MyVLE, in Casablanca, is an online learning platform that uses SasS. Green Energy, in Nigeria, is developing the process that transforms solid waste into electrical energy and petroleum.

E-commerce is the final emerging market discussed in the article. With fast-growing economies, e-commerce is necessary for fast paced production. The startups for this category include Prisync, Triip, Scandid, Freesheh, Poeyek, and TorQue Workspace. Prisync, based out of Istanbul, is a b-to-b company that offers pricing analytics and tracking. Based out of Ho Chi Mihn, Triip is is a crowdsourcing platform for tours. Scandid, based out of Bangalore, allows its users to compare barcodes using their app. Feesheh is based out of Amman and allows its users to shop online for musical instruments. Poeyek, based out of Darkar, is developing a business management platform for small businesses. TorQue Workspace is a software company based out of Rwanda creating a platform to help wholesalers manage their distribution.

All 19 of these companies are developing their technologies in these emerging markets to hopefully obtain the global edge over their competitors.