Ubiquitous Stanford Startups

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While recent tech conversations have centered on social media startups like Snapchat and Whatsapp, some Stanford entrepreneurs are going in a different direction.

Hans Andersson recently wrote in The Dish Daily about how the Internet of things (IoT) space will achieve mass adoption by becoming inconspicuous, fashionable, and ubiquitous. I totally agree.

The internet has become The place for a person to be in. one needs to be online at all times to ensure they don’t miss out on things. If one is not found online for a few hours, they may miss a party invitation, a big sale or even a big opportunity to earn well. even trading which required a person to sit in front of the system and analyse charts for the entire day, to predict which way the market will go, has been replaced by online trading software like Millionaire Blueprint, where everything is automated.

I’ve also written about how the IoT is just an intermediate step before it becomes internet of people, as even  Mark Zuckerberg noted at recent Stanford talk, saying that one day we could have internet-enabled devices implanted in people.

The IoT is in many ways the gradual evolution of the miniaturization of technology. Part of the reason for the uptick of interest in the IoT is that smartphones and tablets have unleashed the creative energies of technologists who think they can now create a smart anything: locks, lights, cameras, cars, you name it. Another reason smartphones and tablets have helped propel the IoT space is because smartphones now enable anyone to connect to their smart devices through simple apps.

The IoT craze is impacting student entrepreneurs and startups at Stanford. For example, Switchmate is a startup at the Stanford venture studio that “manages your light switches from anywhere in the world. No technicians, no re-wiring, no screwdrivers.” The Switchmate team is composed of Robert Romano, Daniel Peng and Asish Dua.

Another venture studio startup is Echo Wearables, which founders Pierre-Jean Cobut and Elad Ferber describe as the “ultimate fitness tracker for the ultimate performance athlete.” The Echo Runner 510 will tell athletes inform athletes of their energy level to prevent from hitting the dreaded “wall,” how much rest and recovery they should take between workouts and  update their hydration level.

The IoT is not just a futurist vision held by hobbyists tinkering in their basements. Major companies have incorporated the IoT into their strategic vision: from GE’s Industrial Internet initiative, to IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative. Microsoft is the latest major tech company staking a claim on the future of the IoT, as it works on a HomeOS and Windows Embedded.

As one might expect, many of these companies have corporate venture wings that are investing heavily in this area. In fact, according to a recent SVB report, a third of investment in the IoT space has been from strategic investors like Intel, Qualcomm, Siemens, Cisco, and GE. These big players are heavily investing in the IoT space because it will enable them to establish a stronger relationship with their customers and better understand their needs, boost their brand awareness, increase energy efficiency, customize services and equipment, as well as upsell additional services.

Although the big players have signaled their interest in the IoT, the biggest explosion of the IoT activity has been through crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Some of the best-funded projects on these sites have been the IoT devices and they aren’t just limited to the pebble watch. You only have to look at projects like thermodo, tile app, Lockitron, plant link and the Scanadu Scout. Many of these crowdsourced projects have gone on to raise venture funding.

At Stanford, the IoT has made hardware sexier. And with the Product Realization Lab, Stanford students have the wherewithal to create the next generation of ubiquitous technology.

Featured image courtesy of Keoni Cabral via Flickr. 

Not If, But When (And Wear)

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Have you ever worn Google Glass? A FitBit tracker? Some other wearable device?

If so, what impressions did you take away from the experience? If not, can you visualize yourself sporting glasses that make you look like you just stepped off an episode of Star Trek?

I’m somewhat of a technologist and technophile, yet I can’t imagine wanting to wear Google Glass or a similarly unusual and conspicuous device in everyday life.

Even regular routine like trading on the stock market has changed, thanks to online trading software like Millionaire Blueprint which removes the need for a physical investor and does all the trading for you. many are not keen on investing their money through a machine, which will read the charts and take the investment calls but for those who are not too well versed with the stock market, they need help. Today help is available online, in this format.

Many investors themselves use automated software which relieves them from having to sit in front of the computer all day long, watching the numbers go up and down. No matter how much these software grow, there are many who still resist this change brought on by the technologies.

There are people who are not too keen on using these latest technologies and want what they grew up with – simplicity and more human interactions. One never had to wear a device to monitor their heart beat, they were physically active all day long and the number of steps they took in a day was not worth counting. Frankly, it made no difference to them.

People never wore glasses to experience a different world. It was always just left to their imagination. Today, one can experience a whole different world, right in their seats, by just donning a different pair of glasses. There are people who are still resisting this change and are trying to hold on to the earlier technologies.

Still, the flow of technology seems to inevitably move us in that direction. So, how will the industry unfold? I predict three stages:

  1. Inconspicuousness: We’ll begin by wearing devices that others can’t see, such as in-shoe trackers. These devices promise a range of easily imaginable benefits at no cost to our image. Provided they’re usable and affordable, I can’t imagine we’ll much hesitate to don them. In fact, many already do.
  2. Fashionability: Some innovative company, likely Apple, will release a device that’s noticeable but unobtrusive, something like an iWatch. Early adopters will jump on such devices, and because of the devices’ intrinsic attractiveness, mainstream users (Geoffrey Moore’s “early majority”) won’t hesitate to follow suit.
  3. Ubiquity: Having tasted wearable technology under the guise of fashion, users will gradually lose their aversion to the idea. In this stage, wearable devices will become increasingly common from head to toe. One writer recently called this stage “borgification.” I prefer to label such a phenomenon with a less obnoxious term: “ubiquity.”

These three stages imply three concurrent sine qua non conditions that makers of wearable devices will need to meet: (1) affordability, (2) inoffensiveness, and (3) usability. Google Glass has, so I read, largely failed on all three counts—the device appeals only to the subset of early adopters who have both wealth to burn and no concern for their image.

But if the rumors about Apple announcing an affordable, fashionable and usable iWatch later this year prove correct, then mainstream users, such as myself, might—sooner than we imagine—move one step closer to ubiquity of wearable devices. Let’s just hope that doesn’t mean “borgification.”

Featured image courtesy of UpRating.com via Flickr. 

Heavyweight of the Lean Startup Movement

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Eric Ries is best recognized for pioneering the Lean Startup movement, a new-business strategy that maximizes a company’s potential by efficiently allocating and improvising its resources.

He is another visionary who created a company to help others with the knowledge he had gained over the years, like Mark Stevenson who has created the Infinity App, to help people trade online, without having to know much about the stock market. There are many ways one can improve the performance of their business and this book by Eric Ries shows us just what one can do.

When Crown Business published Ries’ first book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business, it became a bestseller and a blueprint for entrepreneurs around the world. Ries is also a leading Silicon Valley and business blogger. He hosts sold-out conferences and advises the Lean Startup Machine workshop series, which is now in more than 20 cities.

As the keynote speaker for the IBM SmartCamp Finals recently, Ries imparted many truths to entrepreneurs.

Ries opened with the idea that our environment has allowed for the democratization of entrepreneurship, and the next big company can begin in anyone’s garage. Such a landscape has allowed the startup movement to explode with millions in funding, hundreds of accelerators and incubators and a general excitement among those who feel ill-suited for a typical 9-to-5 job.

Perhaps Ries’ most important message was that the same democratization of entrepreneurship has been tied to a glorification of the profession. His description of the films “The Social Network” (as a modern image) and “Ghostbusters” (as an “old school” image) illustrated entrepreneurs building from the ground up.

He described the Hollywood recipe. Act 1: a protagonist with a bold idea and excellent timing for the idea. Act 2: a brief montage focusing on the struggles on writing code or battling some ghosts. Act 3: a tidy conclusion featuring earning tons of money or saving lots of people.

But Ries, an expert on startups, revealed the uncut version—the vast majority of a startup experience lies in Act 2. He then asked why it doesn’t make it into the movie. His answer? It’s too boring. He admitted no one would want to watch a seven-hour fight with his cofounders.

For every successful Netflix, Google or Uber, there are hundreds of failed startups that don’t make it past Act 2. True successes lie in overcoming problems, learning quickly from those problems and implementing solutions—all before your competitors do.

While many dream of the quick five-year turnaround of successful business plans, Ries said it rarely works out as smoothly and easily as we hope. His message was not meant to dissuade young innovators and entrepreneurs but to better prepare them and ultimately make their struggles more surmountable.

For more information, see eric@theleanstartup.com and startuplessonslearned.com. Stay tuned to IBM for more exciting events and information.

Featured image courtesy of betsyweber via Flickr. 

15 Stanford Classmates Who Could Be Your Biggest Startup Investor

A list of students who intern or work for venture funds

Working for venture funds has become a trend today. Many new startups are seen to come up all around us and who are funding them? The new generation is here to ensure the world is changed for the better and newer technologies and ideas are given a fair chance. These youngsters are ready to invest in new ventures and take a part of the earning as a share. They have various proposals with the entrepreneurs and eventually come to a win-win decision, so that both the new entrepreneur and the investor can benefit out of this partnership.

 

Why Venture Capital?

 

Here are some of the main reasons why people are getting attracted towards venture capital as an investment opportunity:

 

Opportunity

 

The opportunity is big. One can never dispute the fact that another major breakthrough like Facebook or Twitter or The Brit Method could be the result of the investment. Hence the investors today want to invest in a venture that could possibly change the world as they know it.

Low Cost

Investing in a new business is definitely cheaper than investing in a business that is already up and running. Many businesses face financial troubles after the initial few years and when one invests in this, the cost is high. also, they may not get a good deal out of it.

Big Revenue

If the venture becomes a hit, the chances for a big revenue is very high. with a low investment, when the revenue is going to be big, everyone is ready to take the plunge and grab the opportunity.

In November, The Dish Daily provided a breakdown of 21 Stanford professors who are venture capitalists.

Now, we are back with a list of students who intern or work for venture funds.

Anjney Midha (Economics and MCS), is an investment team member of First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund and according to his Linkedin, is also a partner at Kleiner Perkins.

Ernestine Fu (PhD and MBA), works at Alsop Louie, has graced the front cover of Forbes and has featured in Business Insider and multiple other publications. She also coleads a class in the spring called Lens of Venture Capital.

Other First Round Capital Dorm ROom Fund team members; Adam Goldberg (Stanford CS), Amanda Bradford (MBA), Neal Khosla (Stanford CS). Neal Khosla’s father is Vinod Khosla, after whom Khosla Ventures is eponymously named.

Andreessen Horowitz: Krista Thayer (MBA), Market Development; and Stephanie Zhan (CS), Deal Team.

Canvas Venture Fund: Rick Barber (CS Masters) and Nir Blumberger (MBA)

Cowboy Ventures: Daniel Liem (CS) and Ramon Flores (CS)

Natalie Luu (MatSci), Accel-KKR and Y Combinator Campus Associate.

Andre De Haes (MBA), Index Ventures.

Innovation Endeavors (cofounded by Eric Schmidt and Dror Berman in 2010): Greg Greiner and Seth Werfel (PhD Political Science).

Featured image courtesy of LendingMemo via Creative Commons license. 

Twitter, First Amendment Warrior?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That is the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. The portion many—and now Twitter—focus on involves the freedom of speech and the press. This clause, as interpreted by countless court decisions, asserts the press as watchdog of the government and conduits of information to the public. The press has the right to critique and close scrutinize the government for the sake of transparency.

When the press takes advantage of this right, it can go both ways and more often than not, it goes south. The government can be questioned and brought out to the public to be criticized and rebuked, without being given a chance to explain or defend. This is how news articles regarding online trading sites like Infinity App scare people away as they are made to believe, they will get cheated.

Twitter could potentially fill this role as well if the U.S. government continues to restrict how transparent the social media self-expression advocate can be.

The now public site released its Transparency Report Thursday. The report, first released in 2012 and now published bi-annually, aims to highlight “trends in government requests [Twitter] receive[s] for account information … for content removal and copyright notices (both takedown notices and counter notices). The report also provides insight into whether or not [they] take action on these requests.”

Though the report cites a 66 percent rise in worldwide governmental information requests, data about U.S. requests are limited. Despite a two percent increase in U.S. government requests in just the last six months, we still don’t know much about what exactly it requested. Twitter is not able to release much information about U.S. national security requests due to current Department of Justice regulations.

That could soon change. Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of Global Legal Policy, blogged about potentially seeking legal action in order to increase the company’s transparency by releasing more information.

“We have pressed the U.S. Department of Justice to allow greater transparency, and proposed future disclosures concerning national security requests that would be more meaningful to Twitter’s users,” Kessel wrote. “We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.

With national debate focusing on National Security Administration policies, we may seen an increased legal action from Twitter and other social media companies that value a free flow of information and expression.

I think such legal action could lead to a slippery slope. On the one hand, it would allow more forms of media to provide a check on the government. It could also increase self-policing of social media conduct by users. On the other hand, it could also—like the WikiLeaks situation—endanger people and information if not done with tact and caution. Though I would lead toward Twitter’s side, as a member of the media and proponent of the First Amendment in all its capacity, I’d warn, in the words of metal band Limp Bizkit: “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

Other companies have also begun publishing their own transparency reports. View them here.

Featured image courtesy of euthman via Creative Commons license. 

Going Yippee for Yahoo!

When I tell you Yahoo is moving in the right direction, I mean it. With the company’s recent purchase of Tumblr, C.E.O. Marissa Mayer continues to transition the ancient email provider and unmentioned search engine into a media powerhouse.

The biggest advantage of merging such existing, well known companies is that customers gain more confidence. They are aware and happy with the performance of both these companies and when they are merged, the features of one is bound to seep into the other, thus letting the customers enjoy the best of both worlds. Such advantages is what encourages people to use online platforms be it for socializing, communicating or even investing. Software like Orion Code ensure people benefit from shifting online.

Here are five (of the many) reasons Yahoo is #winning:

Marissa Mayer — How many C.E.O.’s would hire the cast of SNL to be a part of their keynote speech at a tech and gadget conference? With a rise in personality-driven brands, Yahoo is right on. Not only does Mayer attract attention because she is a female in a male-dominated space, but she does not shy away from embracing her feminine wiles. Remember her infamous Vogue spread? She is the best of both worlds.

Mouth (and eye) watering visuals — At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Yahoo announced its launch of two new vertical sites aimed at engaging an audience that is visually motivated and invariably younger and mainstream. On the Tumblr platform, Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech pair the content focus of a news site with the image-laden emphasis of Yahoo’s other property, Flickr. This is what digital media, and invariably media as a whole, has been missing. Audiences want to be titillated intellectually, audibly and visually; Yahoo understands that.

Build it, they come — The more than 10 million unique visitors to the sites since their launch a month ago seem to be screaming that Yahoo has filled a void and reached a necessary audience. Techcrunch compares this to the reported 31 million monthly unique visitors of the entire NYT site. I’m no math major, but for a new set of sites to bring in an audience that is already one-third of an industry leader’s is bananas! Let’s hope it continues.

Google it — I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say “Yahoo it,” when referencing the need to search Croatia’s G.D.P. or the release date for Beyonce’s new album. Google, and maybe Bing, are the go-to search engines. Though this may seem like a drawback, the virtual anonymity in the search category gives Yahoo the leeway to experiment and make mistakes. And when Google messes up—because no one is perfect—Yahoo will be there to save the day with a tested, reliable alternative.

Infinity and beyond — No one knows what is next for Yahoo. After declining to provide any projections for the year on its earnings call recently, we’re kept guessing—and that’s where Yahoo wants us. Mark my words, Yahoo is coming back with a vengeance.

Featured image courtesy of clasesdeperiodismo via Creative Common license. 

Mark Zuckerberg and the Internet of People

Silicon Valley is well-known for forward thinking especially when it comes to predicting the future of technology. Stanford President John Hennessey asked Mark Zuckerberg to do just that during their on-stage discussion a few weeks ago and to the surprise of no one, Zuckerberg provided an insightful response.

Zuckerberg has been a name everyone has become familiar with. It is like a household name because everyone has a Facebook account and everyone connects via Whatsapp. The social media platform has been revamped, thanks to this guy. The human interface is decreasing and the machines are carrying on the work, with lesser faults. Like in the trading market, one can invest via the online trading software like Orion Code, etc and this removes the need for a human trader or your interaction with one.

Zuckerberg remarked that Internet-connected devices are getting smaller and more powerful and that it was a clear trend that computers will someday be in us. Zuckerberg wasn’t just thinking about the Internet of things but the next stage of computing, which will likely be the Internet of people. Is the next step in human evolution, Homo Techiens? Perhaps Cyborgs, the Borg, and the Terminator aren’t that far into the future.

Already, much of Silicon Valley is set on the Internet of Things. On the day that Zuckerberg spoke on campus, Google bought Nest for 3.2 billion dollars. Many venture capitalists and tech companies are spending billions of dollars betting that all of our devices will become Internet-enabled and smarter. The first device was the phone. Nest then made it the thermometer and smoke detector, and a fair number of people in Silicon Valley now sport wearable devices like fitbit and the fuelband.

Zuckerberg’s view of the future is not really a prognostication because the Internet of people is already happening. Google recently announced its smart contact lens, which would monitor glucose levels in tears. People are already talking about how this might work in conjunction with the Google Glass. Additionally, companies are now working on digestible sensors in the form of pills that can track one’s internal state and adherence to medication.

Zuckerberg also discussed the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). He joked about how people continue to raise the bar with A.I. and how at one point in time, people thought A.I. would have been achieved if computers could beat man in chess. Then it was whether computers can defeat man in Jeopardy trivia. Already computers are faster and better at recognizing faces and voices.

Silicon Valley embraces disruption and new technology because that typically means more money, more jobs, and more power. However, is technology once again outpacing our ability to understand its implications? Beyond simply understanding the impact of social media networks like Facebook and Snapchat, do we have the right policies in place for wearable devices like Google Glass? The rapid technological advances and A.I. development leads many casual observers to believe that the future will soon bring Internet-connected devices in people. However, before that day arrives, we need to discuss whether Homo Techiens are really preferable to Homo Sapiens.

Featured image courtesy of  Robert Scoble via Creative Commons license. 

StartX Q&A: Nightingale

Founded by MIT dropouts Delian Asparouhov and Eric Bakan, Nightingale is both an online and mobile app that offers patients and caregivers the tools to help manage health data. Nightingale’s health data tracking tools aim to improve treatment options for children with autism.

It is like how The Brit Method would track the stock market and read all the movements and invest on your behalf. With such Apps, one need not do much work. All they will have to do is download the App on to their mobile phone and initiate the process. These Apps are designed to help, manage and track all the associated data.

Asparouhov and Bakan were also Thiel Fellows. The Thiel Fellowship awards young innovators and entrepreneurs $100,000 grants over two years to skip college and focus on their research and goals.

Asparouhov spoke about his experiences throughout the company’s development.

The Dish Daily: Could you tell me a little bit about the history of Nightingale and the original idea behind the company?

Delian Asparouhov: The origin of the company was actually when I was my grandmother’s caregiver while she was being treated for breast cancer when I was a junior in high school. I started working on it more actively in January of 2013 with my co-founder, Eric Bakan, and we’ve been working together ever since.

TDD: How exactly does Nightingale track the children’s personal health data?

DA: Nightingale allows the parents, therapists and teachers of children on the autism spectrum to record behavioral data using their phone. This can mean anything from a tantrum happening to how often a tick happens throughout the day. The caregivers of these children input all of this data through our mobile app.

TDD: Have you found a lot of demand for the product among therapists and caregivers? 

DA: Yes! It’s a huge unmet need, and we already have three autism therapy programs paying to use our product.

TDD: How did the Thiel Fellowship help launch the company/idea?  Were both of you part of the 20 Under 20 Program? (And if so, could you talk a little bit about your experience with it?)

DA: Yes! I applied for the Thiel Fellowship with this idea, and I can’t imagine where I would be without it. The program has been instrumental to my personal development and Nightingale’s development. I would highly recommend that anyone under 20 fill out the application for sake of laying out your priorities in life and recommend joining the program if you are someone who learns better outside a classroom.

TDD: What have been your biggest challenges along the way as the company has developed?

DA: Learning to listen to our customers. Sometimes you want to pretend like you know a lot about the world, but, as it turns out, you don’t!

TDD: What are your hopes and plans for StartX Demo Day? 

DA: To help people understand why what we are working on is such an important problem to solve.

TDD: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

DA: Short-term: Help more kids! Long-term: Help even more kids!

TDD: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

DA: StartX rocks!

StartX Q&A: Everybody Dance Now!

As StartX’s first non-profit organization, Everybody Dance Now! aims to change lives of underserved youth through dance.  Largely youth-led, EDN! uses dance to promote both healthy lifestyles and social change among students. The organization is now operating in seven U.S. cities and has been featured on America’s Best Dance Crew.  Jackie Rotman, who founded the company at the age of 14,  spoke about her experience creating a startup at such a young age.

There are many organizations that have come up today to change the world. If you take the stock trading, there are online software like HBSwiss that does the trading for you and all you will have to do is make your initial investment. The software will watch the market like any trader and make the moves, thus reducing the work of a trader.

The Dish Daily (TDD): Could you tell me a little bit about the history of Everybody Dance Now! and the original idea behind the company?

Jackie Rotman (JR): When I was 12, I performed a hip-hop dance for teenagers with disabilities. Half way through my hip-hop duet, the music stopped working. An audience member shouted, “We want to dance!” so we invited audience members on stage to learn dance and perform for their peers.  Watching them perform showed me that dance is a powerful means for bringing people together and empowering them.

This experience inspired me to found Everybody Dance Now! at age 14 to use dance to help underserved youth build self-esteem and establish healthy lifestyles.  In my hometown of Santa Barbara, CA, 1,800 kids are at risk of joining a gang, and the average age of entering a gang is 14.  This represents a larger problem in our country—4.5 million young people have no safe place to go after school, so they fall into violence, crime, drug and alcohol abuse and other behaviors that keep them from reaching their potential.  After school programs like the arts have been shown to be a powerful solution—low-income high school students who study the arts are 2 times more likely than their peers to vote and volunteer growing up, 2.5 times more likely to pursue professional career fields and 3 times as likely to obtain a BA!  These are the benefits we’re helping make possible for kids using dance. EDN! has provided free hip-hop dance programs to more than 4,000 youth in 12 cities.  Our organization continues to be largely student-led.

TDD: What was it like founding the company at such a young age?  What were some of the difficulties/benefits?

JR: Founding a nonprofit at 14 was the best experience I had as a teenager, which I’m really grateful for.  Before starting EDN!, I was actively searching for meaning and a way of giving back. EDN! enabled me to throw myself into this vision that was outside myself, learn to be a leader, and form meaningful relationships with local leaders in youth development, policy, education, nonprofit administration and the arts – as well as students.  My whole life changed after starting the organization, as I had a purpose and a place to channel my creativity and hard work ethic.

One difficulty was balancing running a growing nonprofit that expanded from one city to five cities my junior year, with academics. Doing both at the same time was difficult, so if I were asked for advice on this, I may encourage other founders to take time off school if they’re running a company—depending on their goals.  The other challenge was leadership succession planning.

The benefit of being young when I started the company were that: 1) I had no expectations around its revenue or scaling at the very beginning, so I was able to do it out of an intrinsic passion and love; 2) I had a lot of time to devote as a high school student and could volunteer; 3) We were able to get an early start and build a strong foundation early; and 4) We could attract publicity opportunities and funding opportunities that were specific for youth-led organizations, including being featured on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew my sophomore year at Stanford in 2010.

TDD: As the first non-profit to participate in StartX, how do you think your experience has differed from other companies?

JR: At first I felt unsure what it would be like coming into StartX as its first and only nonprofit, but the StartX community quickly dissolved any doubts or fears.  StartX founders constantly emphasized, “What you’re doing is the exact same – you have the same challenges!” We’re all dealing with meeting payroll for our companies, hiring and firing, fundraising (though nonprofits don’t deliver a financial return on investment), communicating a vision/plan/strategy, and more. Before joining StartX, while I lived in NYC, I had fewer people to relate to in my social group when it came to the challenges of entrepreneurship and start-ups.  StartX has provided me with an amazing community and sense of support, beyond it being really beneficial on more technical levels.

One funny moment was deciding which of StartX’s four “industry” groups EDN! would be in. Our options were consumer, medical, hardware, and enterprise – we picked enterprise because we provide our program to after-school programs, but StartX’s accelerator director and I both laughed at the match.

I’ve also enjoyed being a “go-to” person when someone has a social sector related question, like where to find a data set on the nonprofit sector, or who to connect with about a marketing idea related to charities and celebrities. Best of all, one StartX founder needed to volunteer for 40 hours to get a parking ticket off his record, so he’s making a phenomenal web back-end system to help EDN! to track our data!

TDD: What have been your biggest challenges along the way as the company has developed?

JR: The biggest challenge we’ve had has been making EDN! sustainable in the long term.  My senior year at Stanford, I appointed a volunteer Executive Director as my successor who was amazing, but a year later she realized she could no longer do it – balancing a national org with being a full time student is tough – and the team working with her dissolved quite suddenly.  This happened a week before I moved from Calif. to Manhattan to start my full time job at Bridgespan – the leading nonprofit consulting firm, which spun out of Bain. For close to the next year, I chaired EDN!’s Board, hired and trained a 42-year-old ED, and tried to fundraise, but it wasn’t working.  I ultimately decided to leave Bridgespan and become EDN!’s first full time Executive Director.  We’re now focused on building up our funds (we’re tripling our revenues this year), Board of Directors, and strong infrastructure to eventually hire several full time staff, so that we can be sustainable for many years to come and reach more of those 4.5 million kids in need in the US.

TDD: What are your hopes and plans for StartX Demo Day?

JR: Of the 160+ venture capitalists and community members attending, we hope to connect with advisors and connectors who can put us in touch with potential Board members and funders/resources, and support our impact.  We’ll be inviting attendees to visit our classes in East Palo Alto and get involved. I also hope the other StartX companies presenting do a great job and succeed in fundraising!

TDD: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

JR: In the short term: triple our organization’s revenues this year and more than double them the next year, so that we can do our work much more effectively.  Expand the number of students we’re serving annually from 1,500 to 3,000 in that time.  Build a strong standards-based dance and socio-emotional learning curriculum, as well as system for measuring our impact effectively.  In the long term: make EDN! a go-to provider in many cities, and a household name, making dance accessible to millions of kids throughout the United States as a positive, expressive, and healthy after-school alternative that gives kids an opportunity to build confidence that will translate into all areas of their lives.  Then, I also have a dream of taking cross-cultural service-learning programs for young people that are rooted in dance international.

TDD: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JR: I’m just so grateful to Stanford and to StartX for the opportunity to go through the StartX program.  All of us at Stanford are blessed to have such giving mentors and peers who know the importance of paying it forward, in addition to the educational resources around us.  StartX is launching some awesome programming for the Stanford community more broadly through a spring session called OpenX, so definitely check it out!  My other shout out is that we have an EDN! chapter at Stanford as a Volunteer Student Organization – email jackie@everybodydancenow.org if you’re interested in getting involved in that chapter or our national organization.

StartX Q&A: PartMyRide

With StartX Demo Day just around the corner, The Dish Daily had the chance to speak with some of the companies that will be attending the event.  One of them is PartMyRide, an online auto parts marketplace designed to ease the process of finding quality used auto parts.  By entering your car’s year, make and model, the site generates a list of all available parts. Coming from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stan Markuze founded the company with fellow Stanford students Michael Krug and Sebastiaan Boer.

Many people fresh from college or the industry start such companies or online software that aim to help people with their regular activities. Real time trader Hans Berger has created the software – HBSwiss, where all the trading moves are done for you and is fully automated. One need not worry about the stock market movement and need not follow it every minute with software like this.

The Dish Daily (TDD): Could you tell us a little bit about the history of PartMyRide and the original idea behind the company?

Stan Markuze (SM): I have been rebuilding cars for over a decade. Even when I was an undergraduate at Stanford (’03-’07) I would always be working on projects when I came home to visit my parents in Sacramento. I have repaired over 25 cars. Some examples include a BMW M3, Porsche 911, Toyota Prius and Ford Ranger truck. I have always had a hard time locating used original parts, so I got together with my co-founders to build a site where sellers could post parts, and buyers could request those parts. The user community began to grow organically, and we decided to improve our parts marketplace, adding more sellers and more features to make buying easier.

TDD: Have you found that there is a lot of demand for an online marketplace for used auto parts?

SM: Yes! The $27 billion used car parts industry is still largely offline, making it difficult for repair shops and hobbyists to find the parts they are looking for. Our vendors are happy because we allow them to sell their entire inventories online seamlessly. Our buyers are happy because they can buy the parts they need without having to call multiple vendors, wait on hold and waste time. They can just buy online and have the part within three days.

TDD: How will the quality of parts be assessed before they are sold?

SM: Quality is assessed in four ways: (1) Many of our sellers take multiple photos of each part; (2) We have 10 photos of most parts cars before they are dismantled; (3) Sellers write notes about the condition of each part and any defects; (4) Sellers assign a grade (A is the highest) to each part.

TDD: What were the biggest challenges as your company developed?

SM: We originally required sellers to update their inventory manually in our system, and we were able to solve this by integrating with seller inventory servers. We experimented with different monetization methods (charging vendors a monthly fee to integrate their inventory, charging vendors for successful leads), and with experimentation we decided to do a “buy now” system where customers transact on our site. We are now determining the best way to integrate our marketplace into the workflow of professional repair shops. We want them to look to us first when they need a part, and we are figuring out how best to accomplish this.

TDD: What are your hopes and plans for StartX Demo Day?

SM: We are raising a seed round to help us expand our sellers, market to professional auto repair facilities, and improve the buying experience.

TDD: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

SM: Our short term goal is to achieve a national network of suppliers and auto repair shops transacting through our marketplace. Our long term goal is to be the preferred method for used parts buyers in the auto repair industry to source the parts they need. Our vision is to have every used auto part for sale, online, with enough information to purchase instantly.