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How this Aussie startup plans to become a leading player in the booming world of bitcoin: #2015istheyear

12:53PM | Thursday, 18 December

Today I’m joined by Asher Tan from CoinJar, a startup that lets you buy, sell, and manage your bitcoin. CoinJar was founded by Asher and Ryan Zhou in mid-2013 and it’s been a whirlwind ride ever since.   With something in the area of $50 million worth of transactions in their first 12 months of operations, they now have a team of 12 people and offices in Melbourne and London, as they look to become a world leading bitcoin exchange.   AN: Asher, thank you for taking the time with me today, I know you just arrived back in the country from the new office in London. How is that going for you?   Asher Tan: London is great. It’s one of the finance centres of the world. The UK have very progressive laws relating to bitcoin that make it an attractive market, and one that we will be focusing our efforts on in the coming year.   AN: Nice one. To take it back to the beginning, can you tell us what you were doing before startups?   AsherT: I was working as an analyst, writing economic forecasts for a large firm.   AN: And so what made you want to do a startup?   AsherT: I’ve always enjoyed building and creating new things. And I think I’ve always had the startup bug in me, it just took a while for me to find it! In my previous job I had a small team working with me and tried to cultivate a close bond within the team, in order to reach and surpass our targets. The thing was, we bonded so well and met all our targets easily, yet head office didn’t want us to do any more and probably viewed us as loose cannons.   AN: Was there any trigger point, any incident in particular that spurred you into action?   AsherT: Nothing specific, I was gradually getting more and more immersed in the local startup eco-system, going down to events, making friends with people actively working on startups. Reading all of Paul Graham’s essays on the subject. Seeing other people build and create great product and companies – I wanted to do it too!     AN: So how did you get the idea for CoinJar then. Were you on the bitcoin train from the early days?   AsherT: I had been working on a completely different idea for a good six months before applying to AngelCube. I met Ryan online and another partner at a networking event, and we applied to AngelCube. During the interview process, they told us that they liked the team, but not the idea, and that if we wanted to get in we should change the idea. At the time I thought it was like Dragon’s Den or The Shark Tank, and they were testing us to see our commitment. Turns out it wasn’t a test. So over the weekend we brainstormed a bunch of other ideas, and CoinJar was the one we agreed upon. Thankfully AngelCube liked the idea as well, and the rest is history!   AN: Haha, too funny! It sounds like you’ve never been short of ideas… When did you know that this was the one?   AsherT: The early signs were good, even during the first few weeks of AngelCube it was obvious that we were having early signs of success relative to the other teams. For a while things were very stressful, but one of the mentors at AngelCube reminded us that the stress was due to our product being too popular, which is a really good problem to have. It wasn’t too long into the CoinJar journey that we did our first million in transactions. From that point onwards there wasn’t a doubt in my mind.   AN: Indeed. Given how fast things have been moving with CoinJar, I’m sure you’ve hardly had time to take it all in. But to date what would you say has been the biggest lesson learnt?   AsherT: When you can't figure things out that's what your co-founder is there for. Ryan built bitcoin businesses before, and especially at the start of our journey it was him leading the charge in terms of what direction we should take, what we need to build, etc. Some of his ideas were crazy, and we spent many a night arguing over what was worthwhile and what was not. Thankfully most of his ideas were right!   AN: Excellent! And just lastly, do you have any advice for the would-be entrepreneurs out there reading along and getting inspired to be the next Asher Tan and Ryan Zhou?   AsherT: Hustle. You have to use every resource at your disposal to keep your startup alive. At the end of AngelCube all the teams went to the US as part of the program, with the goal of raising a seed round. As a group we went down to a startup trade show called TechCrunch Disrupt, the thing is, all the other startups looked very slick and professional, with banners and display monitors and everything.   As a three-month-old startup we had none of this. So what we did was go down to Best Buy and purchased the biggest screen we could get our hands on. We were careful to take very good care of it whilst in our possession and not remove any of the stickers. As a result, we were the only AngelCube team to have a display monitor in our booth, which we returned as soon as the trade show was done, so it cost us nothing”! AN: Wow, thanks a bunch, Asher. Best of luck with CoinJar in the coming year.   Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube   This is the part six of our #2015istheyear series.   Part one – 2015 The year for my idea.   Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas.   Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo.   Part four – Why ‘manual first’ can help you MVP quicker.   Part five – David Chung of etaskr on chucking in corporate life to chase the startup dream. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Netflix rules out offline viewing

12:32PM | Wednesday, 17 December

A Netflix executive has ruled out offering customers the ability to view popular television shows and films offline.   “It’s never going to happen,” Netflix’s director of corporate communications and technology Cliff Edwards told TechRadar.   The statement has shot down hopes the popular video streaming service would allow customers to download videos to watch offline in a similar fashion to music streaming service Spotify.   Instead, Edwards argues better Wi-Fi coverage – particularly on public transport – is a more suitable long-term solution as opposed to offline viewing.   Last month Netflix confirmed it would expand into Australia and New Zealand in March 2015. The company has more than 50 million members worldwide.   Leaked emails reveal Snapchat acquisitions   Emails leaked during the Sony Pictures hack have revealed multimillion-dollar acquisitions made by Snapchat, as well as the startup’s plans to include a music feature.   TechCrunch reports that emails leaked between Sony Entertainment chief executive Michael Lynton and Snapchat board member Mitch Lansky reveal the picture and video-sharing app acquired QR scanning startup Scan.me for $14 million in cash, $3 million in restricted stock units and $33 million in Class B common Snapchat stock.   Other emails reveal Snapchat reportedly paid $10 million in cash and $20 million in stock and bonuses for startup AddLive.   Dating startup Zoosk puts IPO plans on hold   Online dating platform Zoosk has backed away from its IPO plans and will revisit its options at a later date, according to TechCrunch.   The company launched in 2007 and filed for a $100 million IPO in April.   The news comes at the same time as a leadership reshuffle, with chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg replacing cofounder Shayan Zadeh as chief executive. Zadeh will be taking up a position on the company’s board.   According to IBIS World, the dating services market is work $113 million in Australia.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 312.33 points or 1.83% to 17,381.2. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US81 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Video journalism startup raises $6 million

12:32PM | Tuesday, 16 December

New York-based video journalism startup NowThisMedia has raised $6 million in Series C funding lead by previous backer Oak Investment Partners, TechCrunch reports.   The capital raise follows an investment by NCB Universal News Group earlier this year.   The startup, founded by BuzzFeed chairman Kenneth Lerer and Huffington Post chief executive Eric Hippeau in 2012, aims to reinvent video journalism in the smartphone era by producing short news clips than can be distributed across mobile and social media platforms.   The company’s videos were watched around 40 million times during the month of November.   Samsung considers taking on Apple Pay Samsung is in talks with a startup that would help it unveil a wireless mobile payments system that could rival Apple Pay in 2015.   The smartphone manufacturer is in talks with mobile payments startup LoopPay and a prototype has been created, according to Recode.   The partnership could see Samsung customers pay for items by waving their phone instead of swiping their card or paying with cash.   Apple Pay was launched in September this year, using near field communication technology in the iPhone 6 to do away with credit cards and overcrowded wallets.   Jury rules Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006   An American jury has decided Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006, letting the company walk away from a case that could have seen them pay $1 billion in damages.   The Verge reports the plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued Apple’s iTunes 7.0 reduced competition by making it less easy for consumers to purchase music for their iPod that wasn’t from Apple.   The eight person jury delivered a unanimous verdict that the update was a genuine product improvement and did not adversely harm consumers.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 51.18 points or 0.3% to 17,129.66. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US82 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Instagram surpasses Twitter with 300 million active users

12:51PM | Wednesday, 10 December

Instagram has surpassed Twitter’s 284 million active users, hitting the 300 million mark nine months after recording 200 million users.   “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys,” the company said in a statement.   Instagram also announced it would be rolling out verified badges for celebrities, athletes and brands – in the same way that Facebook and Twitter has verified users.   The social network is also cracking down on spam accounts in order to “improve” the user experience. As a result, the company has warned that some users’ follower counts may change.   Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012. More than 70 million photos and videos are shared on the platform each day. Apple and IBM launch their first wave of apps for enterprises Apple and IBM have launched the first apps resulting from their partnership today, in a bid to bring mobile analytics to enterprises.   The software includes apps made for companies such as Air Canada, Citi and Sprint.   Senior vice president of IBM’s Global Business Services, Bridget van Kralingen, said in a statement the new enterprises will see businesses be able to unlock big data and drive individual engagement in a mobile-first world.   “Our collaboration combines IBM’s industry expertise and unmatched position in enterprise computing, with Apple’s legendary user experience and excellence in product design to lift the performance of a new generation of business professionals,” she said. Google tells Android developers to watch this face Google has opened up watch-face creation to third-party developers for the Android Wear community, according to TechCrunch.   The tech giant has also created a dedicated section of the Google Play store so that users can download watch faces just as they do with apps.   The updates will be rolled out over the next week. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 267.7 points to 17,533.47. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US83 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The next social network your business needs to think about: Tumblr overtakes Instagram and Facebook as fastest growing social site

11:52AM | Wednesday, 26 November

The multimedia micro-blogging website Tumblr has overtaken Instagram as the fastest growing social platform, according to research released today by the Global Web Index.   Instagram had topped the list as fastest growing social network just six months ago.   The report suggests businesses need to look outside traditional social networks to reach new users.   Facebook continues to be the world’s largest social network with 1.35 billion active monthly users, but when it comes to getting new users, it has reached a saturation point, reports TechCrunch.   Tumblr’s active user base in the last six months ballooned by 120%, while Facebook’s grew by only 2%.   Pinterest had the biggest growth in overall members, expanding 57%, while Facebook’s member base only grew by 6%.   Nearly every other social platform, including Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and even Google+ grew faster than Facebook.   Snapchat, an app used largely by a millennial user base, was the fastest growing social app, growing 56% in a year.   TechCrunch suggests Facebook may look to acquire other apps, as it previously did with Instagram, or develop them in-house to fuel its growth, regardless of the slowdown trend in its core Facebook app.   Jason Mander, author of the Global Web Index report, said Facebook faced some major challenges.   “Firstly, people are growing tired of it, with 50% of members in the UK and US saying that they’re using it less frequently than they used to (rising to 64% among teens),” Mander said.   “Since the start of 2013, we’ve seen behaviours like sharing photos and messaging friends fall by around 20 percentage points.”   However, the report shows Facebook is still the most frequently visited social platform and that four in five internet users outside of China have a Facebook account.   This article was originally published at SmartCompany.   Follow SmartCompany on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

THE NEWS WRAP: Symantec researchers uncover spook malware’s reign of surveillance

11:26PM | Sunday, 23 November

Computer security researchers at Symantec say they have discovered a Trojan piece of malware likely built by a nation-state, which has spied on business and governments since 2008, Re/code reports.   While the origin of the sophisticated piece of malware, dubbed “Reign”, is unclear, a shortlist of capable countries would include the United States, Israel and China.   Researchers say Reign has an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target. It provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organisations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals. Yahoo acquires photo startup Cooliris Photo app-maker Cooliris has announced that it has been acquired by Yahoo, TechCrunch reports.   Founded in 2006, the startup was originally known for creating a 3D wall for navigating photos and other media content. It also created a platform for mobile ads called Adjitsu, which it sold to Singtel’s Amobee division in 2012.   Recently the company shifted focus to a mobile app that allowed users to browse photos from across services like Facebook, Flickr, and Dropbox.   “Yahoo has a clear vision and unwavering commitment to making mobile an intuitive and effortless experience,” the company says in a statement on its website.   “This makes Yahoo the perfect partner for Cooliris, and we are excited to come together to bring indispensable products to a worldwide audience.” The secret life of passwords Passwords don’t just protect data; they reveal our hopes, dreams, secrets, fears and memories, The New York Times reports. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 91.06 to 17,810.06. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Beats Music to be bundled into iOS early next year

11:36PM | Wednesday, 19 November

As part of Apple’s revamp of Beats Music, the recently acquired music streaming service will be bundled directly into iOS.   The service will be bundled with the operating system early next year, instantly making it available on hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads, the Financial Times reports.   Beats will continue to be a paid service and will likely be rebranded under the iTunes umbrella. UK government funds free online startup education courses An initiative funded by the UK government and backed by the tech industry has launched, offering free online courses to those who want to learn commercial digital business skills, TechCrunch reports.   The Digital Business Academy is being overseen by Tech City, working in partnership with a host of educational institutions and tech mentorship organizations including Cambridge University Judge Business School, University College London, and Founder Centric, which in turn works with tech accelerators such as Seedcamp and others. 500 Startups launches 10 million mobile collective fund Global seed fund 500 startups has launched a new micro-fund, a $US10 million ($AU11.6 million) fund it’s calling the 500 Startups Mobile Collective, TechCrunch reports.   The fund will be headed up by Edith Yeung, who joins after running marketing and business development for Sequoia-backed mobile browser Dolphin Browser. She also co-founded angel investment firm RightVentures, where she made more than 20 investments. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 2.09 to 17,685.73. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US86 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Payments provider BlueSnap raises $US50 million in latest funding round

11:23PM | Wednesday, 5 November

Global payment services provider BlueSnap has raised $US50 million ($A58 million) in growth financing, TechCrunch reports.   BlueSnap’s technology helps online companies maximise customer acquisition and retention through its global payment gateway and checkout pages.   The startup has been growing rapidly on the back of new technologies for buying and new types of shopping, which is driving the adoption of processing technologies. Stainless steel Apple Watch reportedly priced at $500, Gold version $4000+ French website iGen.fr is reporting that pricing for the stainless steel Apple Watch may start at $US500, while Gold Apple Watches will be available for between $US4000 and $US5000.   As MacRumors points out, the website has been a reliable source of information in the past, most recently reporting the dimensions of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pre-launch. Google Maps revamped Google Maps for iOS and Android has been revamped with new features including Material Design, restaurant booking through OpenTable, and Uber ride estimates. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 100.57 to 17,484.41. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US86 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Nothing lazy about Slack’s $US120 million funding round

11:23PM | Sunday, 2 November

Slack, an enterprise collaboration platform, announced it has closed a $US120 million ($A137.3 million) round of funding.   The capital round values the company at $1.12 billion, shortly after the startup pivoted from an earlier incarnation as a games company called Tiny Speck. It’s an incredible growth in valuation in the first eight months of its new product’s launch.   According to TechCrunch, while such valuations might look like a bubble, it actually represents a fundamental change in the way venture capitalists perceive investments. Tinder users open app on average 11 times per day Dating app Tinder is rapidly approaching 50 million users, The New York Times reports.   And those users are engaged. The startup says on average people log into the app 11 times a day. Women spend as much as 8.5 minutes finding matches during a single session, while men spend around 7.2 minutes.   That equates to almost 90 minutes on Tinder per day. How can the tech industry get more girls to code? Journalism academic Jay Rosen interviews his 17-year-old daughter in an effort to find out why she’s not that into coding.   The answer, as it turns out, is partially her digitally aware father’s fault. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 195.10 to 17,390.52. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Overheads and investment costs outstripping growth for SoundCloud

10:27PM | Sunday, 12 October

Popular online music and audio sharing platform SoundCloud’s rapid growth is seeing its costs runaway from its revenues, TechCrunch reports.   The platform is now exceeding 175 million listeners each month, and is on track to reach 200 million.   The company posted a turnover of $US14.1 million ($A16.2 million) in 2013, up 40% from 2012. However, its operating loss for the period more than doubled to $US29.2 million.   The company says it’s trying to grow SoundCloud into the market-leading platform for listening to, creating and sharing sound.   “This has necessitated investment in technology, headcount and marketing. Our overhead base has increased faster than our revenues,” it says.   Raspberry Pi sales pass 3.8 million   Sales of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer have now passed 3.8 million, dwarfing its creator’s original expectations.   Its creators, the Pi Foundation, envisaged selling as few as 10,000 boards of the course over its lifetime.   The Pi shipped just over a million in its first year on sale, and two and a half years later sales continue to trend upwards.   Patent trolling pays   Statistics published by the lawfirm Goodwin Protector as part of a manual that provides tips for fighting patent trolls show that in the US, from 2010 to 2013, non-practising entitles (patent trolls) received three times more in damages than real companies, Gigaom reports.   Michael Strapp, one of the manual’s authors, says the result is because of patent trolls squeezing settlements from dozens of smaller companies and then suing larger companies like Apple or Google. He also says another factor is a dysfunctional feature of the American patent system, which allows the trolls to choose the venue of legal action.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.15 to 16,544.10. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple surprised by sapphire screen maker’s bankruptcy

10:20PM | Wednesday, 8 October

Apple has admitted it found sapphire screen manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies (GT) decision to file for bankruptcy “surprising”.   Earlier this week GT abruptly filed for bankruptcy, stunning investors, creditors and Apple, who had backed the materials maker for its bet on sapphire screen technology, The Wall Street Journal reports.   As recently as August GT executives said they expected to end the year with $US400 million ($AU 453 million) in the bank.   Apple called the bankruptcy “a surprising decision”. A source told The Wall Street Journal that Apple had been working with GT to keep it solvent.   Symantec exploring split   Symantec is the latest technology company to explore a breakup.   Sources told Bloomberg the company is in advanced talks to split up its business into two entities, one that sells security programs, and another that does data storage.   The company has been struggling to strengthen its growth. Revenue declined in the latest fiscal year and is projected to be unchanged this year as it grapples with a PC sales slump that has damaged sales of its antivirus software.   Truecaller secures $60 million in funding   Swedish startup Truecaller has announced it has raised $US60 million ($AU68 million)in a Series C round led by Atomico, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, and Sequoia Capital, TechCrunch reports.   The company helps users identify all the phone numbers calling their smartphone, whether that number is listed in the phone’s contacts or not.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 274.83 to 16,994.22. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Hewlett-Packard to go ahead with long-awaited split of operations

10:29PM | Sunday, 5 October

Hewlett-Packard plans to separate its PC and printer operation from corporate hardware and other units, sources told The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to announce the move as early as Monday in the US. It’s one H-P and its investors and analysts have long contemplated. In 2011, when H-P announced the acquisition of UK software company Autonomy Corp, the company said it was exploring a separation of its PC business.   However, under pressure from shareholders the company reversed course two months later.   Snapchat wanted MessageMe before Yahoo! acquisition   Mobile messaging app MessageMe has been acquired by Yahoo. The deal, according to TechCrunch sources is a talent acquisition and the deal is worth between $US30 and $US40 million ($A34-46 million).   Prior to the acquisition, Snapchat had shown interest in MessageMe, as well as European app maker Truecaller.   MessageMe chose Yahoo! because they were planning on hiring eight people, more than Snapchat would have done, and the team will get to work together on a new messaging product.   Google to make security guards employees   Tech giant Google plans to hire more than 200 security guards as its own employees rather than outside contractors. The move comes amid rising concerns about income disparities in the San Francisco Bay Area.   The guards will be eligible for the same benefits as other Google employees, including health insurance, retirement benefits, on-site medical services, leave for new parents and more.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 208.64 to 17,009.69. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

Apple iPhone 6 release: Australian app developers and startups react

9:54AM | Monday, 22 September

Apple has now released its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in Australia, and the near inevitable crowds are – once again – lining up around the block.   So what does the news mean for Australian software studios and app developers?   Is this likely to be an “insanely great” development that will boost revenues and sales for local startups? Perhaps it will mean more headaches for developers? Or will this mean less than some would anticipate?   We asked a number of developers and entrepreneurs to find out:   Clipp co-founder and chairman Greg Taylor   It looks like a bigger iPhone 5s – but with some amazingly beautiful and innovative new rounded edges!   The best part for Clipp is Apple Pay. Apple Pay will provides our customers with another payment option to credit card and PayPal, the major benefit being customers not having to enter their credit card, overcoming any concerns of credit card security.   Apple Pay will be a huge driver to mobile payment adoption, which is great for Clipp.   Anytime Apple releases a new iOS, I get very nervous, particularly a major release like iOS 8. There is a strong history of many apps not working on each major release. I have already received an email from a widely used app this morning warning customers not to upgrade to iOS 8. Apple don't give developers much time at all from releasing the final version until consumers can download it. If something does not work, there is not enough time to fix it, test it and put it through the App store approval process (approximately two weeks) prior to it hitting the market.   Tapit co-founder Jamie Conyngham   The fact that NFC is in the iPhone 6 is a huge reversal for Apple, and we are super excited by it. As recent as 12 months ago TechCrunch reported that Apple was never going to take NFC up so we're really glad to see it's there.   The fact that they have put it in for payments is amazing for the industry and we are already feeling the shock waves. People now understand that everything is going to be NFC payments in a short amount of time. We have been waiting for the banks, credit card companies and retailers to begin educating the mass market about NFC for payments for a while, as it was always going to be a big driver for the technology so it will be a great opportunity. Organisations are finally realising that NFC services are coming and they are all going to start planning for it.   Unfortunately, it won't be available for other great NFC applications like tag reading/pairing and apps for about 12 months. In the meantime, Tapit will continue working with open NFC partners like Samsung to improve and innovate on new ways to use NFC, as well as executing bigger information and advertising projects. Tapit will also continue using beacons and QR for Apple users in the meantime as well.   Outware Mobile director Danny Gorog   “iPhone 6 and iOS 8 are an incredible opportunity for Outware. Many of our clients including ANZ, Telstra, AFL and Coles are excited about the new larger displays and the added flexibility that iOS 8 provides. We’re already well underway to ensure our clients apps are fully iOS 8 and iPhone 6 compliant.   As specialists in large scale finance and insurance apps, we believe the new NFC capabilities in iPhone 6 will change the mobile payment landscape and the way Australians want to pay and shop. Australia has one of the highest penetration rates of tap and go terminals in the world so we are a perfect fit for this technology.”   Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath   Devices like the iPhone 6 are a response to the consumer demand for easier access to more content. In the last four years, the average webpage size has nearly tripled while average connection "speeds" have only doubled. This is putting great pressure on website owners to utilise better ways of delivering increased content to these devices but still maintain a quality user experience.   The challenge to keep pace and make use of the attributes of these devices is now being pushed back onto website owners. Higher resolution screens mean images need to be sharper and improved processing capacity means laggy web content delivery is more noticeable for a user.   We expect the consumer demand for content to grow at an exponential rate and platforms like the "six" are the hardware manufacturers' answer. The pressure is on website owners now for sure. The ones who are responding are setting themselves apart from their competition.   Will Heine, Wicked WItch Software   Again the new iPhone launch has been very successful, so there will be more iPhones in the marketplace and new consumers that can enjoy our games like Catapult King. As well as more users, the new devices are again more powerful, which allows more advanced features of our game engine technology to run on mobile and tablet devices, resulting in improved graphical and gameplay quality in all of our upcoming titles.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Microsoft set to unveil $2.5 billion bid for Minecraft developer

9:24PM | Sunday, 14 September

Microsoft will unveil a $2.5 billion bid to buy Mojang, the Swedish developer of Minecraft, Monday morning US time, sources have told Reuters.   Minecraft has over 100 million players and the deal is aimed at pulling users onto Microsoft’s mobile platform, as opposed to its PC systems, or Xbox console.   Minecraft is the top paid app on both the iOS and Android. After launching five years ago on PC, about 40% of copies are now downloaded onto phones and tablets.   Product Hunt raises $6 million   Aggregations site Product Hunt, which helps surface new tech products and startups, has raised $6 million in Series A funding, TechCrunch reports.   According to the report, the round was led by Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of $22 million although sources were unsure whether that valuation was pre or post money.   The startup raised $1 million in seed funding in August.   Before $100 million raise, Square was in talks with Apple   Mobile payments platform Square has raised another $100 million in capital, according to a filing obtained by VCExperts, TechCrunch reports.   Multiple sources have told TechCrunch that Square and Apple were in acquisition talks recently, but Square walked away, the sticking point being price – Apple wanted to buy Square for less than half of the $6 billion valuation it would eventually raise at.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 61.49 to 16,987.51. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US90 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Yahoo! acquires Israeli ad security startup for undisclosed amount

8:28PM | Sunday, 17 August

Yahoo! has acquired Israel-based advertising startup Clarity Ray.   The startup raised $500,000 about two years ago, when it was offering tools for online publishers to circumvent ad blockers, but has since shifted its focus from ad blocking to ad security and fraud detection.   Yahoo! confirmed the acquisition to TechCrunch, but the terms of the deal are unknown.   In a statement on its website, Clarity Ray says its vision is to make “the eco-system safe, compliant and sustainable for consumers, publishers and advertisers”.   “This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity enables the mass scaling of our technology, impact and ideas to the absolute forefront of our field, while working with an amazing team who shares our passion,” the statement says.   Twitter experiments   A sizeable number of users are seeing tweets favorited by others in their timeline, just like retweets, in an experiment that is annoying a lot of people, according to The Next Web.   Those users are also getting notifications when others follow someone new.   Washington Post now inserting Amazon affiliate links into news articles   The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is now including “buy it now” buttons wedged into its online book reviews, as well as on news items and letters to the editor.   The button links to related content available for purchase on Amazon.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 50.67 to 16,662.91. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Australia's ScriptRock raises $8.7m and aims to focus on growth

8:55PM | Friday, 15 August

Australian IT DevOps company ScriptRock, a graduate of Sydney's Startmate 2012 program, has successfully raised a $US8.7 million ($9.8 million AUD) series A round led by August Capital, which also led investment in Splunk. Also participating in the round were Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures, Square Peg Capital and Scott Petry.   TechCrunch reported on the raise, citing an SEC filing, but got the lead investors and other key facts wrong.    Vivek Mehra of August (founder of Cobalt Networks) and Scott Petry (founder of Postini and Authentic8) are joining the board, while Australian VC Hamish Hawthorne of ATP Innovations, who was previously director, is moving on.    Mountain View-based ScriptRock was cofounded by Australians Mike Baukes and Alan Sharp-Paul who, having worked in large scale enterprises all their life, wanted to make process more efficient.    Their product GuardRail has ridden the DevOps wave with its focus on configuration discovery, validation and collaboration. Baukes told StartupSmart that their traction to date had been a result of providing a simple and powerful DevOps solution.    The company has 600 customers, including ADP, Cisco, Amadeus and Trek, after launching in October last year.   "We're getting traction because existing solutions are too complicated, too specialised. Your typical IT department wants something that is simple, powerful and flexible. They want something everyone can use," Baukes told StartupSmart.   They will use the funds to build up their sales, marketing and engineering teams with a focus on growth.   By his own admission, Baukes says ScriptRock has taken an interesting approach to the industry and has not been shy at poking fun at the DevOps movement, something he says might be explained by the fact they're Australian.   It's not gone unnocticed by incumbents in the space like Chef and Puppet.   Cofounder Alan Sharp-Paul says the attention doesn't concern them.   "We're taking a different approach to the other configuration management players in this space," says Sharp-Paul.   "They're predominantly open source and bleeding edge focused. We've spent years working in the enterprise. We're building a business, and whilst we're based in the Valley, we target the real world; SMBs and enterprises outside of the bubble."   As for the company having two CEOs, an arrangement TechCrunch called an "unusual division of labour", Baukes says it's great.   "We're pretty happy with the way that's all worked out," he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Five reasons why startups need to focus on sales

8:58PM | Wednesday, 13 August

Startups are hard. But life is better when you have sales. Here is why I encourage people to spend a ratio of 50:1 on sales versus capital.   Startups are far too ‘popular’ right now and, unfortunately, reading too much TechCrunch will have you believing that you start, raise capital and exit.   The goal is to build a business, not start a startup. Good business is the creation of value and the realisation of that is profit, which is when your revenues are more than your costs. Sounds dumb, but it’s easy to lose sight of that amongst the ‘thrill’ of entrepreneurship. You want to keep your costs down, but none of that matters without revenue.   1. Sales shows value   Product market fit is the goal of all startups and nothing says that those two things fit together in a real, business-like way more than sales. A customer saw so much value in the product that they gave you hard earned money for it.   2. Sales pays for things   Cash in the bank lets you pay for servers, two minute noodles, bandwidth. For team members, it’s a great day when your equity is worth more than cash, so you would rather pay for things than give away equity.   3. Sales pays for growth   Having a scalable growth model means when you spend a dollar on sales and marketing, more than a dollar comes back. Without revenue, the only way to keep growing is diluting through capital raising or crossing your fingers for ‘going viral’.   4. Sales attracts investors   Of all the numbers we think about, sales is the hardest for someone to reject. Visits, users, engagement and retention are all nice but nothing says ‘there is something here’ to an investor like sales.   5. Sales avoids investors   On the flip side, having enough sales can mean that you don’t need an investor. Who wants to raise money if they can fund costs and growth with sales?   So stop going to capital raising events and start going to sales events. Read sales books. Hire sales people. Be a salesperson.   Mick Liubinskas is a co-founder of Pollenizer, director at WooBoard, entrepreneur in residence at muru-D and director at Oomph. This post originally appeared on the Pollenizer blog.

NEWS WRAP: ‘Strong sales of iPhone and Mac’ boost Apple’s third quarter revenue

7:25PM | Tuesday, 22 July

Apple has reported its third quarter results, posting a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and a quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share.   International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue.   Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook says the company’s revenue in the quarter “was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem”, which drove “the company’s highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters”.   “We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce,” he says.   Microsoft Cloud drives strong fourth quarter results Microsoft has announced revenue of $23.38 billion for the quarter ended June 30, posting a gross margin of $15.79 billion, an operating income of $6.48 billion, and diluted earnings per share of $0.55 per share.   Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella says the company’s focus cloud technology was behind the strong results.   “I’m proud that our aggressive move to the cloud is paying off – our commercial cloud revenue doubled again this year to a $4.4 billion annual run rate,” he says.   Timehop raises $10 million Timehop, an app that serves as a personal “today in history” memo by sourcing social networking photos and posts from your past has raised $10 million in new funding, TechCrunch reports.   The Series B funding round was led by Shasta Ventures with the participation of previous investors Spark and O’Reilly Tech Ventures and angel investors including Randi Zuckerberg.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 61.81 to 17,113.54. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook COO Sandberg apologises for News Feed experiment

7:28PM | Wednesday, 2 July

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says the company never meant to upset its users after an experiment on nearly 700,000 of them was reported recently.   “This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was, it was poorly communicated,” she told The Wall Street Journal.   “And for that communication we apologise. We never meant to upset you.”   Facebook acquires LiveRail   The social media giant has just bought video advertising technology startup LiveRail.   LiveRail connects marketers to publishers on the web and mobile to target 7 billion video ads to visitors per month.   According to TechCrunch sources Facebook paid between $400 and $500 million for the company.   Facebook and LiveRail will share data in order to improve their respective ad targeting.   Tim Draper lone winner of Silk Road bitcoin auction   Investor Tim Draper has bought 29,655 bitcoins from the US government’s Silk Road bitcoin auction.   The government seized the bitcoins following the closure of the Silk Road online marketplace.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.17 to 16,976.24. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

My startup failed, and this is what it feels like…

6:45AM | Wednesday, 25 June

Over 90% of tech startups fail, but I never thought my baby, 99dresses, would be one of them.   If there is one thing that doing a startup has taught me, its that I am much more resilient than I could have ever imagined. Looking back, when I started 99dresses fresh out of high school I was very naive and had zero idea what I was doing. In fact, I didn’t even know what a startup was! I just knew I wanted to solve a problem I personally experienced: Having a closet full of clothes but still nothing to wear.   Since then I’ve survived being stabbed in the back by cofounders, investment rounds falling through, massive technology fuckups that brought sales to a halt, visa problems, lack of money, lack of traction, lack of a team, hiring the wrong people, firing people I didn’t want to fire, lack of product-market fit, and everything else in between.   I learned so much, and yet I failed. I won many battles but I lost the war.   I take complete responsibility for this failure. Were other people involved in 99dresses? Of course. Was any of this their fault? Absolutely not.   The startup press glorifies hardship. They glorify the Airbnbs who sold breakfast cereal to survive, and then turned their idea into a multi-billion dollar business. You rarely hear the raw stories of startups that persevered but ultimately failed — the emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their startups didn’t work out.   As things were looking bleak at 99dresses I started seeking out these stories, desperately hoping for someone — anyone — to relate to. Failing is lonely and isolating. Every time I’d scroll through my Facebook feed all my startup friends were launching new products on Techcrunch, announcing their new fundraising rounds or acquisition, and posting photos of their happy teams. Ask any founder how they’re doing, and you’ll hear something positive. Whether that’s the truth or not, that’s what we’re trained to say.   I found postmortems of startups outlining what didn’t work and why the company went under, but I was hard pressed to find anything that talked about the emotional side of failure — how it actually feels to invest many years of your life and your blood, sweat and tears, only for your startup to fall head first off a cliff. Maybe its because most founders are men, and men generally don’t like talking about their feelings. Maybe its because failure is embarrassing.   I don’t know why this is the case, but here is my contribution to the cause: my story. This is what failure feels like. I hope it helps.   Where it all began…   Many startup folk say that failure should be celebrated. “Fail fast, fail early, fail often!” they all chant, trying to put a positive spin on the most excruciating pain any founder could experience.   Let me tell you — failure fucking sucks. If I would have failed fast, early and often then I would have given up 99dresses years ago when, in 2011, I travelled to my parent’s place in the countryside of Australia, locked myself away in my room and cried for what seemed like an entire week. I had launched 99dresses in Australia 9 months earlier and received some great traction, but I was losing momentum due to technology problems that I didn’t understand and battling a whole host of other issues.   I felt like I was drowning in a black ocean, and I couldn’t see any light at the surface. I didn’t know which way to swim.   At the same time the Australian press would continue to approach me for interviews. The fact that I was a teenage girl working on a startup in a male dominated industry seemed to garner a lot of attention, and I’d take the interviews that came my way because that was my job. It was my job to be positive and paint a happy picture for the media, who seemed to talk about me as if I was some kind of entrepreneurial wunderkind because of my age and the fact that I had breasts.   This didn’t help my impostor syndrome — the constant feeling that everybody was always giving me way too much credit. I remember one reporter saying “you must be so proud of what you have achieved” and I was completely stumped by that statement because I’d never actually thought about it. Was I proud? What had I actually achieved? We had some traction, sure, but we also had many problems that needed solving. I was just waiting for the day when everyone would figure out that I’m not that extraordinary.   “But you’re taking a massive risk! That’s so brave!” they’d say. I never thought so. The biggest risk in my eyes was going to university, getting a stable job, and sliding into a comfortable life. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I knew it wasn’t me.   Plus, the worst that could happen if I failed was that I’d end up living with my parents. I think the really brave founders are the ones who will be out on the street if they fuck it up, and still do it anyway. Its easy to take risks if you have nothing to lose.   My mother said “Nikki, are you sure that you really want to do this? It is so much pressure for a 19 year old to take on. No one will think less of you if you decide this isn’t what you want”. My parents are my number one supporters but my mum hated seeing me in so much pain, even if it was character building.   But despite the horrible sinking feeling in my stomach, and the fact that I had no money left, and the fact that I had no stable team, and massive product problems, and was feeling burnt out, and had no idea how to overcome any of the aforementioned obstacles, and felt completely alone in it all, I persevered.   I didn’t fail then. I couldn’t fail. This was my baby, and if it was going to fail it would be over my dead body.   I became numb to the pain, and despite waking up for weeks on end with no glimmer of hope and no desire to get out of bed, I still made myself sit at my desk and work.   Eventually, things took a turn for the better.   When you’re at your lowest, the only way forward is up   I applied for a university team business planning competition with a $10k prize, paid a friend $500 of the prize money to be on my ‘team’ so I could qualify to enter, wrote a winning business plan and took out first place. That was enough money to buy me a plane ticket and some accommodation to the US.   I met my friend and advisor, Matt, who took me under his wing and helped me more than I could ever have hoped. My developer was admitted to hospital with a very serious illness and dropped out of the company, but I replaced him with 2 co-founders. I got into Y Combinator and headed to Silicon Valley — startup Mecca for a starry eyed young founder like I was — for 5 months. We rebuilt the 99dresses product and launched it in the US. We were getting traction. I signed a $1.2 million seed round with a group of investors on a valuation cap that I honestly thought was ridiculously high.   99dresses was back, baby!   And then, all of a sudden, we weren’t.   Another trip down the emotional rollercoaster   I had to fly back to Australia to get a working visa as soon as the funding paperwork was signed, and the next day my two “co-founders” decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning.   The $1.2 million hadn’t hit our account yet, but even if it had I would have felt uncomfortable accepting it with no team in place to execute my vision. I would have looked like a fraud and an idiot anyway — what kind of founder announces to her investors that she suddenly has no team the day after she takes their money? And furthermore, how could I not have seen this coming? I was completely blindsided.   I went over to Matt’s office, and he proceeded to pour vodka down my throat whilst telling me I was much better off without them. Like most of Matt’s lessons it was hard to see that then, but he was right.   The next day I rang up our lead investor who decided to pull out of the round. Then another investor fell off. Everything I worked so hard for was crumbling to pieces. If only I’d closed everyone individually, instead of agreeing to round up at least $1mil to get the lead on board. But then I realized that these “co-founders” would have left anyway, leaving me in this same position.   I was stuck back in Australia still with a big vision, but as a single, non-tech founder with no team, no product (I needed these co-founders to keep the product running), no US visa and just some money that I’d gotten from being a YC company.   I remember my sister taking me for a walk after it all happened. She sat me down in a park overlooking Sydney harbor at night time and made me listen to ‘Shake it out’ by Florence and the Machine. She told me I’d bounce back, that I’d overcome this like I always did. I wasn’t sure I believed her, but I knew I’d survived worse. This ended up becoming my motivational song that I would listen to when times were tough, because it reminded me that I could surmount huge obstacles if I wanted to.   I didn’t fail then. I just started again.   Starting over   There were 5 investors who invested in me, despite all of this. They believed in me when I was having trouble believing in myself, but I couldn’t show them that — that’s the cardinal sin of any entrepreneur. Always be confident. Always be smiling. Always stay positive. Sell, sell, sell!   I remember one investor sending me an email saying “Shit happens. Take the money and go sort it out.” Another told me to go make him some crack for women.   My cap got sliced in half, but at least I wasn’t broke again.   So I closed $595k and started looking for a new co-founder. Problem was, I didn’t trust anyone. Not after what my previous co-founders had just put me through.   But then I met Marcin, who quit his corporate IT job and joined me in an office we referred to as ‘The Cave’ because it was cheap and nasty and had no natural light. I remember he came in on his first day, and midway through a conversation my chair completely collapsed. The next day he bought in his own chair. I was very jealous.   We rebuilt 99dresses again and launched it in the US which was proving to be ridiculously hard when we weren’t physically in the US and having to handle some stock and seed a community from another continent. We were having trouble getting traction. The market had moved on, competitors had flooded the space and the product we had built just didn’t provide enough value in comparison.   Add to that the fact that we were building a 2 sided marketplace, and you might get a sense for how tough things were. The US market is huge, hyper-competitive and way harder to crack than the Australian one. We were frustrated by our lack of progress, and the product I’d promised our investors just wasn’t working.   I didn’t fail then. We pivoted.   Our big pivot   I caught a plane to the US and talked to as many women in our target market as I could. We interviewed more customers. We discovered a very clear set of problems that explained why our product just wasn’t working in the US market.   I rang up the team in Australia, and told them, quite bluntly, that we needed to chuck everything out and approach the problem from a different perspective. I presented a new idea for a product that seemed to resonate with the girls I was talking to. The team did not take it well, and I definitely communicated the change very poorly. I almost got on an early flight home because I felt a mutiny brewing — we were throwing out many months of hard work. This wasn’t my finest moment as a leader.   Despite this, the team rallied together. We threw out our website and concentrated entirely on mobile. We had a mobile website prototype in front of users within a week and iterated based on that before building out the native version.   We hustled to get anyone we could to try out our beta app. We must have emailed thousands of bloggers, and some ended up giving it a go. Items were being traded, and girls were paying us money. This new thing was working! We couldn’t wait to launch it in the US, but we needed to physically move there first in order to do things properly.   Visa issues   Problem was, we didn’t have any visas. You see, its very easy to get into the US as an Australian if you have a degree in a specialized field, which I did not. Marcin had to wait it out to first become an Australian citizen with his wife, then get his E3 visa. However, right before joining 99dresses his wife had fallen pregnant with their first child, which they needed to give birth to in Australia. Marcin was then tasked with moving his wife and baby halfway across the world to chase our startup dreams. Needless to say, he’s a very brave man.   I, on the other hand, was faced with my next big challenge: proving that I was ‘an alien of extraordinary ability’ that was worthy of living and working in the US without a degree (after all, I gave up my scholarship and dropped out of university when I got into Y Combinator). After about 7 months of working on my petition, I was ecstatic and incredibly grateful when I got approved for an O1 visa.   I practically skipped over to the US consulate in Sydney for my appointment, where I was to pick up the visa. Instead, I was interviewed by a lady who took an obvious immediate disliking to me. She told me she was putting me through extra processing, so I wouldn’t be getting my visa that day. She told me it was random. She told me it would take 2 weeks.   I later found out this processing was not random — it was reserved for potential terrorists, and could take up to several years.   As an entrepreneur I HATE feeling helpless. I’m used to taking action on something and producing some kind of result. I like being in control. In this instance I felt completely helpless, and my startup was at the mercy of a government worker on a power trip.   We were already running behind on launching this app in the US, and the consulate had my passport. I couldn’t get out of Australia. The consulate made me jump through hoop after hoop, and a few months later I still didn’t have my visa. It got to the point where I had to call the consulate hotline every single day and split test different types of crying (machine-gun bursts of sobs vs. long sad silences vs. loud ugly cries) on the operators (males were much more receptive to helping out), and occasionally I’d get lucky and have one of them put in a report for me. I hated doing it, but it was the only way to push things forward.   I finally got my visa, and took the next flight I could get out of Australia with four suitcases — 2 full of clothes, 1 full of shoes and another with all my electronics and miscellaneous items. The contents of these suitcases just about summed up my life.   I’d achieved my dream of moving to NYC, and I was living in a shoebox. It was all I could afford on my startup salary.   Soon after, my 25 year old sister and 19 year old brother both bought gorgeous apartments in Sydney. Whilst I was absolutely thrilled for them, I also couldn’t help feeling a little jealous as I sat in my tiny convertible bedroom with no windows. If this all didn’t work out I’d be financially left with nothing, whilst my siblings were off investing in their financial future. That didn’t really scare me — I’ve realized that money isn’t a huge motivator for me — but it did flare my competitive side. We probably all compare ourselves to others way more than we should…   Re-launch time!   After hiring a few people and finding an office in NYC we were ready to launch. We solved the chicken-and-egg problem using techniques that we promised never to speak of again because they squarely sat on the grey/black spectrum of naughtiness. If there was a line, we definitely crossed it. We had to. These hacks were harmless to others, so I figured it was only a problem if we got caught.   Our plan worked better and faster than I’d budgeted. Within three months we were doing over 1000 trades a week, and bringing in revenue on every trade. We continued to grow.   Our app store reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Obsession did not begin to describe how some girls treated 99dresses. Within a few short months several power users had spent over $1000 each and traded hundreds of individual items. We steadily grew our stock turnover rate from 17% to 50% — that was 2-3x better than our competitors. Everyday I’d be wearing a new outfit that I’d received off the app. Our retention rates were really exciting. If my investors had wanted crack for women, then that is what we had created.   Based on the way we were growing, we thought we could get cash-flow positive before our funding ran out.   I had 99 problems and our runway was one…   But then growth started to slow down. The average value of items listed steadily declined and our fees were based on this value, so although we were growing transaction volume our revenue wasn’t budging. We started to see some holes in the business model. Whilst our retention was great, we worried about our activation rate.   In an attempt to save ourselves we made one more pivot; this would turn out to be our last one. The pivot made complete logical sense based on all of our research, but introducing it to our community was a nightmare. There was mutiny within the app. While our top line metrics shot up in a massive way, our one metric that mattered — transactions — plummeted.   Meanwhile, I had approached our existing investors about getting a bridge. I knew we had something really special with amazing potential, if we just had enough runway to give it an extra push. I also knew we weren’t perfectly poised to raise a bridge round, unless our existing investors were going to pony up the cash. We’d been in the market a while, and although we had to overcome a number of setbacks to get out here, that didn’t seem to matter too much to external investors. Bridge rounds just aren’t that sexy.   We only had one institutional investor in our previous funding round, and I was so relieved when they told me they wanted to lead this bridge. Boom! It looked like we were going to live to see another day.   I sent through the due diligence documents and worked with them to answer all their questions.   They were taking longer than anticipated to get back to me so we could get the deal done and move on. Then one Wednesday I got a call from them, and the line was kind of crackly. However, it sounded like they not only wanted to lead, but they actually wanted to fill up the entire round! Relief flooded through my body. I was so nervous.   Then I heard a ‘but…’   And the rest of the conversation explained why they would not be doing that. My stomach dropped. I knew they were our best shot of getting the money, and some of the angels who had previously invested were interested in coming in but only if I could get a VC to lead it, probably for some oversight. We now had very little cash left, and very little time to find someone else.   Turns out, under closer scrutiny some of the other partners in the firm didn’t like how competitive the market was. 99dresses was squarely focused on trading cheaper fast fashion (fast fashion is really hard to re-sell for cash), but all the competition were mainly focussed on buying & selling designer fashion. Despite our differentiation, the space is crowded and the competitors are well funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each.   I felt my voice crack whilst I was talking back on the phone. I was trying so hard to hold it together and be professional, but I could barely speak without it being obvious I was crying. Damn emotions! I was embarrassed.   Our last attempt   It was night time and I walked over to Marcin’s home in tears, fully expecting him to take the safe and responsible route of deciding to get another job. He had a family to support, and I felt an extraordinary amount of guilt for putting him in that position.   Instead, Marcin surprised me. He wasn’t willing to give up that easily. None of the team were. I was taking on this massive burden and internalizing everything, when in actual fact my team was prepared to fight to the end alongside me. We made a plan for cutting our costs to extend our runway whilst we tried to get some more cash in the door.   The next day I gave notice on our office, and let someone go. We were already a very lean operation, but now the work of 2 was being done by 1 person on operations, and we shifted our focus to only the most essential tasks to buy us more time.   I didn’t tell many people about what was happening. You’re not supposed to talk about this shit. If someone asks how your startup is doing, you fire off some kind of positive phrase like a reflex. My friend gave me a hug and told me to go read ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz. I bought the book and sat in a coffee shop that Saturday afternoon reading it through. I identified so much with the struggle — I’d been through it many times before whilst aboard this emotional rollercoaster.   I realized something: I was fucking tired — physically and emotionally. I wasn’t sleeping properly. I hadn’t been on a proper holiday since our ‘schoolies’ beach celebration straight after I finished high school in 2009. The holidays I had tried to go on just ended up being long strategy sessions in my head to figure out my next move whilst lying beside a pool. All I could think about was this damn startup and it was completely consuming me.   I had no bandwidth for anything else. When someone asked what hobbies I had outside of work, I’d laugh. I’d recently started having mini panic attacks whilst I was doing ordinary things, like taking a shower or doing my hair. I felt like a shitty friend. I couldn’t even contemplate having a relationship (I tried that before, but yet again this startup won out over him). I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this.   My mother told me to trust my gut. If my gut told me that I didn’t have faith in the business, then there is no shame in winding down the company and moving onto something more productive instead of raising more money. I’d learned an awful lot in the past few years.   I told my mum I didn’t trust my gut when it came to this. My gut was telling me to quit. Problem was, my gut had told me that before in my darkest hours and I still pulled through. If I had trusted my gut then I would have quit years ago.   I knew the only way this was going to die was if we were killed. I am not a quitter. I owed it to myself, my team, my investors and the 99dresses community to see this through.   I continued approaching investors without luck. I’d be invited to cocktail parties full of VCs where I’d don my painful sky-high heels because I’d split tested heels vs. flats, and for some reason a 5'11 woman in 7 inch heels commands more talking time and attention from investors than one in the comfy flat booties I wear to work. Apparently height gives you presence. Once or twice I’d have an investor asking if I knew what an angel was, or if I also modelled because of my height, or some other unintentionally patronizing comment that I doubt any guy would be subjected to. I learned to take it all in my high-heeled stride.   I kept hearing the same thing from these investors. “That’s a very interesting business, but we’ll either put in the first money or a series A. We don’t do in between. I’d love to keep in touch though, and see you progress to a series A where we might be able to help. Oh, and why aren’t you getting this bridge from your current investors?”   I remember one day Marcin joked that I was a control freak, and I was really surprised. I’d never perceived myself that way — I just liked things done a certain way and to a certain standard that matched the vision in my head. When it came to non-99dresses related stuff, I thought I was pretty chill.   Over the past few weeks leading up to this event I did start to get a sense for what he was talking about, though. I wasn’t a control freak in that I was obsessed with controlling outcomes — I was a control freak who just needed to be in control of the inputs.   This became more obvious as everything started looking more and more hopeless at work. I started eating much healthier, strictly cutting out wheat, sugar and anything processed. To take a mental break I would read about bio-hacking, which is incidentally all about understanding and controlling how inputs effect your body. I told myself this would give me more energy to hustle, but really I think I just had to feel like I had control over something — anything — when my startup’s fate felt so out of my control.   Closing down   With a few weeks of cash left, Marcin and I agreed to use our remaining time to shut down the app gracefully for the sake of ourselves and the community. I came into the office that day prepared to have a hard conversation with him, but we both looked at each other and knew it was over. There were some tears, and I was grateful to have a curtain of long dark hair to hide my bloodshot eyes behind as I walked through our co-working space. I felt physically sick all day, and my stomach wouldn’t let me keep any food down. I lost my appetite for the rest of the week.   My first instinct was to apologize — to Marcin, to my team, to my investors, to the loyal community we’d built. I felt shame, guilt, embarrassment — like a shepherd who’d led her sheep off a cliff when it was my responsibility to keep them safe. I logically knew that I shouldn’t feel these things, but emotions aren’t always logical.   In fact, I didn’t really know what I should be feeling. I’d been working on this company ever since I finished high school, so 99dresses was all I’d ever known. It was a huge part of my identity — I was “that 99dresses girl”. Who was I without this startup? I had no idea. Just an ordinary girl, I guess.   My friends invited me out to drink away my sorrows and get my mind off things, but I just didn’t feel like it. I was scared I’d meet someone new and they’d ask me what I do, and I wouldn’t know how to answer. I was also embarrassed because I couldn’t afford to pay for anything superfluous anymore — I still don’t know how I’m going to pay rent at the end of the month. As a woman going out in NYC my nights were normally cheap because cute guys would buy me drinks, but I am not the kind of woman who expects that. I’m independent. If I couldn’t pay for myself then I wasn’t going out at all.   I wasn’t depressed so much as disappointed. I tried so fucking hard, and I still couldn’t make it work. There are many things I would have done differently were I to do this all again, but Marcin and I agreed not to get sucked into the ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ trap. “No regrets”, he said. We both learned some hard lessons from our mistakes, but it also made me realize how much luck and timing are often huge factors in success and failure.   The next day a report came out by a startup with a very similar model to us, but in a different vertical. We’d traded 3x more items than them in our first 8 months of the US app being live, had 2.5x more members and had a business model in place — all with a team half their size. They’d gone on to raise a sizable series A; we’d failed. Our investors said we did a lot with the money we had.   It’s easier to accept defeat if you try and try and try but don’t get anywhere. You call it a failed experiment. The failure is easy to justify.   It’s incredibly frustrating to try and try and try, and when you finally start to get some good traction you fall off a cliff. Our business still had problems, sure, but so does every other startup.   Moving on   So this is where the story comes to a close. My friends all ask me if I’m fine, and I honestly think that I am. It’s been a wild ride, but its time to move on.   A cruel consequence of my failure is losing the US visa I worked so hard to obtain. Once I stop being the CEO of 99dresses I technically have 10 days to sell all my possessions, pack my bags, say goodbye to my amazing team, my friends and the life I’ve been building here, and leave.   That being said, I’m excited to start a new chapter. As much as I love startups, its somewhat liberating to have no responsibilities to anyone but myself — no team, no investors, no customers to look after. Maybe now I can be a normal 22 year old for a while: indulge my wanderlust, make some bad decisions, try something new.   I’ll be taking some time out to recharge whilst living with my parents in a country town of 2,000 people where the internet is slow and there is no Seamless. I hope I survive. Honestly, I’ll probably get bored within a week and start working on a new idea. I already have a few.   When I started 99dresses I was going to go big or go home. It’s been a great adventure, but now I’m going home.   The end   So that’s it. That’s my story of what failure feels like. I hope reading it was as helpful to you as writing it was cathartic to me.   Most startups fail, and yet this industry doesn’t talk about failure nearly enough. I’d encourage anyone who has failed to write about how it felt, as I can’t tell you how much that would have helped me in those final months & weeks. I just wanted someone to relate to. Instead, I was left feeling isolated and ashamed.   In fact, I thought it might be therapeutic to curate a collection of stories from founders who have failed and put them together in a book. It might be a little project for me whilst I take some time off, and I’m sure it would be helpful to someone in my current position.   If you want to get involved or contribute your story then shoot me an email. My email address is nikki @ 99dresses dot com (yep, I’m going to need a new email too — still haven’t sorted that out yet).   Thank You   I thought I’d end this post by publicly thanking everyone who has been a part of the 99dresses journey.   To my co-founder, Marcin — there is no one I would have rather had by my side through this experience. The sacrifices you made to make this all happen are nothing short of inspiring. If Zoe was old enough to say anything other than “this!”, I’m sure she’d tell you how proud she is of her dad. I’m going to miss your terrible jokes.   To the team, past and present — thank you so much for all of your hard work, perseverance and loyalty. Chandra and Oguz, you guys are amazing. I loved coming in to work every day because you always made it fun. I’m going to miss you all immensely. When I do another startup I’ll be coming after you guys again :p   To the wives, Natalie & Semiha — I’m sure its not easy having your husband involved in a startup. You were both so supportive of the long hours, sacrifices and emotional ups and downs, so thank you.   To my family — you guys have always been my #1 supporters. A special thanks to my mum for putting up with me, even when I was a stressed out and horrible daughter. You’re the strongest woman I know, and I hope one day to be as bad-ass as you.   To my friends — I couldn’t have done this without your support. You celebrated my highs and comforted me in my lows, and for that I’ll always be grateful.   To Matt — You’re the reason I got this far in the first place. If it weren’t for you I probably would have failed in 2011.   To my investors — thank you for believing in my vision and trusting me to fulfill it, even through the rough patches. I really do appreciate it.   To our community — without you, we’d be nothing. Thank you for loving 99dresses, and spreading the word. Many of you I now consider friends, and I’m so grateful for your support and loyalty.   Ok, that’s it. It’s over. Now its time for a nice long sleep.   Nikki Durkin is the  Founder & CEO of 99dresses. This post originally appeared on Medium. 

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