Tesla stock is down almost 10% today, after its 2012 earnings report became public. Tesla missed its projections and investors hammered the stock in response. So what did I just do? I just bought a lot of TSLA. Why did I do it? Because I'm betting on Elon.
There's a SeekingAlpha analyst report that's very bearish on Tesla stock. The author writes:
Here's the problem with the author's perspective: He doesn't understand Elon's master plan, nor does he appreciate Elon's "relentlessly resourceful" ability to execute on that plan.
Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably heard that WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $16 billion in cash plus $3 billion in RSUs.
But what you may not know is that originally, WhatsApp was not solving a problem that people had. In fact, originally, WhatsApp was completely ignored.
It's a great lesson for startups: WhatsApp kept at it and iterated from zero traction, to the fastest growing messaging platform of all time (in fact, some might say the fastest growing platform as calculated by monthly active users of all time). Here's what that growth looks like:
But the original concept for WhatsApp was more of a status update app. This Forbes article articulates it well:
As was reported in TechCrunch today, we've just signed a deal to sell our startup Socialize to ShareThis. Although having a successful exit is a dream for many entrepreneurs, I find myself feeling a wide range of emotions and thoughts. I'd like to share some of them in this blog to provide an honest assessment of what it's like to work tirelessly on a startup and then sell it.
The first thing I want to say is that often upon a sale, you'll hear everyone involved talk about how "pumped" or "excited" they are. The truth of the matter is that it's much more complex than that. There is absolutely a sense of excitement. But I've asked for, and gotten, permission from ShareThis to speak honestly about the wide range of feelings and to speak to the complexity of it all so I can provide a more thoughtful and honest assessment than one typically sees in these situations. Think of it as a peek under the covers of an acquisition.
I've broken this blog up into several parts:
I'll start with the really positive aspects: We're selling Socialize to the absolute best buyer I can imagine. ShareThis is a very fast-growing company with a strong team. As Forbes recently reported, ShareThis is #35 on its America’s Most Promising Companies list. Forbes pegged 2012 revenue at $30MM, and it’s on a rocketship-like growth trajectory. ShareThis didn't just buy us for our talent, but also because its beliefs around the value of social are closely aligned with our own, and because mobile is becoming a big part of its business (see this related blog post with my warning to Fortune 1000 CEOs about the sudden growth of mobile). ShareThis wanted to gain an immediate leadership position in social via the mobile channel, and with Socialize it's achieved that. And Socialize has gotten an incredible platform from which to further develop our social infrastructure for mobile devices. The fit just couldn't be better. Often when I would describe Socialize to people, they would say "so it's like ShareThis, but for mobile, right?" Exactly. So I'm very confident that together, the value of the two companies will be greater than their respective parts, and I'm very pleased that ShareThis saw the same benefits (dare I say, "synergies"). A lot of the credit here goes to Nanda, ShareThis' CTO, who called me out of the blue one day and said "we should do this deal; I know it'll be perfect," and to the ShareThis team for backing Nanda's vision.
I judged the NFTE Quarter Final competition at a local San Francisco high school today. NFTE is an organization that teaches entrepreneurship to students in high school and younger. One of the pitches today was made by 9th grader Simran Pabla around a pilot program she's running at her school: A business called Ready4Rain, which offers umbrellas to students so they don't get wet when they're going from building to building between classes. You can see her full pitch to the judges here. I was so impressed with her that I later interviewed her in the school's cafeteria. Here's a 9th grader who's currently running a pilot program for a startup concept she had. And she's not alone. Jocelyn Hernandez has sold over 20 of her custom iPhone cases at $40 each via her company, Functional Couture. And Mariana Ponce has sold over 100 of her Corny Cups at $2.50 each. In the past, I've done talks with Stanford MBAs, UVA McIntire business school students, and Georgetown MBAs and I consistently find that many of them are terrified to take the leap to becoming an entrepreneur by actually doing something, and not just talking about it. Consistently, high school or younger age kids are willing to take more risks than college students. It's almost like some switch gets flipped at some point in college that causes many students to stop seeing opportunities to be entrepreneurial, and become afraid to try jumping into the ones they do see. The interview above with Simran is great, partly because she's so honest about her motivations. She simply saw an opportunity to solve a problem, and went for it. She has no mortgage to worry about. No kids to take care of. Nothing to keep her from simply jumping to solve the problem she saw in front of her. She just proves how simple it is to become an entrepreneur when it's what you really want to do. So, kudos to Simran, Jocelyn, Mariana and their NFTE colleagues. I hope they never lose that risk-taking spirit. What may just seem to be a high school competition is actually an opportunity to effect massive change through entrepreneurism. The great thing about "creating something from nothing" is that nobody cares how old you are when you do it. There's no reason any of these ideas couldn't morph into huge, real businesses. All these kids need is the will to do it, and the means to try. If you're interested in volunteering for NFTE (something I love to do), drop me a comment below and I'll introduce you to someone who can help you figure out how you can really add value to the program.
Coin is a new startup that's trying to replace traditional credit cards. Its YouTube video has 6.8MM views. When you Google the word "coin" they show up as the #1 search result -- not only that, but news story results fill out much of the first page of search results. Not bad for a startup with a product that won't even be available for another 6+ months.
What did this startup do to have such massively successful launch? And why is it coming from a small startup vs. an established company in the space?
In the world of product launches, many companies rely on Paid Media (i.e., ads) to launch new products. But startups don't have the huge ad budgets that big companies do, so they have to get creative by leveraging Earned Media (i.e., you, on Facebook, talking about it). Just like Lockitron did last year, Coin has touched a nerve, hitting its $50,000 crowdfunding campaign goal in under an hour, according to this Forbes article. The founder was quoted as saying:
Picture is from this article on the cover of The Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section in 2004. Also see my more recent blog post with a video demonstrating how I find names & compose specific emails that work to get reporters' interest
In this post I'll spill the beans and tell you how I get really good press in outlets like TechCrunch, Mashable, CNET, CNN, CNBC, CSPAN, ABC, the WSJ (cover of Marketplace 7/04), Forbes, TechMeme, FastCompany, BBC, and literally hundreds of other publications.
Nothing I'm going to say here is so revolutionary that others couldn't figure it out yourself, but somehow I've figured out the details to make my formula work, and the magic really is in the details.
First off, let's think about what a reporter's daily life is like. Most reporters, from what they tell me, get several hundred emails a day. Many of those emails are from PR people spinning their latest client. So already it's hard to get their attention. And if you're just another one of those PR people, forget about it.
We've been using the "lock & unlock your door with an app on your phone" solution from Lockitron for two years now. In fact, here's a blog I wrote in 2010 with a video showing how it works. As early adopters, Paul, one of the Lockitron founders, was great about coming by our office to fix the early version of Lockitron whenever it had trouble. We were happy users of Lockitron version 1.0.
And that's all I heard about Lockitron for two years. But it turns out Paul, Cameron & team have been super busy. Today they launched a new version of Lockitron in a really smart way. It's so impressive that I'm going to spend a few minutes dissecting it, because we can all learn from what they've done. I'd also like to invite anyone from Lockitron to give more detail on my observations in the comments section below.
The first and most obvious thing they did was use a Kickstarter-type approach to their launch. When you visit www.Lockitron.com you see what I've taken a screenshot of above. (I'd be curious to know if they're using a while-labeled Kickstarter-type service, or more likely, just taking the best from Kickstarter's approach and doing it in-house).
As I've outlined in the screenshot, they set a goal which (purposefully or not) is now massively oversubscribed. It makes you feel like you have to get in on the action.
AngelList is a platform that connects entrepreneurs to angel investors to raise seed stage capital.
Out of the $1.5 million dollars in angel funding we've raised for Socialize, over $1 million came from introductions made on AngelList. We were very early AngelList users under our AppMakr brand, with Brendan Baker doing a detailed analysis of our use of AngelList in his Anatomy of a Seed project. I also wrote a lengthy manifesto about our fundraising experience, and when AngelList was very new I interviewed Naval Ravikant, one of the AngelList founders.
Recently, using AngelList has changed the way I've been fundraising. Where traditionally, I've had to dedicate a block of time to fundraise full time, I can now fundraise passively, meaning just by focusing on having an optimized AngelList presence and a few specific techniques, I don't have to spend blocks of my time finding high quality angels. That is a game changer for us -- fundraising is an incredibly distracting process, and it's especially hard to innovate and iterate on your startup when you're distracted by bolstering the company's bank account. Being able to have angels come to me has given me a freedom as an entrepreneur that's just fantastic.
As I was talking to my friend Ben Young, CEO of Nexercise, about this sea-change in fundraising, I offered to critique his AngelList page to help him optimize it for this type of inbound passive investment.
UPDATE: I've posted lots of updates since I originally wrote this blog 2 years ago. If you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole, check out this post comparing Betterment vs. Wealthfront ETFs and this one on Peer to Peer lending.
My wife Sue and I have been mulling over how to most effectively deploy cash in the current economic climate to generate decent returns without taking outsize risks. We've honed in on six main strategies, which I outline below in descending order of risk.
Since everyone has a varying amount of cash to invest, I'm going to specifically call out ways to deploy small amounts of cash in some of these strategies, as I want this post to be really actionable for anyone. The most important part is to just get started, and the biggest barrier to doing that is you thinking "I don't have any money to invest." So get yourself out of that mindset and jump into the world of being an investor, even if it's just with $25 (yes it's possible, below), $100, or $1,000 or $10,000, or whatever. I also recommend putting money aside every month to invest; that's a great way to get started.
Riskiest: Angel Investing
this post about what I know to be true
In this past election, I did something I now really regret: I voted 'yes' to Proposition 30.