WhatsApp and Viber

WhatsApp was just bought by FB for $19 billion. Viber for just under $1 billion. A few things should stand out.

1. If you can’t beat em, buy em - Poke and Messenger have been let downs. FB’s messaging efforts struggle to reach the home screen. $19 billion is their price to reach the home screen.

2. At its core, the Internet is a communication tool- Being able to communicate with the people closest to us proves we are still humane in nature. What apps will that let me keep in touch with my uncle in Kosovo? WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, etc.

3. Make something people love - WhatsApp spent $0 on marketing. Its success is purely organic. Users shared WhatsApp love and it took off. Your best salesperson is your customer.

FB may have paid a hefty price. This transaction will realistically bring more questionable valuations to the market. But remember that the WhatsApp team is a small team of ~50. Focusing on their core values separated them from the rest. 


I recently read a Digiday article that I really liked. It was about how GoPro has the best brand content around. Honestly, who would disagree? Take a look at some of RedBull’s content using GoPro. 

So far, GoPro has been a tool used by brands to create some awesome video content. As more people get on the GoPro train, we’re going to see our peers create more content they want to share.

I think that GoPro has the potential to push curators to be come creators. 

The thing with Bitcoin…

Bitcoin (and other alt. currencies) faces great socio-institutional resistance. While VC’s and top technologists aggressively support adoption of the currency, we see its use aid illegal activity.

Before we decide if Bitcoin is “legitimate” we need to understand one thing: Bitcoin is an incomplete technology (yes, technology not currency). The currency is young, volatile and technologically challenging. It battles regulatory issues in many countries. There aren’t enough merchants. Reasons holding Bitcoin back are endless. 

Interestingly, I expect we will see the same reasons encourage innovation and activity in the banking and payments industry. As digital currencies gain recognition, we’ll gradually experience excitement Bitcoin has to offer (or so we speculate).

Google buying Nest is genius

Acquiring a startup for a few billion dollars in a super niche market that Google has no involvement in seems pricey. But, you need to think long term.

The Nest acquisition adds motivated talent, trims R&D costs over the next few years and adds to Google’s toolbox in the company’s effort to actually develop the next generation of tech enabled homes.

Google has a penchant of foreseeing what technologies will be significant in the future. Think YouTube, Android, Motorolla, Waze, etc. Then remember the robotics companies under watch at Google X.

A bit about LinkedIn Endorsements

After LinkedIn’s infinite attempts of convincing me to allow endorsements to appear on my profile, I finally gave in.

I would absolutely LOVE to publicize my endorsements if there was some legitimacy behind them. Unfortunately, there isn’t. For students, legitimacy references a group project; for co-workers a deal they worked on together. Nothing crazy, just a quick line.

The idea of your peers identifying your skills is great. Until the hype-machine takes over.

Are you sure you’re learning?

Upon being hired for an internship or job out of college you are not granted major decision-making powers. Rather, you’re hired for your potential to make these decisions in a few years. Having an employer that understands this and creates your experience a learning process can make the greatest difference.

I’m grateful to say that over the last 18 months Reece and Dan have provided me with an environment that integrated unconventional learning, increased my understanding of an industry and helped improve my communication skills. Their hands-off approach (little-to-no micromanagement) allowed me to make mistakes on my own. There were certainly times they saw mistakes coming, but refrained from holding my hand to allow me to learn.

For a young, learning generation, it’s important to place emphasis on two points: learning from mistakes and improving communication skills. The hardest part about practicing these points is providing an open community that encourages the continuous improvement of these skills.

What sticks out most is how rare you find yourself within a group of people where peers encourage each other to publicly share where the screw ups were. The “school” method of being “right or wrong” is thrown out the window. By sharing your mistakes with your team you avoid the mistake in the future, and so does your team (and they’ll appreciate it).

It’s about more than just sharing your mistakes, though. It’s about communicating them properly and delivering a lesson. When learning how to find a positive out of a negative, you learn how to communicate great news better (and find ways to make boring updates somewhat enticing).

We often forget that mistakes and failures are learning opportunities. Identify your mistakes and correct them. When “growing up,” remember to keep learning a priority.

A 21 Year-Old’s Bit on Snapchat

Snapchat is all the rave. Through the press, blogs, twitter, word of mouth, etc. There are countless ways to prove its $800 million valuation today and potential for growth.

Frequently, I thought, “Can it really keep growing?”

Well, I was recently without a phone for a week. When I was back on the grid, what was the first app I download? It wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, or Foursquare.

It was Snapchat.

I’ll admit it, I’m addicted.

I was missing out on so many snaps that my friends were sending me. In 7 days without a phone, I found snaps from about 25 different people around the world!

Snapchat feels genuine. It’s such a personable way to keep in touch with your friends without having to actually engage in conversation. Rather than making our friendship awkward by planning lunch, trips to visit, calls, or awkward text conversations, send me a damn snapchat video showing how much fun you’re having. I like seeing my friends happy.

Snapchat encourages us to share moments that make us smile and laugh. This positive energy encourages us to record our moments, keep ties with friends, and carefully choose who we consider “close.” As a result, we’ve become addicted.

That addiction gives Snapchat the potential to revolutionize advertising and marketing. If participants engage willingly, the exchange between brand and consumer truly interactive.

We’ll always care about who we’re snapping. When we’re given the option to snap with brands, we’re carefully going to think about whether we actually want to interact with them. The brands we choose to engage with are going to see crazy engagement numbers.

Since Snapchat forces us to already think twice about who we communicate with, we’re going to think four times about what brands we want to interact with. Audiences will be able to choose who to interact with. Our feeds will not be interfered. Our videos won’t be interrupted. Popups won’t disrupt our browsing.

Instead, we’ll snap those brands back.

Non-Tech Struggles

I’m an undergrad business student interested in tech. I have no technical background and I intern at a tech startup.

Wait a second. I can’t push code. What can I possibly offer a startup?

When jumping into tech, it’s difficult to prove your worth without any programming experience. Your work can’t be showcased like a product and non-tech opportunities are difficult to come by. These are non-tech struggles I’ve faced. I’d love to build and ship a product myself, but I got on the tech train too late.

You say, “learn to code.”

I don’t disagree, but there’s another side to it.

Early stage companies often load up on tech talent to support more building. There are teams for mobile, front-end, back-end, etc. But, founders that aren’t pushing code need help too. Can they handle community, marketing, BD, etc. alone?

That’s where people like me come in. I can show how well the new invite system reels new users in. I can hold usability tests to see how users interact with the product. I can keep an eye on the market to see who’s making moves. I can even help with some partnership work; go after people and find ways to together. It’s all part of the hustle that never ends for guys in my shoes.

I think I add value to a startup without pushing code. I’m willing to find ways to sweat to make sure our product succeeds. Should non-technicals like me really be shaken away early in the game? 

Teamwork = Key. Notes from TechStars NYC 2013 DemoDay.

Last Thursday, I was fortunate enough to volunteer at TechStars NYC 2013 demo day. It was a noteworthy performance that also showcased the importance of teamwork.

As a volunteer, I directed guests, helped out with registration, and carried a few water bottles upstairs. But I also got to witness the staff and teams start jamming and dancing at 7 AM. They were celebrating how far they’ve come from the beginning of TechStars to Demo Day.

Taking what they’ve learned from hiring slow and firing fast to doing more faster, the teams showcased ideas that can transform some of today’s most active industries. But at the end of the day, the teams need to work well together to keep going.

Despite issues behind the scenes, this year’s class got up there, ignored the bumps in the road and looked up. All companies have ups and downs, but turning those downfalls into positives distinguishes the greats from the rest.

Seeing mentors, TechStars alums, and the current batch hug, celebrate, and root for one another after three wild months proved their worth. The best teams make the greatest impacts.

Improving Viewing Experiences Using Time-Shifted Content

One of today’s useful features for watching video is DVR, or time-shifting content. It’s a great way for you to decide when you watch your favorite content. After all, you should be in charge of deciding what to watch and when.

Time-shifted content has increased engagement. When you set aside your own time to watch video, you are more fully invested. By analyzing how viewers interact with this time-shifted content, data can be provided to personalize and enhance viewing experiences.

But, how can you improve on DVR? You can already control content that interests you!

It starts by being able to access this content across multiple devices (phone, tablet, PC, TV). It’s also important to easily consume different forms of video ranging from UGC to television. To enhance my experience further, why not shift my twitter feed as well?

In an ideal world, I’d like to watch the game on the big screen, skip Game of Thrones for now and be able to read through my Twitter feed without my show being spoiled. After the game, I’ll watch GoT in bed on my iPad with Twitter delivering the tweets I filtered out earlier. Now I can interact with my friends. After that, let’s check out what YouTube videos my friends are raving about.

Consumers are ASKING to watch different forms of content on multiple devices with respect to social interactions. We’re headed that way, but there’s still a long way to go.

Netflix already lets you access content across multiple devices. Same with Amazon and Hulu. Netflix even makes recommendations based on what your friends like if you connect through Facebook! Consumers love it.

By studying interactions with time-shifted content we can identify the people that influence viewing habits. We can also determine which devices consumers prefer for different forms of content (TV programming on tablet vs. TV, UGC on mobile vs. PC, etc.). It’s also important to note when viewers watch different forms and genres of content. This is information that will increase engagement with video in the long run.

Shifting content for time is more than just a feature. Shifted content provides data that can provide personally tailored experiences across all devices at all times.

Welcome to #ShelbySummer

After a great winter, I’m pumped to be back at Shelby for the summer. There’s a lot happening here from new teammates to more awesome products in the works.

I’m excited to start meeting people, developing a presence, and learning alongside Reece and the Shelby team. The best way to do this and keep track of my lessons learned is to dedicate weekly recaps covering cool projects I’ve been part of, interesting people I’ve met and learned from, and cool events I’ve attended.

I’ve started getting the hang of things last week. Already I’ve gotten a glimpse at what start-up recruiting is like, attended NY Video meetup and am ready for some more.

If you’ve got questions about interning at a startup or just wanna rap, hit me up at frash@shelby.tv, follow me @frash or follow my roll on Shelby.

On Friday afternoon, I attend a panel (Getting Seed Capital) at the 18th Annual Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference. It was a star studded panel with TechStar alumns, reece (shelby.tv) and Brent Grinner (EverTrue), and NextView Ventures partner Rob Go. I was dumbfounded by the open arms that they had towards younger members of the audience (myself).

What it came down to was that we all have the same common interests: start-ups. We shared thoughts on team chemistry, the way to evaluate talent, how good products go bad, and how to read the customer’s mind. I realized that start-ups aren’t rocket science…they’re the harder. Why are they harder you ask? Because your goal is to create the perfect product. Perfection is difficult…but worth it.

Quick tip: if you are attending a panel, a meetup, or anything that revolves around your industry’s experts - plan to be there an hour before to meet awesome people you aspire to follow in the footsteps of and make new connections with others that share your interests. In start ups, what I’ve picked up is one of the biggest investment are in people…it’s a good idea to get to know them every opportunity you get.

Quick Thankful Post

It’s hard to find somebody to count on to back you up in stingy situations, help you execute a project, do their fair share of the work distributed among the group, a mentor/teacher/professor that will follow up on how you are doing, etc. REALLY hard.

I’m thankful to have had my recent surroundings appreciate what I do and who I am, acknowledging my work, and checking in to make sure I’m on the right track. I promise I won’t disappoint.