The good people over at CIO have put together an absolutely wonderful guide for web entrepreneurs! (I highly recommend a subscription…or at least a bookmark…it makes sense out of the utterly baffling. I love it.)
“The genesis for this is are the economic times we’re in,” Guy Kawasaki said. “The old days of starting a company by going to investors and giving a PowerPoint presentation — and then getting $2 million — are over.”
Here are nine companies that have developed nifty Web 2.0 sites (with only a little cash up front).
Where they’re based: Tampa Bay, Florida
What they do: Allow users to make online forms with no HTML experience. They can create forms that help people register for a website, workshop or mailing list. As people respond and fill out the forms, users can measure their responses by running reports and viewing charts.
Quote from co-founder Kevin Hale: “We don’t just strive to collect information, but analyze it as well. [With no coding experience necessary], it’s for secretaries who want to avoid the IT department.”
Where they got funding: Hale says they were initially funded by Y Combinator (a venture capital firm that gives small funding rounds, usually of $20,000 or less, to companies in their infancy).
Business Model: Free for individuals; charge fees for groups and businesses.
Where they’re based: Palo Alto, CA
What they do: A Web-based portal that allows you to access your computers or network devices from anywhere, without the cumbersome process of setting up remote desktop capabilities.
Quote from founder, Ryo Koyama: “Our view is that everyone knows how to use a Web browser. So there is no reason all your data shouldn’t be accessible from the Web. Setting up a remote desktop tends to be a more complicated thing.”
Where they got funding: According Koyama, they launched the product with their own resources before receiving funding.
Business Model: Licensing to networking technology companies.
Where They’re Based: Bay Area
What they do: Dropbox allows you to synch and share your files online. One of the upsides to the service is that any change or update you make to a file, it is updated across all your devices that access it. It also has good version control, allowing you to “undelete” files.
Quote from founder Drew Houston: (Referencing Dropbox’s sophisticated version control): “It’s almost like a time machine that works across all platforms.”
Where they got funding: $15,000 from Y Combinator. They later received funding from Sequoia Capital.
Business model: 2 GB free to users; they charge for additional storage.
Where They’re Based: San Francisco
What they do: Pronounced “discuss,” Disqus allows users to track the comment threads they participate in, on websites across the Web, all in one central area.
Quote from cofounder Jason Yan: “With Disqus, immediately, I see all the comments I’ve left across websites and I can see when other people replied to [my comment] without having to check out each individual website all the time.”
Where they got funding: $15,000 from Y Combinator.
Business model : Get money from publishers/media companies looking to use the service for their entire sites.
Where they’re based: Bay Area
What they do: MightyQuiz is a user generated trivia game. People can share knowledge with others and have them answer trivia questions in response.
Quote from COO Kelly Bennett: “Our motto is everyone is a trivia junkie for topics they love.”
Where they got funding: Initially $10,000 from Y Combinator.
Business Model: Unclear based on their presentation, but given its social nature most likely ad-based.
Where they’re based: San Francisco and New Delhi
What they do: Enable you to easily share PowerPoint presentations online.
Quote from cofounder Rashmi Sinha: “How many times have you received
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files that clogged up your inbox? We created a social space to share them instead.”
How they got funding: According to Sinha, they got modest investments up front. The later received money from angel investors like Mark Cuban and venture capital from Venrock.
Business model: Their site allows people to take out ads.
Where they’re based: Bay Area
What they do: The service allows users to publish blog posts by simply typing them in to their favorite e-mail service, such as Gmail. It also takes links that were pasted into the email and makes them come alive in the blog post (as an example, a video link posted into an email would appear in its full video form in the blog post).
Quote from cofounder Garry Tan: We can take a link that is worthless [and make it] more intelligent. The user doesn’t need to know how to embed code.”
Where they got funding: $15,000 from Y Combinator
Business Model: Free for individuals. Premium subscription model in the works.
Where they’re based: Seattle area
What they do: They measure how much time users spend on the Web, on either a website or application. While it sounds a bit Big Brother like, it’s really for users to determine how productive they’re being on a daily basis (how much time did you spend in email yesterday?). It does offer organizations a management view to see organizational behavior, but individual users’ identities are protected.
Quote from cofounder Tony Wright: “It’s not a micro-manager tool. We offer a categorized view of how you [and your organization] is spending time. That allows you to be more efficient.”
Where they got funding: Wright didn’t specify amount, but it was from Y Combinator, so likely under $20,000.
Business model: Free for individuals; fee-based for organizations.
9. Poll Everywhere
Where they’re based: Chicago and Boston
What they do: They make presentations interactive by allowing users sitting in an audience to text questions to the speaker and see them populate on a webpage.
Quote from co-founder Jeff Vyduna: “Our goal is to make presentations a two-way medium.”
Where they got funding: $20,000 from Y Combinator.
Business Model: Free for up to 30 people, but priced per month as a service after that based on audience size.
Want to start a creative business? Best to know who you are first.
In his richly informative and enlightening book, T-Shirts + Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity, David Parrish gives us a checklist for self-evaluation. Like many of these sorts of evaluations, the primary value comes from forcing you to answer questions that you need to answer…but frequently avoid doing.
If you are thinking of starting a creative business, or have already done so, you will want to spend some time seeking the answers to these questions. Remember, if you don’t stand for something, you fall for everything.
The PRIMEFACT Checklist (Page 22)
What are the strengths and weaknesses of our people?
Employees, directors, members, associates, advisers and
Reputation (or Brand)
What is our reputation with our target customers? What are
the strengths – or weaknesses – of our brand or brands?
What intellectual property do we have? How is it protected?
How easily can it be turned into income streams?
Market Research / Market Information
What information do we have about market segments and market trends? What do we know about individual clients and their specific needs?
Ethos (or Values or Culture)
What is our ethos, our values and our organisational culture?
Do all stakeholders subscribe to this same ethos?
Finances (ie Money)
What is the current state of profitability, cashflow and assets?
How much money do we have to invest or can we borrow?
Agility (or Nimbleness or Changeability)
Are we agile enough to seize new opportunities?
Are people prepared to change and ready for change?
Are there barriers to change?
Collaborators (Alliances, Partnerships and Networks)
What are the strengths and weaknesses of our associations with other businesses and organisations (including government)?
Talents (Competencies and Skills)
What are our core competencies?
What skills do we have available and what gaps are there?
How will we learn new skills?
The Hatchery is a New York-based vetting process for entrepreneurs. If you have an idea for a business that you are trying to get off the ground, this is an excellent opportunity to get some very hard questions thrown at you (it’ll make you stronger) and get your idea out there in the marketplace.
As they say, “Like American Idol for entrepreneurs”.
“The Hatchery provides a unique funnel for New York innovators to interact with investors, present their plans, receive expert feedback, and pave the way for them to receive funding. At the heart of our model the Gauntlet, an interactive process that gives entrepreneurs a forum to present their strategies to a range of investors.”
Most of the people that I know that are internet entrepreneurs know their way around a P&L spreadsheet but doing payroll has never been top of their list.
A friend of mine mentioned that she was now using Intuit Online from Costco, of all places, and instead of using an accountant as she had been doing, she was now doing payroll herself in 10 minutes.
Cost is between $17.99 – $19.99 a month, depending on your Costco membership.
Creativity and Business
David Parrish has written, perhaps, the best guidebook for a creative person in business, T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity. In his introduction, he mentions that he is both a published poet and an MBA. This makes him the ideal person to answer the old question, “Is it creativity vs. business?”
“Some people regard creativity and business as being like oil and water – they just don’t mix. They think it’s a question of choosing between creativity and business. I disagree.”
In these times of uncertain economic conditions and the relative ease of creating a digital businesses, it is inevitable that more and more creative people will be considering starting a business. Here’s a hint: go here and print out the free PDF and spend some time reading it and soaking it all in.
Creativity and business are absolutely not mutually exclusive but most of us have a proclivity towards one or the other but the fact is that a successful business requires both. David mentions that there is sometimes more creativity in an engineering group than in some advertising agencies and that is absolutely true. “The most exciting creativity, I believe, is the alchemy of blending apparent opposites, what we often call art and science, recognizing that they are not opposites at all, from which we have to choose either/or in a binary fashion, but the yin and the yang of the whole.”
If you read nothing else in the book, read pages 9 and 10 on Success, Profit, Lifestyle, and Why do it?
It’ll start you thinking about creativity, about business, and about what you will do next.