Y Combinator COO Qasar Younis Discusses Entrepreneurship

Qasar Younis was interviewed at Startup Grind Sacramento and share how he has climbed the ranks of the entrepreneurial ladder. He is the CEO of Y Combinator (YC), an organization that provides seed funding for startups while linking them with potential investors and acquirers. Qasar reached success through Talkbin that was originally backed by YC before being acquired by Google 10 months later. He than became Google’s product lead for business facing product and has assisted dozens of entrepreneurs turn their ideas into a reality via YC.

Growing up in the rural environment of Pakistan and migrating to Michigan in the 80’s, Qasar’s initial background was in the automobile industry and virtually everything engineering-related. After leaving automotive in the early 2000’s, he gained skills in software and mechanical engineering ultimately attaining an MBA from Harvard. With a new focus, he launched a startup with a group of friends called Camisa in Chicago, Illinois. The business model was nearly identical to TeeSpring where users can sell and submit T-shirt designs via crowdfunding. Unfortunately, Camisa never reached the desired level of success and Qasar learned a lot from this failure.

“The Market Doesn’t Care about Your Vision.”

Qasar felt that his team was not well-balanced and he was trying to play a role that didn’t match his skillsets. In addition, not being in Silicon Valley severely hindered their degree of exposure. Camisa’s vision was not timed properly for the market to be attracted to what they were offering. This 3rd point is key because as entrepreneurs, it’s real easy to get wrapped up in our vision. However, he believes that building a successful business is based on supply and demand. If what you’re supplying isn’t demanded by the marketplace; the chances of success is zero to none. Once Camisa went down, him and his partner moved to Silicon Valley and zoned in on their soon-to-be success; Talkbin.

“If You’re Serious About your Brand, You Can’t do it Part-time.”

Qasar mapped out that he had exactly a year to put together a team, create a product and find funding. This led to entering the YC startup incubator where he received countless hours of mentoring and investment prospects. Although funding was an important element to the equation, it was the insight from YC supporters that he contributed most to his success. Less than a year later, Google randomly spotted them on the radar, recognized that his vision aligned with theirs and was immediately acquired.

You can view the full interview with Qasar here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Best Apple Apps and Games of 2016

best apps 2016

Apple has announced their annual list of best apps and games on the Apple App Store for 2016 and here they are.

App of the Year: Prisma

PrismApp Store Editors’ Notes: Prisma’s gorgeous pictures are almost too cool for words, but if we had to pick one to describe our 2106 iPhone App of the Year, it’s would be “sublime.” Powerful AI re-creates our photos as breathtaking images that really look hand-painted, complete with natural textures and stylish, spontaneous strokes. The only thing more fun than experimenting with the effects is showing off the results to our friends.

App of the Year Runner-Up: MSQRD

msqrdApp Store Editors’ Notes: You won’t like yourself -literally- in the outrageous selfies you can take with this fun app.  Transform your face into dozens of digital masks that blend with your features like magical special effects.  Featuring celebrities, animals, and spooky creatures, MSQRD’s hysterical filters will have the whole family laughing. Best of all, some masks animate depending on your expression.

 

Game of the Year: Clash Royale

ClashRoyaleApple Store Editors’ Notes: Colorful chaos awaits in our 2016 iPhone Game of the Year.  Supercell’s awesome card battler delivers excellent deck-building mechanics and fast-paced fights in a package that’s easy to understand and undeniably fun.  Upgrading, unlocking, and experimenting with cards gives the game endless replay-ability, and deciding just where your heroes makes each battle distinct. But no matter how good your deck is, there’s no substitute for skill and quick thinking.

 

Game of the Year Runner-Up: Reigns

reignApp Store Editors Notes: This game absolutely floored us. It seems straightforward at first — you’re a king, and you’re presented with choices about how to rule as a deck of cards.  Swipe right to choose one path, swipe left for another. But there’s so much more going on, and without spoiling anything, Reigns’ cleverness, humor, and sometimes agonizing choices routinely surprised and always delighted us.

 

 

Breakout Hit: Pokemon Go

pokemonApp Store Editors’ Notes: Once again, the world’s gone crazy for Pokemon.  This time around the lovable pocket monsters have invaded our parks, roads, even homes. We can’t stop running around the neighborhood collecting items — and capturing 3D monsters with the futuristic augmented reality makes it feel like they’re actually there.  Becoming a real-life Pokemon Trainer is as cool as it sounds, but the hook here –as always–is trying to catch ’em all.

 

 

 

 

Below is a complete list of Apple’s 10 Best Apps and Games for 2016

10 Best Apps of the Year

 

 

10 Best Games of the Year

With over a million apps in the app store I do appreciate Apple’s annual top ten list. Many of the apps, I haven’t heard of,  but I now plan to download and try out.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

The Startup J Curve

The Startup J Curve

In his book, the Startup J Curve, noted entrepreneur and angel investor, Howard Love, essentially states that there is no straight line from startup to sustainable success.  Rather, it follows a J Curve where the company initially dips after it starts.  The dip can occur for several reasons:

  • Product takes longer to develop
  • Customers don’t embrace the initial product
  • The business model doesn’t quite work

Love describes this dip as the Valley of Death.  A young startup needs to be able to crawl out of it before they run out of cash.  Much of his book describes strategies in working through the Valley of Death.

Here is a description of the 6 phases of the Startup J Curve:

  1. Create: This is where the initial excitement occurs for a startup and the three elements come together: the idea, team, and the money.  This is the best time to raise money because the startup is selling the dream.
  2. Release: This is where a startup releases their product to market and where the market will provide feedback.  It’s where the rubber hits the road and reality hits.  It’s at this phase where founders really need to listen to their customers.
  3. Morph: In this phase, the startup needs to make adjustments on their product or business model based on customer feedback.  At this phase, there needs to be several iterations until product market fit is achieved.
  4. Model: In this phase, the startup needs to optimize their business model.  The goal is to get to a point where there is a direct ROI if more money is invested in the startup.
  5. Scale: After the business model has been nailed, this is where investment into the startup is able to scale the business.
  6. Harvest: this is where the startup graduates to a fully established business and is where the founders have the opportunity to reap the benefits of their labor. It is also where they need to decide on what direction they would like to take including IPO, acquisition, etc.

A startup founder needs to be aware where they are on the J Curve.  For example if they focus on scaling strategies before they actually nail the business model, the odds of success are diminished. This video is a great overview of the Startup J Curve.

If you like to meet Howard Love and get a copy of his book (while supplies last), he will be speaking at Startup Grind Sacramento on December 13, 2016.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Project Slingshot will provide $750 K in Grants to Boost Innovation Ecosystem in Sacramento Region

slingshot

The Sacramento region entrepreneurial ecosystem and small business community will soon benefit from $750,000 in new grant funding. The newly-launched Project SlingShot is an initiative of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to encourage and support regional partnerships across the state to engage in new collective actions that can “move the needle” on workforce challenges.

After an extensive planning and review process, SlingShot was approved for implementation in August 2016 and will include an innovation fund of $750,000 to provide grant and contract funding to support the ecosystem for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small businesses. The project is being implemented in the Capital Region by a partnership of four local workforce development boards: the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), Golden Sierra, the North Central Counties Consortium, and the Yolo County WDB, with SETA acting as the lead partner.

The goals of Project Slingshot are to catalyze entrepreneurship, business and employment growth across high growth economic clusters, such as Information and Communication Technology, Health Services and Advanced Manufacturing. SlingShot will foster the development of entrepreneurial skills within career pathways and provide robust resource systems to start-ups and small businesses.

The projected is expected to:

  • Increase access to and communication about regional resources through the creation of a web- based resource navigator
  • Increase business incubation and entrepreneurial mentoring
  • Foster an entrepreneurial and innovative culture
  • Catalyze an innovation ecosystem that will create more business and jobs throughout the region, and create a skilled talent pool so that new jobs will go to residents, supporting a resilient economy with widespread mobility opportunities

The funds will be made available through a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process. Slingshot will work across a nine-county region (Alpine, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba counties) and prioritize efforts that will connect rural communities to urban resources, enabling the nine-county region’s innovation ecosystem to expand and strengthen the support it provides to entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups.

The competitive RFP process, to be led by SETA, will address SlingShot’s three areas of focus:

  1. mentoring networks that connect entrepreneurs to experienced executives
  2. physical spaces for entrepreneurs, such as co-working facilities, maker spaces, incubators and accelerators
  3. the creation of a Resource Navigator, a searchable, interactive online tool that will house a comprehensive inventory of all the support services available to entrepreneurs across the region

The first RFP, covering the first two areas of focus, was released by SETA on November 4th. Awards for the first RFP will range from $20,000 to $150,000. Applicants’ responses are due mid-December 2016, and the evaluation and review process will be completed in February. Awards will be confirmed by March 2017, with all funded work required to be complete by March 2018. The second RFP is expected to be released in early December. The RFP for the Resource Navigator has not been released yet.

Valley Vision is serving as the SlingShot project manager, working with the workforce board partnership and more information about the project can be found here.   Valley Vision website.

Valley Vision Press Release written by Meg Arnold

Mark Haney Reminds Entrepreneurs to be a Rock Star!

Mark Haney

Mark Haney of Haney Business Ventures has founded or co-founded over 20 businesses with a focus on community-based values by offering opportunities for entrepreneurs and military veterans. He is a board member on the Sacramento Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Allegiant Giving Corporation which all are dedicated to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit of its region. Mark initially launched a successful video distribution company that expanded into a security/surveillance provider grossing over an annual $200 million with hundreds of employees. He also hosts a weekly radio broadcast, Entrepreneurs Unlimited which covers an array of topics related to entrepreneurship, business, startups and more. In a recent interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Mark discussed his entrepreneurial journey.

Born and raised in Roseville, CA, Mark started out by attaining tons of beta VCR players for the low and eventually opened up a chain of 14 video supply stores throughout the region. Once the video industry went down, they pivoted into security cameras and targeted video installers through telemarketing campaigns. They were hit hard during the 2008 housing collapse and made a successful exit 2 years later.

“My Friends, Family And Community; As they Succeed I Succeed.”

Shortly after, Mark shifted gears into more of a philanthropic approach by launching Allegiant Giving focused on the ‘heroes of today and the leaders of tomorrow.’ In his mind, the heroes were vets coming back from war and the leaders were aspiring entrepreneurs filled with drive and ambition. One of his first veteran projects was the creation of a wheelchair for a veteran amputee that allowed him to go off roading and resembled the looks of an army tank. His efforts with the vast community of entrepreneurs has allowed him to get involved with real estate, limo services and of course security surveillance systems.

“When I’m Looking for Business Partners, I’m Looking for Rockstars.”

Mark says he’s very selective who he partners with because he needs people that are going to make others move and take action. If you don’t have the attitude of a rockstar, such as the lead singer of a band, he’s uncertain whether a partnership would be mutually beneficial. More importantly, Mark emphasizes that everyone possesses natural skills that should be capitalized on rather than trying to balance out the responsibilities of an entire company. It’s a common trap for entrepreneurs to take on more roles than needed in the name of saving money. However, he says we can’t do everything alone and learning skills you’re not naturally apt at can waste a lot of time and actually cause you to lose money in the long run. He finds it much more effective to form a well-balanced team that each can offer their own unique gifts to contribute to company objectives.

“So Often we do Things we Hate…But Keep an Open Mind to Where your Weaknesses and Strengths Are.”

The full interview with Mark can be viewed here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

Startup Lessons from Garage Ventures Bill Reichert

Silicon Valley icon Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures recently spoke at Startup Grind Sacramento and offered some invaluable insight. With over 20 years as an entrepreneur and two public companies, Bill’s resume is quite impressive.

Originally from Chicago, Bill grew up spending quality time with his grandfather who exposed him to the adventurous world of entrepreneurship. He was in Silicon Valley when the PC was first released and arguably ran one of the first app development firms in United States history, which was apparently amazingly successful but eventually “crashed and burned.” In 1992, Bill and his buddy helped save a failing organization called “The Learning Company,” which later became the first business they took public for $60 million. Later down the line, the Learning Company was sold to Mattel for $3.6 billion. Ouch!  Bill eventually stopped kicking himself for selling too early and learned the ingredients to achieve success years later at the National Venture Capital Conference with Peter Lynch.

“I only invest in companies that even a complete idiot can run.”

This statement hit home for Bill, making him simplify his approach and become cautious with ventures that seem overly complex. When he looks for investments, he wants startups that have novel technology, a sustainable competitive advantage, and can make a significant impact in its designated sector.

Take for example Voke VR that “utilizes a synchronized multiple point-of-view stereoscopic panoramic camera system” technology. They’ve partnered with the Sacramento  Kings to enable mobile users in the stands or at home to receive an advanced VR spectacle without the bulky headset. The audience is able to pause, rewind and review the action from virtually any angle on the court.

When asked about ways for entrepreneurs to receive funding, his response was surprising:

“The best way to receive funding for your startup is to get endorsements from bigger companies for validation and reach out to venture capital sources.”

Bill firmly believes that by following these simple words of advice, you will be “head and shoulders” above your typical startup seeking that almighty dollar. Of course, you will most likely still need to meet the criteria that he mentioned when looking for a potential investment (i.e. novel technology, etc.).

Watch the full interview with Bill Reichert at Startup Grind Sacramento here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Highlights from 500 Startups Batch 18 Demo Day

500 Startups Batch 18

500 Startups held their Demo Day for Batch 18 at the Innovation Hanger near the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  Batch 18 is made of 46 companies with themes in FinTech, Digital Health, Industrial Applications, Experimental Lifestyles, and Bots.   Here are a few startups that I found interesting.

Startup with Coolest Medical Tech

Siren Care’s tagline is “Next-Generation Smart Textiles.”  What they’ve developed is the ability to weave sensors into the fabric.  Their first application is a temperature monitoring sock that is used to prevent foot ulcers for diabetics.

siren

Startup with Coolest Lifestyle Concept

One of the Experimental Lifestyles startups is DigitalOutpost which allows for people to remotely work at their day job in exciting locals like Bali and Thailand.   They handle planning, accommodations, co-working spaces, and social events for their customers.  A month in Bali only cost $ 2 K.  Theoretically, if you live in the Bay Area, you can put your apartment on Airbnb and make money while you work in an exotic location.

digitialoutpost

Startup Most Likely to be Acquired by Google

Andromium has developed hardware that will convert an Android phone into a laptop.  Just download the app, connect the phone to their laptop shell and you got a working laptop.  It’s pretty darn cool.  I tried  out their demo and it had the full laptop experience including the ability to use a mouse.  With  smartphones that often have a faster processor than laptops, Andromium  may have just developed a product that can rival laptop makers like Dell and Apple.  Alas, their system only works with Android phones.   I also would like to mention that Andromium has raised almost $3 M in their Kickstarter campaign.

andromium

Startup with Coolest iPhone attachment

Pyrnt had developed a case that turns your iPhone into a Polaroid Camera.    There’s no ink; all the magic happens on their special paper.  They also have interesting augmented reality feature and with the app, you can send free postcards.  They are gaining some traction and their case and photo paper are now available at Target.

prynt

 

Startup with best use of a Bots

SimplifiMed uses a combination of big data and artificial intelligence to develop a chatbot that will allow a medical staff to manage 10X more chronic patients.   With the health industry’s need to do more with less, SimplifiedMed provides an ideal solution for managing chronic patients.

siplifiedmed

Startup with tech that I would use

Lighthouse has developed a tool to help managers manage their team.  Their platform allows a manager to track their team member’s progress of meeting goals and feedback.  As Salesforce is to sales, they want Lighthouse to be synonymous with management.   As a manager, I found that I would actually use Lighthouse to manage my team.  I’m actually quite surprised that this hasn’t been developed before.

lighthouse

What’s Next? Join the Next Batch of 500 Startups

How well the Batch 18 companies do remains to be seen, but 500 Startups does have an excellent track record. Producing 3 Unicorn startups (with a 4th possibly on the way), 37 Centaurs (valued $100-999 M), and over 300 Ponies ($10-99 M), you might be wondering how to get into 500 Startups. Well, first you’ve got to apply!

If I piqued your interest in 500 Startups, they are currently looking for applicants for Batch 20. Good candidates should have:

  • Balanced Team
  • Product Launched
  • Traction with Good Metrics

If your startup is interested in applying for Batch 20, find the application here.

After applying, ask your local Startup Grind director if they can give you a warm referral!

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Impact Global Venture Summit Highlights Sacramento Region Startups

Impact Summit

The inaugural Impact Global Venture Summit was held on November 14, 2016 at the brand new, state of the art, Golden 1 Center. Over 700 people attended and 50 Northern California startups participated in the summit with the goal of providing local startups exposure to investors.

impactvcfounders

Impact VC Founders (left to right): Jack Crawford, Dixon Doll, Eric Ball

This was also the big debut for event organizer, Impact Venture Capital.  Impact VC was formed from Sacramento based Velocity VC in partnership with Dixon Doll and Eric Ball.  Dixon Doll is a well-known Silicon Valley investor with early investments in 20 unicorn (with a valuation over $1 B) companies.

Most of the event consisted of pitches from 20 startups.  Many were from local startups including HomeZada, California Safe Soil, Gatekeeper Innovation, and Barobo.  Startups from the Bay Area also attended with Mountain View based Nightingale Security and Santa Clara based Cornami each receiving an investment from Impact VC.

homezada

HomeZada Co-Founder John Bodrozic

The other big star of the summit was the Golden 1 Center itself.  For many of the attendees, it was their first visit to the most technologically advance arena in the world. The event in concert with the arena really illustrated Sacramento’s emergence as an innovation hub. Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, tweeted out, “…Now that’s #Sac3pt0!”

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Apptology Awarded $50 K RAILS Grant from the City of Sacramento

rails

On November 1, 2016, the Sacramento City Council awarded RAILS (Rapid Acceleration Innovation & Leadership in Sacramento) Grants totaling $1 M to 15 groups that drive acceleration, innovation & leadership for startups in the Sacramento area.  Apptology was awarded $50 K for the StartupSac project.  In partnership with Sacramento Startup Community Leader, Laura Good and Digital Splash Media, the goals of the StartupSac project include:

  1. Expanding and enhancing the website to encompass the full range of  information, services, and resources in the Capital Region, thereby making it easier for innovators and entrepreneurs to connect and engage with each other and help foster and grow the Sacramento startup ecosystem. The goal for StartupSac.com is for it to be the go-to resource of all the services available to entrepreneurs across the region, such as:
    • A curated directory of area startups
    • A job board
    • Continued expansion of Sacramento Startup Ecosystem Circuit Board that visually shows the pieces of the Sacramento startup ecosystem
  2. Extend the access to StartupSac.com, by developing a free native StartupSac iPhone / iPad and Android Apps.
  3. Further catalyze the startup community by connecting organizations and people by curating a directory of area startups, writing and publishing interviews with founders, funders, entrepreneurs, and other innovators, creating profiles of startups and others in the ecosystem, and providing event coverage, etc.
  4. Through public relations and digital marketing activities, promote our startup ecosystem to the community which includes hosting a meetup group to feature events and promotion through digital advertising as well as pitching local startup stories to local media, writing blog posts, and features on social media.
  5. Provide promotion, event management and organizational guidance to grassroots volunteer startup building organizations like Startup Weekend, Health 2.0, Startup Grind, and others, to keep these events (and the community they build) happening in our city.
  6. Highlight female and minority entrepreneurs on a regular basis on the StartupSac website and app and at Startup Grind.

The StartupSac team looks forward to extending the reach and impact of this website, working with other RAILS grant recipients and all members of the Sacramento community to catalyze and grow the Sacramento innovation economy.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

The Navy’s 11 Leadership Principles

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Andre N. McIntyre

I can still vividly remember reciting the Navy’s Leadership Principles by memory while my squad leader was inches from my face during freshmen orientation for the Navy ROTC program at the University of Washington. Here the Navy’s 11 Leadership Principles (admittedly I can no longer recite them from memory):

  1. Know your people and look out for their welfare.
  2. Keep your people informed.
  3. Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
  4. Be technically and tactically proficient.
  5. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
  6. Make sound and timely decisions.
  7. Set the example.
  8. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates.
  9. Ensure that the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished.
  10. Train your people as a team.
  11. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities.

When I was an 18 year old midshipman, the principles were something that I had to learn for inspections. However, during my career, they have become guidelines for me when I have had the privilege to lead. I also judge some of my bosses by whether their actions follow the principles. Take a look at the principles and think of the managers that you work for during your career. If you find them violating the principles, inherently you have judged them as poor mangers. Conversely, if you find them following the principles, I’m sure you’ve labeled them as good leaders.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014. Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.