Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: Jennifer Van Grove | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: business, callyo, fastcall411, funding, knockknock, magnolia prime, mobile apps, News, qwipd, Startup, twilio, Twilio Fund, Web Apps, Web2.0 Startups, workersnow | Comments Off
On Tuesday, seed fund and startup accelerator
500 Startups is announcing a batch of seven SMS and voice-focused applications selected to its Twilio Fund. Each is being awarded $10,000 in funding; one will receive an additional $50,000 and a spot in the accelerator program.
The new Twilio Fund startups — WorkersNow, Callyo, Magnolia Prime, FastCall411, Volta, Qwipd and knockknock — run the gamut from extremely useful to nearly inappropriate.
Tipping in the direction of the super useful is Magnolia Prime, which delivers voice messages to elderly patients, as configured by the patient’s clinician or caregiver. Callyo, also quite practical, aims to offer multifaceted crisis, emergency and tip line options for police departments.
knockknock, targeted at businesses and consumers, routes phone systems to put consumers in touch with the customer service reps at the companies they want to speak with. FastCall411 aims to be the aide of the local salesman with call recording, analytics and lead scoring, while Volta serves as an A/B testing framework for outbound phone calls. And WorkersNow expedites the hiring process around contract construction gigs.
Less practical, but more fun is applying Twilio’s texting capabilities to the sexting fancies of teens and young adults. Qwipd, for instance, can be used to convey flirtatious, albeit controlled, text messages with choose-your-own-ending flavor.
In September, 500 Startups cooked up the Twilio Fund as a $250,000 micro-fund to finance the best applications built on top of Twilio’s SMS and voice platform. Ten startups later — three others were selected in December — the fund is now nearly full and replete with several bold ideas in mobile communicates.
500 Startups may have found a low-cost way to buy into the next big platform. Twilio, as a communications platform, is pumping out hit apps left and right — there are some 20,000 plus Twilio apps, GroupMe being one of the more prominent ones.
History also tells us that these platform-dependent funds are a safe, and potentially lucrative bet. Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers iFund, which finances iPhone and iPad app development, seemed like an odd gamble at first, but has since gone on to produce GOGII (TextPlus), Shazam, Booyah, Shopkick and Flipboard.
More About: 500 startups, callyo, fastcall411, funding, knockknock, magnolia prime, qwipd, twilio, Twilio Fund, workersnow
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Posted: January 30th, 2011 | Author: Jennifer Van Grove | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: career, careers, evernote, foursquare, instagram, involver, job search, job search series, jobs, Jobs Lists, Path, Startup, Tasty Labs, thingd, trending, twilio, Web 2.0 | Comments Off
Today’s startups have the potential to become tomorrow’s legendary public offerings.
While still in their nascent stage today, startups such as Path, Instagram and Picplz hope to change the world through mobile photos; Foursquare has the same lofty goal for location. Others like Twilio or Invovler serve as powerful gateways helping others find their ways to bigger audiences and faster success, and Evernote is already on its way to becoming an indispensable memory aid.
Then there’s fledgling thingd, an early stage startup which aims to connect the digital and physical worlds through object tagging. And while we don’t quite know what hatchling startup Tasty Labs is up to, our expectations are high.
Several of these startups will define new territories in the mobile and social landscapes, and landing a job at one could be a career-changing, life-altering experience. Mashable talked to each of them for a look at what it takes to score a job at the hottest startups now hiring in San Francisco and New York.
Founder Joseph Einhorn at work in thingd's New York office. Photo by Dorothy Hong.
A wise person once predicted that 2011 would see the rise of object tagging. New York-based startup thingd could very well carry that trend with its line of products that index objects. One such product is its consumer-facing app thefancy.
Getting a job at this up-and-coming startup will be no simple feat, especially given that the startup is taking an organic approach to hiring. You won’t find a help wanted ad listed anywhere. Instead, Founder Joseph Einhorn would rather take a slower, more involved journey in finding new talent.
In case you can’t read between the lines, thingd wants to see what you’re made of first. An initial job inquiry via e-mail will be met with a response, and the startup is open to anyone for any role, but expect to be put to work before getting the job.
“We seek like-minded people — creative, technical and entrepreneurial — and rather than do a job interview, let’s find a way to work together first,” says Einhorn.
Einhorn tells the story of Joseph Wain, the Googler and Glyphish iPhone icon maker turned vice president of product for thingd, to drive home his point.
“We were building our iPhone application and we needed icons for our app. We learned about Glyphish, which is recognized as the best iPhone icon library. We were really impressed with the icons, so I sent them a note. ‘Them’ ended up being just him — Joe — and it turned out he liked our work, too.
We chatted a bit on Skype and developed a good rapport â€¦ It turned out that Joe was working right across the street from us at Google. His epic icons were just a side project that he used to work on at night in his spare time. So, he came over for lunch that same day and the rest is history. We began the recruitment process and eventually convinced him to leave a great job at Google to take a chance with us.”
Path’s personal network may be the opposite of Twitter in terms of purpose, but this startup has big plans, big backers and big names all in the hopes of reinventing how people share memories on mobile phones.
The fast-iterating startup has released a slew of updates in recent weeks and is currently on a hiring spree. Open positions include Ruby on Rails studs, Java experts, iOS rockstars and Android engineers — a nice hint at what’s to come.
The personal network takes on a whole new meaning when considering some of the perks of operating inside this elite circle. Matt Van Horn, vice president of business development, describes his first visit to Path’s sky-high office as a star-studded affair. Apparently, Adrian Grenier, the start of Entourage who you may know as “Vince,” was actually hanging out with founder Dave Morin upon Van Horn’s arrival.
Name-dropping aside, Van Horn says Path is creating a great place to work. The office view alone, as seen above, is certainly something to appreciate. “We work hard to play hard,” he says. The play side of the business comes with an always-stocked beer fridge, free food, gym membership, transportation, health insurance and unlimited vacation.
Getting Path’s attention may take more than a personal approach. The startup is looking to recruit, hire and train what Van Horn calls “athletes” — individuals with raw talent who have the passion to be leaders of tomorrow. A hacker mentality is also a highly celebrated trait.
With an API that powers more than 20,000 voice and SMS applications, including a slew of hot group texting apps, Twilio is poised to be one of most significant platform-as-a-service companies of our time.
The San Francisco-based startup occupies a brick and timber office at 1st and Folsom in SOMA, and has a cool $12 million in cash to hire the best engineers, sales people and product managers the city has to offer. But getting a job a Twilio takes more than talent — it takes action.
“We’re looking for ‘doers’ who take initiative and get stuff done,” says CEO and co-founder Jeff Lawson. “We want someone who will wrangle a bull by its horns and figure it out.”
A hint to would-be staffers: Lawson literally means figure it out. Hopefuls, even non-engineers, will need to build their own Twilio application to get the company to take notice. The startup’s current office manager built a Twilio phone application to serve as her resume, for instance. Lawson called into a phone number and was greeted with a menu of resume options — press one to listen to my experience, press seven to speak to a reference, and so forth.
Lawson also recommends candidates submit cover letters that show off their personalities. Of course, Twilio is looking for new hires that match their criteria, but humbleness, attention to detail and talent are also key factors.
Should you make it through Twilio’s doors, you can expect both the expected — like health insurance — and the unexpected, by way of job benefits and perks. Every Wednesday night, Twillio hosts a company dinner with a featured speaker. The startup also brings in lunch three days a week and gifts new employees with Kindles and a $30 per month Kindle Store allowance.
Dalton Caldwell captivates the Startup School crowd. Photo by Robert Scoble.
There is no hotter niche than mobile photo sharing, and the cross-platform service Picplz is poised for a big 2011. The Mixed Media Labs product, founded by Dalton Caldwell and backed by Andreessen Horowitz, has started the new year off with a bevy of feature additions — there’s something new nearly every week.
If you’re asking for a job at Picplz, you should plz be someone with a technical background and a penchant for Hacker News.
“It’s a really special community of people and the intelligence, attitude and level of sophistication of those folks never ceases to impress me,” says Caldwell of the Hacker News community.
Hacker News cred may get applicants one foot in the door, but to land one of the available software engineer, designer or product manager positions, candidates need to have something tangible to show.
“An engineer could point to their Github account to show interesting open-source projects they have done. A designer could point us to things they have designed or their Dribble account. A product manager could make specific suggestions or ideas for Picplz, or could point out their personal blog. The underlying thing is that the folks that really stand out from the crowd are people that are more than just a submitted resume,” says Caldwell.
New hires at Picplz will find themselves with a $5,000 budget for hardware that they can use to spring for high-end equipment, a perfect perk for the techies the startup hopes to attract. The startup’s office space also features a “one-cup-at-a-time” coffee maker, healthy snacks, drinks and fresh organic fruit, according to Caldwell.
5. Tasty Labs
There’s still little to know about this super stealth social software startup, but with a founder like Joshua Schachter of Delicious fame and the en vogue firm Andressen Horowitz backing it, Tasty Labs sounds like a mouth-watering opportunity for ingÃ©nue talent looking for a breakout moment.
“We like people that have published personal projects. We love engineers that have code samples available. We like people that blog interesting things,” says Schachter.
Tasty Labs will soon be graduating out of its Palo Alto office space, pictured above, in favor of a Mountain View headquarters. The young and hungry startup is still defining its company perks, which means new hires will likely have a big say in the matter — a perk in its own right.
“People want smart coworkers, a small team, a great environment, and interesting projects to work on. That’s what we are,” says Schachter.
Social marketing platform Involver has money in the bank, a new programming language for Facebook and a close-knit relationship with the world’s largest social network. Last year, Involver grew from six people to more than 60 team members and now occupies a colorful, dog-friendly space in downtown San Francisco.
The startup is looking for both engineers and sales people, and just recently started a search for “Sales Engineers” with technology know-how and proven business savvy.
At Involver, new hires can expect a more traditional smorgasbord of benefits including full health, dental and vision coverage, as well as 20 days of paid time off and ten paid holidays. Startup-style, the growing company also touts field trips to trampoline parks, bowling alley excursions and onsite massages. Employees can also expect a stocked fridge and “Bagel Wednesdays.”
Involver wants well-rounded types, so prospects should have an array of social profiles — including public Twitter and Facebook accounts — and are better off knowing someone already employed at the company. Candidates will also want to have a strong understanding of the company and the industry at large.
“Don’t be afraid to create a business proposal for a new initiative or a campaign concept or even a light prototype, and bring that with you to the interview,” recommends Jasha Kaykas-Wolff, vice president of marketing at Involver.
Fresh off Mac App Store success, Evernote’s note-taking platform is more popular than ever. The two-and-half year-old startup is hiring at a feverish pace — one new hire a week — to keep up with demand.
“Our goal in 2011 is to add some serious functionality and polish to every single version of Evernote. To get there, we’re going to need amazing engineers, product managers, QA, and UX/UI designers for our desktop, mobile and web versions,” according to marketing head Andrew Sinkov.
Specifically, Evernote is on an immediate quest for an iOS engineer, senior web application engineer, user experience designer and graphic designer for its Mountain View headquarters. The startup expects candidates to have strong portfolios, and seeks talented problem-solvers.
Being a bit more mature in stature than the other startups on this list, Evernote is less flashy and more focused in its company culture, apart from the office robot, of course. “What we do have is a very positive and collaborative atmosphere. It’s an open office and we encourage conversation and interaction,” says Sinkov.
Still, it has its perks. All commuting employees are issued Caltrain passes and the startup has lunch delivered every day from local restaurants.
The mayor of location-based mobile gaming applications, Foursquare is growing rapidly, quickly becoming a substantial influencer of location-driven behavior and has a bevy of big brands hitching a ride to social relevancy through its service.
After most recently overhauling its iPhone and Android apps with photos and comments, Foursquare is searching for superstar iPhone and Android developers to work in its New York or San Francisco offices.
“In terms of requirements, we’re looking for engineers that are comfortable in a very fast-paced, challenging, fluid environment,” says co-founder Naveen Selvadurai. “They need to be self-motivated and willing to bring a fun, creative approach to their work.”
Foursquare is all about the game of location, but newbies should expect to be thrown into the fire almost immediately. “Candidates we hire need to be able to get up to speed quickly so they can start cranking out high quality work shortly after joining us,” says Selvadurai.
The startup has been receptive to creative, unusual and aggressive tactics. Marketing manager Anna Frenkel coordinated the first ever Foursquare Day party, a big gesture that caught Dennis Crowley’s attention and landed Anna a gig. New community manager Nina Yiamsamatha stood out when she turned in a resume that was laid out like a Foursquare history page.
And Tristan Walker, director of business development, hounded Crowley daily via e-mail for a job in the summer of 2009. Here’s how that story played out, according to a Foursquare rep:
Finally, Dennis asked him if he was ever in NYC so he could come in for a meeting — Tristan told him he’d be in NYC that weekend and booked a flight that night. When he came in to meet with Dennis, Tristan told Dennis he’d sign up 100 local businesses in a month and shared some of his ideas for working with larger partners and redefining loyalty. He hit 100 businesses in a couple of weeks, and by month’s end he’d signed up 250 businesses and Dennis agreed to give him a job as Foursquare’s first business development employee.
Play is built-in to the work experience, naturally. Selvadurai speaks of a passionate group of team members who work hard and play hard. “Everyone’s extremely excited about all of the stuff we’re building and being surrounded by that type of energy is addictive,” he says.
Perks of the job include full health, vision and dental coverage, a 401k plan, pre-tax transit benefits, flexible hours and vacation, gym-fee reimbursement, snacks, lunches and all the free Foursquare schwag imaginable.
A healthy rivalry has been brewing between mobile photo sharing competitors Picplz and Instagram. The latter has made an arguably louder splash, attracting one million iPhone app users in just 10 weeks and recently introducing a brand-friendly hashtag feature.
Following a recent move to Twitter’s original office in the South Park area of San Francisco, Instagram is “looking for an engineer to help build the next biggest social company in mobile,” says co-founder Kevin Systrom. “We’re passionate about creating products that let people tell their stories on the go through photos, and we’re looking for people who want to solve some of social’s biggest technology hurdles as we grow and scale the service.”
Forget about Ivy League degrees or stellar GPAs — Instagram wants engineers who can build “kick ass” software and possess a tangible passion for the product and its potential.
New hires will join a four-man team and play a significant, family-member role in defining Instagram’s company culture, they’ll also get to take home a “chunk of a fast-growing and immensely popular company,” says Systrom.
The office touts a new Italian coffee machine, Apple Cinema Displays, Macbook Airs and other gadgetry that makes the workspace just as drool-worthy as the product.
Startup Job Listings
Every week we put out a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we post a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top startup job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
More Job Search Resources from Mashable:
- HOW TO: Land a Job at Twitter
- Top 5 Online Communities for Starting Your Career
- HOW TO: Land a Business Development Job
- Top 5 Tips for Creating Impressive Video Resumes
- 19 Resources to Help You Land a Job in 2011
Images courtesy of Flickr, Twilio, osunick, jolieodell, robertscoble, TEDxSoMa, dpstyles
More About: career, careers, evernote, foursquare, instagram, involver, job search, job search series, jobs, Path, Tasty Labs, thingd, trending, twilio
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Posted: January 13th, 2011 | Author: Jennifer Van Grove | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: business, Diner Connection, spark-of-genius, Startup, text messages, twilio, Web2.0 Startups | Comments Off
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.
Name: Diner Connection
Quick Pitch: Diner Connection sends text messages to restaurant patrons to let them know when their table is ready.
Genius Idea: A few years back, Shawna and Geoffrey Simpson vacationed in Waikiki. The couple was prepared for two-hour wait times at popular restaurants, but one evening they were handed a coaster-sized pager they could only carry up to 200 feet away. Ironically, the restaurant parking lot, which was out of the pager’s range, had a very lovely view of the beach. Instead, the couple was forced to wait inside with no view, cooped up next to other hungry patrons.
Another bad experience years later inspired the couple to do something to improve the restaurant wait experience. They had the idea to send text messages to patrons to alert them when their tables are ready.
Soon thereafter, Geoffrey Simpson attended a Startup Weekend in Tulsa and decided he could use Twilio’s communication platform to power the text-messaging restaurant idea.
When a rough, early version of the application went on to win a Twilio developer contest, the Diner Connection business was officially born.
Publicly launched in September 2010, Diner Connection offers web-based wait-list management, reservation management and SMS marketing services to restaurants in the United States. The service starts at $99 per month with a free trial period and helps restaurants replace their costly pager system with a text-based system that messages customers when their tables are ready.
The system is set up to better satisfy the needs of waiting customers and help restaurants more efficiently manage wait lists and reservations. “Customers give their cellphone number, and then they can wait wherever they’re comfortable,” explains Shawna Simpson, Diner Connection president. “Comfortable and relaxed customers will spend more money,” she says.
Diner Connection’s wait list and reservation tools are accessible via any web-enabled device, though the company plans to release a native iPad app for restaurant management and a consumer-facing iPhone app for reserving tables at nearby restaurants. Restaurants can also use Diner Connection widgets on their websites to allow customers to reserve tables on the web.
Part of Diner Connection’s monthly fee allows restaurants to send their diners targeted SMS marketing messages on nightly specials or discounts. Customers can opt out of the messages at any time, but Simpson acknowledges that this is one area where she needs to better educate participating restaurants on best practices.
The reservation side of the business brushes up against OpenTable’s popular but more hardware-intensive offering.
The SMS wait-list product seems to be the biggest selling point for restaurant owners. Ryan Parrott (@chefrp on Twitter) at the Iguana Mexican Grill in Oklahoma City — which can run a wait time as long as two and half hours on a Tuesday night — speaks enthusiastically of the text-based wait-list service.
“Our customers love it,” he says. “They think it’s high-tech and cool.” Parrott explains that the service frees up customers to go shopping at a neighboring store or grab a cocktail at nearby bar while they wait.
“Sending a text message allows people to be more mobile and more comfortable,” he says, “and it helps all the nearby businesses.”
With most patrons carrying mobile devices, a text-based wait-list management system is a no-brainer idea, and Diner Connection’s primary challenge will be in getting the word out about its service. The young startup has roughly 30 restaurant customers, most of whom are located in the Tulsa area. It faces competition from Textaurant, ReadyPing and traditional pager providers.
The startup simply consists of a husband and wife team, but Shawna Simpson explains that the company is going after $500,000 in funding to hire a sales team and fuel expansion.
Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.
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