The big event of day 4 of Techweek is Startup City and they’ve put together a great lineup of speakers big on the startup scene.
Travis Kalanick, CEO & Co-founder, Uber
Travis started his first company at 18. When it comes to startups and Silicon Valley, he’s He passed along some key lessons he’s learned over the years. My favorite is “Fear is the disease. Hustle is the antidote.”
Uber is ‘Push a Button. Get a Ride.’ He talked passionately about how startups are disrupting the status quo. He railed passionately against politicians and city governements who say they want to be the next Silicon Valley, but then do everything they can to stand in the way of startups and protect the incumbents, often to the detriment of the citizens they are supposed to represent.
Ben Milne, Founder of Dwolla
Ben talked more about disrupting the status quo, and bringing new efficiencies and solutions to market. Like other startup founders, Ben was a hustler entrepreneur from the beginning, creating a speaker sales business when he was in high school. Dwolla is a revolutionary and disruptive financial services company that enables the exchange of money without interchange fees (in other words, get rid of super-high fees). The technology behind Visa and Mastercard is as old as the rotary phone. Dwolla gets rid of things like overdraft fees, identity fraud and atm fees.
Leah Busque, Founder of TaskRabbit
Leah spoke about technology becoming incredibly powerful as a local tool. Launched with 30 rabbits and targeted 600 moms in Charlestown. Word-of-mouth was key to the business. 75% of the TaskRabbit user base comes from it. Launched in 2008 after the stock market crash, TaskRabbit grew quickly thanks in part to people needing jobs. Fun Facts: 10 minute response time to tasks, has become a full-time job for some, 21-78 year-old age range, Ikea furniture assembly is most popular task!
Matt Mickiewicz, Founder of 99designs, Sitepoint and Flippa
Matt has created 3 multi-million businesses and he’s only in his twenties. His talk was about Disruptive Innovation, a term coined in the book The Innovator’s Dilemma. According to wikipedia, disruptive innovation is:
An innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.
Disruption creates backlash. 99designs were called immoral and unethical, and accused of exploitation.
During the Q&A, Matt called out recruiting to be ripe for disruption.
Jeff Lawson, Twilio
Jeff gave a talk all about scaling company values. Big difference between product values and people values. What is culture? What are values? Culture is living values. Mission statements make people roll their eyes (just words on a wall). At Twilio, they use a different approach. For example, they’ve identified heroes (in this case their customers) and symbols (translating values into things that represent them). Some symbols in Twilio are Empower Others, Start With Why and Create Experiences.
A great principle they have at Twilio is Draw The Owl, based on this funny meme that went around the office. The principle is taking something vague and just figure it out.
Young, Hungry and Disruptive
The panelists were 17-year-old Shahed Khan, the founder of Viatask and youngest SXSW speaker ever, and Gary Kurek, CEO of GET Mobility Solutions Inc. and Thiel Foundation Fellow talked about their experiences gaining success as young entrepreneurs.
The Top 5 competitors battle it out for $100K and prizes:
gDine – Group dining made easy is their tagline. Try the best restaurants in the city at a fixed price, year round. They’ve partnered with 100+ restaurants in Chicago and New York. Like OpenTable, with special prix fix menus. The revenue model is a straight 10% commission. After hearing their pitch, I immediately signed up. I am going to use the heck out of this one.
MouseHouse – It costs $4.5 billion dollars to manage mice colonies per year. 72 cents per day per mouse. This iPad proposes a solution to many of the issues of managing research on mice, saving researchers time and money.
Tigon Tierce / Biz Inject – A pay it forward model of business services, where businesses trade their services for services from other business services.
Safe Snips – Briteseed has made a product for preventing accidental cuts into arteries. More people die from this than AIDs. The cost to the health care industry is estimated at $8.8 billion. Safe Snips uses near infrared detection to alert surgeons not to cut into blood vessels. They believe their technology will save lives and money. My prediction after watching their pitch was that this would be the winner.
Pretty Quick – A real-time marketplace for spa and salon appointments. The founder, Coco Meers, wins my award for best founder name. Congratulations to her!
And the winner is..Safe Snips!