Tesla stock is down almost 10% today, after its 2012 earnings report became public. Tesla missed its projections and investors hammered the stock in response. So what did I just do? I just bought a lot of TSLA. Why did I do it? Because I'm betting on Elon.
There's a SeekingAlpha analyst report that's very bearish on Tesla stock. The author writes:
Here's the problem with the author's perspective: He doesn't understand Elon's master plan, nor does he appreciate Elon's "relentlessly resourceful" ability to execute on that plan.
Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably heard that WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $16 billion in cash plus $3 billion in RSUs.
But what you may not know is that originally, WhatsApp was not solving a problem that people had. In fact, originally, WhatsApp was completely ignored.
It's a great lesson for startups: WhatsApp kept at it and iterated from zero traction, to the fastest growing messaging platform of all time (in fact, some might say the fastest growing platform as calculated by monthly active users of all time). Here's what that growth looks like:
But the original concept for WhatsApp was more of a status update app. This Forbes article articulates it well:
As was reported in TechCrunch today, we've just signed a deal to sell our startup Socialize to ShareThis. Although having a successful exit is a dream for many entrepreneurs, I find myself feeling a wide range of emotions and thoughts. I'd like to share some of them in this blog to provide an honest assessment of what it's like to work tirelessly on a startup and then sell it.
The first thing I want to say is that often upon a sale, you'll hear everyone involved talk about how "pumped" or "excited" they are. The truth of the matter is that it's much more complex than that. There is absolutely a sense of excitement. But I've asked for, and gotten, permission from ShareThis to speak honestly about the wide range of feelings and to speak to the complexity of it all so I can provide a more thoughtful and honest assessment than one typically sees in these situations. Think of it as a peek under the covers of an acquisition.
I've broken this blog up into several parts:
I'll start with the really positive aspects: We're selling Socialize to the absolute best buyer I can imagine. ShareThis is a very fast-growing company with a strong team. As Forbes recently reported, ShareThis is #35 on its America’s Most Promising Companies list. Forbes pegged 2012 revenue at $30MM, and it’s on a rocketship-like growth trajectory. ShareThis didn't just buy us for our talent, but also because its beliefs around the value of social are closely aligned with our own, and because mobile is becoming a big part of its business (see this related blog post with my warning to Fortune 1000 CEOs about the sudden growth of mobile). ShareThis wanted to gain an immediate leadership position in social via the mobile channel, and with Socialize it's achieved that. And Socialize has gotten an incredible platform from which to further develop our social infrastructure for mobile devices. The fit just couldn't be better. Often when I would describe Socialize to people, they would say "so it's like ShareThis, but for mobile, right?" Exactly. So I'm very confident that together, the value of the two companies will be greater than their respective parts, and I'm very pleased that ShareThis saw the same benefits (dare I say, "synergies"). A lot of the credit here goes to Nanda, ShareThis' CTO, who called me out of the blue one day and said "we should do this deal; I know it'll be perfect," and to the ShareThis team for backing Nanda's vision.
My incredible wife gave birth to a beautiful daughter earlier this week. 6lbs, 6oz. Mom and baby are doing great. No name yet (we have to get to know her first!). A few pictures are below.
• Visitors: We can't wait to introduce Baby DROdio to our friends and family; mom & baby are recovering at home. We'll let you know as soon as we get a handle on everything.
• No gifts, please! We are taking an "agile" approach to parenting. For those of you who aren't techies, that means we are taking it step by step, and we will purchase baby items as we learn the needs of our baby. We don't want to start out with a room full of boxes of baby things that we don't know whether we'll need or not. However, we'll happily take any of your tried & true hand-me-down clothing that you no longer need (reduce, reuse, recycle!).
If you really really want to get us something (and you're really stubborn even though we don't need anything!), we would ask that you get us a Munchery Gift Card. This is a food ordering service that will allow us to have freshly prepared food delivered daily for the first few weeks, and that would help both of us cope. (Since Sue is the one who usually feeds us, I especially would appreciate this, since I'll be responsible for feeding her!) To make sure it arrives at the right place, use email address "us -at- danielodio -dot- com" for the gift card.
That's it for now, more updates to come!
I judged the NFTE Quarter Final competition at a local San Francisco high school today. NFTE is an organization that teaches entrepreneurship to students in high school and younger. One of the pitches today was made by 9th grader Simran Pabla around a pilot program she's running at her school: A business called Ready4Rain, which offers umbrellas to students so they don't get wet when they're going from building to building between classes. You can see her full pitch to the judges here. I was so impressed with her that I later interviewed her in the school's cafeteria. Here's a 9th grader who's currently running a pilot program for a startup concept she had. And she's not alone. Jocelyn Hernandez has sold over 20 of her custom iPhone cases at $40 each via her company, Functional Couture. And Mariana Ponce has sold over 100 of her Corny Cups at $2.50 each. In the past, I've done talks with Stanford MBAs, UVA McIntire business school students, and Georgetown MBAs and I consistently find that many of them are terrified to take the leap to becoming an entrepreneur by actually doing something, and not just talking about it. Consistently, high school or younger age kids are willing to take more risks than college students. It's almost like some switch gets flipped at some point in college that causes many students to stop seeing opportunities to be entrepreneurial, and become afraid to try jumping into the ones they do see. The interview above with Simran is great, partly because she's so honest about her motivations. She simply saw an opportunity to solve a problem, and went for it. She has no mortgage to worry about. No kids to take care of. Nothing to keep her from simply jumping to solve the problem she saw in front of her. She just proves how simple it is to become an entrepreneur when it's what you really want to do. So, kudos to Simran, Jocelyn, Mariana and their NFTE colleagues. I hope they never lose that risk-taking spirit. What may just seem to be a high school competition is actually an opportunity to effect massive change through entrepreneurism. The great thing about "creating something from nothing" is that nobody cares how old you are when you do it. There's no reason any of these ideas couldn't morph into huge, real businesses. All these kids need is the will to do it, and the means to try. If you're interested in volunteering for NFTE (something I love to do), drop me a comment below and I'll introduce you to someone who can help you figure out how you can really add value to the program.
Coin is a new startup that's trying to replace traditional credit cards. Its YouTube video has 6.8MM views. When you Google the word "coin" they show up as the #1 search result -- not only that, but news story results fill out much of the first page of search results. Not bad for a startup with a product that won't even be available for another 6+ months.
What did this startup do to have such massively successful launch? And why is it coming from a small startup vs. an established company in the space?
In the world of product launches, many companies rely on Paid Media (i.e., ads) to launch new products. But startups don't have the huge ad budgets that big companies do, so they have to get creative by leveraging Earned Media (i.e., you, on Facebook, talking about it). Just like Lockitron did last year, Coin has touched a nerve, hitting its $50,000 crowdfunding campaign goal in under an hour, according to this Forbes article. The founder was quoted as saying:
Picture is from this article on the cover of The Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section in 2004. Also see my more recent blog post with a video demonstrating how I find names & compose specific emails that work to get reporters' interest
In this post I'll spill the beans and tell you how I get really good press in outlets like TechCrunch, Mashable, CNET, CNN, CNBC, CSPAN, ABC, the WSJ (cover of Marketplace 7/04), Forbes, TechMeme, FastCompany, BBC, and literally hundreds of other publications.
Nothing I'm going to say here is so revolutionary that others couldn't figure it out yourself, but somehow I've figured out the details to make my formula work, and the magic really is in the details.
First off, let's think about what a reporter's daily life is like. Most reporters, from what they tell me, get several hundred emails a day. Many of those emails are from PR people spinning their latest client. So already it's hard to get their attention. And if you're just another one of those PR people, forget about it.
We've been using the "lock & unlock your door with an app on your phone" solution from Lockitron for two years now. In fact, here's a blog I wrote in 2010 with a video showing how it works. As early adopters, Paul, one of the Lockitron founders, was great about coming by our office to fix the early version of Lockitron whenever it had trouble. We were happy users of Lockitron version 1.0.
And that's all I heard about Lockitron for two years. But it turns out Paul, Cameron & team have been super busy. Today they launched a new version of Lockitron in a really smart way. It's so impressive that I'm going to spend a few minutes dissecting it, because we can all learn from what they've done. I'd also like to invite anyone from Lockitron to give more detail on my observations in the comments section below.
The first and most obvious thing they did was use a Kickstarter-type approach to their launch. When you visit www.Lockitron.com you see what I've taken a screenshot of above. (I'd be curious to know if they're using a while-labeled Kickstarter-type service, or more likely, just taking the best from Kickstarter's approach and doing it in-house).
As I've outlined in the screenshot, they set a goal which (purposefully or not) is now massively oversubscribed. It makes you feel like you have to get in on the action.
As an entrepreneur for the past 12 years, I haven't collected a paycheck from any employer other than a company I own. In theory this sounds great, but there are few things in life that apply more pressure than being responsible for not only your paycheck, but the paychecks of employees. Most of these companies have done well, but some haven't. It's also quite taboo to talk openly about the emotional and mental stress that startups create, but privately almost every CEO I've spent time with has shared similar feelings with me. When Sebastian and I discussed posting on each other's blogs, I figured this was a great opportunity to open up about what it's like to be the CEO of a technology startup along with several previous companies, and specifically to discuss the self discipline that's required to successfully navigate the stresses of startups, because these same lessons apply in anyone's daily life. As you can tell by the title, I liken it to having the self discipline of a Buddhist monk.
But first, some background: When I was 22, I graduated from college with an offer from General Electric to work in their Technical Leadership Program. It was a sweet offer -- a fast-track to management role where a select set of college graduates were rotated through various parts of the company. It gave me the opportunity to work in Latin America. I was sent to GE's Crotonville leadership campus, where I'd see Jack Welch, GE's CEO at the time, fly in and out on his helicopter, and senior GE executives would train us in leadership seminars. It was like being a golden child, a chosen one. We knew that we were being groomed to be the next generation of leaders at GE, and GE did everything it could to foster that confidence in us.
This leadership program was just two years long. It was going very well, but something was nagging at me: Growing up, I had to be very entrepreneurial out of necessity. I had to pay for college myself. I'd always been very independent and self sufficient. Suddenly, I was part of a huge machine. Although I was being treated very well, I felt that I wasn't being true to myself and my entrepreneurial spirit. I knew that I could do more, and that if I didn't quit then, I would get sucked into the trappings of corporate life. So I quit GE six months before I was supposed to graduate from the leadership program. It was 1999 and the tech bubble was going in full swing. I felt that staying even six more months would be too long.
Going from GE's leadership program to a startup company is a bit like going from the comfy cigar chair at country club to washing dishes in the back. It's a jarring experience, but one that I was thirsty for. I soaked it up, and quickly learned my first lesson in startups: If you're not really, really passionate about what you're doing, then don't do it. Although being an entrepreneur is romanticized in popular culture, the road is so long, and the pain is so great, that unless you're really passionate about it, you'll be crushed by the pressure.
Passion for what you're doing in life applies beyond startups. It's easy for any of us to become trapped in the constructs we create. We feel like we have responsibilities to those around us to be risk averse. Maybe you have a mortgage. Or kids in school. Or a spouse depending on your income. But I'm here to tell you that you are not trapped by your environment. You are never a victim of your circumstances, and you have not only a right, but a responsibility to live your life in a way that inspires passion inside of you. Those around you will benefit far more from that passion than from your fear of pursuing it, and they will be inspired themselves to seek out the things that they are passionate about. You only live once. No, seriously, you only live once. If you're not doing something today that you're passionate about, then quit. Take that scary plunge into the unknown. You will be so happy that you did. It won't be easy at first, but it well be better immediately.
AngelList is a platform that connects entrepreneurs to angel investors to raise seed stage capital.
Out of the $1.5 million dollars in angel funding we've raised for Socialize, over $1 million came from introductions made on AngelList. We were very early AngelList users under our AppMakr brand, with Brendan Baker doing a detailed analysis of our use of AngelList in his Anatomy of a Seed project. I also wrote a lengthy manifesto about our fundraising experience, and when AngelList was very new I interviewed Naval Ravikant, one of the AngelList founders.
Recently, using AngelList has changed the way I've been fundraising. Where traditionally, I've had to dedicate a block of time to fundraise full time, I can now fundraise passively, meaning just by focusing on having an optimized AngelList presence and a few specific techniques, I don't have to spend blocks of my time finding high quality angels. That is a game changer for us -- fundraising is an incredibly distracting process, and it's especially hard to innovate and iterate on your startup when you're distracted by bolstering the company's bank account. Being able to have angels come to me has given me a freedom as an entrepreneur that's just fantastic.
As I was talking to my friend Ben Young, CEO of Nexercise, about this sea-change in fundraising, I offered to critique his AngelList page to help him optimize it for this type of inbound passive investment.