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Month: May 2019

The savage genius of SoftBank funding competitors

Venture capitalists aren’t supposed to make their portfolio companies battle to the death. There’s a long-standing but unofficial rule that investors shouldn’t fund multiple competitors in the same space. Conflicts of interest could arise, information about one startup’s strategy could be improperly shared with the other, and the companies could become suspicious of advice provided by their investors. That leads to problems down the line for VCs, as founders may avoid them if they fear the firm might fund their rival down the line. SoftBank shatters that norm with its juggernaut $100 billion Vision Fund plus its Innovation Fund. The investor hasn’t been shy about funding multiple sides of the same fight. The problem is that SoftBank’s power distorts the market...

7 Keys To Exponential Growth Driven By The Whole Team

Many startups and entrepreneurs I advise still default to growing their business via the traditional top-down, order-taking culture. I’m convinced that you can’t stay competitive that way with today’s customers, and today’s employees. It’s time to push decision making down into the organization –insisting that the people closest to the customer and the markets learn and make the decisions. I saw strong validation for this approach in the classic book, “Sense & Respond,” by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden. They argue that successful organizations spend more time building and maintaining a learning culture of listening to customers, enabling their team to make decisions, and creating new products continuously. Here are seven key elements of the culture we both espouse: Accept that you don’t...

Which public US universities graduate the most funded founders?

Joanna Glasner Contributor More posts by this contributor Big revenues, huge valuations and major losses: charting the era of the unicorn IPO Some reassuring data for those worried unicorns are wrecking the Bay Area A lot of students attend public universities to lessen the financial burden of higher education. At last tally, tuition and fees at American public colleges and universities averaged around $6,800 a year, per the federal government. That’s far below the $32,600 mean price tag for private, nonprofit institutions. Yet when it comes to public universities, the old adage “you get what you pay for” clearly does not apply. Leading public research universities in particular have a track record of turning out enviably knowledgeable and successful graduates. That includes a whole lot of...

10 Activities That Will Tag You As A Business Leader

Based on my years of experience as a new business advisor, I always find leadership to be more important to business success than any new technology or innovative solution. The challenge is to adequately define leadership in terms of everyday activities. Most entrepreneurs believe they are leaders, even though the feedback I get from their team and partners may indicate otherwise. Thus I’m always looking for more practical guidance on the right activities to be perceived as a business leader. I found some great specifics in a classic book, “The Leadership Challenge,” by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. These authors bring a wealth of experience in this domain from their workshops, writing, and lecturing on business leadership worldwide. They have identified ten specific behaviors of ex...

Startups Weekly: VCs are drunk on beverage startups

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s most noteworthy venture deals, fundraises, M&A transactions and trends. Let’s take a quick moment to catch up. Last week, I wrote about an alternative to venture capital called revenue-based financing and before that, I jotted down some notes on one of VCs’ favorite spaces: cannabis tech. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. This week, I want to share some thoughts — questions, rather — on beverages. Just as my inbox has been full of cannabis-related pitches, it’s also been packed with descriptions of new…drinks. Perhaps the most noted so far is Liquid Death,...

How to see another company’s growth tactics and try them yourself

Julian Shapiro Contributor Share on Twitter Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing agency that trains you to become a marketing professional. He also writes at Julian.com. More posts by this contributor How do you hire a great growth marketer? How do startups actually get their content marketing to work? Every company’s online acquisition strategy is out in the open. If you know where to look. This post shows you exactly where to look, and how to reverse engineer their growth tactics. Why is this important? Competitive analysis de-risks your own growth experiments: You find the best growth ideas to adopt and the worst ones to avoid. First, a warning: Your goal is not to repurpose another company’s hard work. That makes you a thief. Your goal is to identify other...

CoinBits launches as a passive investment app for bitcoin

Erik Finman is a twenty-something bitcoin maximalist as famous for his precocity as he is for his $12 bet on the currency a few years ago. Now, Finman, who built his first company while still in high school, is launching a new startup called CoinBits, which allows users to passively invest in bitcoin. The idea, according to Finman, is to democratize access to the currency by letting everyday folks invest nominal sums through well-known mechanisms like roundups on transactions made with a credit or debit card or through regular transactions from a customer’s savings or checking account to bitcoin through CoinBits. Every transaction also helps Finman’s own bitcoin holdings grow, and makes the young entrepreneur a little wealthier himself through his bitcoin holdings. Users can ma...

Livekick raises $3M to use live video for one-on-one training

Livekick, a startup that gives customers access to one-on-one personal training and yoga from their home (or hotel room, or elsewhere), is announcing that it has raised $3 million in seed funding. The company was founded by entrepreneur Yarden Tadmor and fitness expert Shayna Schmidt. Tadmor said that with all his travel for work, his fitness routine “really eroded,” so he contacted Schmidt and asked her to train him remotely — they’d connect via FaceTime, he’d mount his phone at the gym and she’d supervise his workout. “We trained this way for a while, and then we realized: Hey, this is something that other people can really benefit from,” Tadmor said. So with Livekick, users can sign up for one, two or three live, 30-minute sessions with a remote...

CFIUS Cometh: What this Obscure Agency Does and Why It Matters to Your Fund or Startup

Evan J. Zimmerman Contributor Evan J. Zimmerman is an entrepreneur, investor, and writer. He is the Chairman of Jovono and Chairman of the Clinton Health Access Initiative technology council. He is a partner and director in Mighty Mug/Mighty Products, Inc, and chairman of Brush Up Club, an innovative oral health company. On January 12, 2016, Grindr announced it had sold a 60% controlling stake in the company to Beijing Kunlun Tech, a Chinese gaming firm, valuing the company at $155 million. Champagne bottles were surely popped at the small-ish firm. Though not at a unicorn-level valuation, the 9-figure exit was still respectable and signaled a bright future for the gay hookup app. Indeed, two years later, Kunlun bought the rest of the firm at more than double the valuation and was planning...

Luckin leaves bitter aftertaste, now trading below IPO price

In the first few days following Luckin Coffee’s initial public offering, the stock chart for LK looked like a roller coaster. Now it’s looking more like a freefall. The Chinese Coffee chain successfully completed its highly anticipated offering roughly a week ago, raising over $550 million after pricing at $17 per share, the high end of its $15-$17 per share range. Luckin was met with a warm reception from the markets, with the stock skyrocketing roughly 20% to a greater than $5 billion market cap in its first day of trading. However, concerns over the company’s lofty valuation, major cash burn and uncertain path to profitability have caused the stock to nosedive since. Luckin has around 25% since closing its debut trading day at $20.38 per share, and 40% from its intraday peak of $25.96. ...

Why Luckin’s ultimate target may not be Starbucks

Starbucks plans to double its store count in China to 5,000 in 2021 and Luckin, a one-year-old coffee startup, is matching up by aiming to reach 4,500 by the end of this year. Luckin’s upsized $651 million flotation has brought American investors’ attention to this potential Starbucks rival in China, where the Seattle giant controlled over half of the coffee market as late as 2017. But as soon as you make your first purchase with Luckin, you realize its ultimate goal may not be to topple Starbucks. To get your caffeine intake from Luckin, the ordering process happens entirely on its app. First, you will decide how you want to fetch the drink: have it delivered within 30 minutes, pick it up at a nearby Luckin kiosk, or sit back and sip at one of its full-on cafes, or what it cal...

Change Your Management Style To Meet Today’s Culture

Change is hard. But these days it’s required and inevitable. Yet, in my daily role as an advisor to entrepreneurs and small business owners, struggling to boost revenues, profits, and earnings, I still see too many managers falling back on command-and-control, a focus on weaknesses, and not enough time for people. The result is lost productivity and a poorly engaged work force. For example, it may seem quicker and more effective to hand your service desk employees the store policy manual, and tell them to follow the rules, rather than spend time coaching them on how to really listen to customer feedback, and use their strengths to build customer loyalty. Most team members want to do the right thing, but may not have your insights or years of experience. I just finished a new book, “It’s Th...

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