April 20, 2012 in News

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This is How Two Best Friends Successfully Pivoted – And Stayed Best Friends

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCocktail

You may remember Hunter Gray and Michel Bayan from their work on Atlas, a real-time scheduling platform we covered a little over a year ago. To date, they were one of the only startup companies to win hottest showcasing startup at two different Tech Cocktail events.

But along the way Atlas began to stutter a little bit. To make the scheduling easier on Atlas, they built Atlas around a calendar. The issue was that users were using the bulk of their smartphone screen real estate for this calendar, and the other app features were shifted away from the main screen.

One of the other main features, messaging, was pushed to the back, and the whole process got the two thinking about in which direction they wanted the future of Atlas to go. They thought: if you’re 35 years old, or older, what’s your main method of scheduling?

The majority said it was email, but Bayan and Gray found that the younger demographics were opting for text messages. They decided then that the time was ripe for a pivot towards a messaging platform.

While the pivot was successful, Bayan and Gray found themselves in a position many other startups have before: they had the idea down, but the industry wasn’t ready to buy it yet. So, the entrepreneurs divided paths and went their separate ways.

“In a very simple nutshell, we saw Atlas going in two different directions,” says Gray. “One was the sort of b2b, people, sales, and networking, and Michel followed the path to supplying sellers with more technology.”

Fragmob was where Bayan landed post-Atlas. Founded initially in 2007 as a white-label social networking and photo sharing platform, it has since evolved into a mobile commerce and social platform with heavy emphasis on the direct selling industry.

“I had all this passion, technology, and intellectual property (IP) related to direct selling that one company [Atlas] had abandoned,” says Bayan. “I was looking for the next thing, and along came FragMob which was building mobile apps for direct sellers. The CEOs were like: “Make it and if we like it we’ll buy it.’”

Currently, they design and develop eCommerce and mCommerce solutions leveraging the FragApps platform. They formally invited Bayan on board because directly because of his experiences with Atlas.

“The industry is ready and companies are finally understanding the ideas we tried to popularize back in 2011,” says Gray.

Gray is succeeding just as well with Klutch, formerly Atlas.

“I think what Klutch is doing and what they pivoted into is amazing,” says Bayan.

He decided to continue the startup on the path of a consumer. The company has since been rebranded, and Gray recently launched their newest version of, a local friend messenger which has since been picked up by Apple as the top social networking app on the App Store.

“We had so many dissenters over the years, but we really believe that the messaging space is powerful and popular,” says Gray.

Granted, Gray might disagree with the direction that people have taken the messaging spaces, but that’s why he cleaves so tightly to Klutch. Friendship, to Gray and his team, isn’t relegated to ‘liking’ posts on Facebook.

Instead, they have built Klutch around the idea that friendship is physically meeting up. They want Klutch to be part of a movement that sees the local community stay in touch with friends and actually make plans with them.

“Have faith. Have hope. The only way you’re going to become the next Dropbox or Instagram is to believe you have a shot,” says Gray. “Obviously don’t be delusional about it, but believe deep down that you can succeed.”

Throughout the entire story of these two entrepreneurs, perhaps the most reassuring takeaway is the fact that, despite the numerous rocky roads Bayan and Gray crossed, they’re still great friends. For both of them relationships are key: that’s why they do what they do and build what they build.

“Through everything, we’re best friends,” says the entrepreneurial duo.



If Apple Makes A Move Into Mobile Payments, It Could Not Come At A Better Time

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCrunch

Apple Moscone Apple, the reports say, will add NFC technology to the iPhone 6, and it will debut a mobile wallet-style service that could include integrations with American Express, Visa and MasterCard and possibly PayPal to enable physical, in-store payments using the smartphone. Read More

Franchise Players: From Making Minimum Wage to Running the Show

September 1, 2014 in Entrepreneur Magazine, News

When she was 16, Dulce Luevano was making $5.15 working at CiCi's Pizza. Now, she owns her own shop.

Twitter’s Timeline Could Get (More) Algorithmic

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCrunch

twitter-analytics Twitter has changed significantly over the past 8 years. With every new product manager and leadership cadre there have been attempts to make it more accessible to new users and more sticky for existing ones. But the biggest changes may yet be ahead as Twitter considers altering the core of its product: the timeline. If you’ve been watching the company for a while — or have been… Read More

Design Your Mobile Strategy for the Future

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCocktail

If you had said the Facebook mobile app left something to be desired two years ago, you would find few people in disagreement. It was a slow, uninspired experience that failed not only to satisfy users, but also to make any money for the social media juggernaut.

Then, in 2012, Facebook realized it needed to revamp its mobile strategy and released a new and improved app with a pledge to focus on a more native experience. Now Facebook has more than a billion mobile users with more than half of its revenue coming from mobile ads — before, there were none. Those numbers are directly related to the shift in how it approached mobile development.

While Facebook could afford to be slow on the uptake when it came to mobile, most startups don’t have this luxury. Creating an app isn’t enough; you need to strategize for the future. Here are three key areas you can focus on to ensure that your mobile strategy will stand the test of time:

1. Go native

Creating a wrapper around your existing web app and releasing it in the App Store may seem like an easy way to appease customers and save money, but it’s a temporary solution that will only cost you more in the long run. The mobile world has different advantages and requirements than the web, and for many customers, your mobile interface is the only one they’ll see.

While the upfront cost may be greater, focusing on a native app from the start will save you the headache of finding out that your web app just isn’t cutting it. It’ll also improve your App Store reviews and entice more people to test it out. Your app should be a joy to use on the phone, not just an OK experience.

2. Listen to your users

When the interactive music service Turntable.fm first launched, it was a runaway success. Tech experts were raving about it, and users loved the communal experience. But nearly as quickly as it rose to fame, Turntable.fm’s popularity faded, and it finally shut down last year.

Al Harnisch, my colleague and Prolific Interactive’s product strategist, was an early adopter of Turntable.fm. Al noted that the service not only had a web interface, but it also had iOS and Android apps, funding, and a soaring user base.

“Many people would use the app for countless hours a day as their primary way to listen to music,” Harnisch said. “It was completely addictive, and the opportunity was enormous.”

But there was a major reason for Turntable.fm’s decline: failing to listen to its users.

“They wanted a more stable mobile app, better playlist management, and less restriction on what music could and couldn’t be played,” Harnisch said. “Instead, Turntable.fm wasted its time on bells and whistles such as virtual stickers and cosmetic improvements that failed to address the underlying issues.”

Even if an app is adored out of the gate, users will eventually notice what it lacks, and if your team isn’t prepared to take user input into account, you risk losing them.

3. Keep the checkout line

For shopping apps, a major pain point can be the checkout process. Either it kicks you out of the app completely, forcing you to complete the purchase through a browser, or it goes back to a web interface and fails to capitalize on the opportunities a native app provides.

Failing to develop for the whole purchase process is failing to collect money from willing customers. Offering to store credit cards for future purchases or track shipments in-app (complete with push notifications) can not only entice new customers, but it can also create repeat customers.

Mobile is no longer an afterthought, and it certainly isn’t something you can forgo. With the right approach, mobile has the power to transform your business and bring it more success than you thought possible. You just have to commit to designing for the future.

Bobby Emamian is the cofounder and CEO of Prolific Interactive, a strategy-led mobile agency headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in San Francisco, as well. A former college athlete, Bobby’s competitive nature and mix of technical, business, strategic, and managerial skills account for Prolific’s rapid growth in the mobile industry. Bobby and his team have worked with prominent companies, including ModCloth, Thrillist, Rent the Runway, Hewlett-Packard, and the NBA.

Vandrico Wants To Become The Wearables Platform For The Workplace

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCrunch

unnamed (4) If you know about Vandrico, it’s probably because of the company’s cool wearables database we featured earlier this year. That was just a byproduct of Vandrico’s research, however. What the company is really about is bringing wearables into the workplace. Read More

Early bitcoin entrepreneur and accused Silk Road money launderer Charlie Shrem to enter plea deal this week

September 1, 2014 in News, Pando Daily

bitcoin handcuffs

Eight months after his arrest at JFK International Airport on charges including conspiracy to commit money laundering, early bitcoin evangelist, BitInstant.com founder, and former Bitcoin Foundation Vice Chairman Charlie Shrem is set to accept a plea deal. His attorneys tell Reuters that the plea will be entered this Thursday, September 4th. Shrem’s trial is scheduled to begin on September 22nd.

Under the deal, Shrem will plead to a lesser charge of aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmission, and see all other charges related to money laundering and breach of the bank secrecy dropped. In the process, Shrem will reduce his maximum sentence from 25 years in prison to just five years, although it remains unknown what terms his lawyers have secured under the deal and how the judge will ultimately hand down sentencing.

Shrem’s arrest and indictment trace back to the Silk Road online marketplace, where he allegedly participated in a scheme to sell bitcoin to known criminals, such as drug dealers. Shrem didn’t deal with these criminals directly, instead providing bitcoin to his co-defendant, Robert Faiella, who operated a underground bitcoin exchange called BTCKing (alternatively BTC-KinG). Faiella is accused of then selling these bitcoin to Silk Road users. There’s no word on whether Faiella will pursue his own plea deal or whether Shrem’s deal requires that he testify against Faiella.

Given his one-time standing in the bitcoin community, it’s possible that Shrem provided authorities with other valuable information on the virtual currency ecosystem. He was known to be a friend and advisor to former Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles. Between this and Shrem’s likely knowledge of the inner-workings of the Silk Road community, if not its accused kingpin, 30-year-old Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts, it’s likely that he would have information that law enforcement and federal prosecutors would find valuable. Ulbricht’s trial is due to begin on November 3rd.

Up until his arrest, Shrem had been considered an icon in the bitcoin ecosystem. In addition to his seat on the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, he attracted investment for his BitInstant startup from the Winklevoss brothers, who were among earliest and most zealous high-profile believers in bitcoin.

Despite initially being placed under house arrest, Shrem saw the terms of his release on bail eased and has been able to remain active in the bitcoin community. He has been a featured speaker at several conferences and industry events, and has also worked as a consultant to other virtual currency businesses. Shrem has remained an active participant in the r/Bitcoin subreddit, including over this weekend following the news of his plea deal.

In some ways, Shrem is a victim of naivety and of being early to a sector that was unregulated and for which the rules were unknown. Many early bitcoin entrepreneurs wrongly believed that their businesses weren’t subject to money transmission laws, and behaved as such. But by being a high profile and highly vocal proponent of bitcoin, Shrem drew attention to himself. He also flaunted his bitcoin wealth by purchasing a Manhattan bar called EVR (“ever”) and had a habit of saying ill-advised things, such as telling one journalist, “I won’t hire you unless I drink with you or smoke weed with you—that’s a 100 percent fact.” In other words, this is in many ways a mess of his own making.

It will be up to the judge during Thursday’s plea hearing to determine final sentencing. Shrem has asked the bitcoin community for support in writing letters to the judge prior to his sentencing. Given that he is one of the earliest and most high-profile arrests in this controversial sector, the reality is that he may be made an example of. This could include Shrem spending time in prison, but it also could result in restrictions on his ability to work in regulated financial sectors, potentially limiting his future involvement in bitcoin. We should know more by the end of the week.

In the meantime, this development brings to a close another of the high profile fiascos that plagued bitcoin earlier this year, at a time when the virtual currency was seeking legitimacy in the eyes of the general public and regulators alike.

Michael Carney

Michael Carney_PandoDaily
Michael Carney is a West Coast Editor at PandoDaily, covering venture capital, financial technologies, ecommerce, the future of television, and a variety of other subjects. He has spent his career exploring the world of early stage technology as an investor and entrepreneur, working in multiple countries within North and South America and Asia. He is an enthusiast of all things shiny and electronic and is inspired by those who build businesses and regularly tackle difficult problems. You can follow Michael on Twitter @mcarney.

Tech Cocktail Top Stories: The Hoodie is Dead, Features to Expect from iPhone 6, Speakers at Tech Cocktail Celebrate!

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCocktail

Happy Labor Day! Did you miss out on one (or five) of Tech Cocktail’s posts from this week? It’s okay. We want to let you know that we forgive you; we totally get it. You’re a busy person, with a lot of things on your mind and equally as many things to do. You had people to meet, places to be, and tacos to eat. No worries, though, because we’ve curated this week’s top 10(ish) posts as determined by the Tech Cocktail editorial team. Need more Tech Cocktail? Sign up for the Tech Cocktail newsletter today, and get the weekly wrap-up direct to your inbox.

Here are this week’s Tech Cocktail Top Stories:

  1. Style Guide for Startup Guys (Part 1): The Hoodie is Dead: Part 1 of a 4-part series on how guys at startups should be dressing. Is the hoodie dead? Or is there a way we can pull it off?
  2. List of 15 Features to Expect in iPhone 6: Here’s a round-up of what we’ve learned so far about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6.
  3. How Not to Give Boring Presentations: What makes the difference for a great presentation – the presenter or the presentation itself? Read these tips on what you can do to keep your audience engaged.
  4. 23 Entrepreneurs Share Their Favorite Form of Caffeine: Redbull or espresso? Coffee or tea?
  5. Announcing Our First Batch of Speakers for Tech Cocktail Celebrate!: This week, we announced the first set of speakers that will be presenting at our upcoming conference Tech Cocktail Celebrate!
  6. 6 Fitness Apps to Keep You Healthy: From fitness tracking to guides on workouts, here are the 6 fitness apps you should give a try.
  7. 6 Damn Good Reasons to Startup in Buenos Aires: What do you get when you combine a low cost of living and a high quality of tech talent? Buenos Aires.
  8. Steve Case Announces Second ‘Rise of the Rest’ Road Trip: After the success of his first trip, Steve Case announced this week that he’ll be going on a second trip; this time, through five cities in the Midwest.
  9. 10 Startup Unveil at Techstars Chicago Demo Day: The 10 startups from Techstars Chicago’s Summer 2014 class pitched at Demo Day this week.
  10. The Dawn of the Experience Era: What is the “Experience Era”, and what do you need to know about it?
  11. Two Ways to Look at the NYC Tech Scene: We analyze the current state of NYC’s tech scene and look into the duality of the perceptions of the ecosystem.

Like what you’re reading? Have some great knowledge and think you have what it takes to write some great content for others in the startup or tech space? Then, consider writing for us!

It’s finally here! Our book is available now – order your copy of Startup Mixology: Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success!

Are you ready to Celebrate? Come meet the hottest startups and investors at this year’s Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference on October 6th and 7th in downtown Las Vegas. Apply to attend!

Interested in coming to a Tech Cocktail event? Check out our Tech Cocktail calendar here. Hope to see you whenever!

Franchise Players: Why One Franchise Wasn’t Enough

September 1, 2014 in Entrepreneur Magazine, News

Passion for her product drove Sanden Andrews to open up four Smoothie King shops.

What Students Really Carry Back To School

September 1, 2014 in News, TechCrunch

BacktoSchool4 Back-to-school stories are click fodder. They allow for marketers to feel they are directly addressing a group of easy marks. After all, when is your life more insecure than on the cusp of a grade change or a trip to college? The world, then, is in upheaval, you hunt for answers, sometimes in the pages of periodicals that offer wine aerators and coffee subscriptions as potential sources of… Read More