The Founders is a documentary web series that follows the adventures of tech startups pursuing their dreams in Techstars in Boulder during the summer of 2012. Season three features Birdbox, ROXIMITY and Ubooly. Episodes post on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. MST. Catch up on all of the episodes for season three here.
— techstars (@techstars) October 4, 2012
We recycle just about everything here in Boulder, Colorado. Leave it to Ubooly, a Boulder based company out of the most recent Techstars class, to come up with smart solutions for reusing your old smart phone. Now that you have upgraded to the iPhone 5, here are some practical ways to recycle your old device:
Please feel free to recycle this blog post!
Ubooly is one of the companies featured on the third season of the web documentary series The Founders.
From the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure website:
We are extremely excited to welcome our 2nd Accelerator class to the Microsoft Accelerator, powered by Techstars. We screened over 600 startups to find these ten startups. As with the Kinect Accelerator that recently ended this past June, we were overwhelmed by both the quality and the quantity of applications we received.
This is a global class. The selected startups have travelled from Australia, Germany, San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles to join local startups from Bellevue and Seattle, Washington. This Accelerator class will focus on building businesses that are enabled by Windows Azure: Microsoft’s cloud platform. Their working space is in Microsoft’s state-of-the-art facility in South Lake Union, Seattle’s tech hub.
The founders, developers and teams of these ten startups will dedicate their entire resources on their company for 13 weeks. Seasoned entrepreneurs, venture capitalist and leaders within Microsoft will be mentoring them every step of the way. There will be lots of perks, including free software and cloud services, technical support, marketing training and, probably most critically, plenty of free coffee.
But all caffeine aside, this is not just a trend. Microsoft is a huge software company that realizes that innovation and economic recovery will come from startups. It makes total sense to help as many of them as we can. The best way to do that, for now, is through a highly targeted and highly focused approach.
MobileDevHQ is the best mobile app marketing tool for app store optimization. Think of it as SEO for applications. Currently in the Seattle program of Techstars, CEO Ian Sefferman says they are building a mobile app marketing platform, similar to HubSpot or SEOmoz but specific to applications. MobileDevHQ is an SaaS product and you can try them free for 30 days.
Q: You applied to Techstars in 2011 and became a finalist but weren’t accepted. Why is 2012 the successful year?
A: I think we were accepted this time for two reasons. The team meaningfully changed. We brought on Patrick Haig for business development. He had joined as an intern for us while he was in law school and in his first three months, he closed $50,000 in sales. He deferred his last year of law school to work with us full time. Our product had also changed a lot. We were originally focused on helping users find applications. Now we’re 100% focused on helping app publisher and marketers nail their organic app marketing. We streamline the process for them to rank higher in search in the app store. When you use MobileDevHQ and someone types in a search query, your app shows up first or second in the search results.
Q: What’s it like to manage revenue while you’re also heads down in Techstars accelerating your business?
A: It’s really interesting and hard. The first week of Techstars was a bit of a struggle. We were a little overwhelmed by the amount of meetings we had and balancing that with our existing customers created some stress. Now we’re able to manage our time more meaningfully.
Q: Are you constantly aware of the market for whom you’re building MobileDevHQ?
A: Yes, our target customer is any app developer and marketer. We think that our data is valuable to two sets of customers: indie developers and enterprise. Without too much effort on our part, the enterprise tool is catered towards large clients and the self serve is more helpful to independent folks looking to understand their metrics. The process is twofold. First we ask, how are you doing? What is your application and who are your competitors? What are the search terms you care about? We’re able to check where you rank and how it’s affected over time. It’s the easiest way of understanding your performance in the app store. Second, once you understand how you’re performing, we have insights built into our tool, i.e. these are the best views for which you you should be optimizing, titles and keywords that matter.
Q: Post-Techstars, will you stay in Seattle?
A: We love Seattle and we’re going to be sticking around, building a big, awesome business in this great city.
The Founders is a documentary web series that follows the adventures of tech startups pursuing their dreams in Techstars in Boulder during the summer of 2012. Season three features Birdbox, ROXIMITY and Ubooly. Episodes post on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. MST and at the same time every week until the season concludes. Season three is available now.
— techstars (@techstars) September 27, 2012
The Founders is a documentary web series that follows the adventures of tech startups pursuing their dreams in Techstars during the summer of 2012. The first episode of Season 3 will be posted tomorrow, Thursday, September 27th at 10:00 a.m. MST and at the same time every week after until the season concludes. Check out the variety of content hosted on Techstars TV.
Founded by Jordan Fliegel, a former professional basketball player and longtime private coach, and Arian Radmand, an experienced sailing instructor and software engineer, CoachUp.com is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts and is currently in the second Boston Techstars program for 2012. CoachUp has the most sports private coaches in the nation and helps athletes achieve their full potential by connecting them with great private coaches. The independent coaches who list their services on the CoachUp.com platform take advantage of CoachUp’s digital marketing, scheduling, payment processing, client review gathering, and sophisticated profile pages to find new clients and manage their private coaching business. There is no fee to join and CoachUp doesn’t take any money from the coach’s earnings. Jordan Fliegel and I talked during their 3rd week at Techstars.
Q: Your understanding of the power of one-on-one coaching was the catalyst for CoachUp. At what point did basketball coaching as a side gig turn into this full-fledged business?
A: I gave private lessons in basketball on the side while I was in college, during the summers while home from playing professional basketball overseas, during business school, and have continued to coach every weekend to this day through CoachUp. After business school I worked at a venture-backed online marketplace, and then left in September of last year to build CoachUp, applied to Techstars right away, got rejected, worked hard on the business, recruited a team, launched the site in May, applied to Techstars again, and was very excited to get in!
Q: Where did you first meet Arian?
A: He was introduced to me by my best friend, Jeremy Levine of StarStreet (Boston Spring 2010 Techstars company). He had met Arian and realized it could be a great fit right around the time I was looking for a full-time technical co-founder. Arian had the same understanding and pain that I had about basketball with sailing; he loved it and and when he was younger, didn’t know how to get better. He began sailing when he was eight years old and his parents didn’t know how to help him improve. He ended up sailing in college at Boston University and received regular coaching, recognized the value of it, and wished it were available to him when he was just getting started in the sport. Arian, along with Gabe Durazzo (CoachUp’s Lead Engineer and first hire) make an exceptionally strong technical team, and I am truly lucky to get to work with them, along with our other six talented team members, every day.
Q: I can’t help but make this comparison. Your philosophy of coaches being able to make all the difference for an athlete’s ability is eerily similar to the Techstars belief that deep mentorship is invaluable to founders. What’s the mentorship process been like so far?
A: Alec Stern comes to mind, he’s been so available to us. Mike Troiano has been schooling us in marketing, storytelling and branding. Sheila Marcelo has been extremely helpful with all things fundraising and marketplace building. Sean Lindsey has been helpful with our development team. I could go on and on with other mentors in the Cambridge and Techstars communities, including many of the Techstars alums: Jeremy Levine (StarStreet) Will Sulinski (AccelGolf), Dan Sullivan (Crowdly), Ziad Sultan (Marginize), Chris Howard (Libboo). All of these different people with various strengths are helping us get so much better.
Q: What will you be focused on during the remainder of your time in Techstars?
A: We have acquired lots of coaches (over 5000 now and growing) and customers and revenue are all up and to the right. We have a great eight person team in place. Our goals in Techstars are to get more data on our primary assumptions, test out a few additional customer channels, optimize our various conversion funnels, and then get some sleep!
CoachUp is hiring a qualified engineer (preferably fluent in Ruby on Rails) and a superstar marketing person to manage CMO duties (bonus points if you love sports). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume and interest.
The Founders is a documentary web series that follows the adventures of tech startups pursuing their dreams in Techstars during the summer of 2012. The first episode of Season 3 will be posted on Thursday, September 27th at 10:00 a.m. MST and at the same time every week after until the season concludes.
How’s your golf game? Would you like it to be better? There’s an app for that. UberSense announced today that they have raised $1.1 million and released a new version of their app.
UberSense co-founders Krishna Ramchandran and Amit Jardosh met in 2004 in the UC Santa Barbara Computer Science Ph.D program. Career paths took them to opposite coasts after graduation and years later they have taken on a big professional opportunity to collaborate building technology that changes the way people learn sports. The driving force behind their current collaboration started when Krishna started hitting the driving range three years ago.
“I started playing golf. I wanted to play like Tiger Woods. I quickly ran into a pretty serious problem…I really sucked.”
He began building his first app for personal use and Amit helped flush out some features. When they felt they had come up with something useful, they tossed it up on the Apple Store. Without any promotion or advertising, ‘SwingReader’ started climbing the ‘Top Paid Apps’ list. They knew they were on to something. Preliminary research revealed that there are 100 million kids and adults who, like Krishna, aspire to be better athletes. Those people spend $6 billion on sports coaching in the U.S. alone.
“All of these people face the same problems I did. It’s very hard to see what you’re doing wrong and it’s hard to fix what you cannot see. We solved this by combining video and collaboration in a mobile application. It’s like putting a personal coach in the palm of your hand.”
Users record their performance using a mobile device and the app uploads it to the UberSense global community. Then athletes give each other tips. Unlike traditional video, the slow motion playback and replay functions are smooth and don’t skip any frames. The system also provides the option to hire a professional (located anywhere in the world) to analyze your video. UberSense provides the tools for coaches to play back, stop the frame at precise moments, mark the video with drawings, record a voiceover audio, and press “send” to return the commentary back to the student as a new video.
Over time, the proceeds from app sales grew to the point that profits covered their rent. Then their profit increased enough to bring on one or two employees and pay founder salaries with enough zeros that ramen could be cut out of their diet entirely. Going through user videos, they stumbled onto Major League Baseball and Olympic teams using the software for training. Doing well on their own, Amit and Krishna still wanted to be better entrepreneurs just as they badly as they had wanted to become better athletes.
As their users gained a competitive edge by hiring a professional coach, they saw that Techstars could give their business a competitive advantage. They applied and were accepted for a spot in the Boston class for spring of 2012.
As soon as Techstars began, the power of mentorship kicked in, helping them understand the fundamentals and improve the business in concrete ways. There were a few big takeaways:
- Product Development
The first lesson was that a simple product was a better product. Mentors stressed that having a lot of features was not nearly as important as doing a few key things really, really well. Krishna and Amit cut bookmarking and tempo tracking, which were features being used by only 5% of users. With hundreds of thousands of users, 5% is a lot of people and the team got deluged with emails. After three weeks, users upset by the change were still active and the company had eliminated two high maintenance, low yield features.
Mentors Justin Siegel and Will Herman stressed the importance of integrating data collection into their processes. Coming into the program, Krishna says they didn’t understand what users were doing, beyond anecdotal feedback.“User acquisition was a hazy concept until we started building metrics into the development process.”
- Community Growth
The information provided by the metrics was an eye opener. The range of activities to which users were applying the technology was broader than anticipated. With more than 20 sporting categories represented, the direction of the company shifted to building an inclusive platform. The data also told the story of how people were discovering UberSense apps through word of mouth and consistently high ratings in the Apple Store. Switching from passive growth to deliberate outreach was the next logical step. They put more focus on creating reputation badges and monetary incentive structures. The biggest lift was seen after upgrading social media sharing features. During the program, the aggregate number of videos uploaded increased by 66%, going from 3 million to 5 million.
When investors got wind of these numbers, the tables turned and many firms pitched for the opportunity to participate in their next funding round. Fred Destin of Atlas Venture talks about how he saw the Techstars coaching pay-off while negotiating his firm’s investment:
“What impresses us about Techstars companies is that they are more than ideas and output. Team, technology, and traction is a part of every one of these companies. UberSense is a great example of that. They keep raising more money but that’s because they have already built businesses that they are, to a certain extent, scaling. Techstars trains companies well on how to qualify investors. UberSense put us through the grinder – making sure we were aligned on strategy, on tactics, that they understood our seed strategy. We actually went through our whole portfolio with them and finally when every box was ticked, Krishna agreed to take our money.”
Looking back on the progress made in just three months, Krishna credits his team’s growth to the supportive environment in which mentors pushed them outside of their comfort zone.
“If an entrepreneur asks me if the Techstars program was worth it, I’m like…‘Are you kidding?’ Techstars cost us 6% of our equity but the value of our company increased many, many times over.” While the company net worth went up, Krishna’s golf handicap is down by 15 strokes.
Next stop: hole in one.
If you’re a startup not located in Silicon Valley, how do you attract investment interest from investors that call the Valley home? Techstars mentor and SoftTech VC founder Jeff Clavier tells us about the qualities investors look for in companies that are geographically outside of the bubble.
This video is a part of Techstars U, a series of quick and easy videos to help catapult your startup to the next level. These videos are hosted at Techstars TV with a variety of entrepreneurial related topics. For more on acquisition, see David Cohen’s blog post here.