Author: Steven

12 High Profile Startups That Failed Over The Past Year

By Steven

Startups are all the rage these days, with many startups getting tens of millions of dollars in funding from venture capitalists. However, the way venture capitalists do business is a little bit like gambling. They invest money in a lot of different startups, and bank on the chances of just one of them turning into the next billion dollar enterprise. A single success story can justify all of the investments that a venture capitalist has made over the course of their career because it can result in staggering returns.

This is why venture capitalism still works in spite of the fact that 90% of startups end up failing, in spite of the fact that they often get tens of millions of dollars in funding. After all, when a startup goes belly up it means that all of the money that was invested in said startup ended up getting lost as well. There are many startups that failed over the past year. We are going to look at a dozen of them in order to better understand what went wrong. It is important to note that the funding that these twelve startups received was close to a billion and a half dollars in total.

Theranos

This startup was founded back in 2003, and by the end of its tenure it was employing around fifty to sixty employees. The company manufactured blood sample collectors meant to rapidly collect and analyze samples, thus revolutionizing the medical industry. They were also researching individualized therapy meant to make it easier for people to get the medical care that they specifically needed.

Their pitch was clearly very endearing because over the course of their active period they ended up being valued at about nine billion dollars. They have received close to a billion dollars in funding before having to liquidate. The liquidation occurred because of the fact that the technology ended up not being as effective as it was claimed to be, as well as a number of scandals that the company’s CEO ended up being embroiled in.

Rethink Robotics

We have all imagined a world where human beings don’t work anymore because robots do everything for us. One of the areas where robots are going to take over first is the world of manufacturing, mostly because these are all things that can be more or less easily mechanized. Rethink Robotics was one of the companies at the forefront of this automation revolution.

Established in 2008, over the next ten years the company managed to secure over a hundred and fifty million dollars in funding, and was valued at nearly twice that amount. In spite of a solid idea in line with the zeitgeist of the time as well as a number of venture capitalists that believed in their execution of the idea, Rethink Robotics is now out of business and will no longer be a part of the aforementioned automation revolution.

Shyp

Shyp seemed to have it all. The snazzy name, the on point idea, the only place they were lacking in was execution. Shyp was a company based in the logistics industry. On demand delivery to be more precise. Much in the vein of Amazon Prime, Shyp was intended to make it easier for merchants to deliver the items they were selling anywhere in the world.

Much like every other startup on this list, Shyp had a lot going for it initially. It was valued at a hefty 275 million dollars, and had secured 60 million dollars in funding. In spite of all of this, Shyp is no longer in business. The company managed to fight it out for five years, but in the end it just wasn’t enough to topple the chokehold that Amazon and eBay already hold over this market, not to mention the fact that market is pretty saturated right now.

Apprenda

Coders and developers are a big part of the world economy. In a lot of ways they are what allow businesses to grow and maximize their potential, the only problem is that the delivery of their finished products is often haphazard and there are a myriad ways in which things could go wrong during the delivery process. Developers often lack access to the right tools to do the job as well.

Apprenda wanted to solve this using cloud based technology, creating a hub for all developers to use. The software was valued at around ninety million dollars, and had already received over fifty million in funding before it eventually had to go out of business. While useful, the software failed to bring anything new to the table, as there was already software out there that did most of the things this software was supposed to.

Airware

We have all heard of Amazon Prime experimenting with drone based delivery, with plans to normalize such systems very soon. Drones aren’t all about making deliveries, though. They are an excellent way to get information about a particular place. As it were, drones are basically the ideal way to get a bird’s eye view of a location.

Airware was working on drone technology that would do this. Their main focuses were businesses that wanted to gather some kind of aerial intelligence, and to prove that such intelligence could be genuinely actionable. Airware’s intentions of focusing on defense contracts in the future valued it at over fifty billion, but the truly incredible thing is that this tech company ended up receiving over twice the amount it was valued in funding. This was clearly done under the assumption that the company’s value would continue to grow.

Alta Motors

Not all startups provide groundbreaking ideas. Some just improve upon an existing concept. Alta Motors had a simple product: an electric motorcycle. However, it was one that was lightweight and above all else battery powered. This clearly made it an excellent choice for anyone that wanted speedy transportation in an environmentally friendly manner.

This was why the company ended up getting over forty million dollars in funding. All of those tens of millions of dollars went to waste, however, because of the fact that the product just didn’t distinguish itself enough to make the public want it. The idea was unique but it was one that should have caught on immediately, because it would not have been able to make a mark in a long term plan. The startup was valued at over fifty million dollars two years ago, though it is unknown what it’s valuation was prior to its liquidation.

Primary Data

This startup was established in the year 2013, and it ended up receiving nearly a hundred million dollars in funding over the next five years. It was based in the area of enterprise data management, and it was essentially supposed to facilitate the transmission of vast amounts of data in order to maximize the efficiency of the various corporations that operate on a global scale and need to be able to communicate with each other in an effective and brisk manner.

However, the field of enterprise data management is heavily saturated because of the fact that it has proven to be so profitable for those that have managed to find some kind of success with it. It is because of this fact that Primary Data did not manage to make its mark in this sector, in spite of its gorgeous and intuitive user interface.

CareSync

This is one startup that perhaps should not have failed as badly as it did. It had received over twenty million dollars in funding because it tackled a problem that nearly everyone faced: diagnosing random symptoms. CareSync was basically a vast compendium of medical information provided to consumers in an accessible user interface that would allow them to figure out if they were suffering from some kind of disease based on the symptoms they were experiencing.

This is something that the internet already does but it is notoriously unreliable. CareSync was supposed to be different, but it ended up falling into the same trap. A lot of symptoms are difficult to describe and happen across a wide variety of medical conditions, so it was difficult to get an accurate reading of what someone might be suffering from. This is why the technology failed to succeed in spite of the potentially revolutionary changes it could bring.

Bluesmart

This startup sounds like a textbook pitch that would be taught in universities. A unique idea tackling an often underrated market, stylish execution, all of this came together to make a pitch that ended up netting the founders of this startup thirty million dollars in funding. This was because of the fact that this company was working on suitcases that had built in gps tracking technology that worked over local data networks.

The idea was great but it ended up falling flat after a little while. Low overall public interest meant that Bluesmart eventually got bought out, ostensibly so that its GPS tracking technology could be used for some other purpose. The idea was interesting but clearly not unique enough to justify the millions that had been pumped into the company for the purposes of funding and executing it.

Lantern

Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer from mental illnesses of some kind. Lantern was an app meant to help them. It is for this reason that this company ended up being valued at thirty seven million dollars, and received over twenty million dollars in funding. It was basically a mental health coach that you could keep with you in your pocket.

It failed to provide any genuine results however which is why it ended up going out of business. The general style of therapy was not approved by any actual professionals, so the app ended up being more of a gimmick than an actual way for people with mental illnesses to attempt to get some kind of benefit from it. It still got a lot of funding though because it provided a very profitable opportunity that could have earned a lot of money if it had gone right and had perhaps been executed a little more professionally.

Raden

This is another startup that tried to make smart suitcases for the public to consume. These suitcases offered a lot of features. GPS tracking was a feature of course, but there were also a bunch of other features such as the phone charging capability. One of the most useful features of Raden suitcases was the fact that they could weigh their contents and send this information to an app. This could easily allow you to see if your baggage was over the weight limit.

In spite of all of the features and a few million dollars in funding, Raden went out of business earlier this year. This just proves that a startup with all the right features isn’t guaranteed any kind of success. There are a lot of other factors at play that can affect whether or not a startup will be able to make it big.

Fieldbook

This is one of the dryer startups on this list, but that does not mean that it did not provide a number of unique benefits to consumers. After all, it was valued at eleven million dollars, and had received three million dollars in funding. This is not a small amount of money, and it was given because Fieldbook was focused on a software that transferred spreadsheet data directly into a database.

There are a number of uses for this kind of functionality. It can help companies maintain records of transactions and employee performance as well as the various other bits of data that companies need to keep stored for later use. Fieldbook didn’t really offer a lot that was unique, though, which is probably why it was never that highly valued and ended up going out of business this year.

5 Startups That Are Revolutionizing The Tech World

By Steven

The world of tech is changing every day. We are now living in a time where robotics and artificial intelligence are poised to take the world by storm. There are a number of startups that are making enormous headway in these fields, and are revolutionizing the world in the process. This article talks about these startups and attempts to explain how they are impacting the world as a whole. Each of the five startups discussed below are headed by founders that are true leaders of their fields, and it is their vision that allows the startups to succeed to the extent that they currently have.

6 Customer Service Tips For Startups

By Steven

When your startup is first established, you are going to be working in a manner that would be quite different from your final work process when your startup is well established and profitable. Customer service is similarly going to change greatly as your startup grows, evolving to meet the ever changing needs of a customer base that is figuring out what it wants from you.

There are a lot of reasons why this is the case. To start off with, your startup is not going to have a lot of employees during its initial stages. It might very well be just you working on all of the aspects of your company on your own. Even if you have hired a few employees, they would be too few in number to compare to how things would be when your startup is earning a lot more money. After all, each employee costs money, and we’re not just talking about salaries here. Health insurance, office space, utilities, expenses, all of these costs are incurred when you have someone working for you. Hence, for the purpose of saving money, you will be making do with fewer employees in the initial stages of your startup.

Your priorities are also going to be very different during the nascent stages of your startups lifecycle. For example, customer service is not going to be very high up the list, and for good reason. You have more important things to think about, but this does not mean that communicating with customers is rendered completely useless. There is a lot to be gained from speaking to customers, and one of these very important things is customer feedback.

Your company will not be complete without the feedback of customers. This is what will help you hone your initial idea into a product that would do legitimately well in the market. It will also give you a better understanding of what customers in your target market are expecting from the products that they buy.

Hence, there is a very clear path for customer service representatives to take during the nascent stages of your startups development. Customer feedback needs to be acquired, but it also needs to be understood in a way that would make it easy to apply in the various stages of product development.

This is obviously easier said than done. In order to help you on your journey, we have compiled a list of customer service recommendations that you should apply while your startup is in its initial stages.

#1 Create a Simple Process

One of the biggest mistakes that startups make during this stage is that they spend too much time refining their workflow process. It is understandable that this is the case. You want things to run as smoothly as possible in your startup, and this is a good way to start doing that. However, most of the techniques you will use to make things more efficient in your startup are not going to be easy to scale once your company starts to grow in size.

This is why it is best to adopt a utilitarian approach at first. Make the workflow as simple as possible, get the information from your customers and pass it on to whoever needs it in order to optimize your products. The important thing to remember is that the early stages of a startup involve a lot of learning for everyone involved. You need to take this into account and let things develop organically rather than trying to force something to happen.

#2 Hold Regular Meetings

Let’s face it, nobody really likes having to go to meetings. They are often boring and a lot of bosses are notorious for holding an unnecessary number of meetings for things that can easily be discussed over an office memo or through an email or message. However, just because other bosses do this does not mean that you have to as well. You can hold pertinent meetings for things that are absolutely necessary to discuss.

The reason that meetings are important is because they can ensure that everyone is on the same page. During the early stages of your startup’s development, the team that you are going to be working with will have to be as close knit as possible. In order to bring each disparate team member closer together, meetings are going to be essential.

It is also important for you to listen to what your customers have to say. Holding regularly meetings can help you stay up to date with the needs of your customer base, and it can bring everything out in the open for the people working in product development. Overall, regular meetings are what will help you implement what you are learning from the customer feedback you are collecting.

#3 Make Problem Solving a Team Effort

Whenever a customer has a problem, your customer support team should be there to help you solve it. These are the people that most intimately understand what a customer wants. The problem with most startups is that there is a very fixed hierarchy in place, and customer support is often on the lower end of that hierarchy. This level of bureaucracy should have no place in modern startup culture.

Managing a startup means that you have a lot to handle, but in the beginning you can be single minded in your focus. The number of things that need to be managed will grow as your startup develops into a full fledged company, but during the initial stages this is not the case which allows you to focus on things like keeping your customers happy.

Hence, whenever a customer has a problem with some aspect of your products or services, you can involve the entire team in the attempt to fix whatever went wrong. This is also going to help build synergy among all of the employees of your startup. Having everyone work together like this can make the whole enterprise seem like a team effort which can do wonders for team morale.

#4 Remain Committed to Learning Everyday

Someone that runs a startup is going to be very determined to attain a significant level of forward movement. Customer feedback can often be one of the biggest roadblocks to this forward movement. It is therefore understandable that you might get frustrated by the constant revisions that you have to make to your products and services based on what your customers are saying.

However, you need to keep reminding yourself that this customer feedback is essential. This is what will allow you to learn every day. No matter how experienced you think you are, if this is your first startup you will have to get used to a different way of doing business. Once you learn how to do this, the whole process of setting things up will become a great deal easier.

That being said, remaining committed to the learning process during the initial stages is the only thing that would allow you to get to a point where you can progress fearlessly and incessantly. Don’t get wrapped up in what you want, try to focus instead on what the customer wants.

#5 Wait Before Trying to Optimize

Big companies need to optimize efficiency. Getting a ticket management system can really make things a lot more efficient, and a Zendesk alternative like Kayako is a great way to get the job done in the best way possible. It can be tempting to get right on these things and attempt to optimize for efficiency in advance. However, one thing you should keep in mind is that the optimization process is not very conducive to high quality customer service.

Once things have been streamlined in the long run, a decent level of quality can be maintained. However, the only reason companies go for this tradeoff is because of the fact that they have so many customers phoning in every day. When your company is just starting out, there is no need for you to optimize. It can actually create unnecessary roadblocks to providing high quality customer care.

Your focus should be on quality. There won’t be enough volume for efficiency to be an issue anyway, which means that you can instead focus on giving each customer special treatment. This is what will allow you to excel and develop loyal customers who will stay by your side.

Episode 120: Interview with Grace Gong, author of “The Last Key To Success”

By Steven

This week Mike, Brian and Faisal were honored to have Grace Gong author of “The Last Key To Success” on our show. From China to USA, we trace her journey and how she came to the US and eventually became an author of a book, that is crowd-contributed.

This book is a short guide for people in their 20’s trying to create a company in America. It includes 21 successful founders. In it, each founder covers about 2 out of the 13 topics below to share their opinions and personal experiences from when they started their own business.

By Grace Gong

By Steven

The Last Key Website was founded to help upcoming entreprenures solve real life problems that they are facing while creating their own companies. The book,  podcast, event and youtube videos are all aimed to help founders find information they need to succeed.

My book: If you want to learn from people who successfully raised fundings from top investors like Mark Cuban, Jerry Yang, from people who give Ted talks, get invited to the World Economic Forum, who are on the list of Forbes 30 under 30, this is the book for you.