Google has partnered with Startup Weekend to launch an updated five week curriculum for the NEXT pre-accelerator program, designed to teach startup founders how to engage with new customers, investors, partners and potential employees.
The curriculum is delivered through workshop-style classes and independent assignments, alongside weekly video lectures created by renowned Silicon Valley enterpreneur Steve Blank and supplemental readings.
A course instructor will be assigned to each participant, who will then arrange a weekly three-hour workshop for presenting “their customer discovery insights” and receiving critical feedback from their mentors and peers.
The NEXT organisers argue that the curriculum is unique because it reiles on peer accountability, “the most effective and direct way to expose potential risk areas for ventures and challenge any pre-existing assumptions that participants may have.”
The ‘customer discovery’ premise for the curriculum feels quite abstract and philosophical, but it’s been designed to help early startup founders think about how they can develop a product with the consumer’s perspective and priorities in mind.
The program is being ‘powered’ by Google for Entrepreneurs, along with a number of partners familiar to the tech startup community; TechStars, Startup Weekend, the Startup America Partnership, Udacity and the Global Accelerator Network (GAN).
Startup Weekend launched the NEXT program in over 25 cities in November last year, and a quick check of the registration webpage shows classes available in Greece, Iceland and Columbia, to name just a few.
With Google on board though, the program will be given an extra dose of credibility and fresh ideas. The technology giant says it will expand the program over the course of the year, and help NEXT experts use Google+ Hangouts to train local instructors around the world.
The partnership between Google and Startup Weekend isn’t too surprising though. The latter already runs much of its European operations from inside Campus London, a seven-storey startup hub set up by Google in East London this time last year.
Image Credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images
Originally posted here: Google partners with Startup Weekend to expand NEXT, a pre-accelerator for ‘customer discovery’
As a recent new mom, I make finding the best products, toys, food, and more for the baby a full-time job. For example, when I was shopping for baby strollers, I emailed anyone and everyone who had a baby in the past two years and created a Google spreadsheet of all the top strollers, with prices and ratings and reviews from friends. The fact is that product recommendations from fellow parents are invaluable. SunnyBump, a new Chicago-based startup that has been incubated by Lightbank with $375,000 in funding, wants to bring these conversations online. The site is essentially a Pinterest for expecting/new parents where you can actually purchase items straight from the site.
You can discover, collect, share (or “bump”) and buy all types of products related to your new baby. You can follow other people, read reviews and recommendations/advice from the community of parents, industry experts, brands and manufacturers.
Similar to Pinterest, each user has a profile where saved and shared items will appear, and users can also create themed collections. Users can even create a baby registry or “wish list”of gifts.
As the founders explain to me, one of the unique aspects of what they are trying to do is actually get expert advice on products, and have partnered with parenting experts such as Baby Gizmo, Sara Haley, Grandparents.com, and Lactation Partners to source products.
From a monetization standpoint, baby product manufacturers like Bugaboo, Baby Jogger, and Bumbleride, are also participating in the site to showcase their recommendations.
As we mentioned above, what separates Sunnybump from some of the competitors (including Pinterest) is that you can actually buy all the items listed on the site online. Brands like this, say the founders, because recommendations and sharing can turn into real conversions.
Original post: Lightbank-Backed SunnyBump Is A Pinterest For Baby Products
After nearly being eradicated when the Dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the Brazilian startup community has been slow to come back. However, over the last two years, growth has been accelerating and Brazil’s startups seem poised to make a comeback. As Roi pointed out recently, the support ecosystem for young businesses in Brazil is still thin and plenty of friction remains (like high labor costs and inflexible legislation), but the potential is big and getting bigger — and venture capital is beginning to flow as a result.
The examples are becoming more numerous, as startups like the angel-backed Printi, which is trying to create a web-based Kinko’s for the local market, the Founders Fund and Social+Capital-backed online learning platform, Descomplica, Atomico-funded “Internet of Things” player Evrythng, the Redpoint-backed “TechCrunch of Brazil,” Startupi and Accel and Tiger Global-funded, baby-focused eCommerce startup Baby.com — to name a few.
As Internet-connectivity proliferates, along with its startup community, Brazil has seen an explosion in its eCommerce market. Forrester, for example, estimates that Brazilian eCommerce will increase 18 percent year-over-year, with total sales expected to hit $22 billion by 2016. While Baby.com.br has seen a lot of buzz since launching in 2011, it’s not the only startup looking to capitalize on Brazil’s exploding eCommerce market.
Founded in December 2009, Bebestore, one of the original baby and children-focused online marketplaces in Brazil, is today announcing a big raise of its own, having recently closed a $10.2 million round of series B financing, led by W7 Capital and Atomico. This adds to the $7.8 million Atomico invested in the startup’s series A round, bringing its total capital to $17.8 million.
Since receiving its first investment from Atomico in December 2011, the founders tell us, Bebestore has quadrupled its revenue and now offers over 45,000 items in its store. As of January, the company’s run rate was $21.4 million, with month-over-month revenue growth at 20 percent in January.
So, the business is continuing to grow, and it’s finding that Brazilian parents, especially among the younger generation are increasingly turning to the Web to find affordable products that can be shipped quickly, rather than the alternative. As one of the early movers, Bebestore opted for the broad approach, offering a range of parent-focused products — from strollers, shoes and diapers for toddlers to products for moms (beauty products, accessories, etc) and clothes, toys and games for kids.
Initially a port of the Diapers.com model, Bebestore has become more focused on value-add products like clothes, toys and accessories, the founders tell us, rather than lower-margin products like diapers. And, like Baby.com.br, the company has been determined to implement a social strategy by becoming a resource for parents on Facebook, beyond simply being an eCommerce marketplace.
But, with seemingly such similar models, how does Bebe Store see itself as different from Baby.com.br, its main competitor? The founders tell us that the company is more focused on higher-end products in major cities, particularly in the southeast part of Brazil, whereas it sees Baby.com using diapers as its anchor product, cross-selling other products, while focusing on the northern regions of Brazil, particularly more rural areas.
In turn, Baby.com.br also recently launched dinda.com.br, which is essentially a flash sales model for baby-related products, while the founders say that Bebe Store has no intention of pursuing the flash sales model.
While these are relatively small differences, Brazil is so big geographically with such a large (and increasingly connected) population, there’s plenty of room for more than kid-focused e-Commerce player. Who will own the most market share? That remains to be seen, but there’s definitely a land grab coming.
For more, find Bebe Store at home here.
Anyone who’s tried their hand at designing a typeface will know it’s a wildly difficult process, and to actually come out at the end with something attractive takes an extreme amount of skill, taste and patience.
Type design isn’t for everyone, but typography is, and nearly every designer works with it every day. This is exactly why Type Release creator Sean Mitchell is here to share with you a list of 32 beautiful typefaces, all of which were released over the last month. These are his findings:
A highly refined neo-grotesque sans-serif based on Helvetica and its modern-day variants.
Y Combinator-backed Vimessa launched in late 2011 with a free video voicemail app for the iPhone that allowed users to send high-def video messages to any cell number or email address. The idea was to make video messaging work on any mobile device or desktop. But, despite the early buzz around the product, rules are rules: 90 percent of startups fail.
The nature of its one-to-one viral mechanic meant that it was difficult for Vimessa to build a significant user base and it never found the adoption or revenue companies now need to survive the series A crunch. Because Vimessa — and really every startup ever launched — struggle with the issue of user retention (at some point), co-founders Peter Clark and Cesar Alaniz are today officially announcing Userfox — a service that aims to help startups integrate drip, inactivity and trigger emails.
Essentially, Userfox is, in software-speak, “user retention-as-a-service” for startups. Marketers want ownership over email and because editing messages in Git is no walk in the park, Clark says, Userfox aims to help developers and technical teams focus on the product. Typically, startups use Mailchimp, Sendgrid and just build email solutions themselves, so the goal is to bring those elements together in one place.
Userfox offers newsletter management — like the ability to send newsletters to a particular segment of your audience — along with Sendgrid-style transactional emails, which enable teams to edit and manage templates from a user interface rather than the code base and retention and behavioral email campaigns.
“We want to be a more affordable, more design-centric, easier-to-set-up version of Marketo,” Clark tells us. The co-founders want to provide teams with a better (and better looking) alternative to solutions like Marketo, Responsys and Constant Contact — to name a few — by bringing these email types together to give them more control.
These retention-driven emails can “increase engagement by 33 percent, Clark says — plus, it means no more using old email templates or sending emails to users that have unsubscribed, and that’s a positive in and of itself. After all, it’s the little frustrations (and errant emails) that, when taken in aggregate, push users away and add up to higher attrition.
Up until now, Userfox has been in quiet beta, during which it has been sending two million emails per month from “hundreds of customers,” and is tracking “tens of millions of events,” the co-founders tell us. In order to pull back the curtain and accelerate its own early adoption, Userfox has raised $700K in seed funding from a handful of investors, including Y Combinator, Andrew Chen, Point Nine Capital, Yee Lee and 500 Startups, to name a few.
After a free 30-day trial, Userfox’s solution starts at $49/month for 5K messages, a welcome campaign and two custom HTML email themes, and scales up from there at $119/month for “Premium” and so on. Next up, Userfox wants to add A/B testing and API access to propagate data as part of its advanced plans. [More on pricing here.]