Entrepreneurial

from MediaFile:

Online education site raises $3 mil in a round led by Groupon founders

Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell have invested in online educational site (with one complicate name) Udemy through their venture capital fund Lightbank. Udemy just announced a $3 million Series A round of financing led by Lightbank that also includes funding from MHS Capital and 500 Startups.

Udemy plans to use the money for hiring and marketing and biz development.

Udemy "the academy of you" offers 6,000 courses covering all sorts of hobby-related subjects like social marketing, how to build a iPhone app, and Art 100 in addition to more traditional topics like intro to psychology. About 90 percent of Udemy's courses are free.

Online education is a pretty hot sector now -- just go ask the Washington Post and its Kaplan division which for the most part has been the driver of growth behind the company synoumous with Watergate and newspapers . Even News Corp is getting in on the act and set up an education unit focused on technology last year.

The $3 million round follows $1 million in funding from MHS Capital, 500 Startups, and several other individual investors.

 

Chicago’s startup community sticks by struggling Groupon

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

Not long ago, daily deals giant Groupon was the toast of Chicago, a press darling that received the blessing of Oprah Winfrey, was commended by Forbes as the “fastest growing company ever,” and even reportedly spurned a multibillion-dollar buyout offer from Google.

A Chicago Tribune headline from last December summed up its place in the ecosystem: “Groupon’s Success Adds Luster to Chicago’s Startup Community.”

Sittercity founder to launch “social recommendation engine”

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Genevieve Thiers is not a household name in Silicon Valley, but many Chicagoans know her as the founder of Chicago-based Sittercity, a 10-year-old online subscription-service that marries families to caregivers around the country for help with their children, pets, and aging parents.

Thiers is also among a small, but growing number of second-time entrepreneurs beginning to emerge from Chicago’s young, but maturing tech scene. Next month, Thiers officially launches her newest startup, Contact Karma, with co-founder Maureen Wozniak (no relation to Apple co-founder Steve).

from Reuters Money:

Raw deal: Why Groupon might be bad for business

When Fan Bi wanted to get the word out about his new company, Blank Label, he instantly thought of popular daily-deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. By offering a healthy discount for custom-designed dress shirts, “it wouldn’t cost us anything up-front, and we’d get all these new customers,” Bi remembers. “It sounded like a no-brainer.”

So he signed up with the deal site BuyWithMe, offering $100 gift certificates for $50. Only thing is, the discount worked a little too well. Almost 250 customers snapped them up, and after the deal site took its cut, “we were losing around six dollars a shirt,” he says. “If we’re losing money on every single order, it’s not even worth doing.”

It’s a common refrain from merchants who are testing out the increasingly popular daily-deal sites. For customers, as long as you actually cash in the coupon, it’s often a terrific bargain; for business owners, it can be a riskier gamble than they realize.

Is Airbnb growing too fast?

– Connie Loizos is a contributor to PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This story originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

Airbnb is on a tear. Three years after the San Francisco-based company began inviting real people to list for rent their homes and apartments, castles and houseboats, users have booked 1.9 million nights in more than 184 countries; bookings are growing an astonishing 40 percent month over month; and roughly 1,000 new properties are entered into its system each day.

The company is growing so fast, in fact, that it’s reportedly raising $100 million at a whopping $1 billion valuation — a mighty addition to the $8 million in capital it has previously raised from Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, and numerous individuals.

Note to entrepreneurs: Your idea is not special

– Brad Feld is a managing director at the Boulder, Colorado-based venture capital firm Foundry Group. He also co-founded TechStars and writes the popular blog, Feld Thoughts. The views expressed are his own. –

Every day I get numerous emails from software and Internet entrepreneurs describing their newest ideas.

Often these entrepreneurs think their idea is brand new – that no one has ever thought of it before. Other times they ask me to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect their idea. Occasionally the emails mysteriously allude to the idea without really saying what it is.

Silicon Valley recruiter on tech hiring frenzy: “Everyone’s desperate”

Robert Greene, the founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based GreeneSearch Inc, specializes in recruiting hands-on talent for technology-focused companies, primarily startups. He provided his perspective on the current boom in technology hiring.

Q: How would you characterize the tech hiring market now?
A: It’s very competitive right now. It’s been like that for a while; it’s probably heated up even more of late. You have the bigger companies – Groupon, Zynga, Google, LinkedIn, companies that have been proven and successful – and then you have all these startups.
The supply doesn’t meet the demand.

Q: Is there an advantage to being a small company?
A: The advantage they have over those (big) companies is that they can move really quickly. They’ll do everything in a day and make an offer and hope that person will accept right away before they get into the bigger companies. Those are their selling points. They have to move quickly, they have to be agile, have to have the compelling story, have to give equity, along with competitive salaries.

from MediaFile:

Are we living through another tech bubble?

By Kevin O'Connor

The views expressed are his own.

Yesterday’s announcement that Groupon is planning an IPO has accelerated the view (at least in some quarters) that we are living through a second tech bubble, fueled by social media companies.

Perhaps we are, but the conclusions to draw from that are not so simple. I still remember the negative reaction we received from potential investors back in 1995 concerning our forecast for Internet growth.  Well, they were right – our forecasts were way, way off – the Internet grew a lot faster than we or anybody else could envision.

I lived through the bursting of the dot-com bubble and watched in horror as our stock – DoubleClick – plummeted, with 75% of our customers going out of business.  My mother was so embarrassed I was a CEO of an Internet company she began telling friends I was a mid-level crack dealer.

“Lean Startup” evangelist Eric Ries is just getting started

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

“Except in very narrow cases, where there’s breakthrough science that needs patent production, worrying about competitors is a waste of time,” Eric Reis told me. “If you can’t out iterate someone who is trying to copy you, you’re toast anyway.”

Ries speaks with confidence, likely because people seem to listen. In fact, he’s become one of Silicon Valley’s best salesmen, largely by preaching what seems to be common sense: in order to maximize resources, companies need to find out what customers want as quickly as possible and capitalize on those findings.

PeopleDeals offers its spin on group buying

It appears there’s no end to the number of startups the group-buying space can contain. The latest entrant offering a better mousetrap is PeopleDeals, which allows small and medium-sized businesses to create deals that increase in value the more they’re shared across social networks.

Whereas Groupon-type deals are basically a two-for-one model that doesn’t change, PeopleDeals makes the price cheaper after a certain number of participants share the virtual coupon across social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. To illustrate, a pizza joint could offer an online deal for 50 cents off a slice, then as soon as it’s shared with another person it increases to 60 cents and then to 70 cents after it’s shared five more times, up to a maximum of $1 when 20 or more people share it.

“The key is the business owner decides. At any given time they can make it go from 50 cents to $5, or from 50 cents to 70 cents,” said Darin Myman, the CEO of Red Bank, New Jersey-based social network PeopleString Corporation (PLPE.OB), which launched PeopleDeals last week. “When they (customers) share it with their friends and their friends share it they’re becoming your new social media.”

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