Entrepreneurial

from Paul Smalera:

Startups are big in Boulder, but where are the tech billionaires?

"I'm not interested in working on this unless it's going to be a multi-billion dollar idea. If I thought this would be a hundred million dollar company -- what's the point?" - Anonymous entreprerneur discussing his startup. Overheard in front of Ozo Coffee, Boulder, CO.

I'm in Boulder, Colorado for a few days this week to attend Big Boulder, a conference devoted to the social side of "big data." Gnip, the company hosting the conference, is one I've written about before. They're doing the plumber's work of connecting all the firehoses of raw, public user data from social media companies like Twitter and Tumblr up to clients that want to derive insights from the wisdom of these online crowds.

A quick note on the definition of "big data." Generally speaking, it's the sort of data set that's so huge, even running a simple report on it won't tell you anything interesting. For example, if you could ask the IRS for a list of all the 25-30 year olds in the U.S. that paid taxes last year, you'd get back a list, alright. But what would be useful about it? On the other hand, if you could filter that list by several other factors: did they pay capital gains, did they owe over six figures in taxes, what is their self-reported job title, and so on, you might end up with a list highly correlated to young, dot-com millionaires and billionaires, like Mark Zuckerberg. And you might cross reference that list against all the other data sets you can find on them: where they live, where they shop, where they travel, what they watch, eat and listen to. It's all out there.

Social media companies have woken up to the idea that their user bases are throwing billions of data points that have huge potential value, in aggregate. But to get to the point where big data is useful, the tooling around asking and getting the answers to those sorts of questions has to be very, very good.

That -- getting to the point where insights are derived from huge firehoses of content -- is where data science comes in, and where Big Boulder attendees get wildly excited about the potential for big data to change the way the world works. (There are plenty of skeptics on the other side of the coin too, that wonder if the phrase "big data" has simply become the latest marketing jargon in the tech industry, even as it has yielded insights in unsexy fields, like milk production, for decades now.)

Tech Tonic checks in at the NY Tech Meetup

Reuters’ Rhonda Schaffler checks in at the first New York Tech Meetup since the Facebook IPO to talk financing and startups with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Startup BitGym aims to inspire geeks to work out with iPads, iPhones

– Alastair Goldfisher is a contributor for PE Hub and acting Editor-in-Charge at Venture Capital Journal, both Thomson Reuters publications. This article originally appeared here. Any views expressed are his own. –

With more and more VC-backed personal health and fitness companies targeting the hardcore exercise fanatic, it was only a matter of time before a startup emerged to go after the less enthusiastic cardio burner.

Witness BitGym, a startup being launched out of the Rock Health accelerator in San Francisco that says it has raised “some” seed funding.

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.

Bringing order to the unruly world of early stage entrepreneurship

This article originally appeared in the Venture Capital Journal, a Thomson Reuters publication.

Eric Ries, author of the “The Lean Startup”, offers a worthy attempt to bring the scientific method to the often intuitive exploration of young companies.

What leads most startups astray is the lack of a disciplined, empirical procedure for making decisions, says Ries, who also writes on the blog Startup Lessons Learned and is a 2010-11 entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School.

Employee rewards site raises $24 million from Sequoia Capital

Prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital is wading into the near $50-billion employee rewards market with its $24.5 million Series C round of financing of online San Francisco-based company Achievers.

The announcement on Wednesday by the venture capital heavyweight signals a heightened interest in the space that Sequoia partner Alfred Lin said is “highly fragmented” and lacks a dominant player.

“We want to be an investor in the most interesting companies of tomorrow and we felt like this would be a company for the ages,” said Lin, who will take a seat on Achievers’ board of directors. Sequoia has had a long history of backing technology companies such as Apple, Oracle, Cisco, Google and YouTube.

Manning up in Silicon Valley

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

This week, Marc Andreessen announced that Ning, the social networking platform company he co-founded in 2004 and that went on to raise nearly $120 million, had “agreed to merge” with the lifestyle blog network Glam Media. Yet few believe it will be a marriage of equals.

“Merger” was almost uniformly put in wink-wink quotations in press accounts of the deal. Outside investors didn’t buy it, either. “My guess is that Glam thinks it is gaining some credibility by adding Andreessen to its board, and in return Glam is putting Ning out of its misery,” said one VC who asked not to be named.

VC firm to form “Jedi Council” of entrepreneurs

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

Menlo Ventures’ newest managing director, Shervin Pishevar, is getting off to a fast start.

The serial entrepreneur turned Internet VC announced that his firm has formed a new early stage investment vehicle, the Menlo Talent Fund, which will fund rounds up to $250,000 in promising startups. As part of the effort, Pishevar told attendees at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week, the firm will be forming a “Jedi Council of incredible entrepreneurs,” known as the Menlo Founders Council, to work with startups.

Why venture capitalists invest in pigs, not chickens

– Jeff Bussgang is a former entrepreneur and partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. This article originally appeared on his blog Seeing Both Sides. The views expressed are his own. –

There is an old parable about the concept of commitment when it comes to breakfast. The story goes that when looking at a plate of the traditional fare of ham and eggs, it’s obvious that the chicken is an interested party, but the pig is truly committed.

When I tell this story to entrepreneurs, my point is usually to contrast the approach venture capitalists have to startups as compared to entrepreneurs. The VC is an interested party, but at the end of the day, if their startups live or die, they typically still have their job, their office and their portfolio of other investments. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is the pig – truly committed to the outcome, with no fallback.

Why governments don’t get startups

– Steve Blank is a serial entrepreneur. He teaches at Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley’s Haas Business School and at Columbia. He is the author of “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” and “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own. –

Not understanding and agreeing what “Entrepreneur” and “Startup” mean can sink an entire country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

I’m getting ready to go overseas to teach, and I’ve spent the last week reviewing several countries’ ambitious attempts to kick-start entrepreneurship. After poring through stacks of reports, white papers and position papers, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

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