Friday, November 30, 2012

Startup Standouts: CircleUp


CircleUp is an equity based crowdfunding platform which connects individual and small institutional investors to private consumer product/retail companies with existing products that have national scope or potential. 

Location: San Francisco, CA
Size: < 10 people
Funding: $1.5M seed
FoundersRyan Caldbeck (CEO) / Rory Eakin (COO)

Why it stands out:
- The highly industry-relevant backgrounds and complementary skills of the co-founders, plus team
- Smart, strategic direction focused on consumer products, accredited investors and revenue generating entities
- Quality of platform: screening by professional investors, revenue minimums, 2% acceptance rate
- Significant partnerships that extend its reach (e.g. SoMoLend [debt], General Mills [exits])
Clayton Christensen, the voice of disruptive innovation himself, is notable as an early investor

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Startup Standouts: Wallaby Financial


The Wallaby Card lets you carry just one piece of plastic, through which it can maximize the cash back rebates, merchant discounts, frequent traveler rewards, etc on all your credit cards (based on your preferences) every time you swipe. It is as the company says - one card to rule them all.

Location: Pasadena, CA
Size: < 10 people
Funding: $1.1M seed
Founders: Matthew Goldman (CEO) / Todd Zino (CTO)

Why it stands out:
- Steps towards consumers with a practical use case without significantly changing their current behavior
- Adds next level value by minimizing consumer data overload and simplifying financial decision making
- Great positioning to collect real time, transaction based spending data
- Founders Fund is notable as a seed stage investor

Friday, November 16, 2012

Floating Points: Shadows EP. Album Sketch

year: 2011

genre samples: jazz, house, funk, synth piano

music: gorgeous, hypnotic, up tempo, chill, danceable, elegant, in step, building, muted, minimalist

favs: myrtle avenue, ARP3, sais

interesting: dj FP's (sam shepard) main gig is getting a PHD in molecular neuroscience. cool stuff.

score: 8/10

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Startup Standouts: SmallKnot


"Smallknot lets you invest in the small businesses in your community in exchange for goods, services, special perks and benefits."

Location: New York City
Size: < 10 people
Funding: $118k incubation
FoundersJay Lee (CEO) / Ben Rossen (COO) / Jason Punzalan (CTO)

Why it stands out:
- Fills a very specific and necessary crowdfunding niche by focusing on small businesses
- Really leverages the crowd by taking a geographically local approach to the crowdfunding model
- Beautifully designed product with a fluid user experience
- The quality (and coolness) of the small businesses actually using the platform
- Founding team dominated by lawyers, which should be very useful given crowdfunding's legally gray area
- Had the screening and future benefit of Tech Stars NYC incubation

A New Series on Startups

In a quest to find the next phase of my career that will merge passion with ambition, I have been doing research on a number of startups - mostly in the crowdfunding space but also more broadly in Fintech. Here and there on simmserely so far however, I have written of broader thoughts on the intersection of finance and technology. Today I thought I would add a series that takes a specific look at some of the more interesting startups that I have come across along the way - because why not? I am calling this new series: Startup Standouts. First one after the post, but stay tuned for more.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city. Album Sketch

year: 2012

tones of: easy e, school boy q, nas

genre samples: funk, electronica, west coast rap, underground hip hop

music: A++ production, moody, heavy, intense, rhythmic, swampy, smooth, stellar, plush

lyrics: serious, direct, genuine, straight up, thought-provoking, deep, authentic, moral, abstract

flow: fitted, mellow, fluid, versatile, technical, elevated, smart, unorthodox, story telling  (i dare say kendrick is the best rapper in the game right now in terms of technical talent)

favs: b*tch don't kill my vibe, money trees, swimming pools, sing about me i'm dying of thirst, art of peer pressure (last 2/3rds), sherane aka master splinter's daughter (esp the skits), backseat freestyle (vicious flow)

best guest: jay rock on money trees

score: 8.5/10 (not a 9+ b/c I can't play w/o wanting to skip a few)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Le Cousins Dangereux: Coding vs Modeling

I spent a fair amount of time modeling as a banker, sometimes in long enough stretches to see the next day's Wall Street Journal delivered. By comparison, I spent just a few months programming in graduate school. During that same period however, I also enrolled in a financial modeling class as a refresher. By my count I would guess there are relatively few people who have been on both sides of that fence. In doing so, I formed some thoughts on the similarities and differences of coding vs modeling - the two have more in common than at first glance.

- the sweet sweet triumph of tracking down an error
 (damn you #REF, //error, etc.)
- the negative correlation between time spent debugging and error quality
- the decomposition of a problem into manageable/blocks before compiling
- the importance of details such as:
(keys, color coding, naming cells, using macros vs documenting, definitions, descriptive variable names, building functions)
- late nights and irregular schedules
- a disproportionate amount of time spent alone compared to the genpop
- copious amounts of food/drink (or the $$ to buy it) if you're on the job
- the increased potential of poundage from being sedentary
- a significant amount of time spent bent over a laptop with screen-face
- the blissful satisfaction of getting a model or program built right
- highly competitive and well paid jobs on their respective coasts
- the true significance of planning and thought in how a model is built
- the high level of intensity and focus required to get things done
- the building of a very specialized skill set

- a focus on building in coding versus analyzing with modeling
- the high variability of quality in models depending on external inputs
- the exposure of a model once built to manipulation beyond your control
- more human interaction in modeling as it is usually built across teams
- the customary practice of linear logic in modeling vs modular in coding

Make no mistake, we are definitely talking cousins here. That should not be so much surprising as it is revealing. Just be careful, unlike me, that you do not cross them both at the same time. It is not a pretty sight.