During this time of innovation, companies are creating really beautiful and useful platforms. While all the biggest industries are being disrupted, it's going to be interesting to see how people capitalize on these platforms.
One example is when people used myspace to catapult their music career. Or the first person to turn a YouTube sensation into am actual biz.
Shoot, how many people are providing for themselves off of Uber or Instacart right now? I know I am.
If you haven’t heard about this company, you might want to get familiar. Uber is a mobile app that connects people that need a ride with drivers. I used it for the first time in NYC maybe about a year ago. Calling for a cab wasn’t that hard, but it was a crap shoot. I would never know how long it would take to get somewhere because it was all dependent on the time it would take me to find a cab.
The true value of Uber came to me when I missed my Megabus back to Philly because it took me longer than normal to find a cab. So ever since then, I have used Uber more than cabs, even when the price would sometimes be twice as high. This was a sign that Uber was on to something.
While some startups solve problems that many people cry about every day, the most promising startups are the ones that solve problems that we don’t know that we have yet. Uber did just that. I didn’t know that traveling could be so much more enjoyable. I didn’t know that I could have someone pick me up, converse with me and get me where I needed to be safely, all with just a click on my iPhone. Did I mention the fact that I don’t even need cash as the entire transaction is handled through the app? DOPE!
So, as I dug deeper into the company, I found out that they were really in need for drivers in the Philly Suburbs and South Jersey area. I thought about it for a while and then I dismissed it because I was worried that I would be a glorified taxi driver. I felt like this for a while until a contract that I had with one of my freelance clients ran out. About 70% of my income had just disappeared. I needed something.
So, I started to look at Uber a little more seriously until the day that I got the courage to go into the Philly Uber office to see what’s up. I had just planned on going in to learn a little bit more, but the lady that was there convinced me to do otherwise. What was cool was that she didn’t even do it in a salsey type of way. It was basically “this is what we are and this is what we do.” Before you knew it, I had filled out a background check consent form and I had an Uber bag filled with an iPhone, a bunch of cables, some charger adapters, a windshield iPhone holder and a $25 gift card. I was knee deep in the game and didn’t even know it yet.
While I was full of hope when I left the office, it took me a few weeks before I actually had the courage to do my first ride. I figured it would be a way to earn a few extra dollars when I had down time and it would be my little secret, but after my first ride, I thought to myself, “this isn’t that bad.” I was hooked.
A week or so later, I found out that they were opening up UberX down at the shore and they were guaranteeing fares. This was perfect because my consulting biz was drying up and I needed something - fast. So, I headed down to Atlantic City the Saturday before Memorial Day and worked for about 4 hours. I made about $150 and it was in my bank account within a week. Dope!
Fast forward a few weeks, I decided to put in a little more time, so I headed to AC for the entire weekend. I worked from Friday at 5pm until 3am on Sunday. It was a grind, but I was $600 richer and, just as last time, the money was in my account within a week. I loved it so much that I headed down again after that and brought in another $500.
I am sure there are some horror stories about riders, but the riders down at the Jersey Shore (especially Avalon) couldn’t be nicer. They were just a bunch of people looking to go 20-30 blocks (most of the time) to hit up a happy hour or to just hang with friends. Every ride was different and everybody had a cool story. I was a believer.
After about 100 trips and speaking with a bunch of riders, I realized that I wasn’t the only one in love with Uber. So, I dug in deeper and saw all the amazing things that they were doing. They were also doing it at breakneck speed. It seems like they are launching in a new city (or sometimes multiple cities every day.)
Today, I have to admit that I am a true believer and would definitely recommend Uber to anyone that is looking to make some extra dollars and loves to speak with new people. Every moment is a different experience and the freedom is pretty dope. If you want some details on the trips and how much I earned per hour, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to share.
I’ve spent the last few weeks working on a MVP for a startup that I can’t get out of my head. While developing the MVP, I have also been developing the proof of concept which, at this time, is just a set of notes jotted on a piece of paper.
While I think that my idea can improve the music making process, I am just one guy with a ton of ambition. I’m like a proud parent who just gave birth to a new son - I think that he’s going to take over the world. So, I wanted to slow things down a bit and, following some good advice, I thought it would be best to start speaking to the people that would actually be using what I built. So, I reached out to a few recording studios to see what their pain points were.
I spoke to three different people and told them my idea. The responses were very helpful. A few of them had questions, a few even had some suggestions to improve upon the idea, but all of them thought that the idea was worth pursuing as there wasn’t a tool out there that satisfied all of their needs. I was glad I did this because I got to network with some cool people (one of which won a few Grammys) but I also got validation for my idea, which was really what I was after.
While I spoke to a few studio owners on the phone, I also emailed a few about the idea. One response that I got back wasn’t as positive. It went along the lines of “many have tried, none have succeeded, but good luck.” What’s crazy was that after all the positive feedback that I got back, for some reason, I paid the most attention to the negative one. It really wasn’t that negative, but rather not as positive. I’d imagine that many entrepreneurs have come across this from time to time. Shoot, even Airbnb had doubters. I also would imagine that the best entrepreneurs are willing to see past the negative and continue to push forward, sometimes foolishly, before people start to believe in them. This is what I plan to do.
I wanted to write about this because it doesn’t only pertain to startups. Too often we pay attention to the few hurdles that stand in our way instead of seeing (and believing in) the vision that we have. How many times have you wanted to try something but didn’t because of some friction, only to see that idea/concept/whatever come into existence a little while later? Trust in yourself. If you truly believe in something or someone, push forward. We will all be better for it.
I love life hacks. I always want to improve and finding tools to make myself more efficient is my best bet for doing that. Check out some of the ones that I use below. They aren't in any particular order.
Evernote - I used to use Basecamp a lot to build out ideas. Since it is just me (for now) I am finding that Evernote is a lot easier and intuitive. I also like that it syncs across all devices and that it's free for now. Once I hit the data limit, I will be more than happy to go premium.
Mailbox - I love getting emails, but I hate managing my inbox. This mobile focused app makes my life a million times easier.
Sunrise - This is to my calendar what Mailbox is to my email inbox. The Sunrise team is always innovating and the design is incredible.
Pocket - I've been using this app ever since it was Read it Later. The app allows you to save articles that you don't have to read at the moment. Easily catch up on train rides or during downtime.
Google Docs - I have the full Microsoft Office suite, but being able to sync everything in the cloud is the way to go. I also like the collaboration option. And it's FREE!
Elevatr - Mobile focused app to help you flesh out an idea and actually take action on it.
Uber - I have a car, but sometimes I wish that I didn't. If this was bigger in Philly around the time I bought my car, I may have never even purchased it. An on demand ride with style at about the same price as a regular old cab. Also, I use my car to earn extra dough on the weekends. Great for your side hustle.
Seamless - Seamless is to eating what Uber is to transportation. Find something in your area, order it and it gets delivered in about less than an hour. Payment and tips can all be made within the app.
Fitstar - Mobile focused fitness app. The training can all be done in the comfort of your home straight from your phone or iPad. I usually stream it to my TV via AppleTV. Workouts are about 30 mins and you can build up a sweat and burn a quick 300 calories from anywhere.
RunKeeper - Keep track of your mileage and calories burned. Syncs up with many fitness apps to keep everything in one place.
Spotify - I have the premium plan. $10/month for access to just about every song that I could ever want. You can even download songs to your cell to listen to offline.
Buffer - Send updates to all your social media sites at once.
TechCrunch App - I open this thing about 20 times a day. I love startup news and this is where I get the best news.
Foursquare Swarm - Check in and see where your friends are. I don't even open the Foursquare app anymore.
SoundCloud - Social network for sharing your music.
Native iOS Weather App - Such a shame that Yahoo lost out on this deal. App was incredibly beautiful and useful. I use it everyday.
Google Maps - Best map app out. Period. It gets me where I need to be and gives me the best directions (most of the time.) The Uber integration is brilliant.
Yelp - Best resource for discovering local attractions. I also check in and leave a lot of reviews to build up my clout.
Recently, The Walker and Co startup received a significant round of investment funding from the Andreessen Horowitz VC firm. Right after the investment round, the Andreessen Horowitz firm wrote about this round in an article entitled "Betting Narrow Can Be Big." The point of the article was that, sometimes, narrowing your scope and focusing on a smaller subset of users can prove to be a great strategy, especially if that subset of users has been ignored for a relatively long time.
Within the article, Jeff Jordan uses an example of a hair product that can remove gray. On the box is a 60-something year old Clyde Frazier. I am 32 years old and have started to see some gray for about two years now. I am sure I am not the only one. Does it make sense to pitch a product to people using a guy that is old enough to be my grandfather? How could I ever relate to that?
That's where Tristan Walker's new company, Bevel, comes in. It's a product aimed at a smaller group of people that has been pretty much ignored for the past 20 years - black and latino males between the ages of 18 - 40 (maybe even older than that.) In the eyes of VCs today, they are looking for the next Facebook or WhatsApp, something that is going to reach a billion people in a relatively short time. By having this broad perspective on investments (rightfully so, they do run a business) you are not encouraging innovation in smaller patches that can lead to bigger profits in the longer term.
That's the reason why I think that Stumatic can be successful. While sites like Yelp and Thumbtack are going broad with their local service business strategies, the door has been opened for other, more focused sites to better service their user base. Speaking to studio owners that have used Thumbtack to generate leads, there is still some more to be desired from the one-size-fits all model that Thumbtack has put into place with regard to local services. While their scale is what's most important to VCs, they are alienating different patches of users that want just a bit more personalization.
I believe that users are going to be pretty cool with using one tool that does one thing very well. It's the reason why every person with a smartphone has a million apps and it's also why sites like Yahoo, Facebook, Evernote and Foursquare have built standalone apps for different services instead of baking them into the core app.