Bezar founder talks about early struggles and ultimate success

bezar brad shellhammer

bezar brad shellhammer

By Dennis Clemente

When you have everyone discussing their design process, it makes for an engaging presentation. Last June 24 was Design Driven’s best meetup so far the way each speaker presented a specific topic—and more importantly, because the presenters were generous with their thoughts and candid with their answers, especially Bradford Shellhammer, founder of Fab.com and most recently, founder of Bezar.

Held at WeWork in Chelsea, the meetup featured Ben Hindman of Splash who tackled Scalable Design; Julie Logan of Giphy who explained to us why its “gifs not jifs;” Shellhammer of Bezar who talked about his experience as a design founder, and Cap Walkins, VP of Design at BuzzFeed, who spoke about running a design-driven organization.

The flamboyant Shellhammer had a lot to say about Bezar, his members-only curated design marketplace for design enthusiasts. He liked talking about his early struggles doing everything on his own. He said he studied the competition and every shopping and social experience of people in other websites. He also admitted to writing every piece of copy for his site, and how he used his gmail contacts for his email marketing efforts.

In building his site, he liked figuring out his MVP. “An MVP allows you to strip things down. I’m at heart and soul a minimalist,” he said.

When it comes to raising funds for his site, he was also candid about it. “My deepest insecurities come out no matter how experienced I am when I am raising funds. It’s an extremely hard to think over for an emotional person. It becomes easy when you have relationships with them,” he said.

He noticed most investors often ask if you have built anything. “You have to have built something. You need to have convinced someone to develop something for you,” he said.

The startup world had been a positive experience for him, but if there’s anything he despises, it’s the practice “of hiring and firing people quickly” that permeates most of startup culture. “Don’t follow that advice,” he stressed.

Offering experiential marketing with Splash, Hindman talked about how it has scaled its business for users with well-designed themes, familiar layouts and reusable blocks — and how he makes things work in one click. The designs, especially the color overlays, are certainly much better than the ones we see from other event-marketing sites. It reportedly has 300,000 freemium users.

Logan of Giphy presented next, stressing how gifs are “not jifs,” what she calls “an art form.”

From text messaging, a new form of self-expression has emerged. With gifs, Logan said, “Nobody has to explain your tone, text or your voice” because you can express your thoughts with a gif.

Last speaker of the night was Cap Wilkins, VP of Design at BuzzFeed, who showed a photo of his product design team, evidently proud of his team of 18 designers, telling us how important it is to work as a team “to make your company design-driven.”

“You have to define an ideal state of the world,” he said. He would not stop there, as he emphasized how important it is to “sacrifice for the short term for the long term (gains).”

“Design everything,” he said, adding how “designers should know how to code.”

What the big deal is about big data

“If it doesn’t fit excel, it’s big data.”

http://bit.ly/1AFZEEv

That was Gilad Lotan, chief data scientist at Betaworks, giving a digestible meaning of how big data is about volume and variety as much as it is about velocity and variety, which conveniently rounds up to the four essential Vs you need in big data.

Lotan was speaking at Tech in Motion’s first ever Big Data meetup at the spacious office of Mediaocean, a leading software platform provider for the advertising world. He was with two other Big Data panelists Bruce Weed, program director of Big Data and Watson at IBM and Claudia Perlich, chief data scientist at Dstillery.

What is the big deal about big data? In terms of growth, it has reported earnings at $7.6 billion four years ago to expected earnings of $85 billion years from now. To give you a clear picture of earnings to date, revenue for hardware, software and professional services has already reached $27.36 billion.

“How did we get there?” asked moderator Cornelia Bencheton. Big data gained widespread interest in 2004, but since then, you’re either immersed in it or overwhelmed by it. Not many in the field are only too willing to understand it. Even the cultural and philosophical aspect of it is open to scrutiny.

For Weed, variety is the jewel of the four Vs.

The 4 Vs of big data is volume about terabytes to petabytes of data; variety–data in many forms—is structured and unstructured, text and multimedia; velocity, data in motion, the analysis of streaming dta to enable decisions within fractions of a second; and veracity–data certainty and managing the reliability and predictability of inherently imprecise data types.

Perlich is quick to point out though there is no bad data, just data we don’t understand, or data that is wrongly interpreted.

Citing a use case study, Lotan talked his company’s investment in Poncho, which aggregates weather over time and how it has a need for an editorial voice, by determining the zip codes it can gather together, among other things.

With all the data out there, Perlich said it’s not surprising why some people think it’s a rabbit hole. She stressed the importance of knowing the decisions you should make.

Data science is complicated and aspires higher than computer science. Everyone has barely scratched the surface.

Lotan is the Chief Data Scientist at betaworks, a technology company that operates as a studio, building new products, growing companies and seed investing. Previously, Gilad ran the data team at SocialFlow and built data products at Microsoft’s FUSE Labs.

He serves on the Poynter Institute’s National Advisory Board as well as Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. His work has been covered by the New York Times, the Guardian, Fast Company and the Atlantic Wire and published across a wide range of academic journals.

Bruce Weed is the city leader (New York and Chicago) for IBM’s Cloud business development with Startups and developers. His focus and expertise are around Big Data and Watson.

Weed has extensive experience in business development, sales and marketing. His additional skills and experience lie in product and brand management, operational strategy, IT strategy, channels and software development.

Perlich currently acts as Chief Scientist at Dstillery (previously m6d) and in this role designs, develops, analyzes and optimizes the machine learning that drives digital advertising.

An active industry speaker and frequent contributor to academic and industry publications, Perlich enjoys serving as a guide in world of data and was recently named winner of the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) Grand Innovation Award, was selected as member of the Crain’s NY annual 40 Under 40 list, WIRED’s Smart List, and FastCompany’s 100 Most Creative People.

Home configuration may be more important than automation

NEW YORK–Asking if you really need to know the number of your eggs on your fridge is perhaps the best way to determine how much automation you need for your home. It determines if you need Canary, Hggns, Keen Home or Smart Things, the presenters at the IoT Central meetup last June 17 at R/GA Accelerator’s offices near Port Authority.

http://bit.ly/1Ith4l0

For Chris Rill, the founder and CEO of Canary, home automation to him just had to be about security. The idea came to him in 2010 when he came home one night only to find out that his apartment was robbed. He launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his idea – and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Our approach is one device,” he said while also glancing at the thermos-like figure beside him, the Canary which also tells temperature and air quality now.

When you have Canary at home, it gives you a bird’s eye view of your home, sending you push notifications to your mobile device.

Hggns presented next, probing how configuration may be more important than automation. Configuration is said to be more helpful and familiar whereas automation is complicated, confusing and scary. It tells stories around its push notification.

Keen Home’s Smart Vent takes care of your vents, allowing you to control your home temperature system. If the distribution of air temperature in your home is a concern, it may just be the gadget for you.

Rounding up all the home automation tools, SmartThings works only if you get its hub and sensor kits and you control it with your mobile device. Once you’ve set it up, you’ll be able turn the lights on, open doors and make it work with your other home gadgets.

With these IoTs, it’s to be expected how they overlap in some functions with other similar products. It’s up to you to know what suits you best. Wink was not a presenter, but it has gained some headway because it is sold now in some hardware stories.

Home configuration may be more important than automation

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–Asking if you really need to know the number of your eggs on your fridge is perhaps the best way to determine how much automation you need for your home. It determines if you need Canary, Hggns, Keen Home or Smart Things, the presenters at the IoT Central meetup last June 17 at R/GA Accelerator’s offices near Port Authority.

http://bit.ly/1Ith4l0

For Chris Rill, the founder and CEO of Canary, home automation to him just had to be about security. The idea came to him in 2010 when he came home one night only to find out that his apartment was robbed. He launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his idea – and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Our approach is one device,” he said while also glancing at the thermos-like figure beside him, the Canary which also tells temperature and air quality now.

When you have Canary at home, it gives you a bird’s eye view of your home, sending you push notifications to your mobile device.

Hggns presented next, probing how configuration may be more important than automation. Configuration is said to be more helpful and familiar whereas automation is complicated, confusing and scary. It tells stories around its push notification.

Keen Home’s Smart Vent takes care of your vents, allowing you to control your home temperature system. If the distribution of air temperature in your home is a concern, it may just be the gadget for you.

Rounding up all the home automation tools, SmartThings works only if you get its hub and sensor kits and you control it with your mobile device. Once you’ve set it up, you’ll be able turn the lights on, open doors and make it work with your other home gadgets.

With these IoTs, it’s to be expected how they overlap in some functions with other similar products. It’s up to you to know what suits you best. Wink was not a presenter, but it has gained some headway because it is sold now in some hardware stories.

Open Table’s real-time availability makes it a big hit

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–Joseph Essas of Open Table, the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations, opened the talk at the Data Driven last June 16 at Bloomberg’s offices. It was Data Driven’s last monthly meetup as it takes a well-deserved two-month summer break.

http://bit.ly/1Jdi0Qf

Open Table has become a household word everywhere. It has over 32,000 restaurants worldwide, with more than 760 million diners seated since 1998. It has represented more than $30-billion spent at partner restaurants.

Today, Open Table seats over 16 million diners every month.

“Our product is real time availability,” Essas said.

Essas explains Open Table’s success. It’s about understanding the diner… building a profile of you as diner from explicit and implicit signals, information you have provided, reviews you have written, places you have dined….”

Essas says ratings are very important. Open Table has generated 30 million reviews.

The basic data ingredients for Open Table: Diner-restaurant interactions, restaurant metadata (what kind of price range /hours/topics), user metadata and user metadata (user profile). Reviews are reportedly rich and verified, and come in all shapes and sizes.

“Our system sits inside a restaurant,” he said, guaranteeing diners’ presence in a restaurant.

When figuring out trends, it uses dish tags and a bit of linear algebra to easily detect what dish is trending. Right now, artichokes are reportedly trending.

Open Table also creates diner profiles. For sentiment, it uses ratings as labels for positive and negative sentiments. “People used to be very generic. Now they (may ask for a) waiter with a ponytail,” he said.

“Our job is to optimize restaurant business as much as we can,” he concluded.

David Guleck spoke next about Bonobos. Founded in 2007, it is reportedly the largest US apparel company originating from ecommerce. Its data science and engineering team was founded in 2012.

This mobile-only enabled site gets results from automation and informed strategic decisions.

Its data team focuses on 3 goals in its structure: data engineering (data acquisition and data tools); bilI/reporting (democratization, self-service) and data science (deep analysis and predictive algorithms).

Bonobos’ learnings include use of email (relevant content matters,frequent optimization is hard) . For the latter, you ask yourself, how many emails should you be sending?

Other key learnings rested on recommendations (algorithms are the easy part, inputs and outputs are lots of work) and promotions.

“We’d like to do product similarity scores, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Another presenter, Cockroach DB talked about its scalable, survivable, consistent and open source offering. Started last February, it received $6.26M series A funding.

Its goal is to make data easy and grow to any scale –horizontal scaling, commodity hardware. One way it thinks it can solve problems are by making apps agnostic

It has a layered architecture, monolithic sorted map, distributed transactions, RocksDB for storage, and raft for consistency.

Last speaker was Gideon Mann of Bloomberg, showing the sentiment analysis the company sells to Wall Street.

How Campus Job raised $9 million in just 9 months

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–JJ Fliegelman is generous with his ideas and insights into his business, Campus Job, an online marketplace for college students to find jobs that he co-founded with ex-Googler Liz Wessel.

Launched only last September, Campus Job has already signed up 2,300 colleges, 3,000 employers, 100,000 students and—music to every startup founder’s ears—funding to the tune of $9 million.

Fliegelman gives Y Combinator a lot of credit for guiding his team in the right direction. An early site had to be scrapped when it didn’t test well. He now says how important it is to test out your ideas first with users and continue to iterate until the site works for your users.

The Campus Job could have started earlier but iterating it nine months ago, made it leap beyond so many people’s expectations, testament to how important following processes can be for any startup.

Campus Job grew through word of mouth, thanks to its campus reps who, Fliegelman said, “make a sizable portion of our growth.”

The campus reps offer a great packet of how-to information and “cool hacks” like giving a T-shirt or Uber cards for those who sign up. “It’s really exciting for a student to sign up,” he said. It sounds simple but it works for them.

“We’re filling a really needed gap,” Fliegelman stressed.

How does it expect to earn from the site? Employers pay to post listings and then it charges employers per qualified applicant.

What is it learning? “We’ve found that most employers prefer someone with work experience,” he said, clarifying how it’s different from internships.com.

“We do have internship jobs but we also have part-time jobs,” he said.

Campus Job presented at the Chinese Entrepreneurs Organization in NY meetup.