Adways offers interactive CTA overlays in video platform

By Dennis Clemente

Last May 15, the NY Video Meetup played host to startup presenters with an international pedigree—Adways from France and Fluendo from Spain. Even the first presenter, Vyer Films, said the name Vyer in Norwegian means having a clear perspective of the future. But they’re Americans like the remaining two presenters—Digiriot and the husband-and-wife tandem of Feedbac. It’s not common to find a married couple presenting their own co-founded startup but we wish there were more of them.

The affable host Steven Rosenbaum opened the night talking about and showing a short clip from his film, 7 Years At Ground Zero. It was a long day for Rosenbaum who came from the 9/11 Memorial Museum launch early that morning. He was given access to document the building and curation of the museum. He kidded about needing an editor to trim over 700 hours of footage to 90 minutes. Email him if he is serious about it.

Vyer Films works like Mubi and Fandor. If you like watching independent and foreign films before they arrive in the U.S., they have films streaming on their site. It’s $20 a month for 2 films a month. “Vyer Films is a new film curation service, or the meaningful-experience-through-film business,” said K.C. McLeod, founder and CEO.

For the curation part, the movies are categorized based on your mood. They also have a curator’s statement for each film and in some cases, even interviews with filmmakers. The startup has four staff, including Meredith Wade, co-founder and CMO.

Can you create a cloud-based interactive video in less than five minutes? It really depends. If you have the video and you just need interactive overlays, it’s possible.

Adways offers videos, photos, shopping cart and social media tools to help you craft call-to-action messages from the videos.

The tool uses a drag-and-drop functionality in HTML 5 and offers interactive overlays such as videos, photos, frames, shopping cart and social media tools.

Adways’ Fabrice Jaeger said he worked at NBC before, went back to France and then came back to go full-time on his video creation tool with Zeb Holt, VP of Technology. It was hands down the night’s crowd-pleaser.

Feedbac was interesting from the perspective of how a married couple, sharing the same animating skills, collaborated on a collaboration tool—one that allows anyone to give real-time visual feedback on videos.

“With the tool, you can bring your team to the cloud to watch, make frame-by-frame notes, notate and assign tasks on your video projects,” said Dara King-Fequiere who came with hubby Chris Fequiere.

From Barcelona, Fluendo is a company that enables multimedia and video on a wide variety of devices and operating systems. It just launched a new product suite called OnePlay for corporate users and resellers/OEMs. Test how the subtitles work.

Last presenter was Jeff Koenig of Digiriot, which currently shows an original sci-fi video series but who wants to give more content creators out there better exposure and success for their programs via its platform.

The NY Video meetup changes venues every now and then. It was at Columbia University at one time, at the Made in NY Media Center in Dumbo, Brooklyn and at AOL near NYU. The meetup was co-hosted by Bianca Francis.

How ripe are you for Seed A investment—and other VC insights

By Dennis Clemente

What makes a startup ripe for Seed A investment? There’s the most obvious answer: “You have demonstrable revenue growth.” There’s the hopeful response: “You’re selling more metrics and data than just sizzle.” And the standard throwaway response: “…If you’ve become a revenue-focused brand.” You’ll do better with the first reaction; keep your hopes up for the second; plan long for the third.”

Last May 13, Rubicon Venture Capital’s Joshua Siegel hosted a night of VC talk and startup demonstrations at Orrick at CBS building. For the first part of the night, Siegel brought in the venture capitalists to answer his prepared questions like the one above. The VCs were Marc Michel of Metamorphic Ventures; Will Peng of Red Swan Ventures; Brad Svrluga of High Peaks Venture Partners; Nikhil Kalghatgi of Vast Ventures and Matt Gorin of Contour Venture Partners.

Elaborating on their responses regarding Seed A investment, the VCs put importance to having customer acquisition metrics and a repeatable sales process. “If you’re past the idea of product/market fit thinking, then you’re ready,” Michel said.

Still, at least two VCs said it has become harder to pinpoint what Seed A means nowadays. “The nomenclature has changed. What was an A can now be B.”

Peng said strong engagement with a group of people is key, but he also attempted to simplify it, “Early stage is, ‘Do people want it’ (your startup)? Series A is, ‘Do a lot of people want it’?”

What areas or sectors are ripe for Series A funding? VCs may not always give you a straight answer, because even without them saying it, the tech space is always evolving, if not converging with some other service or technology. Michel considered marketplaces, the shared economy, even mentioning Uber as a marketplace, but to avoid pigeonholing himself, he said, “Every firm will have its own idiosyncrasies.”

Really now, why can’t they say more? Peng doesn’t want to influence mindsets, “We don’t want you to change your business model based on trends, because we look for companies that come from a genuine place. If you are building something you are passionate about and you have the conviction to make it work, then we’ll take a look at it.” For a few seconds, he buckled and said food, but stopped short of elaborating. If he is talking about Soylent, look into it if you haven’t heard about it.

Asked if they work with other investors, Michel said, “We syndicate everything we do. We look for good partners and share financial risk, because most companies take time to develop.”
VCs have the resources to add value to your startup where angel investors can only provide expertise. Kalghatgi, however, is not one to share a startup with another investor if it means he’ll be hampered by what his firm can offer.

The difference between East Coast and West Coast investors is a topic not brought too often in public, but Siegel tried to say who would respond. Without going into detail, he said, “We hear a lot of crazy stuff in San Francisco, (how) it’s easy to get money.”

Svrluga said, “It’s 10 times bigger (there). There are also better entrepreneurs out there.”
In New York as opposed to Silicon Valley, there was also a comment about how good VCs see through the hype—and fakery. They ask about hitting milestones that attract investors. They want the right team, the right technology, the right differentiation.

Peng added how he doesn’t like you buying traffic, because it’s fake growth, akin to what we’ve learned with the Emperor with No Clothes fable. “It you stop buying traffic, you will (see) that you don’t have anything. Don’t go this road of lies.”

A question that pops up every now and then is how to get noticed by VCs. The response has always been the same: (face-to-face) networking, but Svrluga went a step further. True to how technology has improved networking, he said Linkedin is the greatest referral tool. “If you can’t figure out Linkedin, then you won’t be able to get the audience.”

Naiveté permeates entrepreneur novices, according to Svrluga. He suggested you come to him with a warm lead; for Gorin, a strong reference; for Kalghatgi, a person who knows you really well and can give you an accurate portrayal.

It’s true what they say. Mondays are no-nos for VCs. Michel laid out his schedule on the table: “I have 30-meeting slots dedicated to meeting new companies. But he is also quick to say how it’s physically impossible to meet everyone. Mondays are a no-no. It’s all a day of meetings.”

After the VCs’ talk, the startup demonstrations followed. The presenters were Jeremy Kagan of Pricing Engine; Michael Ibrahim of Whisk, an Uber competitor; co-founders Merritt Baer and Brian Fenty of TodayTix; Peter Stebe of nextSociety, and Doug Chambers of Field Lens.

For those starting out in New York, nextSociety’s Stebe tells us how networking with the right people proved crucial in his life away from his home, Germany. Now he’s monetizing it with nextSociety, an iOS networking app using a relevance score, a smart indicator that tells you how well a connection aligns with your professional interests.

Every startup has an interesting back story. For Stebe, who is from Germany, it was always how he dreamed of living in New York. Now he has a startup here.

Field Lens’ Chambers was succinct and to the point in his short presentation. In his construction work app, he talked about how he is answering the problem of communication breakdowns typical in construction work. He has a solid team, another important ingredient in a startup.

Having been funded, he knows the drill. Determining a problem and how you can solve it is crucial to your success and VC funding.

Editorial is connected to programming nowadays

By Dennis Clemente

AppNexus meetup on business development and digital marketing
AppNexus meetup on business developmemt and digital marketing

“Everything we do in editorial is connected to programming.”

That’s Patrick Yee of Refinery 29 confirming how editorial roles have evolved through the years as online publishing keeps changing face, too. “Editorial now has equal partnership with product and technology.”

Editors have taken on many roles beyond editing and closing pages indeed.
Yee said editors today get SEO training, find out what are the implications of posting on Twitter, oversees how a photo on Facebook will look like and makes sure to know what articles are trending online.

Yee was at the AppNexus offices on 23rd St near Flatiron last April 29 talking about business development and digital marketing with the other speakers: Rich Kennedy of Business Insider and Kia Hsing of IAC. Gawker’s Erin Pettigrew moderated the talk with Alex Guttler, partnerships manager at AppNexus, serving as host.

How is programming connected with editorial? Just take a look at the immense popularity of BuzzFeed. “They (quizzes) get 5 to 10 million uniques a day,” Yee claimed.

With talk of digital marketing, Google was bound to come up. “The biggest traffic in media was Google but not anymore,” Yee said, pointing out how lots of disruption will continue to go on and you just have to embrace agility.

Yee said the size of the market of media is going to grow ten-fold. “We may even see media companies with valuation of $300 million to $10 billion.”

But going back to editorial has journalistic integrity been compromised by the race to get more page views? A tough one to answer because ignoring page views can also spell doom for online publishers and content creators.

Now it’s always about the packaging vis-a-vis the salacious headline.

But that’s not the only editorial challenge these days. “(It’s about) the person who spent 10 minutes who will be more interesting (for the publisher) than someone who spent only a few minutes,” Yee said.

It’s all about the time you spend on a site these days. It makes perfect sense, because we have become so easily distracted. Let me say this: Our attention span will be the most elusive commodity. You can quote me on that.

Bloomberg meetup tackles Big Data for context, advertising, service

Data-Driven presentation at Bloomberg LP
Data-Driven presentation at Bloomberg LP

By Dennis Clemente

How important was the Data Driven NYC #26 meetup last April 15? For people who confused “join” the meetup online as the way to RSVP for the event, it meant waiting half an hour to get in at the security-tight Bloomberg offices.

The wait was worth it. The top startups at the meetup showed how the world of big data analytics is gaining so much attention and million-dollar funding these days.

The presenters were Jason Tan, founder and CEO of Sift Science (fights fraud on websites with machine learning); Stephen Purpura, founder and CEO of Context Relevant (big data analytics); Ashish Thusoo, founder and CEO at Qubole (next-generation big data platform) and Josh Schwartz, lead data scientist at Chartbeat.

The spotlight presentation by Charlie Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Firestop (end-to-end, cloud-based system for fire data, from inspection to fire ground) was the emotional favorite.

Tan demonstrated Sift Science and how its machine-learning algorithms can sift or sniff fraud online, like in a credit card purchase, for example. A human being flags this down later for review.

“With machine learning you can teach computers to build the rules themselves using statistics as data,” Tan says.

Sift is aiming at small-to-mid e-commerce businesses without the resources or budget to have sophisticated technology.

Another presenter catering to resource-challenged businesses is Context Relevant.

From Seattle, Purpura presented Context Relevant, a company that offers predictive data analysis using real-time data from HDFS, SQL, web logs, CRM systems, market data and social media to output analyses and projections.

The application also uses “behavioral libraries” which analyze interactions specifically for finance, web personalization and online travel.

Chartbeat’s Josh Schwarz’s presentation was more about getting people to talk about his question, paraphrasing here, “What if an internet ad was priced based on its display duration?”

A new study by Chartbeat on the success of internet ads found that about half of “viewable impressions” are only seen for 1 to 5 seconds. Online, it turns out, people look at an ad for up to five seconds.

Ad agencies, especially its creative and media planning departments, should set goals for different advertisers, because it turns out that an ad with a more complex storyline could still run for 6 to 15 seconds and still create an impact.

One might think making it on Google and Facebook is a life-long career, but some people prefer putting their own dents in the universe.

Tan came from Google and next presenter, Ashish Thusoo ran Facebook’s data infrastructure team before he co-founded Qubole.

Qubole offers big data-as-a-service with a “true auto-scaling Hadoop cluster.” It’s auto-scale feature automatically spins up users’ clusters when a job is started and automatically scales or contracts based on workload, cutting back on costs and management requirements.

An intuitive UI expands the reach of this service beyond data analysts to entire lines of businesses. Qubole handles the initial setup and then maintains the clusters. Its customers include Pinterest, MediaMath, Nextdoor and Saavn.

The audience responded warmly to a new iPad app developed for firefighters who need critical information quickly and intuitively as they respond to emergencies.

Charlie Jacobson, founder, showed how the app provides data like building layouts, fire hydrant locations and hazardous materials warnings to give firefighters the critical information they need during an emergency.

The meetup was hosted and organized by Matt Turck, VC at FirstMark Capital.

Travel is good, video advertising hard–VCs

By Dennis Clemente

How would you like to be a travel reviewer? Triptease does that. How would you like to use a productivity tool that helps you see what matters? There’s Seer. How would you like to connect with investor relations teams. Closir claims that it can close that deal for you, socially. Finally how would you like your advertising to work for you? GoChime it or nTangle it.

But is it that simple? Not exactly, as the presenters found out from the VCs who gave them feedback after their five-minute presentation last February 20 at the Hatchery at Chadbourne Park, Rockefeller Center building.

The meetup also included a critique of the presentation style of each pitcher from GK Training’s Victoria Dicce, now a staple of the meetups.

The TripTease app is a social travel magazine that relies on user-generated reviews. Talking about how they monetize the site, Chief Tease Charlie Osmond said, “Hotels pay us to email their guests.”

All the VCs invited to provide their feedback said they like the travel space: “There’s a lot of disruption going on there.” “It’s an attractive market.” However, they were also interested in knowing where the app can go in terms of conversion. “We will be raising seed next week,” Osmond assured.

The VCs were Sutian Dong of First Mark Capital; Jeff Neu of B2B Ventures and Itzik Ben-Bassat of Wix. A regular, Sachin Jafe of Klifer Capital did not make it to the meetup.

However, the app is only available on iPad.“We believe that the iPad is growing much faster than the smartphone,” Osmond said who also received the highest marks with his confident presentation style.

Ben-Bassat quipped, “It helps if you (Osmond) have a British accent.”

Pierre-Marc Diennet presented nTangle, an interactive video platform idea that embeds ads.
How does it work? It’s simple. A video creator uploads their video. They tag objects, people, and places in that video and then link those things to the wider internet. With each click, nTangle delivers linked information,” Diennet said.

nTangle reportedly stores each tagged object in a database and connects it to semantically categorized Open Knowledge sources. “Our long term plan is to automate the process.”

Diennet said nTangle has a 400-percent participation rate. “Clients can use this data to learn more about their audiences, about their videos, and more about the conversations they inspire.”

The VCs think video advertising is a hard, competitive space. “Hosting will be an additional cost. It’s a tough squeeze. Look at your revenue model.”

Next presenter, GoChime founder Austin Evarts asked the audience in his presentation, “What is the percentage of unopened email?”

Putting it at 80 percent, Evarts said using GoChime to go with your email strategy will increase your reach 2 to 3 times more. “We sync data to Facebook campaigns.”

GoChime is direct marketing for social which, Evarts said, has experienced a 60 percent growth. “We are raising $500,000 in convertible notes.”

VCs did not provide feedback, saying only that it was a solid presentation.

A social and productivity platform, Closir was the last to present. It is focused on bringing companies and the investment community closer together using technology, according to Ratsko Illic.

“We want to capture at least 10 percent of the market,” he added. Competitors include Bloomberg.

Offered at $5,000 a year, Neu said sometimes too cheap is too cheap. Other comments from VCs pointed out how the “field is complicated” and “how hard it is to disrupt Bloomberg.”

“We did it because we strongly believe the existing tools and “one-size-fits” all platforms are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of today’s investors and companies alike,” Illic said.

VC Ben Sun and new apps at ER Roundtable

Ben Sun, partner at High Peaks Venture Partners and LaunchTime LLC
Ben Sun, partner at High Peaks Venture Partners and LaunchTime LLC

By Dennis Clemente

Which of these names (in no particular order) match the latest crop of apps presented at the ERA Roundtable meetup last January 16 at the Microsoft Building in New York? Each of these apps is a sentiment analysis tool, a home for your child’s artwork, a “paperless” medical record system, a live video stream of your favorite bars, and a financial analysis engine.

1. PeepsOut by Nobles Crawford, CEO and Founder
2. Accern by Kuwesh Aroomoogan
3. Thinknum by Justin Zhen
4. Healthjump by Clifford Cavanaugh
5. Canvsly by Amit Murumkar

ERA Roundtable’s 66th show-and-tell also featured internet entrepreneur and angel investor Ben Sun who served as guest judge to these presenters. Sun is a partner at High Peaks Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital fund based in New York City. But he is also known for his early forays into the internet. He was on it as far back as 1999 and soon after when his company, Community Connect Inc. made household names of AsianAvenue.com, BlackPlanet.com, and MiGente.com.

It’s seldom to hear an investor who is both an engaging storyteller and frank speaker. As he talked about how he got his start, Sun recounted how an investor before the dotcom crash almost tricked him into changing terms of agreements last minute, but fortunately, an an angel investor stepped in to save the day. He qualified that this may have been more in the past and the only thing you have to worry about nowadays is how investors will invest in your startup but may be hands-off all the way.

At the meetup, Sun certainly made sure he was fully invested in giving feedback and answering questions from the crowd and presenters who each gave a four-minute show-and-tell.

Accern offers sentiment analysis for investing in financial markets–the use of natural language processing to extract emotions out of data. But with other companies like Accern, what makes them different?

Aroomoogan said Accern has a customizable sentiment analysis platform where you can choose your own sources and filter those sources, including ratings for each source, topic, keyword or phrase based on importance and relevance. “We have 80 percent accuracy.”

The next presenter, Canvasly, is in the business of collecting children’s artworks and putting them on the app, for safekeeping. In giving his feedback to the app, Sun said it needs a “ton of scale,” as he also discouraged efforts to go school-to-school, because of the challenges this presents to the sole founder.

Healthjump’s presentation elicited issues of security and privacy. After sign up, Healthjum coordinates with people’s physicians, so the former can keep their medical records. The price of convenience is also about giving up certain information. What Healthjump removes is the chore of filling up medical forms every time you go to another clinic or hospital but the startup guarantees security with encryption.

“We don’t collect your (customers’) data,” Cavanaugh said.

Talking again about privacy, PeepsOut and its live stream network helps venues find new patrons and patrons find venues that they may like “to be found in.” Crawford guarantees that the streams are anonymous and not recorded at all.

A former ad man, Crawford announced a couple of recent accomplishments, including its partnership with 45 bars and other establishments, its new office in Austin Texas; its 1,500 uniques in New York as well as its return rate of 83 percent on its app and 63 percent on its website.

Thinknum’s Zhen presented his web platform for financial analysis and how it’s different. “We’re focusing on collaboration and solving transparency.”

Thinknum aggregates the abundance of financial data and insights on the web and presents it to our users in an intuitive format, indexing the world’s financial information in the process.

Thinknum’s Cashflow Model values companies based on fundamentals just like Wall Street research analysts do. Its Plotter tracks over 2,000 sources of data and enables users to analyze trends easily. Thinknum’s institutional clients include Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

Later, Sun answered questions from the audience, but one thing that stood out is how open he is to e-commerce startup idea. “It’s a $700-billion dollar industry with only a 6-percent penetration rate. In terms of potential, it’s more execution, than concept.”

Even Amazon, he added, is on Day 1 with e-commerce.

Late last year, comScore reported that Q3 2013 U.S. desktop-based retail e-commerce sales grew 13 percent year-over-year to $47.5 billion, marking the 16th consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and the 12th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.

Establishing and preserving your startup culture

Jonathan Ages
Jonathan Ages

By Dennis Clemente

Your startup culture is crucial to your startups’ long-term success. But how do you make company culture your own and how do you preserve it as you grow?

Last October 9, Michael Balzigos, psychology professor at Columbia University and Global Head of Product Development at McKinsey & Co., led the conversation into the topic with one startup founder and two organizational leaders at Alley NYC giving both an unstructured and structured view of company culture.

Jonathan Ages is the CEO of Blood, Sweat & Cheers, which provides free daily email for active men and women striving to be fit. The startup reportedly has about 100,000 daily email newsletter subscriptions and boasts 2013 Webby Awards for running ad campaigns on Crunch, Red Bull and Mike’s Hard.

The two other guests were Brett Morgan, director of business change and transformation for Wyndham Hotel Group and Iva Karolina Raisinger, organization leadership consultant at IBM

Raisinger thinks efficiency becomes a question if there are no written rules. For her, the importance of company culture resides in “the persona of the corporation as enacted by its employees and leaders.”

Ages agreed, “(Company culture) is the glue and fuel of the startup. It’s about working toward the same goal and having fun while doing it.”

How do you inculcate culture in your company?

Ages has an interesting structure in place in his company. “Tuesdays, I do walk-in talks. I walk around with them. Make sure they are valued. Thursdays, we have think and drinks. It’s an opportunity for us to share what you’ve been doing. We even talk about dating, as long as it doesn’t devolve into small talk but leads to a brainstorm. Fridays, we work from home with as little interaction as possible.”

Morgan said you must start it right—have a mission; be consistent; get employees involved and learn adaptability. “In two years, you’ll be in a better place.”

As for keeping customers, Morgan believes in keeping it simple like Johnny the Bagger, the story he likes talking about. “Johnny offered a Thought of the Day to the customers who liked it and always chose the counter he manned as a result. You can change culture, whether it’s engineered or organic.”

For Raisinger, it’s far more complex. “You cannot change culture through training,” suggesting a need to go deeper into the core. “Be honest. I am not even using the word authenticity, just honesty.”

Morgan interjected, “What will not work is ramming culture on people’s throats. Nobody will listen to you. You need to start small.”

But how do they handle people resistant to change. Coming from the publishing industry he left behind, Ages said the higher-ups remain there (in the company), because they are masters at keeping things unchanged.”

“They want the gates closed, because cultural shifts are challenging for them,” he added which compelled Bazigos to say, “The road to the future is a guarded by a thousand guardians of the past.”

What do they think of the most divisive of all–open office? Is it good or bad?

In most of his studies, Balzigos has noticed how employees hate open space. As a solution, he has also observed how some companies pump up the ambient noise or white noise in their offices.

Ages said one time he moved developers to a quiet area where they could not hear marketers making phone calls, they became more productive, but they lost connection with other people, unfortunately.

If it’s any consolation, Balzigos thinks of it this way: “If you’re in finance, you have more in common with someone in the same section or position in another company.”

Ages creates some space between colleagues from the neck part up and by suggesting having headphones on to allow them to work without distraction, from people or his environment.

Morgan tells how our environment can influence the company’s culture, but he calls for striking a balance when it matters. “Be careful that culture does not get in the way of your goal.”

Balzigos pointed out the leader’s imprint in the culture of an organization is key, but he also cautioned about how some founders struggle letting go of some responsibilities and losing sight of the goal. “Answer this question, are you ‘entrepreneuring’ or managing. It’s important to figure out how to trust your team.”

Ages said he is able to trust his team because hires smart people and allows them to do their thing. “I do the recruitment and then try to get out of the way unless some troubleshooting is needed.”

Selecting and keeping the right people is vital, and Morgan bases his decision on their knowledge, skills, ability and adaptability to culture.

For Ages, “it’s important that you allow them to audition and give a real-world opportunity to do their role.”

To keep and get them excited, Balzigos said, “Sell them greed. Show them ROI, the company’s projected growth in a few years.”

Value or vibe, what is a startup culture and what does it take to build one?

By Dennis Clemente

A pingpong table does not a startup culture make, as six distinguished panelists can attest to at the meetup, “How to build a startup culture” last September 17 at the Orrick offices at CBS building.

The panelists were Dane Atkinson, CEO, SumAll; Wiley Cerilli, former CEO of SinglePlatform, Current VP of Constant Contact; Mark Peter Davis, managing partner, Interplay Ventures; Allyson Downey, co-founder & CEO, weeSpringZain Jaffer, CEO, Vungle; and Joaquin Roca, consultant & COO, Venwise.

How do you build the culture you want throughout the life of your company?

For Roa, it’s about “knowing your culture is connected to your business strategy and how you must all be together in knowing how to win your market.” He insisted on having “core values that rarely change” right from the start. For Downey, an ideal startup culture is about having “some radical transparency.”

Cerilli, who probably has more staff than all the panelists with more than 120, agrees. “Hire people brutally honest with you and have a no-a–hole policy.”

Creating and preserving your startup culture requires some honest assessments. Cerilli likes to give leeway when it comes to off-hours camaraderie.

“As you get bigger, not everyone likes going out for drinks. People have different ways of celebrating,” he said, in response to how some startups think: “You must work together if you look at someone and think you can drink with him.”

As for how people choose a startup culture, Jaffer, who has about 40 staffers, responded to how people sense it, intuitively. “Culture is about unspoken things.”

When it comes to hiring people, Cerilli said he doesn’t do interviews anymore but at one point in time, he said a person who often said “I” instead of “we” and those who mentioned their previous bosses (in an unflattering light most likely) are big no-nos.

For Davis, it’s crucial that he gets people who think in terms of being a partner than just an employee. “If you feel you can’t deliver bad news, that’s a boss-employee relationship, not a boss-partner relationship.”

In terms of talent, Jaffer said he likes “hiring people smarter than me” whereas Atkinson puts a high premium on “trust” and, borrowing from Cerilli’s management style, having a push-up drop-down policy for those who think they’re getting “pudgy.”

“We ask if a someone had a bad day for three successive days,” Atkinson said. This way they can respond accordingly and do their best to help.

For Roa, diversity is the most important thing. “Ask yourself what you are missing in your team, because oftentimes we like people who like us. And if we’re white and we only have white men, that’s not good. A diverse team sees things wholistically.”

In Downey’s case where she and her husband are co-founders, they try to be honest about what the other half can’t do—and that includes knowing how to balance work-life balance and a virtual workforce. “If you can’t do (the latter), you’re doing it wrong.”

But how do they communicate culture? For Davis, he likes to “drop the F bomb” and see how his interviewee reacts. “It’s all about show and tell.”

Jaffer went for a more measured approach. “We do anonymous surveys,” especially for those exiting the company, because they’re more honest. Cerilli likes how people communicate Wow moments on a wall at his company’s office.

But how do they handle a problematic employee?

Davis said you don’t want to be last person to find out if there’s a problematic employee, because it can affect your bottom line. He said he has given someone another change, but when things didn’t change, he went by “addition by subtraction,” as he noticed the company and staff became more productive. “We just had to let this person go.”

Jaffer likes to ask himself, “I ask “Is it my fault? Did I give this person an opportunity to succeed. If we didn’t, everybody is accountable. You have to give this person a chance.”

The meetup was hosted by David Concannon, a partner at Orrick.

From her Gilt trip, Susan Lyne takes on another journey as AOL’s new Brand Group CEO

Lyne. Laid-back where another high-profile female exec leans in?
Lyne. Laid-back where a female counterpart leans in

By Dennis Clemente

Getting a job in an industry you know nothing about is close to impossible, but that’s because you’re not Susan Lyne, the woman who has worked in magazines, movies, TV and most recently, members-only shopping site Gilt. In her sixties now, Lyne can choose to rest on her laurels. She has worked with A-listers– director Francis Ford Coppola for City, Michael Eisner at Disney, Martha Stewart and the ABC Network—but she chooses to go her adventurous way and this time, she has gone AOL.

At the AOL Ventures office last August 19, Chieh Huang, former director at Zynga, introduced Lyne as the new CEO of AOL’s Brand Group. She follows an impressive list of powerful women in the limelight these days — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo.

So what is she bringing to AOL.—and what can we expect? Lyne is going to be in charge of its brands such as Engadget, Huffington Post and Tech Crunch and what used to be ubiquitous– AOL.com

She said she’ll be focused on the content side. “First thing I thought was rethink AOL.com. I’m thinking of it not just as a destination but with content on it that will also allow us to bring consumers to the mix,” she said.

Not necessarily with AOL.com but for its other brand, she wants to do short-form entertainment, 2-minute news updates, live entertainment and overtime, create multiple channels…aggregate and push content out. Do big ‘wows’ that the Internet will allow us to do.” And if we heard her correctly, she wants to do more than what broadcast networks do.

Looking at the future of AOL in the Internet space, she is sorting all the things they have done and how they can be used. Asked about the possibility of a single user app for AOL, she gave it some thought before saying “I like an app that does one thing well like Uber.”

She expressed her desire to have a team of product designers and engineers working as a single unit, even asking someone from the AOL staff to shepherd resumes along her way; a new challenge for Lyne who is single-minded when she wants to be, even if her career history told us otherwise.

Talking about her past incarnations, she is quick to admit that she didn’t plan to have such a divergent career, “but I do go where I am a beginner again.” In ruminating why she’s often attracted to a job that’s new to her or know nothing about. “Those are the times where my mind works best.”

A perceptive editor sees trends coming her way and that came into play when Lyne made the dramatic shift to the Internet with Gilt. “Back then, there were no tablet computers, no Android and no Pinterest (not to mention mobile e-commerce being in its infancy).” She is saying this, because Gilt ultimately benefited from consumer technology’s rise.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Lyne has impeccable timing but she clearly credits her experience in the magazine industry for her success in turning around organizations, for those she loved and abhorred.

She clearly has a preference. “I hated it (job) at Disney. I was happy at ABC, because it was like a magazine.” She also handled Martha Stewart ‘s magazine “at the time she (Martha) was in jail.”

Still, Lyne counts her Gilt trip as a great learning experience. “I was drawn to some kind of change but I also I learned an enormous amount in four years that I was there,” she said. “The ‘aha’ moment for me there was recognizing flash sales is entertainment! Every noon, when new items come up on the site, it was entertainment.”

Lyne sounds more introspective than deliberate when she speaks. “Sometimes you start to believe your own mythology,” she trailed off at one point, close to the end of her talk, as if she were relaxing at a porch on a lazy Sunday morning.

Perhaps the secret is to make all the hard work look easy and laid-back where a younger counterpart may still need to lean in.

Aereo founder focuses on streaming live TV than library, expanding in key cities

chet kanojia

By Dennis Clemente

If you’re a Time Warner subscriber in some key areas like New York, you don’t have the highest rated network these days, CBS. But if you have Aereo and you have Internet connection, you can watch Big Brother all you want, if that is your thing. Aereo is a boon to consumers and a bane to cable TV providers. The intrepid man behind Aereo is Chet Kanojia, born in India, educated in both India and the United States.

“If you succeed, you succeed. If you fail, you fail,” he said in response to a question if he lost the fight against the cable TV providers at the Startup Grind meetup last August 14. Aereo is an online TV platform.

Kanojia knows Aereo faces an uphill battle against the big cable TV companies but he thinks he doesn’t need millions to get enough business. “I’m focusing on live TV than library. The five channels are the future. The rest is library, which is expensive and a shrinking market.” The latter means recorded programming (eg. dramas, movies).

To fight the great fight against giant cable TV providers, of course, you need a strong ally. Kanojia has the backing of a powerful man in the industry—IAC chair Barry Diller and other premiere investors, plus a strong engineering team. With more than 100 staffers (he started with 10 last year) and still hiring, they certainly mean business.

In the hour-long intimate talk at the ThoughtWorks office on Madison Avenue, Kanojia did not mince words. He was open about his early years as the son of a ship merchant who smoked (cigarettes) when he was 14 as he was about venture capitalists, kidding how his relationship with them is better now that he’s not asking for more money. In 2008, Microsoft bought Kanoji’s TV ad company Navi Networks for $40 million.

Asked about fundraising, the most interesting question for the attendees, Kanojia said that “raising a million could take you a year and is the hardest, getting $300,000 indicates you have something.” Breaking it down, a venture capital investment between $300,000 and $500,000 is low where $10 million to $40 million is mid-range.

Some words of caution to those seeking VCs, though, “Do you have the energy to sleep in motels six years in a row? Things can change 15 times,” said perhaps to emphasize the accompanying challenges in dealing with VCs.

For those who want to take a dip into the TV cable industry business, it’s a huge multi-million investment. The cost of boxes could mean these companies could be investing in 300 million boxes just to be able to cater to every American household. On top of that, you must have the distribution and marketing muscle. The consumer pays for a higher subscription fee as a result.

For those who haven’t heard of Aereo, what’s so special about it? You can watch TV online at a much reasonable cost with its proprietary cloud-based antenna and DVR technology. This allows you to watch live or recorded HD broadcast TV on any type of Internet-connected device, including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers.

What’s also making Aereo the talk of the town is how Kanojia knows the TV industry in and out. He is clearly challenging today’s highly fragmented media landscape by pushing the development of breakthrough solutions. He holds more than 14 patents in fields ranging from robotics to data communications systems.

The soft-spoken Kanojia dated himself in a good-humored manner, saying he came to the States during “Jimmy Carter’s last term” (1981), that his first job in 1991 at Mitsubishi was only one day, no thanks to some paperwork mishap, and he had a handwriting compression business for the defunct Palm Pilot after grad school.

Perhaps because Aereo wants to spring some surprise to cable TV providers, he’s keeping his mouth shut regarding the growth of his company. Early this year, he said he would expand to 22 cities across the U.S. It now streams in Atlanta, Boston, New York with Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami (in the next few days) and Salt Lake City next.

Later he asked the audience which industry can help Aero with its business? “The largest variable for us is real estate,” he said. Aereo is rolling the way it does through geographic concentration, similar timezones, early registrations.