Culture hack for startups: Understand your values


NEW YORK–To be guided by values is to be successful, but what if you could not see or articulate it clearly? Last June 16, Columbia Professor Paul Ingram conducted a values workshop to willing participants at Alley which, under Culture Hacks, teamed up to hold the special workshop with Columbia Business School.

Culture Hacks is an exercise designed to help startups understand, develop and strengthen organizational culture.

“I know who I am, I manage people better,” a quote read on Ingram’s slide as the workshop tackled the importance of knowing one’s self.

As we know, values can be abstract or concrete. It can mean happiness, respect, integrity, accomplishment and efficiency. You can have a hierarchy on feelings and decisions. For one person, relationships can be more important than trust, integrity and honesty, while another person could place higher value on honesty.  The importance and meaning of values can change with the context.

Context, he said, affects values.  Ask yourself, “What is most important to you?”

One last reflection he asked the participants is to think of a great moment they experienced at work. Identifying the most important values is important but having access to your value lead to your best self

After his brief introduction, Ingram conducted the exercise by asking the participants to do build their own values hierarchy. Having a value at the bottom doesn’t mean it’s unimportant; it could just be a foundation necessary for reaching a higher value. However, he also emphasized how starting with your CEO value (the peak value) is crucial.

Look for means-end relationships (e.g. does openness lead to learning?), he said.

And when you have a working version of your hierarchy, describe it yourself. If it sounds ok, describe it to your neighbor-participant. Ingram said blurting it out loud helps you refine your hierarchy and realize that you can revise it if it doesn’t work for you.”

Have a “functional test of your values hierarchy” when you go over the exercise. Here are some tips:

  1. List your values with “1” being the CEO and move down the hierarchy. Then for the first scenario, point out satisfaction with your current job.
  2. Staring at the bottom of your value list, score for each value how well/poorly it was satisfied (1= violated; 7 = completely satisfied)
  3. Ask yourself for each value in each situation what you could do, or have done, to achieve higher satisfaction for this value
  4. Ask yourself if the values analysis is in line with your overall feeling about the situation (e.g., if you love your job, but feel all of your values are violated, this suggests something is missing from your hierarchy);
  5. Repeat with the second scenario, “Situation Where You Were Hurt or Angry.” The question here is to what extent you see your values are being satisfied.
  6. Make changes to your hierarchy that capture your key work values

German startups MeteoViva, Minodes, Brandnew seek traction, funding in US

german chancellor dirk kanngiesser

By Dennis Clemente

While gaining traction is crucial in the US market, it’s also where German startups can get funding to scale their businesses globally

NEW YORK–The presenters at the German Accelerator at Rise last March 22 had one thing in mind. They know the US market is big. While gaining traction is crucial in the US market, it’s also where they know they can get funding to scale their businesses globally.

German startups MeteoViva, Minodes and Brandnew presented their startups to a panel of venture capitalists–Urs Cete, managing partner at BDMI; Ulrich Quay, head at BMW Ventures; Alicia Syrett, founder and CEO at Pantegrion Capital; and  Anton Waltz, managing director of US Digital Ventures.  

meteovivaMeteoViva helps the customers save 15 to 40 percent of energy costs in corporate buildings with its unique Saas solution. Its technology is reportedly based on a patented computer simulation model and was developed at RWTH Aachen University (Germany’s MIT).

It essentially predicts how much heating and cooling a building to maintain the desired climate at the lowest cost. It can reportedly be used in any building–factories, office buildings, shopping centers.

For retail analytics, Minodes offers insights into visitors’ in-store shopping behavior using Wi-Fi sensors it puts on stores. Data is viewable in its dashboard and in customizable email reports. Additional and more granular reports are provided depending on business requirements

As it optimizes in-store customer pathways, Minodes also offers omnichannel retargeting and beacon campaigns. For instance, it retargets offline store visitors through Facebook Google Apps. Now in 12 countries, it is in the United States to gain traction and get better valuation.

simple process Offering itself as influencer marketing in its presentation, Brandnew  connects brands with influential users on Instagram. It hopes to address the 3 key frustrations for brands and agencies–scalability, targeting and analytics–through its Saas service, either on subscription or six-month basis. Rates are about $20,000 depending on campaign.

A VC said it needs a “one money-shot sentence” for better positioning.

Dirk Kannigiesser, CEO of the German Accelerator in Silicon Valley, was in attendance to present the startups and VCs along with CleanTech, Berlin’s largest industrial park, which is optimally aligned to the requirements of productive-driven companies.

Japanese startups showcase products in NYC

NEW YORK– Last March 7, Japan Startups presented five startups from Japan. Crowd Realty, Tribus, Laxus, Machizukuri Gift and Hanasuke which took turns presenting to a packed audience at Pivotal Labs in the Chelsea area. After the presentations, the audience had the opportunity to sit down with the Japanese founders and interpreters to discuss their products and services in more detail.

Crowd Realty is a crowdfunding platform focused on both domestic and global real estate.  These include commercial property, the revitalization of unused land by private companies as well as the creation a new capital market of secondary deals between investors. It is said to be based on financial technology.

TRINUS structures a new value for open manufacturing. It provides the platform where superb technology and sophisticated design come together, developing product concept and selling them on e-commerce sites from crowdfunding initiatives, securing customers and investments in the process.

ES Corporation’ Laxus is an interesting concept. It allows women to borrow bags from the world’s best brands via monthly membership. Delivering cost is free and any scratches are subject to guarantee. It claims to have luxury handbags such as a Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel as you want them for an unlimited period. Whenever you’re feeling bored with your bags, you can quickly replace them with new and popular ones.

Laxus carries about 6,000 bags with insurance. One can borrow one handbag up to a month or at least one bag without limit. In one year, 25 million bags are reportedly borrowed.  Since there is not enough stock, the company is seeking funding. Plans to launch in Manhattan this summer are afoot.

Machizukuri Gift plans and develops products that make use of regional resources in rural areas. This is in an attempt to foster a sustainable economic community and promote recycling in Japan. It shows promotional videos of Japan’s various regions– as a way to “find” “improve” and “deliver” the attractiveness of rural regions in Japan.

About 60 percent of women in Japan reportedly quit their jobs after giving birth. This gave birth to Waris which is empowering Japanese women to find flexible work, especially since modern mores are changing and women are getting more opportunities to work nowadays.  

Waris helps these women find jobs for companies with a flexible working style. This means working only on certain days of the week or working remotely.  

Offering a flexible working arrangement for women seems to be working as the company’s gross sales last year $24 million. By 2020, it hopes to earn $18 million.


Flower concierge from Hanasuke gives recommendation flowers as a gift and delivers the best flower from select flower shops throughout Japan. Inspired by the needs of individual consumers, it creates new ways of giving flowers as a gift. For the company, flower concierge is more reliable than flower shops in one’s neighborhood and more convenient than any other flower networks.   

The flower concierge service also gives advice, helps deliver the best flowers, responds to follow-up follow up emails and sends pictures of the delivered flowers. Under its service, it has 200 selected florists in major cities in Japan.

Projective Space for work and Common for housing at Product Council

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK— In seeking the wisdom of the crowd at the Product Council meetup last February 29, Projective Space heard from a panel of product designers about how to improve the on-boarding process for startups. One of the panelists was Brad Hargreaves, co-founder of General Assembly, who also presented his new project, Common, a flexible community-driven housing providing fully furnished, month-to-month memberships.  

Hargreaves, Raschin Fatemi of and Gil Kim of General Assembly took turns asking questions and giving feedback to Projective Space, a curated membership community for entrepreneurs, creatives and innovators. It holds interviews and asks questions from potential members.

Suggestions and concerns from the panel:  

  • Have fewer questions to ask interviewees; check application process of online colleges and implement a system to give them a call before completing application.
  • When asking fewer questions to lower barrier of entry, they need to get back to asking 10 questions to get the right member
  • Do Open Houses instead of one on one interview
  • Check social accounts to to vet potential members
  • How are they okay with being wrong, how they are okay with rejecting people, how many are they willing to reject
  • How are you using referral program? Referrals create narrow community
  • Consider if the problem is marketing, not product.
  • Be creative about the funneling process
  • Don’t just make it exclusive
  • Do an event
  • Find out value of vetted membership
  • Change interview questions with members and ask them again
  • Build space related to what people do
  • You need to hard sell because your competition is doing the same thing

After the panel talk, Hargreaves talked about Common. He said the idea came to him when he was at General Assembly and wondered where their students, many out of town, lived. While sharing apartments is good, he knew there were always problems with household chores and people leaving even before cut-off dates.

In providing something like a co-living space for transients, including how it was going to exact fees, he thought of 4 principles for for Common:.

  1. It had to be inclusive –all supplies, cleaning, one price
  2. It had to be transparent– why a particular amount for rents
  3. It had to offer flexibility- Other people really like month to month
  4. It had to be comparable with other rentals in pricing  

This Spring, Common will open its largest home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Havemeyer home will have 12 suites and 51 bedrooms spread across almost 20,000 square feet of living space. Since opening its first home in October, its members have taken the initial concept of community. In addition to our weekly potluck dinners, Common residents have organized a book club, movie nights, even a hackathon.

The home is within blocks of popular local restaurants and bars, including Radegast Hall, Momofuku Milk Bar, Peter Lugers Steakhouse, Xixa, Traif, and more. In addition, its home is only a few minutes’ walk from the Marcy Avenue J M Z – one subway stop away from Manhattan – and not much farther from Williamsburg’s L and G lines.


On organization effectiveness, ‘hope is not a strategy’

NEW YORK–Last January 26, AlleyBoost featured two motivational speakers, Brett Morgan of GothamCulure and Dan Markovitz, an author and Yale professor, to talk about organizational effectiveness.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Morgan said simply before he proceeded to talk about how key influencers make organizations function better.

Porter: “Strategy is about making choices”; Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”; Sinek: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Best of all, Morgan emphasized how important it is to understand what you’re doing. Taking his cue from Drucker, he said: “Culture should permeate an organization. Culture is foundation.”

On leadership, he goes back to John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Quoting himself, “If you don’t know why you’re doing it, stop doing it. Or you will not know how to be successful.”

Markovitz, a marathoner in high school, thinks an organization should train like an athlete and while doing so, must know the approach to running efficient organizations: lean methodology. “Lean is about how to do more with less.”  

He takes “the fit organization” literally and in his book, he said he makes it a point that the language is easy to understand. “Athletes rigorously pursue improvement. Yet companies don’t it this way,” he laments.

In his book, he said he has 6 core principles that companies need to adhere to; he names three of them at the meetup:


  1. Commit to improvement. If you are going to be fit, you have to do it everyday. While it may not be standard practice anymore, he said it can be done if one has a suggestion box or even a public suggestion wall. This makes the company’s commitment to improvement visible. For hare-brained ideas, he said you can help turn a bad idea into a good idea.
  2. Increase value.  Cutting costs don’t work  He proceeds to tell us how some companies laid off hundreds of people to cut costs when it should have increased its value. Wild Things Gear is company that he thinks adds value to consumers because it allows you to customize their winter jackets.

Another company, Bilder & De Clerq in Amsterdam shows food shoppers all the ingredients of a meal by putting them on display in tables around the store. So you just take all the items sprawled on the table for you to re-enact a dish.

Markovitz said his book, Building the Fit Organization, should walk you step by step through the process of making lean as intrinsic to your company in your pursuit of profits. You will learn how to make an unshakeable commitment to increasing the value provided by doing the right work in the right way with continuous monitoring of processes and structured coaching for everyone.

But what if you don’t have the mindset of a fit person? “Use your own metaphor,” he said.



Uncubed co-founder: ‘Smell the culture of an office’

NEW YORK–If you were at the Startup Grind last January 21, you would have heard about the startups you should not work for from Tarek Pertew himself, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Uncubed, which holds big hiring conferences. He also runs a publication, Wakefield.

What are the names of these companies? Since Pertew asked if the event was being recorded, it behooves us to keep our lips sealed, except for the company he did say you should work for: It’s Behance, the site that offers creative professionals a site to showcase their portfolio.

“Behance is the No 1 place to work for,” he said, pointing out how the company takes care of its employees very well. He did not elaborate. But he did emphasize how important it is to know the startup you’re applying to as he likes to keep reminding anyone.

Pertew asked us to trust our instinct when job-hunting.. “Smell the culture of an office, (Watch) if people are looking down on you the moment you walk in. You’ll feel it.”

Tarek has been featured as an expert in startups and employment in a number of publications, including the NY Times, Forbes, CNN, CBS, and a jobs expert for Newsday. Pertew  co-founded a couple of startups in the hiring space Referio, a crowd-sourcing referral hiring platform and MyWorkster, a platform that connects alumni with students, ultimately evolving into a national job fair business.


You need to have a presence on Linkedin. and it should up to date. Having a presence in one other social network like Twitter or Quora is also vital.


Now assuming you have picked a startup to work for, how do you keep your job?


“The most powerful thing is having a command of the (English) language,” he said by way of presenting yourself and, as he mentioned earlier and just as crucial, having the writing chops, which he said proved helpful in his startup’s early stages.

Asked about the fictional character he would hire, he said the Count of Monte Cristo whom he thought was resourceful. “It’s very hard to teach resourcefulness.”

Uncubed has not raised venture capital, although he did get an uncle to invest in his early business. Pertew started as a clothing buyer at Lord & Taylor. Selling T-shirts was his first foray into entrepreneurship a decade ago.

Everybody was into selling T-shirts at the time, so how did he do it? “The difference between success and failure is timing,” he said.

German startups Keeeb, Night Advisor come to NY

By Dennis Clemente

German startups in New York to seek funding, gain more exposure and reach

NEW YORK–German startups Keeeb, Favendo and Night Adivsors took turns demonstrating their platforms at the German Accelerator NY last December 15 at Rise NY. 

Conrad Gulla of Keeeb got the most votes for his presentation of his platform. Touted as a personal Google for everyone, it helps you clip anything online, similar to how Evernote’s Skitch and other similar tools work but one that you can even put to good use on MS Word as well.

Gulla said the company has mostly relied on word of mouth to reach 75,000 beta users at the moment, some of them making productive use of their clips at $9 a month with large organizations paying higher for its additional services.

“We started with large organizations in mind. If we can get them into this product category, we (believe we can get the small companies),” he said.

Keeeb is hoping to get a slice of the e-commerce industry which raked in $87 billion dollars in the third quarter with 200,000 etailers enjoying that windfall. Amazon even managed to get 15% of the pie through its constant consumer innovation.

The German startup is seeking Series A funding within 3 to 6 months.

The panelists who took turns asking the presenters some questions were Jessica Peltz-Zatulove, principal of kbs+ ventures; Deepen Parikh, venture partner of Interplay Ventures and Mitchelle Kleinhandler, venture partner of  Scout Ventures.

Would you believe the GPS was invented in 1978? It certainly sparked a revolution in how people interact with the world around them. In the digital age, it has become more than just a navigation application. GPS is on Google Now, Google Maps, Foursquare, Uber and Waze.

With Favendo, David Keil said it has brought GPS indoors using beacons installed at retail stores, for instance. “Retail is just the beginning,” he said. It ultimately seeks to become the search for the physical store, even car finder.

“We are also working with hospitals now,” he said. Eventually, he wants to add airports, museums, train stations and office buildings.

The bulk of sales comes mostly from its software. Keil said Favendo has amassed $2.3 million in revenue  with 50 installations and 30,120 beacons deployed to date. The beacons cost $25 to $30 each. It charges a monthly service fee that depends on the size of the venue. Customers have to download the app.

How much do NYC venues need to earn per night? More than 250 customers but the money earned also goes to the average rental fee of $54,000 a month. That’s New York for you.

Last presenter, Johannes Herzer, CEO of Night Advisor, talked about how his company brings people to venues and how it addresses the limited time for online  marketing. Its Saas tool empowers venues and events to create and manage ad campaigns in minutes.

Since inception a year ago, it has raised $40K from angel investors, including club owners with an average revenue per customer of $165 month.

Maurya gives us peek of principles behind upcoming book, Scaling Lean

NEW YORK–“Life’s too short to build something nobody wants,” says Ash Maurya in his talk last December 8 at We Work in Wall Street.

Maurya is the acclaimed author of “Running Lean,” a concise guide that helps you take action in using lean startup and customer development principles. He was at We Work to present his ideas for scaling business–clearly a prelude to his upcoming book, “Scaling Lean.”  

For Maurya, the root cause of a startup’s problem is when solution is perceived as the product. “Your solution is not the product. Your business model is the product.”

“We build needless time building the wrong product,” he stressed. “We need a systematic way for identifying risks– one that doesn’t require guessing.”

Maurya briefly discussed what we can look forward to in his book, Scaling Lean, which he categorized in the following ways: defining progress, seeing waste and achieving breakthrough.

Progress here means traction and how it “matters above everything else, although he also cautioned against gaming it. For him, one has to create and capture value first then you charge and deliver value, knowing “monetizable value is not current revenue but future of revenue.”.

For Maurya, business models cover three things–direct models (one supplier and several customers); multi-sided models (adding value to users first followed by monetization) and the marketplace model, certainly the buzzword this year for the way it has taken AirBnb and Uber to a mainstream audience.

Citing a company that has provided valuable direct-model service and traction, Maurya said Starbucks’ rebranding efforts based on consumer insights made them acknowledge what brings customers to coffeehouses. It certainly works as the third place for home and office. .“They realized the more people spend time (there) the more they are likely to buy,” he said.

Calculating customer lifetime value between $14,000 and $20,000, he points out how the time people spend at the coffeehouse is connected with its revenue and how happy customers drive referral.

Going back to the meta principles of Running Lean, he points out how to document Plan A, identify the riskiest parts of your plan and systematically test plans,

As a proponent of his own business model canvas, does he have anything against a business plan? “I’m not against business plan but its format. But it’s a document that investors want you to write but don’t read.”

Maurya also touched on how to see waste correlates to how we see the customer factory floor. Talking about how every business has a weak link, he reminds us how to avoid premature optimization. It’s important to focus on a single metric.

For more on Ash Maurya and his lean principles, visit


20 Korean startups land in NY

NEW YORK–The second Korean Summit NYC last October 16 at the New Yorker Wyndham featured several Korean startups with Charlie Kim, founder and CEO of Next Jump, and Murat Aktihanoglu, managing director of Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, as main speakers.

It’s not everyday you see different cultures and countries working together but ERA’s Aktihanoglu, a Turkish immigrant to the US since 1998, spoke about his trip to Korea and how it proved to be a valuable experience for everyone–startups in Korea and those from New York, and how it all resulted in a Korean startup summit. It’s something almost unheard of in Silicon Alley.

Kim, a Korean American, extolled an Asian virtue of building a company that “can make your father and mother proud.” His speech was tempered and more realistic, as he took the audience on a journey of his success in business, stressing how entitlement will get you nowhere.

Among the startup presenters in the whole-day affair were PinStory, the go-to resource for foodies in Korea; Anyractive with GoTouch and how it turns any display screen such as TV, monitor and projector into a touchscreen; Who’s Good which provides dynamic data on environmental, social and governance risks.

Huinno builds innovative, clinically-tested wearable capable of measuring vital signs, including blood pressure; Ediket which provides a unique proofreading service by integrating full proofreading experiences with its web technology.

Moloco saves Silicon Valley’s mobile apps by resolving the key restriction of the current page view-driven mobile ads, while ZIKTO gently vibrates on your wrist when it detects bad walking posture. There more presenters and and more than 20 other startups at the exhibit hall.

How are these startups doing and how did they get their start. Slidejoy has reportedly been downloaded 500,000 times with clients ranging from startups to FORTUNE 200 companies. Pinstory reportedly came to fruition when Yelp ignored the request of its founder to come to Asia. It’s customized search result via machine learning with 1,000 business accounts.

GoTouch looked mighty impressive and was a huge favorite as it also works to bundle itself with Samsung and SK Telecom.

Who’s Good was received warmly for its more social bent in investing while also providing visualization and analysis that draw inspiration from financial investing.

Huinno’s focus on healthcare wearables allow you measure your vitals, including your blood pressure as its addresses the world’s global hypertension rate at 40 percent. It is reportedly 99 percent accurate, as determined in a clinical test.

Among the Korean VC panelists were Richard Jun, managing partner at Bam Ventures; David Lee, investor and former director, Google Asia Pacific; Hyuk Jeen Suh, head of Samsung Ventures East Coast and John Ryu, partner at Scout Ventures.

The event was hosted by KOTRA with Joseph Juhn, KSE, World-Okta NY and GORI.

Female founders tip: Never judge an investor by his loud snore

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK– Female founders at the Orrick meetup last October 5  found out one thing: You can never judge investors by their snore volume or constant phone use.  Why? They invested in their startups.

The female founders of Wayup, F Cubed, Manicube, getringly and ELOQUII had those stories to share at the Orrick meetup.

“They probably just had a long day, or were just too busy,” two of the women said. An Duggal, Liz Wessel, Katina Mountanos and Mariah Chase were the panelists who shared their experience as a startup and how they have pitched, wooed and won over investors last October 5 at  Orrick’s offices.

Among the tips they shared with the audience in this law office at the CBS Building were:

  • Nothing will happen unless you talk about it
    Prototype and make it better
    Hire senior as much as possible, not by seniority but those who doesn’t mind rolling down their sleeves to do the dirty work
    Give them two decks — one brief one via email and a comprehensive one, for VCs to use and share with their partners
    Prepare to paint a really audacious goal even if you want to be authentic
    Expect to have coffee meetings with them

WayUp (formerly Campus Job) is a startup that connects college students with local job opportunities. Launched last September 2014, it’s founded by Liz Wessel and JJ Fligelman. In April, the company raised a $7.8 million Series A round. It has reportedly signed up over 5,000 companies and thousands of student users.

The name change was crucial to the success of its business, because Campus Job sounded like it was offering jobs inside a campus only. The site is free for students.

The Female Founders Fund or F Cubed headed by Anu Duggal is a venture capital fund for women to address the paltry number of funds that startups with a female founder or CEO has received. A research study pointed out that only 2.7 percent of US companies receive venture capital funding from 2011 to 2013.

Katina Mountanous of Manicube talked about Manicube, her house call and even — get this — in-office manicure service (if your employer is okay with it) available in cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. She co-founded it with Liz Whitman.

Ringly is working on building the future of wearable technology and connected devices like jewelries.

ELOQII, headed by Chase, is a plus-size fashion brand with a difference. It offers sophisticated outfits for women who can’t find their size.