Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fittr app – to review & vote for Tampa Bay’s hottest startups poll

Fittr is the best workout creator available on mobile. Guided by an ACE-certified personal trainer but built by neurocortical tech, Fittr workouts change with your progress and available equipment, even your preferences over time. Please vote for us in the Tech Cocktail best of Tampa Bay competition:

Thank you! –Kiki @kikischirr


I’m Aaron Hanson and I founded Startuplister to help other startups with the labor intensive task of marketing their early-stage or established startup. With Startuplister, we submit startups to 40+ high-quality directories, review sites, and blogs to help build traffic, get exposure, and build a following.


Aaron Hanson

Guest Blog by Darryl McAdams – You must be nuts! Why I’m building Language Engine

For those interested in AI, UX and startups: please read and engage with founder on Twitter @psygnisfive.

Original post:


“You must be nuts!”

Why I’m building Language Engine

posted by Darryl on 23 Jan 2015

Heh, yeah, maybe. You’ve got to be a little nuts to start a startup, and probably quite nuts to start one with such audacious goals. But they’re important goals.

Perhaps a little history would put it in context. I’ve been interested in AI for a long time, since I was a kid, and as I learned more about linguistics, I decided to play around with the idea of building systems that could interact with a user. After playing with some fairly simple ideas in 2009, I put it aside and just continued my studies. The speech recognition side just wasn’t where it needed to be yet.

Early last year, however, I found myself using Twitter a lot while driving. (DON’T Tweet and drive!) I’d wait till I got to a red light or a stop sign, read some tweets, reply with speech-to-text, etc. It was around this time that I had seen Her (go watch it if you haven’t seen it). I thought to myself, “jeez, can’t I just talk to my phone?”


Americans lose enormous amounts of time and money driving. $161 billion a year! If you’ve got a chauffeur, or at least someone sitting next to you, you can recover some of it, but most people don’t. What could we be doing with that time, that money?

So I tried Siri. Maybe Apple was offering a solution and I had simply over looked it. That didn’t go as expected, and even today it doesn’t. I can tell Siri to send a tweet, but that’s about it. I looked around at what else was available and while there were interesting APIs, they couldn’t handle the complexities of natural language well enough to build a conversational AI.

I figured, since I know a bunch of linguistics, I know we can make that stuff work, and more. I knew we could make something completely new, that no one’s seen before except in scifi. And here I am, almost a year later, trying to make computers think. Nuts. But is it really? We don’t need to aim for the Samantha to do something amazing, just Jarvis.

Unlike Samantha, Jarvis isn’t really a person with his own aspirations, opinions, and free will. Jarvis is just a really good UI. He knows what to do to help you achieve your goals, as you’ve conveyed them in talking to him. He’ll help you discover a molecule in the Unisphere, he’ll catch you when you’re a little too drunk to stand. But he won’t run off with the cyberghost of Robert Anton Wilson, because he’s not a person, just a really great UI.

We could build drones that can fly around at your command. You could have a fleet of drones that monitor crops — “check the southern fields for blight, and if you find any, remove the plants”. You could have drones that inspect bridges, with the operator safely on the deck — “ok, go to the next pylon. wait, hold on. what’s that?” (camera zooms in). This super cool startup Skydio is aiming in that direction.

It goes beyond that, even. We could build robots that can manufacture, install, and maintain giant solar farms for pennies. The dirt cheap power could be used to purify water in huge quantities, ending drought, greening the deserts, and providing arable farmland to eliminate hunger, which would of course be farmed by drones and robots.

Steve Jurvetson, of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, wants to use new tech to make a world where all material goods are $1 per pound, and thereby eliminate hunger, poverty, lack of health insurance, homelessness. I think that’s a great goal. I think we can achieve it if we really try, and AI is the key. I hope Language Engine can be a part of that.

If you have comments or questions, get it touch. I’m @psygnisfive on Twitter, augur on freenode (in #languagengine and #haskell).

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Study Group on the Network Effect (Virality)​

From my friend Andreas…

Charles Jo 650.906.2600 Twitter @charlesjo

Begin forwarded message:

several of my clients want their product/service/etc to go viral.

well, sure, everyone wants that: just release, spend zero on marketing, become a billionaire.

i’ve been looking into this: there’s very little about “network effect” (also called virality, viral marketing, Metcalfe’s Law, etc.) there’s a wikipedia article, a few more articles, and the few examples, which are all the same: fax machines, telephones, Skype.

but none of those products were launched with the expectation of virality: they were lucky to be viral.

tho’ virality is incredibly valuable, i wonder why it hasn’t been studied. there are no books on this at Amazon. there are description of it, but nothing on how to do it.

nobody is able to intentionally and repeatedly create virality. proof: if someone could, he’d be a billionaire.

– would you want to meet, discuss, brainstorm to see if we can figure this out?

– i’m looking for five or six people (highly skilled, experienced, motivated, etc.) to discuss this. you’re either in digital marketing or a dotcom founder.

– we should meet perhaps five or six times over a month or two. either we figure out how to do this (or we figure out that it can’t be done).

i have a conf room with large white boards (and coffee) in Palo Alto.

benefit to you: it’d solve your marketing problem
downside to you: you become a billionaire and you have to pay more taxes

next step: contact me. include your LinkedIn ID or website.

– i’m at
– you can also see my website at

i’ll put pick a day in the next two weeks, and notify you.


Guest Blog – @Mattermark for Everyone by @JDcarlu

Original post:

Reply to author on Twitter at @JDcarlu.

If you don’t know what Mattermark does: they “Research, prospect, and track the fastest growing private companies with deal intelligence.”

They focus on three main markets:

Private Market Investors: Venture capital, private equity & hedge funds
Lead Generation: Sales & business development professionals
Merger & acquisitions: Corporate development & investments bankers

With that said, let’s dive right in:
On Hunting

Mattermark payments plans are: $399/mo paid annual or $499 monthly.

On Christoph Janz categorization of the SaaS companies we would say that Mattermark is hunting for Deers & Rabbits. More close to hunt only Deers actually.

What I found very interesting about this blog post that relate the activity of “hunting animals” with sales, is how far from the reality of hunting they are. I agree that you should choose in advance what is going to be your prey (customer) and what strategy you will use, but the reality is that animals are not waiting for you to come (same with customers). When you hunt remember you are not the only one going for the same customers, and that they don’t behave as a shoplist that you find them and you choose which to pick.
When you are in survival mode you hunt what you found as fast as you can. If you have a comfortable market share (not fighting for survival) you will focus on hunting more deers instead of rabbits. The trap here is that we tend to approach our sales (hunt) strategy along with who we target as our customer.

But their is a difference in the attitude that you should take on approaching the hunt and the type of customers you are going for.

If you fall into the trap you will adapt and correlate your strategy with the type of customers you want. The trick is to unlearned this, and realize that not necessary the strategy will focus on hunting one type of animal, or that one type of animal (customer) will be hunt with the same strategy.

In a SaaS model, why shouldn’t you customize your product so it can be sold for different uses. In our example — Mattermark— the possible uses of the platform (product) is larger than todays strategy and payment model.
Minimum Use of Product

Everyone knows (I hope) by now what MVP means (Minimum Viable Product). Concept introduce by Frank Robinson but made famous by Eric Ries. As read in Ries book:

The Minimum Viable Product is that version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn loop with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time. The minimum viable product lacks many features that may prove essential later on.

In our case Mattermark not only has built a MVP but at this moment is much more than that. It is a whole incredible sophisticated product. I have personally used it and can say its amazing. Now, for me, it was more than I needed. Why? Because there is a certain amount of information and use you can give to their platform, which is very limited compare to what it has to offer. Here is where the concept of Minimum Use of Product (MUP) comes to play:

The Minimum Use of Product is the simplest use a customer can give to your product and found value on it that they are willing to pay for.

Some examples on the Mattermark platform would be: One search for the correct angel investor, one sale lead to possible customers, one competitor that raised funding, one VC that has not yet invest in your niche, one startup that you can partner with.

So let’s try to figure out how the MUP will work when it comes to $$.
Monthly Plan — Annual Plan Vs Pay what you use

Now that we understand what the M.U.P means and stands for let’s see how this applies to our monetization strategy.

Let’s start by saying that the most surprising thing for me is that Mattermark has experienced and try other models but not applied directly to their main product. “Finding a model for sustainable paid content at Mattermark” published Danielle Morrill.

“2.5 hours and $1,000+ of pre-orders later, we might be onto something here… What if subscription fees sustained content operations and we could completely focus on turning out great content, even if it was just one piece each day?”

She is very smart. She saw the signs when publishing the reports. What she took as a sign of a “new startup journalism” is a new strategy model combined with a need for content. So how this is connected to their main product: the platform.

When you first use Mattermark you go into the free trial. Its usually a great idea. Give your customers a taste of your product, they try it, learn from it, get use to it, get addicted, can’t live without it, can’t imagine life without it, OK I will pay.

The entire user experience — from the first time the user visits your site to the moment he signs up for a free trial, through the onboarding and the exploration of the product and further on — needs to be completely frictionless -Christoph Janz

We need to understand the friction on the different stages (free trial). Let’s say there are two kinds of friction: one is psychological -what happens in your mind- and one is monetary -if it hurts to pay and you feel it in your pocket-.
The psychological friction has disappear with the use of the free trial but not the monetary one. This one appears when we need to log in with our credit card and then vanish on the month we are using the platform.

The friction comes back when you finish the month of trial, you know they have your credit card, and you remember their payment options:

$399/mo paid annual or $499 monthly.

Then you go “Wow”. I loved the product and really got value out of it but not enough to become a Deer. Let’s say I would pay between $10 -$100 for the use I got. I would be close to a mice. But there is no option to pay by hour, or by day, or by lead. This created the friction to skyrocket! But here is an idea:
What if you could pay $50 for one day and this money will go into creating content?

Just pay $50 for a day of use of Mattermark platform. Today’s daily revenue per day would be something like $400 / 30 = $13 or if you want in weekdays lets take 25 — $16. Or if you want in real hours let say 2 hours a day 6 days a week, on 4 weeks (48 hours), will give us $200 a day. But this is what VC, Angels, hedge funds can and will pay. If we are focusing on the founder of a startup we need to adapt to their reality (25% of what a VC firm can pay I think is more than a good deal). So why isn’t there a business model for pay what you use or pay by day?

To understand why (usually) SaaS companies don’t go this path we need to talk about Recurring Revenue.

Recurring revenue

They are looking for the frequency of that revenue stream, and whether or not it is recurring and easily predictable. — George Deeb on investors.

Startups (founders) have fall in love with recurring revenue. Why? Well in this case I’m going to blame investors. They have insisted that this is the right model to follow and that they will fund any business that follow this religion. Don’t get me wrong! I also believe in MRR (monthly) and ARR (annual recurring revenue) as measurements.

But falling in love with one metric can make you see only one strategy and can blind you from seeing other paths.

As a carriage horse that can only look forward and never to the sides.
I like Brad Feld take on ARR —related to valuation— which I will use to make a point of how the metric can confuse us.

A simple answer is “well — public SaaS companies are currently trading at 6x average multiples so we should get a 6x ARR valuation.” There are so many things wrong with this statement (including what’s the median valuation, how do it index against growth rates or market segment?, what is your liquidity discount for being able to trade in and out of the stock), but the really interesting dynamic is the relative value trap. What happens when public SaaS companies go up to an 8x average valuation? Or what happens when they go down to a 3x valuation? And, is multiple of revenue really the correct long term metric?

Recurring revenue is not new on business. It maybe new to tech (tech itself is pretty new on earth years) but you know for who is absolutely new? For customers (for john doe). Tech companies need to understand that you have to educate your clients on recurring revenue —instead of asking them or force them because its the only model you have— and the mutual benefits of this model.

So how do we do this? First we need to know there is a need for our product.
We all want your product

There is a real need for good data in the startup community.

Mattermark focus on VC, Angel, HR which is good when you want to go for a niche market. Own your market, monopolize it. Thats Mattermark position today. Very strong. But what about the rest of us.
I’m going to make a guess here: I believe Mattermark was build to help startups as much as to help investors. The vision is to help founders find the right investors, obtain future leads, get sophisticated info on your competitors, and build your own startup.


So if there is a need and there is a possible business model where I can pay by the day (higher than a monthly subscription) that can complement the actual recurring revenue model, why wouldn’t they go for it? Maybe they will.

PS:Let’s be clear that I have no relation with the company, apart from having tried their free trial, love their product, follow their founders on twitter, and believe they have a great future. The aim of this blog post is only to help.

Interesting app TBA soon: ht @KikiSchirr

Please check out and ask for opportunity to test the app. Summary from the team is below.

And sign-up for 1k-beta-testers email list for future similar announcements at:

Thank you in advance.

Charles Jo 650.906.2600 Twitter @charlesjo

Begin forwarded message:

On Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 1:55 AM, Short Hello <hello>, wrote:

Hi Charles!
Here is some more information about Short. Please also see the attached “Review Guide” PDF.

List of Key Features:

– Filter articles by 5 or 10 minutes of reading time

– Connect your favorite apps like Pocket, Instapaper, Readability and more

– Use any situation even in Night Mode

– Always have your Reading Progress and Reading Time in sight

– Share your favorite reads with the iOS 8 share sheet

– Access your articles even when you’re offline

– Swipe left in the feed or Pull to archive & delete an Article

Best regards,

Alex Muench, Designer

Short Review Guide.pdf

guest blog – No, Everyone in Management Is Not a Programmer

Guest blog by Adam Marx. Original at

No, Everyone in Management Is Not a Programmer
Posted on January 16, 2015

Just over a couple weeks ago on New Year’s Day, Techcrunch ran an article entitled “Everyone in Management Is a Programmer.”

Though I’m sure that the author, Adam Evans (co-founder and CTO of RelateIQ), had only the best intentions in trying to show programmers that any of them could cultivate the skills necessary to be effective managers, I think the way he’s attempting to go about illustrating his point is limiting when examined within the greater context of tech and business.

In targeting programmers and/or coders in the title of his article, Evans, whether he means to or not, excludes from his discussion those of us who might not have the technical abilities of programmers. While I agree with Evans’ attempt to encourage tech-savvy people to step out of their comfort zones and become successful managerial material, I disagree with his implied suggestion that one must have technical prowess to become a successful manager, and by extension, a founder, CEO, or any other executive within the tech field. The concept leaves out a whole slew of professionals within the tech space who do not consider themselves coders, but who still bring to the table skills that are just as important as programming knowledge.

I certainly understand Evans’ thought process and commend it: those who identify as programmers can certainly cultivate the skills to become effective managers and break out of their comfortable and familiar role as “the tech person.” But I think the ability to better oneself comes from drive and dedication derived from one’s inner character, not from the specific function which one performs at any particular time, whether it be coding or something else. While laudably encouraging programmers and coders to step outside of their comfort zone and become managers, Evans goes to the opposite extreme by suggesting that only programmers and coders can aspire to managerial positions.

It is teamwork that builds great companies. Great managers are those members of the team who lead others, who motivate the other team members and drive the enterprise forward. Yes, programmers and coders are important players on the team, but they are not the only players. Those involved in marketing, finance, public relations, design and layout, legal, and public speaking are also members of the team, and with the requisite leadership skills may realistically aspire to become great managers as well.

Perhaps one of the best recent examples of how the “coding persona” need not be the only one in a company’s top tiers is Ruben Harris’s article “Breaking Into Startups” which was posted a few days ago. The article received a lot of attention (and rightly so, in my opinion) as it describes Harris’s transition from a finance/banking background in Atlanta to a position at a tech startup in Silicon Valley. At this point, I’ve read Harris’s piece a few times already—it’s well-written and insightful, encouraging without becoming preachy. (Truly the mark of a great writer is when the reader of the piece feels as if the piece were written specifically for them). I think my personal most significant takeaway from the article is how Harris demonstrates that it was his desire and networking prowess (and the financial/marketing knowledge he knew he could bring to the table) that led to his successful introductions and subsequent job opportunities.

Evans’ thesis is flawed for a second reason; the belief that people can be programmed the same way as a computer code is flatly false. Concerning this thought process, firstly, no, they can’t—people are not computers precisely because they can be unpredictable and do not work within the same dynamics as a programmable machine and/or line of code. It is this unpredictability and ability for non-linear thinking that creates the very pool from which innovation and unique thoughts spring. To assume that this can be contained, measured, predicted, programmed—well it’s about as predictable as Ian Malcolm’s chaos theory-dinosaur point in Jurassic Park. [1]
Secondly, to attempt to “program” a person (whether that person is your customer, VC investor, employee, team member, etc.) does not reflect well on one as either a manager or a person. Rather than a productive quality, it more than likely comes across to other people as a need to resort to forms of manipulation in order to move one’s business ahead—not a realization I would want to have if I was an investor, employee, potential partner, etc.
Evans’ article takes a good step by encouraging programmers and coders to move into managerial positions. His appeal to coders I think carries with it a deep respect for those whose work he understands first-hand, and whom he seeks to benefit by sharing his own experience and knowledge. However, not everyone in management is a programmer, and people cannot be “programmed.” Successful managers—whether or not they are programmers—are those who find ways to motivate their peers (employees, teams, investors, customers, etc.) that come across as win-win situations, not as attempts at “programming” and predicting their actions in the future.
My respect to Evans for attempting to help his fellow programmers move out from their comfortable places behind the keyboard to take more active, managerial roles in their companies. I think his intentions will serve his team and company well. But I caution against alienating those who are not coders. Rule number one of any business: never seek to speak to one portion of your customers at the expense of alienating another. Those of us who are not coders are still here, and we are still integral in the equation. We build the same kinds of companies and assume the same levels of leadership; we just do it differently.

Thanks to Dad for reading early drafts of this essay.


[1] Dr. Ian Malcolm, the mathematician character in Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park (1990), was a characteristic cynic, though no more so than when he scoffed at the idea that the park’s creator, John Hammond, thought he would be able to “control” nature. Malcolm demonstrated his cynicism mathematically through explanations of fractal design and chaos theory as they pertained to nature and the growth of life.