Archive for the ‘Startups’ category

Video Interviews on The Huffington Post and AOL Small Business

March 7th, 2011

Man, I’ve been busy lately balancing my duties at SkillSlate and my last semester of business school.  I haven’t had any free time to blog, but I did want to briefly post links to a couple cool video interviews that I’ve been a part of lately.   We were fortunate to have received some great coverage of SkillSlate via video interviews with both The Huffington Post and AOL Small Business.  Thanks to Ramon B. Nuez Jr., Zev Mo Green, and Lauren Drell for the coverage!

Stern Entrepreneur’s Roundtable

February 7th, 2011

As I previously wrote, a couple months ago I participated in a great event at NYU Stern called the Entrepreneur’s Roundtable.  I had meant to write more about it a while back, but I just discovered a great summary by the school newspaper.

While I know many of the entrepreneurs at Stern, I met a few new folks who either have or are currently starting very impressive companies.  It was truly impressive to hear my peers’ stories.  While all impressive in their own ways, one that struck me was first year MBA Linz Shelton who once got the UCLA football team to help her assemble her Cuffz by Linz bags when she was out of money but had just secured a huge order from Nordstrom.  Other stories included a classmate who had just raised angel funding at a several million dollar valuation, to others who had bootstrapped their businesses to profitable and growing organizations.  I was honored to have taken part, and I’m equally honored to work beside such great people and entrepreneurs everyday at Stern.

SkillSlate Video Interview by Shack Nation

November 1st, 2010

Our friend Judi (@7huck) stopped by the SkillSlate office on Friday to ask Bartek and I about the site and how the company was formed.  You can view the video interview below, or at Shack Nation.

Thanks so much Judi for your time and for profiling us!

NYU Stern Entrepreneurs Panel

October 14th, 2010

I feel very fortunate to have been invited to speak on an NYU Stern entrepreneurship panel this coming Monday.  Full event details can be found on the EEX website, but here’s the description from their site:

Seven of NYU Stern’s best entrepreneurs are currently launching companies while in Bschool and taking advantage of NYU resources to propel their businesses forward. The panelists will discuss their real-life experiences with entreprenuership at NYU and the challenges they have overcome with their successful startups, which encompass social media, video, fashion, ecommerce, social venture, and venture capital portfolio companies. You don’t want to miss this rare opportunity. Join us Monday, October 18, 4:30-6pm in room 3-110.

There is a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial activity taking place in the NYU ecosystem, and the Stern MBA program has actually exceeded my expectations in this department.  The Stern Entrepreneurs Exchange Club is now the largest student club, and is throwing a ton of exceptional events.  Great job and congrats go out to the club leaders!

I hope to see some of you on Monday.

Etsy Valued at Nearly $300 Million

August 27th, 2010

Some big news today for the NYC tech community.  According to TechCrunch, Etsy recently raised $20M at a pre-money valuation of just under $300 million.  That’s a big number.  Other noteworthy stats from the article include that the company is profitable, on-track for $30-50M in revenue this year, and expects to do $400M in gross transactions this year and $1B next year.  In my opinion, from a valuation perspective at least, this places Etsy among the ‘elite’ private tech companies in the country.  It’s nice to see the newest addition to the ‘elite’ list coming from my new backyard (Brooklyn).

This is also good news for SkillSlate team member and former Etsy employee, Kelly, and her fiance Chris, who is an Etsy co-founder.  Despite this not being a liquidity event, it has to be nice to see the massive valuation jump.

The Impact of Groupon on Small Businesses

July 22nd, 2010

I have been a huge fan of Groupon since I first discovered them late last year.  A couple days ago I bought this Groupon for 51% off house cleaning.  I just called the cleaning company to try to book an apartment cleaning, but they are completely booked until the end of August – that’s 5 weeks from now.  Whoa.  Beyond some mild frustration of not being able to have my apartment cleaned sooner, I was completely blown away that one day of promotion on a website could fill a company’s entire bandwidth for more than a month.  The company even said they’re trying to hire more cleaning crews in order to handle the excess demand.

There was an article on TechCrunch the other day that highlights the role of social media in small business marketing and the impact that Groupon seems to be having on small businesses.  One of the case studies in the article focused on a restaurant in San Francisco called Stone Korean Kitchen (coincidentally, one of the owners of the restaurant, Robby Kwok, is a former colleague of mine at Yahoo!).  From the article, here’s another example of my point above:

But what really tipped the scales for Yoo was Groupon.  Yoo says that restaurant saw significant traction in both sales and traffic to its Yelp sites and Facebook page when the restaurant signed up for a Groupon deal in April. Stone Korean Kitchen sold 2600 groupons in one day, and saw a packed house for two months for both lunch and dinner. Now Yoo says that they see around 5 to 10 Groupons per day instead of 30 or 40 but the restaurant is still seeing a good number of repeat customers from the Groupon deal, says Yoo.

One effect of the Groupon deal, besides increased sales, was that there were a flux of Yelp reviews. It took the company six months to accumulate 80 reviews on Yelp and after the deal, the restaurant accumulated 90 reviews within three months. Yoo also says that he’s seen a steady increase in Foursquare check-ins following the Groupon deal.

So Groupon not only generated an instant influx of sales (albeit at a discount), but also drove tremendous ripple effects from the promotion:

  1. Repeat customers
  2. Influx of Yelp reviews – likely increasing exposure on Yelp, leading to more future business
  3. Increase in Foursquare check-ins – again, more exposure

It can be very difficult for new small businesses to stand out from the crowd and get the flywheel going so to speak.  While it is likely hard to measure the value of these ripple effects, they are no doubt beneficial to the business.  Beyond the direct sales and social media benefits listed above, the Groupon model provides other benefits to small businesses:

  1. Favorable cash cycles – the businesses get paid before they have to deliver the service.  That can be pretty powerful for small businesses.
  2. Redemption rates – not everyone who buys a Groupon will redeem it before it expires.  That’s cash directly to the small business’ bottom line.  I would bet that the unredeemed Groupons just about pay for the fee that Groupon takes from the promotion.

In summary, beyond being a great consumer product, Groupon is an exceptional marketing vehicle for small local businesses.  Anytime you can satisfy the needs of both consumers and businesses (and make money in the process, lots of money), you have a great business on your hands.

SkillSlate’s New Home

June 22nd, 2010

I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like; I’ve been buried under a rock lately working on SkillSlate.  While starting a company is a ton of work, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever undertaken.  I’m actually excited to get into the office every day.

Speaking of our office, I thought I post a pic of SkillSlate’s new home now that we’re finally just about settled.  It’s a great space in the Chelsea/Flatiron area with plenty of open space and sunlight.  It’s a pretty cool feeling going from working on SkillSlate from my apartment on the side, to having an actual space to call our own.  Here we are cranking away!

SkillSlate Seeking Developer

May 24th, 2010

My start-up, SkillSlate, is seeking a talented and energetic developer to join our core team.  If you know of anyone good, please spread the word.  Job description is below:

We’re a VC and angel funded local start-up looking for a driven developer to build a product that has a meaningful impact on the daily lives of New Yorkers (and beyond). We’re based in Manhattan (Chelsea/Flatiron loft office), and the ideal candidate can start ASAP.

Must Haves:
• Belief in vision of individual empowerment
• Ruby on Rails (RoR) experience (min. 1 year experience) or equivalent (e.g. Django)
• BS/MS in Computer Science
• Entrepreneur-at-heart – thrives in a fast-paced startup environment and has the hunger to succeed and build a product that changes the world
• Demonstrated leadership ability and self-starter mentality
• Passionate about writing agile, elegant, DRY code

• Experience with search/vertical search
• Experience with automated testing / continuous integration frameworks
• Experience with database optimization (my.cnf, EXPLAIN, indexes, replication)
• Experience provisioning and managing cloud resources (Engine Yard, Heroku, App Engine, or equivalent)
• Strong user experience design / interaction design reasoning skills

Compensation: Competitive mix of salary and equity. This is a full time, permanent position.

SkillSlate empowers the 16mm+ individual service providers in the US to market their services directly to consumers. A SkillSlate profile provides detailed professional and personal information including pictures, fees, and reviews, all with the aim of not only showing what the person does, but who the person is. SkillSlate puts these profiles into a searchable directory where consumers can find service providers that fit their specific needs.

SkillSlate is backed by prominent venture capital and angel investors including Canaan Partners, Jason Finger (founder/CEO of SeamlessWeb), Peter Lehrman (co-founder of Gerson Lehrman Group), Dan Ciporin (former CEO of, and other high-impact angels. Learn more at

Presenting SkillSlate at Stern Innovates

March 29th, 2010

I was recently invited by my classmate and friend Yoni Argaman (new co-president of the Stern entrepreneurship club) to present my startup SkillSlate at the inaugural Stern Innovates event.  I was humbled to have been asked, and am very excited to formally unveil the first iteration of SkillSlate to the NYU community.  I’ll be joined by my colleague Bartek Ringwelski who is the co-founder and CEO of SkillSlate.

The idea of Stern Innovates is to provide exciting NYU affiliated startups with a venue to present and receive feedback on their ventures from members of the Stern community as well as from venture capitalists, lawyers and other entrepreneurs that will be in the audience.  Each event will also feature a successful entrepreneur that will share his story with the audience. Following the event, we will continue for post-event drinks at a nearby reserved venue (TBD soon).  I look forward to the event,  more details are below.

4:45 – 6:45PM, Wednesday, April 14th, KMC 5-50

Guest Speaker: Itzik Ben-Bassat, former VP at Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft) and the current Founder and CEO of GameGround, a local venture backed gaming start-up will review current business models in the gaming industry.

Pitching Early Stage Ventures:

1. Brian Rothenberg, SkillSlate
SkillSlate connects consumers with trusted individual service providers who charge a fraction of the price of established companies.  SkillSlate empowers the 16mm+ individual service providers in the US to market their services directly to consumers. A SkillSlate profile provides detailed professional and personal information including pictures, fees, and reviews, all with the aim of not only showing what the person does, but who the person is. SkillSlate puts these profiles together into a searchable, sortable directory where consumers can find service providers that fit their specific needs.

2. Dan Leahy and Ben McKean, VillageVines

VillageVines provides a private marketplace where upscale service businesses discount specific hours when they have excess capacity. VillageVines provide businesses with a demand management tool to improve their utilization and enable consumers to book discounted appointments with high-end restaurants, clubs, spas, salons and events. Since discounts on VillageVines are only visible to VillageVines members and cannot be listed by search engines, businesses can discreetly tier their pricing structures to profitably serve more customers without cheapening their brands to the general public.

3. Adi Kalderon, PolySolar
PolySolar is a startup company based on an innovative technology in the solar energy field of Organic Photovoltaics (OPV). Developed at the Organic Electronics Lab at Polytechnic Institute of NYU by Professor Kalle Levon and Eduard Nasibulyn Ph.D., our OPV solar cells are polymer based and manufactured using electrochemistry techniques. This unique combination has enabled PolySolar to drastically reduce the overall cost and offer a solar energy source that is efficient, cost-effective, flexible, transparent and lightweight that can operate in low-light intensity and be applied to any shape or surface. With these competitive advantages, PolySolar’s OPV technology is targeted for the portable electronics market to offer a sustainable energy solution. The company’s OPV solar cells will allow devices, such as cell-phones and laptops, to recharge without electricity from grid power

Please RSVP to this event as seating is limited! Has a New Website!

February 17th, 2010

StartupAtWork launched a very clean new website last night, just in time for the first Speaker Series event of the spring season (24/7 Real Media, which was awesome by the way – more to come on that later).  While I provided a bit of input here and there (with Warren Lee and Bartek Ringwelski), our developer Sankho Mallik drove the project and did a terrific job.  While his code and design skills are solid, he stood out from many developers I’ve worked with due to his excellent project management and communication skills.  Cheers Sankho!

The new website has some killer videos from the fall speaker series (including the full interviews).  A few of my favorite clips are:

  1. Being public isn’t as fun as going public – Steve Hafner, CEO/founder of
  2. What Ron looks for in a deal – Ron Conway, angel investor and “Godfather of Silicon Valley”
  3. Bill’s bullshit meter – Founders of
  4. Concept of drag coefficients – Steve Hafner, CEO/founder of
  5. When the fax lady sings -Dave Morgan & Curt Viebranz of TACODA

Check it out and let us know what you think by leaving comments or sending the organizers feedback!