Want To Be A Geek On A Plane With 500 Startups?

It’s a bird! it’s a plane! NO….its 40 GEEKS IN A PLANE!

Interested in joining Geeks on a Plane ‘South America’ (GOAP) from April 29th through May 8th?

GOAP is an invite-only tour that promotes cultural exchange and knowledge sharing among geeks worldwide. For our next trip, we’ll be visiting tech hubs in Brazil (Sao Paulo & Rio de Janeiro), Chile (Santiago), and Argentina (Buenos Aires). Below is some basic info on the trip including agenda and anticipated costs.

If you’re interested in being considered for GOAP, please complete THIS FORM no later than 3pm PST this Monday, February 28th.

Note: Please only apply if you can attend the full tour. All selections will be made by the GOAP Committee and you will be notified by March 4th. If you have any questions, feel free to email christen at 500 startups dot com

About Geeks On A Plane:

Geeks On a Plane is an invite-only regional tour that promotes cultural exchange through technology and entrepreneurship. We assemble a group of highly influential Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors, load them on a plane, and visit some of the most burgeoning tech markets worldwide to share ideas and practices with other key entrepreneurs, executives, and government leaders.

Led by Dave McClure (founding partner of 500 Startups) and co-organized by Wences Casares (founder & co-CEO, Bling Nation) and Bedy Yang (founder, Brazil Innovators), we are now inviting a select group of investors and tech entrepreneurs on a 10 day orientation tour of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

Objectives:

  • Gain and share insight into tech & innovation trends coming out of key areas within South America.
  • Meet the startup and investment community in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Santiago (Chile).
  • Leverage social media and business networks to facilitate cross border trade & investment.
  • Participate in a pro-entrepreneur and pro-investment initiative during a tough global economy.

Since June of 2009, we’ve had a blast traveling all over the world to visit Asia, Europe, and Hawaii. In 2011, we’ll also be heading to Asia in July and India in December. Our most recent trip to East Asia in May 2010 was a smashing success, and was profiled in TechCrunch (video).

Tentative Agenda:

In each city, we will partner with local (government and non-government) organizations and tech events, as well as assemble our own conferences and functions that attract key local companies and executives. This may include events such as:

  • Intimate conferences with roundtables, keynotes, and panel discussions
  • Site visits to local tech companies and startups
  • Startup demos and showcases
  • Networking dinners and cocktail parties
  • Attendance at community tech events in host countries
  • Social activities to deepen relationships: Soccer matches, wine tastings, hikes, etc.

(For more detail, check out our past GOAP agendas.)

Geeks on a Plane – South America
4/29/2010 – San Francisco > Sao Paulo, Brazil
4/30/2010 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
5/1/2010 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
5/2/2010 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
5/3/2010 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
5/4/2010 – Santiago, Chile
5/5/2010 – Santiago, Chile
5/6/2010 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
5/7/2010 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
5/8/2010 – Buenos Aires, Argentina > San Francisco

Costs & Arrangements:

The anticipated total cost of the trip is $5,000, which includes organization and production services over a 10-day period, as well as estimated flight and hotel fees. Travel will be booked via our partner travel agency.

To learn more, visit www.geeksonaplane.com

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Fail Fast, Fail Often, And Fail By Design

Meet Bear Grylls, aka 500 SuperMentor TJ Sassani. TJ is the Founder and CEO of zozi, a company rapidly becoming the go-to place for the coolest experiences and activities.  zozi aggregates thousands of merchants in the experience category and is striving to create the industry’s first “OpenTable-like” platform.  Before that TJ was a Director and a member of the early founding team at Lux Research, a firm focused on nanotechnology and clean technology research and intelligence services.  He spent some time in the software space before that, and way back when got his entrepreneurial start by buying, selling and trading sports memorabilia at local flea markets in rural Pennsylvania at the tender age of twelve.  TJ loves start-ups, adventure, satisfying his obscure curiosities…. and sharks. And honey badgers.

Fail fast. Fail often. Fail by design. <Repeat>

Writing about the concept of start-ups failing is certainly not novel, especially since the vast majority of them (and statistically speaking, yours, too) will go down in a giant ball of flames. I embarked on my entrepreneurial career at the age of twelve, when I started a sporting memorabilia business with my dad. After college – and a subsequent ten-year hiatus to serve my time with the corporate master (although I kept running side businesses along the way) – I jumped ship and got back to my roots full-time. In my recent years as an entrepreneur, nothing has been more pivotal (pardon the pun) to my very modest personal success and, in particular, our success at zozi than the massive (and oftentimes immensely embarrassing) failures along the way.

Recently, I started thinking about the concept of failing a bit more – what’s missing from the cliché “you learn from your failures, not your successes”? Then it struck me (on a midnight run, where most of my publishable ideas come from). Talk to an entrepreneur about his or her life, and he’ll tell you about his successes, his failures and even about how important those failures were – but what he’ll almost never talk about is how to help other entrepreneurs design failure into their daily routine.

I have found that far more important than failing and learning to cope with it is learning how to fail effectively. As the title suggests, you must fail fast, fail often and fail by design.

This post is not about helping you succeed at your idea – if I knew how to do that, I’d do it myself, as would everyone else. Instead, it’s about five concrete ways to help you to fail at your idea – with a particular focus on helping you to accelerate the process, because the companies that win the race, or at least that get on the podium, are almost always the ones who won the Nobel Prize for failing along the way.

Five ways to help you fail as often as possible:

1) Find and embrace your biggest critic.

Following our first significant round of funding ($1MM), we were looking to add a bit to this round given the pending macro-economic doom, so we were pitching a very well respected VC for more funding, and we got the same type of skeptical responses and generalities from him that we had grown accustomed to – “you guys are interesting, but it’s not for us because of XYZ reasons.”

I knew those reasons were not the “real” reasons (they never are) – so I later went back to meet with that same VC one-on-one, without our respective teams in the room. I got about ten minutes into our newly-revised pitch (version #237 if you’re keeping score at home), and I saw the same glazed look on his face. So I stopped mid-pitch, closed my laptop, and said, “Hey dude, let’s forget about the pitch – instead, can you just tell me why I suck so badly, please?”

He was visibly shocked – but once he got over that, it worked. He got up on the whiteboard and started drawing out his secret mental map of what he needs to see to invest and – more importantly – how we had failed to live up to certain parts. He rated us across four main categories and a number of sub-categories. It was not all bad – we scored high in some categories, but knowing where I sucked was by far the most valuable thing I gained from that interaction.

Take away: Find someone external to your company who is not an investor and have him be your biggest critic – if you trust him, and he’s smart and relevant to your company, put him on your board, too. Don’t choose your investors to be your biggest critic, because you can’t always be as vulnerable with them. Friends are probably too soft or don’t want to crush your hopes and dreams, and team members are probably too lost in the details to be objective (not unlike yourself). Find and love your biggest critic because when runway is measured in weeks, you need all the input you can get.

2) Design everything to fail

Everyone tests product features – that’s not new. What’s novel is the idea of testing every aspect of your company and intentionally trying to break as much S*#^ as possible.

Something good always comes from failing – no exceptions. In product, you learn what converts better; in marketing, you learn how to acquire customers better; in sales, you learn how to get a higher response rate on standard prospecting email templates or how to increase your team’s close ratio. Do all of these and more, and optimize through planned failures.

I’ve personally gotten so addicted to testing new ideas and separating the good from the bad that I even started A/B testing my life. I cut out alcohol, sugar, coffee and dating. I wanted to isolate each variable and see how it impacted my sleep, mood, attitude, performance and overall health – testing is addictive.

Take away: Design micro-fails to avoid macro-F$%&-ups. Identify everything that you do that impacts your likelihood of success (processes, marketing, sales, product) and start setting up tests and designed failures for each, starting with the highest impact ones. By definition, if you test a lot of new ideas, a bunch will fail and you’ll be left with the winners. This is a lot of work, which leads me to the next point – delegation.

3) Delegate failing

As you start to grow your fledgling business, one of the hardest things to do is learning to just “let go.” You’ve been the CEO, CFO, COO, VP of everything, and likely the janitor for such a long period of time that it’s naturally going to be hard to entrust your “baby’s” welfare to others.

When you ultimately have found an awesome team, you learn to start delegating all sorts of things one by one – but what about failing? You MUST learn to delegate failure as well (and without others fearing for their jobs). My dev team has a pet name for me, it’s CBO, or Chief Breaking Officer – this is because I’m constantly try to break everything we do with respect to product, process, etc (and often succeed). To do this, creating a culture where failure is celebrated (and more specifically the resulting data and lessons) is key.

Take away: Assign each person on your team failure goals. Set goals for your company overall and for key managers, with a focus on always breaking convention and getting outside of the comfort zone. Have them set goals for their teams (if applicable) in the same way. This needs to be a top-down culture shift in your thinking. Encourage everyone to come up with ideas to test and run with – from that will come some wins, and many losses, but most importantly data that will refine your approach. Delegating this is a must – everyone in the company MUST do this on a tactical level. If you succeed at this, you won’t have a day that goes by without learning something new and making incremental progress – it’s essentially Kaizen, but for failing.

4) LOVE your haters

Adversity is a great motivator. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting “beat up” on a regular basis as a kid. What does that have to do with this post? Simple – for years I thought about those bullies, and all I wanted to do was, to put it bluntly, crush them in life. While your psychologist likely won’t endorse this as a healthy strategy, it can be a very effective tool for budding entrepreneurs.

As adults, we still get pushed around on a regular basis. Though it’s usually not physical bullying, we instead constantly suffer from rejection, doubt and subtle ridicule. Don’t just learn to “deal” with these put-downs, which is what conventional wisdom tells you to do. Rather, take strength from each one and use it to your advantage. In essence, turn hate, doubt and rejection into a powerful fuel to drive you to achieve great things. Healthy? Probably not. Effective? Definitely.

Take away: Be strong and confident, yet open and flexible. When a partner goes with a competitor, an investor says “no,” or you miss a key hire – take away some lessons to improve, but also secretly turn that rejection into an internal motivator for yourself. To take it to the extreme, keep a list of all those you simply can’t wait to send your press release to once you sell your company for $100MM. If you believe it will happen that much that you actually keep a list, you just might be crazy enough to stick it out long enough to see it through to victory.

5) Believe that you are psychic, and have the courage to make tough decisions

Face it, most of what you are trying will fail anyway (insert photo here of “giant ball of flames”). Great, then at least that means you will be able to accurately predict what’s going to fail, right? Nope. It’s going to take trial and error, and error, and…..

Something you can do to impact your success (or failure) rate is to simply accelerate this process by learning to make tough decisions. We’ve all heard Dave’s “KILL a feature” rant. Very good advice – but what if you took it even further? Cut a partner, cut a vendor, say “no” to a pushy investor, or even cut a team member. So in other words, believe you’re psychic: if you think something (or someone) is destined to fail or cause you more harm than good, have the courage to do your absolute best Jack Kevorkian impression and the class to do it with professionalism and grace.

Take away: Identify what’s not working and cut it – fast. I know it’s not a popular subject around the office to cut a partner that everyone worked so hard to secure, or worse yet, to cut Billy Bob from marketing – but guess what? That’s your job – to cut inefficiency and anything destined to fail. Be sure to distinguish between “good failing” which is something that fails and you learn from and act upon and “bad failing”, which is something that’s failing over and over and you don’t have the courage to address. Act decisively. You’ll certainly lose some friends along the way, but far fewer than if your entire company fails. If you can’t make tough decisions (frequently and quickly), you’re in the wrong business.

To sum it all up, you want to essentially take the worst-case scenario (your company failing) and break that into as many “micro-fails” as possible. Then, you can mitigate the macro-fail by ensuring you are constantly testing each element of the process, isolating each variable and forcing yourself and your team to be honest with one another about what’s working, and what’s not.

The risk in focusing on micro-fails is that your team (or worse yet, your investors) could potentially perceive that you are all over the map and don’t have the slightest idea about what is working. The strange irony is that they are, in some ways, correct. But that’s the point! You do not (nor does anyone) know precisely what will work, so it’s your job as the CEO to do two things. First, question everything that your company is doing to find the true “secret sauce” and secondly, educate your team and investors about why you’re seemingly changing things so often – a good start is forwarding them this blog post.

Hopefully you found this post helpful. If you have questions or want to chat, you can stalk me on twitter here @tjx.

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10 Ways To Use Zipcast

SlideShare recently announced Zipcast, a new social web conferencing system that is entirely browser-based.  We’ve reblogged these tips on how to use Zipcast (original post). SlideShare co-founder and CEO Rashmi Sinha is a venture advisor and mentor for 500 Startups, as well as a 500 founder. We hope you find these Zipcast tips useful and start trying it out! Already 500 Startups has used it for one of our accelerator talks.

Yesterday, we launched Zipcast – a fast, simple and social way to host web meetings. Everyone with a SlideShare account can host a Zipcast, or check into Zipcasts that others are hosting.

Here are our 10 favorite ways to use Zipcasts. We are sure you will think of a million other ways to use Zipcasts.

1.  Share ideas with colleagues: You want to share an idea with colleagues e.g., you want to share product specs with remote colleagues. Or you want to just share a presentation that you saw on SlideShare e.g., Mary Meekers’s latest mobile projections. Just start up a private Zipcast and invite your colleagues by giving them the link over IM.

2. Launch your next product using Zipcast: You are a startup with no marketing budget – but you know how to build buzz on Twitter and Facebook. Start a Zipcast (or informal webinar) about your technology that will change the world. Ask friends, users, anyone you can to join in using Facebook and soon you will have a gathering that is growing virally.

3. Give a remote talk at a conference: You have been invited to Australia but don’t have 5 days to make the trip. We know you want to visit Melbourne, but sometimes, you just can’t make it. But you can sit at your desk, or even on your couch, and do the talk (make sure to ask the conference to project you on a large screen).

4. Teach anyone, anywhere: Are you a professor and want to do a lecture remotely to your students while travelling? Zipcast can let you engage your students without cost or complexity. Plus, your students already have Facebook logins.

5.  Pitch a client: Are you a design, marketing firm and want to pitch a potential client on a project proposal? Invite the client team to your meeting room and present your idea to them. Invite your whole team on your end, so that the client does not just get to hear the proposal, but meets the people who will work on it via video.

6. Walk people over your sales deck – build trust by using video: You are a sales person looking to walk a prospect over your sales deck. Give them a link to your Zipcast room and get straight to pitching (don’t waste time downloading the meeting software).

7. Support your customers: While on the phone, simply give your customers the link to your meeting room and talk them through the problem. Show them presentations, or drop links to documents or videos on SlideShare in the Zipcast chat. Consider keeping your meeting room open during support hours for customers to join in.

8. Run a non-profit fund raiser using Zipcast: You are a non-profit looking to raise funds for the next year. You have already put your pitch deck on SlideShare. Next time you are on the phone with a potential donor, invite them to your SlideShare meeting room. Walk them over your deck.

9. Share your trip photo album with your friends: You went on vacation to Italy and took a lot of pictures of historical buildings. Now you want to share with your friend who is interested in architecture. Start a Zipcast to share and discuss these pictures with your friend.

10. Do PowerPoint Karoake with your friends: Zipcast is not just all work. It can be used for fun things like PowerPoint Karaoke when you choose a random presentation and someone who has never seen that deck before presents it. It can be a fun way to spend an evening. Imagine your friends improvising through the deck that Colin Powell used to justify the Iraq war!
With Zipcast, you can choose a random slide deck on SlideShare and have your friend present to it. Then it’s your turn and they get to choose the slide deck!

We can’t wait to see what you will do with Zipcasts. Leave comments about how you are using it.

Go to the Zipcast page to check out current Zipcasts or press the Zipcast button on any SlideShare presentation to get started.

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Hiten Shah, Ryan Freitas, and Charles Hudson Save The World

Ok maybe not QUITE, but they did do something pretty awesome this week. Read on for more.

Since we announced the 500 Startups Accelerator last week, we’ve been having several excellent talks from our SuperMentors. This week, Hiten Shah, Ryan Freitas, and Charles Hudson took time out of their busy day of jumping from burning buildings and leaping tall buildings with a single bound to visit the 500 Startups Secret Lair and share their wisdom with our budding mad scientists (aka accelerator startups).

Live Metrics Review with Hiten Shah

To kick off the week, Hiten Shah did a “live metrics review” with our startups. Each one got put into the hot seat and shared their current state of customer metrics. Hiten then became Simon Cowell and gave them honest feedback on how they could improve their metrics analysis. (No video available for this talk)

Hiten tears apart InternMatch’s metrics (don’t worry, he didn’t make them cry)
Ryan Freitas: “Filling in the Gaps: Validating Ideas with Design”

Ryan Freitas, designer and co-founder of About.me (which was recently acquired by AOL), swooped in on Thursday and talked about validating ideas with design. Check out the video below to watch Ryan’s talk. You can also download slides from his presentation here.

Charles Hudson says “Don’t Let BD Tank Your Startup!!”

Finally, Charles Hudson, co-founder of Bionic Panda Games and venture partner at SoftTech VC, delivered a talk about BD for startups – in particular, how to approach the function and when/how it makes sense for early-stage startups. No video available for this talk, but Charles’ slides are embedded below. Also, Charles wrote a great blog post on BD for startups which you should also check out.

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Can You Really Build a Great Tech Firm Outside Silicon Valley?

 

Although 500 Startups is based in Silicon Valley, we have a number of startups, mentors, and advisors outside the valley – and even outside the country. So we thought it fitting to reblog Mark Suster‘s recent post about building startups outside of Silicon Valley. Mark is a general partner at GRP Partners and is based in LA. He founded Launchpad LA and runs a popular blog, Both Sides Of The Table.

Thanks Mark for giving us permission to reblog!  (View the original post here)

Last year I was on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley meeting with one of the most prominent venture capital firms in the country.

We were talking about a company, Factual (disclosure my firm is an investor), which was founded by one of LA’s most talented Internet entrepreneurs, Gil Elbaz, who as co-founder of Applied Semantics (purchased by pre-IPO Google for $102 million and now Google AdSense) is responsible for a large portion of the Internet’s monetization.

The VC partner, somebody I greatly respect said, “Yeah, we like Gil and what they’re doing. I’m just not sure you can build a great technology firm outside of Bay Area.”

And this Silicon Valley bias isn’t limited to any single meeting – it has been a recurring theme in my time as a VC.  I’ve heard it many founders of VC backed companies in LA who tell me that in their NorCal VC meetings they are told, “we might be interested but we’d want you to relocate to the Bay Area if we funded you.”

So can you really build a great tech firm outside of Silicon Valley? Sure, but it will be different than the Bay Area ones. Let me use LA as an example.

Los Angeles

I live in the city of Santa Monica. My daily coffee meetings are not surrounded by the Hollywood elite with discussions of scripts, scenes and casting. In my LA I often see computer screens open with entrepreneurs talking about digital media. I grant you, it’s not like Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto – but there is a burgeoning tech community much as you’d find in NYC these days.

It is the second largest city in the country with (18 million inhabitants) (vs. 7.5 million in SF Bay Area). In my mind, Randy Newman said it best, “I love LA” – idyllic weather, a mélange of cultures and big industry. We have world-class universities like Caltech, UCLA, USC and more.

But LA is not Silicon Valley and we don’t need to aspire to be so.

1. Funding is different outside of Silicon Valley
There is no region in the country that comes close to having the sheer number of angels & VCs that Silicon Valley has as well as the dollars that flow into the region (40% of all dollars, PwC Moneytree report). So it would be unwise to say that funding outside of Silicon Valley will be easier. If you are talented, of course, you can get funded in any region with enough venture capital and obviously in markets outside of the Valley it is easier to get noticed and get access.

In Silicon Valley you have mega venture capital funds who have a history of giving $20 million to early-stage technology companies hoping to swing for the fences and become the next Google, Facebook or Twitter.  The funds not only have gotten bigger but they have an amazing track record of funding the biggest names in the sector: Cisco, Apple, Google, Facebook.  As a result many funds are OK with big bets.

When you’re one fund and have $600 million to invest it’s easier to take that kind of risk.  There are no $600 million funds in Los Angeles. My fund – at $200 million – is the largest in Southern California.

LA generally doesn’t have an appetite for this kind of ‘swing-for-the-fences’ investment at early stages – and neither does your town.  LA investors are more pragmatic.  We tend to do more $2-3 million “A” rounds and we look for companies that have an early monetization strategy. Once we see proof of performance then raising $10-15 million is achievable.

2. “Necessity is the mother of all invention” and drives business outside the Valley
I like to repeat this phrase, which means that because investors have different expectations you find entrepreneurs that focus on nearer term monetization. You have no choice.

The result is that we’ve had a lot of innovation coming from LA and other regions outside Silicon Valley in terms of making money on the Internet. Many of the Valley tech firms saw advertising as “beneath them” and many VCs in the first boom encouraged people to focus on eyeballs rather than dollars. That’s convenience when your VC is hoping to write the next $20 million check. In our regions? Fuggetaboutit – show me the money!

So as a region we created sponsored search (Overture), affiliate search (Applied Semantics, now AdSense), lead generation (LowerMyBills, ShopZilla, PriceGrabber), affiliate networking (Commission Junction, ValueClick, Fast Click), local merchant portals (CitySearch), Social Media advertising (MySpace), mobile games (JAMDAT),  local Internet advertising (ReachLocal), and content generation (DemandMedia). Each of these companies exited for more than $500 million and several north of $1 billion.

Look beyond California and you have group purchasing (GroupOn in Chicago, LivingSocial in Washington DC), private sales (Gilt Groupe in NY, HauteLook in LA), artisan marketplaces (Etsy in NY), eCommerce (Amazon in Seattle) and on and on.

To be clear – nobody builds bigger “pure tech” firms than Silicon Valley. I don’t see this changing much like I don’t see you building blockbuster movies outside LA or shift the media buying center of gravity out of NY.  But you can build valuable Internet businesses outside of Silicon Valley.

3. Recruiting & retention will be different outside the Valley
I meet with Bay Area entrepreneurs all the time and am actively looking to make investments there. But one common theme I’m hearing from there in 2011 is that it’s impossible to recruit. You have huge hiring volume coming from the new growth firms (Twitter, Zynga, Facebook) and huge retention battles & hiring from Google, Apple, Cisco, Yahoo!, eBay and others.

I talked to one startup CEO who told me, “you have young engineers who want to make $200,000 or more to work for me. It’s hard to get people to take a risk at a startup or for a reasonable salary with all this competition.  And many of the ones that do want to do startups are plotting their one YCombinator company. It’s fucking hard hiring right now.”

And this is a prominent company that raised nearly $10 million and a CEO who is ex Google. Imagineyour company hiring in the Valley.

Now let’s think about retention. In the beautiful creative destruction that is produced in Silicon Valley (as a capitalist I admire this as a system), imagine what it does to staff retention. Every developer, biz dev person, marketeer or sales rep on your team will be surrounded by scores of companies calling them like Sirens to switch teams. Hit some bumps in the road? Good luck.

Outside the Valley we have struggles, too. In LA you can attract a great team to build out your first 30-50 employees. If you hit a groove on funding and customer growth it does become a challenge to ramp quickly. Let’s be honest – we’re not Silicon Valley. Great companies like BeachMint that are growing at a rapid clip have to dig deep into their networks to meet hiring needs.

You don’t have a pool of thousands of Google engineers to hire when they’re ready to leave the mother ship.  You don’t have the founders of eBay, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com and Yahoo!.  You just don’t.  Get over it. I’ve talked with many great NYC startups facing the same problem.

But we do have great technology developers.  You can build a team of 100+ people in LA without needing to hire outside of LA.  If you want to scale to become a “huge” company you will find it difficult to scale to the level of the Valley sized companies.  But if you grow to be that big it would be a very nice problem to deal with.

And as I’ve argued many times, if we can manage to build a “patron” company – one which grows large and build an ecosystem around it – it will have the ability to attract all of the best university talent graduating from Southern California. As an investor, this is a focus area for me.

What you do have here – and in many regions around the country – is more loyalty.  You’re not in the grind of your staff being constantly approached by every other start-up within 10 miles.  So it’s always a trade-off.

4. There are many strategic assets outside of Silicon Valley
In New York you have access to fashion, media, art and of course, financial services. You also have the headquarters of many of the countries largest companies. In Washington DC you have government & defense. In San Diego you have Qualcomm so an entire mobile industry has been spawned. In Los Angeles you have large industries in garment industry, defense, games (both physical like Mattel and virtual like Activision) and music. And of course you have Hollywood.

That sets us up nicely for the next phase of the web. Everybody knows about the leaked memo of AOL’s Tim Armstrong saying he wants to up his content from 4% video to 70% video. The Internet is now faster, more dynamic and less about text. That sets LA & NY up nicely for a number of emerging content creation industries.

While nobody has yet “cracked the code” on production quality video over the Internet (YouTube won UGC video), there is a lot of innovation happening in LA from places like Eqal, Deca.TV, ThisWeekIn, Machinima & Maker Studios.  These last two companies between them produce more than 500 million video views per month. That’s million, with an “M”. LA is producing content at scale.  So if you’re out to create content businesses there is no better time and no better place than here.

And despite what I keep hearing from others – these are not content “hit businesses” they are “content production platforms” that are producing scale like I’ve never seen and at a cost structure that is astounding.

Who is going to produce all the videos that we want to watch in the future about travel, cooking, film, culture, music and the like? Some of it will be UGC. Most of the good stuff will be produced in LA & NY just like the tech firms of the past came from Silicon Valley. We have the actors, directors, producers, lighting specialists, writers, agents, post-production editors, etc.

I’m “all in” on the future of TV and the longer it takes other investors to get on board the better.

5. Communities outside the Valley have matured
The LA / Southern California market has many people who are now on their second and third companies. It’s true that MySpace didn’t become Facebook, but it did spawn 7 or 8 great LA companies run by founders with experience.  Zorik Gordon built & IPO’s ReachLocal. Douglas Merrill, the former CIO of Google, is building his next company, ZestCash in LA. Scott Painter, founder of CarsDirect has created TrueCar (backed by GRP Partners).

Brett Brewer has AdKnowledge. There is Adconian, Intelligent Beauty, LegalZoom, Burstly, ShoeDazzle and so many more I can barely name them all. All second or third time entrepreneurs.  Hautelook, Gogii, Magento.  My point is – great companies are being built here like they are in in New York, Boston and elsewhere.

There is a lot of talent here.  We’re not all about the beach and sun – although we enjoy that, too.  We have started to build initiatives like Launchpad LA to help bring this community together and make it easier for first time entrepreneurs.  For those that are here – it’s time to stop comparing ourselves to Silicon Valley.  We have much to be proud of in our own right.  And there is still much work to be done. Now go build your patron company.

Sand Hill Road photo courtesy of Mark Coggins on Flickr.

To check out guest posts from folks also outside of the valley, check out Roy Rodenstein’s post on Boston and Robert Laing’s post on Japan.

 

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Why Your Startup Needs a Visual Dashboard

This post was originally published by Robert Laing on the mygengo blog. Robert and mygengo are part of the 500 Startups family. You may remember Robert from his recent guest post on doing a startup in Japan.

Since this is a long post (albeit very informative), we’ve chosen to publish an excerpt of the post here and link to the rest of the post.

This post will tell you why you need to start visual reporting for your startup, and how to go about putting together a basic dashboard.

You already know this: What gets measured, gets done.
You already know this too: Humans instinctively respond to visual cues
So do this: Use visual dashboards for your startup

I’m going to start this post by saying that myGengo doesn’t have a perfect track record in choosing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or “key metrics”, we don’t have the world’s best dashboards, and we don’t display data to customers and translators perfectly 🙂 But we know this, we know what we should be doing, and we’re getting there. So it’s worth sharing our knowledge to date.

Contents of this post:
Why & what to measure

  • Why you need visual reporting
  • Why you need to share the dashboard
  • Choosing what to measure
  • Choosing time periods

How to do it

  • Why visual reporting was hard
  • How we did it wrong
  • Designing data

Tools & Services

  • How to do it: External tools
  • How to do it: Do-it-yourself

Why you need visual reporting:
Data is, by nature, kinda dull. It’s very hard to do the following in numerical data:

  • See trends
  • See progress towards targets
  • Compare/correlate values
  • Demonstrate ‘danger’ or ‘success’
  • See groupings
  • Scan quickly

All of which I would argue you gotta do if you’re going to steer the startup ship. Visual reporting allows you to communicate quite complex data in a few instants, which means more people in the company understand things, and spend less time wondering.

A visual cue that something might be wrong

To read the rest of this post, visit the original version on the mygengo blog.

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BOOM Goes The Dynamite! 500 Startups Explodes With 2 New Periodic Elements, 12 Sensational Startups, and 1 Awesome Accelerator Program

500 Startups announces today they have discovered the newest periodic elements – Upandtotherightium (Ur) and Viralium (Vi). In addition to this amazing new discovery which is awaiting official recognition by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, they are also proud to announce they are in the early stages of developing 12 remarkable new startups in their just-launched 500 Startups Accelerator program at their headquarters in Mountain View.

The buzz among the science community is the 500 Startups Accelerator will soon eclipse the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, which has long held the title of the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. Several Russian physicists have raised concerns this new 500 Startups Accelerator could be dangerous and has the potential for creating wormholes with unknown outcomes, possibly even the creation of a black hole.

The 12 startups will be observed at the 500 Startups Accelerator for 3-6 months (in a very large petri dish) as they learn the essentials of designing functional user experience, acquiring happy and engaged customers, instrumenting dashboards to collect business metrics (that go up and to the right), and developing successful online distribution strategies across key search, social, mobile, and email platforms.

Specs of the 500 Startups Accelerator are detailed below

    • Funding: Funding ranges from $25-100k. Terms will be set at ~5% of equity, or based on pre-existing terms if the startup is already backed by experienced venture investors.

 

  • Mentors: Startups will have access to a global network of 120+ mentors, several of whom will be speakers in our weekly accelerator curriculum, hold office hours, 1:1 mentoring, and otherwise available to help and guide our startups. For more info see.  In addition, about 10-15 of our mentors are “Mentors In Residence” and work from our space on a weekly basis.

 

 

  • Workspace: The 500 Startups space was designed to encourage a culture of prototyping, creativity and collaboration. We’re located in downtown Mountain View with proximity to top investors, platform companies, Stanford University, public transportation, and startup-friendly food.

 

 

  • Design Network: We’re piloting a menu of scalable design resources that produce measurable results for our startups including UX reviews, Designers-In-Residence, and more. We recently held a Lean UX Design Bootcamp in collaboration with the Stanford d.school and LUXr. Among our yearly events & conferences includes Warm Gun, a one-day conference on measurable design.

 

 

  • Distribution Platforms: Startups need scalable, cost-effective customer acquisition. We specialize in distribution for search, social, mobile, and email platforms. A number of our mentors hail from major distribution platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube and and serve as an invaluable resource to our startups.

 

 

  • Education, Events, & Community: We’ve developed a curriculum of weekly talks and office hours along with large quarterly conferences focused on design, data, and distribution. These help to instill strong community and camaraderie among our founders and mentors.

 

 

  • Annual Sponsors & Partners: We’re working with companies who will be closely involved in the accelerator program via hands-on assistance, product support, and more. Annual sponsors and partners include VIP partner Rackspace Hosting, as well as Microsoft BizSpark, Gunderson Dettmer, and Amazon Web Services.

 

 

  • Investor Demo Day: Accelerator startups will present at our first investor demo day, to be held at 500 Startups on April 6-7, 2011. Mark your calendars!

 

 

  • Startups interested in applying to the program: We don’t have an open application process process. Startups get in through referrals from people we trust. (ex. our mentors, venture advisors, founders, etc)

 

 

To learn more, visit http://www.500startups.com/accelerator

A little bit about the startups in this founding accelerator batch:

InternMatch

www.internmatch.com

InternMatch’s mission is to help college students discover amazing internships.

    • Founded by: Andrew Maguire, Nathan Parcells, and Kyle Wilkinson

 

  • Hails from: Seattle, WA

 

 

  • Fun facts: Andrew spent countless hours during his college years playing speed chess on the streets of NYC, instead of studying for class. Nathan once spent 3 months on a 50 foot boat sailing to the Arctic Circle with his uncle. When he’s not coding to the break of dawn, Kyle plays guitar in punk band Shoot the Hostage.

 

 

Baydin

www.baydin.com

Baydin’s mission is to facilitate purposeful communication. Right now, we’re building a personal trainer for your email, and let me tell you, Sue Sylvester’s got nothing on The Email Game.

    • Founded by: Alexander Moore, Mike Chin, and Aye Moah

 

  • Hails from: We started in Boston. Our team hails from Alabama, Connecticut, and Burma.

 

 

  • Fun facts: For the times when there’s no saving it and email gets out of hand, we also make the Drunkerator, a hackathon project that lets you generate a drinking game for any reason. Take off your thinking hats and put on your drinking hats!

 

 

www.955dreams.com

955 Dream makes magical experiences on mobile devices. Check out their first app, “History of Jazz”, which was recently featured by Apple:

    • Founded by: Kiran Bellubbi and Kyle Oba

 

  • Hails from: Mountain View, CA

 

 

  • Fun facts: Both Kyle and Kiran have babies. Babies rule. And we have as many dogs in our office as humans. Dogs rule.

 

 

www.yongopal.com

YongoPal is focused on conversational English education for university students in Asia.  Rather than creating a new learning method or providing tools for helping students prepare for specific exams, YongoPal focuses on boosting language competency through peer relationships — matching students of English in Asia with their peers at top-tier American universities for live online conversation practice and cultural exchange.

    • Founded by: Darien Brown, Daron Hall, and Brian Suchland

 

  • Hails from: Seattle, WA

 

 

  • Fun fact: The YongoPal founders currently share a two bedroom apartment with two university students from Korea.  A no-kimchi-in-the-fridge policy is strictly enforced.

 

 

www.spoondate.com

Spoondate is a dating website that allows food-loving singles to meet and go on awesome food dates with like-minded eaters.

    • Founded by: Raissa Nebie and Van Nguyen

 

  • Hails from: San Francisco. Raissa is from Abidjan, Ivory Coast via New York City. Van is from Delaware

 

 

  • Fun facts: Raissa is a banker turned chef and has cooked a meal in over 10 countries across 4 continents. Van won first place at two “game jams” (where nerds build computer games in less than 48 hours).

 

 

www.ninua.com

Ninua collects the world’s stories, delivers them across platforms, and connects people around them.

    • Founded by: Waleed Abdulla

 

  • Hails from: Mountain View, CA

 

 

  • Fun fact: Ninua’s main product, NetworkedBlogs, started as a weekend hackathon project to learn how to build an app on the Facebook platform. Name at the time was “Blogs I Read”.

 

 

www.crowdrally.com

Crowdrally’s mission is to provide social influencers with organic digital endorsements, so they can get paid without selling out.

    • Founded by: Evan Kuo and Andy Chen

 

  • Hails from: We are Berkeley and Stanford students born and raised in the heart of silicon valley.

 

 

  • Fun facts: Evan has an absolutely terrible sense of direction and once engineered a GPS enabled tactile feedback belt  to communicate realtime orientation through a ring of vibrational cellphone motors. Andy previously started an online marketplace for professional chefs to indulge his demanding eating habits.

 

 

www.rewardli.com

Rewardli lets business owners use leverage their social graph in new and interesting ways. Stay tuned for more.

    • Founded by: George Favvas

 

  • Hails from: Montreal, Quebec. O Canada!

 

 

  • Fun fact: George sealed the deal by recording himself giving his Keynote presentation outside in snowy -10 degree weather. He had calculated that it took about 15 minutes for his fingers to freeze, which was a good incentive to keep his presentation nice and tight.

 

 

www.wednesdays.com

Stay in touch with friends and colleagues.  Over lunch.  On Wednesdays. For an invite to the beta, email an old friend with whom you’d like to stay in better touch and copy lunch@wednesdays.com.

    • Founded by: Andy Chen & a secret agent.

 

  • Hails from: Silicon Valley

 

 

  • Fun fact: The Wednesdays founders were inspired by a Scientific American article which said that lunches and other social support activities are important to staying healthy and happy, and ultimately increase survival by 50%.

 

 

[Startup Coming Soon]

    • Stew Langille, former VP of marketing at Mint.com, is starting a new media company. More to be unveiled soon!

 

www.speakergram.com

SpeakerGram wants to connect people with a story to tell with an audience that wants to hear them.

    • Founded by: Sam Rosen

 

  • Hails from: The concrete jungle… New York City!

 

 

  • Fun fact: Sam Rosen is an amateur competitive eater. His personal bests include a medium Papa John’s pizza in 2:24 and 45 BBQ wings in 8 minutes.

 

 

www.getpunchd.com
Loyalty cards are a pain in the ass, literally and figuratively. We’re bringing a way cooler loyalty program to the hippest shops, the ones that really stand out. Loyalty is so much more than a free drink or a Facebook ‘like.’

    • Founded by: Reed Morse

 

  • Hails from: San Luis Obispo, CA, recently voted the Happiest Place in America.

 

 

  • Fun Fact: Punchd was built over long emails, video chats, and across 11 timezones. Our most ridiculous meeting was with Reed in Hawaii, Niket in San Francisco, and Xander in Italy.

 

 

This announcement was also covered on TechCrunch, All Things Digital, GigaOM, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Business Insider, Canadian Business Online, New York Observer, Xconomy, and Women 2.0.

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A Sense of Déjà Vu: Why focusing on monetization is critical for mobile app developers.

Meet Lucky Luke aka 500 SuperMentor and Founder Michael Oiknine (@apsalarinc).  Michael is co-founder & CEO of Apsalar, a behavioral targeting and analytics platform for mobile apps.  Prior to Apsalar, Michael was co-Founder & COO of Kefta, a SaaS provider of online behavioral targeting solutions (acquired by Acxiom in March 2007).

In the mid-90s, when the web was in its infancy, the entrepreneurs of the time made a big mistake. They focused too much on the wrong metric for their business: the number of new users in a given period. These startups raised large amounts of cash, but instead of focusing on the value provided by their product or on the user experience, they engaged in a spending spree to acquire users, or “eyeballs,” as we used to call it. I was there to see this model implode, and don’t want to see history repeated in the mobile app environment.

Every conceivable method of getting eyeballs was explored, often at great cost. The rationale was, “Let’s get users and we’ll have time later to figure out how to monetize them. Worst case scenario, we’ll generate advertising revenues which we know are higher when your user base is bigger.” With such a lack of actionable foresight on the part of the business, the only folks who ultimately profited were TV networks, the billboards on Highway 101 in the Bay Area, and the portals of the time: Yahoo, AOL and MSN. Similar, and worse, cautionary tales abound of good ventures gone bust because their founders hadn’t secured sustainable monetization avenues before the subsequent sharp decline in advertising spending.

The same flawed logic is currently being applied to the mobile app market, with nearly all discussion centered on number of downloads. The metric du jour seems to be “download velocity,” but not nearly enough thought is given to the question of what happens next. The current crop of bright young entrepreneurs (most too young even to have witnessed the previous bust) needs to look to the past to improve upon the future.

Mobile app publishers must get serious about monetization—making money rather than spending it needlessly. With few exceptions, publishers need to find ways to generate revenue on a per-user basis that is higher than the cost of acquiring those users. This is the only way to build a sustainable business and separate yourself from the competition, thus giving you more leeway to acquire (profitable) customers. Shortsighted publishers run the risk of falling into the same trap as their web predecessors.  The solution is: replace the metric of ‘download velocity’ with a user-centric metrics, such as conversion, retention, and lifetime value.

Let’s first look at three strategies for app monetization:

Strategy #1: Ads

Best for: Consumer apps with large audiences (ex. Pandora); highly targeted apps

Some mobile app publishers will be able to monetize with ads, but unless your app is a big consumer mobile app with a large audience or a highly targeted app within a vertical, it’s not your best bet.

Strategy #2: In-app transactions

Best for: Mobile commerce apps; gaming apps; lead gen apps; publishers with a large number of apps in their portfolio

Thanks to in-app purchases, iOS (and soon Android) developers are starting to scratch the surface of in-app transactions. We see a lot of digital goods in-app purchases, but developers could also cross sell to another portfolio app, up-sell to a pro version of their app, or generate leads. (In-app transactions encapsulate more than just in-app purchases. Consider lead generation; the transmission of information is a very powerful, and monetize-able, transaction.)

Strategy #3: Subscription models

Best for: Content (e.g. magazine, newspaper) apps; professional & consumer services apps (e.g. Life 360); telecom apps (e.g. Skype)

Good examples currently come from telecom apps, but expect the subscription trend to pick up. Subscription models help developers increase the life value of their customers. The key success factors here will be lowering customer acquisition costs and reducing churn over time. And don’t forget pricing strategy—monthly trials or free offers will be valuable approaches.

With your monetization strategy in place, you now need to measure its effectiveness at each user level.  Your app produces tons of user data.  This data, if analyzed properly, can be used to maximize your monetization strategy by enhancing user engagement, profitably growing your user base and most importantly increasing revenues.  Fortunately, there are plenty of best practices that were built on the web of yesterday to help the mobile app publishers of today.  Let me share two of them that are key:

1. Conversion Funnel Analysis

A conversion funnel is a sequence of steps that a user is expected to take in order to reach a specific conversion goal. Note that the steps of a conversion funnel can all belong to the same mobile application, a.k.a. in-app conversion funnel, or can span multiple mobile applications, a.k.a. cross-app conversion funnel. An example of a conversion funnel could be one that has an in-app purchase as the goal, with the steps (in order) being start a game, reach level 1, view a digital good offer, and click on offer.  Understanding how users are converting on this in-app purchase, and more importantly how you can increase these conversion rates is critical to the success of any app.

2. Cohort-based Engagement Analysis

This kind of engagement analysis will allow you to manage user engagement by grouping users into “cohorts,” or groups of people sharing common experiences within a defined period of time, and tracking their unique behaviors over time. Cohort examples are groups of users who started using your mobile app within a specific week, or groups of users who reached level 1 of your game for the first time within a specific week. The business goal for an engagement analysis could either be to increase retention of users in your mobile application or to increase monetization of users in your mobile application. For instance, you can optimize retention by focusing on a retention-related engagement metric such as ’searching for a product’, whereas you could optimize monetization by focusing on a monetization-related engagement metric such as ‘completing an in-app purchase’.  Either way, you are gaining important insights into user behaviors.

Conversion funnels and cohorts are two examples of user-centric analytics to be used when monetizing your mobile apps.  They each produce valuable and actionable knowledge that can improve retention and revenues in your mobile apps.  There are other tools available that mobile app developers can use to understand what their users want, and then cater to them in a way that links user engagement to recurring revenues.  This is a good time to get serious about engagement and monetization.

Today, mobile distribution platform Tapjoy announced an analytics partnership with Apsalar. Read about it here.

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Build a Killer Product Faster! The Secret of User Activity Streams and Cohort Metrics

Meet Silver Surfer aka 500 SuperMentor Dan Martell (@danmartell).  Dan is the Co-Founder of Flowtown, a social marketing application for businesses.  Self diagnosed as having intense ADHD, you can either find him hosting dinners, speaking about marketing or jumping off cliffs around the world.

Note: all data displayed in the mock-ups below are based on real data as of Feb 6th, 2011 except for personal user information.

Over the past 8 weeks, we’ve quietly launched a new app called Timely (http://timely.is).  It’s a simple way to add tweets to a queue and publish them at optimal times throughout the day. It’s been a fun project to build. We currently have over 2500 sign-ups, over 21% avg weekly active users, and 56 upgraded accounts.

The result? We now have 2 simple admin dashboards that improve our ability to learn faster and build a tighter feedback loop – especially in the very early days of building our app.

User Activity Stream


The User Activity Streams are a color-coded log output of actions taken by or done to our users in real time to help us look for meaningful patterns. The mock-up above is equivalent to what you’d see in our dashboard today.

The Activity Stream components are:

  • Date/Time Stamp: When the action occurred
  • Account: Link to the account owners email
  • Action: Color coded action done to / or created by the app
  • Details: Meta information to give context

Here’s how I use this view to guide product:

Patterns Highlight User Behavior
Colors help us recognize patterns. First, we just had a simple text log output. Adding color brought the stream to life. When I watch how our users interact with our application, I can easily see the both the positive and negative outcomes.

Get Personal with Your People
Because I can view the actions of account owners (and typically their email), the drill down is super easy. I’ve often discovered bugs and UX issues in our app just by watching users repeatedly take an action or watch 3 duplicate actions logged in a row. Regardless of the reason, I’ll just grab their email and shoot ‘em a quick note to learn more about what they’re looking to do and to see if I can help make it happen for them.   It’s the epitome of being proactive.

The downside? This deeply personalized approach won’t scale to thousands of daily active users – but it’s definitely a huge benefit while you’re just beginning and trying to learn more about your users, their needs and behaviors.

Updating Actions to Drive Better Features
Depending on our backlog of features, I’ll usually go in and change the activity stream to output the actions that will help me determine which, if any, changes are needed. If we deploy a new feature, I’ll usually add that activity to the log and remove another to reduce clutter. I try never to have more than 5 unique activities logged to keep my thinking clear.

Weekly Cohort Metrics

(These are real numbers)

One of the biggest challenges of building a web app is knowing if your changes actually make things better or worse for users. Most people use vanity metrics to “feel” good about their traction (traffic, unique visits, conversions, etc.) There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but at the end of the day, there are really only 2 measurements worth knowing:

  • Did your prospects activate?
  • Did your new users come back?

Using a simple reporting tool, you can quickly see if people “got it.” For us, activation means: created an account, added a Twitter profile (and tweeted) in their first week, and if that trend (the blue numbers) is improving or not.

Know Your Baseline
Having a baseline for your current metrics is just as important as measuring the impact of your changes.  Before we build a feature, we always add the metric to our cohorts table so we can see how we’ve done previously. This allows us to learn (baseline) and improve from there. Since we write all of our stories in a“Feature X will move Y metric” format, we need to get our baseline for Y. Having a simple framework in place makes it easy to review a feature’s relevance and ultimate impact.

Moving Forward with Confidence
If you don’t use cohort measurements, it’s really tough to know if you’re improving, especially if you’re deploying new production updates multiple times through the day. It makes it really tough to know what change had which effect. That’s why we use metrics in weekly increments, If we screw something up, we can quickly reverse the changes and get things fixed without causing any major issues.

Beyond Metrics: Vision, Creativity and Strong Opinions Wanted
Owning a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter. You can’t simply depend on “Tools” as a guarantee you’ll get things right. But having the right tools – and knowing how, why and when to use them – can help you  determine what needs to be built AND let you know if you’re moving in the right direction.

Great product requires a vision before you build. You need to let your creativity flow and try different implementations. Lastly, you also need to when to “fold ‘em” and not build at all.  In fact, saying no may actually be the most important skill you can have, so don’t be afraid to use it when the need arises.

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The Geckoboard Platform: A Beginner’s Guide to the Geckoboard API

Welcome Geckoboard to the 500 Startups family! Geckoboard just launched out of beta and announced their seed round today. This post below was originally published on the Geckoboard Blog.

If you’ve been following Geckoboard for any period of time you’ll know that we’re always adding connections to new services.  With so many great services out there we’ve recently expanded the development team (again) so we can crank more widgets even faster while the requests keep rolling in.  We’ll always keep adding new widgets (keep an eye on the blog tomorrow for more announcements) but today I wanted to talk to you about another way of getting your data on your Geckoboard status board even when we don’t have a connection to it.

Your data is locked up in many different places, whether it’s in third party applications or in your own database or servers, our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to see that on your Geckoboard and part of that strategy is to make the Geckoboard API as easy and as flexible as possible.  Wait!  Before your eyes glaze over I want to show you how to get key information onto your status board in a few easy steps using the Geckoboard API.

How it works:

It’s a pretty straightforward process.

    1. Create a document in a format that Geckoboard understands

 

  • Configure a custom widget to read from that document at a regular interval

 

 

Example:

Let’s say you want to display how many people visited your shop today and compare it to yesterday’s number.  As long as you can capture that information somewhere you’ll be able to display it on your Geckoboard.  In this case, we know that 238 people visited yesterday but only 123 visited today.  You need to put those 2 numbers into a document that Geckoboard understands; we’ve got examples of the different document formats in the API section of the support forum.  Here we want to show today’s value and the change since yesterday so we’re going to choose the Number and secondary stat widget type.  Here’s the format:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?> <root> <item> <value>123</value> <text></text> </item> <item> <value>238 <text></text> </item> </root>

If you’re not used to XML this might look a bit intimidating but don’t worry, we’re only interested in 2 parts of this document, the number for yesterday’s visitors and then number for today’s.  Simply copy the text into a new text document then substitute your numbers as shown in diagram below.

 

You then need to save the document to a location that Geckoboard can read it from.  This is typically somewhere on you own web server or some publicly accesible site.  In this example I’m going to use the public folder of my free Dropbox account.  You can see the document here.

All that’s left is to configure a new custom widget on my Geckoboard status board to display this data.

Add widget >> Custom Widget >> Number & Secondary Stat

And configure as follows:

URL data feed:  The address where your document can be reached

API Key: Empty

Widget type: Custom

Feed format: XML

Reload time (mins): 60

Label: Today’s visitors (or whatever you want).

 

//
// ]]>

Then just click “Add to dashboard” and you should have something like this:

 

That concludes the introduction to the Geckoboard API, we’ve covered the fundamentals but barely scratched the surface.  In the next instalment I’m going to round up the existing wrappers and scripts aimed at making automated scripts easier on the platform of your choice.  In the meantime, if you’ve already used the API we’d love to hear from you.  What problem were you trying to solve?  How easy or difficult was it?]]–>

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