TCN UpStart Roundtable with Ken Deckinger

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on Venture Café Studio Blog on 4/5/14

At this month’s TCN roundtable for entrepreneurs, Ken (of JessMeetKen.com) discusses his founding experience in the worlds of on- and off-line dating, when to self-fund instead of seeking outside investment, and how his own relationship led to his current business. Joe Caruso of LaunchPad Venture Group hosted our panel.

Ken Deckinger (Founder, JessMeetKen.com)

TCN UpStart Roundtables are monthly gatherings at the Venture Cafe that bring together Boston-area early-stage startups and seasoned entrepreneurs. This free series with The Capital Network, Venture Cafe, and Silicon Valley Bank is a great opportunity for you to ask burning questions about starting a company and meet other like-minded entrepreneurs in a casual cafe setting.

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TCN UpStart Roundtable with Ellen Rubin, Founder / CEO of ClearSky Data

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on Venture Café Studio Blog on 3/7/14

At this month’s TCN roundtable for entrepreneurs, Ellen discusses her experience during bullish and bearish times for high-tech investment, how to search for the right co-founder, and why hiring is critical for new businesses. Dan Allred of Silicon Valley Bank and The Capital Network hosted our panel.

TCN UpStart Roundtables are monthly gatherings at the Venture Cafe that bring together Boston-area early-stage startups and seasoned entrepreneurs. This free series with The Capital Network, Venture Cafe, and Silicon Valley Bank is a great opportunity for you to ask burning questions about starting a company and meet other like-minded entrepreneurs in a casual cafe setting.

Eitan Glinert and Sean Baptiste of Fire Hose Games on Building Small and Helping Others

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on Venture Café Studio Blog on 1/31/14

I sat down this week with Eitan and Sean to talk about the founding of Fire Hose, its move to “small” games, and the inspiration behind their upcoming incubator for gaming startups in Cambridge, MA. Like many business ideas, it includes the key question, “why on Earth doesn’t this exist already?”

For more coverage of the Fire Hose incubator announcement, check out Polygon’s article or The Boston Globe. Find their daily gaming and advice broadcasts at http://www.twitch.tv/firehosegames and business updates on Twitter (@FireHoseGames).

If what you really want is “Eitan singing like the Swedish Chef,” this pre-interview chat about The Muppets is just for you.

Hey, The Muppets are for everyone.

TCN UpStart Roundtable with Chase Garbarino, founder of BostInno

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on Venture Café Studio Blog on 1/30/14

At this month’s TCN roundtable for entrepreneurs, Chase discusses his first college business, the cheapest food in Allston, and how BostInno worked through its online media growing pains to become a news hub for Boston’s innovation and technology scene. Dan Allred of Silicon Valley Bank hosts the panel.

To check out Chase’s work and learn more about tech and innovation in Greater Boston, subscribe to BostInno.

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How Big Changes Affect Your Startup Culture

Originally posted by Matthew Gliccen on Venture Café Studio Blog on 1/14/14

Third culture event hosted at Swissnex: big transitions & how they affect your startup culture

Annual startup event hosted by Swissnex

Global Pitchfest at Mass Challenge (1 min and 1 slide) against American competition

Ongoing series of Swiss startups visiting Boston to explore American market (300 have already visited)

#startupculture

Gary Fortier of Raizlabs: “Nothing makes you appreciate good culture like working in a toxic one.”

Ben Thomas, VP Security at Backupify: Joined as first employee in Louisville, KY. Love planning fun things,

Susan Hunt Stevens, founder & CEO of Practically Green: There’s an element of our culture about social mission to ave energy and water and so forth. That’s a huge thing that influences culture, but don’t forget that we’re a tech company. We want to be a great place to work, too. How do we make sure we’re a great company an good for the environment?

Q: What do you think when you think “startup culture?”

Gary: While we don’t think of ourselves as a startup, we do think of ourselves as flexible. Fluidity and response says “startup” to me.

Ben: Startups can mean making the right decision without needing to meet and discuss it. How do you feel at the company? Are you working toward a greater goal?

Susan: I first talked about the startup stereotype, the 20yos who run around with NERF guns and goof off between starting billion dollar companies. My bias has always been to focus on the customer: how will solve their problem? What steps will you take to get there? How does what worked for 5 people work for 15 or 35 people?

Gary on “Awesome” : that’s a little hard to scale to new employees and products and something concrete. You need a shared set of assumptions that people can point to. When you articulate your goals and values, it makes them more possible.

Ben: Culture is a process, not something you do or change one time. Culture is what you do as day-to-day work. At every transition point, people will ask how to keep the old culture with familiar dynamics and you need to accept that that culture is past and be ready to look for what’s next.

Gary: when the new culture is not what it used to be, people tend to gloss over the bad parts, and leave out the negatives that changed for the better.

Susan: We’ve been deliberate about talking and agreeing what level of trust we keep with each other and our clients. As we’ve grown and changed, we consider this sacrosanct. We don’t have a vacation policy or official days we’re open or closed. We need to hire people for success in a high-trust environment and are ready to remove people who can’t work with that situation.

Korey: What lessons have you learned in growing?

Gary: We removed vacation, sick time, and other policies that reflect a lack of total trust. Let the teams self-police and follow up after when something impacts the team negatively. (Don’t scar on the first cut.)

Ben: We have a very liberal holiday policy, including Groundhog Day, first days of the NCAA tournament, Evacuation Day, and so forth. As we grow in other areas, this presses unique policy changes like that, but it doesn’t mean you throw away their spirit.

Susan: Last year we did a green scavenger hunt, like “find the nearest green dry cleaner.” We productized the employee engagement part of our culture in a way we couldn’t have predicted.

Gary: when we closed our biggest new client deal, we agreed on cross-group measurements, and they agreed to check against our team’s core values. That’s a compliment to our focus on culture.

Korey: what have you cross-applied from your culture to your business?

Susan: we learned that great software people aren’t great conservationists! We did find a blogger who went for a year without consuming plastic, a perfect match for what we want to do. The values fun and team aren’t conversation, but they mean a lot to both our working group and our products.

Ben: We want to hire people who like to learn. Our interview ask people to tell us about projects outside of work. What do they dabble in? What pushes their interest and ideas forward?

TCN UpStart Roundtable with Xavier Xicay, founder of Tuatara

Originally posted by  on Venture Café Studio Blog on 1/14//1

The Capital Network (TCN) hosts a monthly discussion at Kendall Square’s Venture Cafe on startups and entrepreneurship, the UpStart Roundtable. They welcomed Xavier Xicay on Nov 21, 2013, to discuss his founding of Tuatara and the goals and evolution of its education product, Gilapad.com.

This 45-minute talk covered the first steps of turning an idea like Gilapad into a company, how Xavier handles discussions with investors, and thoughts on when to start (and set goals for) your business.

Wistia CEO Chris Savage on founding, growing, and moving your company

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on 11/7/14

“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.” – Jason Fried (founder, 37signals)

Video hosting and marketing experts Wistia.com started like many successful businesses: two friends testing product ideas against customer needs, matching problems to solutions, and, ultimately, generating revenue. Over time, early successes became a growing list of clients. In turn, that work pushed them from a shared house in 2006 to an office of two dozen employees in 2013, but always with an eye toward getting the most out of their space and people.

As the company plans its move into a new office and neighborhood, co-founder Chris Savage talked with me about Wistia’s growth, how your work space and business goals support each other, and what “location” means on a personal level.

This Q&A outline locates questions within my interview with Chris by time.

  • Why did you start Wistia and how did it grow? (0:15)
  • When did you feel people first took you seriously as a business? (4:00)
  • What did you carry from that first significant deal to future work and other clients? (7:00)
  • What are the most important things to have in your next working space? (8:30)
  • What will you miss most about Wistia’s current location? (12:50)
  • What advice do you have for people growing into a bigger or different work space? (13:45)
  • What kind of non-business ideas or experiences have you later found inspirational or useful for the business itself? (15:30)

Wistia will host office hours at Venture Cafe from 4-6pm on November 7, 2013, to talk with attendees about video, business, and marketing. Stop by and say hello in person!

Jason Jacobs on Raising Capital and the Founding of RunKeeper

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on Venture Café Studio Blog on 8/24/13

Dan Allred of The Capital Network (TCN) interviews Jason Jacobs, CEO of Boston-based RunKeeper, about what led him to found a fitness company, what he’s learned about raising capital at different stages of a company’s life, and the challenge in balancing investment and profitability.

The Capital Network and Silicon Valley Bank co-host these UpStart roundtables every month at the Venture Cafe. Their discussions give Cafe attendees a chance to talk with and learn from experienced local entrepreneurs.

Audrey Schulman on the Zero Dollar Energy Bill

Originally posted by Matthew Glidden on Venture Café Studio Blog on 7/24/13

Boston-based HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team) recently partnered with the City of Cambridge to promote easy adoption of rooftop panels and other solar systems on residential homes. HEET founder Audrey Schulman knows from personal experience how intimidating the solar process can seem, so went the extra mile by creating CambridgeSolar.org, which offers a preset wattage price and installation through a vetted contractor. We talked about this program, how it feels to switch to solar, and future versions planned for other parts of Greater Boston.

This outline summarizes our Q&A.

What are the basics of this City of Cambridge solar program? (0:00)

You can request an evaluation for rooftop panels at your home address through CambridgeSolar.org and Next Step Living follows up with a home efficiency evaluation. If it works for your address, they install the panels, offer a fixed wattage price, and donate $300 to a partnering non-profit of your choice. Signup through the Cambridge program ends August 1.

What if people miss that August 1 deadline for signup? (2:07)

A similar program will follow in the Somerville area, supported by HEET and SomervilleClimateAction.org.

How’s this customer program different from others? (2:30)

In other programs, you have to vet the financial models and contractors and coordinate everything yourself. This one is pre-negotiated for price and installation, saving a lot of homeowner effort.

Will anything change after August 1 for the Somerville program? (3:50)

We’re working out the details now, but I don’t think so. It still includes the $300 donation for non-profits and we’d like to sign up as many as possible. We encourage people to let us know of groups to add that help the community.

What was your personal solar experience like? (4:30)

The first time through was a complicated learning process. All those financing decisions felt like buying a car when neither you nor anyone you know understood how. All that complexity motivated me to create this program and make the customer process a confident one, not anxiety-inducing. Boston plans to use a model like this next year and we’d like to expand it into other cities across the country.

My current installation process ultimately went well and using solar changed my whole attitude about turning on the lights. NStar is trying out billing options for solar users in compensation for home-generated power and I currently get a $0 gas bill to accompany my $0 electricity bill. It’s very satisfying, both financially and environmentally.