Rentberry offers a radically improved way to rent an apartment

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, Real Estate

When was the last time you rented a home or apartment? You probably went to apartments.com or Craigslist, searched for rentals in your area and then began a series of calls trying to learn more about the property. If you were lucky you got to see the place, then you’d have to fill out an application, pay a fee to the landlord for a credit and background check and hope that you’re not outbid or turned down. Depending on your market, maybe you had look at a dozen properties and pay half a dozen application fees before you secured your new rental home.

Alex Lubinsky, had just this problem when he and a couple friends went looking for a home to rent in San Francisco. Instead of just moving on, they decided to do something about it and launched Rentberry an online auction place for renting an apartment.

In this episode of Bay Area Ventures I speak with Alex about Rentberry and how his service is radically changing the paradigm for both renters and landlords when engaged in the rental process. Rentberry offers a transparent marketplace where renters enter their information one time and then apply that same information to every rental they seek.


 
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The renter and the landlord can see how much rentals are going for in their area during the auction and by looking a past auction results. Rentberry manages the rental agreement and presents the credit and background information to a prospective landlord while maintaining the confidentiality and security of the renter’s personally identifiable information.

Of course, all this is not without some controversy. Will Rentberry price the average renter out of the market and only serve to raise rental prices? Or will an open market place balance the power between renters and landlords and optimize the prices paid. We also ask Alex about his take on the Bay Area way of business and what it’s like running a fast growing startup in the San Francisco area.

It a great story and Lubinsky is a great guest

This episode was recorded on May 22, 2017 on Bay Area Ventures on SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Using improvisation and comedy to unleash your company’s message and branding

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Advertising, business advice, free business advice, Hiring Consultants, Hiring Contractors, Marketing, Priorities

When Hewlett-Packard was about to launch their Windows 10 line of notebook and desktop computers they were scared. Not because they were worried about competition or the quality of their devices but, because of the horrible reaction to their prior line of computers due to Microsoft’s shockingly bad Windows 8 software. In order to create the right marketing message for their new line of computers they knew they needed serious help. This was no laughing matter. So, who did they turn to? A bunch of comedians.

HP turned to a San Francisco based creative agency called Funworks. Funworks brought in a team of comedians skilled at improvisation techniques to hold a “fun workshop” with HP’s top product managers. Founded by Paul Charney, a veteran creative agency executive and founder of the San Francisco comedy troupe Killing Lobsters, Paul and his team help companies express their issues and discover their most compelling messaging points by fostering an environment of open conversation based on improvisation techniques where ideas flow freely when everyone simply says “yes” and “and”.

In this episode of Bay Area Ventures I speak with Paul Charney and Funwork’s Creative Architect, Erica Fortescue about his company and their award winning commercials.


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We discuss the psychology of what makes a company and its products memorable and why humor is sometimes the best medicine, even when trying to convey a serious message. We learn what a fun workshop is and what takes place at one.

Paul talks about why he started Funworks and how it is different from other creative ad agencies. He talks about the challenges of moving from a practicing creative person and comedian to being the CEO of a team of other practitioners. What are the trade off and what are the rewards for being a leader.

Erica shares her knowledge on the neuropsychology of messaging and how humor can be used to convey a serious message while maintaining the prestige and authority of the company being represented in the creative message.

Of course we also hear Paul and Erica share their view on the Bay Area Way of business. In their practice they have dealt with startup to Fortune 50 enterprises in the Bay Area and across the US. In the Bay Area, in particular, they talk about how companies staffed by 20 to 30 “something” employees are sometimes more difficult to help because they just don’t understand their true identity as an organization. Often in these cases they are called in by the company’s Board of Directors to help figure it out and craft the right message and persona for the firm.

So, how did HP conquer their fear of whether or not Windows 10 would scuttle their latest offerings? By creating Circle of Trust. See it here: Funwork’s Windows 10 Launch Commercial for H-P

This episode was recorded on May 22, 2017 on Bay Area Ventures on SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Special follow-up edition Part 2 with Martin Plaehn of Control 4 and Mark Chung of Verdigris Technology

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, business advice

Part two of my special two-part follow-up edition of Bay Area Ventures, featuring interviews with guests from the first three seasons of the show, is now available for streaming or download here and on iTunes, Spreaker and Facebook.

In this episode I speak with Martin Plaehn, CEO of Control 4 and Mark Chung Co-Founder and CEO of Verdigris Technologies.

 
 
 
Martin Plaehn
Control 4
 
Martin Plaehn is a seasoned CEO who has been leading Control 4 since 2011 (NASDAQ: CTRL). Martin first appeared on Bay Area Ventures back in August of 2015. At the time, Control 4’s annual revenue was $160 Million. For the first quarter of 2017, the company’s revenues were over $50 Million and Control 4’s stock has more than doubled since his last appearance on our show.

Control 4 is a leader or, perhaps “The” leader in the home automation space. They manufacture automation systems and software for smart homes and offices. Martin brings us up to date on the latest in IoT devices for the home as well as steps they are taking to prevent hacking of these systems.

Martin has lectured on leadership and has been at the helm of some of the early and most famous technology companies such as RealNetworks, Viewpoint Digital and Bungee Labs. He discusses the challenges of scaling his organization and how he manages his time to address Control 4’s technology, customer and shareholder needs. We also learn about his current reading list for when he’s traveling around the world.

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In the second half of the show we’ll check in with Mark Chung, Co-Founder and CEO of Verdigris Technologies (www.verdigris.co). Mark’s first appearance on Bay Area Ventures was in April of 2016 when Verdigris was still a seed funded company but already shipping product and generating revenue. Verdigris raised a $7M Series A financing in the second half of 2016 with backers such as Verizon and Jabil Manufacturing giving them the headroom to grow and capture more markets.

Mark started Verdigris with his brother after an incident in their home where their electricity bill spiked for some unknown reason. They developed a monitoring system that can automatically detect every type of device on an electrical circuit and track and monitory its electric usage.

Today, they are an AI or artificial intelligence company using machine learning to solve tough problems facing the operators of hotels, factories and other commercial facilities. Verdigris technology sends a customer’s energy usage data up to a cloud based dashboard and applies AI to the data to help those customers track energy usage and anomalies in their facilities. This knowledge allows customers to cut their energy usage by as much as 50%.

Verdigris Technologies
Mark Chung

Mark talks about many of the challenges he has faced since his last appearance due to rapid growth and both internal and external factors. The company’s headcount has more than doubled in the past year and they encountered some surprises doing business in the European Union and Great Britain since the UK passed Brexit. They are also still struggling to build up a world class sales team to keep up with growth.

Verdigris is a real success story and Mark shares his philosophy of how to handle the stresses and challenges of being the leader of a fast company. He is a brilliant engineer who has worked at top technology companies such as AMD, PA Semiconductor and Netlogic. PA semiconductor was acquired by Apple while Mark was an employee and Netlogic was acquired by Broadcom, as well. Like these great companies that hired Mark you can benefit from his knowledge and skills by listening in and following his company’s progress.

This jam-packed show is sure to be a good use of your time.

Recorded on April 24, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. Bay Area Ventures airs live on Mondays at 4:00pm Pacific Time, 7:00pm Eastern Time.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Rick Climan and his all-star M and A team move to Hogan Lovells

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, business advice, M&A

In this episode of The M&A Moment, I talk with Rick Climan about his recent move to Hogan Lovells, LLP. Rick, along with his entire mergers and acquisitions all-star team of Keith Flaum, Jane Ross, John Brockland and their support staff all moved to Hogan Lovells to take advantage of the firm’s worldwide reach and resources. This is a powerhouse move in the technology M&A world designed to put Rick and his team in position to be the leaders in the increasingly global nature of multi-billion dollar deals. As Rick often discusses, both domestic and foreign corporations are looking for global targets and buyers for their M&A strategy and Rick and his team are now likely to be one of the go-to firms for one side of many of the biggest deals.


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Hogan Lovells, LLP logo

Rick and I also take a look back at a deal announced in 2016, Broadcom’s acquisition of Brocade Network Solutions and see how the regulatory review, both foreign and domestic, has been progressing. We also discuss some recently announced divestitures, contingent of the deal closing, to see if this might be timed to appease regulators or perhaps be for some other strategic reason.

Finally, we look and the heating up tech IPO market and see if this means the M&A exits will be impacted by the availability of more liquidity in the equity markets..

 

This episode was recorded on Bay Area Ventures on SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School on May 22, 2017.

Special follow-up edition Part 1 with Christopher Farm of Tenjin and Dave McLean of Magnolia Brewing

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, Marketing

In this, the first of two special follow-up editions of Bay Area Ventures, we check in with guests from the first three seasons of the show.

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In this episode, we speak with Christopher Farm, Co-Founder and CEO of Tenjin, Inc. Christopher first appeared on Bay Area Ventures in April of 2016. Back then, Tenjin was a young company, recently graduated from the Y-Combinator incubator. How has Tenjin grown in the past year? What are some of the biggest challenges and surprises that Christopher and his team have had to deal with? We will cover it all and see what is next in store for his company.

Chris takes calls from listeners and talks about how they have manage to find technical talent for their team at a time when competition for programmers and engineers in the San Francisco Bay Area has been fierce.

In the second half of the show we’ll check in with Dave McLean, Founder of Magnolia Brewing. Dave was my first guest on Bay Area Ventures in March of 2014. Back then, Magnolia Brewing had its sole location, Magnolia Gastropub on Haight Street in San Francisco. They were just building out a new restaurant and brewing facility. We’ll find out when those projects were completed and how they have fared. We’ll also talk about Magnolia’s recent entry into retail sales with their new line of canned beers.
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Dave Mclaean is one of the leaders of the modern San Francisco Bay Area craft brewing industry. He is also the founder of the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild and helped grow the membership to hundreds of craft brewers throughout the Bay Area. The Guild also hosts dozens of major community events each year including San Francisco Beer Week and their annual Brews by the Bay festival.

McLean is passionate business man and brewer. He has built a thriving enterprise with thousands of devoted fans in a city whose roots as a brewer’s haven go back to the gold rush days of the 1800’s. That’s no small feat and Dave will tell you how he’s done it.

This is a jam-packed show with a lot of great takeaways for your business.

Recorded on April 24, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. Bay Area Ventures airs live on Mondays at 4:00pm Pacific Time, 7:00pm Eastern Time.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Q1 2017 San Francisco Bay Area Economic Update with Jim Wunderman

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, business advice, Economics, Finance

On this special Bay Area Council quarterly economic update edition of Bay Area Ventures we speak with Jim Wunderman, CEO of The Bay Area Council about the first quarter 2017 San Francisco Bay Area economy.

Additionally we talk about the results of the Bay Area Council’s recently completed 2017 poll. Jim let’s us know what questions were asked and what were the top issues on the top of minds of Bay Area residents. In particular, which issue is considered a crisis.

The Bay Area economy began 2017 on a strong note with robust growth in the tech industry, many large M&A deals and the lowest unemployment rate of any region in the state of California. However, all that success is not without some pain and the Bay Area still suffers from extremely high cost of living and horrendous traffic congestion.


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Jim and his organization have been working for years on policies and bills to address these key issues and, in the first quarter, several new laws were passed by the California State Senate to help. Additionally a $52Billion gas tax and DMV fee package was championed by Governor Jerry Brown and passed into law. In this episode Jim talks about all of these acheivements and how they will impact the Bay Area. He hints at when to expect these initiatives to make an impact and then discusses which key issues he’ll be working on next.

 

The Bay Area Council is a public policy organization focused on making the San Francisco Bay Area and the Silicon Valley the most globally competitive and economically productive region in the world. The Council’s membership is comprised of CEOs from hundreds of the top businesses in the nine-county Bay Area. Jim Wunderman has been the Council’s CEO since 2004. For more information on Jim and to see the results of the Bay Area Council’s 2017 poll go to bayareacouncil.org.

This interview was recorded on April 24, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. Bay Area Ventures airs live on Mondays at 4:00pm Pacific Time, 7:00pm Eastern Time.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Your startup, before and after being featured on Shark Tank with Sara Magulis CEO of Honeyfund

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, business advice, free business advice, Uncategorized

Sara Margulis, Co-Founder and CEO of Honeyfund and Plumfund joins me on Bay Area Ventures to talk about entrepreneurship and her venture’s fortunes before and after appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank. Honeyfund began when Sara and her fiancé Josh (now husband) were looking for a way to allow wedding guests to fund their honeymoon instead of purchasing gifts that they wouldn’t be able to store in their small San Francisco apartment. Josh created Honeyfund as an online registry where their friends and family could choose various aspects of their honeymoon to fund as a gift (i.e. airfare, hotel room nights, excursions, dinners, etc.).

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Fast forward ten years later and Honeyfund is a thriving site that has helped millions of users. In addition to funding honeymoons, customers began using the Honeyfund to fund other needs and charities. Sara and Josh launched Plumfund to fulfill all of these other things that users love. Both sites were doing well and then Sara and Josh decided to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank. They wound up receiving offers from three sharks and Mr. Wonderful himself, Kevin O’Leary ended up lending the company $400,000. Click here to watch Honeyfund on YouTube

Honeyfund is located in Sebastopol, a beautiful part of the north Bay Area known more for vineyards and dairies but, more and more also becoming a home to many tech companies.

Sara discusses her transition from being a Marketing Director at a San Francisco University to becoming tech entrepreneur. She walks us through some of the challenges she’s faced along the way and how life and business changed after their Shark Tank experience. Other than the parts which fall under a non-disclosure agreement we do talk about the Shark Tank process. And finally, we get to hear Sara’s take on the Bay Area way of business.

It’s a fun interview with lots of great takeaways for your business, wherever you may be.

Recorded on March 27, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. Bay Area Ventures airs live on Mondays at 4:00pm Pacific Time, 7:00pm Eastern Time.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Launching and growing startup ventures in Colombia with Wenyi Cai of Polymath Ventures and Jeremy Dann of USC

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business, business advice, Finance, startup incubators, Venture Capital

Wenyi Cai, Managing Partner of Polymath Ventures and Jeremy Dann, Professor of Innovation at USC’s Marshall School of Business’ Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies joined me on Bay Area Ventures to talk about entrepreneurship and its impact on economic development in emerging markets like Latin American and specifically in Colombia.


 
Polymath Ventures
Wenyi Cai

 

Jeremey Dann, Professor at USC

 
Professor Dann is back for his third appearance on my show and this time he is here to talk about his new case study about Wenyi’s venture fund and incubator Polymath Ventures. The case, which like all of Jeremy’s 30 plus case studies, is used as a teaching tool for entrepreneurs and business students in businesses and business schools throughout the world. Jeremy is an expert at walking one through the challenges and issues that a company or managers face in real world situations. In this case Wenyi and her team face new and unique challenges creating, incubating and funding startup companies in emerging Bogota, Colombia. The issues include a rapidly changing political environment, entrenched traditional standards for financing ventures and a lack of infrastructure for supporting the needs of a fast paced venture-backed startup.

 
Wenyi is a bright and dynamic woman who, at the age of 15, was working on fluid dynamics problems at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. She went on to earn her degree in Physics from Harvard University and, while there, founded Tuesday Magazine. After college, Wenyi worked at McKinsey & Company on management consulting assignments in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. She then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became COO of Milo.com. One year later Milo was acquired by eBay for $75 Million. Ms. Cai did not wanting to join another Bay Area startup and opted instead to start up her own fund and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Wenyi and her team set out to identify the best place to found Polymath Ventures and settled on Bogota, Colombia.

Professor Dann picks up the case from there and walks the us through Polymath’s earliest ventures.

Wenyi and Jeremy discuss the case in detail and also offer their take on the difference between the Bay Area way of business vs. the startup and entrepreneurial environment in Colombia and other emerging markets We cover several of Polymath’s earliest ventures and found out how they have fared since Jeremey completed his research and published his paper.

This is a rare opportunity for students of business, to learn from the protagonist of a case study.

Jeremy’s Case Study of Wenyi and Polymath Ventures can be purchased at Harvard Business Press or The Case Centre

Recorded on March 27, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. Bay Area Ventures airs live on Mondays at 4:00pm Pacific Time, 7:00pm Eastern Time.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Tim Chen wanted to help his sister find a credit card, today he runs Nerdwallet

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in business advice, Finance, Financial Services, free business advice, Marketing

Tim Chen, Co-Founder and President of Nerdwallet joins me on my latest episode of Bay Area Ventures to talk about his journey from Wall Street investment banker to advocate for consumer credit choice and information.

Nerdwallet is a site where one can find the best credit card, bank account, travel rewards plan, mortgage, insurance or other financial needs tailored to their specific needs, goals or tastes. The site walks users through some qualifying questions then draws on thousands of providers in every state for the best solution.

Nerdwallet Logo Tim Chen, CEO of Nerdwallet

 

Nerdwallet was founded in 2009, in Tim’s apartment in New York City, when his sister asked for help finding the “best” credit card for her needs. Nerdwallet moved to San Francisco when Tim’s co-founder came to San Francisco and hired an intern that was 10x more productive than the intern Tim hired in NYC. In this interview Tim expands on that discovery and talks about why the ecosystem and entrepreneurial hires found in the Bay Area are ideal for a growing startup.

Through his work at Nerdwallet, helping millions of consumers, Tim has become Member of the Consumer Advisory Board for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency created after the 2008 financial crises to protect consumers. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the National Federation for Credit Counseling. He talks about high credit rates that consumers face and why it’s difficult to make changes.

Tim, is a highly intelligent young entrepreneur who is dedicated to building an open and motivated workforce. Learn about how he and his team communicate to get work done and allow the company to scale rapidly. This is a great interview packed with lots of practical takeaways for your business.

Recorded on February 13, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

How to build products that are pulled by the market

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Biotech startups, business advice, Setting Goals, Venture Capital

My latest episode of Bay Area Ventures features Abe Sher, Managing Partner of Energetico Ventures, a Bal Harbor, Florida based venture fund focused on companies that are helping humanity with brilliantly engineered products and services.

Abe Sher
Abe’s portfolio companies include Aqua Sciences, a company that literally creates water out of thin air, SuperEye, a “neural-reality” company bringing advance displays to human-machine interfaces and Zero Phone, a company aimed at freeing users from the high cost of mobile communications.

 

Mr. Sher has won numerous awards for his technology and has been invited to speak at the White House, by the King of Saudi Arabia and to the Conference of Nobel Laureates by the King of Morocco. His companies’ clients include the Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, the US Department of Homeland Security, US Army and FEMA to name a few.

Abe talks about the types of companies and founders he looks for at Energetico. He is typically looking for products and services that are “pulled” by the marketplace as opposed to those that have to be pushed along. For example, with Aqua Sciences, because he is able to create water from air in some of the harshest environments in the world, he has had huge demand for the systems from governments and NGOs or non-governmental agencies. This has built up sales to the point where they have generated economies of scale and can now offer the system for general commercial purposes like stadiums and events.

Abe has traveled the world helping companies and promoting his own. He talks about his recent trips to China and what he’s discerned about the state of their economy just by walking through their factories. And regardless of where your company is located, he provides tips on what to expect from your leadership team.

This is a super interesting interview jam-packed with practical takeaways for your business and career.

Recorded January 23, 2017, on SiriusXM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School.

For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.