Why your online business should offer a no-hassle money-back guarantee and avoid chargebacks

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in business advice, COO, Foundation, free business advice, Getting Started, Marketing

I work with lots of startup companies that sell goods or services to consumers online. Every company believes they are providing a great product but, the fact is, not every customer will be satisfied. So, the question becomes, if and when should a customer get their money back? I believe the correct answer is, when they ask for it. Here’s why…

If you’re selling a physical product that can be returned in “as new” condition, I think it’s pretty clear the customer should get their money back when the merchandise is returned. However, should the shipping be free in both directions? Should your company charge a restocking fee? Should only a partial refund be given if the merchandise is difficult to resell as new? What if your physical product is consumed or perishable? You don’t want the product back or it simply may be impossible to get it back. Should the consumer be out their money if they are not happy? I say no. Give them a full refund and eat the return shipping cost if you want the product returned.

 
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If your company is selling information or e-products you may be thinking, “I can’t un-ring a bell”. The consumer has received the information or could easily make an e-copy that may be of continued benefit to a customer even if they claim they are not satisfied. If the customer claims to be unhappy, is it reasonable to charge the customer a full or even a partial fee? I say no, if a customer wants their money back, I think it’s best to make a full refund upon request.

Read more…

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.

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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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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Bay Area Council logo
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.

April 2017 M&A Moment – how to sell a publicly traded company

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

In this episode of The M&A Moment, I talk with Rick Climan, a partner at Hogan Lovesll, LLP, about 2017 year to date mergers and acquisition numbers, San Francisco Bay Area involved deals and the mechanics of seller a publicly traded company.

Rick and I discuss MaxLiner’s (NYSE: MXL) $660Million takeover of the Bay Area’s Exar Corporation (NASDAQ: EXAR), a deal of particular interest to me because MaxLinear’s CEO, Kishore Seendripu, and their VP, Product Marketing were both classmates of mine in the MBA program at Wharton San Francisco.

In Bay Area technology M&A, we discuss Intel Corporation’s acquisition of Mobileye, the Israeli manufacturer of vehicle collision avoidance systems for $15 billion. This deal gives Intel a major leg up into the world of autonomous vehicles. Next we look at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s purchase of Nimble Storage for $1 billion.


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While we could not discuss specifics it is interesting to note htat on the day that this show was recorded, Rick’s company was involved with the just-announced $28 Billion takeover of C.R. Bard by Becton-Dickinson. His firm was involved in the recently announced PetSmart acquisition of Chewy.com for $3.35 Billion. The largest online buyout to date. Rick does review some of the publicly available information about about both deals though.

Finally, as mentioned, we take an in-depth look at the M&A “mating dance” from the perspecitve of a publicly traded selling company. We look at how sellers begin the process of validating whether its the right time to sell and, if so, how to set the ball in motion. We talk about the investment banker’s role and discuss the difference between the seller’s cost between an IPO or an outright sale of the firm.

 

This episode was recorded on Bay Area Ventures on SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School on April 24, 2017.

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.

First quarter 2017 mergers and acquisitions review

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

The first quarter of 2017 is in the history books and in this episode of The M&A Moment, Rick Climan, a partner at Hogan Lovells, LLP and I discuss the Q1 M&A results both world-wide and for the San Francisco Bay Area.

In Bay Area technology M&A, we discuss Intel Corporation’s acquisition of Mobileye, the Israeli manufacturer of vehicle collision avoidance systems for $15 billion. This deal gives Intel a major leg up into the world of autonomous vehicles. Next we look at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s purchase of Nimble Storage for $1 billion.

Hogan Lovells, LLP logo  Rick Climan headshot

 

Then we talk about the volume of global M&A in terms of both overall dollar value and the number of deals taking place in the first quarter of 2017. We look at trends in the currency of mergers and acquisitions such as cash or stock and the preferences for each from the buyer’s or seller’s perspective as the year 2017 unfolds. We close our first quarter review with a look at what lies ahead for the rest of 2017.

Finally, we take a look at the how M&A deals initiate. We discuss the “mating dance” of M&A from the buyer’s perspective. To do so we look at why buyers pursue M&A as a strategy. We discuss the teams they put in place to implement that strategy in order to select a target company and to initiate the talks. Who makes the first overture in an M&A deal, what do managers need to think about before doing so and who is the right person in the organization to make the initial call. Listen in to learn all about it. Note, next month we’ll take a look at the process from the target company’s perspective.

This episode was recorded on Bay Area Ventures on SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School on March 27, 2017.

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.

Jonathan Swanson on how to build a generational company

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in business advice, free business advice, Getting Started, Hiring Contractors, Setting Goals
Jonathan Swanson
Jonathan Swanson, Co-Founder and President of Thumbtack joins me on my latest episode of Bay Area Ventures to talk about his journey from White House economic aide to building a high-growth fast-pace “generational” technology startup.

Thumbtack provides a marketplace for local services allowing one to find providers for just about anything from builders to caterers to tutors to … you name it. Their approach is different from sites which force you to do all the research for choosing the best provider. Thumbtack walks you through a couple questions and then does the research for you, finding you the best match for your project.

 

Founded in 2009, Thumbtack is now a so-called “unicorn”, a privately held company valued at over $1 billion. Jonathan’s goal for Thumbtack is to be the Amazon of the gig-economy by creating the ultimate marketplace for getting things done. More than building just a huge company though, Jonathan is out to improve the lives of millions of people around the world by helping them become independent and successful entrepreneurs in a world where no one can count on an employer or job to support them for life.

With over a million active customers and hundreds of thousands of providers, Jonathan is doing just that. Thumbtack helps independent providers promote their skills and match them with good customers. In doing so, these independent providers increase their confidence and change their lives for the better. In this episode you’ll hear Jonathan provide some solid examples of people who have achieved great personal success on the platform. Thumbtack is so successful it is out performing Yelp and Angie’s List and could be the Yellow Pages for the twenty-first century and beyond.

Jonathan, is a bright and highly motivated entrepreneur. He is building an open organization where he welcomes debate and challenges to the status quo. The company publishes internal information like board meeting notes for all employees to see in order to encourage everyone in the organization to be aware of what’s happening and how they can make an impact.

Jonathan and his co-founders launched Thumbtack in Washington, DC during the height of the financial crisis in 2009. Today Thumbtack has over 1,000 employees in San Francisco, Salt Lake City and the Philippines. Jonathan moved Thumbtack to San Francisco to take advantage of the Bay Area’s ecosystem early-on and in this interview you’ll hear how he compares the Bay Area way of business to other areas.

There is a powerful interview with a brilliant young entrepreneur.

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.