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.

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.


 
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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.

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.

How to run your startup as if your life depended on it

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Getting Started

Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO of REBBL joined me recently to talk about her company, her life and her new book “Killing It: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Head Without Losing Your Heart“. You can hear it all in this episode of Bay Area Ventures recorded on December 19, 2016.

We begin the interview by catching up on the changes in her life that led her to leave a faculty role at Sonoma State University to join REBBL as their CEO, then we discuss her new book in detail.

Sheryl practices what she preaches and teaches. She advises entrepreneurs to create “purpose driven organizations” and that’s just what she is doing at REBBL, a registered Benefit Corporation. REBBL is the offshoot of the non-profit organization Not For Sale which is working to stop human trafficking around the world. Specifically, Not For Sale is striving to improve the lives or women and girls in developing countries who are most at risk for exploitation of human traffickers. 2.5 percent of REBBL’s net sales goes to Not For Sale and Sheryl talks about how she has chosen investors and co-workers who support the fact that REBBL is about more than just the bottom line.

Sheryl, is open and passionate about sharing her experiences as an entrepreneur. She has lived through the ups and downs of building a company and suffered the tolls that it takes on one’s health and relationships. After coming close to personal bankruptcy, Sheryl spiraled into a personal health crisis but, managed to pull herself through with counseling and the support of her family, friends and colleagues. To help other entrepreneurs avoid the problems and challenges she has gone through, she authored her new book, Killing It. Unlike a typical book or business school course on strategy, financing, marketing and all the other nuts and bolts of building a startup, Killing It talks about the personal decisions and actions one must take to maintain a healthy outlook and physical well-being needed to launch a company.

Killing It Book Sheryl O'Loughlin Killing It Book link

In Killing It, Sheryl walks entrepreneurs through the various stages of building a company from the decisions around founding a company, to choosing partners, teams and investors, to the ongoing stages of growth that a typical startup goes through. At each stage she offers personal advice about how to stay true to one’s personal beliefs and how to avoid the mistake of going from a healthy passionate pursuit to a destructive obsession. Sheryl openly discusses her own personal experience of going down the “dark path” and how difficult it was to see it while it was happening and how she ultimately came to put her work and life in balance.

Today she is back, her company is thriving and she is happy and fully connected with her relationships. She has dedicated time for family. Her team at REBBL is fully aligned, feel they are on an epic journey and share the dedication and fun of work with each other in order to help each other stay connected and in balance.

This is a highly personal story and fantastic advice for any entrepreneur.

To purchase Sheryl’s book go to Killing It
For more information on Not For Sale go to: www.notforsalecampaign.org

Recorded December 19, 2016 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.

Tax planning for startup companies

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Finance, Foundation

Alan Gassman and Erica Pless are tax attorneys in the the Clearwater, Florida area. Both are experts in helping founders figure out the right corporate structure for their business and personal situations as well as many other tax strategies for your business.

In this interview we talk about the how to select a corporate attorney, the tax implications of options, tax planning for your exit strategy, paying minimal salaries and dividends in your S corporation, protecting your company in probate and many other critical issues.

We’ll also discuss Alan’s book “The Annihilation of Wealth 2013”

Alan Gassman  Erica Pless

To contact Alan Gassman visit Gassman Law Associates
Erica Pless can be found at The Pless Law Firm

Facebook IPO filing dispels first mover advantage myth, again

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In the summer of 2011, a panel of distinguished VC’s was convened for a typical Silicon Valley morning symposium on the state of funding for startups. In early 2011, it seemed like every entrepreneur was pitching an idea or shifting their startup’s strategy to offer a Groupon-like service. In their opening remarks, each VC quipped to the audience of aspiring entrepreneurs, “don’t bring me another coupon deal”. Were they acting in a manner any less herd-like than the entrepreneurs? No.

The VC’s were really saying, “If your company is not the first to market with an idea, we’re not interested”, the conventional “first mover advantage” theory. Read more…