Archive for Online Companies

The Mind Behind Mozilla Firefox

Blake Ross epitomizes what it means to be a millennial entrepreneur. But before Blake’s story is told, here’s a word about Netscape.

In the late 1990s, Netscape Communications Corporation, an internet suite, was competing against the Microsoft giant, Internet Explorer. One could hardly call it competing, though, because Internet Explorer was beating their competition to a pulp. Netscape needed a better product in order to survive against Internet Explorer. So in 1998, Netscape made development of their new version open source, meaning that any programmers could help develop it. This is where Blake enters scene.

Blake loved programming, and by the age of 10 he had constructed his first website. At the age of 15, he started developing with Netscape. He and two others, David Hyatt and Joe Hewitt, would eventually become the major minds behind Mozilla Firefox through the Netscape open source project. In 2004, at the age of 19, Blake helped release the first version of Firefox. By 2010, Firefox surpassed Internet Explorer as the most popular web browser in Europe, and Firefox continues to be successful to this day.

Blake started working on another project in 2006 called Parakey. It was a computer interface that he wanted to be able to perform the same functions as an operating system. Shortly after its development in 2007, Facebook bought Parakey for a multi-million dollar deal.

Blake Ross excellently shows the benefits of starting young and getting out into the entrepreneurial world as soon as possible. He took something that he enjoyed doing and was able to use his skills to do big things in the field of technology.

Birchbox

For $10 a month you can get designer make-up sent right to your door. This seems like a dream come true to me, and I have found a way to accomplish this, thanks to Birchbox.

A monthly subscription service that was founded in New York City by two Harvard graduates, Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, in 2010.  The company started trying to get funding and investors and managed to get over $1.4 million from venture groups that helped the business go from an idea to a multi-million dollar company. With over a million subscribers and over 800 partners the business has become a new way people think about buying make-up. Instead of having to go spend over a hundred dollars at a cosmetics store, we’re able to get samples of the make-up we like sent to us. Then they introduced the feature of being able to customize your box. This means that if you really like a product you are able to get products like it, or by the same brand.

The goal of the subscription sample boxes are to get people to buy the full size product from the retailer, and 50% of Birchbox users did go on to do so. Another feature that customizes the product to the consumer is Birchbox Points. Every time a customer purchases the full size product, refers a friend, or purchasing a box as a gift for a friend, would earn them points which they could put towards their boxes and buying products.

Birchbox also partnered with Instagram and Soldsie to open an Instagram shop. This means that customers who were interested in Birchbox products could comment with a hashtag (#birchboxcart) and it would automatically be entered into their cart on Birchbox.

This company has capitalized on both the social and business side of their idea and it has clearly paid off for them.

From Pic to Snap

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy are the two founders of one of the biggest social media networks, called Snapchat. Snapchat is used by one hundred fifty million users per day. Snapchat has a wide age demographic because it is popular among people who are school age, college age, and even young adults. Users make a username, which is how others see them, and add them. A relatively new feature Snapchat has added is the ‘Snapcode,’ which is a quicker way to add friends, rather than by username. Users can either screenshot their friend’s Snapcode and upload it into snapchat from their device’s camera roll, or they can take a picture of their friend’s Snapcode right on Snapchat, and their friend will be added. Once people add their friends, they’re all kept in a ‘friends list.’ Then, users take pictures of themselves (called selfies), scenery, or anything else they want, and send it to people on their friends list while adding a caption. The picture can be set to be shown for a certain amount of time, or until the receiver taps it off the screen. It is like texting, only with pictures each time, and there’s a catch; the pictures disappear forever either after it is clicked off the screen or the time runs out. This was a completely new and innovative way for communication. The ability to send pictures and videos, while still chatting with a person, was easier and more fun. Also, because the pictures disappear, it added more fun because people can send embarrassing “selfies” and not have to worry about them being seen by everyone. Snapchat also made connecting with people easier because it only requires an internet connection to be able to send pictures. There was a time when sending pictures through texts costed extra. With Snapchat, people could send pictures and messages as long as there was internet connection, and there’d be no extra charge. Spiegel and Murphy were very successful and innovative with their invention of Snapchat. It added a twist to texting and made communicating with friends easier and more fun. Even today, they are constantly adding new features to the network, such as the ability to add filters to the pictures, the ability to use the ‘discover’ page to read magazines and catch up on current events in the world, and make Snapchat Stories. Snapchat Stories are pictures or videos that people put on to their Snapchat and everybody the person is friends with can see it continuously for 24 hours before it disappears. Their new ideas and changes to Snapchat continue to make the network better, more exciting, and more appealing to users, all while still making communication easy.

Jack Kim- Benelab Search Engine

Jack Kim is a young entrepreneur that is still in high school in Seattle. He is the founder of a search engine called Benelab that is designed to make philanthropy easier by generating donations. Jack’s project is not-for-profit and he plans to donate all of the revenue generated by Benelab. Jack quickly learned the power of a search engine’s ability to generate wealth from very little traffic through his work with search engines in the past. After developing an outline for his idea, Jack got a team of his high school classmates together to start working on the project. So far, Benelab has been incredibly successful at generating wealth, and all of this wealth is then donated to different charities and organizations to help the less fortunate. Benelab provides an easy yet effective way of enabling everday internet users to participate in philanthropy, even if they do not realize it.

“Many people think of charity as something limited to the rich or “good”, but in reality it’s something that can and should be incorporated into anyone’s daily life – you just have to know how.” – Jack Kim

David Karp – Millenial Entrepreneur & Founder of Tumblr

David Karp is the young millennial who founded the popular microblogging and social networking website Tumblr in 2007. Growing up in New York City, he started learning HTML and designing websites for businesses at the young age of 11 years old. Karp never earned a high school diploma, and worried that this fact and his young age would hinder his career and people would not view him as legitimate. As August 2017 records report, Tumblr hosts over 360 million blogs, and has approximately 555 million visitors each month.

 

Karp began his career as an intern under Fred Seibert at his company, where he built its first blogging platform and was in charge of editing their internet video network. He later started working for a company called UrbanBaby, an online parenting forum up until 2006. Shortly after, Karp jumpstarted his very own software consulting company, Davidville. A year later, Karp and his partner Marco Arment began working on the microblogging website known as Tumblr. Right away Tumblr raised $750,000, and by 2011 had raised about $80 million. In 2011, Tumblr received about $125 million from investors and the money was used to begin advertising and promotion.

 

In 2009, Karp was named Best Young Tech Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek and in 2010 was reffered as, “one of the top 35 innovators in the world before the age of 35” by the MIT Technology Review TR35. Also in 2010, Tumblr was named as a finalist in Lead411’s New York City Hot 125. Tumblr is now used by several celebrities and was the first blogging post to host former President Obama’s blog.

 

There is so much we can learn from Karp’s story and success, one being that you should NEVER step down and let your young age discourage you!

The Rent the Runway Revolution: How Two Women Changed the Fashion Industry for Good

In 2009, two young women attending Harvard Business School met for their weekly coffee and business brainstorming session. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss both knew they wanted to start a business together, but for many months they brainstormed ideas which never seemed to stick. However, on this particular afternoon, Jennifer Hyman mentioned to Fleiss that her sister would be attending a wedding next weekend, but had nothing to wear. She voiced the frustration shared by women across America, that it is difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a dress you only wear a few times. As she said this, she came up with a business idea which would solve this problem and revolutionize the market of high end women’s fashion.

Jenny Fleiss (left) and Jennifer Hyman (right)

Hyman and Fleiss conceptualized a business model where they would partner with different well-known, high-end designers from around the world and rent these designer dresses out to women for a few days for a fraction of the cost of buying one of these dresses. These two young women started out by buying dresses in their own sizes and going around to different college campuses on the weekends of big events and putting up flyers and sending out emails announcing that the female students could rent these designer dresses for a reduced price and simply return them after the event. With each campus these two went to, their business model proved very popular, and with each event, they continued to refine and adjust their model until they landed on the current business model of Rent the Runway. Since 2009, Rent the Runway has grown from a few designer dresses advertised through flyers on college campuses into a $15 million corporation with an extremely user friendly app and a variety of supplementary services.

One things which makes Hyman and Fleiss stand out as unique in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is their approach to founding a startup. While many young entrepreneurs look for a problem in their field of study or expertise which they can construct a solution for, Hyman and Fleiss started with a problem they simply observed, despite their lack of knowledge in the fields of fashion or technology.  However, by recording customer reactions to their product and collecting customer testimonials, these young women were able to get the designers on board and soon had enough funding to hire people with expertise in analytics, technology, fashion, and customer relations in order to create the best business possible.

Even eight years removed from its founding, Rent the Runway is an incredible company to watch innovate and expand. Because of the founders’ passion for giving women the opportunity to have that “Cinderella experience” and look elegant, extravagant, confident or professional for an affordable price, the company continues to grow its inventory, expand it market, and offer additional services, such as makeup and jewelry tips depending on the dress or outfit you rent.

Hyman and Fleiss at the opening of their first store

Hyman and Fleiss have also sought to optimize the customer experience by offering free shipping and dry cleaning, along with spending a great deal of time and money on analytics. This has allowed them to find what colors and styles customers prefer, along with how long customers like rentals to last so that they can give the customer the best, most convenient experience possible. Rent the Runway is constantly offering new features, different dresses, and featuring a variety of both well-known and new designers, which keeps their business in a constant state of growth and expansion.

Hyman and Fleiss are truly inspiring to all young women looking to be entrepreneurs. They actively thought about problems, and rather than waiting for funds or investors to back their idea, they eagerly engaged their clientele, pivoted based on the feedback they received, and then sought out investors and designers with confidence in their product and the data and testimonies to back it up. These two women are constantly pursuing excellence, passionate about their product and their clients, and dedicated to inspiring future women entrepreneurs.

 

Kutoa.com – Feeding the Hungry Made Easy

Kutoa’s birth was pretty simple, actually – Joey Grassia saw a problem, and he used the resources he had to create a solution. I’ll explain.

In 2007, Grassia was struck by the severe malnutrition and sickness he witnessed when he traveled to South Asia. A few years after that, he had a health scare of his own, due to his diet filled with additives and preservatives. In marrying these two problems he encountered, he came up with a solution for both. Kutoa (Swahili “to give”) is a website that sells gluten free, sans GMO health bars with no added sugar or preservatives. The best part? For each bar sold, one is given to a hungry child. Having just started Kutoa in 2010, Grassia has already driven it to deliver 1 million meals to children in need.

One thing that Grassia has been very intentional in doing is inviting the consumer not just to buy a health bar, but to be a part of this global change. Kutoa.com connects with its consumers through its blog, which can be found on kutoa.com. The blog highlights various individuals, organizations, and schools in the community that are doing their part in fighting hunger both locally and around the world. Scrolling through the reviews for their health bars (among which you can find Chocolate Espresso Bean, Blueberry Almond, and Cherry Cashew), it is obvious that Kutoa’s consumers are ecstatic about finding a health bar that is truly healthy, and being able to make a tangible difference in an easy way.

Perhaps one of the most driving factors in Kutoa’s success has been Grassia’s mindset towards entrepreneurship. He believes that someone doesn’t need to have loads of experience in the business world to make an impact. He or shes just needs have to have an experience. Grassia’s happened to include a life-changing trip and a new diet. In the “Our Story” page of Kutoa.com, Grassia challenges his audience to take a look at the experiences they’ve had, and figure out how we can turn those into ideas that will improve our lives and others’. “Please,” he writes, “always remember that each of us have the power to make a difference.”

https://kutoa.com/

Airbnb’s Brian Chesky revolutionizes a Sleepy Industry

Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, found a way to change an industry that hasn’t seen changes in decades. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of design school, he moved to San Francisco with his college friend Joe Gebbia. At the time, San Francisco was having a design conference and hotel rooms were in high demand and the whole area was booked, so the pair came up with the idea to rent out a room in their apartment and give their guests breakfast too in order to make a few extra bucks to afford their rent.  After years of ideation and innovating they slowly scaled the idea into what is now Airbnb. Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service, that enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging all over the world. Chesky is driven by innovation and constant improvement. Currently, he is working on revamping Airbnb into a full-service travel company. Chesky is an inspiring millennial entrepreneur because of his ability to see an opportunity in the market and scale it into an international business that changed the future of travel as well as the hospitality/ hotel industry. I recently stayed at an Airbnb in Manhatten and it was a simple way to feel like a real New Yorker. Additionally, I think that Airbnb is a particularly inspiring company because it allows its hosts to also be entrepreneurs in their own space by renting out their space to other travelers. From Chesky’s story, others can be more aware of problems and freely imagine solutions even if it seems like there are insurmountable barriers because Chesky and his team were able to do so.

Aditya Argawalla: Innovation In India

Aditya Agarwalla- Co-Founder of Kisan Network

Kisan Marketplace is an online marketplace connected to farmers in India through a mobile phone app. The farmers use the app to sell their crops to buyers. This system generally makes things cheaper for both the farmers and the buyers, because it cuts out the middlemen and geography which limits them in India.

This business is unique due to the new rise of cheap smartphones in India. Until recently, smartphones were not commonly available to people in India. But with this recent rise, has come a great opportunity to use technology to help the farmers more efficiently deliver their crops to sellers. Aditya Agarwalla 22, dropped out of Princeton University to start this business with his father, a farmer in India. They have a simple app, which farmers download onto their smartphones, and it connects them with a vast marketplace of buyers, with Kisan Network acting as the middleman connecting the two.

Aditya Agarwalla saw a need to sell crops more efficiently for farmers. He tapped into the technology, which at that point was a relatively unexploited field. As the first innovators in this market, the Kisan Network’s success has been remarkable. They have moved over one million pounds of crops in under one year.

Dropbox- A Coder Turned Entrepreneur

Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, has all the symptoms of being an entrepreneur! The creation story of his company, Houston claims, came from an idea that came to him after constantly forgetting his USB flash drive during his studies at MIT.  During his time as a student he found a multitude of problems with storage services and decided to set out to solve this problem for himself.  Little did he know that his solution would end up benefiting millions of others as well.

Image result for Drew houston

In 2007, he and his co-founder Arash Ferdowsi were able to secure enough funding to begin the development of the program were soon launched Dropbox. Within 24-hours of its launch, Dropbox “had 75,000 people signup for the wait-list.”  When they were only expecting 15,000, tops.  Dropbox had an enormous success rate, and, by the end of 2013 Dropbox had gained over 200 million users.

So what sets this company apart from others? Well Dropbox is a technology company that claims to build simple, powerful products for people and businesses.  Unlike many other companies, Dropbox is innovative in that they value the creation of products that are easy to use and are built on trust. When people put their files in Dropbox, they can trust they’re secure and their data is their own. The users’ privacy has always been their first priority, and it always will be.  Image result for dropbox images

Houston believed that technology should get out of the way, so there’s no limit to what people can do. And his tightly-knit team seems very committed to realizing ambitious ideas and making technology work for the world, and I’m sure that the best from them is still to come.

“Sometimes you just get this feeling — it’s a compulsion or an obsession. You can’t stop thinking about it. You just have to work on this thing,” words from the entrepreneur himself, Drew Houston.