Archive for websites

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.

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

Machinio-One stop shopping for used machinery

Friends Dan Pinto and Dmitriy Rokhfeld go way back. The two met in middle school playing video games and eventually became co-founders of the company Machino.com—an online search engine where you can buy and sell used industrial equipment. They recognized a gap in the marketplace when Pinto was looking for a used printing press in 2012. He realized that there was no easy-to-use search engine that specialized in used equipment. There was kayak for hotels and indeed for jobs so he created Machinio for machinery.

This new search engine has revolutionized the way people buy and sell used machinery. It is the fastest growing global search engine in its category with 550,000 buyers from more than 190 countries. The service has opened new markets in all parts of the world that were previously unavailable. They have raised $4 million dollars from a number of investors and opened their second office in early 2017. Their solution saves users time by making it easy to buy and sell used equipment while putting all its users on an equal playing field. Their story showcases an important lesson. Learn to look for gaps in the marketplace that already come from good ideas.

Warby Parker: Making Glasses Cheap Again

Warby Parker has reimagined the eyewear industry as the first company to introduce affordable eyewear that can be purchased online. The company offers prescription eyeglasses for a flat $95 and has a number of stylish options. Customers can order a number of different eyeglasses, try them on at home, and return the pairs that they do not want. The idea started with a simple question. Why are glasses not sold online? Founder, Neil Blumenthal asked that question so he recruited three friends and Warby Parker was born. However, the company ran into problems early on. Forty-eight hours after the website had launched, it had to be taken down because they received so many orders. The website did not indicate when a product sold out which led to a 20,000 person wait list. Eventually, they sorted out their website issues and are currently making waves in the industry.

This company peaked my interest because of Warby Parker’s ability to recognized gaps in the marketplace. Currently, Luxottica has a near monopoly in the eyeglasses industry. While Luxottica controls the brick-and-mortar sales, they do not address the online market. Neil Blumenthal saw that gap in the market and was able to capitalize on it. However, the problem he solved wasn’t complicated, it was simple. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.

 

Tumblr: The New Way to Blog

In the age of traditional blogs, David Karp wanted a place where he could use a tumbleblogging format, better known today as a microblogging platform. This style of blog would offer the ability to share multimedia posts such as videos, short text posts, and pictures. After waiting for a while, he decided he was done waiting and ended up launching his own microblogging platform. That platform is what we know today as Tumblr.

At the age of 20, Karp launched Tumblr with the help of Macro Arment. The site was released in February of 2007, and within just two weeks, Tumblr had over 75,000 users. Today, Tumblr boasts over 359 million blogs. Six years after its launch, Karp allowed Yahoo! to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion.

Karp is admirable in his ambition to start his own tumblelog. He saw a need and since it was not being filled, he filled it himself. He created a platform that did not exist yet and paved the way for others to come along in different iterations—Pinterest, WeHeartIt, etc. His idea and drive certainly paid off literally, but seeing how he took the initiative to do it himself inspires me not to think of myself as incapable of creating something just because no one has done it before. Karp stepped out into an area no one had explored yet, and created a new market and space for innovation.

The Men Behind the Pin

Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp are the two masterminds behind Pinterest. They wanted a way for people to be able to show collections of things they were interested in in some sort of interactive way. Pinterest is a form of social media where people can search pictures, craft ideas, cooking ideas, beauty trends, and much more. The unique thing about Pinterest, though, is that posts, called “pins,” can be saved and organized in different boards. When someone finds something they want to keep, they can save it to an existing board or create a new board. Boards are just like folders and are unique to the creator. They have a name and hold all of the pins the user puts in to them. Then, if they are looking for a new hair style, they can go to their “hair” board, find the pin they want, and show it to their hairstylist to try to recreate on them. Pinterest is useful because pins can be saved and the user can look at them months later. All the time we find tricks and pictures online that we perceive as interesting and want to save, but a few weeks, even days, later, we forget what it was or where we found it. Pinterest takes the struggle of losing the ideas away because the pins are organized and easy to go back to months later. It also allows users to connect with friends and family. If the boards are public, users can become friends on Pinterest and then look through one another’s boards to see if there’s anything in them they may want to save on their own board. People like Pinterest because it is a way for them to escape. They search things that make them happy and save the pins to look at later. They can fantasize about DIY projects they want to do and new makeup trends they want to try. It is a way for people to connect with one another and see what others are interested in. There is no slander or harassment capability, it is just there to relax, have fun, and see what makes those around us happy. These men created a new, fun way to share interesting ideas and tricks all in one place.

Natalie Webb: A True GCC Entrepreneur

Last May, Natalie Webb graduated from Grove City College with a degree in entrepreneurship. After she graduated, she began working on launching her own business and app, which she designed for her elevator pitch her senior year. Her business model was born out of a problem which she had experienced in her grade school days, and she knew many other people experienced as well.

          As a homeschooler, Natalie and her family had to buy all of their books themselves, and as there was no curated or organized way to buy used book, they usually ended up buying these books new from publishers, which got very expensive. However, Natalie noticed that after he finished with a book, it just stayed on her bookshelf until it either was given away to a family friend or sold at a significantly reduced price at a yard sale. Natalie considered how wasteful this was, both on the buying end and the reselling end because there was no organized platform for homeschoolers to interact with each other in this manner. Out of this pain came her idea of Hoot Book Revival, which is an app and website on which homeschoolers can resell their books and buy used books from other homeschooling families at a reduced cost. This benefits both the buyer and the seller, because people looking to buy books can get them much cheaper than they can new books, and people looking to sell books can sell them for more than they could at a yard sale.

Since her graduation last May, Natalie has been working to get this web platform active. She hired a company to design her website and has gotten guest writers to post on her blog. She has spent the last few months spreading the word about her company to homeschooling families and educators and talking to different publishers and co-ops about her business. While the cite is currently active, it is pretty light on content, so Natalie is focusing her attention on adding content and marketing for her business to possible clients.

          When I asked Natalie about how this business came about and what need it was filling, she said, “I suppose the core of the business idea was identifying an underrepresented group, and how their market needs weren’t being addressed, because the business pitch itself is pretty simple.” Natalie’s website allows the customer to buy and sell books, as well as collaborate with other homeschoolers on which lesson plans and books are best. Hoot Book Revival also has an option where people can post their books and let Hoot do all the work in finding people to sell them to, making the customer experience more enjoyable and less labor intensive.

Ultimately, Natalie’s business is incredibly innovative not because she came up with the idea of reselling books, but rather because she found a niche market and is catering to them in a new, technologically advanced way, and allowing them to simply post their books and have her company do the rest of the work for them. It is pretty neat to see such awesome innovation coming out of our own Grove City College.

High School Philanthropy – Jack Kim, Benelab

Entrepreneurial development: At this point, Jack is in his early twenties and has used his skills in creating computer software to create a number of successful online programs. The first of these which was profitable for him came at the age of 14: he called it Twigoogle, a search engine specifically targeting fans of the well-known Twilight series which made money through advertising. More notably however, was his development of a program know as Benelab a few years later at the age of seventeen. Benelab focused on the problem of the inaccessibility or lack of ease of philanthropy in modern day life. This software sought to solve this problem. Benelab is a search engine which generates donations from online traffic. Anyone who uses the search engine is therefore being philanthropic because all of the revenue generated from people using it goes directly to charity.

Among Kim’s most notable characteristics is his ambition: he started off his Benelab project with a budget of only $1,500 dollars and a goal of raising $100,000. He was also unique in his implementation of his adult policy- stating that only kids could work on the program along with him. He started off with a number of failed search engines, and eventually he refined his craft and was successful. I respect greatly the fact that someone so young can be focused on philanthropy as well. It was a successful idea because many people would like to be philanthropic, but often wont go out of their way. With this solution, people can conveniently be so without any money coming out of their pockets, they lose only the convenience of using a different search engine. Jack has really shown the importance of finding a niche in which you work best and enjoy working, and one in which there exists room for continued innovation- Jack has since founded a number of similar programs whether for profit or charity. He is also insightful in his revelations that,all he is doing is putting a bunch of small parts [or ideas] together to make one big product nothing is from scratch He goes on to say that this is no different from any other product in the world, even a search engine is the result of a number of small parts coming together to create a whole.

Here is a link to the video where Jack gives a Ted Talk on his discovery of what he calls the incredible world of entrepreneurship –  https://youtu.be/r1L91sVbN64

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.