Archive for category: Blog

Startup GRAIL Raises $900 Million to Detect Cancer the Earliest Ever

Grail announced they’ve closed a $900 million Series B round of financing.

The startup is pioneering technology that aims to take a blood sample and detect the early, free-floating cancer DNA floating in your bloodstream. They accomplish this with the help of a new DNA sequencing machine the company developed.

Several notable investors participated in this round of financing including Johnson and Johnson’s innovation arm.

“This cadre of world-class investors is a testament to their shared belief in our goal to reduce global cancer mortality through early detection,” GRAIL executive Ken Drazan said.

It’s looking like Grail may be nearing a major breakthrough, this is validated by preliminary data and the smart money that’s backing the endeavor. Needless to say this could have a ground breaking impact on the world. We’re pulling for ya Grail. As my southern country friends say “Git errrr done!”

Martel

Worst Week Ever for Uber? CEO Caught On Video “I need leadership help…”

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apologizes after being caught in argument with Uber driver. In the video he tells the driver, some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own Sh..(hhhhut yo mouth).

In his apology on Uber’s blog he writes, “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

The argument started when the driver stated he was upset with the decreasing rates for the Uber Black Car. He explains how this has impacted his life, and then it escalates from there.

A Rough Couple of Weeks

In January Kalanick wrote a Facebook post telling business leaders to work with controversial President elect Trump, and joined his business advisory council. In response to what appeared to be interfering with New York City Taxi Union’s strike protesting Trump’s travel ban, an estimated 200,00 people deleted the Uber app. Kalanick subsequently resigned from Trump’s advisory council on Feb 2.

Feb. 19, a female former Uber engineer wrote a blog post exposing alleged sexual harassment she experienced while an employee at Uber.

Feb. 22, The New York Times published an investigation into the “aggressive, unrestrained” culture at Uber.

Feb. 24, Waymo, a self-driving company created by Google, accused Uber of intellectual theft in a lawsuit.

And now this!

I’m not going to pile on ol’ Travy boy here. The driver was pretty upset and a little aggressive verbally in my opinion, so the natural human instinct is to respond as sharply. The problem is when you are the leader of a $60 billion company you are held to a higher standard, as you should be. A better response by Travis would have been to exercise more restraint and simply wish the driver the best. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

What do you think? Hit me up on the Gram.

YouTube Wants to Kill Cable: Launching $35 YouTubeTV Service & it Comes with ESPN!

Don’t like traditional cable TV? No problem, YouTube is soon to join the ranks of Dish’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW by introducing an “Over The Top” (OTT, delivered over the internet) skinny bundle called YouTubeTV.

The Rundown On The New Service:

  • The Live on-demand TV streaming service will be called YouTubeTV.
  • No cable or satellite service necessary.
  • $35 a month for a family plan of up to 6 accounts
  • Service is launching in the US in the next few months (actual date is TBD)
  • Subscribers will have access to up to 40 channels including, ESPN, USA, FX, Fox Sports & NBC Sports.
  • Subscriber will have access to YouTube Red, their premium originator content service.
  • Users can also record as many programs as they want.
  • People will be able to stream to their TVs using Chromecast.

Martel

JackThreads is Hanging on by a Thread: Looking For a Buyer

JackThreads, the online men’s retailer made some risky bets and they’re paying for it now. They’re looking for a buyer according to multiple sources. The Columbus, OH company founded by Jason Ross in 2008, got its start selling men’s urban wear at deep discounts in limited quantities. It quickly built a strong following and in 2010 the company was bought by the online publisher Thrillist. Five years later the two companies parted ways in 2015.

The C’mon Son!

In 2016 the company focused it’s offerings on their own brand of clothing and selling it at full price. Hmmm now why would a customer pay full price for your product when they are accustomed to getting it, along with your competitors gear at a discount on your very site?

The Double Whammy

In addition to changing the focus to their native brand, JackThreads embarked on a risky business model called TryOuts. This model allowed customers to order as much product as they wanted, let them try out the clothing, return what they didn’t like and paying only for what they kept. Shipping both ways was free for the customer. (This clearly put heavy downward pressure on gross margins.)

How’d That Work Out?

The TryOuts model was introduced in the Spring of 2016 and by Fall JackThreads was talking to investors about needing to raise more money. The latest reports are that JT is looking for a suitor. Anyone got a few extra mil laying around?

What would you have done differently? Hit me on the Gram.

Martel

Facebook Declares War Against LinkedIn? Launches Facebook Jobs

Facebook wants to land you your next gig. The company recently introduced Facebook Jobs. It allows employers to post jobs for free, but they’ll have the option to boost the listing so it reaches a wider audience, for a small fee of course. The business/recruitment/social network space has traditionally been LinkedIn’s domain. Facebook’s encroaching on their territory. You think LinkedIn is just gonna sit there and take that?! Get your popcorn ready. In the meantime check out this Facebook Jobs Demo video if you want to learn more about it.

Martel

Top 20 Reasons Why Startups Fail

We often hear about the success stories coming out of Silicon Valley… Uber, DropBox, AirBnB, etc. but did you know that approximately 75% of venture backed companies fail? According to a Statistic Brain study, 50% of all US companies fail after 5 years. CB Insights researched the top reasons why startups fail and here’s what they found.

 

 

The takeaways

  1. Tinker early and experiment with your product concepts, put it on the market and gauge the impact. Are people paying for your product/service? Is there a high rate of adoption? If yes, then great now build on that. If no, then iterate and try again. Pivot in a completely new direction if you must, but find a product/service that shows promise then double down. Don’t throw good money after bad. In other words, if there’s no product market fit don’t force it. Fail fast and keep it moving.
  2. Make Money. I’m a fan of bootstrapping businesses vs. taking a bunch of money you don’t really need. Having a ton of cash can be a gift and a curse. Build a revenue model into your business early on and reinvest that money into the business to grow. Once you’ve proven you don’t really need the money and you’re doing quite well on your own is when every VC will want to date you and lavish you with all kinds of nice gifts and cash (isn’t that how life goes ;-p). But I digress, develop a solid revenue model then take investor cash to expand more quickly if necessary.
    • There’s always exceptions to the rule. If you’re Instagram, Facebook or YouTube, with an alarming rate of adoption grab as much market-share as possible and worry about monetizing later. That’s only recommended if you’re experiencing exceptional growth.

That’s my take. What’s your experience been? Hit me on the Gram!

Martel

One Share of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway ‘A’ Stock is Worth $250,000!

As the stock market closed on Valentines Day there was “much love like Wimbledon” (tennis, love… get it?) for Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway stock. The company’s shares have reached an all time high. Hathaway’s class A stock closed at $250,412 per share, bringing the value of the company to $412 billion. Claude have mercy!

Financial analyst, Jim Shanahan of Edward Jones rates the stock a “Buy” largely due to the cash pouring in from Berkshire’s subsidiaries.

At the current rate, Berkshire’s cash pile could top $100 billion by the second half of this year, he said, giving Mr Buffett “a lot of dry powder” to make large and potentially value-enhancing acquisitions.

Hmmm, so you’re telling me Warren is keeping almost 25% of the company’s market value in cold hard cash? What’s he keeping so much dinero on the side for? Could it be to weather a coming recession? They do tend to occur every 10 years or so… Remember the Great Recession of 2008?

Image result for hmmm gif

Martel

SoundCloud Is Struggling To Stay In Business

Big trouble in the cloud. The popular Berlin-headquartered music streaming startup SoundCloud is hemorrhaging money according to reports. SoundCloud can run out of money in 2017 if its recently launched subscription service doesn’t generate enough revenue.

In 2015 the company’s net losses increased by 30.9% to $52m. Sheesh!

Heads Are Rolling

With numbers like this there are bound to be some changes in upper management and the first casualties are the COO Marc Strigel and the vice president of finance Markus Harder. The company confirmed the departure of the two executives.

Don’t fret, SoundCloud is too popular to just disappear if things go south. If worse comes to worse a company will scoop them up for pennies on the dollar and keep the party going, while they figure out how to effectively monetize the ears.

Martel

Sneaker Startup GOAT raises $25 Million

Founded in 2015 the mobile sneaker marketplace GOAT is capitalizing on the love for fly kicks (sneakers). The company recently raised $25 million in a funding round led by VC firm Accel Partners. Here’s the lowdown on the company.

What Do They Do?

GOAT is a mobile-based sneaker resale marketplace. The company acts as a middleman between buyer and seller and provides the service of verifying the authenticity of the goods.  They hold the funds in escrow until the product is verified. All the while GOAT takes a cut for their efforts. It’s a win win for all parties involved. Makes ya say dang why couldn’t I think of that.

Product/Market Fit?

Membership has reached 1.5 million customers with an average order per transaction of $330 according to TechCrunch. Yep, looks like the product is fitting with the market quite well.

Total Funds Raised

To date the company has raised a total of $37.6 million.

What Do They Plan To Do With All Of This Dough?

GOAT plans to use the new funding to fuel its growth by hiring new engineering, operations, product and marketing specialists. It will also invest in new facilities to bolster its operations and logistics.

Who’s the Chief?

Eddy Lu is the co-founder and CEO of GOAT

 

GOAT Verification

Goat Employee inspecting the product above.

 

Martel

Snapchat Officially files for $25 Billion IPO.

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, has officially filed the paperwork to begin selling shares of their company to the public. Here’s the quick and dirty:

  • SNAP will be listed on the NYSE.
  • The company’s valuation is expected to be over $25 billion when it goes public.
  • March 2017 is the IPO target date.
  • Snap has 160 million daily users (growth slowed by 82% thanks to Instagram copying their key feature with Instagram Stories).
  • $400 million in revenue in 2016
  • Snapchat paid $114.5 million for mobile search engine Vurb.
  • The stock to be issued does not come with voting rights. Total control will be retained by company co-founders Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy.

Hmmm not sure how I feel about that last point. Effectively the shareholders have no say in the management of the company.

What do you think? Will you be lining up to cop SNAP’s stock in March?

Martel

 

Google Takes Apple’s Crown As the World’s Most Valuable Brand

After a five year stint at the top Google informed Apple that there’s a new sheriff in town. Google takes Apple’s spot as the world’s most valuable brand according the Brand Finance Global 500 2017 report.

Apple’s brand value fell by 27% to $107.1 billion, according to the report this was largely because the company “failed to maintain its technological advantage and repeatedly disillusioned its advocates with tweaks when material changes were expected.”

Google on the other hand saw it’s brand value increase 24% to $109.4 billion. The report states, “Google remains largely unchallenged in its core search business, which is the mainstay of its advertising income.”

The Top 10 Most Valuable Brands in the World

  1. Google $109.4 billion
  2. Apple $107.1 billion
  3. Amazon $106.4 billion
  4. AT&T $87 billion
  5. Microsoft $76.3 billion
  6. Samsung Group$66.2 billion
  7. Verizon $65.9 billion
  8. Walmart $62.2 billion
  9. Facebook $62 billion
  10. ICBC (Chinese bank) $47.8 billion

Martel

The Bouqs, Flower Delivery Service Raises $24 Million

Who needs another flower delivery service right? I mean we already have 1-800-flowers, FTD, UrbanStems, etc. and now The Bouqs.

What’s So Special About The Bouqs?

To date the company has raised a total of $43 million. In their recent Series C financing they raked in $24 million. Apparently some knowledgeable & wealthy people believe in The Bouqs. The LA-based startup founded in 2012, delivers nice bouquets (See where the name came from?). The Bouqs differentiates itself by cutting out the middleman by sourcing its flowers directly from the farms. As a result this reduces the cost and brings the consumer longer lasting flowers.

This has been a winning strategy for the company because according to co-founder John Tabis, they had a profitable 4th quarter in 2016. The Bouq is raising money in order to scale faster and compete with the big dogs. They have their work cut out for them. The Bouqs’ major competitor 1-800-flowers generated $1.2 billion in revenue in 2016. Sheesh!

Good luck Bouq. The grind salutes you for coming this far. Now keep going.

Martel

 

Interesting did you know… The Bouq pitched their startup on Shark Tank.

Hustle Like Russell: Russell Simmons Sells RushCard Business for $147 Million

Green Dot announced it will buy hip hop mogul, Russell SimmonsRushCard business for $147 million. Simmons started RushCard in 2003. The company issues pre-paid debit cards with lower than average fees targeted toward minority communities. The RushCard’s customer base is estimated to be around 750,000 users. The sale includes Rapid! the payroll debit card as well. Rapid! has over 2,500 corporate customers that use the card as a payment option for employees who may not have regular bank accounts.

The grind salutes you sir!

Martel

Guess How Many Millionaires there are in America

The Credit Suisse Research Institute recently released their Global Wealth Report for 2016. The report notes that the U.S. has 13,554,000 millionaires.

The best way to join the millionaires club is not by playing the lotto (the odds of winning the powerball are 1 in 292 million). Here’s the tried and true formula for becoming a millionaire, before I tell you I must warn you it’s boring but it will get you to the promised land. Okay here you go:

  1. Spend less than you make
  2. Commit to saving $5,500 per year, invest it in a low cost index mutual funds.
  3. Increase the amount you save by 5% each year i.e. $5,500 x 1.05 = $5,775 in year 2 and so on.
  4. Repeat this process for 30 years and you will have $1,136,661 (assuming an average 8% return on principle each year)

For some cool retirement and 401k calculators check out NerdWallet.

There you have it. The secret is yours my friends. Live within your means and save. Once you’ve got these basic principles down we can experiment in business and try to expedite this process.

Martel

Not Every Pro-Athlete Goes Broke After Leaving the Game, Just Ask Jamal “Monster Mash” Mashburn who Owns Over 80 Franchises

80% of professional football players and 60% of NBA players experience financial failure shortly after retirement. The list of horror stories of athletes going belly up when the “music stops playing” seems endless; Vin Baker, Antoine Walker, Lenny Dykstra, Curt Schilling, Mark Brunellthe list goes on.

Jamal Mashburn was a college phenom at the University of Kentucky and the 4th overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He played 12 seasons in the NBA averaging 19.1 pts per game, before injuries took their toll.

Early in his career Jamal was conscious that the fame and NBA checks would not last forever and conducted himself accordingly. He adopted the philosophy of “always working with the end in sight.” Jamal viewed basketball as a means to an end. It was a vehicle to help aquire the capital and relationships to launch sustainable businesses. He lived well below his means and saved for the proverbial “rainy day.” Mashburn always knew he wanted to get into business and upon retirement he began to immerse himself into developing his empire. As a result of his prudence, he’s proven to be as successful off the court as he was on the court. Today Jamal owns over 80 restaurant franchises (Papa John’s, Outback Steakhouse, and Dunkin’ Donuts), several car dealerships, real estate, a marketing firm and a venture capital firm. Whew! I reckon he’s not too bored in his retirement years.

The key takeaways here are:
  1. Stack your paper, work hard and save for your initial capital in order to invest it.
  2. Don’t invest willy-nilly, take chances but be be smart about them and do your due diligence. As noted above Mashburn invested in tried and true business models such as franchises while also allocating a small portion of his portfolio for moonshots (riskier investments with a chance for higher returns) via his venture capital firm. (Strike the right balance of risk for your portfolio.)
Kudos, to Mashburn we wish him continued success! Are you building an empire? Hit me on the Gram, I’d love to hear about it.

Martel

Lots of gems in this video, hope you enjoy and pay it forward.