Creating Your Happiness Formula and Other Cool Stuff
Santa Monica New Tech Meetup
Spearheads Vibrant Economic Engine
By Heather Martin
In mid-October, six new technology companies gathered in front of an audience at Cross Campus in Santa Monica, a new working space that blends accelerator with incubator. Every month, Cross Campus hosts a segment of new technology companies, with the goal of acquiring feedback, creating an innovative networking event, and helping startups to find investors, co-founders and potential users.
This October, the panel included founders of the following tech companies: When You Wish, Cuturia, Octoknow, Theyposted.com, Mitopia and Card.com.
Santa Monica New Tech Meetup
Every month the New Tech Meetup, hosted by Marina Zdobnova, gathers Angelinos at the new Cross Campus space on Broadway in Santa Monica. A former finance MBA and management consultant, Marina left the corporate world in 2010 and went to Vietnam as a volunteer for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which teaches kids in a shelter how to use technology.
Marina recalls “when I worked in consulting, I suffered because I felt so miniscule, replaceable, not creative and a part of the big money-making machine with no talents whatsoever. Since then I found my passions. I’m writing a book about my hometown Sochi (Russia) that will be hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2014 (for more visit: http://borntowonderbook.wordpress.com/).”
By going through a very unhappy period and getting beyond it, she was inspired to create www.theultimateanswer.org, a website where people can create their own personalized formula for happiness! Currently Marina is working with a developer as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to enhance the website in order to help people understand that they can increase their personal happiness by connecting to others through ways as simple as asking or answering questions.
She adds, “To be happy humans need to utilize their talents, create, love and be loved. Many people have jobs they don’t like and suffer quietly. They think they are not creative and they don’t have any talents but that is not true. Everyone has a talent, it just takes time to discover it. The purpose of the New Tech Meetup is not only to learn about new technology that has a potential to reduce suffering and change the world for the better, but also to inspire people by personal examples of entrepreneurs who are following their passions and dreams even when others don’t have the same vision.”
Andy Martinez, Co-Founder of When you Wish
Andy is the Co-Founder of When You Wish, described on the website as “the most flexible platform for raising money online,” and “a new form of indie capitalism where we rely on each other instead of banks or government.” Fundamentally, When You Wish is a crowdfunding option that creates an innovative network of people to fund and discover creative, business and charitable projects.*
Andy talks about the inception of his vision for When You Wish and where he hopes to take it: “It’s kind of shocking some of the stuff people are crowdfunding on our website – cancer research, businesses, schools… a lot of it is stuff that used to be funded by getting a bank loan or applying for a government research grant. In our down economy there is so little capital available – big banks aren’t lending anymore and the government is broke. People need a vehicle for helping themselves and we think crowdfunding is a game changing means of breaking down fundraising barriers in the same way blogging changed journalism or file-sharing changed the music industry.”
“I got involved because I saw deficiencies in other crowdfunding platforms. As an open platform — as opposed to a closed one like Kickstarter that only accepts creative projects — it doesn’t always make sense to have an all-or-nothing funding model where you don’t get to keep what you’ve raised unless you reach your project goal. It’s a great way to weed out low quality creative projects but it hurts charitable projects where every dollar counts. We changed things up by putting the decision in the hands of the person making the contribution. On our platform you can pick whether you offer a no-strings-attached donation, or a strings-attached pledge where the project creator only gets the money if they hit the goal.”
Andy also says that projects struggle with good rewards. For example, if someone is aiming to create a video game, it’s easy to offer the completed video game as a reward. However, if you’re trying to raise money for a rescued animal’s veterinarian bill, there isn’t an obvious reward that incentivizes a donation. To solve that When You Wish allows “third-party-rewards,” so for instance the project creator could partner with a business to offer valuable things like a free dinner at a local restaurant or a discount at a pet store.
For more information visit www.whenyouwish.com.
David Mollison, Co-Founder of CUTURIA
David Mollison, co-Founder and Creative Director of Cuturia along with tech entrepreneurs Jon Eichelberger, Eric Norberg and James Longeretta are a team of Los Angeles based entrepreneurs looking to streamline fashion resale and aim to do to eBay’s fashion resale what Instagram is doing to Facebook. Cuturia is available as a mobile app or online, with an all-inclusive buying and selling process, exclusive to only high-end designer items.
David says, “After watching our wives become frustrated trying to sell their used high-end designer items through services like eBay and Craigslist, the co-founders of Cuturia decided it was time to create a better mouse trap that would finally help their wives to clear out their closets.” They soon realized that individual buyers and sellers of resale fashion items were putting up with a ten year old system that didn’t incorporate any of the new technologies and ideas now available to the retail buyer. It was time for a new, smart and trustworthy high-end fashion resale brand to rise up and offer an alternative.
Now the co-founders are immersing themselves in the fashion world. They gathered information from their wives, focus groups, and met with fashion bloggers, consignment store owners, designers and fashion industry insiders. They spent countless evenings up late brainstorming and coding, motivated by the burning desire to see their wives closets finally cleared out, and they came up with the Cuturia process.
David says that “The challenges we face we are not just building an app, we are building a company. I would love to sit in a room and just concentrate on building our technology but then I would have no audience to launch it to. Instead you have to become a Developer, UX designer, Marketer, Web designer, Salesperson, Press agent, MBA business analyst, Industry leader, Target audience, Money raiser, Idea generator, Note taker, and Public speaker. You have to build a team that can deliver all the different pieces at a specific time so you are able to create your own wave to launch on.”
Cuturia’s streamlined buying and selling process was designed for speed and simplicity, making it easy and fun for a user to engage in the high-end fashion resale market. Users can download the mobile app for free or visit their website at www.cuturia.com and browse items without even signing up. Once a user decides to purchase or sell an item, they can simply signup with their Facebook account or quickly enter their basic information.
To sell an item, users can simply use their mobile device to take pictures of the item, select the basic information about the item and then post. The item will then be available on Cuturia and auto post to users of social networks. Cuturia uses a 20 percent item markup to cover costs and profit, eliminating the need to charge posting fees to sellers.
To buy an item, it utilizes payment industry leader PayPal to make in app purchases quick and easy for users. Buyers can either log into their PayPal account or simply enter their credit card information without leaving the app or website during the transaction.
Cuturia’s initial marketing and promotion strategy comprises of 3 areas: building inventory, attracting buyers and building our brand. To build inventory we are making direct contact with power sellers such as high-end consignment stores, stylists and even designers, showing them how our process can help expand their businesses.
For attracting buyers, we have built into our process search engine optimization (SEO) features that allow every posted item to be accessible on all the major search engines. To build our brand, we are engaging top fashion bloggers and magazines, telling them about our mission to capture the high-end fashion resale market and becoming the name for fashion resale.
David states that “On Cuturia, we have made the designer item the hero, not the seller. We achieve this by creating a process that both the buyer and seller can trust to protect their interest. Therefore, we eliminate the need for buyers to judge the seller from lengthy profiles and rating systems. The buyer can then just concentrate on finding the best items to enjoy.”
“Then we have defined our market to be exclusively high-end designer fashion items, which eliminates the clutter that most of our competitors endure. In addition, there are no upfront fees for sellers, and they receive the full amount they ask for the item. Our cost and profit are covered by our 20% markup of the item. Then the buyer only pays the price they see on the purchase button. Shipping and transaction cost are covered by our markup. Most of our competitors either charge an upfront fee for listings or take away a percentage from the seller’s asking price.”
David and his co-founders are currently looking for first round funding to help bridge the gap from initial seed capital through first year of operations. You can find additional information at www.cuturia.com.
Anthony Leung of Octoknow
Anthony Leung co-founded Octoknow with Wilson Bell in response to his own experience. He says “I love smartphones, but was annoyed with setting volumes and alarms each night. So I imagined an app that could make it all happen instantly.”
Together with his co-founder Wilson, they identified other issues with the smartphone that extended to various activities throughout the day. “Your smartphone doesn’t relate to what you do as a person… it doesn’t know about your behavior. And it can’t change its state for your current activity. There’s a disconnect.”
So Anthony hammered out their first prototype in one weekend and Octoknow was born. “It makes your phone a multitasking shapeshifter providing smarter and simpler access to the tasks that you want your phone to do because your phone ‘ought to know’.”
Anthony and Wilson face the same challenges as other entrepreneurs, trying to manage limited time and resources. Anthony has a part-time position and Wilson has a full time job. They have mitigated the challenges in two ways, one that they are really excited about what they are doing, and because they get along well. This helps when they find themselves working every weekend and pushing themselves to mingle and face the public more than they are personally comfortable with.
Yet Anthony states that “the biggest continual challenge is focusing on what’s important – Making those day to day decisions about what to devote your time on. Should we apply to this accelerator? Should we practice our pitch? Should we build this feature or that feature? Should we pursue more feedback? We want to innovate in the mobile space, to make phones actually smart, not just able to open smart apps.”
Their dream for the future? Having Octoknow be THE interface of choice when using your smartphone.
For more information visit them online at http://octoknow.com.
Scott Perry, Founder of TheyPosted.com
TheyPosted.com is a next-generation celebrity entertainment site built entirely as an intricate image-based chronological grid of 1500 plus celebrities’ own Instagram and Twitter pictures. Due to the worldwide fascination with celebrity and our own natural evolution towards visual communication, the site is optimized for helping fans find and share their favorite celebrities’ pictures on the web.
Scott Perry, Founder, says “As the site continues to grow, we’ve made it easier to help fans further find pictures by linking the best shots of the day by common threads (Pets, Landscapes, Odd Couples, Halloween Costumes, Hurricane Sandy). The subjects literally write themselves every day based on the content that flows into the site directly from the celebrities’ own visual social posts.
“We created the site as a means to help surface the best celebrity content from the web, since we understand that as easy as it may be for many, some people might not know how to use Twitter and Instagram to directly find and follow their favorite actors, musicians, models, athletes, and other large public figures. We help to magnify the efforts of Twitter and Instagram, and help them draw new users by showing fans all the cool stuff that celebrities are posting directly onto these platforms.”
Scott says he is a natural networker, and attends events of all sizes . . . “in order to help my own company grow, meet fellow entrepreneurs, and offer any advice that I can based on whatever experiences I have had over the years. You can see a lot of my writings on the future of Social Visual Bookmarking – the need for humans to add hashtags to images in order to facilitate greater monitoring, curating, archiving, and repurposing of social visual content for artistic and commercial purposes – at www.sperrymedia.com. “
“The biggest challenge is being heard above the noise, and to find believers, to prove to people there is a real business behind this vision. I face it every day, with every phone call and email to potential investors, angels, and venture capitalists (VCs). I face it every day in convincing average consumers to help spread the word about a vehicle I believe explicitly shows the future of news. I face it every day in trying to convince influencers and conference organizers that the site, and my beliefs on the future of the visual web, are worth putting their time, effort, and ink behind.”
“I support Marina in her efforts to bring together Santa Monica tech startups, since this area is about to explode, and we are all about to see some massive businesses built in our own backyard.”
For additional information go to www.TheyPosted.com.
Future New Technology Events
Cross Campus is hosting events every month for the Santa Monica New Technology Meetup and other highlights on the technology scene. The next Meetup for “New Tech” will be on Tuesday, November 13th at Cross Campus in Santa Monica. For additional information visit www.crosscampus.us or www.meetup.com/Santa-Monica-New-Tech/.
*The author was unable to reach contacts at Card.com and Mitopia prior to the publication date of this article, however, additional information can be found on their websites at www.card.com and www.mitosystems.com.