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Congratulations zulily!

 

indexCongratulations team zulily on your IPO this morning!   We are forever grateful to Mark and Darrell for letting us be a part of the journey as zulily has grown from an idea in the back of our offices to serving millions of Moms. Thanks for the memories! Onward to the next phase of your growth as a public company!

Rebecca Kaden Talks Wearables at the Seattle Interactive Conference

Rebecca Kaden, principal of Maveron and Michelle Goldberg, partner at Ignition, sit down with David Shing at the Seattle Interactive Conference to discuss wearables during the AT&T Wearables Hackathon.

Watch the video to see some of the highlights as David Shing inquires about the state of investing in wearable technologies and find out where the two VCs see the physical device space heading. Check out Rebecca’s take on Maveron’s interest in investing in wearables and transformative consumer companies that can attack big and growing categories, bridge the gap between online and offline worlds, and capture the hearts and minds of consumers.

Link to article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-shing/sic-shingerview-michelle_b_4220380.html

Learn more about Rebecca or connect with her directly on LinkedIn.

Potbelly CEO: We’re About Our People, Our Product and Our Place (Video)

Congratulations again to Potbelly for the IPO. Make sure you listen to Aylwin Lewis, President and CEO of Potbelly. Watching him speak in this video makes us hungry!

 

 

Guest Post: “Internet of Things” Brings Connections Into All Our Everyday Devices

Hardware is hard but it’s not stopping entrepreneurs from jumping in

By Iggy Fanlo and David Glickman, co-founders of Lively

David and IggyAs sensors get smarter and smaller, it opens up a new world of connected hardware otherwise referred to the “Internet of Things,” or IoT. We have been excited to see how a new breed of smart sensors is transforming average, everyday devices into something more meaningful to the people who use them – even being embedded in the everyday life of older adults, providing a new safety net and enabling a whole new level of connection for them and their families.

As former software guys, we have been amazed to see the transformations taking place in hardware as internal system components get smarter, smaller and cheaper. So after working in the world of electrons, we decided to make the transition to work in the world of protons. We jumped in to successfully build and launched Lively, a smart system designed to keep older adults safe, independent and connected to loved ones.

Now looking back 13 months later, our belief that hardware is the new software is even more bullish. Software developers can move into the world of hardware, but first they need to know that design is everything!

From our experience, we recommend that entrepreneurs building businesses for the Internet of Things plan on spending more development time upfront with a specific focus on design, design, design. Hardware is not yet iterative (though 3D printers hold promise to bring hardware fixes and updates to all.) For now, entrepreneurs need to be very thoughtful about every design and functionality detail whereas in software, we plan out dot releases to buy more time. For hardware, entrepreneurs don’t have that same luxury, which means they need to do more homework to launch a device with a nearly perfect design. So, more than ever, there’s an incredible importance of having a clear vision to reach critical mass from hardware design, to development to distribution

When we built Lively, we did more consumer research and QA analysis than we had ever done. We studied every curve, angle, fonts, edging, colors and finishes before successfully launching one of many devices ushering in the Internet of Things. Our sleek white hub and multiple sensors should tell you that our research showed when it comes to hardware, looks matter – a lot.

Getting design right, requires hiring the right people with specific hardware experience who believe in the vision as well as have the capacity to help push things forward. For us, at times it felt like we needed an army to get things done, but the fact is, we had to keep things as lean as possible.

Of the 13 months that we started working together on Lively, it was just four of us for the first six months. To keep lean, we hired best of breed consultants with serious hardware experience, something that should be on the checklist for any entrepreneur looking to develop hardware. It’s a great way to quickly bring on an A-team with the right expertise in mechanical and electrical engineering, industrial design, and packaging design. There’s no way we could get the industrial designer of the Nest Learning Thermostat to come on board full-time, but instead of looking for an employee or co-founder we hired him as a consultant, something we will never regret. We also brought on a hardware aficionado, someone who knows manufacturing and gave us great advice based on personal experience and drove us to embrace things we would have never thought of. These consultants became part of our team and we all carried on an unwavering belief that we could make this happen against all the odds, and against all the constraints.

And in the end, only three metrics matter: how many units are sold, the cost of customer acquisition, and customer churn. However, simply focusing on these metrics doesn’t lead an amazing product. When it comes to the Internet of Things, it truly comes down to a team who knows the importance of design, a clear vision for building it, and an insane amount of passion for building a sustainable business. Now with a product in the market, we can continue our charge to rapidly grow our business knowing that we have the right people at the table to help us get Lively in front of the right consumers.

Connect with Lively on Facebook and Twitter.

Potbelly IPO: Congratulations

By Dan Levitan, Maveron co-founder and partner

An IPO in the middle of a government shutdown? Absolutely!

Maveron invested in Potbelly in 2001. This morning, the company went public and I could not be happier for everyone involved.

Potbelly is well known for its toasted sandwiches, great shakes and awesome cookies. I have also had the privilege of getting to know the Potbelly team on a more personal level. Their consistent emphasis on integrity, teamwork, accountability, positive energy and coaching is not only remarkable, but also a great foundation on which to build an enduring, game-changing consumer brand.

We look forward to watching (and cheering) their continued success in building the next household restaurant name.

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Congratulations to Lively for Shipping an Amazing Product to Help Older Adults Remain Independent

Lively started last year with a passion and commitment to deliver a delightful, loving, and empowering experience for older adults to live independently longer and we’re thrilled to watch them start taking orders today. We were excited to have Lively as part of our seed program and are happy to participate with Cambia Health Solutions in the Series A Financing.

Here’s what Iggy Fanlo, CEO and co-founder of Lively had to say recently about Lively and leadership at our CEO Forum earlier this year.

College accreditation and government regulation fail students and entrepreneurs

By Jason Stoffer, Maveron Partner

(Syndicated from PandoDailyStudents)

In 2009, I flew to Washington DC to meet Paul Freedman, an audacious young entrepreneur building what he hoped would be the world’s best community college.

As the son of UC-Berkeley professors, Paul wanted to give the higher risk students who typically attend community college the same educational opportunities he himself had accessed. He envisioned a school that provides individualized student support, gives students the skill set to transfer to the 4-year school of their dreams and incorporates the latest innovations in education technology. We invested in Paul’s company, Altius Education, which aimed to realize Paul’s dream through Ivy Bridge College (IBC), a partnership he launched with Tiffin University, a strong regional school in Ohio.

Since then, Ivy Bridge has changed the lives of thousands of students. Within three years of enrolling at IBC, 64 percent of IBC students graduate or transfer, a rate at least 50 percent better than the national average for other 2-year schools, according to industry-standard benchmarks published by CollegeMeasures and Complete College America.

IBC students have gone on to study at 4-year schools including USC, Penn State, Texas A&M, Pepperdine and Ohio State. We also built a competency-based learning platform called Helix, which uses assessment to understand what a student knows and then serves up course material to fill in the gaps. EDUCAUSE and The Gates Foundation awarded us a Next Generation Learning Challenge grant, to further develop the platform’s features.

In 2010, based on Ivy Bridge’s track record of helping a high-risk student body succeed in their goals, we became more public in our desire to spin out IBC into a separate stand-alone institution. We hoped to parlay our early success into building the most innovative community college in America.

As we began to apply for the necessary approvals, the regulators at the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the body that regulates colleges in the Midwest, acted to stymie our plans. They forced us into a change of control process when all we wanted was approval for a branch campus in California. In non-regulatory parlance, that means they created additional layers and processes to achieve independent accreditation, in a clear effort to prevent us from ever becoming a standalone university. The regulator’s hostility came to a head in late July, when HLC ordered the Ivy Bridge program to be terminated by mid-October.

In every industry, new entrants, funded by private capital, drive innovation and shake up existing markets. General Motors never could have created Tesla and Motorola couldn’t invent the iPhone. In post-secondary education, new for-profit entrants into the system are just not allowed. Since 2010, HLC has only approved candidacy for accreditation of a single for-profit school that has been started in the past decade – Rocky Vista University. At the same time, it has placed two of the biggest for-profit education organizations in the country, University of Phoenix and Bridgepoint, under regulatory sanctions.

We wanted to make sweeping changes to how colleges are run, changes that would rock the existing system to its core.

These include:

  • A $5,000 degree program
  • A competency-based instructional approach where degrees are granted based on achievement of learning outcomes rather than time in class
  • Separation of instructors and graders, so instructors are vested in helping the students vs. having to both help them and grade them
  • Compensation of instructors based on how well they affect student outcomes

The regulators represent legacy constituents that appear ready to do anything to prevent these changes. These hidebound incumbents want to maintain their ability to teach students the same way they did a hundred years ago. This is at a time when new technologies and approaches can truly improve how students learn.

Investors are excited about the potential: $600 million in venture capital was invested in education in 2012, five times more than 2002. However, this investment is largely going into technology tools, services and supplemental education. Regulators have stifled those investment dollars from going to where they could have the most impact – reinventing the core of what happens in the K12 and college classroom.

These regulatory actions are clinging to outdated practices and causing the US post-secondary system to fall behind global competitors. In 1995, the U.S. ranked 2nd after New Zealand in terms of the higher education graduation rate among 19 OECD countries with comparable data. In 2010, its ranking dropped to 13th among 25 countries with comparable data.

Our society is in a place where our government and the regulators they enable are counting on incumbent non-profit schools to transform education in the US. New schools cannot be started because for-profits are collectively demonized as capricious actors who do not have the students’ best interest in mind.

I’d ask where we would be as a society if the legacy AT&T monopoly was in charge of mobile innovation and bringing the Internet to the masses or if agriculture was viewed as a vital national interest like in Cuba and we could only get bread at government stores?

We are allowing the government to behave this way in post-secondary education and, in doing so, delivering a poor legacy product to students while our international competitors are leaving us in the dust.

Decide.com Acquired by eBay

By Dan Levitan, Co-Founder and Partner at Maveron

Mike Fridgen, CEO of Decide.com

Mike Fridgen, CEO of Decide.com

On the heels of Maveron portfolio company SeatMe being acquired by Yelp, we’d like to congratulate another Maveron portfolio company Decide.com on the news today that the company has been acquired by eBay. When we met Mike Fridgen and Oren Etzioni in 2011, we were already impressed by their track record of value creation at Farecast. Moreover, we were immediately impressed by their passion to build an exceptional team, laser-focused on helping consumers navigate the confusing world of prices for consumer products.

Throughout the Maveron portfolio, we’ve consistently seen the power of a standout team, a big market, and a differentiated approach to building a brand change the way we engage in daily life—how we shop for our kids (zulily); pursue education (General Assembly); protect our pets (Trupanion); and make sure our parents and grandparents are safe (Lively). In fact, Maveron’s first investment ever was eBay in 1998, which used those three elements to reinvent marketplaces for used goods. In that spirit of the pursuit of excellence, we enjoyed being part of Decide.com’s journey as Mike, Oren and their team obsessively focused on helping consumers shop with no regrets. We agree with the folks from San Jose- the Decide Team will make a significant contribution in helping eBay create an even better shopping experience for their buyers and sellers. It will be exciting to watch eBay develop more of a Seattle presence.

While other VCs have turned away from consumer brands recently in favor of the enterprise, we remain more certain than ever around Maveron’s core belief: great entrepreneurs can use technology to disrupt markets and build great consumer brands more thoughtfully and inexpensively than ever before. We are committed and excited to find and partner early with the next wave of great entrepreneurs building the services, products, and platforms we soon won’t be able to live without.

We’d also like to thank Madrona for bringing us this opportunity. It was a pleasure to work with you Greg. We enjoyed this Seattle-based VC collaboration (working with Madrona and more recently Vulcan) and look forward to partnering on future deals.

Get comfortable with internal technology and big data

By Dan Levitan

Digital communications and social media have empowered consumers, whose voices can be heard loud and clear.

As has always been the case, the fate of a business is often determined by how well it generates consumer delight. However, these new platforms have provided consumers a bully pulpit like never before. Early stage companies able to react quickly to customer feedback are finding they are better suited to grow fast and outpace big, established businesses that are historically slower to move. We have seen the best of these early entrepreneurs pair an ability to foster, harness, and respond to consumer feedback with advanced technology and tools to get to product market fit and scale with far less capital than ever before.

We sat down with some of Maveron’s portfolio entrepreneurs including Jake Schwartz, co-founder and CEO of General Assembly, who have proven themselves particularly skilled at harnessing consumer engagement to quickly grow brands. These pieces of insight provide a decent playbook for any entrepreneur looking to scale a business.

Here’s what Schwartz has to say about big data:

“Without data, you don’t really have a consumer business in today’s age,” says Schwartz, who’s company provides working space and education to entrepreneurs. Now is the ideal time to start a consumer business, he says, because traditional barriers of entry have completely broken down. This open terrain gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to aggressively innovate around product, distribution, and marketing to build brands that resonate with consumers — and, most importantly, to mix the art of brand building with the science of data. Schwartz encourages entrepreneurs to become comfortable with their own internal technology and internal data, and use both as the central tool in making decisions.

Three Tips for Brand Building in the Digital Age

By Jane Park, founder and CEO of Julep

JulepBlogImage

Many of today’s marketers are like a bad date at a dance. Sure, they are dancing with you right now, but they keep looking over your shoulder to see if there is anyone hotter. In the new digital world, more than ever before, marketers need to be hyper focused on existing customers (the person you are dancing with right now), which can result in a beautifully choreographed word of mouth phenomenon and brand loyalty.

 

We’ve watched traditional beauty brands spend millions of dollars developing and marketing new products without ever truly getting to know their customers. John Wanamaker once quipped, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”  To me, it’s clear that any dollar that is spent without an intimate knowledge of your customers is wasted.  What’s exciting is that today, startups don’t have to spend much to gather information about their customers and engage directly with them through social media.  Building an enduring and valuable consumer brand always starts with a genuine conversation, and it’s easier than ever to reach customers this way. Here are three things we’ve incorporated into our playbook for using social media to build a brand in the digital age.

1.     Crowdsource Product Development

Now more than ever, customers can help determine your next best selling product. Companies have always relied on customer feedback to help develop products, but now, you can instantly use social media as a 24X7 focus group to solicit ideas from customers and make them part of the product development process. Using social media to help crowdsource products has helped us produce more products in an 18-month span than any other beauty company. If you’re ready to actively listen and respond to customers, they will happily tell you what they want. As you proactively feed their wish lists into the development process, you’ll not only create proprietary products faster than the competition that people actually want to buy, but you’ll also build a loyal and enduring customer base.

 2.     “Dance” with Customers Every Day

You can’t just talk to customers when you want to have a conversation; you have to be committed to constantly engaging in authentic two-way conversations in order to create previously impossible connections. Not only will this give you access to customers’ feedback and the opportunity to email them with new offers, but it will also create opportunities for you to respond to their needs as they are discovering them.  I appreciate any opportunity to anticipate and respond to our customers needs, bringing them closer into the circle of intimacy.  But you can’t fake authenticity – you have to always be there, in good times and especially in the bad.  I go onto our Julep Facebook page regularly to connect directly to the women who are making an effort to connect with us.  I have sent “thank you’s” and apologies from my personal email account.  The technical mechanics of social media don’t change the dynamics of an engaging in two way conversations – talking is talking regardless of the vehicle.

3.     Don’t Rely on Marketing Titles to Get the Job Done

At Julep, no one has a marketing title because I want everyone thinking about a strategy for satisfying existing customers, acquiring new customers and building products with longevity, which is what marketing is all about. In the digital age of marketing, we want the entire company to be inspired to learn more about customers. Whether it’s engaging personally in the conversations taking place on Facebook, following the excitement on Pinterest, or taking the time to research personal ways to surprise and delight our most loyal customers, we want every employee thinking of new ideas to harness the power of data to find, target, and delight customers in unprecedented ways.

 

Jane Park is the CEO and founder of Julep. Jane and her team have used social media to grow Julep into the fastest growing beauty brand in the U.S. You can follow Jane on Twitter @janeparkjulep