Techstars Alum Bench Raises $7M Series A Round

So it’s pretty rare that a day goes by that Techstars or a Techstars company isn’t in the news. Yesterday Techstars announced a new $150M fund called Techstars Ventures and today alumni Bench.co raised a $7M Series A round led by Altos Ventures. Bench is disrupting a space that has been in long need of disruption, bookkeeping, a service that has been done by individuals who pour over Excel docs or become Quickbooks wizards.

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I used to use a service called Outright which was acquired by Go Daddy back in 2012 however I have to say after taking Bench.co for a spin it’s clear they have built something very special. So what does Bench do different? Bench actually employs real people, yes, the bookkeeper you know and love isn’t going to be out of a job, but they are going to become a lot more efficient and cost-effective thanks to Bench.

“Our job is to ensure that the experience you have is easy and as painless as possible,” said cofounder Jordan Menashy. “We don’t want to effectively risk that relationship or that experience because we used a contractor or an overseas operation when this is ultimately what people are coming to us for. People think you can’t scale if you do the work yourself, but we’re in the business of proving we can actual scale this model.” (Source – Techcrunch)

Now Bench wasn’t originally called Bench, they started as 10Sheet.com but after pivoting their business to what it is today they decided a fresh new name was in order.

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It’s no secret that domains like Bench.com sell in the six and seven-figure range but with the .CO Bench has been able to brand around the name they wanted at a fraction of the cost. Of course Bench isn’t alone in this branding move, massively successful companies like Vine, AngelList and many more have moved to one-word .CO domains to lock down their top choice brand without locking in a high price tag.

Huge congrats to the whole Bench team, looking forward to following along with the journey ahead and hopefully grabbing a beer together at the next Techstars Foundercon.

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Hello, happy Monday, and welcome to Morgan’s Flippa Five. Flippa has been in the news a lot lately, from this recent article in the Washington Post to countless articles about what will probably go down as one of the most famous sales on the site – ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com.

All of this media attention is without a doubt sending even more premium names to Flippa which makes my job of finding just five actually a whole lot harder. That being said, I’m a fan of short lists so I’m sticking with five, here are my top picks for this week.

Emerging.com – sometimes I’m on the fence about one word names ending in “ing” however in this case I like it. In fact I think it’s probably a stronger name than emerge.com but that’s just my opinion. Either way this is a meaningful and positive one-word .COM that everyone can remember and spell.

Automating.com – okay so this is one of those one word names ending in “ing” that I think is stronger without it. Yes, I think automate.com is a better name, but that’s not for sale on Flippa so I can’t say much about it. What I can tell you is that we are living in a world where more and more things are automated, heck we all carry what would be considered a super-computer ten years ago in our pocket. For a company that specializes in automation this is a nice one.

Lift.io – it’s been no secret that startups have been flocking to the .IO extension and this is a very solid one. The only concern I have is that it could be easily confused with Lyft, the ridesharing startup, however “lift” is a very generic word and there are lots of uses for this name particularly as an API.

Sell.org – I’m not a huge .ORG fan, I think I’ve said that about a million times now, still I have a thing for short, meaningful one word domains and this is about as good as it gets. Still I think .ORG is best suited for non-profits so if you’re looking to buy a domain you can sell for a huge profit this might not be the right fit. If you’re a non-profit looking to build on domain this could be a steal of a deal.

Cases.co – with so many smart devices it’s not surprising that case sales have gone through the roof. Cases are high-margin products that are easy to sell online and people often don’t need to see in-person. Cases.com definitely would cost a pretty penny but with the .CO you could get a store up and running in no time without the sticker shock.

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Single vs. Multi-tenant

It’s a debate that has been going on for a long time and like most debates there’s no silver bullet that will work for everyone. While SaaS giants like Salesforce run on a pure multi-tenant model, we live in a world where spinning up a new “server” can happen in less than a minute and five years from now it will probably be less than ten seconds. Before I dive-into the debate and share my own two cents it’s important to go over the difference between a single and multi-tenant model.

Quick note: I’ll be comparing single vs. multi-tenant specifically for SaaS businesses, this could still apply to other business models but SaaS is where my focus has been and what I know the best so I’ll stick with that.

Single-Tenancy

Single-tenant SaaS is an architecture where each company using the software has their own instance of it, running on their own infrastructure. Go back in time ten years and this literally could mean each SaaS client getting their own physical server, provisioned just for them and with a version of the software just for them. Fast-forward to 2015 and this often happens through virtualization or as we love to now say, “it all happens in the cloud!”

Multi-Tenancy

Multi-tenant SaaS is an architecture where each company using the software is on the same instance, running on the same infrastructure. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone runs the exact same software, customizations can be made but all the customer data is store on the same server instance.

One of the best analogies I’ve heard to describe the difference between Single and Multi-tenant solutions is this. Think of single-tenancy as someone buying a house in a subdivision where you get your own house, pick the design, layout, and have the opportunity to customize the heck out of it. Now think of multi-tenancy as a skyscraper, all the units might be the same but you can do things like change out the light fixtures, update the sink, but you’re not going to be knocking down walls and changing the actual layout of the unit.

Got it? Good, now I’ll share my thoughts.

I’m a fan of the single-tenant model prior to a SaaS company hitting true scale. The reason here is a simple one, I’m a security nut and I know that humans are, well human, and they can make mistakes. In a multi-tenant model all of your customers are running on top of the same code-base which means if a human makes a mistake, you could break everyone. Also if security is compromised, they get the farm.

In a single-tenant model you do have more to manage since everyone could be running a very different version of your software, but if you break one person, it’s only that one person who is impacted, not everyone.

This is also why I say that I’m a fan of single-tenant until a SaaS company hits true scale. Once you have a lot of customers single-tenant definitely becomes significantly harder and more expensive to manage. At scale, and particularly at massive scale a multi-tenant model will be significantly less expensive.

That’s my two cents, now I’d like to hear yours. What are your thoughts on Single vs. Multi-tenant models for Saas? Comment and let your voice be heard!

 

 
Photo Credit: JohnSeb via Compfight cc

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Things are usually very positive and upbeat here at MorganLinton.com but sometimes I see a situation that impacts me and so many other people that I just have to jump in and share my two cents. However, I want this post to be for good to help show how a situation could be improved rather than just slamming a startup that’s trying hard to get things right.

First I’ve left the name of the hosting company out of the title of this post and when I mention their name I will be using an image so that I don’t end-up in the Google search results for them. The reason here is simple, shit happens and when it does you find out who your real friends are and I consider the founder of this company to be a friend. Still, I’ve got some tough love to give, but hopefully in a way that can help rather than hurt.

The company I am talking about is this one:

I have been hosting MorganLinton.com with this company for I think close to five years now. I’ve seen them have their ups and downs and unfortunately this year the down was so bad that I had to change hosting providers, literally as quickly as possible after experience 48-hours of downtime followed by my blog going up and down on just about a daily basis for two weeks.

In 2015 it’s pretty hard to imagine this could happen but as a startup founder I know to expect the unexpected and that despite your best intentions, bad things can happen. What it comes down to is how you deal with the bad and this is where I think this particular company has a lot of room for improvement. It doesn’t look like I’m alone as people have been going pretty nuts on Twitter:

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There’s two problems here, one that just about every startup faces, and another that not every startup faces. The first problem is software, hardware, and other related things just not working like they are supposed to. This particular WordPress hosting company has made it very clear that their software and servers haven’t help up very well this year and are continuing to experience issues.

While I’ve never heard of a hosting company letting sites go down for 48 hours or more (on and off for two weeks in this case) I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and honestly feel terrible for them since it has to be incredibly stressful and disappointing to be in their situation.

The second problem is a very preventable one and it really falls on the shoulders of the leadership in the company, this is where I see a pretty big, very preventable failure. Rather than sending out an email to customers after the first 24-hours of downtime there was nothing, only a few tweets and an update on the blog but all coming from the support department.

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People were really upset and they needed the CEO, COO, someone from the founding team to send some kind of communication saying how incredibly sorry they were and letting them know that they would fix this. Unfortunately this email came three days too late when the CEO finally sent an email once customers had already experienced days of downtime.

Now, after two weeks of issues the hosting service is down once again, and unfortunately once again the customers aren’t feeling feeling the love:

twitter1So my point is hopefully a simple one but one that I think we can all learn from. Things go wrong, heck, something things going horribly wrong, your software breaks and that in turn impacts customers – ouch. The key is how you deal with it. Sure, you can have your support department write very technical things on your company blog that makes it clear that something is being done to fix it, that’s one approach. Another is to have a founder, someone who built the company from the ground up get up and apologize and let everyone know how much this sucks and how hard she/he is working to fix it, not three days after it happens but while it’s happening and customers all over the world are really feeling the pain.

My blog is now faster than it has ever been and I’m actually incredibly impressed with WPEngine (my new hosting provider), I just wished I moved over earlier. That being said I can’t say that I don’t feel a little sad, it’s tough to see something like this happen to a company you really care about.

I wish my previous hosting company all the best, they were there for me for years and it’s hard to see them struggle so much now when I thought they had come so far. I do hope this is just a bump in the road but I also hope this is a learning experience for the leadership team to improve and become more transparent and responsive to customers. People know things are going to break, but when they do it’s a good leader that can keep them from jumping ship and in this case that leadership came a bit too late to save the ship.

 

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A History of How and What We Search Online

Internet Marketing Ninjas put together this look at the history of search. They give a timeline of each and every search engine from start to where they are now. The icons denote whether the site was retired, purchased or redirected.

Seeing some on this list reminded me back to the old days before Google, I think I used Magellan quite a bit before I found Alta Vista. They also broke down what gets searched for the most by website.

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Was it Too Early for A New gTLD Auction ? Not For Dot Club

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So NamesCon conducted what I think was a successful live auction last night. Mike and Monte and Richard did a great job and with a 65% sell through rate, it shows Monte is still the best when it comes to conducting live auctions. I live tweeted it for four hours, not one problem with the Snapnames stream, kudos to them.

My first thoughts when the list came out prior to the conference were, Is it too early ? Is it too early to auction off new gtlds and have them sharing the spotlight with some great .com domains ?

Certainly Dot Club is the most popular kid at New Gtld High School. They are able to sell names for prices most would not have had thought possible. Wine.Club for $140,000 is an excellent sale, it is an all cash sale and nothing like the previous $100,000 Coffee.Club transaction.

The people at Dot Club can have laser like focus, this is their baby, they don’t have 300 strings and vying for more every month. They can hone in on how to best market their baby.

56 out of the 87 sales last night were new gtlds, Dot Club had 6 of those sales, they had 4 out of the top 5 new gtld sales in the auction. Dot Nyc had 15 sales but nothing over $1,100.

.Xyz had 6 sales, nothing over $1,000. The Dot Ink extension produced 4 sales all in the $1,300 to $1,600 range. Dot Wiki had 7 sales and Dot Vegas put up 10.

Email.host sold for $6,500 congrats to Radix. (Full Disclosure Radix Advertises on TLDinvestors and TheDomains, where I write)

No reserve auctions were certainly the key to getting sales, the new gtlds with $10,000 – $25,000 reserves seemed to be too pricey for a domainer mostly audience. Dot Club went against that tide and was able to sell some names where they had higher reserves.

We need to keep the conversation balanced, domain investors were not the beneficiary of the larger sales and the feedback I have gotten from some in private and on forums is, “Who cares ? The money went to the registry and that means jack**** to me” We are in the early innings of the new gtld game, many are going to lose a lot of money, let’s make that clear, there are new domain investors regging names that make no sense in .com or their chosen extension, these people need to stop and step away from the keyboard. We all pick some bad domain names but some of these newer entrants are setting themselves up for financial ruin.

We also have to remember Dot Club did not get rights to the extension for just $185,000 and some working capital. I like their approach they know what they are and they are out to make sales and market the extension. You can’t just sit back and wait.

Hopefully the auction showed new gtld investors there is an inkling of interest in the aftermarket but we have to remember this was a captive audience ran by some of the best in the business. You have to be selective in your registrations and learn the best way to market and sell, to borrow from the “If you build it, they will come” when it comes to new gtld investing you need to be doing a 180 from that axiom, “If you just reg it, they won’t come” there is endless supply and you need to market your wares.

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Facebook is dead to teenagers

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Think you’re at the top of your social media game? You might have to think again. A 19 year-old student currently attending UT Austin wrote an excellent article on Medium that is getting a lot of attention, and for a good reason.

Rewind five years ago and you might be able to make a case for the fact that anyone using social media at all was on the cutting edge. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find that many teenagers find Facebook to be a social media network used by their parents.

“Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave.” (Source – A Teenager’s View On Social Media)

So who is the ten million pound gorilla in the social media space? Instagram. While it might seem like teens are still posting like crazy on Facebook it’s important to see how they are doing it.

“…although the most people are on Facebook, we actually post stuff on Instagram.” (Source – A Teenager’s View On Social Media)

Okay, so maybe you use Instagram but did you know there’s another social network that is gaining steam? I’m talking about Snapchat.

“Snapchat is quickly becoming the most used social media network, especially with the advent of My Story.” (Source – A Teenager’s View On Social Media)

So why should all of this be important to you? Well if you run a business that does anything online you should probably realize that the teenager of today is going to become your customer as time goes on. If you lose touch with them you might find your customers checking-into retirement homes and enjoying a busy day of bocce.

I personally have become more active on Instagram than ever before (you can follow me here) but Snapchat is one that has escaped me. That being said, I know I need to start using Snapchat because I’m starting to feel like an old man because I don’t even have the app on my phone.

My point here is simple. If you think you’re on top of your social media game because you’re connecting with your customers via Facebook you’re going to be missing a bigger chunk of the market every single day that goes by. Don’t look at new social networks as “something kids use” look at is as something you should become familiar with otherwise before you know it you could lose touch with the people that someday will become your customers.

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Techstars Berlin

As many of you know, Daina and I went through Techstars in Austin over the summer. Techstars is ranked as the #2 Startup Accelerator in the US and #1 globally, and today they announced a new program in Berlin that will launch in June of this year.

“We’ve had our eye on the burgeoning Berlin tech scene for some time, well aware the US or the UK doesn’t have a monopoly on either tech skills or entrepreneurship. The current business climate here means we can work with an incredibly broad spectrum of German and international teams and top talent.” (David Cohen, Techstars CEO – source TechCrunch)

It’s no secret that the global startup scene is really heating up and while it can be easy to focus on the US if you live here, it’s not hard to understand that all across the world passionate entrepreneurs are building amazing things. The new Techstars program will be led by Jens Lapinski who previously ran the Techstars London program.

Jens-Lapinski

Jens is an serial entrepreneur himself who developed, patented and licensed a new water technology while he was getting his PhD at Cambridge University. After that he was a VP at Library House (now Dow Jones) which he helped grow from 7 to 50 people during his time there. After that he founded aiHit, a provider of automated company data to the business information industry a company that has raised over $7M and is still up and running strong today.

As if that wasn’t enough, after all of this Jens started co-founded Forward Labs, a startup studio in London. So suffice it to say that as usual Techstars has found the best-of-the-best to run their programs.

Photo Credit: János Balázs via Compfight cc

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Welcome to 2015 – 345.com sells for $800,000

What a way to start the year. Today DNJournal.com announced that 345.com sold for $800,000 by Domain Name veteran Michael Berkens (MostWantedDomains.com). Numeric domain names have been heating-up over the last couple of years and this sale shows how alive and well these premium names still are.

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Short memorable .COMs have been hot for as long as I can remember and numeric .COMs have been in the spotlight for as long as I can remember. Last year 37.com sold for $1.96M along with 100.com for $950,000 clearly showing that 2 and 3 number .COMs are in high demand and carry with them premium price tags.

If this is a taste of what’s to come in 2015, I’ll have seconds. Huge congrats to both Michael and the new owner of 345.com, there’s only one 345.com in the world and I’m sure the new owner will do incredible things with it!

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Help pick a new logo for MorganLinton.com

Hello and happy Sunday! I am currently running a design contest on 99Designs for a new logo for MorganLinton.com. It’s a new year and I thought it was time for a little refresh for my logo. I’ve had 50+ designs submitted so far and the five concepts listed below are my current favorites. Since my blog is written for you, my reader, I thought I’d include you in the process – so let me know which design you like the most.

(Note – you will see that some designs have multiple variations, feel free to let me know which variation you like the most as well)

Design Concept #1

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Design Concept #2

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Design Concept #3

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Design Concept #4

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Design Concept #5

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Thanks in advance for your feedback!

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