FLEXE Logo

This week FLEXE announced a $14.5M Series A round led by Menlo Park-based Redpoint Ventures. If you haven’t heard of FLEXE don’t feel bad, you probably just haven’t been in need of warehouse space. Founded just three years ago, FLEXE helps find extra space in warehouses for companies looking for warehouse space.

flexe-seriesa-redpoint

“The goal for Flexe is to help those with unused space earn additional revenue, while enabling businesses to utilize a pay-as-you-go, on-demand model when they need additional warehouse space. This provides an alternative solution to the fixed costs that often come with a lease, particularly for retailers that only need extra storage space for a limited amount of time — perhaps a beverage vendor that sees sales spike in the summer, or a retailer that sells its inventory during the holiday season.” (Source – GeekWire)

There are a number of startups like FLEXE opening in different industries, a great example is PivotDesk which helps startups find office space. Just like companies have extra office space that could be put to good use, many companies also have extra warehouse space that is literally just sitting there.

Karl-Siebrecht

FLEXE was started by Karl Siebrecht, a seasoned technology leader who was previously the CEO of Seattle-based AdReady. Prior to AdReady Karl was the president of Atlas at aQuantive before it was acquired for a whopping $6B by Microsoft.

redpoint-ventures

Redpoint Ventures is a great partner to have going forward with over $3.7B raised, this Silicon Valley-based VC firm will likely be a part of future rounds and could easily write a Series B check themselves if they really wanted to.

Huge congrats to Karl and team, this is a great example of a seasoned CEO coupled with an all-star VC-firm which means that now the sky really is the limit for FLEXE.

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domains-for-startups

Hello, happy Friday and welcome to Morgan’s Flippa Five. In case you’re new to this weekly feature here’s a quick intro. Every week I go through Flippa’s domain name listings to find five domain names that I think could be a great fit for a startup just getting off the group or looking to re-brand. Enjoy!

HelpBoard.com – 13 year-old two-word .COM, perfect for a startup in the helpdesk space.

Down.com – solid brandable one-word .COM, this is relatively broad so could be used in a number of different industries.

Thirsty.com – great domain for a startups in the sports drink/water space or on the other spectrum for a startup disrupting the beer/wine world.

Freetime.com – this domain could be a great fit for the travel/leisure space, what do you do in your free time?

MondayNight.com – when I hear this one I think football, but there are a lot more uses for this one. Easy to spell, easy to remember, just like I like them.

 

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How To Backup Your Data

backup your data

One day you’re happily blogging away, and the next, your hosting provider suddenly shuts down your site. It’s imperative to prepare for any number of disasters such as this by proactively backing up your data. If you cherish the thousands of tweets you posted, the Facebook memories you’ve created, pictures you’ve taken, or even your tax returns from the last 6 years, don’t take any chances.

Everyone thinks it can’t happen to them until it does. You don’t have to violate your service provider’s ToS to be removed from the platform. You can easily be a target for a malicious virus or ransomware where your hard drive becomes encrypted by a third party, and they threaten to delete its contents unless you pay them in bitcoins. With all of the major password leaks online, and an alarming amount of people using easily guessed passwords like “password” or “Star Wars”, your social media data is also at risk.

Of course it would solve most of our problems if we obeyed websites’ ToS, avoided risky sites, created randomly generated 16 digit passwords, and followed all the other ways to protect your sensitive data (which I outlined in this nifty series). Alas, there’s only so many hours in the day and it’s impossible to predict every catastrophe that comes our way. If all else goes wrong, it’s best to at least have an emergency backup so you’re not starting from scratch. Here’s a quick guide for downloading all of your data from major social media sites and Google, and a few ways to routinely back it up.

Social Media Download

Keep in mind, that while these directions and links are taken directly from social media sites, they quite often like to change the exact steps and even the links. If at some point in the future these directions are no longer relevant, try searching on Google with the phrase “how to download data from [site].”

Facebook

  1. Click [down arrow] at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings
  2. Click Download a copy of your Facebook data below your General Account Settings
  3. Click Start My Archive

Twitter

  1. Go to your account settings by clicking on the profile icon at the top right of the page and selecting Settings from the drop-down menu.
  2. Click Request your archive.
  3. When your download is ready, we’ll send an email with a download link to the confirmed email address associated with your Twitter account.
  4. Once you receive the email, click the Go now button to log in to your Twitter account and download a .zip file of your Twitter archive.

Google Takeout

  1. Visit the Download your data page. You might have to sign in to your Google Account.
  2. Choose which Google products to include in your download. To see more details and options for a product, select the Down arrow.
  3. Select Next.
  4. Choose your archive’s “File type.”

Backup

The quantity of data you want to backup will ultimately determine your strategy, but here are a few easy ways to start:

  1. Purchase an external hard drive and use file synchronization software to consistently backup the data from your computer.
  2. Subscribe to an online data backup service like BackBlaze, CrashPlan, or my favorite, but more expensive, DropBox.
  3. If you run a blog or other small site that you’d like to forever backup online and preserve its content, use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

It’s important to have both some sort of local and cloud based backup in case your external hard drive is destroyed or you’re unable to access your cloud backup. Most of all, remember to schedule regular backups! It won’t help if you forget to download your data for two years.

Do you have any horror stories about losing all of your data? What about times and ways your backups saved your content? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

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domain registrar security

For those who know me well, you know that I’m a pretty paranoid guy and a bit of a security nut. One of the security provisions I think is an absolute must is two-factor authentication. Why is this so important?

Let’s be honest, passwords get stolen all the time. Seriously, it happens constantly and you usually aren’t notified until days or weeks after the company realizes that their servers have been compromised. If access to your registrar account is compromised anyone can login and transfer your domain names to their account. Unlike physical products, good luck getting your domain names back, the police won’t have a clue what to do here.

You can always “hope” that the registrar they transferred to will do the right thing but criminals often transfer to registrars in other countries that they know will let them get away with it.

Two-step authentication is free with Unireigstry and they have one of the slickest implementations of the technology that I think is definitely safer than the standard “text” message approach. The problem with getting a text message is that this displays on the home screen of your phone, so if the person trying to steal your domain names is able to steal your cellphone, they can get the two-factor authentication code without having to unlock your phone.

uniregistry-two-factor-authentication

Uniregistry takes two-step authentication to the next level by providing the code in the app, this means that even if a criminal nabs your phone, they would need your fingerprint to get in and access the app. When I first saw this the security geek inside me jumped for joy, this is two-factor authentication done right.

Of course there are a lot more things that make the Uniregistry app one of my favorite domain registrar apps but this is the feature that to me really takes the cake since it means someone could steal my phone and still couldn’t get into my registar account, feels like it should cost extra, but it’s free, and better security for free is something I’m always a fan of.

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panic

Most of the domain names that I buy as investments are expired domain names. This is where I’ve made the bulk of my money flipping domains and I still buy expired domain names all the time. 99% of the time these are domains that nobody is using and they just let drop, and back onto the market they come. A few times I have received a panicked email from someone that goes something like this:

“I just noticed that xxxxxxx.com was not longer in my account, I have had this domain name for years and it means a lot to me. I’m not sure how you ended-up with it but I really want it back. Please let me know what I can do to get it from you.”

In the last nine years that I have been buying domain names, this situation has happened three times. Every single time I have given the domain back to the person for the exact price I paid for it.

The other day a friend of mine told me a story about a domain that he accidentally let expire. He sent an email like this to the new owner who wanted thousands of dollars for the domain. He was sharp enough to look what they paid for it – $48. At the end of the day he settled on $800 and got his domain back but I cringed when I heard this story.

Karma is a real thing and I’m a big believer that you should do onto others as you would like them to do to you. I urge anyone who buys expired domains to not extort domain owners if they accidentally let it drop. It almost never happens but if it does take the high road, don’t think twice, do not pass go, be a normal human and do the right thing.

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startup-advice

When we were first starting Fashion Metric we found that just about everyone on the planet wanted to give us fundraising advice. I can still remember being at Cross Campus in Santa Monica after a VC talk and a guy came up to us, “if you guys want to land a VC like that, we should talk.”

We didn’t know what we were doing so it sounded like someone we should talk to. A week later we met him for lunch, he explained that he was a “biz dev” guy with a decade of experience with venture-backed startups. As we dug a bit deeper we learned that he had never actually raised money himself, and when we talked to his references, they said he hadn’t helped them either, he joined long after they raised funding.

This happens to startups all the time and since advice is free (in most cases) don’t be surprised when people are willing to give it. One of the huge benefits of going through an accelerator like Techstars was getting connected with a lot of past founders who had raised money themselves and investors who actively invested in startups.

Looking back I realized there were a lot of people along the way, some who meant well, others who didn’t, all who wanted to be the “expert” in funding. Over the last four years I’ve seen these people fall into three distinct categories:

  1. The biz dev guy (or gal) – like the example above, this is usually someone who is currently acting as a consultant and claims they can help you raise money. In the end they’ll typically ask for money and equity, and the equity ask is usually insanely high. There’s an easy way to filter for these folks, just ask them to put you in contact with a couple of companies they have helped raise money for. Talk to those founders on the phone (like we did) and find out the truth.
  2. The lawyer – I can’t tell you how many lawyers told us that part of what they could do is help with fundraising. At the end of the day very few investors lead-source from lawyers but it’s a good hook to make an entrepreneur want to work with one firm over another. Once again, if a lawyer tells you they can help you get connected with investors and raise money, ask for references and talk to them. I’m sure there are some lawyers out there who can help with fundraising but having heard this pitch enough I know it’s not all of them.
  3. The startup employee – when I worked for Sonos we went from raising $10M to raising over $200M, as an employee there I learned absolutely nothing about raising money since I wasn’t a part of the fundraising process, at all, ever. I knew this about myself when we started our company, but there are plenty of startup employees who think that since they were a part of a startup when it raised money that they know how to raise. Once again, this is an easy one to check, just ask them how many investors they themselves pitched, then talk to those investors to validate. Being a part of a company raising millions of dollars and actually raising the millions of dollars yourself is a whole different can of beans.

At the end of the day there are a lot of wonderful people in the world who would like to help your startup become a success. The most important thing you can do as a founder is to validate who really knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t.

The simple test is (and the question you should ask) if they have raised money themselves for a startup, if not, then their advice is likely based on articles, books, conference talks, etc. You can learn the same yourself by doing the same things, where you can really accelerate your knowledge is by learning from people who have actually done it themselves, because reading about raising venture funding and raising venture funding are two very different things.

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revolut
In 2015 the average size of a Series A round in the UK was $7.3M which makes the $18.2M A Round that Revolut just raised a real monster.  Like so many startups this didn’t happen overnight. Revolut raised two Seed Rounds, one in 2015 and a second earlier this year. The two Seed round approach vs. going from Seed straight to A Round is a growing trend and one that successful startups from Favor to Mattermark did to get where they are today.
Based in London, Revolut is a way to instantly send and spend money globally. In just ten months the company has grown to 200,000 users and over $500M in transactions. Right now they’re bringing on around 1,500 new customers a day – look up “hockey stick growth” in the dictionary and you may as well just copy and paste Revolut’s KPIs there.
revolut-growth
What makes this round unique is that along with the money from VC’s like Balderton Capital, Seedcamp, and Index Ventures, Revolut has also chiseled out 1M pounds for individual investors:
“The equity crowdfunding offer is poised to fill within seconds – if the Crowdcube servers can handle the load…  The offer on Crowdcube is on the same terms as the VCs that have already committed millions of pounds. The catch is that Revolut will rank users based on the number of in-app contacts. Those with the most contacts will get priority access to the official bid page after the 7-day pre-registration period has ended.” (Source – CrowdFundInsider.com)
Already over 10,000 people have expressed interest in investing with a whopping 16.8 million pounds ($22M USD) which means if they had really wanted to, Revolut could have raised a roughly $40M A Round.
revolut-crowdfunding
Balderton Capital led the round and has been participating with the company alongside Seedcamp since their first seed round. So while on the surface this might look like an unusually high A Round for any market, once you dig into the details it’s clear why this round is so big, the numbers are there, and they’ve had a VC firm with close to $2.5B under management supporting them since the early days.
Congrats to the whole team a Revolut, getting 200,000 users in ten months is no small task, here’s to the next 200,000!

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So I downloaded Pokemon Go…and I like it

pokemon-go

I found out a few months ago that technically I’m a millennial, although I am just barely which means that a lot of the things that were part of the normal millennial childhood didn’t really apply to me. This means that Pokemon doesn’t carry much nostalgic value for me, but to be honest the whole “Pokemon” part of the experience is not why I downloaded Pokemon Go.

I’m a huge believer in AR and VR and think both technologies are going to fundamentally change the way we do things in our everyday life. So for me the draw to Pokemon Go wasn’t about Pokemon but was instead about the first hit AR title, and calling it a hit is probably an understatement.

pokemon-go-morgan-linton

What I like about Pokemon Go so far is that it’s incredibly easy to get started and since I’ve been on four flights in the last 48 hours it has made my airport adventures all that more entertaining. Since I know a lot of people who don’t understand the first thing about AR, Pokemon, or why the heck a new Pokemon game would be so popular I’ve decided to put together a “Pokemon Go for Non-Millennials” post that I’ll likely publish this weekend.

If you’re on the fence, or think it sounds ridiculous I urge you to download the app and give it a shot. You might just find yourself chasing Bulbasaur around your neighborhood.

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The Driverless Car World in 2050

photo-1429549462610-8dcf74f61550

There is an endless list of obstacles that self-driving vehicles have to overcome in order to completely saturate the automotive market. However, let’s look past those for now and gaze into the distant future, all the way into the year 2050. By this time, autonomous vehicles will presumably have worked out all the kinks, come down significantly in cost, and become completely autonomous. At this point, we would expect 100% market penetration. Here are some of my predictions on how our world will change with the advent of our “robot chauffeurs”:

  1. Industries and workers will adapt and change:
    • Insurance companies will have to pivot and dramatically adjust their business model, possibly targeting manufacturers in case of technical failures instead of individuals for human error.
    • Buses, ride-sharing, and other public transportation will be driverless.
    • Long-haul truckers, USPS, and other shipping and mail delivery services will be replaced by automated systems.
    • Over this time, the labor that was once appropriated to tasks relating to vehicles, whether it was driving them, working at the DMV, basic maintenance, or insuring them, will be re-educating and focused elsewhere. Maintenance facilities will specifically have to evolve to also encompass troubleshooting software problems. We’re already starting to see this with current cars.
    • Just as driverless technology and security systems scale, so too will criminals. Car theft will shift to more intelligent criminal minds that have to figure out a way to pilot or gain control of cars.
    • Local governments, especially Los Angeles, will have to look for other “creative” ways to fill their budgets as moving violations and parking tickets will mostly become a concept of the past.

  2. The fundamental design of cars will change forever now that things like mirrors, pedals, and the steering wheel are optional. Seats can face each other, like in the Zoox concept car. It’s entirely possible that they will even become entire mobile live/work spaces.

  3. Time in the car will not be looked at with the same level of disdain as drivers will be liberated from concentrating on the road leaving more time to get work done or get some r&r. Say goodbye to traffic as we know it today. I’m lucky enough to not have a long commute to work anymore, but earlier in my career, I would drive all around Orange County and Los Angeles at all hours of the day for film work or consulting gigs. It was depressing how much time I lost sitting in traffic, even while listening to AM radio or podcasts.

  4. The total number of ads people view will most likely increase as a whole, now that the time spent driving will likely be allotted for work or play.

  5. Drive-in movies and classic style drive-in restaurants will have a revitalized return as we enjoy more leisure activities from the car.

  6. We will no longer have to look for a parking space. Cars will be able to park themselves if they’re not already running other errands for us.

  7. New benchmarks will be set for automotive safety and traffic accidents will plummet to an all time low.

  8. Car ownership will decrease and reduce the number of total cars on the road by 42% according to Forbes. Forbes also estimates that we use our cars as little as 5% a day (and most of that is probably in traffic or looking for parking). People will tend to use on-demand services like Lyft or Uber to come and pick them up, then drop them off. It’s possible that most individuals will opt to not buy a vehicle so they’re not responsible for cumbersome maintenance, while families might opt for just one car instead of two or three.

  9. Manual driving will require a new type of license and have to pass more stringent tests. People will choose to drive for recreation rather than necessity, very similar to how we run or bike for recreation now rather than as a major means for transportation.

  10. Those that own driverless cars may put them to work when they’re not driving their owners around. It’s possible that they could run mundane tasks like dropping off packages to be shipped places, picking up dry-cleaning, picking up groceries ordered in advance online…and yes, even filling itself up with whatever fuel source we’re using in the future. Just as we can opt for slower shipping on Amazon now for a few credits, it’s possible that we’ll have a similar option, but for having our vehicles pick up a package at one of their distribution facilities.

  11. Suburban sprawl will accelerate, and city centers will boom with an influx of new labor as automated long distance commutes become an option.

  12. Depending on the level of advancement long-distance transportation achieves by this time, it’s possible that many will opt for long road trips rather than pricey flights.

  13. The collective data contributed from decades of driving and development from driverless vehicles will propel the advancement of robotics and machine learning.

Please share your own predictions for the future of autonomous vehicles in the comments section!

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domain-startup-sumit-2016

In just over two weeks the first ever Domain Startup Summit will kick-off in the heart of Silicon Beach, Santa Monica. The conference combines two worlds that are so closely intertwined, domain names, the core of an online brand, and startups, the companies building the brands themselves.

 

So who came up with the idea for a conference that combines domain names and startups?

Jason Thompson and Dwayne Walker, two people who have strong experience in both spaces and know how to bring these two communities together. Jason is the founder of the Southern California Domainer Meetup and an active member of the LA startup community and Dwayne has been a top executive in the domain space and is an angel investor himself.

Domain_Startup_Summit_Logo

The agenda is packed with sessions ranging from Growth Hacking and Growth Engines for startups, to Startup Fundraising 101 to a Shark Tank style Pitchfest with live pitches from LA startups.

I am honored to be a part of the event and you can see me in the Angel Investor Fireside Chat and as a judge for the Pitchfest. Early bird pricing for the event ends in less than three days so if you’re thinking about coming to the event, now is the time to buy your ticket.

Hope to see you there!

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