Downtown Austin

The results are in for March and it’s official, renting a one-bedroom apartment in Downtown Austin is now more expensive than renting a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. The good news is these high rents don’t expand across all of Austin but there is no doubt that rising rents downtown will expand to the surrounding areas over time. The average one-bedroom apartment in downtown Austin is now $1,913 (source) vs. $1,814 (source) for Los Angeles.

Of course you don’t have to live in downtown Austin but I can tell you that one of my main draws for us moving here was being able to walk everywhere, once you move outside of downtown you’ll likely be driving everywhere you go which yields many similarities to LA. Also given that fact that Forbes rated Austin as #4 in the US for “Cities with the Worst Gridlock” and that means that living outside of downtown means you’ll spend a lot of time in traffic.

The good news here is both Austin and LA are still a lot cheaper than San Francisco or New York City where the cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $3,400 and $3,000 respectively. Still, the recent price increases make downtown Austin more expensive than Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and even San Jose which sits in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

I absolutely love it here and think moving our startup from LA to Austin is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Austin has an incredible vibrant and growing startup community and I absolutely love the fact that I can walk from our apartment to our office and to any meeting that we have around town. There was actually a time not too long ago where I had to wipe spiderwebs off my car in order to get into it so yes, like NYC you really don’t need a car here and many of my friends don’t have one.

The same cannot be said of Los Angeles where not having a car literally maroons you on your own island. It used to take us an hour to drive to a meeting, then an hour to drive back, which means that meeting someone for coffee meant taking off half the day. Now we have coffee meetings on our way to work which typically means walking 5-10 minutes to the coffee shop and then 5-10 minutes from the coffee shop to our office after the meeting. Couple this with living two blocks from the largest Whole Foods in the US and I can honestly say that are lives are much better here than they were in LA.

Still, there’s no ocean, no mountains, and you can’t drive anywhere to go skiing on the weekends which are definitely three things that we miss. There’s no doubt that Austin is growing and it’s also one of the most cost-effective cities to run a company for many reasons. Still, if you’re moving downtown don’t expect to save money unless you’re moving from SF or NYC.

Photo Credit: rutlo via Compfight cc

{ 1 comment }

Classpass Website

Techstars grad ClassPass wasn’t originally called ClassPass, they were called Classivity and they started as a marketplace for people to find guitar classes, ballet classes, etc. The only problem was, nobody wanted to use their marketplace, in an 18-month period they had only 100 signups. This is the point where many people would throw in the towel, shut their doors and move onto the next thing.

However some entrepreneurs take a different path and try to take what they’ve learned and use this to create something that people truly love. Often it’s something fairly different but it was the lessons they learned getting there that allowed them to make the move with confidence. That’s exactly what happened with Classivity.

After 18-months and only 100 users CEO Payal Kadakia realized that something she was doing was working, it was called “Passport” a bundle of classes sold to new users to encourage people to join the platform. What she realized is that rather than using Passport as a way to get new users, it could be a business onto itself.

Fast-forward to today and ClassPass has raised $54M and they’ve just acquired their biggest competitor, FitMob. It just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up, just try to look at things a bit differently, the key to success might be sitting there right in front of you.

Huge congrats to ClassPass and to FitMob, well-deserved on both fronts!

{ 0 comments }

Driving Domain Buyers to Your Auction, Part I: Research

NamePros-MorganLinton-Flippa

We’ve all sent domains to auction on various platforms and been disappointed with the result. Was it the domain? Was it the effort put in? Could anything else be done? Oh, the humanity!

The answer is a resounding “yes” to all of the above. In this three-part series I’m going to spell out how to effectively drive more traffic to your domain auctions with cold emails. The more exposure your domain gets, the greater chance someone will bid on your auctions, which leads to more potential buyers.

  1. Identifying Good Domains – Some domains are just plain unsellable to end-users or other domainers at auction — no matter what. If you’re new to buying domain names or have a ton of unsold names, you might benefit from reading the previous article I wrote on Flippa, reading Morgan Linton’s Domain Investing Handbook, or asking questions on NamePros.
  2. Decide on Brokering – If you have premium domain names and are looking to outsource the entire process, Flippa’s brokers will do the heavy lifting and only charge 15-20% of the sale price. If you rather try and grind these out yourself or don’t have a broker-worthy domain, read-on.
  3. Track Your Data – There’s an old saying that neatness is next to godliness (which makes Excel a titan). Recording all of your outreach data is essential for streamlining and perfecting this process. Protip: include duplicate conditional formatting that will alert you of duplicate contact info. Here is what’s germane for future use:
    • Repeat Sales – If the prospect purchased or showed interest in more than one of your domains.
    • Email Addresses - Any and all email addresses relating to the prospect. Include the initial addresses found via their WHOIS, their website, and anything they responded with.
    • Phone – Same process outlined for email addresses.
    • Name – Your contact’s full personal name and company name.
    • Time Contacted – Date and time you contacted this prospect.
    • Auction – Name of the domain and auction (if it goes to auction more than once) you’re promoting to them.
    • Prospect’s Domain – You don’t want to confuse their website with yours.
    • Origin – How you found the prospect. Analyze this data to focus your efforts through your best performing sources.
    • Responded - Compare this against their contact time, your chosen email structure, and its origin to analyze and refine your outreach strategy.
    • Interest – Also compare against everything mentioned in the responded section. Examine the origins of interested prospects and the email used to contact them.
  4. Search Engine Prospects – If you’ve always wanted a mythical universal web company that generates leads for you, you’re in luck. There’s a plethora of options with the advent of search engines, social media and various alternate TLDs. A simple search using these platforms will yield prospects for you to contact. I briefly touched on this topic in my previous article on Flippa and Morgan goes into fantastic detail in his Domain Investing Handbook. First, remove the TLD from your domain. If your domain is more than two words, separate them with a space (if it’s more than three words, you may want to re-read #1). Enter these words in quotes into the search engine and they will yield two types of data:
    • Results – Only use results that are individuals or businesses using the exact words in your domain to list their service, product or brand. Don’t use results that only include one of your words, are completely unrelated to the category of domain, or appear difficult to contact (foreign language, blatant typos, government agencies, law firms, etc.). Visit their site and search for their contact info. If you can’t locate it, it’s possible that they don’t want to be contacted (or they need a better web designer). An alternative is looking up their WHOIS info using Domain Tools and messaging the contact on record.
    • Advertisers – This is your bread and butter. Record all of them as these companies are paying to be featured in the search you just typed. You can even mention this when you’re contacting them as a bonus. Use the same method I described above to contact these advertisers. Hint: If their ad also doesn’t promote both of your keywords, they’re most likely not interested.
    • Decision-Makers – Aim for the key decision maker in an organization and be mindful of gatekeepers. Try to move up the food chain via introduction if you don’t believe someone has the appropriate authority to bid on domains.
  5. Social Media Prospects - Review all of the important social media sites to see if anyone has a similar screen name to your domain: Twitter, Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Tumblr, and more. It’s best to contact these prospects through their respective mediums via private message.
  6. Similar Domains and TLDs Prospects – Search for domains that are very similar to yours that contain more words, dashes, are singular instead of plural or vice-versa. Remember to also check for those who own the alternate TLD of your domain and its similar counterparts.
  7. Lead Lists – Disregard any ideas that involve purchasing or using lists of emails that you have not created unless you’re using a broker and it’s their personal network.

I’m sure I haven’t covered all lead research and tracking tactics so I would love to see comments with any of your own findings! Remember to keep an eye out for new ways of finding leads by reading popular blogs and even this NamePros thread or Morgan’s previous posts on selling to end users.

Stay tuned for Part II of this article where I will address the strategy behind composing your email.

{ 7 comments }

Oscar Health Insurance

We are living in a new world, a world where owning an exact-match .COM, while still incredibly relevant and valuable, is no longer a “must-have” for successful companies. From wildly successful startups like Vine (Vine.co) and About.me, to new ventures like Intercom.io (raised $30.8M so far) and Coffee.club, it is clear that innovation no has to end with a .COM.

Yesterday health insurance startup Oscar announced a monster round of funding, $145M at a valuation of $1.5B. When I first heard the news, out of habit (and a habit that many people still have) I went to Oscar.com, where I found the official website for the Oscars. Next I checked the .CO, the .ME, and the .IO…nothing. So I went to Google and searched for Oscar health insurance, and that’s where I found the home of the latest billion dollar startup at HiOscar.com.

Even with $145M in funding I don’t think The Oscars is going to give up Oscar.com, which means that Oscar is most-likely going to move from HiOscar.com to Oscar.CO, Oscar.ME, .Oscar.IO or even brand around an entirely new gTLD like Oscar.CLUB, Oscar.HEALTH or Oscar.XYZ.

They could have named the company just about anything and it wouldn’t have impacted the valuation or amount of funding raised because at the end of the day this has everything to do with the people behind the company not the name they pick. What I find interesting is that from a branding standpoint they most-likely knew they’d never get the exact-match .COM but picked Oscar anyways. Why? Because we’re living in a world where there are so many more choices than .COM and I think we’ll soon see Oscar debut on a new TLD, the question is, which one?

What do you think? Is Oscar going to stick with HiOscar.com or will they move to Oscar.something? Comment and let your voice be heard!

{ 3 comments }

Austin is growingWe have been in Austin for almost a year now. Initially we expected to be in Austin for three months, now we call it home (read more on Medium). While I can honestly say that Austin as a city has truly impressed me in more ways than I could have imagined, it is the startup ecosystem that made us pack-up our lives in LA and move ourselves, and our company, Fashion Metric out here.

Last week Forbes broke some very big news, Austin is now the #1 city in the country when it comes to creating tech jobs. Couple this with the fact that over 140 people a day are moving to Austin and it would be hard to miss the fact that there is something pretty special happening in Austin right now. We are proud to be a part of the community and also very proud to be one of the companies creating those jobs as well.

However, while communities are made up of many different people, each contributing in their own way, there are organizations that work incredibly hard to bring the community together. While there are easily 50+ organizations shaping Austin’s startup ecosystem there are five that I personally have seen make a huge impact since we’ve been in town.

Capital FactoryCapital Factory – led by one of Austin’s most well-known entrepreneurs Joshua Baer, Capital Factory is both a co-working space, incubator, and the hub for many of Austin’s startup events and MeetUp groups. I think it’s safe to say that Capital Factory has really led the charge in developing the ecosystem here in Austin and they have done a great job growing and adapting over time. One of the things that has really impressed me about Capital Factory is the dedication of the people behind it and the commitment to grow the community. You can honestly go to a free event at Capital Factory several times a day and they recently expanded their operations onto the fifth floor of the Omni offering even more options for startups looking for office space in downtown Austin.

Techstars AustinTechstars – while Austin is one of the newest Techstars programs it has already made a major impact on the startup community. One of the places where Techstars really shines is bringing in people from all over the world into Austin. While Capital Factory’s incubator focuses on startups that are in Austin (about 80% of CF’s incubated startups come from Austin), Techstars focuses on startups outside of Austin and brings them into the city for the program (about 80% of TS’s incubated startups come from outside of Austin). After going through Techstars we moved from Los Angeles, our friends from Pivot Freight moved from Phoenix, and our friends from LawnStarter moved from Virginia. None of us had Austin on the radar until Techstars showed us what Austin had to offer.

Built In AustinBuilt In Austin – if you want to know what is going on in the startup community in Austin, Built In Austin is one of the best places to go. I see Built In Austin as the online hub of the Austin startup world. Along with highlighting all the amazing things that are going on within the startup space, Built In Austin also has a great job board to help startups in Austin highlight their open positions and connect with talented people in the community. Going to the Built In Austin site has become a part of my daily routine and they have done a great job of keeping fresh relevant content and a detailed calendar of events, all of this with no membership fees and no fees for job listings.

General AssemblyGeneral Assembly Austin – we know General Assembly from Los Angeles where they are one of the central resources in the startup community. In January of this year General Assembly came to Austin and they’re already making an impact with an awesome calendar of events for startups and people in the community wanting to hone their skills in a variety of different areas. When I think of high-quality educational events for startups I think General Assembly and I am really excited that they have added Austin as their latest city to expand to.

WeWork LogoWeWork – popular co-working space WeWork recently came to Austin and it is quickly becoming another startup hub in downtown Austin. Currently located on Congress Ave (the Main St. of Austin) two blocks from Techstars and two blocks from Capital Factory it offers even more reasons for startup founders to call downtown Austin home. Like Capital Factory, WeWork has flexible pricing plans and offers solutions for single founders all the way up to 10+ person teams. WeWork also is starting to host more and more MeetUp groups and startup events and is the current home for General Assembly Austin.

Photo Credit: rutlo via Compfight cc

{ 3 comments }

Weekend Musings

Barons CreeksideHello, happy Sunday, and welcome to my weekend musings. I’ve decided to start these posts with a photo that I’ve taken since as many of you know, while not professionally trained (or very good IMO) I do take a lot of photos. The photo above was taken last weekend at Baron’s Creekside in Fredericksburg, our favorite escape just outside of Austin.

This has been an incredibly busy week with my time split between interviewing candidates for some of the open positions we have at Fashion Metric and working with some of our new customers. I also wrote what has become one of the most-read blogs posts that I have ever written about the difference between a VP of Engineering and a CTO, if you’d like to know the difference feel free to give it a read. Below is the current stats on Twitter, I’m still honestly blown-away by how much this took off on social media:

MorganLinton Twitter

Given how intense work is now we spent most of the day Saturday working but I was able to hop out for a quick kayak and swim in the afternoon. I also got to watch the Mav’s game which was a fun one even though sadly they did not end up victorious. It’s okay, only game one so there’s still a lot of great games to come.

While we tend to work six days a week we do try to take Sundays off and lately have been exploring some of the great hiking spots in and around Austin. Today we went hiking with a good friend of ours (from another awesome Austin startup called Pivot Freight) on a trail called the Turkey Creek Trail. Here’s a few photos from this morning’s adventures:

Turkey Creek Trail

Turkey Creek

daina-morgan-dan-hiking

As you can tell, we all have some very stylish hiking hats! After the hike I went to an awesome yoga class and now am getting ready to head to a friends house for a BBQ. Not a bad way to end the weekend and ring in another intense and exciting week ahead.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend, as always feel free to share your weekend musings or comment on any of mine. Happy Sunday and thanks for reading!

{ 1 comment }

CTO vs VP EngRewind two years ago and I thought that a CTO and a VP Engineering were two ways to describe the same position within a company. Fast forward to today and I have learned that these are actually two very different people with different skill sets, personality types, and roles within a company. I think Mark Suster, startup founder turned Venture Capitalist (Upfront Ventures) does a great job of describing each of these roles:

“first and foremost a VP of Engineering is a people manager” (Mark Suster, Want to know the difference between a CTO and a VP of Engineering?)

That’s right, a VP of Engineering is, at her core, a people manager, someone who doesn’t just have solid engineering chops but also knows how manage and motivate people. A good VP of Engineering should inspire your team to write great code and not dread coming to work. A CTO on the other hand:

I believe that every great technology startup has the technology visionary inside the company.  This is the person who lays the foundation of what should be built.  They’re up to date on the latest platform decisions whether it’s understanding Spring, Hibernate and Lucene.  Or whether it’s a big data set problem and they’re familiar with Cassandra or Hadoop.  Or whether it’s a choice between using MySQL vs. Postgres. (Mark Suster, Want to know the difference between a CTO and a VP of Engineering?)

While both the CTO and VP of Engineering are both engineers and together will help set the “engineering culture” within your organization, the CTO is the technology visionary, the person who doesn’t mind getting into the weeds and going deep on the technology side. While the VP of Engineering is keeping the team unified and moving forward, the CTO is making sure that the code that is being written is in the right language, using the right libraries, databases, and always looking ahead and trying to live in a fully formed future.

Fred Wilson, a Venture Capitalist from Union Square Ventures has this to say about the two roles:

A VP Engineering is ideally a great manager and a great team builder. He or she will be an excellent recruiter, a great communicator, and a great issue resolver. The VP Eng’s job is to make everyone in the engineering organization successful and he or she needs to fix the issues that are getting in the way of success.

A CTO is ideally the strongest technologist in the organization. He or she will be an architect, a thinker, a researcher, a tester and a tinkerer. The CTO is often the technical co-founder if there is one (and you know I think there must be one). (Fred Wilson,VP Engineering vs CTO)

So while it could be easy to say, “I just need to hire a CTO or VP Eng” – it’s important to understand that you’ll rarely find someone who will excel at both roles as they really are two very different things, the question is what do you need the most at this stage in your company?

{ 1 comment }

dot-club

As I’ve said before, .CLUB is one of my favorite new domain extensions for a number of reasons. With close to 2,000 new domain extensions coming out I haven’t held back on sharing my opinion that the vast majority of these will fail. Let’s be honest, some words lend themselves to extensions, others do not. .CLUB is one of those extensions that just makes sense and now it’s not just me saying it, the numbers tell the full story.

In the first year .CLUB has hit over 200,000 registration and now sits as the #1 new domain name extension on Go Daddy with hundreds of new .CLUB domains selling every day.

“We knew from the beginning that .CLUB would be a hit, as it has meaning and recognition all over the world, no matter the language, alphabet or culture. It’s exciting and amazing to be part of this transformation on the Internet, as more businesses and consumers realize they are still able to get a great domain name that translates into better marketing, better branding and more meaning to the right of the dot.  We believe our domain has helped launch more new online businesses in just our first year than any other gTLD, and we believe it will continue this momentum for years to come.” (Colin Campbell, CEO .CLUB)

Startups and celebrities have been flocking to .CLUB with people like serial entrepreneur Justin Kan (founder of Justin.tv and Twitch.tv) launching his new music service on TheDrop.club and popular rapper 50 Cent moving his website to 50InDa.club.

TheDrop.clubOf course it takes more than a great name to launch a great domain name extension. It takes great people to build great companies and I can tell you that Colin and Jeff are two of the sharpest founders I have ever met. I knew .CLUB would kick ass in it’s first year but with over 200,000 registrations and the title as the #1 new domain extension on Go Daddy I have to say I am impressed, so impressed I couldn’t go another day without writing this post!

Hats off to the whole .CLUB team, well done!

{ 2 comments }

Five reflections on turning 34

reflectionsYesterday was my 34rd Birthday and as many of you know I am a very reflective person, especially around Birthdays. Rather than writing an incredibly long post that nobody will get through I thought I would focus on five key reflections I’ve had looking back on the last 34 years. Hopefully one or two of these will be relevant to you.

  1. How you spend your time is everything – my biggest takeaway after 34-years on this planet is that how you spend your time, and who you spend it with really is the most important thing. I learned this, like most things, by making a lot of mistakes. I used to be a guy who would work a “day job” and then have a million different “side-projects” – what I learned is that I was not putting the time into any one thing to do it truly well. Now I have zero side-projects and one singular career focus. I also used to spend all day away from Daina, now we spend all day together. It’s taken a long time but I now finally feel like rather than doing a million different things I am incredibly focused on the things that really matter to me.
  2. Learn to say no – this ties direction into the previous lesson, and it’s something I’ve had to get a lot better at especially over the last 2-3 years. I used to say “yes” to just about everything. Meeting for coffee, speaking at events, conferences, meetup groups, I said yes to it all. Learning to say “no” and saying it in a kind and respectful way has allowed me to be more focused and do the things that really matter to me.
  3. Keep an open mind – this is a lesson that I think I learned from my parents starting at an early age and I’ve stuck to it throughout life. It can be easy to make assumptions, believe things are a certain way. Now that I live in Austin a lot of people say things to me like, “so do you eat a lot of BBQ?” or “did you buy a gun yet?” I realize these people have already closed their minds, they have assumptions and never took the time to open their mind and think that maybe things could be different. Things are not always as they seem and if you assume that Los Angeles is just a city full of traffic, Vancouver and Seattle are just rainy all the time, and Austin is full of gun-toting cowboys then you’ll miss-out on some of the most beautiful and incredible places on the planet. Keep an open mind, those “assumptions” that you have are nothing more than assumptions.
  4. Travel – I have been incredibly lucky to have spent the majority of my 20’s traveling all over the world. I wrote an article on Medium about what I learned in my travels. If you’ve spent your whole life in the country you were born in, it’s time to go out and explore the world, this absolutely changed the way that I think and the person that I am today and I am so thankful to have traveled, traveled, and traveled some more!
  5. Pay attention to how people make you feel – there are some people that you will spend time with who make you feel great, inspire you, and make you want to be around them. At the same time, there are other people that will make you feel bad about yourself (not intentionally in most cases) and make you feel like you need to change. Pay careful attention to how people make you feel. You might meet someone that you “think” you should become friends with or you “hope” will like you. Your gut is a lot more powerful than you’d think and if you spend time with someone and don’t feel very good afterwards, there’s something to that. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good, life is too short for anything else.

{ 10 comments }

Christopher Heine of AdWeek covered domain names and start ups in an article posted this evening. The focus was on start ups to keep their naming simple. It is a good article and worth your time to read it. The article does cover companies that went with the more “out there” name and still got funding. Some founders mentioned getting both positive and negative reviews.

From the article:

Ever hear of Doostang? Probably not. The careers site, born during the Web 2.0 era, ended up as a poster child for oddly named digital companies. Its Wiki page reveals that the name was loosely based on the Latin phrase “dos tango,” translated as “I reach for talent.” Even with its weird name, it managed to attract $5.8 million in funding up until 2011 when Talent Inc. acquired it. But by late last year, its social media presence disappeared, and more recently our attempts to find someone to talk to there failed.

Ironically, the company’s bizarre name may have turned out to be its most lasting influence. It is regularly mentioned in lists of the worst names ever for tech startups—not quite the influence it was seeking. But Doostang is hardly alone in committing the sin of dubious digital nomenclature. Take now-defunct examples like Qoop, Fairtilizer, Ipipi.com, Heekya and Thoof.

Today, tech entrepreneurs seem to better understand the power of branding, choosing names like Dropbox, Banjo, Rent the Runway, Secret, Mailbox—you know, actual words. “We wanted a word that meant only one other thing, like Apple and Amazon,” says Damien Patton, CEO of Banjo, a social analytics provider. “It is a real word, it’s easy to pronounce, it’s recognizable, and it’s short.”

Advisors are schooling up-and-comers like Patton on the marketing benefits of a simple, easy-to-remember brand name.

Read the full story on Ad Week

{ 1 comment }