We welcome Smartsy to BootstrapLabs!

77261-df6fc67ab325405cfc98927cc50c4cce-thumb_jpgWe welcome Smartsy to the BootstrapLabs Silicon Valley Accelerator Program!

Smartsy leverages the 3Bn+ camera installed on smartphones to deliver a simple “snap and _learn, _save, _buy, _comment” user experience through it’s mobile app to magazine readers while driving near zero cost app downloads by partnering with publishers and brands to advertise it to millions of readers.

With 12Bn product pages printed in the US each year (excl. 230Bn advertising pages), Smartsy is already working with some of the world biggest fashion magazines, brands and retailers, including Biba, Grazzia, Zoomdle, Red Bull, LVMH and others, to unlock an overlooked multi-billion dollars market opportunity.

More details here and also check-out Smartsy’s AngelList profile!


Founders: The only thing that really matters…

urlI have been telling the entrepreneurs that I meet daily through my work at BootstrapLabs and various panels and keynotes that I do, that I am looking for two things at the core of every founder that I work with:

  • Passion
  • Meaning

The first one might be easier to grasp; simply follow your passion, if you do not have passion for what you are trying to build you will not succeed, it is simply to hard (no matter where in the world you are) to build a company, that with-out the drive that comes out of passion you will simply not succeed.

Meaning on the other hand is very subjective and maybe harder to grasp, so I wanted to elaborate on this for a bit, as my approach to this grew out of many years of entrepreneurship and helping other entrepreneurs.

I think the first time somebody spelled this out was Guy Kawasaki at Garage Ventures, in his book “The Art of Start” (he talks about it in this video from 2006 @ TieCon).

Over the years and tapping into my own history of startup successes and failures, I have distilled “Making Meaning” to a compass and navigator, that helps me (and founders I work with) to keep focus on the things that will have an impact. Building a startup is about being disruptive and going against convention and breaking what everybody expects to be the truth, what is already there, and breaking all the rules (of engagement).

  • So how do you keep your priorities straight and focused?
  • How do you balance “follow the rules of engagement” with the million things you could do everyday in your startup, and pick the ones that are relevant?

You try to weigh everything you do to assess if it makes meaning, and I have divided this into 2 main things:

  • Make things that have meaning for yourself.
  • Make things that have meaning to our world (in other words have great impact, big strokes).

Making meaning for yourself, get’s you up in the morning, it creates motivation to spend all this time on building your company (sometimes taking time from your most loved ones). Making meaning to our world; is anybody else appreciating what you do? Will it make the world better? Make things more efficient? More accessible? Improving quality of life? Are you touching enough people? I can go on, but I think you get the picture. At the end if you have enough impact you are creating a lot of value.

If you follow these thoughts you will see that this resonates well with investors (here in Silicon Valley), being angels or VCs – investors invest in founders that won’t give up and truly believe in what they do and that do things that will have enough impact in our world to be really valuable.

Love to hear your thoughts on this?

"How to Grow a VC Ecosystem" – Reaction to Forbes Article

Recently, Victor Hwang, wrote a guess post on Forbes about How to Growth a Venture Capital Ecosystem. The article is a good first essay on the topic and I am awaiting his updated post featuring “Rules 2 through 5”. The post highlighted a few issues and trends that are at the heart of BootstrapLabs’ differentiated model when it comes to discovering innovation and early stage venture model.

At BootstrapLabs, we spent a lot of time figuring out some of the issues being raised here and like good entrepreneurs do – and we hope like he pioneers mentioned in the article did back then – we designed a new way to source (potentially disruptive) innovation born outside of Silicon Valley but quickly nurture them in both, Silicon Valley and their country (or state) of origin, building from the strength of those ecosystems, and leveraging what each has best to offer.

We did this with @Prezi and it seems to have worked out for them as well as the ecosystem they came from (Budapest), creating 100+ jobs “back home” and bringing Silicon Valley best practices on how to running and growing a tech startups. Prezi has not yet generated significant liquidity for its founders and shareholders but it is already inspiring Angels and VCs back home to catch the next Prezi..too often people (and governments) think that you can jumpstart an ecosystem by reducing the risk to start a company by providing grants, then have angels come out of the woodwork after giving the wealthy some tax incentives, and double on the amount of companies getting funded by doubling or tripling the amount of money injected in VC funds…well all of this works for a while, new companies are created, new angels invest in startups and VC fund more companies, which in turn hire more employees…but in the end (say 5-7years), all this investment risk to fall flat if exits are not there to reward investors, angels and entrepreneurs…and you can’t force exits.

Where you are born as an individual no longer defines where you live. Why should it be any different for startups or innovation!

They are indeed arbitrage opportunities but the kinds that create real value and augment the pie.

I believe that over time, every ecosystem can be criticized for its herd mentality or put another way “you are a product of your environment” or “you can’t think of it unless you feel the pain”. Silicon Valley might not be exempt as some article have suggested in recent past…but the velocity , mentality and depth of the ecosystem will likely keep it ahead of any others for decades to come. If you can’t beat it, join it, right?

This is where a global and connected view of the world’s hot bed for startups & innovation, combined with local intelligence on the ground can reveal an extremely powerful deal flow and exit engine.

I was recently invited to inaugurate the new Global Startup Support Center, Born2Gobal, in Seoul and gave a speech on Globalization. Enjoy 🙂

Looking forward to your comments and feedback.

2nd Annual RocketSpace Open Innovation Summit

We have 10 Guest passes @ 75% ticket discount.  An awesome deal for under $150!

2nd Annual RocketSpace Open Innovation Summit 

You are invited to join an exclusive gathering of futurists, thought leaders, and change makers in corporate innovation for a two day interactive summit.

This event is designed for innovation practioners, investment managers, and platform evangelists tasked with charting the future of their industry and driving technology diffusion through their innovation programs. 


Featured Participants

Day 1: Charting the Future

1:00 – 1:30 pm Coffee & Registration

1:30 – 2:00 pm Day-1 Welcome Address

 Duncan Logan
 founder/ CEO

2:00 – 3:00 pm Charting the Future: accessing cross-industry emerging technology opportunities 

 Winston Wang
 Global Director of Strategic Innovations
Anheuser Busch

 Bernhard Gold 
Investment Director
 T-Venture of America 

 Glenn Morgan
Head of Service Transformation
British Airways

 Mike Chen
Program Dir, Corporate Innovation 

3:00 – 4:00 pm Keynote by Peter Diamandis, founder of X-Prize & Singularity University

Peter Diamandis is the founder and chair of the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is simply “to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” By offering a big cash prize for a specific accomplishment, the X Prize stimulates competition and excitement around some of the planet’s most important goals. Diamandis is also co-founder and chairman of Singularity University which runs Exponential Technologies Executive and Graduate Student Programs.
Diamandis’ background is in space exploration — before the X Prize, he ran a company that studied low-cost launching technologies and Zero-G which offers the public the chance to train like an astronaut and experience weightlessness. But though the X Prize’s first $10 million went to a space-themed challenge, Diamandis’ goal now is to extend the prize into health care, social policy, education and many other fields that could use a dose of competitive innovation.

4:00 – 7:00 pm Networking Reception mixer with pre-invited Startup Founders


Day 2: Innovation Management

1:00 – 1:30 pm Day-2 Welcome Address

 Eryc Branham

1:30 – 3:30 pm Innovation workshop by Bill O’Connor (Autodesk), founder of Innovation Genome

Bill O’Connor works on the Corporate Strategy + Engagement team at Autodesk, where he co-manages the company’s thought leadership platform, edits the Autodesk POV journal, works on the Autodesk vision team, and serves as the primary speechwriter for Autodesk’s CEO and CTO. His role at the company is to take the big ideas that are important to Autodesk and make them more valuable inside and outside the company. This involves tracking and analyzing trends in design, technology, business, and society, and applying those trends to Autodesk and its customers. Bill also runs The Innovation Genome Project, where he and his team are in the process of researching the top 1,000 innovations in world history, looking for practical patterns and insights that people can apply to their day-to-day work. Bill has written and presented widely on all things Internet, including a piece called “Create or Be Created: The Internet Renaissance” on the peer-reviewed journal First Monday.Org, as well as appearances on CNN and at Yale University. He currently serves on the advisory boards of two Bay Area technology startups.

3:30 – 4:15 pm Disruption from Within: Keys to Successful Innovation Programs

 Diana Stepner 
 Head of Future Technologies

 Brendon Kim 
Managing Director 
Open Innovation Fund
 Regan Long 
Business Innovation Manager 


 Claire Lee
Microsoft Ventures 

  Mike Chen
  Program Dir, Corporate Innovation     


4:15 – 5:15 pm Startup Showcase



                      Inentive Challenge Foundation




6:00 – 9:00 pm Innovation executive dinner @ Credo Restaurant

* conference attendees are encouraged to attend TechCrunch Disrupt or enjoy complimentary workstation access at RocketSpace Open Innovation Campus in the mornings.


Ben Levy to Moderate Top Accelerator Players @ BeGlobal – September 13, 2013

Went it comes to globalization, startups trends and ecosystem development,  BootstrapLabs has a unique vantage point and its no wonder that Ben Levy, one of our Partners, has been asked to moderate a panel on Thinking Global with some of the most influential Accelerators in Silicon Valley including Christine Tsai @500Startups, Kevin Hale @Ycombinator and Adam Draper @BoostVC.

beGLOBAL is powered by beSUCCESS, Korea most successful tech blogging platform and founding father of beLAUNCH, the first Korean Tech conference for Startups with global ambitions (see video here).

Our firm is extremely bullish about the Korean’s startup ecosystem over the next decade and has been spending a fair amount of time there over the past few months, meeting ecosystem players, connecting with investors, mentoring entrepreneurs and understanding the strength and weaknesses of the ecosystem. Koreans invented Facebook before Facebook and made it profitable but a lack of global thinking allowed Facebook to take the world over, including its home market. Koreans are learning their lessons, fast and President Park is committed to start a “Creative Economy” renaissance in her country, of which tech startups play a major role.

If you want to now what else can come out of Korea, beside PSY “Gangnam Style” K-POP song, and take the world by storm, come attend this conference on Friday September 13, 2013 at the Four Seasons.

The line up of speaker is impressive, and will include (full line-up here):

  • 3 Generations of the Draper Family: Bill Draper, Tim Draper, & Adam Draper
  • Global Accelerators: Kevin Hale (Y Combinator) & Christine Tsai (500 Startups)
  • VCs: David Lee (SV Angel), Jeff CLavier (SoftTech VC), Aydin Senkut (Felicis VC), Jay Eum (Translink Capital), and many more…
  • Entrepreneurs: Ben Huh & Emily Huh (Cheezburger), Suk Park (DramaFever), Jorn Lyseggen (MeltWater), and more…
  • Corporate: Marc Shedroff (Samsung Innovation Center), Jeanie Han (NHN/Line), and more

Come to learn about latest globalization trends, discover some cool startups from Korea, meet movers and shakers in the space…. Or just come for a nice lunch and OPEN BAR at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto on a Friday to unwind from DisruptSF craziness 🙂

BootstrapLabs friends can register here and claim $50 off by using the discount code: bootstrap-bg

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Only days left to comment on the new Sec regulations for Startup fundraising

Help the SEC understand why new fundraising rules will hurt startups

New rules are about to come into effect for raising funds for startups, that might have a huge impact on your startup’s and your portfolio companies ability to raise funding.


Starting Sep 23, startups will be able to publicly raise money from accredited investors


The SEC is proposing difficult filing requirements, which many startups will fumble, resulting in a one year ban from fundraising

  • Startups must notify the SEC 15 days before they publicly discuss raising money
  • Startups must file documents with the SEC every time they update their offering materials
  • Startups must include legal boilerplate every time they talk about their financing publicly

Our friends at AngelList have summarized this and their thoughts here, also make sure you;

Please act now and share your comments with the SEC here!

Welcoming back Ben Levy @ BootstrapLabs, Post Asian#214 Crash Landing at SFO

ben_sumi_reunitedAs some of you might know, Ben Levy, a Partner at BootstrapLabs was on flight Asiana #214 that crashed landed at San Francisco Airport on July 6th, 2013 around 11:27am. NBC Bay Area channel anchor Raj Mathai broke the news and Ben was the first survivor on air from his hospital bed that day.

We now understand that Ben, that was seated in an emergency exit row, played a key role in helping survivors getting out of the plane as quickly as possible and went on to assist other passengers stuck in the back of the plane where he was seated.

For those of you who are lucky enough to know Ben personally, you will not be surprised by his actions. He is just that kind of guy… Positive, can do attitude and always ready to help others. Beloved father of 2 young boys and husband to a wonderful wife, Sumi, we are extremely thankful to have Ben back among us and look forward to continuing building our dream together.

Like a lot of the passengers on the Asiana plane that day, we feel extremely lucky to have Ben on our side, EVERY DAY of the week.

Please join us in officially welcoming Ben (@BenLevy74) back at BootstrapLabs!


NextGen Asian Accelerators with Benjamin Levy at beLaunch 2013

Panel with Benjamin Levy on the next generation of Asian Accelerators at beLAUNCH. Which is Korea’s biggest startup and technology conference reaching the global technology communities. beLAUNCH is the flagship event of South Korean startup and technology platform.

Amongst Hedgehogs and Foxes

Inspired by Andrew Chen’s blog post yesterday and as Isaiah Berlin wrote in The Hedgehog and the Fox, in a world where a fox means that you know many little things, and a Hedgehog knows one big thing.

Being a Startup Entrepreneur you need to be a Hedgehog with a Fox’s tail, as you need to know the one thing you are trying to do really well (or rather get to know really well as you build-measure-learn), and you also must know many small things.

I think the twist to this is that if you are part of the support eco-system of Investors and Startup advisors that help the startup founders do what they do best, the best thing you can be is the Hedgehog that turned into a Fox. You need to know many small things, some rationally as well as emotionally (from the experience of having been immersed in them).

The game of investing in startups is a game of extreme uncertainty, and driven by serendipity, chance and luck. One of my favorite quotes are from the Swedish skier Gunde Svan, that told a reporter (on the topic of luck): “Yes, I do have a lot of luck, but oddly enough the harder I work and keep practicing the more luck I have”. And of course hard work really does matter.

I don’t believe any startup investors are able to predict the future, but as startup investor, what you are really looking for is pattern recognition, that can guide and help you to increase likelihood of success (and thus reduce risk) as you make your investment decisions and work to nurture your portfolio companies.

A great startup investor is also running their Build-Measure-Learn iterations to figure out what will work and what will not work, or rather what patterns will increase likelihood of success. These patterns evolve over time just as for a startup, so this is a constant process, and the trick is to gather and look at the right data points. The definitions of what will work and what will not work is neither an absolute it always relates to the investor (or VC firm itself), as each investor is in a unique position (or disposition) to help an investment become successful.

So how do we at BootstrapLabs approach this?

  • We are humble for what we don’t know, might never know or what we need to learn.
  • We have established a large number of “soft” patterns, that relate to people, founders, team etc.
  • We are building software tools to capture and track Startup Metrics in our portfolio in real-time (Scale Metrics).
  • We are building software tools that allows us to follow the landscape of investors, advisors, startups and competitors in real-time (BootstrapRadar).
  • We try to help our Entrepreneurs in any way we can to Execute better and faster.
  • We build-measure-learn.
  • We are Hedgehogs transformed into Foxes!


Accelerators: Death or Rebirth Opportunity of True Mentorship?


The first thing that comes to mind when referring to a Mentor is someone that has the experience and wisdom of having tried – and sometimes failed – before you and can help you, not in giving you the solution but in helping you figure it out.

Today, every worthy accelerator is boasting a very long list of mentors on their website ranging from famous local or international figures, successful startup founders, venture capitalists, senior executives at large corporations, consulting firms, lawyers, teachers, etc.

I can only applaude all of them for taking the time out of their busy lives to share their wisdom with startup founders and the community at large using a “paying it forward” mentality. Yet, I can not help but wonder what kind of “Mentorship” one can really deliver when hardly spending any time with the startups in question.

I too have taken part in many of these mentoring sessions and tried my best to give valuable or insightful advice but again, what effect did those have on the startups or founders that received them, did they happen to help or confuse them…not sure…one thing is certain though, it was likely too brief to be really valuable and have a long lasting positive impact.

It goes without saying that the quality of mentors varies greatly and some, while well known, might not have the “DNA” to provide you with the advice that is right for you or your company at that specific moment. Maybe it is because I studied finance and was a FINRA certified Investment Banker at some point in my life but it is a well known fact that any financial advisor is forbidden from providing specific investment advices, unless he has gotten to “know his customer” first. This means doing its due diligence, gaining as much information as possible about the person, its current assets, family situation, health, risk tolerance profile, upcoming life milestones, etc.

The equity founders own is likely their most valuable assets (or they sure hope it will become) and should therefore be managed with great care.  I am of course not advocating that all startup mentors get some sort of accreditation from a third party authority of some sort. But I am advocating that true mentors should spend time with their startups and founders and get to know them intimately. Only then would they be in the best position to, over time (and that means more than an hour or two over a 3 months period), provide valuable insight and advice that are tailored to the needs of that specific startup and/or founder.

In the days of Telemachus and until recently, it was the norm that a mentor would be assigned to an apprentice for the better part of his youth and even sometime long after, forming a strong lasting bound. between the two parties. As a Partner @bootstrapLabs I certainly appreciate, and take full advantage of the fact, that things are moving a lot faster these days. Be it in life in general or the pace at which one can launch a startup, build an MVP,  test distribution channels and acquire customers but I refuse to believe that true mentorship, which often creates life long benefits for the apprentice and mentor, can be imparted in a single “shot” or even over the course of a traditional accelerator program.

According to Wikipedia: “Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge.”

On the positive side, the creation of accelerator programs around the world has provided a standard framework to empower thousands of people to become startup mentors and share knowledge, experience, idea. This in itself could very well carry the seed of a true Mentorship renaissance. But as I pointed in the title of this blog post, founders should be able to read between the lines and take mentors access of accelerator programs for what it is, access; an opportunity to start building a mentor/apprentice relationship with someone they would not have met otherwise.

The best (and sometime serial) mentors are always overwhelmed with request from apprentices and getting their attention will always be a challenge. Yet I cannot help thinking that this is just a good natural filter and only the most percistent, perseverant founders will success in securing a true mentorship!

If you are one of those founders that went through an accelerator program or a serial mentor (you know who you are), I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic so feel free to drop a line or two in the comment section below. Thank you!


Happy Holidays!

From all of us at BootstrapLabs to all of you, Prezified Happy Holidays!

(Note Prezi below will not play on Mobile Web Browsers, click here for more options)

Join BootstrapLabs founder and meet the best in Northern Europe on 16th to 18th of October 2012

Join BootstrapLabs founder and CEO, Nicolai Wadstrom as he keynotes Arctic 15 on the 16th of October this year!

Arctic 15 is the annual conference for Nordic and Baltic growth entrepreneurs. Two days full of action, including an invite only day for  founders, investors, C-level executives and our partners. Besides our own Founder of BootstrapLabs, great startups and networking, you will hear an amazing line-up of speakers: Founder of Evernote – Phil Libin, Founder of Zendesk – Mikkel Svane, Founder of Klarna – Niklas Adelberth and the Founder of Erply – Kristjan Hiiemaa.

Read more at the Arctive 15 website

Audiodraft launches marketplace

Audiodraft that just joined the BootstrapLabs portfolio is today launching it’s marketplace. The marketplace allows purchasers of custom audio to find a large pool of custom and unique audio content instantly.

The Marketplace also allows audio designers on the Audiodraft platform to monetize their audio portfolios.

Read more about the Marketplace here!

Audiodraft joins BootstrapLabs

We are exicted to announce that Audiodraft joins BootstrapLabs.

Advertising agencies, production companies and game studios in the US are pouring $5B into custom audio through an outdated process. Audiodraft is disrupting this market by creating the global marketplace for custom audio.

The creative production industry is struggling with complicated procurement and licensing to get custom audio. Audiodraft has created an efficient process and simplified licensing by connecting any company in need of custom audio to thousands of talented sound designers across the globe. Audiodraft offers an effortless marketplace to crowdsource custom audio production, through a contest model.

Big brands and agencies love Audiodraft:

To “Audiodraft” is already starting to become a verb in audio production.

Audiodraft emphasizes the meaning of audio branding. With Audiodraft you can get custom made music and sound design easily whether you need background music for a TV commercial, Online Video and content, theme music for a mobile game, or an audio logo for your company.

By coming part of the BootstrapLabs portfolio, Audiodraft will now accelerate it’s presence in San Francisco/Silicon Valley where Teemu Yli-Hollo, CEO/Co-founder of Audiodraft is already based. This means Audiodraft will accelerate the US market roll-out and Silicon Valley funding to capture the global market for custom audio.

BootstrapLabs is today also launching an Audiodraft contest to crodsource the audio branding of BootstrapLabs, check it out here!

Read more about Audiodraft…

Mancx joins BootstrapLabs

We are happy to announce today that Mancx joins the BootstrapLabs portfolio of startups that we accelerate from Europe to Silicon Valley.

Mancx vision is to make any and all information available at the right price. With a patent-pending knowledge trading platform and connections to the largest business networks in the world Mancx gives you new opportunities.

Mancx connects people looking for answers with those of who have them. Some users of Mancx are in search of that particular little piece of information that will change a business forever. Others are looking for leads to reach their next sales quota or maybe looking for that intriguing piece of knowledge to boost next morning’s presentation to the board of directors. No matter what your needs are, Mancx is the place to find what you are looking for. Mancx offers crowdsourcing of the most valuable information.

Read more about Mancx and sign-up to give Mancx a spin her!