San Francisco Bay Startups: Good and Bad Branding

With today’s fierce competition for startups in the San Francisco Bay area, it’s important for new companies to establish a brand early. A good brand can easily help a startup make it big, and a bad one can just as easily kill it. What makes a good brand? Good branding goes beyond just an attractive logo and catchy name. It’s important for startups to be consistent in all of their branding, and take every opportunity to convey their brand’s image. Everything a company does or says should reflect the brand, creating brand unity. A brand’s message should be unique and fresh, communicating regularly with its audience in a distinctive voice. Example: Airbnb San Francisco-based startup, Airbnb, has become a go-to app for travelers and vacationers looking for an affordable place to stay. The app provides rooms and guest houses all over the world that are available to rent by the night. Airbnb uses several different social media platforms to spread their message and convey their brand. Their Facebook page is updated every few days with photos and videos related to travel and hot vacation spots, as well as interviews with Airbnb hosts. Their Twitter page shares Tweets from app users …

SF-Based StartupStats Helps Investors Find the Most Talked About Startups

San Francisco-based entrepreneur, Nick O’Neill, is known in business circles for founding SocialTimes, a news website that reports on all things social media, from Facebook news to Twitter trends and everything in between. The site launched in 2007 as AllFacebook, and in 2010, O’Neill sold it to WebMedia Brands. Recently O’Neill started a new project designed to connect investors with the hottest startups. StartupStats was launched in 2012 and has been adding new features ever since. The site matches investors with new startups by analyzing data from AngelList and Twitter to determine which startups are getting the most attention. This data is used to generate a rating called a “StartupScore,” which shows how many AngelList investors are following a particular startup, and how many Twitter users are linking back to it. Investors who have joined StartupStats have found the service to be a good indicator of which startups will be funded soon. “It surfaces upcoming startups earlier in the cycle and they can get earlier access, ideally,” O’Neil told Business Insider. “Now, whether or not they’re going to turn out to be legitimate companies is a whole other thing, but we’re at least beginning to see that our system surfaces …

Tech Startup, Breather, Provides Private Spaces for San Francisco Workers

When writer, Julien Smith, toured the country promoting his best-selling book, he had a difficult time finding a quiet place to work or relax. “I would find myself in cities… where I didn’t know a lot of what was around me, and I just wanted—I don’t want to say a sense of safety, but more like a sense of just feeling comfortable or feeling at home,” he told Inc. “So I would end up at Starbucks.” Coffee shops like Starbucks proved to be too noisy for Smith, and he didn’t want to pay high hotel rates for just a few hours of privacy. This need for a familiar space in an unfamiliar city inspired Smith to co-found Breather, a company that rents out private office spaces in several major cities for between $15 and $40 per hour. In San Francisco, Breather currently rents 16 locations at a rate of $25 per hour, and they plan to add another eight to 10 more over the next month. The company recently secured a new flagship office on Mission Street near Transbay Terminal. Breather spaces offer amenities like Wi-Fi, chargers, couches and access to bathrooms, and are well-stocked with complementary candy and books. …

San Francisco’s Found Conference Proved Dog Tech is Big Business

Technology has gone to the dogs. In March, startup CEOs gathered at Digital Garage in San Francisco for Found, the first ever dog tech conference. The event was hosted by Pack, a local startup that provides a social network for dogs and their owners. Pack co-founder and CEO, Megan Casey, said the purpose of the conference was to discuss the growing industry of technology for dog owners. “We wanted to get a group of fellow dog startups that see the same type of opportunity and solutions together into one room to say this isn’t an underdog issue, this is something that’s actually a really big market,” she said. Guest speakers at Found included Aaron Easterly, CEO of Rover, a service that connects dog owners with dog sitters in over 10,000 US cities. Easterly discussed the trends he feels are driving pet tech, including an increased demand for pet products and the lower cost of tech startups. “When you have an increase in demand and an increase in supply, you get an explosion in pet tech,” he explained. Easterly said he sees a huge undeserved market in dog technology, and urged fellow startups to think big. “Don’t get overly stuck on …

SF Bay Couple Lives in 712-Square Foot Cottage as an Experiment in Energy Conservation

Since 2012, architect, David Baker, and design communications consultant, Yosh Asato, have made their home in Zero Cottage, a 712-square foot home in the Mission District designed by Baker with the goal of achieving Net Zero Energy certification. According to Living-Future.org, Net Zero certified buildings are rare, and must be designed to harness “energy from the sun, wind or earth to exceed net annual demand.” “The basic concept is that you need hardly any energy for heating or cooling because the house is so well-insulated,” Baker recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. Baker explained that the cottage uses an innovative 92% efficient Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system, that extracts heat from day-to-day use, “heat that you generate—taking a shower, cooking, using your computer.” The HRV system then uses that extracted heat to “warm fresh, incoming air.” Baker said that after using the HRV system, he never wants to build another house without one. “It’s an amazing system,” he said. “It’s so quiet, you can’t tell you are in the middle of the city.” Zero Cottage also makes use of sustainable materials, like reclaimed metal tiles and wood flooring. “We… incorporated wood flooring salvaged from a pasta factory,” Baker explained. “We didn’t …

Bay Area Boutique Uses “Magic Mirrors” to Merge Online and Offline Shopping

Like something out of Back to the Future Part II, the new “magic mirrors” at Rebecca Minkoff in San Francisco may be the future of shopping. The new technology was developed by eBay as a way to bring the online shopping experience into the real world. “People still want to use their five senses, not just the one sense you use when you’re doing e-commerce,” said Steve Yankovich, eBay’s Head of Innovation and New Ventures. “So physical retail, a showroom, I think will never go away.” Customers at Rebecca Minkoff can use “connected glass” walls to view the latest looks through pictures and video. When they want to try something on, they simply tap the item to add it to their dressing room. They can even order drinks, like champagne, which they can enjoy while trying on clothes. By entering their mobile number, the customer can receive a text when their dressing room is ready. The magic mirror experience continues into the dressing room, where the mirror uses RFID technology to recognize which items the customer is trying on. It also acts as a virtual stylist, suggesting accessories and other items to complement the customer’s selections. The customer can then ask …

AltSchool: New SF Bay Tech Startup is Creating the Future of Education

Altschool, a San Francisco Bay area startup founded by former Google product manager, Max Ventilla, is an innovative new school system that combines advanced technology with traditional education. AltSchool’s “micro-schools” are modeled after the one-room schoolhouses of the past. Students aged from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade learn together in classrooms with no more than 25 students and two teachers each. For a tuition of around $20,000, students study a curriculum focused on project-based learning and real-world lessons. “The point of education is to prepare our kids for the world that they’re going to actually experience as adults,” Ventilla explained. Students go on weekly field trips and complete activities like designing irrigation systems and building drones. Micro-schools have no principals or other administrators, but instead use technology to connect teachers with students and parents. Engineers and software developers work closely with teachers in their classrooms to constantly improve the AltSchool platform. “All engineers have ‘buddy teachers’ and study what’s going on in the classroom so they can learn about what’s most effective,” said Director of Education, Carolyn Wilson. “It lets us iterate very quickly and improve very, very quickly and validate for others that this is actually an approach that can …

Video Marketing – Increasingly a Must for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

As an increasing number of businesses even in medium-sized and small communities have finally caught on to the principles of search engine optimization, social media marketing, and more, making local search an increasingly competitive game.  Whereas even new a company could build decent results in a six-month window or so, it is getting harder to reliably build results at all, and it is taking longer and longer to do so. Video marketing is one way business owners can sidestep these trends, and still get a tremendous bang for their buck in terms of investing in their content for organic site promotion.  Video marketing just isn’t saturated the same way regular text-based SEO is, not yet anyways.  While video optimization is a growing industry, for the foreseeable future it will be one of the most reliable marketing tools that small businesses can use to economically build results in terms of inbound marketing in a very short time. What makes video marketing so great?  Here are a few factoids about it: Engagement stats are simply superior comparing video to text, there is no way around that inescapable fact. Conversion rates are also far superior in video content than text delivers. It’s easier …

The Importance of Having an Accountant

Many small business owners are experts in the specific product or service that they offer, have no doubt about it.  However, an equally common feature of the small business owner is that they lack several of the necessary skills to completely administer a business.  Someone who is great as a floor manager at a manufacturing company may not be as great at balancing the books; some bean-counter who is a whiz with numbers may not be good at operating machinery or equipment.  Whatever the circumstance, everyone has a weakness. One of the most common weaknesses businesses owners have is lack of financial planning and accounting skills.  These skills are quite unrelated to most other tasks an owner is called upon to do, so if they haven’t received specific training on how to do it or perhaps studied it in school, they may simply not know how.  Or worse, they many know just enough to be dangerous, and end up getting themselves in hot water with the IRS through some questionable deduction practices. That is why I recommend that nearly every small business owner who doesn’t have experience or a degree in finance hire an accountant; they bring a huge variety …

Your Business Needs a Review Strategy

It is no secret; local SEO is getting harder and harder to successfully perform.  It looks like all the low-hanging fruit has basically been plucked at this point, and now small businesses are beginning to run into the same stumbling blocks that affect larger businesses regarding their SERP results. One method that many companies still have not yet implemented that will likely pay off big dividends in upcoming years is a review strategy.  Google has explicitly commented that they want to see reviews and engagement on social sites that grows in an organic, holistic manner.  So why have nearly 80% of businesses still not implemented a review strategy? Basically, a formal review strategy is a process for soliciting feedback from your customers.  Much like sales funnels or any other part of a marketing campaign, it is modular in nature, and can be simple or very complex. An example of a very simple review strategy is simply appending a link to Yelp, Facebook, or wherever you are trying to promote yourself to every invoice or receipt you put out.  This will encourage customers to hopefully visit these sites, give you a good rating, and share any helpful feedback they have for …