Episode 23 - Adrien Mennillo - uTip, They Benefit
This is Adrien’s second round as a startup founder, learned from previous venture
Learned to code, to build initial PoC, later partnered with CTO to build out
Experience working with banks as a consultant helped form the idea
Noticed the growth of creators, but poor revenue options for them
Google & Facebook have monopolized ads and keep most of the money, even with limited views
Wanted to find an easier way to support creators, concluded advertising was the best method of achieving this
Online advertising has applied old TV model, not working well due to poor results and limited views
Advertisers spend a lot for limited views, so uTip provides dedicated viewers in return for money to creators. Everybody wins and gives back control.
Challenge has been to disrupt the advertising agencies, who know their model isn’t working but are slow to change.
uTip is busy trying to create a sense of urgency within the advertising business, which is failing to deliver results and is nearing the end of the current model
uTip is providing a new model that provides better access to the market
For anyone who has tried generating revenue from online advertising, you already know that what exists today is a mess. Google and Facebook own that market and show no sign of giving it up anytime soon. Like any market monopoly this means they dictate the rules. Thirty second video ads that show for 3 seconds get counted as a view by Facebook so with environments like that, it’s no wonder online ad prices keep dropping.
For brands this means you’re spending a lot of money to reach out to people who probably aren’t even watching your ads, though you’re still spending money to run them. The old TV days where viewers were glue to their set simply doesn’t translate to the online market, where viewers hop around and watch what they want to watch, or don’t.
For creators who thought they could run ads on their sites to generate revenue have it even worse. Their followings hardly translate into money because the the system requires massive numbers to generate any meaningful impact and even then, the pay is so low. The owners of the online advertising market - mostly Facebook and Google - take the money throw small change to creators.
It’s an ongoing problem even for larger media outlets - pick your favorite newspaper or magazine or whoever - who also are struggling to generate any revenue online. Their bold plans to trust Facebook with promoting their media outlets has blown up in their faces and they have almost nothing to show for it.
More recently there have been newer options for content creators but even there, while the results have been fantastic for a few, most creators have struggled to earn money. By combining this issue for creators with the rapidly evolving dynamics of online advertising, uTip is addressing these markets with a creative offering.
Join us as Adrien explains more about this complex issue that is forcing the market to evolve, while providing benefits for creators. He shares his biggest challenges and how he’s addressing them, as well as future direction.
Episode 22 - Tim Mevel - HelloZack, Hello Convenience
HelloZack noticed the difficulties of selling used products, sought to make it easier
Started initial pilot in California, buying up anything and selling on consignment
In the beginning, nothing was automated but they have gradually introduced tech tools to help streamline processes
Seeking a better customer experience than current models
Pivoted in 2016 to focus exclusively on Apple products
Payment for Apple products, anytime, anywhere
Specially trained team rather than outsourced
Raised capital from private investors & also bank loans, to help cover payment terms
Tim Mevel of HelloZack was raised with a background of entrepreneurship, so diving into the startup world wasn’t a surprise move. During his studies, he and his co-founders set up the first version of the company in Berkeley, where they picked up anything people wanted to get rid of, and sold it for them online. The convenience was a big hit; just avoiding the flood of spam and scams won over a good following.
Over time though, the team realized that selling anything and everything required a lot more time and storage space than they’d imagined. While popular, the V1 model wasn’t scalable so in 2016, they pivoted. The team stepped back and looked at their most popular items, and what was the least taxing in terms of time to resell, as well as storage space. Apple products were the clear winner, as they remained highly popular but also took up less space than many other items. Tim and his team have accepted that mistakes are bound to happen, but more importantly, they’ve made a real effort to learn from those mistakes.
HelloZack’s founders knew it didn’t make sense to invest a lot of money into something that hadn’t been tested; it’s easy to spend a lot of money and time, only to learn that the market isn’t interested. As the company presses forward, they’re now investing more into the technology behind the scenes to make it all work better for everyone.
Moving forward, HelloZack is eager to become profitable, which will happen soon, so they’re working with banks to help carry them through the 20-30 day payment terms. This helps their cash flow and prepares them for the next phase of the business, which is international growth.
Episode 20 - Thomas Perret - Revolutionizing Personal Investment
During school, worked two different internships that helped provides ideas and inspiration for Mon Petit Placement
Saw the need for diversity of investments but also need to educate younger people
Gamifying investing using technology could have better results for young investors
Target audience wants more transparency, less black box approach
Biggest obstacle so far has been engaging with large corporates, who are still learning how to work with startups. It’s a learning process!
Moving forward, eyeing green and water investments, which are of great interest
EU MiFid II laws will help to unify banking regulation across countries
Thomas comes from a financial and statistics background. The banking world gave him insight into the world of investing and why it made a lot more sense than letting money sit in a simple savings account, where it wouldn’t earn much interest.
Thomas also worked for a startup that was doing interesting things but failed, which taught him other lessons. The idea was good but you need more than just a good idea to be successful. Also, failure is not the end of the world provided you take a step back and look at what happened. There’s a lot of value in learning from mistakes.
In addition, many of Thomas’s friends and family heard him talk about his work in finance, but they really didn’t know that much about the specifics. They viewed the world of investment as risky - which it can be - but after talking about the risk/reward and educating them, he saw the potential in creating a fintech solution.
His goal was to help educate young investors so they could diversify their holdings and do better than the sub-inflation returns of traditional savings accounts. By democratizing the system, where higher returns were more likely, he could entice young investors and also bring benefits to old fashioned banks.
His biggest challenge so far will be a familiar story for many startups: as we’ve heard from others, including Ethan Pierse, today’s big corporates need to take innovation and engagement with startups very seriously if they want to be as influential tomorrow.
Episode 19 - Kurt Muehmel - Selling Dataiku
Kurt joined Dataiku in 2015 following a varied career, including a stint in consulting
Wanted to move into tech; started as sales for North America, based in Paris
Now manages EMEA team outside of France and the UK
Dataiku had cultural hiccups along the way, but quickly addressed them
The company’s founders, data scientists by training, built their team in a way that reflected how they wanted companies to treat them as clients
Successful without engaging in end of quarter/year discount pressure. New sales members trained not to follow the common discount schedule
Very customer-oriented, and focused on building value for clients
For Dataiku, raising funds is not the end game, but rather a necessary step along the way
To get a great sales job at a fast-moving, cool startup requires a traditional sales background with lots of experience in a particular sector, plus a massive Rolodex of contacts in that market-- Right? Not at Dataiku. American transplant Kurt Muehmel didn’t have that cookie-cutter background, and Dataiku’s founders considered him a better candidate for it.
For all of startups’ talk about an “outside the box” approach to problem-solving, the reality in many cases is very, very traditional and risk averse. Not so with the founders of Dataiku, who are more interested in building out a team with the right kind of culture. Kurt appreciated this, as he sought a tech startup job that would value his own non-traditional background.
The company’s founders have quite a unique attitude: forget about the rah-rah! bells and yelling in the office after a sale, or the high-pressure “always be closing” nonsense. The founders were once on the client side, and have insisted that their team treat prospects the way they would have liked to be treated.
The consistent theme is a focus on delivering value to customers and helping them to tackle their data issues. The traditional (and generally miserable) habit of ramping up pressure on both the sales team and prospects to offer end-of-quarter or end-of-year discounts is not part of the formula at Dataiku. The industry is used to it and many people in sales and purchasing have been trained to have this approach, despite the often negative effect of making everyone miserable and leaving money on the table.
Equally interesting is the Dataiku founders’ attitude toward their fundraising success. When people talked about having a party after closing their latest round, the founders of the company made it clear that while fundraising is an important and often critical part of success for many startups, it’s not the final objective. Building customer value is, and always should be, the goal.
There are a lot more great stories in this episode, which give you a glimpse into what it’s like to really work with an “out of the box” mentality. Just because some high-profile experts identify a way that things are “supposed to be done”, this doesn’t mean that there’s only one way. It’s refreshing to hear a startup steadfastly pursuing their own path and using a model that works for them and their customers, which is what being a startupper is all about.