October 31, 2005
VV in the Long Island Business News
October 25, 2005
VV Show #18 - Mena Trott of Six Apart
At age 28, Mena Trott is a veteran blogger and an accomplished company founder. Six Apart, the business she started four years ago with her husband Ben, now has over 100 employees. Its stable of popular blogging products (including Movable Type, TypePad and LiveJournal) are used by writers of all types -- from the most influential bloggers to children who communicate after school. She's still pushing her company forward as president and developing some very ambitious new technologies.
Towards the end of the interview, VideoEgg co-founder Kevin Sladek jumps into the conversation to announce a partnership with Six Apart. Venture Voice covered the launch of VideoEgg during our DEMO coverage (show #14 and show #15). Starting today, VideoEgg and Six Apart will add video capabilities to TypePad.
Show recorded at the BlogOn Conference. Under embargo until today.
2:30 Six Apart's four year anniversary
- Mena started the Six Apart at age 24 by creating Movable Type.
- 'The company kind of tricked us into starting itself.'
5:05 Transforming a hobby into a business
7:15 Starting a business with a spouse
- 'It's incredibly hard to work 24-hours a day and never to have a break. And that's what it's like to work with a spouse.'
9:05 First investor
- 'I think I'm a lot more sane now.'
12:55 Management team
- Brought in CEO Barak Berkowitz.
- 'An entrepreneur should realize their first and foremost goal is to have a successful company.'
16:15 Six Apart's software
- 'We use the stuff we build.'
17:40 Blogging to market a product
- Mena's professional blog is Mena's Corner and personal blog is Not A Dollarshort.
- 'We're able to express why we do things.'
- 'I was very aware from day one that it would be around forever.'
20:40 New product: Comet
21:45 Ambition for the future
- 'I don't know why we [in the industry] have to consolidate everything. Is it a case of only the big guys can survive? I think we want to disprove that.'
24:40 Communicating with employees
- 'I know that people will be listening to this at work [at Six Apart]. And they may hear things that they've never even thought that I would say.'
26:30 Announcing video integration into Six Apart product TypePad
29:00 What Six Apart is all about
- 'It's about communications.'
30:00 VideoEgg co-founder Kevin Sladek joins the interview
- Offering a test drive of video for TypePad users at typepad.videoegg.com .
31:40 Striking and managing partnerships
34:30 VideoEgg is moving to San Francisco
- Mena recommends locating south of Market Street.
35:50 Parting thoughts
- Mena: 'Not everyone in the company is drunk all the time.'
37:00 Venture Voice wrap up
- Does anyone know how to build a cone of silence?
37:15 Events to check out
October 17, 2005
VV Show #17 - Jason Fried of 37signals
The business world seems to keep getting more complicated, but Jason Fried is all about keeping things simple. When founding 37signals, Jason and his two partners staked their careers on simplicity. They wrote a manifesto to convince others of their philosophy of keeping design on the Web simple. Their project management software, Basecamp, has become a hit for its ease of use. Their blog is intently followed by thousands of (mostly) admiring readers, and has led to a book. Jason tells how he's grown his business simply, too, without taking on any venture capital or debt despite many offers. He also drops a couple hints about the next few products his company will launch.
1:45 Start of career
- Graduated college in 1996 with degree in finance.
- Started career doing freelance Web design.
- Started 37signals with and Ernest Kim and Carlos Segura.
3:10 Start of 37signals
- First Web site at www.37signals.com/manifesto.
7:50 Building Basecamp
- 'It happened by accident.'
10:00 Making Basecamp into a business
12:10 Getting the word out
- Blogs at Signals vs. Noise.
- Blogging 'offers a great opportunity to communicate with likeminded people, and also people who hate us -- that seems to be growing, which is good I think. Shows that you're saying something.'
15:30 Philosophy and vision
- 'Your customers will give you thousands of requests, and if you listen to each one of those, you're dead.'
22:00 Economics of 37signals
22:45 Launching other products
25:45 New products in development
27:00 37signals changes
- Currently five employees.
- 'We're really big into being small.'
- 'We make sure it hurts before we expand.'
28:30 Startup style
- 'We're not looking for investment.'
34:15 Business development and customer service
- Recommends the book The E-Myth.
- 'You need to be annoyed when [your customers] are annoyed.'
40:25 Exit plan
- 'We're not building this company to sell this company.'
44:30 Other thoughts
- Working on new book to be distributed as a PDF online.
- Published a book before called Defensive Design for the Web.
VV in the New York Times
Thanks to our supportive listeners and top-notch guests, Venture Voice has received a great write-up in the New York Times.
Thanks to everyone who has listened so far. Keep your ears and eyes open -- it only gets better.
October 4, 2005
VV Show #16 - Tom Szaky of TerraCycle
Dropping out of college to start a technology company is almost a cliché. But is technology the only industry that can seduce an ambitious student into entrepreneurship? Tom Szaky dropped out of Princeton because he saw an opportunity in trash. At 19, he started developing an alternative to Miracle-Gro by using the excrement of worms that eat compost. To keep costs down, he reused soda bottles to package his product and located his business in Trenton, New Jersey. He's now got seven-figure funding and is pushing six-figure revenues by selling TerraCycle in select locations of Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Home Depot. TerraCycle is planning on a full national rollout over the next three months. For this show we ventured into the heart of New Jersey to bring you on a tour of the TerraCycle factory. We talk with several TerraCycle employees and have an in-depth discussion with Tom about trash and cash.
2:40 Tour of the factory with Abraham Diez
6:35 TerraCycle size
- 12 exectutives
- 10 laborers
- 30-40 interns
- 'The average pay cut that our executives took to be here is like 80%.'
7:50 How Abraham got involved
9:05 How VP of Human Resources Elaine Gaughran got involved
10:20 How Bryan Chen got involved
11:45 Thoughts on Tom
- 'What I first met him, the man hardly slept.'
13:34 How Tom got into this business
- Started the business at age 19, now is 23.
- 'We ended up coming up with the type of machinery where we could make worm poop in a very large way.'
- 'We found ourselves the summer of freshman year at Princeton shoveling shit, literally.'
16:45 Initial funding through business plan competitions
18:15 Venture funding
- 'For any entrepreneur, that's what you really need, a simple, clear idea ' that's bankable. Within four months we'd raised $1.2 million from private investors and institutional investors.'
Now raising a second round.
21:15 The trick of winning business plan competitions
- 'When we give a PowerPoint, people standup and start smiling. Any they're like 'shit, finally I'm taking up.''
- 'I think we're a pretty damn sexy manufacturing company.'
26:15 Trenton, NJ
- 'Everyone's pulling for us here.'
29:30 Where you can buyTerraCycle
- In Canada: Home Hardware, Wal-Mart, Home Depot.
- In US: check Web site.
- In three months, should be available anywhere in the US.
32:15 Working with investors
33:15 College drop out
36:45 Schedule for today
- Meeting with Pepsi.
38:30 Watching TerraCycle grow
- Venture Voice's Greg Galant wrote a Business Today Magazine article about TerraCycle in Spring 2005.