Monday, November 27, 2006

WHO: Sina Djafari, GSB 00 (and MS Engineering at Stanford)

Design Public is an online store equivalent to the popular Dwell Magazine - cool modern furniture that we all want. The company promotes individual expression, educates on design and sells modern furniture. If you sign up for their newsletter you can see how much fun the founders (Sina and his co-founder Drew) are having. I have to warn you - this isn't your parents furniture and this isn't IKEA.

The team at Design Public has figured out their customers and have tailored the service to match their needs. Standards such as free shipping, no hassles return policy and brain-dead-simple product search are good examples of this. The product search is very intuitive given that you can shop by room, by category or brand. No haggling with designer salespeople who are too cool to bother selling to you and forget about paying for overpriced delivery.

Here are a few of the types of things they have:

Today is being described as one of the biggest shopping days of the year - see the counterstory here. Regardless of rank, today is a big online shopping day and hopefully a big one for Sina and Drew. I hope most of their traffic is in the "buy online" category, not the "shop online" category that the news seems to be hyped about.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

WHO: Ehsan Alipour, Stanford Product Design MS 1998

Ehsan is the entrepreneur and enthusiast behind the Oliso steam iron with Auto-Lift System which Time Magazine just named one of 2006 BEST INVENTIONS. The Oliso iron has all the top features one would expect from a high end clothes iron (digital temperature control, steam, auto shutoff, pivoting cord, oversized reservoir) but it is also idiot-proof in that it automatically lifts itself up before you burn/damage your clothes. When you touch the handle, the iron lowers onto fabric. When you take it off, the iron instantly lifts itself up. You really have to see it in action to appreciate how cool it is. This feature helps prevent scorching, but it also is much safer and easier to use - no more tilting the iron on its end every time you need to move your shirt (you really can iron faster with the Oliso). The iron also is less likely to tip and fall since it always remains flat (and it is almost impossible to burn yourself since there is no hot exposed soleplate sitting upright on the board).

I am sure we can all think back to a time when a friend ended up with a shirt with a fancy iron print in the middle because they ran off to answer the phone or door - thanks to Ehsan, the next generation will not have these memories.

I am not much of an ironing person except in dire travel emergencies but I can definitely appreciate the innovation here. It’s easy to see why this product is a double award winner (it not only was selected as a Time best invention, but it also won the prestigious 2006 Housewares Design Award, Best in Class, sponsored by the International Housewares Association.

I tend to use the Purple Tie or my local drycleaner to launder my shirts but I think there is a huge market out there for people who prefer the iron. It is coming up to Christmas time so if you know a person who this would be perfect for you can find the Oliso iron online (Amazon, Home Depot, Skymall) or offline (Bloomingdale’s, Fry’s and selected Sharper Image stores). This iron actually is cool enough to give as a gift (in fact, its ideal for technology lovers; young professionals; parents with toddlers in the house; arthritis sufferers; quilters and sewers; or anyone who needs to iron – a lot or a little.)

Ehsan has done an amazing job of getting a solid channel built for this product as well as some fantastic PR - Stanford Magazine, Time Magazine, CNET, Good Morning America, Home and Garden Television, Oprah at Home, Wired, Engadget and my favorite Quiltmaker. It also will star on Ellen Degeneres show on January 2!

Ehsan is also the founder/CEO of the Unovo design group that provides turnkey design outsourcing from concept to full manufacturing. Ehsan is apparently a busy guy...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

WHO: Alyssa Rapp, GSB 2005

BottleNotes was founded by Alyssa after finishing at the GSB. She gave me the pitch at a Gelato store in Palo Alto - she is not one to miss an opportunity to get a new BottleNotes customer!

I see BottleNotes as a cross between the traditional wine-of-the-month clubs and Netflix. They have a engine that lets you import your preferences on wine and get recommendations - then, like Netflix, you can dynamically rate your list and the personalization engine re-recommends. It is a neat idea for those of us (like me) that like wine but are not experts. Alyssa has recruited the co-founder of Netflix to her board to develop this personalization engine further.

Sure - there are a bunch of wine clubs and a quick Google search will bring up a list. I did a quick comparison of the top five Google results and they fail in a few areas that BottleNotes excels - they don't seem to respect what you might want and they make you feel like you are getting sell-off wine. The general focus seems to be gift-buying where the thought is supposed to count more than the wine.

My wife and I have created our own wine-of-the-month club to send California wines back to her parents. We did this ourselves because we couldnt find a good wine club that had the local focus we were looking for. It is a pain - you have to buy the wine, pack it, and then trick the post office into letting you ship it. No more - now it will be all BottleNotes.

Check out BottleNotes, refer a friend, send me some wine...

Friday, November 10, 2006

WHO: Mareza Larizadeh, GSB 2006

Mareza started Doostang while a student at the GSB while he was living in a small dormroom with Seth Sternberg founder of Meebo. (You can see the Meebo widget in the sidebar of this blog courtesy of WidgetBox). There must have been some magic in that room. Mareza initially started Doostang as a bulletin board where he and his co-founder, Pavel, could invite their friends to share jobs. They only decided to make a go at starting a company on the urging of friends who saw the potential...and presumably needed to start looking for a job soon.

Doostang is to recruiting what NetJets is to air travel - they focus on the best jobs and the best candidates. If you need a junior engineer (or twenty) go to Monster, if you need an Ivy League graduate to work in your company Doostang is your answer. Already the word is out there that companies from Goldman Sachs to Google are now using Doostang as a core part of their recruiting system.

A few facts that Mareza tends not to brag about - but I can for him:

- over 60,000 members to date; the great majority of whom are graduates from top schools.

- TIME Magazine’s pick for one of 5 companies that can become “The Next YouTube.” October 23rd 2006 issue…

- number of jobs posted is growing by over 25% per month

- I generated 4 quality candidates for a portfolio company in under a week through Doostang, one of which now has the job.

It is free to sign up so do that now and be sure to join my Doostang group. Better yet, post a job or refer a friend - REMEMBER IT's FREE!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


WHO: Andre Vanier, GSB2004

Andre started 1-800-411-SAVE when he finished business school a couple of years ago. He just launched the nationwide coverage recently. The idea is simple...never pay for 411 services again, and he will make the problem go away by selling advertising. The vision is to be the 411 for people who want to save on the telephone with special offers and discounts, much in the same way that consumers have become accustomed to on the internet with search.

I think an example is important here. If you want to order flowers, you can call 411 and ask for a florist and you will be happily connected for no ADDITIONAL charges but you will pay somewhere around $1.50. Instead if you use 1-800-411-SAVE then the operator will give you the florist number after a 15 second phonmercial from 1-800-FLOWERS offering you 15% off any order. Simple, easy, everything is the same except the number you dial and the bill
you pay.

He does have some competition - Jingle Networks - but you can bet Andre is going to give them a run for their money. Together they can take on the telco's...

SUPPORT ANDRE - try 1-800-411-SAVE, store it in your cell phone, and tell two friends.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Joost recently took the wrappers off his startup, EveryTrail. He presented his company at the San Francisco NewTech Meetup last week to a warm reception from technology enthusiasts. I haven't asked Joost this, but I would guess he got at least 100 signups from that 15 minutes of fame - one person claimed that EveryTrail is the thing that has pushed him to finally buy a GPS receiver. Rafe Needleman from CNET was there and gave Joost some great coverage (below)

I think you can look at EveryTrail on a few dimensions from a tool for recreational hikers to a platform for next generation travel (Travel 3.0 ??). The EveryTrail offering in a nutshell:

RECORD - walk, bike, sail, run with your GPS receiver and camera
VISUALIZE - a super fast and easy Google-map mashup (with topo maps!) plus a super cool feature to geotag photos
SHARE - send your e-trip to family and friends. They can fly though your walk/bike/boat and see the pictures you took from the locations you took them. I have copied a map below as an example (bottom of post)

The above "work-flow" is how the company got started - Joost is a big climber and wanted to record his routes and photos in a way to share with friends. I think EveryTrail will end up at a really interesting place because of its content. Once there are a few hundred thousand routes/trips then anyone can use it to plan their next trip - a personalized lonely planet. If you are a hiker, view all the trails in Tahoe complete with pictures, blogs and accommodation before you take your next trip. And you won’t have to flip through pages of antique stores and other roadside attractions to get to content that is relevant to you.

EveryTrail's timing is certainly better than that of a company I was involved with in 2000. SportBug was an early map+GPS mashup for fitness (running, biking) tracking. EveryTrail has extended this idea to a broader platform and has at least ten times the features.

CNet Coverage on EveryTrail.
Buy your GPS now at TheGPSStore and get started everytrailing...

Now go sign up - and sign up every GPS enthusiast that you know.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


WHO: Harish Abbott, GSB2006

Harish just launched ugenie with his business partner Krishna (of Amazon India fame)...let's hope it goes well for Harish as his fallback career in foosball will definitely not keep him off the streets. They were funded by BlueRun and Sierra Ventures while Harish was a roommate of mine at 552 Military.

ugenie helps you discover the cheapest price for your choice of items, either a single item or a bundle of items. When ugenie says 'price' they mean the total credit card damage including shipping, taxes and yes, live coupons! It is great for your whole christmas shopping list or for multi-item gifts!! In one click you find the best price across all online merchants. ugenie has 7 million items including books, music, movies, and games and are rapidly expanding into other categories.

I just did a test of ugenie - I entered the last three books I bought into their search to see what they would have saved me. The answer --- 11%. So they have my business.

ugenie also has some great Techcrunch coverage.

Good luck Harish - hit it out of the park!