Growth5 Blog

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swipely Founder & CEO: Angus Davis

VentureFizz recently posted this Q&A with Swipely Founder & CEO, Angus Davis.

Davis turned down college in 1996 and became Netscape's youngest employee at the age of 18. In 1999, he left Netscape to co-found Tellme which made "speech recognition part of everyday life." Tellme was acquired by Microsoft in 2007 for ≈$800mm. In 2009, Davis left Microsoft to start his new venture, Swipely.

Swipely allows you to, "Discover new restaurants, movies, apps and more with friends. Review anything you buy, discover new places, save money and have fun shopping."

Here are the highlights of the Q& A with Davis:

1. Top 3 lessons for startups:
a) hire a strong team;
b) target a large market that's winnable; and
c) work hard.
2. What's the difference in terms of building a business today compared to ten - fifteen years ago? Here are 3 reasons why it's cheaper today:
a) you can rent the network from Amazon EC2 vs. buying it, eliminating millions of dollars in capital expenses for computer hardware;
b) you can leverage existing free open source software for a lot of what you need to get started, dramatically lowering costs of software development; and
c) new means of distributing software like Google Adwords, the Apple App Store and Facebook Platform have slashed the costs of acquiring customers.

"The combination of all three - cheaper hardware, cheaper software, cheaper customer acquisition - is why companies today can start for a fraction of the capital required to start businesses 10 years ago."
3. Advice for first time entrepreneurs raising funding.
a) match the needs and likely outcomes of the company with the right investor. "Building a small business doesn't always mean building a "venture-scale" business, and as such, traditional venture capitalists are not always the most appropriate sources of funding."
b) pursue funding from individual angels to start
c) younger entrepreneurs should consider startup accelerator programs like Y Combinator, Techstars or Betaspring.
d) stay away from business plan competitions and Angel groups who like to meet a lot but don't invest very often.
4. Underserved markets or emerging technologies that Davis likes:
a) "One trend that fascinates me is renting. Companies like Rent the Runway rent dresses; Bag Borrow and Steal rent handbags; Exclusive Resorts rents luxury homes. This market seems ripe for opportunity - who will rent jewelry? Sunglasses? Men's suits? Ties?"
b) "Another trend that's interesting is the creation of niche service peer-to-peer marketplaces that disrupt an inefficient existing market. For example, Ubercab has created a consumer-to-driver marketplace for luxury taxi service that cuts out the traditional dispatcher as the middleman while improving quality of service. Similarly, AirBnB has enabled anyone with a spare bedroom to operate a hotel."

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