10 ideas to make meetings more efficient

Do you need ideas to make your meetings more efficient?  Here are some ideas that I’ve collected along the way.  I do not claim that they are my ideas and I have not tried all of them.  Have fun!

  1. Conduct meeting without tables and chairs aka standing up – studies show meeting times will be cut in half!
  2. Money jar for late comers or no-shows – make it hurt (financially) to be late or miss a meeting, use that money to buy the team beer or donate to charity
  3. Take a moment of silence after a major decision – reflect on decision, give time for last minute objections, let the commitment sink in really good
  4. Put a clock on the wall – meetings should begin and definitely end on time
  5. Assign a note taker – the meeting chair needs to run the meeting while someone else takes notes, hard to do both
  6. Divide up a large block of meeting time (with same people) into smaller chunks – helps guide the agenda and keeps the meeting going
  7. Enforce a “no meeting” time period or day – seriously, there needs to be time to do work, come on people!
  8. Provide food – attendance will be good, also many will pay more attention (while eating) instead of typing on their laptops
  9. Clarify participant roles in invite – sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, provide some context, maybe it’ll help form the agenda easier
  10. Bonus: If the meeting requires 6+ people or more than an hour, the CEO is notified – one company did this, the theory is that a meeting of that size or time length should really damn important, I wonder if the company is still around, does anyone know?

Realtime Hadoop usage at Facebook

Last week, Dhruba Borthakur, Hadoop Engineer at Facebook, gave a talk about realtime Hadoop usage at Facebook, mainly for Facebook messages.

Hadoop is open source software for distributed computing. It consists of two main parts – Hadoop distributed file system, a distributed file system with high throughput, and Hadoop MapReduce, a software framework for processing large data sets. And then there’s HBase which is a columnar key value store on top of Hadoop.

To handle large amounts of data (e.g., BigData), many companies are using a front end cache (e.g., memcached) or having their entire database in memory. In addition, companies partition the data across many nodes for query parallelism and mitigation of resource contention. Borthakur said that with every 1K node cluster, they get about 2-3 bad nodes everyday.

For Facebook messages the requirements were:

  • Massive data set, large subsets of cold data
  • Elasticity and high availability
  • Strong consistency with data center
  • Fault isolation, quick recovery

They wanted a database that could store at least a terabyte of data. So they looked Cassandra, HBase, and sharded MySQL. After some testing, Facebook picked HBase because it gave excellent write performance and good reads. Also, Borthakur commented that partitions of different nodes (e.g, Cassandra) in a single data center are very rare.

Some Facebook messages stats:

  • 6K messages a second
  • 50K chat messages a second
  • 300TB linear data growth per month compressed, compression is 1 to 4
  • Most data is chat messages

For Facebook, HBase is good for counters like finding out how many people in certain age groups are logged on or finding how many people clicked “Like” on a particular brand. They have more than 1 million counters using 100 node HBase with reads mostly served from memory. Currently, they do not use tiered storage for messages but maybe looking at it for photos with Hadoop.

Frequency of Facebook items accessed (pre-timeline):

  • Photos and videos get a lot of reads for first few days then after 60 days not many
  • Last 30 days of comments are in the cache
  • Most people interested in looking at last 10 days of messages, all 10 days worth are already loaded when you log in

As for the future of Hadoop at Facebook, Borthakur is looking at possibly migrating all user data and graph data from MySQL to HBase.

One thing to note, if you need a database with more reads than writes, HBase is probably not the database for you.

From Hadoop website:

The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using a simple programming model. It is designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage. Rather than rely on hardware to deliver high-avaiability, the library itself is designed to detect and handle failures at the application layer, so delivering a highly-availabile service on top of a cluster of computers, each of which may be prone to failures.

About Dhruba Borthakur:

Dhruba Borthakur is the Project Lead for the Open Source Apache Hadoop Distributed File System. He has been associated with Hadoop almost since its inception while working for Yahoo. He currently works for Facebook and is instrumental in scaling Facebook’s hadoop cluster to multiples of petabytes. Dhruba also is a contributor to the open source Apache HBase project.

Earlier, he was a Senior Lead Engineer at Veritas Software (now acquired By Symantec) and was responsible for the design and development of software for the Veritas San File System. He was the Team Lead for developing the Mendocino Continuous Data Protection Software Appliance at a startup named Mendocino Software. Prior to Mendocino Software, he was the Chief Architect at Oreceipt.com, an e-commerce startup based in Sunnyvale, California. Earlier, he was a Senior Engineer at IBM-Transarc Labs where he was responsible for the development of Andrew File System (AFS).

Dhruba has an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a
B.S. in Computer Science from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, India.
He has 17 issued patents. He hosts a Hadoop blog at http://hadoopblog.blogspot.com/ and can be subscribed via his profile page at https://www.facebook.com/dhruba

Read more about Hadoop at Facebook:

LivingSocial’s UI beats Groupon’s on iPhone

I am always intrigued by great iPhone app designs. There’s a website that has a bunch of examples of great app designs. So it got me thinking, I should do an analysis of the two most popular local daily deal sites, Groupon and Living Social, on the iPhone. Why not? Let the UI battle begin!

First up is LivingSocial. Overall, I like LivingSocial’s app more than Groupon’s app. I really like the way LivingSocial presents the deal details page (third screen). It is very clean with a lot of white space around the text. The price is big with the text color orange. I’ve always liked the color orange as a standout color (see my app Eventabulous). The best design element of the details page is the “buy now!” button. The button remains as a fixed footer when you scroll up and down. Also, the button is at the bottom where I can just use my thumb to tap the button. Lastly, I like that there are headings for each deal, short and sweet.

I do not like that the first page (first screen) doesn’t tell me any information about today’s deals. It’s basically a menu of items which I understand because it saves screen space on later screens. But I have to do a button click in order to see anything about deals when I first bring up the app. Don’t make me work to buy things. On the second screen, it’s not obvious to me that the city name “san jose” can be clicked on to switch to other cities. It can be easy to miss the small triangle on the right hand side indicating a drop-down box.

I recommend that LivingSocial assumes that users want to see “today’s deals” first and show “today’s deals” as the first screen. If users want “instant”, “escapes”, etc, they can hit the “home” back button (see second screen) to see the menu. Also, Living Social should consider having a “buy now!” button on the list of “today’s deals”. Why does a user need to see the details to buy the deal?

Next up is Groupon. You know that Groupon is great at selling because you can’t ignore the “Buy!” button everywhere. On the home page (first screen), it goes straight into the list of daily deals and from right there you can buy the first one only. I do like that Groupon attempts to highlight the savings of the deal more prominently than Living Social, but then again I assume all of the Groupon and Living Social deals are the best exclusive deals, so I don’t bother too much about the percentage saved. Maybe I should be more cautious about buying deals hahaha. I really like seeing discussions of the deals where people ask questions to the company. I didn’t see the same discussion feature in LivingSocial.

Unfortunately, Groupon has too much information in a small amount of space. It hurts my eyes looking at it. I can’t tell if it’s the amount of information or the size of the font. Another thing, I have to use my index finger to hit the “Buy!” button. Groupon has a “Buy!” button as a fixed header instead of as a fixed footer. I like one-handed navigation of apps. Lastly, I like the thought of the menu tabs on the details page (second screen), but on an iPhone, I am ok with scrolling to see all the information. Sometimes tapping disrupts the flow of information.

I suggest that Groupon leverage color as a way to highlight parts of a deal and they need to create more white space around their text. Less clutter is better.

Quick tips to increase your website conversions

For Sophia Perl of Wisdom, I use Google Analytics to track traffic and conversions.  I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.  Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool to track your web goals.  You should know what you expect from your users and then use GA to see if that indeed happens (e.g., test that your assumption is right or wrong).

Let’s take an example of an e-commerce website wanting to increase shopping cart conversions (e.g., completed purchases).

One of the first things to look at is where customers are entering and leaving the website.  This will give you a general idea of the day-to-day activity on the website.  In GA, you can check out Top Landing Pages (under Content), Top Exit Pages (under Content), and Bounce Rates (under Visitors->Visitors Trending->Bounce Rate).

What is a bounce rate?  From Google:

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.

For pages with high bounce rates, there could be one of two things happening, 1) the pages plain out do not have what the user wants or 2) the pages have poor usability.

It’s important to pay attention to the entrance keywords and sources for these pages with high bounce rates (under Content->Overview look at right lower side of page, click on Entrance Keywords or Entrance Sources, then select a specific page by using drop-down box next to the word “Content”).  Search keywords should align with the purpose of your site.  If they do not, stop bidding on these keywords (if you are stupid enough hahaha).   Entrance traffic sources related to campaigns (e.g., Facebook ads, email newsletters, etc) should help yield high quality leads (e.g., low bounce rates, not high bounce rates).  If not, re-evaluate the effectiveness of those campaigns.  If entrance traffic sources are not campaign-related, investigate the reason users come to your site from these other sites.  Are there any opportunities to capitalize on this free source of traffic?

A high bounce rate could also mean that your site does not engage users in a positive way.  Is it hard to find products?  Maybe prices are too high or lack of customer reviews.  It’s always good to re-evaluate pages often for usability.  For instance, there are tools available that can generate heat maps and the typical eye path around a page.  A user study could also help identify major problems.

Next, it’s good to look at where customers are dropping off at each step of the buying/checkout process.  In GA, I can set up a goal called “Checkout” with defined funnels, one funnel for each step of checkout process.  To do this, go to the overview page of all of your sites (click on GA logo if you are lost), then click on “edit” on the far right column next to the site that you want to add goals.  See here for more info about how to add goals.

Let’s pretend that this one e-commerce website has 7 steps for checkout.  Below is a table with an example conversion funnel with fake data.  In this example, the first major drop-off is step #5 then at step # 7.  This is your big clue to investigate the reasons for those significant drop-offs.

Table: Fake funnel conversion data







I hope that this helps you get interested in learning more about Google Analytics for your site.  Happy conversions!

Social media for the newbies

Last weekend, I ventured out to southern California for a weekend trip.  I met up with some old friends who aren’t in the biz (aka tech world).  One friend said that she was still figuring out the whole social media thing.  The first things that came to mind were Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  I thought to myself, what’s there to know?  So this posting is to help my friend and others who are completely clueless.  If you are familiar with GTL (Jersey Shore reference), I’m going to call these three FTL.


What is it?  An online social network where you can add people as “friends” (must be mutually accepted by friend) and post information for others to see.  Your main page is a running feed of your friends’ most recent status updates, pics, links, and videos.
Pro:  Stay connected with people you don’t see often, re-connect with long lost friends, easy to share info about yourself to your “friends”
Con: Not so private if you have many friends, sometimes awkward to de-friend friends, companies could consider as a no-hire decision, privacy options changes often
Decision Factor: You like to stay up to date with personal friends and family and/or you like to share information with a lot of people
Tip:  Only share information that is mom and co-worker friendly


What is it?  An online social / micro blogging network where you can subscribe to anyone with an account and post your 140-character long updates (known as tweets).  Your main page is a running feed of updates from people whom you follow and people who mention you.
Pro:  Easy to stay up to date with the latest news on any topic, great for discussions during big events
Con: Waste of time to “tweet” if no one is following you, takes time to build credibility and get many followers
Decision Factor:  You want to stay up to date with a topic and/or you are a subject matter expert in a field and want to share your knowledge with everyone
Tip: Get more followers by participating in Twitter hash tag discussions (e.g., “#” followed by a string of words)


What is it?  An online professional network where you can add co-workers, acquaintances, etc. as “connections”.  Your main page is a running feed of updates from your connections
Pro:  Recruiters love finding candidates here, opportunities to show off co-worker recommendations
Con: It’s hard to publicize that you are job hunting if you have co-workers as your connections, you can’t directly contact unknown connections (as a basic account member)
Decision Factor:  You may one day want to actively or passively seek a new job
Tip: Build up your LinkedIn connections today, don’t wait until you need a new job

There you have it!  F-T-L power!  It’s not for everyone, but surely one, two, or all is a fit for you.

Why I’ll quit playing your mobile game

The mobile gaming space is really exciting right now. Anyone notice that AT&T is offering the iPhone 3GS for $0 now? The user base (e.g., TAM) is rapidly growing and there are no dominant players in the space. Major game companies from console and social platforms (e.g., EA, Zynga) are starting to take notice and want a piece of the mobile game action. It seems that almost every other small game company is joining in as well. However, there are major challenges for developing games for mobile devices. The major ones are working with the limitations of a mobile device (e.g., different screen sizes, different OS platforms, less memory, less bandwidth & speed, etc.) and leveraging mobile user interaction for game play (e.g, touch, GPS, etc.).

When I start to play a mobile game, I look for a few things before I decide to quit playing.

  • Slow load time – Do I have to wait long for the game to load? when I have a few minutes to play a game, I’m not interested in waiting a minute to kill a minute.
  • Boring graphics – Are the animals or people cute and playful? Does the game have a lot of color and is it eye-catching? Visually appealing games are fun to look at.
  • No first-time user tutorial – Can I learn how to play the game in less than 30 seconds? Is there a step-by-step tutorial to help me buy my first zoo animal or build my first house? Games need to make sure players know how to play the game from the beginning. I get frustrated when I do not know what to do next and will stop playing instantly. Some say that tutorials will convert users to the next step 90% of the time. Don’t waste your customer acquisition costs.
  • No story line & boring goals – Are there cute stories that go along with the different game goals? it’s one thing to say “decorate your zoo with trees” and another thing to say “your zoo visitors like shading on hot days, decorate your zoo with trees”.
  • Initial game play with real money – Does the game need real money to keep playing at the beginning? I had this one game experience where I was asked to buy game currency on the first day of playing. This was probably 10 minutes into the game. I wasn’t hooked on the game yet, so I decided to quit playing the game indefinitely. Believe it or not, there are users who will never pay real money to play a game. Games should also consider doing in-game ads (e.g., Angry Birds) or having an offerwall (e.g., Tap Zoo) for other sources of revenue.

For existing game companies looking to port to mobile, be careful not to disappoint users into thinking the same game will be just as good on mobile. For instance, Zynga has CityVille on Facebook and has CityVille Hometown on iOS. Zynga was smart not to use the exact same game title. The iOS version has a different story line from the original CityVille, on the iPad it looks bare for my taste (e.g, has too much open space on the screen), and the games seems to be crashing quite a bit on mobile devices.

To insure or not to insure iPhone 4S

Last Friday, I stood in line for 1.25 hours for an iPhone 4S at a Verizon store.  The last time that I stood in line for something was for Britney Spears and then before that Bill Clinton.  As you can see, I don’t just stand in line for anything.  Hahahaha.

As the #8 customer, I was quickly whisked away to the nearest cashier station and received my white 32 GB iPhone 4S.  Then the sales associate asked me if I wanted a screen protector, case, and insurance.  My head starting hurting because there were a lot of things that I hadn’t thought about before.

I am not a big fan of extra insurance for products.  My number one reason is that I hate jumping hoops to get a claim through.  I don’t believe that an insurance really covers everything.  And insurances are a cash cow for companies.  However, I am a fan of buying insurance if the risk of losing or breaking the item is high and if it will cost close to $1K or more to replace the item.

My insurance choices were AppleCare+ and Verizon.  I didn’t look into third party insurance because I hadn’t researched them at the time of purchase.

Both AppleCare+ and Verizon need to be purchased on day 1 of getting the iPhone.  Both have deductibles although Verizon’s deductible is much higher by $100.  AppleCare+ is $99 one-time whereas Verizon is $9.99 per month with cancellation at any time.

My decision came down to coverage of when the phone is lost.  You will not get this type of coverage with many of the other insurances.  According to MicroTax, about 113 cell phones are lost or stolen every minute in the US.  I will buy insurance until the break even point of having insurance and getting a replacement Verizon iPhone.  My numbers come out to be 15 months.  After 15 months, I will cancel my insurance and take my chances.

Here are the numbers:

  • iPhone 4 (not 4S) on craigslist is $350
  • Monthly insurance price $10 times “X” months
  • $200 deductible for insurance claim for iPhone 4S 32 GB
  • Solve for “X”, 350 = 10X + 200, X = 15 months

If you decide to not sure your iPhone 4S, at least protect your glass because I think cases are useless.  When I had my iPhone 3, I dropped it face down on my driveway and bam glass all broken.  It still worked but was cracked.  I took it to some guy’s apartment to get fixed for $60.  After two to three months, 1/3 of the screen became unresponsive so then I had to borrow an old iPhone 3 from a friend.

For my new iPhone 4S, I got a Ghost Armor screen protector at a local mall.  For $35, you can get a plastic protector for the front, back, and sides of the iPhone.  They have a lifetime warranty.  If you need the front or back protector replaced, bring the iPhone back with the protector and you can get a new one installed for $5 each side.

From Verizon’s website:

Total Equipment Coverage combines the benefits of Asurion’s Wireless Phone Protection with the Verizon Wireless Extended Warranty program. If your device or covered accessories are lost, stolen, accidentally damaged, or malfunctioning due to a manufacturing defect after the manufacturer’s warranty expires, you are covered. Verizon Wireless customers can only enroll in Total Equipment Coverage within 30 days of new account activation with a new equipment purchase.

Other Devices

  • $9.99 per month per covered device
  • $169 non-refundable deductible (8GB, 16GB iPhone® 4 and 16GB iPhone® 4S) per approved claim
  • $199 non-refundable deductible (32GB iPhone® 4 and 32GB, 64GB iPhone® 4S) per approved claim
  • 2 Replacements in a 12-month period with an equipment maximum of $1500 per claim (in New York, 2 claims per policy year)

Replacement devices may be remanufactured equipment. If the same model is not available, a comparable model will be provided. You may cancel at any time and receive a prorated refund of your monthly fee.

From Apple’s website:

Every iPhone comes with one year of hardware repair coverage and 90 days of telephone technical support. AppleCare+ for iPhone extends repair coverage and technical support to two years from the original purchase date of your iPhone and adds coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage due to handling, each subject to a $49 service fee.1 With AppleCare+ for iPhone, Apple experts can help troubleshoot issues over the phone or at an Apple Retail Store. They’ll answer questions about iOS, Apple iPhone apps such as Mail, iMessage, and Calendar, and help you solve interconnectivity issues between your iPhone and Mac or PC. And if your iPhone needs service under the plan, Apple technical support representatives can even set up a repair during the same call.

From SquareTrade’s website:

2 years of coverage: The SquareTrade iPhone warranty covers your iPhone for up to 2 years, starting on the date of purchase.

Covered Issues: Both accidents (e.g., broken screen or other damage through drops AND liquid damage including full immersion) and out-of-warranty normal use failures (e.g., battery no longer charging or other hardware failures) are covered. We do not cover loss, theft, willful damage or damage occurring through gross misuse.

Deductible: There is a $50 deductible when claiming on an accident (e.g., drops, spills). There is no deductible for a normal use failure (e.g., power issue).

How it works: You can file a claim online or on the phone. Depending on the issue, we will either fix your iPhone or arrange for a replacement. To fix your iPhone, we give you free overnight shipping to-and-from our depot and 80% of iPhones are fixed the day of receipt. If you prefer the convenience of your local Genius Bar, you can take it there and we will reimburse your repair costs.

Repair or Replacement: Based on what happened to your iPhone, we will let you know if it’s suitable for repair, otherwise we will arrange a replacement option.

Older iPhones: This coverage is restricted to iPhones purchased in the last 30 days. Older iPhones can still be covered through the SquareTrade iPhone application (available in the App Store).

Our 5-day service guarantee: We will replace OR fix and ship back your iPhone within 5 business days of receiving it at the depot. If it takes longer, let us know and we’ll be happy to refund the cost of your warranty.

Who will win the mobile payments game?

At a GigaOM mobile conference, Visa, PayPal, Intuit, and Verifone talked about the state of mobile payments.

I personally think the strongest player is Visa.  If its mobile payment solution doesn’t catch on, then they can always fall back to its lucrative credit card business.  Remember that cash and credit cards still dominate payment options.  Mobile payments need to be just as easy as them.

Visa is pushing merchants hard to adopt its mobile payment infrastructure.  By 2015,  if merchants haven’t upgraded their infrastructure to use Visa’s mobile payments, liability for fraudulent charges will shift from the credit card company to the merchant.  How’s that for a little nudge.

PayPal is focused on an end-to-end mobile payment solution.  They are doing many acquisitions in this space for mobile and X.Commerce cloud solution.  One thing that PayPal kept emphasizing was that they are doing more than  just payments whereas some of the panelists were solely focused on payments.  It will be a challenge for PayPal and many others to make the transition from online to offline payments especially if they don’t have an offline footprint already.  In general, online to offline anything is going to be an exciting space.

Verifone is a huge backer of Google wallet and NFC.  In fact, Verifone kept talking about how NFC is going to win out while the other panelists said it’s too early to tell.  Just the other day, I shopped at Old Navy to find that the Verifone card swiper indeed took Google wallet.

Intuit is hedging its bets.  They are 1) embracing the current mobile payments environment and 2) staying involved with the forefront of change (e.g., NFC).  Currently, they are empowering people with credit card readers like Square.  I can see the added value of record keeping and analytics that complementary Intuit software can offer above and beyond a lone Square solution.

The world is leading in mobile payments with the US leading in mobile e-commerce.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years.

Godfather of Silicon Valley shares angel insights

Ron Conway, known as the Godfather of Silicon Valley and part of SV Angel, came to Campbell to talk some shop, angel investing.  Of the many companies he has invested in, some noteworthy ones are Google, Facebook, PayPal, Square, AskJeeves, Foursquare, Mint.com, and Napster.  He may know a thing or two about funding the next big thing.

Since 1994, Conway has been doing angel investing in solely internet software.  He is one of six people for SV Angel, which is on its third fund of $30M.  In 1999, 80% of the portfolio went out of business with him commenting, “Thank G*d we invested in Google”.

SV Angel investing priority is 1) idea, 2) people, then 3) market size.  They invest an average of $50K-$200K.  For $3-5M company valuations, they usually own 1-2% of the company and when there is liquidity (e.g., IPO, aquisition), they typically own 0.5% of the company.  About 1/3 of its portfolio fail, 1/3 are base hits and get 1-3 times money back, and top 1/3 are big hits and get 4-5 or “Google” times money back.

About 2.5 years ago, SV Angel picked a broad theme of real-time data with concentration in sectors such as social, mobile, big data, social commerce, social collaboration, and offline to online.  They will invest in 20 companies in each sector.

Getting SV Angel funding is as easy as sending a one-page executive summary via email.  However, the email is typically from someone they know or through a reference.  After receiving a deal via email, a weekly investment committee votes on whether they make a phone call.  After the phone call, they vote whether to have a face-to-face meeting.  By the time that they meet the company face-to-face, the companies are actually further along than the company thinks in getting funding because of the evaluation process.  I personally asked him when do they invest in just the idea without any prototype or traction, he answered, when they personally trust and know the entrepreneur’s track record already.  As an example, Conway thinks very highly of Sean Parker.

The stats on your chances to get SV Angel investment:

    • 25 deals per week from email
      • 5 new deals a day via email, which are usually from people they already know or through a reference
    • 10-15 deals per week get phone call meetings
      • 2-3 deals from emails a day DO NOT get a phone call meeting
    • 5 deals a week get face-to-face meetings
    • 1 gets invested typically out of 30

Not ready for funding yet, but want to know if you are a good entrepreneur investment for SV Angel?  Here are some traits that Conway seeks when evaluating entrepreneurs.  The term “flexible entrepreneur” was mentioned several times during his talk.  Can a person be a leader?  Form / recruit a team?  Ninety percent of the time, the founding team is a group of 3.  Good group dynamics is very important.

Lastly, if you are clueless about starting up and you want to do an accelerator program, Conways says “The Harvard of accelerators is Y-Combinator”.

From the ZURBsoapbox website:

Ron Conway has been called the “Godfather of Silicon Valley” as well as “the man who has placed more bets on Internet start-ups than anyone else in Silicon Valley.”

He has been making “angel” investments long before angel investing became cool. In fact Conway has been doing it for such a long time and so prolifically that he has revolutionized the angel business.

For the past 15 years Conway has invested in more than 500 companies among which are Google, Facebook, Napster, Digg and many many others. Conway’s first fund, Angel Investors I, raised and invested in 1998, generated a 7 times return. His second fund raised and invested during 1999 saw a 1.5 times return.


Latest Square on the block

If you haven’t heard about the startup Square, you are in luck.  I’m going to give you the latest on them.  Keith Rabois, COO of Square, joined 14 months ago when there were 14 employees and no users.  At Mobilize, he talked about how a small, white, square pluggable hardware piece is making its dent in the payment space.

About 26M US businesses do not accept credit cards today.  In order to process credit cards, you need to pass a credit card check yourself (e.g., FICO score) and provide your last year’s business sales.  For a person just starting out, this is an instant fail on two accounts.  Then steps in Square.

Today, 750,000 merchants accept Square, just 10% of companies who accept credit cards.  Before Square,  50-60% of users would not be able to accept credit cards.  Of those who apply for Square, 93% are accepted and can accept payments in less than 3 minutes.  What about the FICO score and sales requirement?  Square uses automated and manual analytics to observe unusual transactions for fraud protection.

When asked about NFC and other payment options?  Rabois said, “We don’t worry about what other people are doing”.  He doesn’t think that NFC will resonate with mainstream America.  He further adds that Google is interested in NFC to track spending habits which is better ROI for ad spenders which includes top 100 retailers.

Square will be having two major releases in October – one for Square, one for Card Case.  Then in December, they will have some things to say, but on the hush hush.

Rabois puts it plainly, “Square is Paypal for the real world”.