Buffalo (WNY) has been my home since I was 6: 1985. I moved away after highschool graduation in 1997, because that’s what you do as the son of a travel agent whom exposed you to the rest of the world while you grew up. I also have been hyper-entrepreneurial since age 7, when I began selling my drawings to family members from the bedroom wall of my room at my father’s house. At age 8, I was setting up at flea markets to sell sports cards and comic books. Fast forward to my highschool years and this thing called the “world wide web” was opening the doors to vast opportunity.
Those opportunities were reluctantly available in Buffalo. I lived in 10 cities in about 10 years- Boston, Austin, Denver, and more. At the end of 2006, nearly 10 years after leaving, I decided to come home to plant my flag in the ground and be apart of something big — the revitalization of a city that once was the world’s envy, a booming center of commerce and innovation, a pioneer in the fields of power, capital and manufacturing.
But Buffalo has long been the underdog. One might say it has been since our run of 4 straight SuperBowl losses, but it’s been since the early 1900s. Though we were boosted by WWII industry, some say we never really recovered from the Great Depression. Our position as a shipping and logistics hub was obliterated with the 1959 opening of the St. Lawrence seaway, the rise of long haul trucking and a decrease of railway usage. A city built for a million people, we peaked to 600,000 residents in the 1950s and have been a 260,000 person shell of our former self.
As others like me have had to learn the long way, it took leaving for me to realize – despite past decades of decline – how unequivocally GREAT my city is. But recently I have never seen so much positive national attention to Buffalo in my thirty-five years of living. There are many cogs in this wheel of local and national “Buffalove” at play here, with the largest ones being undeniably Terry & Kim Pegula’s massive financial commitment to this city (owners now of both our pro sports teams; brand new $200mm HarborCenter), our waterfront becoming a year-round attraction for residents, Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” initiative, SolarCity (and the, to date, $750mm movement to make Buffalo the center of the solar-power industry), 43North $5mm business competition (attracting global businesses), Z80 Labs (first capital fund for web/mobile startup entrepreneurs), and a flurry of private investment being spent to update our city’s great historic buildings. (Don’t forget that in the early 1900’s, Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States, spending their money on mansions and commercial architecture — these massive historical treasures simply do not exist anywhere else in the world.) Buffalo has shaken off its post-industrial past and, after a slow start, is quickly remaking itself as a leader for the new millennium.
The days of every conversation with Buffalo outsiders starting with their obligatory snow jabs are coming to a close.
Thank you to Anthony Armstrong of Make Communities for input and editing. Image credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.
Below are a list of national articles and blog posts about Buffalo. Please share others I may have missed in the comments section.
19 Bars In America You Should Drink At Before You Die: Founding Father’s Pub, Buffalo, NY – BuzzFeed
Buffalo Embraces Winter’s Chill – NYTimes.com – The New York Times
JOURNEYS – 36 Hours – Buffalo – NYTimes.com – The New York Times
Hipster City Travel: Buffalo, New York – Hipstercrite
Once Just a Punch Line, Buffalo Fights Back – NYTimes.com
I went to the University at Buffalo two weeks ago to attend a CodeCon that Bloomberg was putting on. 150 computer science students attended to compete for three top prizes of smart watches. Pizza and swag was provided. After the two-hour competition, the top 30 ranked students were contacted for follow up internship interviews. The event cost Bloomberg under $2,000 without the travel and accommodations they had to also pay for their representatives.
I spoke with some students afterwards. One of them will be interning at Facebook this summer getting paid $45/hour, all meals supplied (via Facebook’s cafeteria), and housing also paid for. That’s what Buffalo is competing with. That’s what the world is competing with. Facebook isn’t just recruiting the top engineers at the University at Buffalo, they’re doing it at every college. I can’t blame these kids for going out West for that. Work at Facebook, gain experience and start paying off student loans? Hell, sign me up.
Note: This position is part-time (5-10 hours/week), unpaid, provides academic credits and starts immediately in Buffalo, NY. You must be able to be onsite in our office (located in downtown in the city) at least one half-day a week.
Z80 Labs is hiring a Machine Learning Engineer Intern to build the early, key pieces of an internal tool that will uncover information to find startups we want to invest in. As a Machine Learning Engineer Intern at Z80 Labs, you will build tools to collect new data signals in order to create proprietary insights and data through statistical analysis and machine learning techniques. We want someone who loves finding patterns in past data to then predict the future based on real-time data. To be successful, you need to be great at coming up with creative ways to decipher investment patterns from structured data. As we are a small and agile team you’ll have the opportunity to wear many hats: it’s important that you are both a skilled web developer and experienced with data science and machine learning.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU
- Your work will directly impact our investments as we prepare to engage in critical transactions.
- Work closely with our Managing Director.
- You think you know about startups now, just wait until you’ve spent one month with us.
- You will play a critical role in building Z80’s core data consumption, analysis, and creation technologies. We want someone who brings a strong opinion to the table and will be proactively involved with product planning.
- Dig deep to discover what drives the momentum of private companies and investment. Get creative — whether it’s looking at DNS record changes, crawling the web with phantomjs, or building out a call center that measures mean time for businesses to pick up the phone.
- Design experiments that can structure insights and data from the vast amounts of information locked away in text on the internet.
WHAT YOU WILL WORK ON
- Extract structured data from AngelList, Twitter, Crunchbase, and LinkedIn.
- Extract structured data about funding events from the thousands of news articles about companies that are posted every day
- Detect emerging industries by analyzing the features of newly established companies and determining if they fall into a new, previously unidentified cluster
- Predict who will become a startup founder based on publicly available data about them
- Predict who will become a startup founder again based on previous startup experience and fundraising.
- Build a scalable infrastructure that can be used to experiment on new Machine Learning models and run validated models on massive amounts of streaming data
WHAT YOU NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL
- Software development experience
- Machine Learning experience
- Skilled at Python, experience with Hadoop/Spark is a plus
- Experience (or thirst to learn) using Natural Language processing techniques.
- Can (or have the desire to) talk about Random Forests, Naive Bayes and Support Vector Machines in your sleep
- Passionate about startups, ideally with a background or at least some interest in finance
WHY WE LOVE IT HERE
- Fully-stocked fridge of Red Bull and snacks.
- Work alongside 25 other startups at the Z80 Labs and 43 North incubator.
HOW TO APPLY
- Email steve at z80labs dot com with your resume, github link, and a brief cover letter (or email) as to why you.
ABOUT Z80 LABS
- Z80 Labs, launched in summer 2012, is Buffalo’s first Internet-focused technology incubator, providing entrepreneurs the ability to build new and innovative tech companies in Buffalo, New York. Startups invited to locate in Z80 Labs are given a wide array of services including office space, education programs, mentorship, amenities and infrastructure from local sponsors, as well as expert advice from renowned industry advisors. Total funds under Z80 Labs management are $6.6 million.
Church, the Bitcoin Savior?
Congregations of people donate lots of money to help those in need — including poverty-stricken individuals across the world. A local congregation in my area announced they’ve been able to donate $10 million.
I imagine congregations being able to immediately help the 4 billion globally in poverty by donating Bitcoin. Instant help; instant feedback of their impact; fueling even more donations.
From the pew, one could contribute to a congregation’s campaign, which is immediately dispersed to a specific community across the world that is in need. By the end of their service, there’s likely smiling face “thank you” pictures of those that were just helped and videos and texts of gratitude. People can’t really do that now and get that immediate ROI (response of impact).
Getting mobile phones into the hands of those in poverty is the first step, then donating bitcoin could mean the end of poverty for some.
The church has the ability to lead the Bitcoin revolution.
Bitcoin: The World Doesn’t Give A Sh*t
This was the best presentation at the Bitcoin conference in Miami last weekend — it’s less than 8 minutes long and everyone should see this. Catheryne Nicholson (@Catheryne_N) nails it.
The outlook for the future of the Buffalo Sabres is HIGH, according to NATIONAL media — not just local media. Here’s what national media has been saying:
Enjoy and let me know any other goodies you’ve heard!
Here’s another mix that’s a good one:
February 6, 2012 —
40 employees. $16M raised over the years. Nearly 40 games created.
Launch Draw Something on both Android and iOS. Their 2nd iOS game ever.http://www.businessinsider.com/10-days-after-launch-this-hot-new-app-has-12…
1st 40k installs from paid installs from within other apps ($3,000 budget) and users of their existing website.
At 100k, WOM exploded. People posted pictures to Twitter and Instagram.
3 drawings per second on launch day http://www.businessinsider.com/zynga-confirms-draw-something-has-passed-50-…
February 21, 2012 — http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/21/omgpop-hits-1m-downloads-for-draw-somethin…
85% iOS installs
90% revenue from iOS
February 22, 2012 —
1.2M downloads. http://www.businessinsider.com/10-days-after-launch-this-hot-new-app-has-12…
50-75 drawings per second (5M-10M per day).
Users play multiple times per day.
February 24, 2012 —
#3 free ranked app in Appstore http://bijansabet.com/post/18184715206/our-portfolio-company-omgpop-has-the…
“#3 App. #3 Game App. #3 Paid App. #1 Word Game & now 5 Star ratings for Paid and Free versions. “
February 26, 2012 —
333 pictures per second http://www.businessinsider.com/omg-5-week-old-app-draw-something-hits-20-mi…
March 1, 2012 — http://bijansabet.com/post/18548961644/patience-persistence
#1 overall paid app and #1 free app in the iOS app store in the United States and in another 25 countries. #1 paid and free app in Google Play.
12 million downloads, 7.1M DAU told by Dan Porter http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/06/draw-something/
500,000 tweets per hour
“The top 3 feature requests from users are the options to chat, create profiles, and follow friends so you can play and share drawings with them.”
March 7, 2012 — http://www.businessinsider.com/omg-5-week-old-app-draw-something-hits-20-mi…
1,660 pictures per second
March 8, 2012 — http://www.insidemobileapps.com/2012/03/09/omgpops-resurgence-draws-interes…
Miley Cyrus tweets that she is addicted to Draw Something.
Retain 60-70% of new users after 7 days.
50% of revenues come from $0.99 upgrades
25% of revenues come from virtual currency
25% of revenues come from ads
200M ad impressions per day
~$50,000+/day in ad revenue (hinted at by CRO; thus ~$200,000+/day in overall revenue)
eCPM = ($50,000/200,000,000)*1000 = $0.25 (note: estimated from CRO quote)
March 12, 2012 — http://www.businessinsider.com/omg-5-week-old-app-draw-something-hits-20-mi…
20 million downloads
12 million active users
#1 app in 79 countries
1 billion+ drawings
3,000 pictures per second
Release infographic highlighting stats
March 14, 2012 — http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/14/omgpop-eyes-a-tv-show-based-on-hit-game-dr…
25 million registered users
10 million DAU
28 million installs (per OMGPOP employee in comments of this post)
1 billion ad impressions per day (at $0.25 eCPM, that’s $250,000/day)
Writer told that a “game like Draw Something” would be eCPM $0.20 – $0.30 ~= $200,000/day
Android now 1/3 of new downloads
March 18, 2012 — http://www.businessinsider.com/last-night-between-8pm-and-9pm-45-million-pe…
4.5 million people played between 8PM – 9PM EST.
10.8 million DAU logged in via Facebook (vs 8.6 million DAU via FB for Words With Friends) http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/16/zynga-omgpop/
March 21, 2012 —
Zynga buys OMGPOP for $183M. In bidding war vs Disney and EA.
Draw Something doing $250,000/day AFTER Apple’s commission. http://allthingsd.com/20120321/looks-like-zynga-just-bought-omgpop-for-200-…
That must be just upgrades and virtual currency revenue, because ads are outside of Apple’s control. That’d be $350,000/day revenue total for upgrades and virtual currency. If CRO telling truth on March 8, then 1/3 is virtual currency ($116,000/day) and 2/3 is paid upgrades ($234,000/day). That means 234,000 pro users per day (1-2M installs/day = 12%-25% pro upgrade conversion rate). The least virtual currency package is $1.99 and next is $4.99, but if we estimate $5 per user, that is 1% of new installs and 23,200 virtual goods purchases per day (of $5 each, thus more likely 2-3 $1.99 purchases by buyers).
6 weeks old. #1 app in 79 countries. http://www.businessinsider.com/omgpop-sold-way-too-early-they-left-800-mill…
37 million downloads http://theweek.com/article/index/225921/the-dizzying-success-of-draw-someth…
That’s 9 million downloads in 7 days given March 14 numbers. Meaning 6 million iOS downloads in 7 days, roughly 850,000 new iOS downloads per day.
12+ million DAU http://www.businessinsider.com/omgpop-sold-way-too-early-they-left-800-mill…
14.6M DAU (alt source) http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/25/zynga-explains-challenging-q2-facebook-pla…
20.5M DAU http://theweek.com/article/index/225921/the-dizzying-success-of-draw-someth…
3 billion total drawings http://theweek.com/article/index/225921/the-dizzying-success-of-draw-someth…
April 4, 2012 — http://www.businessinsider.com/zynga-confirms-draw-something-has-passed-50-…
50 million downloads in 50 days.
At peak generates 3,000 drawings per second.
6 billion total drawings
April 26, 2012 —
Launch on Kindle Fire http://venturebeat.com/2012/04/26/draw-something-now-on-the-kindle-fire/
May 3, 2012 —
New ad model, selling words to brands for users to draw http://www.businessinsider.com/zyngas-draw-something-wants-you-to-monetize-…
October 4, 2012 —
Zynga admits they overpaid. Writeoff of $85M-$95M.
October 27, 2012 — launch on Windows Mobile.
About 11 Thoughts For A Thursday: With an endless firehose of opinions, comments, blog posts, articles, tweets, etc., I felt there was a lot of great insight being drowned out. I plan to surface insight that interests me, both new and old. I’ll also be working to extract perspective from some great minds that aren’t very vocal in public print. I am always looking for great insight, so hit me up on Twitter @popo if you spot any.
1. Jessica Livingston (Y Combinator) says this could be the tipping point year for female founders. Y Combinator is already at 25% female founders in the current batch of startups. That led me to wonder what percentage of VCs were female: 14% (I compiled data from the top 10 most active venture capital firms in 2013). This seems correlated to founders — the more successful female entrepreneurs there are in coming years, the more female VCs there will be in years to come. Another profound stat from Y Combinator: 1/3 of all startups with female co-founders were started with their significant other.
2. I met a local startup called Density (from digital agency Rounded out of Syracuse, NY). They recently won the ‘best enterprise hardware’ award at Launch. They have a customized Raspberry Pi device that plugs into a wall and will tell you how many people are in the room. That seems an amazing feat. How it works is that if you’re a restaurant owner (or any venue), you plug it in, and use their app to tell it which of the wifi networks is yours — that’s it, setup is done. Then, you know how all our mobile phones are always looking to see what available wifi networks there are? The Density device is a wifi router itself and thus is signaling it’s own network, which your mobile phone sees and essentially pings. The Density device registers your mobile phone’s unique device ID (like a MAC address) and anonymously keeps track of how many people there are, which is reported in real-time and in trending charts to the restaurant owner via their app.
The Density team said they plugged the device into a venue of 20k people and saw 14k people, thus 71% of people had a mobile device that was looking for wifi networks. It’s not 100% accurate obviously, but wow, this is pretty amazing. Foursquare is able to see where people go, but that’s only on their 25(?) million users. I see Density as a prime Foursquare (or Yelp) acquisition. I’d then send a device to every restaurant (or any venue) that requested one for free, provide basic stats and maybe charge monthly for better stats — or maybe not. Imagine anonymously tracking users as they go from venue to venue around the world, via their device’s MAC address. Again, Foursquare has this data, but on a very self-selecting audience.
3. Related to #2: a study out of the University of Cambridge used location data from Foursquare users to see if they could build a recommendation algorithm to predict what sporting events, concerts and conferences you would want to attend in the future based on what you have attended in the past. This study takes some mental stamina to read through, but being an avid concert-goer, I’d love to know what shows I should be attending that I don’t even know I should be attending (because likely I’m not familiar with the band/artist performing).
I love the future.
4. Yesterday, Google Ventures teamed up with Uber to do UberPITCH. Basically, you requested an UberPITCH vehicle and an investor from Google Ventures would show up in an Uber and you’d get 7 minutes to pitch them, then 7 minutes for Q&A. Essentially, mobile office hours. I think this is a great marketing idea for Uber and Google Ventures, but could also be a TV show — Cash Cab is awesome entertainment. This isn’t the first time someone has pitched a VC in a car ride — Dave McClure (500 Startups) asked via Twitter if someone would give him a ride and they could pitch, which Alex Moore did and Dave joined the seed round of Baydin for $100K in that 40min car ride.
5. Great gem from Goldman Sach’s report on Bitcoin mentioned in the 15-minute podcast from Andreessen Horowitz’s about the state of Bitcoin Ecosystem with Chris Dixon and Balaji Srinivasan: $210 billion in fee savings for payments going through bitcoin in the space of e-commerce and retail. That’s disruption.
6. Seth Goldstein (Turntable.fm and Fred Wilson’s first EIR) has an e-book he co-authored with Michael Simpson out called ‘The Secrets of Raising Money‘, which there are different tiered packages of the ebook — the highest tier includes 8 video interviews with the likes of Fred Wilson. Here’s a few 4-minute previews (including the Fred Wilson interview). They tease me enough to likely buy.
7. Josh Constine (TechCrunch) wrote a great post a couple months ago called ‘A Facebook Life‘. At the beginning I almost stopped reading, but I’m glad I didn’t. The post is ready for a movie studio to option. Hypothetically if it were optioned, I wonder if he owns the rights or if it’s AOL/TechCrunch. Presumably AOL/TechCrunch, but I’d be curious. Well done for summing up the digital life today, Josh.
8. Chris Dixon (Andreessen Horowitz) blogs about the data coming out of Flurry last week showing that the mobile web is losing vs apps, and how this is bad for innovation. Highlight quote from his post, which is scary:
Apps are heavily controlled by the dominant app stores owners, Apple and Google. Google and Apple control what apps are allowed to exist, how apps are built, what apps get promoted, and charge a 30% tax on revenues.
Most worrisome: they reject entire classes of apps without stated reasons or allowing for recourse (e.g. Apple has rejected all apps related to Bitcoin). The open architecture of the web led to an incredible era of experimentation. Many startups were controversial when they were first founded. What if AOL or some other central gatekeeper had controlled the web, and developers had to ask permission to create Google, Youtube, eBay, Paypal, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Sadly, this is where we’re headed on mobile.
But, I truly believe this is a temporary state of mobile as it evolves (which I somewhat allude to in my post last week). Commenter Zach Weinberg states it well,
Reminds me of how the internet evolved on the desktop. Seems temporary. Fully integrated won first (i.e. AOL) which ultimately got replaced by open web (Browser) as the web caught up in terms of technology (just as fast, easier to browse, find content etc.). Same will happen on mobile. Fully integrated / native apps will win first until the mobile browser technology catches up to be just as fast and fully featured as the native apps.
9. Love this mission from Charlie O’Donnell (Brooklyn Bridge Investments) writes in a blog post this week about how he often invests pre-product and pre-deck:
Personally, I’d rather write that check than wait for tons of traction. It’s fun for me and particularly rewarding if you can help a company get off the ground at the way too early stage. Does it scale? Not at all. Who cares? I’m not playing that firm building game and don’t care to.
Incubators and accelerators have become the pre-product money rounds these days, but Charlie is holding down the fort of being a seed capital fund as another option for entrepreneurs. Keep up the enthusiasm Charlie, entrepreneurs need as many options as possible. The timing, location, (etc) of incubators and accelerators doesn’t always align with entrepreneurs.
10. Naval Ravikant (AngelList) sums up the “Series A Crunch” well in a video interview (preview) with Seth Goldstein, saying that these days there is seed capital and growth capital. Naval says:
If you’re in between — you’ve already raised your money on hope and you haven’t yet clearly reached a break-out inflection point — it’s actually extremely difficult to raise money.
Adam Besvick (Lowercase Capital) blogged this week about how he believes “it’ll be a trend that consumer apps will take longer to “officially” launch as they seek to mitigate as much risk as possible before showing up in the App Store.”
If you are trying to build a VC-backed startup (aka a grand slam, because that’s what VC firms want in terms of financial returns), you need to nail product/market fit in your first raise. If you don’t and your numbers flatline, you’re SOL.
11. Good post outlining the coupon codes industry online and how much $1.8b public company RetailMeNot ($SALE) relies on Google (63% of their traffic). It’s amazing the number of public companies that rely on Google — Demand Media ($DMD) and Synacor ($SYNC) are a couple off the top of my head. Demand Media knows first-hand the consequences when Google changes their algorithms and traffic drops — 40% instant drop in traffic back in 2011. With the big shift of consumers from desktop to mobile, from websites to apps, Google’s dominance as the middle man to consumer intent isn’t going to last and there’s going to be a ripple effect of consequence to those companies that continue to depend on Google. The bright side is that this disruption opens new opportunities for entrepreneurs. (h/t @ericnagel)
About the Author: Steve Poland is working to bring asynchronous charades to mobile with Act Away (currently fundraising). Follow him on Twitter @popo or reach-out email@example.com. If you’d like to receive this weekly column via email, input your email address here (I promise to only send this column weekly and you can unsubscribe at anytime): http://tinyletter.com/popo