Waitin’ On A Dream: The Demise Of Native Apps


Last week marked the two-year anniversary of the sale of Draw Something (OMGPOP) to Zynga. Draw Something’s explosive 7-week ride in early 2012 culminated into a worldwide brand and was then acquired by Zynga for a rumored $183 million. In the past two years since that acquisition, QuizUp has been the next biggest asynchronous game to garner such attention, but not nearly to the degree that Draw Something did.

Draw Something was able to achieve 50 million installs in 50 days vs QuizUp’s 5 million users in 50 days¹. Based on smartphone growth over the past two years, if Draw Something launched today it may have been double what it was — 100 million installs in 50 days. That’s 20x what QuizUp did.

Draw Something was able to shatter what QuizUp did for three main reasons:

  1. The kids appeal of Draw Something vs non-kids appeal of QuizUp. Draw Something was able to appeal to all demographics and locales, particularly the kids. QuizUp on the other hand is a trivia game, so younger kids are left out. Kids are a large audience for mobile games.
  2. Draw Something released both a free and a paid “pro” app. These apps were identical, but the pro version removed ads and gave you additional coins to spend. In the metrics above, Draw Something’s numbers are based on “installs” vs QuizUp reporting “users”. There was likely overlap of some Draw Something users installing both the free and paid app, so this isn’t an equal comparison, but I can’t imagine it’s too far off.
  3. Draw Something simultaneously launched on both Android and iOS from the start. QuizUp did not — they only launched their game on iOS. Herein lies the problem that QuizUp ran into: the word-of-mouth viral loop stopped at every single Android user — which now is a larger market share than iOS.

In my opinion, that last point is the biggest reason Draw Something became a worldwide brand overnight vs QuizUp.

Every instance that I spoke about QuizUp to friends, if they had an Android phone, they didn’t care about the game, because they couldn’t have it — and the message of QuizUp never carried to their circles of friends. Whereas when I spoke about Draw Something to friends, both my iPhone and Android friends would install the game, then tell their circles of friends about the game, who would tell their circles of friends, (etc) and the brand continued spreading like a weed through the world via talk, text, Twitter, Instagram, and other forms of social communication.

Now this isn’t to say that QuizUp messed up. How QuizUp launched is actually the norm these days for mobile startups — Draw Something was an anomaly. Without going into all the gory technical details, the fact is that simultaneously developing a native app for both iOS and Android essentially takes twice the amount of time and effort, which typically means twice the cost.

The technology that’s supposedly going to break down this walled garden of native app development is HTML5. Four years ago, Facebook was all-in on HTML5. A year and a half later they reversed course when Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook had relied too much on HTML5, rather than on native applications. Why? Three years ago, MG Seigler wrote a post outlining the HTML5 vs native applications debate and essentially concluded HTML5-based mobile apps were a joke to their native counterparts. HTML5-based mobile apps were always inferior to native apps. I emailed Dan Porter (former CEO of OMGPOP) and asked if they had considered HTML5 when they developed Draw Something two years ago:

 “We never considered HTML5 as it’s solid for a news site, but at that time not for the real experience of a game — including drawing and drawing playback.”

As I asserted in my column two weeks ago, I believe there’s ample opportunity for mobile entrepreneurs to carve up the web — there are 600+ million websites and a mere 1+ million (unique) apps. If HTML5-based (hybrid) apps can live up to the hype, the floodgates will open as apps will be faster to code (less code to write), beginner and intermediate programmers will have better accessibility to building apps (JavaScript/CSS/HTML is easier to code than Java or Objective-C), and users will win by having access to all apps regardless of their own device or operating system.

Clearly an opportunity for QuizUp to gain many more users and revenue was missed by not launching on Android alongside iOS from the start when the media and user frenzy was at its’ peak. Due to the costly, time intensive and irritating process of building a native app on both iOS and Android, most app startups will continue to lean towards selecting and building for just one of these main mobile operating systems — particularly at the beginning when cash is king, time is of the essence, and you don’t even know if you have a hit on your hands (read: product-market fit). And if that’s the case, chances are that the next app startup to reach QuizUp stardom won’t reach Draw Something super-stardom.

Until an HTML5-based (hybrid) mobile app comes out that interfaces with a device’s native features (i.e. camera, accelerometer, etc.), functions and performs at the same level as a counterpart native app, AND blows the minds of the development community, companies will continue defaulting their mentality to building native apps. Despite the headaches and time it takes to build-out simultaneous native apps, developers are 100% confident they can make them do whatever they very well please. The same hasn’t been said for HTML5 over the years. With all the advances in the past four years, I think the pump is primed for someone to build a mind-blowing HTML5-based (hybrid) mobile app that will make us all think it’s a native app. 

So who is going to be the superhero and show the world that it can be done?

About the Author: Steve Poland is working to bring asynchronous charades to mobile with Act Away (currently fundraising). Follow him on Twitter @popo.

¹Seven weeks after launch (November 7, 2013) QuizUp had 5-million users (December 26, 2013). Six weeks later they released on the iPad (February 6, 2014) and claimed 10 million users. That’s 10 million users in 90 days.

photo credit: @atomicgoofball

11 Thoughts For A Thursday: Mobile Web Is Dead, Tweet-diarrhea, 43North, Founder Visa, Uber

11 Thoughts for a Thursday

For my early readership, Fred Wilson warned me that it’d be difficult to write posts as long and thoughtful as my original post for this series — he was right and I missed last week. Therefore, I’m going to try altering the format to just provide the 11 item curation.

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. Apparently the mobile web is dead and it’s all about native apps now, according to stats from Flurry. Basically the ‘mobile web’ in this instance has to do with browsing websites from your mobile device — aka, using Safari or Chrome (Safari dropped from 12% to 7% usage from March 2013 to March 2014. What’s happened is that the content people would be viewing in a browser, is still being viewed but rather in specialized apps with built-in browsers. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest — these are all essentially mobile web browsers these days, but not *technically*. Content links simply open in those apps themselves as they have built-in web browser functionality — I recall that a lot of content years ago use to open externally into the Safari app on your mobile device.

Something to take from this data is that your company should likely have an app. Although I do question whether all businesses should have their own apps — like restaurants or plumbers. Those businesses might be just offering content like their menu, hours, and photos of their work. At the moment as a consumer, it’d be tedious to have to download an app each time I wanted info for that type of a business. Maybe that experience becomes frictionless someday.

2. Om Malik wrote a post a few weeks ago about ‘Tweet-diarrhea‘, in which he says it all started with Marc Andreessen. Now it does seem like others at Andreessen-Horowitz are following suit, including a 41-tweet perspective on ‘full stack’ by General Partner Balaji Srinivasan, which then ends up getting retweeting practically tweet-by-tweet by Marc Andreessen. Honestly, I love the insight and perspective that Marc is adding, but any insight over 2 tweets deserves a blog post in my opinion. Having to scroll through my feed the other day of those 41-tweets (FORTY ONE!) was cluttered and annoying. Was it really easier for him to tweet all of that vs blog it? If you have that much to say, blog it and let others curate it into tweets.

3. My hometown Buffalo is holding a $5 million business competition: 43North. There are 11 awards from $250K – $1mm each. You can submit a plan, a startup or an already established business. If you’re a winner, you give up 5% equity and move the business to Buffalo. This is the first year of the program, so they lack a brand, but being the largest competition in the world, I really thought this would get more press than it has. Business (plan) competitions in tech seems like an outdated concept given incubators and accelerators these days, but this competition is open for most all industries. The competition is part of the “Buffalo Billion”, in which NY State is trying to jumpstart the economy here in Buffalo and attract businesses to create jobs.

4. Fred Wilson wrote about the 43North competition and the nugget of wisdom was in the comments section by FAKE GRIMLOCK, in which he said, “YOU WANT REAL JUMPSTART? PAY 50% SALARY OF ALL STARTUP DEVS IN BUFFALO FOR 1 YEAR. THAT HOW STARTUP A TOWN.” Brilliant idea. I have no political clout or know how to run with that idea, but I’d love to see New York implement that.

5. The other comment nugget from Fred’s post came from James Harradence, whom said “They should add some sort of immigration angle. A young person with entrepreneurial ambition would find access to the US market very attractive.” Craig Kanalley (Buffalo Sabres Social Media Director) added, “Couldn’t this be tied to universities somehow? Come for education + incentives to stay.”The University of Buffalo (UB) has a ton of international students, whom we educate and most then leave the area. Why? Well for one thing, in my opinion and from what I’ve heard from some, there are two campuses for UB, one is in Buffalo and one is in Amherst (a suburb of Buffalo). The majority of students are at the campus in Amherst and they think that is Buffalo. Most haven’t been downtown or if they have, they went to Chippewa (a street that encapsulates a couple blocks of bars/nightclubs geared towards the younger crowd). I wish there was a big initiative by UB to get students more intertwined and exposed to all of downtown Buffalo — our architecture, our parks, our museums, and our awesome neighborhoods that are different in their own rights. I know we could cut off some of the brain drain. We have a great opportunity with nearly 40,000 students attending that school each year.

6. Sam Altman was named the new president of Y Combinator (YC), taking the reigns over from Paul Graham. He’s 29 and Re/code did a piece about him that’s worth the read — he’s a fascinating guy. Warning: The article will make you feel lazy after reading how much Sam accomplishes in a day.

I digress, I really wanted to bring up his blog post The Founder Visa (again). It’s an open proposal to the US Government to allocate 100 visas to founders per year, under the direction of YC. This is after no(?) progress being made when YC requested 10,000 per year, five years ago. Essentially the argument is that we welcome all of these super smart people from other countries to the USA, educate them, then kick them out to go back to their home countries to start businesses, create jobs, and compete with the USA — because it is so difficult for them to stay here permanently. I admire YC’s initiative and I found it amazing how many people were quite frankly pissed off at YC (see comments) finding the proposal self-serving in that YC would want all the power over these visas — ultimately giving YC an advantage over entrepreneurs trying to stay in the USA. I understand the reaction, but it sounds like a bunch of whining. YC is trying to open the door to government for all VCs to have this opportunity, but the initiative needs to start somehow — and the simpler the better. YC has proved itself a leader in funding entrepreneurs that build companies that have created thousands (tens of thousands?) of jobs in less than ten years time.

7. Uber is doing $40mm/week and are doing more trips in SF than the taxi industry. It’s great to see this success for Travis Kalanick and team. He opened his home to me years back while I attended TechCrunch Disrupt. His energy was infectious. He’d have these late-night “jam sessions” as he called them, in which a bunch of super smart geeks would come over and they’d be whiteboarding up any of their startup ideas. They’d be going til all hours of the night and this was a regular thing! This is of course when he wasn’t schooling you at Mario Kart in his basement. Hunter Walk (Partner at Homebrew) had some interesting ideas about restaurants paying for your Uber if you dined with them — or discounting your bar tab.

8. Interesting idea from former TechCrunch writer Nick Gonzalez (Nervora), “What if apps of the future eschewed advertising and instead made money by mining cryptocurrency in the background while in use?” From those I’ve spoken with, this seemed far-fetched, but it was accomplished this past week — even if it wasn’t with permission from the users. It does seem there must be something our idle plugged-in devices could be mining while we sleep or are watching Netflix. Who remembers SETI@home?

9. During the Oscars last month I tweeted, “‘What’s a tweet? What’s Twitter? What’s a selfie?’ – thoughts by likely 50% of the people watching the Oscars right now”. I was wrong. Twitter’s audience for the Oscars was 37mm vs ABC’s audience of 43mm. Ellen’s selfie picture got 32mm impressions, although that doesn’t include all the impressions that picture generated from TV and print media showing off that picture. Twitter has become the second screen experience.

10. Some great historical items that take a couple seconds to view: The Future Of Gaming and a 1933 book passage about the California Gold Rush.

11. Lastly for a laugh: Startups Anonymous: “What I’d Really Like To Say To Investors”. This post literally made me laugh-out-loud at one point. Being in the thick of fundraising for my startup Act Away, some of these comments are spot on.

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

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 steve@vestedventures.com.

11 Thoughts for a Thursday: Secret, Flappocalypse, Unbundling of the Web

11 Thoughts for a Thursday

When less than 7,000 of us early-adopters arrived in Austin from all over the world for SXSW Interactive conference in 2007, we were met with Twitter visualization displays in the hallways. These screens cost $11k and were about the only money Twitter ever spent on marketing, as Evan Williams has told. Back then, we didn’t all have our heads buried in our phones like we do these days, and even if we had, one place you want to have your head up is when you’re about to get off an escalator. Thus, one of these screens was positioned at the top of the main escalator.  This screen was able to capture your undivided attention for a moment. That moment was all that was needed as new bite-sized “tweets” bubbled up on the screen sharing attendees’ thoughts from a panel they were at, what party they were headed off to, etc. After we all left SXSW that year, we went back to our cities and spread the word about what Twitter was. SXSW allowed us to really “get it” and understand the need for Twitter.

As 2014’s SXSW Interactive festival came to a close last week and over 30,000 attendees dispersed back to their cities, the app that was expected to steal the limelight did do that in fact — Secret isn’t a secret anymore. They closed on a $8.6 million round that weekend only adding to their buzz. When I downloaded Secret weeks ago, it was an aha moment for me. Being able to say stuff in an anonymous fashion to friends is an experience I didn’t realize was missing, but an experience I saw value in immediately. I also saw the need of this for the business community. In fact my first secret I posted was “I feel Secret will become the next FuckedCompany community. Airing out the dirty laundry of founders, VCs, employers & leaking news. All those tweets you always wanted to write but never wanted to attach to your name. This is gonna be huge.”

What I found very interesting is the mechanism for how content gets distributed through all of Secret. As I understand it, if I were to post a secret, then only my friends (matched from my iPhone’s address book) will see the secret. If a friend likes my secret, then the secret spreads to their friends. If one of those people liked my secret, it would spread to their friends, and so on, until it reaches a certain amount of likes at which point the secret goes viral and everyone potentially sees it in Secret.

Despite knowing that my secrets are anonymous and that I could say anything I want, there is a restraint that occurs knowing that only my friends will see my message — at least initially. I try to respect my friends and not say something completely immature or ridiculous.

My feed of secrets included humor, “One time I farted in a Pringles can and told my friend to open it”, honesty, “I’m stressed out almost all of the time”, and shocking, “My thoughts of suicide are getting louder.”, which was deemed from “Your circle”. One of my friends has contemplated suicide? Surreal. Granted it’s anonymous and could be a false statement, but in this Secret community it is taken seriously. The comment thread went long, with friends of that person commenting anonymously as well, offering support and open stories.

In the past 7 years and seeing thousands of startups, I have only had four really big aha moments: Twitter in 2007, Foursquare in 2009, Turntable.fm in 2011, and now Secret in 2014. My track record isn’t perfect (Turntable.fm just shut down officially after 4 years this week) and we’ll see how Secret plays out, but I’m long on Secret.

1. This post ’11 Thoughts’ is hopefully the first of many more to come. 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’m always looking for great insight, so hit me up on Twitter @popo if you spot any.

2. The flappocalypse is still upon us. Flappy Bird only exists on the devices that downloaded it before the game owner abruptly removed it from the Appstore, but you can have your pick from hundreds of clones, with new ones spiraling out of the ether… every 24 minutes. Dong Nguyen broke his silence last week in a rare interview scooped by Rolling Stone, in which he shares how he thinks of the target audience for his games, “I pictured how people play, one hand holding the train strap.” Dong says he is working on three new games simultaneously and we should be seeing one of them this month. My favorite quote from the article is in Dong asking the reporter if Flappy Bird made them laugh, “The bird is flying along peacefully and all of a sudden you die!”, he said with a chuckle. The only time that game made me laugh was when watching friends be tortured by its’ gameplay.

3. As of this writing, 12% of the top 100 free apps in the Apple Appstore and three of the top 10 free apps are Flappy Bird clones (down from more than half of the top 10 at one point). Whether you feel the Appstore ranking algorithms are broken or not, Ouriel Ohayon (Appsfire) put it best: “There is 1 key learning from this flappy thing: kids own the top ranks. Not Apple. Not ad networks, Not Facebook. Not bots. Just kids.”

4. Kids were the way to get onto desktop computers and capture search market share in the form of cleverly disguised toolbars that would set your default search engine and homepage. IAC’s Mindspark focuses on this by running virtual world Zwinky, Webfetti, MyWebFace.com, GirlSense.com, MyFuncards.com, Smiley Central, Cursor Mania, and more. Kids would install these toolbars/extensions (they still do) and typically parents lack the technical savviness to uninstall these toolbars and revert back their default search engine and homepages.

I expect we’ll see something similar happen on mobile devices with games and kid-appealing apps acting as trojan horses to capture our attention for promoting other more profitable apps to us.  If I install a game and turn notifications on for it, then that developer could notify me of their next app (or of some other app in which they are compensated for promoting to me). As the battle continues for apps hoping to achieve placement on the coveted homescreens of our devices, simply getting on our devices is an achievement.

5. King (the company behind Candy Crush) filed for their IPO recently, it’s always fun to find nuggets from S-1 filings. Thomas BCN uncovers King spent $1M per day on user acquisition and reaped $4M per day in revenue from Candy Crush in 2013. Talk about crushing it.

6. “Whales” is the industry term to describe the big spenders. A new report from Swrve says 0.15% of mobile players account for 50% of mobile games revenue. I wonder if the whales know we call them whales and I really wonder if the whales even realize they are whales, or if they simply think their spending habits are the norm.

7. If you’re looking for an industry to disrupt in the USA, look no further than this telling graph shared by Conrad Hackett (Pew Research). I  find it absurd that in the past year at a doctor’s office, I had to remember if I were up-to-date on my tetanus shot or not. I’ll admit to not knowing enough on the digitization of health care, but how my health information isn’t available in a shared digital file for doctors that I give access to, blows my mind.

8. Related: I would gladly share my health records anonymously for collective medical research intelligence. We’re in the first inning of wearable computing — it’ll be amazing once better data related to our health is collected from our phones, tablets, armbands, glasses, rings, clothing, etc. Once this happens, I believe we’ll see drastic reductions in obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, smoking, alcohol consumption, cancer, as well as an increased life expectancy. Collective intelligence will hopefully lead to a cure for cancer and other diseases, as asserted by Nick Denton (Gawker). I imagine someday your glasses will instantly show you a modified restaurant menu with only the items under 600 calories, because that’s all you have left for your daily caloric intake.

9. An observation from Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp,  Roberto Bonanzinga (Balderton Capital) notes that Blackberry blew it because they could have built $19b of shareholder value with BBM. You know who  had the opportunity to have built $19b of shareholder value before everyone else? AOL. They once owned messaging and let it slip away.

10. AOL also owned mapping as Rakesh Agrawal (PayPal) points out, “Mapquest is an amazing case study in how to screw up a brand. AOL owned mapping and let Google take it.”

11. If you took a screenshot of AOL or Yahoo in 1999, you could mark it up with startups that carved up the product/service/content niches of those portals over the following years. Andrew Parker (Spark Capital) took a screenshot of Craigslist in 2010 and marked it up with the names of startups that were carving up the niches of Craigslist, essentially the “unbundling” of Craigslist. Some of these have grown into huge businesses (AirBNB, Stubhub, Etsy, OKCupid, PoF, HomeAway).

Today in 2014 with the massive usage shift from desktop computing to mobile, we’re seeing the unbundling of the web into applications that each serve a specific purpose. An example is Facebook.com, which has been unbundling itself into a portfolio of mobile apps. Benedict Evans (Andreessen Horowitz) made a related observation, “Mobile is about focus on the essentials. If you don’t really know what’s essential about your company, mobile makes that painfully clear.”

Any product/service that began on the desktop and hasn’t yet been able to transition its’ userbase to mobile, is a sitting duck. There is ample opportunity for mobile entrepreneurs to carve up the web — we’re only at the tip of the iceberg. There are 600+ million websites, while only 1 million apps exist in Apple’s Appstore.

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

About the Author: Steve Poland was one of the earliest writers at TechCrunch and is now working to bring asynchronous charades to mobile with his unlaunched startup Act Away (fundraising). Steve has current availability to take on one consulting client. Follow him on Twitter @popo or reach-out steve@vestedventures.com.

photo credit: Scott Beale 


Sabres Suggestion: visiting teams driving into Buffalo from airport


A letter to Ted Black:


4-ticket season ticket holder and downtown advocate here.

I was watching the first episode of the HBO 24/7 Winter Classic for Penguins vs Capitals. In this episode, the Penguins come visit Buffalo to play the Sabres. I saw that their bus went from the Buffalo airport down the ugly 33 to the Embassy Suites downtown where they stayed. The players then ate at the Buffalo Chophouse. (I really wish they’d eat at Tempo, Mother’s or Mike A’s, as the food quality is much better in my opinion, but I digress)

Companies that are recruiting out-of-town employees to come work/live in Buffalo have the same problems that the Sabres and Bills have when recruiting talent to Buffalo — a stigma is attached in people’s minds. They have seen our city in superbowl losses playing in snow and they’ve seen us make national headlines with our blizzards over the years.

The “33” is the ugliest transportation roadway possibly in all of America — right next to Detroit’s. I really wish we could throw some paint on the walls of the 33, or make it an art insulation that is designed by the many artists in our city, or possibly commission Christo to wrap the 33 in fabric — see attached image…. but that’s years away, so in the meantime, the 33 is dreary and ugly. Not a good first impression of our city, with the abandoned projects and such that litter the 33.

I have this thought that you might have some “pull” on influencing where those buses drive when they take the team downtown. They must all use the same local bus company and it seems you could meet with a high-up manager there to explain this.

If the bus took the 33 to the 198 and then the Delaware South exit, taking Delaware into downtown….. it would add only 4 minutes to the overall drive time, and the players/guests would see: Delaware Park (at Parkside corner), lovely homes there, the beautiful Forest Lawn Cemetery as they drove through the S-curves, the mansions along Delaware, and more of the unique architecture from Allen St through downtown.

It would help make a better impression on players that are visiting.

I really believe we should roll out the red carpet for visiting teams. Honestly, I think their locker room should be as good as the Sabres locker room. Every impressionable moment that we have with those players is a moment that our city’s perception to the rest of the world can be helped or hindered when those players leave and tell the people they influence about Buffalo, NY.

Thanks for listening,

Steve Poland

Startup Idea #137: Buy Local


Imagine a search engine like Amazon.com, but all the products are sold by all the local retailers. So instead of having something shipped from Amazon.com, it gets shipped or picked up or dropped off by a local retailer — maybe they’d even price match if purchased through this site only, and not via the own local retailer’s site or in-location.

Keep the money local!

If Buffalo had all products indexed, this could happen.

Dear Buffalo Entrepreneurs & Geeks, 2013 is Our Year: Events Schedule and Call for Volunteers


In 2006 I moved back to Buffalo after living across the US in Austin, Denver, Houston, Manchester, Boston and more. I was running a 40-client SEO/SEM firm and writing for a relatively unknown publication called TechCrunch. Moving home I made three commitments to myself:
  1. This was it, I’m home for good. I want to be apart of the growth/change in this great city for the next 20+ years.
  2. I’m going to connect the techies in this area, so we know who we all are.
  3. I want tech startups in this city. It’s the now. It’s the future. Job creation will come from these new opportunities.

I set out and created this email list. We grew from 1 to over 300 now. I started Open Coffee Club in the area, a Tuesday morning meetup. I started BarCamp Buffalo in the area, which with help of others stepping up and volunteering to organize, we’ve pulled off 5 of them with 75-125 in attendance at each. Meetups have sprung out of this list. Connections have occurred. Collaboration on client projects has occurred.

I don’t want to start naming the names of the other leaders in our tech community with fear of missing someones, but if you’ve attended any of the events or meetups in this area, then you’re fully aware of these leaders that step up, encourage others to step up, and they “give before they get”, because they want to see all of this stuff for Buffalo happen. None of those things I listed above would have gone anywhere without their initial support — they showed me they wanted this stuff.

This past November eight of us pulled off Buffalo’s first ever Startup Weekend. And that’s when it hit me. Startup Weekend had the most unbelievable energy I’ve ever seen at a tech event in Buffalo. About 75 people got up in front of the crowd and pitched their own business idea for a minute. 16 teams formed and nose-dived into building a startup over the next 54 hours. Despite the long hours of preparation by all the co-organizers, we were super proud and super excited. Excited for the next one. We immediately started planning the second Startup Weekend, which is happening March 1-3, save the date!

I want to see startups in Buffalo. And I have rededicated myself to getting more events to happen in Buffalo that focus on the cool stuff being built and hacked on. This is when I picked up “Startup Communities” by Brad Feld, in which he lays out the path that Boulder has taken over the years to become an amazing startup/tech community. If you have an interest in being apart of changing our fine city of Buffalo into a state of startup/tech awesomeness, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a rolling 20-year outlook. It’s a “give before you get” outlook of helping others. It’s a celebration of startup failures by having a “funeral” happy hour to encourage the entrepreneurs that fails are apart of the business and to get back up and try again.

Because of the smaller size of Buffalo, you can do something and have an impact. The time is NOW with all the success that is going on in Buffalo — Synacor’s IPO over the summer, CampusLabs acquired, the creation of Z80 Labs w/$5.3mm fund for investing in tech startups, the success of TEDxBuffalo, the success of Startup Weekend, the launch/success of CoWorkBuffalo, Buffalo Billion, and much much more!

On the heels of this excitement, maintaining that energy and complementing that focus… I have setup a schedule of Tech Events in Buffalo for all of 2013. It’s an introduction of 5 brand new tech events to the area, a reboot of BarCamp (to its’ proper format as used by other cities), and more Startup Weekends.  I have laid the groundwork below of a schedule. I have lined up the venues. I am working with local sponsors that we’ve worked with in the past. But I can’t lead or organize all of these events on my own. Other people have committed to stepping up, as they have in the past — Dan Magnuszewski, Dan Gigante, Mark Branden, Nicholas Barone, Jon Spitz, Eric Reich, etc. But we’re looking for more people that are interested in giving back and making this community awesome for years to come, by stepping up and participating as a leader or helper to an event.

What follows is a brief introduction to these events. We are seeking a couple dozen leaders, co-organizers, and volunteers for: Buffalo New Tech Meetup, Geek Givings Night, Buffalo Beta, BarCamp Buffalo (rebooted!), Ignite! Buffalo, and Buffalo Startup Weekend.

We need a dedicated individual (or two) driving the bus for each of these, or stuff won’t get done. A team leader should be committed in some capacity to attending each of their events throughout the year. We also need people (co-organizers) willing to support the leaders for each event.

Buffalo New Tech Meetup is a night the local community gets together to network, socialize and show-and-tell new technology. Five preselected presenters are given five minutes each with five minutes of Q&A from the crowd. The focus is to spread the word about what is going on in town and to provide a place to break bread and have beer with friends. Monthly, 6-9pm, 1st Wed of every month @ Pearl St Brewery. Dan Magnuszewski is seeking co-organizers.

Geek Givings Night is a night of multiple local for- & non-profit organizations presenting New Tech style, but with a twist. Once all of the groups are finished on the podium (they each get two minutes instead of the typical five minutes to present) they split up into tables at Z80 Labs and start hacking. The tech community helps the local businesses on tech issues ranging from web design to social media help, database support to graphic design, and everything in-between. Quarterly, 6-9pm, 3rd Wed of Feb/May/Aug/Nov @ Z80 Labs. Seeking a leader and co-organizers. Count on Steve Poland and Dan Magnuszewski as co-organizers.

Buffalo Beta is Buffalo’s Premier Startup Mixer. Buffalo Beta is a quarterly get-together for founders, hackers, students, investors, designers, visionaries, media professionals, and more.  You can expect socializing with friends and colleagues and meeting new people from throughout the entrepreneurial community. No formal presentations – just informal, ongoing demos from awesome young companies and lots of time to enjoy each other’s company. Startups each get a table to demo their goods. Quarterly, 6-9pm, 2nd Wed of Jan/Apr/July/Oct @ Pearl St Brewery. Seeking a leader and co-organizers. Count on Steve Poland and Dan Magnuszewski as co-organizers.

BarCamp Buffalo (rebooted!) is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. BarCamp Buffalo is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees. No spectators, only participants. All attendees should give a demo, a session, or help with one.  Thus, the content is provided by participants. This is called sharing and we like it. Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join. Note: If you attended a prior BarCamp Buffalo, we lacked space and had altered the format — expect the real deal now that we have lots of space (30-min presentations, multiple presentations in different rooms at every moment to give you greater choices). Quarterly, 8am-5pm, 1st Sat of Feb/May/Aug/Nov @ Medaille College Buffalo Campus. Interim leader Steve Poland. Seeking a leader and co-organizers. Count on Steve Poland, Dan Magnuszewski, Charles Wertz, Nick Quaranto, and Sean Zawicki as co-organizers.

Ignite Buffalo is a night of presentations with a twist. Presenting on a subject of their choice, speakers have exactly 5 minutes to teach something, enlighten us, or simply inspire — backed by 20 slides auto-advancing every 15 seconds. Quick, fun, and smart. Quarterly, 6-9pm, 2nd Wed of Mar/June/Sept/Dec @ Pearl St Brewery. Seeking a leader and co-organizers. Count on Steve Poland and Dan Magnuszewski as co-organizers. Mike Canzoneri very interested in leading or co-leading.

Buffalo Startup Weekend is a weekend dive into starting a business. Anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers on Friday night. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekend culminates with presentations on Sunday evening in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback. Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups! If you want to put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, get ready for the best weekend of your life! Quarterly, 1st weekend of Mar/June/Sept/Dec @ Medaille College Buffalo Campus. Jon Spitz leading, co-organizers of Steve Poland, Dan Magnuszewski, Charles Wertz, Dan Gigante, Lisa Primerano, and Mark Branden. Seeking 8-10 volunteers and co-organizers.

7-Week Startup Buffalo is a community accelerator where teams collaborate to launch a startup over the course of seven Saturdays. The program welcomes individuals or established teams at the idea/prototype stage to pitch their business goals and form teams at the start of each 7-week session. Brunch is provided every Saturday as a speaker presents a topic on startup building and mentors the teams. Feedback is also provided every week by peers. The seventh Saturday culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback. Quarterly, 2nd Sat (& six subsequent Saturdays) of Mar/June/Sept/Dec @ Z80 Labs. Co-leaders Dan Gigante and Chris Castleman. Seeking co-organizers.

Already Planned 2013 Events:
  • Jan 11, 2013 (tonight! 4:30pm-7pm) – 7 Week Startup @ Z80 Labs
  • Feb 1, 2013 (Fri 6pm-9pm) – BarCamp Buffalo Kick-Off Happy Hour @ Z80 Labs
  • Feb 2, 2013 (Sat 8am doors, 9am-5pm) – BarCamp Buffalo @ Medaille College
  • Feb 2, 2013 (Sat 5pm-?) – BarCamp Buffalo After-Party @ Cole’s
  • Feb 28, 2013 (Thurs 6pm-9pm) – Buffalo Startup Weekend Kick-Off Happy Hour @ Z80 Labs
  • March 1-3, 2013 (Fri 5pm doors, 7pm-2am) – Buffalo Startup Weekend @ Medaille College
  • March 3, 2013 (Sun 8:30pm-?) – Buffalo Startup Weekend After-Party @ Founding Father’s

More events are in the works: Buffalo I/O (led by Dan Magnuszewski, he’s seeking co-organizers — reach out to him), Creative Mornings (led by Nicholas Barone), a Ruby conf (led by Nick Quaranto), and please let me know of any other event initiatives.

We have an ambitious plan that cannot be accomplished without dedicated volunteers to lead the effort. You will be responsible for the success of the event and showcasing what our community has to offer. You will be looked upon as a leader in the tech community — a representative to our officials and media to let them know what is being accomplished — and, therefore, I am asking for those willing to be the drivers behind the growth of the Western NY entrepreneurial scene to contact me for further information on how you can contribute.

For the rest of you, we’re going to need you to be cheerleaders, egging these leaders, co-organizers and local financial supporters on so you can enjoy these events!

Please take 2 minutes and answer the questions in this form if you’d like to help see any of the events happen: http://bit.ly/UHjlmd


Steve Poland

P.S. Please share this post with any Buffalo friends that you think these initiatives would be of interest to — whether it be a non-profit for Geek Givings Night, a techie, an entrepreneur, or an ex-pat. Thank you.

What it takes to become Mayor of the City of Buffalo


This is by no means a comprehensive post, but rather some info I found on the Internet after researching the mayor position in the City of Buffalo, and what it would take to win. Pretty interesting stuff.

“This city needs someone with passion for Buffalo and WNY.. Not a career politician..”

I found the 2009 election results for Buffalo Mayor. A total of a mere 26,464 voters determined this city’s fate — of 500,000 eligible voters. 77,000 voters are between the ages of 21-29, and 252,000 are between 30-55 (I wish this was broken down better).

Of the 26,464, Mickey Kearns wasn’t even on the ballot — he was a write-in, thus only got 158 votes. There were 8,578 votes that were ‘blank, void or scattering’ (blows my mind that 1/3 of the voters’ votes weren’t even counted!), and the remaining ~16,000 votes went to Byron Brown. [source]

In 2007 Pittsburgh, 67,000 total votes cast with 43,000 went to Luke, the kid. [source]

Some good questions by citizens of Buffalo for the mayor during last election are here (aside from the MLB/NBA tangent).

Someone that was attempting to run in 2009 and their message: http://www.changebuffalo.org/

What powers does the Mayor have?

How do you run for an elective office in Buffalo?  and the official “book“.

There is also the thought that Buffalo should reform to a ‘City Manager’ system instead.


Austin Texas Recommendations


East Side Showroom for drinks or a meal (delicious and serves old fashioned drinks that take like 5 minutes to make). If in North Austin, the tres leches cake at Chuy’s. “Frank” for brunch. Magnolia for breakfast. South Congress Cafe for any meal, cool spot that is delicious. Music: La Zona Rosa, Antones, The Parish.. Typically shows are at those places. I love Austin, simply the greatest city in the world. Oh yeah, Oasis requires a car but well worth it for the sunset view, go for dinner but have enough time as a wait occurs for tables (but there are hundreds of tables literally). Salt Lick needs a car but is some amazing BBQ, it’s in a dry county so you can’t buy beer/etc there but people pack their own cooler of beer and roll it up next to their table. ‘The purple’ at Baby Acapulco if you’re feeling rowdy (they’ll only serve you two, that’s how strong they are!).

Bats at dusk under the South Congress Bridge. Go on the bridge and see the stream of black pour out from underneath — 1.5 million bats! Largest population in USA.

SXSW in March for the greatest music festival in the world, nearly 2000 bands playing over 4 days.

Some Startup Writings by me on my blog & on TechCrunch

If you’re looking for some reading on startups, here’s some of my last guest posts on TechCrunch and some other applicable posts on my own blog:

I miss 1998. I miss 2006. Separated by 8 years means that 2014 could hold the next evolution of tech startups.


Just read this article: The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future

It is an excellent article and he conveys what I have been feeling for a couple years now, since Arrington was on his last legs at TechCrunch.

I have been bored by the whole scene. I want to feel like 1998 again, when I was excited for my Red Herring and Business 2.0 magazines to come in the mail to see what future was being built by kids in some distant city. Or I want to feel like 2006 again, when I would hit refresh on TechCrunch.com awaiting the next of the mere 5 posts they would publish daily about some futuristic startup that was being built then and now.


I crave those feelings again.