About Me

Philip Cortes Co-Founded Meeteor.com.

Dual MBA/MA from UPenn.

Avid Ideologist.

This blog is my long winded startup post-mortem. 




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Crowd Sourcing - CrowdFlower.com

, a startup launched by Dolores Labs, just raised a fair amount of money (5mm) through Bessemer and Trinity Ventures.  What I like about CrowdFlower is that they're taking an innovative approach to "Labor as a Service" (LaaS)....instead of trying to source their own group of workers & projects, they've aggregated labor from other LaaS sites (like Amazon Turk).   What I like about this approach is that they've essentially cut out half of the marketing equation for themselves - they can now focus on ensuring that the data provided meets a certain quality, and targeting projects instead.  I always though the effort was a bit large for other LaaS companies - trying to pool together both labor and project demand is expensive and difficult.   
The second impressive component to CrowdFlower is their Quality Assurance and pricing mechanisms.   I strongly believe of all the LaaS services out there, this one has a shot at differentiating itself because it targets one side of the equation, and does it well.

Check them out ! Crowdflower.com 



SimpleGeo Launch Today!

It's no secret that location-based services are hot commodities, but one startup in particular has caught my attention, SimpleGeo.    The service is coming out of Beta tomorrow, and its launch process has just been fascinating to follow.  

What :  SimpleGeo is a location information platform that other businesses can build on top of.  Whether your business needs information on a specific area, or person, they can provide the platform through which to gain access to all of that information.  In essence, they enable you to outsource and cut down on the costs associated with building and integrating location into your platform.

Strategy: They began by targeting the developer community - and they have bout 5,000 partners lined up already!  The strategy seems to have really paid off - they're coming out of beta with a fantastic network of existing users, and probably an amazing amount of feedback as to what is needed by developers, and how to streamline their platform for integration.  

Although the foursquares and gowallas of the world will continue to be interesting, as they're the client facing services (...even though services like Meetro were truly the first onto the scene...), SimpleGeo is unique in that it's a B2B service.

Their pricing also seems to hit the nail on the head - they're letting developers pick and choose what they'll be using, and pay for the services accordingly.  Thus far it seems that it's free for up to a million calls (wow), and then 399 for 2 mm calls, 2499 for 10mm calls, and $9,999 for 30 mm calls.   What's convincing here is that it will probably hook a large amount of startups looking to keep their development costs down, and then scale with them as they grow. 

You can check them out here.




Flying back from Palo Alto last week, I sat next to a girl who could not have been a month past 6 years of age.  She started the flight by playing on an iphone - a cartoon type game.  About two hours after we took off, she whipped out a slick 15 inch macbook, and started recording videos of herself for what sounded like her BLOG.  Yes, she was recording a video of herself in her seat, announcing to the world where she was, what she was doing, and how much fun she was having....ie....she was being more productive than I was even at that time.  

So I sat there, reflecting on her fun, while simultaneously thinking of my experiences learning at Wharton.  These reflections, combined with those of a Fast Company article depicting the impact smartphones are likely to have on education has lead me to the following conclusion : 

Educational systems, as we know them, are broken.

1) They're too costly -  The infrastructure in place for education is massive, and an incredible burden to maintain.  I was recently at the Wesleyan board meeting, and what struck me was how massive of a cost maintaining the campus in its current state is!  Universities need massive endowments just to exist, their infrastructure burdens are simply overwhelming.  

2) They don't teach in an efficient manner.  Our marketing class is using a "SABRE" computer based simulation, because studies have demonstrated that "learning by doing" and "teaching others" carry retention rates over 75%, as compared to under 15% for Lectures.....


With the exception of science labs, it seems that universities have no proper justification of existing.  Lectures & Reading account for the two worst teaching mechanisms when taking retention rates into consideration.

Fast Company has an interesting article describing the impact the technological evolution in smartphones has had and will likely have on education.   Although I agree that app based programs will be provide interesting and innovative ways to engage children in learning, technology alone won't be the solution.


I don’t believe online programs will provide the solution, either.  There is something to be said about engaging with your peers, and learning from them.   Teaching others is the best method of retaining material, for obvious reasons, and it requires the presence of other people seeking to learn the same material.

Philco’s 1.9 Cents :

I’m currently teaching myself Ruby on Rails, and the going is slow but steady.  As I go through the different exercises in the books, I often find myself thinking that I wish I could be reasoning through the different brain teasers with a team of other people looking to learn the same thing.    All of my learning is online based, I follow online tutorials, and even purchased the textbooks in PDF form. 

What’s missing however, is interaction with equivalent peers looking to learn the same material. 

I thus volunteer a hybrid model:

1)   Philco University will have an admissions group that pools together individuals by region, learning interests, and general aptitude.  Philco University then creates “learning teams” of individuals who have scored similarly in their different aptitude tests, looking to learn the same material. 

2) Philco pairs these teams up with available tutors in the area, and provides all of the online material to learn whatever it is that they signaled they wanted to learn.

3)  The tutors will be made available according to each learning team’s schedules (emphasizing flexibility), and up to 3 hours a week.  The teams will then be responsible for turning in individual and group projects, demonstrating their mastery of the material.  This ensures that each individual is learning, and can leverage the interactive benefits of teams and peers at the same time. 

The infrastructure for the courses can be borrowed from existing office spaces in the area, or from other universities.  

The best of all worlds combined.  Something tells me that the 6 year old I sat next to on my plane would love a program like this, where she can tailor her own schedule, learning materials, and be surrounded by like minded and able peers.

Hell, I would.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes -

Don't let school interfere with your education - Mark Twain


Tata Announces World's Cheapest Water Filter - BoP Strategy

The new buzz word (acronym) I’ve been hearing over and over again is BoP – Base of Pyramid.  According to a World Bank report, there are 1 billion people living on a dollar a day or less. More importantly to the concept, however, there are 3 billion people that live on $5 or less a day.  BoP experts believe that this massive group of people have urgent needs that need to be fulfilled, and they also have some form of income to provide in exchange for the fulfillment of these needs.   I recently had the opportunity to speak with Josh Tetrick, the founder of 33needs.com - and his main argument is that it can be profitable for companies and startups to focus on this segment (the BoP), and is passionately working to convince companies to do so.  You can learn more on his venture at 33needs.com

Seems like the idea is taking hold – Tata launched the world’s cheapest car a few years back, and has now announced the world’s cheapest filter.  894 million people lack access to clean water  - a clear need – and this filter aims to provide families with clean water for 200 days.  The filter is estimated to cost 21 dollars, or approx 10 cents a day for clean water.

Another startup targeting the BoP is D.Light, which sells solar powered lanterns, which also double up as phone chargers.  “One in four people don’t have electricity in the dark” is the lead quote on their website – and if they can create a dependable source of light for cheap enough, this provides a massive market opportunity.

Ultimately I wonder if startups alone will be able to fulfill these needs – there are few if any good distribution systems in third world countries, creating a massive barrier to the selling of these BoP solutions and products.  Nestle  has one of the world’s most expansive and robust product distribution networks in the world – if it were to volunteer its distribution platform to such startups, I think we’d have a winning strategy.  Without the ability to leverage these existing and costly distribution networks, I’m not sure how a startup for profit company could quickly make it to breakeven….

Here's what the filter looks like :



FlexVite - Your New Party Planning Tool

Check out flexvite.com - a neat platform designed to maximize attendance to your party.  You select the type of event you're looking to host (party, happy hour get together, going to the movies, coffee, whatever), and then suggest a date/time range that you're thinking of.  You then send the invite to a group of people, and they all vote on the dates and times that work best for them.....once the vote is in, Flexvite automatically notifies everyone on the list what date and time won.    I dig it, I think it's a smart way of getting people together. 

Ideally this platform would sync with a service like Tungle (which I'm also a huge fan of), and automatically tell you what dates worked without having to bug people.  There's a clear need for social calendar syncing, but the problem is that most people don't track their social plans on any one calendar...I wonder if that information will ever make it online.  Maybe Flexvite is the first step towards that, we'll see.

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