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Recap: FindTheBest talk + LadyHacks

From: Stephanie
Sent on: Monday, March 4, 2013 7:56 PM



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March 2013 Philly Tech Meetup
Wednesday, March 6,[masked]:30 PM
Join us for demos from
Zonoff, IndieGameStand and Glacier Peak 3D Printer. Please remember to update your RSVP if you cannot attend. PTM has experienced tremendous growth and our events usually have a waiting list. We ask that you pledge to keep your RSVP up to date so that we may admit people from the waiting list as spots open up. We will check-in attendees, and document no-shows. Demos sponsored by Duane Morris.

Evening of IT Intrigue

Thursday, March 14,[masked]:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Hosted by MIT Enterprise Forum, and sponsored by Philly Tech Meetup, this is the inaugural presentation and networking event for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Philadelphia. The presentation, "Risk Reward, & Resilience in an Age of Cyber-Crime & Counterfeiting," is an opportunity to learn about innovation, technology, and cyber-security from the best and brightest minds in the industry. PTM members are entitled to a $50 discount on tickets to this event.

March 2013 Founders Happy Hour
Wednesday, March 20,[masked]:00 PM
Join us for a PTM networking happy hour.

Click here for the full list of awesome tech events happening nearby. There is something for everyone.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: Want to attend PTM, but don’t want to work out of a coffee shop for the day? Have no fear. On PTM programming days, Benjamin’s Desk will offer $10 day passes (discounted from $25) for the first 10 PTM members who claim a pass. Reserve your pass by emailing Katie at [address removed].


Led by DoubleClick founder Kevin O'Connor, FindTheBest ("FTB") is a data-driven comparison engine organized into nine broad categories that allows users to compare data side-by-side, "apples-to-apples." Whether you want to buy a new cell phone or are considering what school to send your children to, FTB can help you break down the data without influence from the marketing machine.

The company is backed by Kleiner Perkins—the same venture capital firm that has invested in Twitter, Zynga and Square.

"The web is growing and consumers are getting smarter, but they tend to lack the tools to make the best decisions," FTB's Director of Engineering, Ivan Bercovich, said in an email interview with Philly Tech Meetup. "With FindTheBest, consumers are able to make informed, confident decisions, based on their preferences, in a fraction of the time. Consumers are smart. The Internet has the info they need: it's just scattered all over the place. FindTheBest simply builds the technology and compiles the data to make these quick, informed decisions possible."

On February 20, members from FTB presented at Philly Tech Meetup, providing an insider’s view of the company's practices.

Bercovich said that FindTheBest decided to visit the city because the company likes to recruit from great schools. Penn and Drexel have some of the finest engineering programs in the nation, and Wharton is expanding its entrepreneurship programs.

"Furthermore, our CEO Kevin O'Connor has a knack for starting and expanding tech companies in non-traditional areas," Bercovich added. "He grew DoubleClick in NYC before the advent of New York's 'Silicon Alley.' He built ISS (Internet Security Systems) in Georgia. He's leading FindTheBest in Santa Barbara, California. Philly—with its emerging tech programs and tech culture—could very well be a future FindTheBest destination! We're very interested in Philly, and we’ll be keeping an eye on its tech developments as it grows."

During the tech talk, FTB's Director of Product, Bob Goldman, walked attendees through an abbreviated version of the company's actual Series B investor pitch. Goldman said that before the company went out to pitch investors, he asked FTB Board Member and Kleiner Perkins’ Investment Partner Randy Komisar for advice. FTB's investor pitch used Komisar's key components for a successful pitch to develop their Series B presentation. These components include:

  • Showing that the company is solving a big problem (Mission)
  • The problem affects a lot of people (Market)
  • The company's solution is novel and defensible (Product)
  • The business model captures the value (Business Model)
  • The organization executes the model well (The Team)
  • The company will deliver extraordinary financial results (Growth and Financial Projections)
  • The company plans to use funders' money to accomplish these things (Growth Post Series B)

Without a solid business model, Goldman said "there's no way to create value for [investors]. They're selfish. You might be changing the world, but they don't really care about that. They want to make a 10x return or greater."

Goldman stressed that the team is the most important piece of the puzzle, as investors want to be sure that your team can successfully execute your business model. He added that, for FTB, while having Kevin O'Connor's name attached to the company helps them court and secure funding, investors still want to meet the rest of the team.

In an interview with PTM, Goldman shared that FTB builds "a solid team dynamic through transparency and responsibility." Employees are kept informed about financials, opportunities for advancement and growth, and suggestions for company improvement. Employees are also given ownership of their projects, which Goldman says challenges them to reach goals and fosters an environment of friendly competition.

For startups looking to hire the same type of enterprising employees that exist at FTB, Goldman recommends companies follow these three best practices:

  • "First, candidates should be excited about the problem the company is solving. Just because someone has solid credentials doesn't mean they won't burn out a few months in. Believing in a company's product or service gives team members motivation to work hard and stay positive, even when a company encounters unforeseen bumps in the road."
  • "Second, candidates should be willing to learn… a lot. New ideas are always welcome, but prospective employees should demonstrate a healthy willingness to absorb the team, the product, and the challenges ahead. It's also less important that candidates possess every skill required for the role, and more important that they can simply learn these skills on the fly."
  • "Third, candidates should seem better than the employees you already have. Kevin [O'Connor] likes to say that B-players hire C-players, while A players hire A+ players. If you consistently strive to better the team you already have, the more successful you'll be."

In the second part of FTB's presentation at PTM, which was aimed at the engineering and technical folks in attendance, Bercovich discussed how the entire FTB team works together to build a piece of software that is intended to be a platform. He explained that there are certain rules in the process, from the brainstorming stage up to the actual creation and testing of new features that will encourage the growth of the platform. FTB defines a platform as "a system that facilitates the construction and support of applications." Platforms are "organized by a consistent set of rules and principles."

"A platform is an abstraction of some essential need," Bercovich said. If a platform hits a resonant string or frequency, it goes from being just a concept to something that explodes. He used the Internet as an example, saying that a significant portion of today's economy runs on the Internet and would presumably not exist without it. Platforms are valuable because they create lock-ins for users. There is a relationship between platform providers and those building businesses on top of them.

Bercovich said that, in his opinion, search engines are realizing that understanding data and the semantic meaning of websites is paramount but that they are weak at it.

He adds, "a site like FindTheBest... where we are providing the infrastructure as well as collecting the data and putting all this stuff together, we have a chance to really create the Internet of data."

To view FindTheBest's full PTM presentation, visit PTM's Facebook page.


How is the tech world like an airbag? You might think this is the setup for a weird joke, but according to Sondra Willhite, they do have something in common.

The auto industry, much like the tech industry, is often limited to a singular, masculine viewpoint. Airbags were developed by men for men's bodies. When they were first put onto the market, they injured female drivers and passengers. Limiting viewpoints also limits innovation.

Willhite helped to organize Philadelphia LadyHacks: A Hackathon for Women, a sold-out event that took place March 1-2 at WHYY and which Philly Tech Meetup sponsored. The event brought together women from a variety of technical and creative backgrounds with varying levels of experience to participate in collaborative, web-based projects. Over the course of the weekend, participants worked on a variety of projects, including a redesign of the Girls Rock Philly website and the development of She Tech Philly, a site to aggregate all the women-in-tech events in Philly.

Unlike other hackathons, LadyHacks was not a competition. Instead, it was designed to welcome women into tech, introduce them to hackathons, and allow them to develop working prototypes in an inclusive and safe space. Experienced mentors were on hand to assist teams in completing their projects.

Only 20% of the attendees had previously participated in a hackathon.

"The point of this event is to try new things. You're already successful. You're here," said Tristin Hightower, an organizer of the event, while speaking to attendees. Hightower is also the co-founder of GirlGeekDinners Philly.

While the event was considered a great success, Hightower noted, "We're not going to change the world in one day. It's many baby steps."

The majority of the teams at LadyHacks said they plan to continue working together on their projects in the future.

Proceeds from the hackathon will support the local chapters of TechGirlz and Girl Develop It.


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