Launch Pad: The Easiest Way To Buy & Sell Cars

A test drive that comes to you. A car loan you can close on your mobile device. Wouldn’t it be amazing if buying a car could be this easy?

With Shift, it is.

Here’s founder George Arison’s elevator pitch:

“Shift is a way to buy and sell cars. If you have a car to sell you come to our website, you submit your car quote, or you download our app and you scan your VIN. And based on that car information that you submit we give you a price quote on that car for how much we think we can sell the car for, and then how much money you would make on that sale. Virtually all of the time you make more than you would if you traded a car into a dealer, and in many cases a lot more than if you trade the car into a dealer. If you want to then work with us we will come out and pick up the car from you and take it away, and you’ll never see the car again, and we’ll do all of the work to get it sold.”

Karl Ulrich and George have a fascinating conversation about Shift, digging into the two-sided market, and why Shift is executing on this idea better than the competition, but perhaps the most fascinating insight of the whole interview is Karl’s realization that Shift is actually “a loan company that sells cars.”

The impetus for Shift came from the difficulty and opacity of getting a car loan—the rest is all what George calls “augmentations to service,” in other words, making the experience awesome, the whole way through.

Listen to learn more about how to execute on your startup idea, because as George also points out, “I don’t think there’s such a thing as like a fundamentally unique idea… most businesses are built through really strong execution.”

George should know. In 2007, he invented the basic idea of Uber with his company, Taxi Magic—but, in his assessment, failed to respond to feedback, and failed to test and iterate well. You know which one is a household name today.

Launch Pad: Hot Cloud Storage

If you’re a cloud storage geek, then do we have a treat for you!

This interview with Wasabi founder David Friend goes deep into the weeds of how and why they’re offering, in David’s words “exactly the same as Amazon S3 cloud storage except it’s one fifth the price, and six times as fast.”

Karl Ulrich has many probing questions, including: “If I were to pick one of the most Quixotic endeavors ever it would be take on Amazon on price. So what possessed you to take on that goal?”

Listen to their fascinating conversation for a deep dive into how disruption and displacement have changed the history of technology—and why David thinks Wasabi is the next in this venerable line of winners.

Launch Pad: Cancel That Unused Subscription

That gym membership you signed up for but haven’t used in five years? You know they’re still charging your credit card every month, right?

What if someone would not just point that out to you—but also take care of cancelling it as well?

This is what Truebill does. As founder Yahya Mokhtarzada puts it, True Bill is “an automated financial advocate that takes action on your behalf to save you money.”

With Truebill, you can see everything that you’re paying for automatically, like subscriptions or bills, and you can cancel any of them with just one click.

Yes, even that gym membership that claims you have to come in person.

Plus, if Truebill notices that your cable bill seems awfully high, it’ll suggest a bill negotiator. They’re successful in lowering bills 85% of the time.

Basically, the kind of money saving stuff that we would all totally do if we had the time—Truebill does it.

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Yahya talk about the origin story of Truebill (14 months of a recurring charge for in-flight wifi that slipped under Yahya’s radar!), the Y Combinator experience, and why, if you have investors begging to offer you money, you should really take it. (Or as Karl puts it: “When the cookie jar is passed, take the cookies, because you never know when that cookie jar is coming around again.”)

Launch Pad: Customer Service, Reinvented

Calling customer service is a nightmare. But what if it didn’t have to be?

What if you could call up a major company—your credit card or your airline, for example—and they instantly knew who you were? If they had your tweets, your emails, and your most recent experiences with the company at their fingertips, and could just start off helping you out?

Gladly, founded by Michael Wolfe, is turning this into reality.

What qualifies as an aggravation in most of our lives is a major pain point for CIOs, and the depressing fact is that the systems many are currently using are 20 or even 25 years old, built for Web 1.0.

The good news is that Michael and his team were the ones building that software, back in the early 90s, so they know exactly what it can and can’t do—and they’re extraordinarily well positioned to solve this problem for today’s vastly more complex world, of phone calls, emails, chat sessions, SMS, etc.

Oh yes; did we mention that Gladly has already raised over $60 million?

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Michael talk about what makes Gladly an unique kind of startup, with a dream team of serial entrepreneurs and a huge quantity of funding, who are out to change customer service as we know it. This is not something two college dropouts in a garage even could do—and we avidly hope that Gladly succeeds.

Launch Pad: Chris Vaughn, Founder of Saucey

You’re sitting down to dinner and realize you’d like to have a glass of wine with your meal—but there’s no wine in the house. What do you do?

In a few key cities, mainly in California, instead of having to run out to a liquor store, you can now pull out your smart phone, and that bottle of wine will magically appear at your door in about a half hour.

Of course, it’s not magic. It’s Saucey, an on-demand alcohol delivery startup.

Founder Chris Vaughn used to find himself in exactly this situation, or ones like it, all the time: “the majority of the times that we purchased alcohol, it was last-minute, impulse-driven, and I had to run out and go get it.”

Saucey solves this problem. In the beginning, Chris explains that he and his cofounders “did at least the first thousand or so deliveries on Saucey, which was extremely brutal. But it taught us a lot about our customers. It taught us a ton about logistics. Getting in and out of locations quickly. Routing around cities. And ultimately, laid the framework for much of what we built later on as a company.”

That’s right, founders: the early days of starting a company are crazy. You’ll do work you never expected to do (or that you started a company to solve the problem of doing in the first place!). But it’s all experience.

You may not know exactly what you’re getting into when you begin, and that may be a good thing: “Airbnb wasn’t built by the executive team at Hilton Hotels, for a reason. Uber wasn’t built by the executive team at GM,” says Chris. “I think sometimes it takes an outsider with a naive perspective, and a naive approach, to take on a very old school industry.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Chris talk about the pain of working in a heavily regulated industry, like alcohol, and why Chris was convinced that there was a desire for Saucey that Instacart just didn’t meet.

Read more Launch Pad: Chris Vaughn, Founder of Saucey

Launch Pad: Jason Wachob, Founder of MindBodyGreen

MindBodyGreen is the result of Jason Wachob almost getting back surgery.

The 6’7” serial entrepreneur traveled 150,000 miles domestic in one year—in coach—for his startup of the time, and aggravated an old basketball injury, resulting in excruciating pain. Two doctors in a row recommended back surgery.

Seeking something less extreme, Jason instead started doing yoga. And “that led me down a rabbit hole. I started to look at things like sleep and stress and nutrition, the environment, and made a lot of changes in my life.” He changed how he ate. Ultimately, “over the course of six months I completely healed, and I think yoga played a large role in that healing process.”

This was a life changing moment: “to me this idea of wellness was about living your best life, and it was nuanced, and it was this blend of mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and environmental wellbeing. And no one was covering it, and—MindBodyGreen. That’s the idea, was to really spread this message of living one’s best life with our unique lens, and do that through content. So it started with the first blog post, with me, back in 2009.”

From that one blog post, it took MindBodyGreen about two years to monetize, and three years to cross the 1 million reader mark—and that’s when they raised capital. These days the website boasts of “a readership of more than 15 million worldwide.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Jason discuss the path of building a successful new media brand, and all the lessons Jason’s learned from founding four companies.

Read more Launch Pad: Jason Wachob, Founder of MindBodyGreen

Launch Pad: Peter Weijmarshausen, Founder of Shapeways

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“If you can’t find it anywhere else, then why not make it?” asks Peter Weijmarshausen, Founder of Shapeways, a 3D printing company that lets you do exactly that.

Peter explains: “Shapeways is a platform that is home to a vibrant community that enables them to make amazing products using 3D printing. So if you have a great idea, and you want it to turn in to something physical and a real product, you can go to Shapeways, upload your designs, and we make it for you.” If you’re not a maker, but want to buy unique pieces, Shapeways offers “a vast catalogue of amazing products. You can come to our site and you can find a very big variety of products ranging from toys and gadgets to jewelry, home décor, puzzles, and many, many more things.”

“In essence what we’re doing is we are giving people access to world class manufacturing capabilities, and giving them total freedom to make whatever they want.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich talk with Peter about how Shapeways has evolved over ten years, as the technology, and the company, have matured, and get his take on where 3D printing is at today: “We went through the completely unknown, and then super hype, and then after the hype typically comes a little bit of a time where people go like, really? Was this real? And we’re now starting to see real value creation.”

Read more Launch Pad: Peter Weijmarshausen, Founder of Shapeways

Launch Pad: Rob Sadow W’08, Founder of Scoop

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Hate your commute? Scoop, founded by Rob Sadow W’08, has a solution for you: a “fully automated carpooling solution for commuters.”

Scoop partners with enterprises, office parks, and cities to make it easier for coworkers and neighbors to share trips back and forth to the office.

Here’s how it works: You book your carpool trips one way at a time, based on your needs. Why one way? Rob explains: “By unbundling it so that you can book one way at a time we make it possible so you can actually go to work with one person and come home with somebody else, and so it unlocks flexibility in your schedule so you don’t feel locked in to having to go or commute on somebody else’s time.”

And if for some reason Scoop can’t match you in a return trip that day, “you can take public transit, or a taxi, or another alternative and we’ll actually cover the cost of the alternative to make sure you can get home.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Rob talk through more of the nitty-gritty of putting together a carpooling app that works, plus, get a sense of how being a consultant can be great preparation for founding a company. Rob was with Bain & Company for six and a half years, and throughout the interview, Karl noted Rob’s impressively thorough analyses of the problems and possible solutions.

Read more Launch Pad: Rob Sadow W’08, Founder of Scoop

Launch Pad: Oisin Hanrahan, Founder of Handy

 

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Here’s a fun statistic: about 1% of the working population of the United States have applied to join Handy as cleaners or handymen or plumbers.

Now another stat that may show why this is: 80% of the people on Handy work 20 hours a week or less on the platform. 50% work ten hours a week or less. Why? As Oisin Hanrahan, Handy Founder, explains: “Not because there’s not more work there, but because that’s the amount of time they want to work.”

“It’s really about flexibility.”

This makes so much sense. Handy allows these professionals the chance to earn a little extra money on a schedule that meets their needs—more when they want it, less when other things in their lives need attention, all while earning a minimum of $15/hour and an average of about $18/hour. Not many jobs at that pay level give this kind of flexibility.

As for the customers, they not only get a vetted cleaning person, but also access to handymen, plumbers, etc.—all the people that you don’t need very often, and therefore don’t know how to find when you do need them—on one convenient service.

Karl Ulrich and Oisin have a fascinating conversation about not just how Handy works, but how Oisin built the company, and why he was the right person to do it. As Karl says, “I think I probably had 20 Wharton MBA students with that idea in 2011.” So what made Handy succeed? Execution.

Oisin says, “You’ve got to get the operations right. You’ve got to get the technology right. And then you’ve got to try to build a brand that people gravitate to when they want to solve a problem.”

Listen to Karl and Oisin go deep on what, exactly, that means for making a two-sided business become the next big thing.

Read more Launch Pad: Oisin Hanrahan, Founder of Handy

Launch Pad: Jeremy Rogoff, Founder of KickUp

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Which is harder, being an algebra teacher or a startup CEO?

According to Jeremy Rogoff—who has done both—algebra teacher is harder. No contest.

Jeremy is the Founder and CEO of KickUp, which is, in his words, “focused on helping schools and K12 districts understand and improve the impact of their professional learning for teachers.” They use surveys and analytics to help schools understand which of the professional learning the teachers are doing are actually being useful—helping to make the teachers better teachers, and improving student outcomes.

Jeremy didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. He was ready to be an educator, and he taught, first with Teach for America, teaching algebra and Spanish in the Mississippi Delta, then at a charter school in Washington DC. But he saw ways to help teachers, and after he left the classroom, he gave himself three months “to try to put something together, and get some people to care about the idea, and it has continued to progress ever since.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been difficulties. Listen to Karl and Jeremy talk about a major pivot, and the important insight that “you have to figure out a) what problem you’re solving, and b) does that problem fall into the ‘urgent and important’ category.”

Read more Launch Pad: Jeremy Rogoff, Founder of KickUp