How This Entrepreneur Grew Her Online Business While Working Full Time


The following excerpt is from Entrepreneur’s book Finance Your Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Erica Zidel knew that trying to raise funds for her startup would be a full-time job. She worried that chasing after capital would distract her from building the best product she could. So rather than sweat the investment game, she spent years holding down a day job while bootstrapping her new company on the side.

“I’ve basically been working two full-time jobs,” says Zidel, founder and CEO of Sitting Around, an online community that makes it easy for parents to find and coordinate babysitting co-ops in their neighborhoods. It’s a hectic schedule, but it’s also thrilling. “When I woke up this morning, I realized that it was Monday, and I got excited,” Zidel says.

Related: The Beauty of Bartering: A Smart Way to Start and Grow Your Business

What’s perhaps more thrilling is that she’s been able to self-fund her business with the money she earns from her consulting work. Besides avoiding getting sidetracked with fundraising, Zidel and her business partner, CTO Ted Tieken, have been able to retain 100 percent ownership of the babysitting venture.

“Bootstrapping early on means I have complete control over the vision and the product at a time when even small changes can lead to big consequences down the road,” Zidel says. “I wanted the flexibility to make the right decisions, free from a board or an investor’s influence. When you have just the founders making decisions, you can innovate much faster.”

That focus on innovation has paid off. Sitting Around serves families in the United States as well as several countries abroad. Since the site launched in 2010, its user base has taken off. In 2011, Sitting Around was also one of 125 finalists in MassChallenge, a Boston-based startup competition and accelerator program. Perhaps most exciting of all, shortly after launching the company, Zidel was honored at the White House as a champion of change for her contributions to child care.

The beauty of moonlighting with a startup is that it lets you test a business idea without jeopardizing your financial well-being, says Pamela Slim, business consultant and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur.

“When you don’t know where your monthly income is coming from, it often sets up a fight-or-flight response in your brain,” Slim says. “And that’s not a good place to be when you’re trying to be creative. So having that psychological cushion is often very important for the development of business ideas.”

Zidel will attest to that. Thanks to her day job, she’s been able to pour $15,000 to $20,000 of her own money into her business. Not having to take on debt or live like a monk has been a point of pride — but it has also been a necessity. “Since I’m a mother, I have to maintain an adequate standard of living for my son,” Zidel explains. “While I’m definitely frugal and very conscious that a dollar spent on lifestyle is a dollar not spent on Sitting Around, I’d rather work two jobs than feed my son ramen.”

Related: Bootstrapping Is Not Just for Startups

Bootstrapping a business isn’t without its challenges. Besides the long hours and the strain on personal relationships, it can be tricky to split one’s creative juices between two professional pursuits.

“Being pulled in multiple directions is the hardest,” says Zidel. “It takes a while for your brain to switch gears. And when things start to collide, it can be hard to say [what] you should be working on.”

To stay productive and sane, Zidel schedules her workdays down to the hour and sticks to a list of non-negotiable items to accomplish each day. Still, she admits, “It’s hard to stop working. I really have to force myself to carve out some personal time.”

Knowing when to leap

How will you know when to quit your day job? Author Slim advises that once you’ve tested your idea in the real world and know there’s a market for it, you should set specific, tangible metrics.

“For some people, it can be getting a significant amount of traffic on their website or selling a certain number of units,” she says. “For others, it’s when they have X dollars in their savings. For some, it’s a date — say, ‘Come hell or high water, December 31, 2016, I’m quitting my job.’”

“It’s less the number of users and more the rate of growth. We’ve been testing different components of our business to see what works before we go out to raise money and turn the gas on,” Zidel says. “Now we have a lot of great data: what messages resonate, what products make money.”

To those who say you’re not a true entrepreneur unless you quit your day job, Zidel cries foul. “A lot of people think that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be sleeping on an air mattress and working on your business 80 to 90 hours a week,” she says. “But I think that definition of success is silly. I’m living proof that if you have a quality idea and you spend your time well and execute it well, you can wind up with something great.”

Protecting your rep at your day job

Your boss may not be thrilled to learn that you’re cultivating a side business. To avoid biting the hand that feeds you, follow this advice from Pamela Slim:

1. Check your employment agreement and employee handbook. Some companies have a no-moonlighting policy. Others have noncom­pete agreements that prohibit you from doing your own business with their clients. Others — particularly technology companies — even have policies that nab the intellectual property rights of any­thing you create even on your own time.

2. Keep quiet about your side project. Unless your employment agree­ment requires you to come clean about your after-hours venture, Slim recommends staying mum with managers and colleagues. Yes, some might be supportive of your side pursuit. But, Slim says, once the cat’s out of the bag, “Be prepared to be fired as a worst-case scenario.”

Related: 10 Bootstrapping Tips to Turn Your Idea Into Reality

3. Don’t work on your startup on company time. Just because you love your side project more than your job, that doesn’t give you license to slack off at work. Resist the urge to use your work phone and email to conduct startup business. “Take the calls on your cell on a break, and, if possible, use your own laptop or mobile device to check personal email,” Slim says. “Remember, everything is tracked and monitored in large corporations.”

4. Don’t burn bridges. Guard your professional reputation as though your life depends on it. “It’s never a pleasant thing to be fired for performance,” Slim says. “That’s not the way you want to go out.” Besides, your current employer might be a future customer or investor.

from – Startup Business News and Articles – Starting a Business

Renew Your Contact Lens Prescription at Home With Simple Contacts


The only reason I stopped wearing contacts was because I was too lazy to renew my prescription. Stores have strict rules about only selling to you if your prescription is valid, and most are only valid for two years. But now there are online tools that let you renew your contact lens prescription from home.

Simple Contacts is a free new app that lets you take a rudimentary eye exam through your iPhone. It doesn’t analyze the refractive error of your eye or anything like that, nor is it a substitute for a full eye exam. The sole purpose of this app is to easily renew an existing prescription that you’re confident still works. (You need to have had a full eye exam in the past four years to use the service.) As such, this is for people with healthy, low-risk eyes.

I recently tried it out myself. It works pretty much like you’d expect: the app literally shows you an eye chart and asks you to read the letters aloud, like any typical eye exam, and records you doing so. The test is then sent to a doctor to review. Of course, it would be silly to read a phone that’s right in front of you. You’re required to stand ten feet away from your phone when you take the test; if you aren’t far enough, you’ll be asked to take the test again. (It’s a little unnerving to send a video of yourself out into the unknown, but they say it’s stored in an HIPAA compliant system like any medical data.) And that’s basically it. A doctor will review the test and your contacts will be shipped within about a week.

There are a few minor caveats. You can’t take the test without also buying contacts—you take the exam and place an order all at once—and there is a $10 physician fee for the prescription. It’s currently limited to 20 states, but they’ll be expanding to new regions, of course.

Joel Wish, the founder of Simple Contacts, tells me that there are a variety of features currently in the pipeline. Right now you can’t use the app to order contacts if you already have a valid prescription. You can if you just email them, though, and indeed I found their customer service to be very nice and responsive. That feature will be added soon. Eventually they might also let you renew your prescription (for a fee) without ordering anything. There’s also an Android version in development, of course.

Simple Contacts isn’t the only service that offers renewed prescriptions online. There’s also Opternative, which offers glasses or contacts prescriptions for $40. I haven’t tried it myself but their exam is actually more thorough and uses both your webcam and a phone app. They can actually determine your prescription from scratch, rather than renewing an old script. But if all you need is to re-up your current lenses with a recently lapsed prescription, Simple Contacts gets the job done.

Simple Contacts | iTunes App Store

from Lifehacker

The northern lights might put on a serious show tonight


Right now, the Earth is being slammed by fast-particles shot out by the sun, and that means tonight the northern lights could put on quite a show for people as far south as New York and Iowa.

Assuming the storm keeps up, the solar wind could supercharge the aurora borealis, pushing the oval — which denotes where people can see the cosmic lights — farther south than usual.

Usually, the northern lights stay pretty close to the poles, but during a solar storm — also known as a geomagnetic storm — the lights can be visible in lower latitudes due to the way the storm perturbs Earth’s magnetic field. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center is forecasting a moderate geomagnetic storm Tuesday night, meaning that the northern lights are expected to dip down into the Midwest and Northeast. If the storm reaches “strong” levels, that could stretch the auroral oval as far south as Illinois and Oregon.

If you want to see the auroras for yourself, get someplace dark and cloud-free. If it’s cold, bundle up and then hunker down for what could be a long wait. 

The aurora borealis shine intermittently during geomagnetic storms depending on how many solar particles are buffeting our planet at any given moment. (You can use Twitter feeds like @Aurora_Alerts to find out when the solar storm is peaking.)

You can also check out the auroras visible on this northern lights webcam from Sweden, if you don’t have the best weather for an aurora viewing.

The northern and southern lights are actually created when charged particles from the sun smash into Earth’s magnetic field. Those particles are drawn down to the planet’s north and south poles along magnetic field lines. Some of the solar particles make it past the planet’s magnetic field, slamming into Earth’s upper atmosphere and interacting with neutrally charged particles like oxygen and nitrogen.

That interaction causes the particles to glow, shining in greens, reds and purples, depending on what kind of molecules are emitting the photons. 

While Tuesday’s solar storm probably won’t do much more than produce some northern lights and maybe over-charge a satellite or two, geomagnetic storms can be incredibly powerful and even dangerous.

In 1989, the province of Quebec, Canada, went completely dark when a strong solar storm knocked out power to the entire region after a burst of hot plasma from the sun reached the planet, burning out the power grid in Quebec and causing a 12-hour blackout.

Satellites are also vulnerable to solar storms, with spacecraft experiencing increased drag and possible power systems problems.

from Mashable!

10 Philippe Starck designs that paved the way for Xiaomi’s Mi Mix smartphone


The concept smartphone from Xiaomi and colorful French designer Philippe Starck, revealed on Tuesday, has won praise for its minimalist form and bezel-less screen. 

And while Starck is world-renowned for his design prowess, many smartphone users may not realize just how big a deal a Xiaomi smartphone from Starck really is. 

For some perspective, we’ve compiled a short list of Starck’s most inventive tech-focused designs in recent years that push the envelope in terms of form and function while losing none his classic aesthetic flare. 

Fossil Watches 

Years before the release of the Apple Watch, Starck teamed up with Fossil to introduce a series of watches, including the O-Ring and Light Box watches, both of which looked like wearable tech from the future. 

The O-Ring watch, designed by Philippe Starck

The O-Ring watch, designed by Philippe Starck

And while the devices were definitely not “smart” watches, the bold accessories influenced the entire watch market, and have likely informed the design choices of some of today’s Apple Watch competition. 

Flos D’E Light with Device Charger 

Always looking to marry design innovation with unexpected utility, Starck is the designer behind the Flos D’E Light, a museum-style LED desk lamp that not only classes up your home, but charges your mobile devices. 

When it launched in 2015, the company made a point of primarily showing the Apple iPhone as the complementary design element worthy of its display.  

Microsoft Optical Mouse 

One the most famous tech-oriented projects from the Starck design house was its work for Microsoft. 

Answering the call from Microsoft to class up the modern mouse, Starck delivered the cutting-edge Microsoft Optical Mouse by Starck that accessories-makers are still drawing inspiration from years later. 

Virgin Galactic Spaceport 

We know that Starck designs everything from furniture to toilets to photo booths, but in recent years, he has turned his attention to space. Back in 2005, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic’s spaceport would be designed by Starck. 

Branson’s choice of Starck was a clear signal that the space tourism venture wasn’t just shooting for the stars. The company also wanted to give customers the feeling that by purchasing a ticket, they’d get a taste of the future on Earth. (It appears that a new firm has been tapped to design the final spaceport, but the company is still using Starck’s “eye” logo treatment.) 

Parrot Zik Headphones 

Although it’s not Starck’s first tech-focused collaboration, his work on the Parrot Zik headphones may be one of his most enduring in the world of mobile tech. 

Parrot's Zik 3 Bluetooth headphones, designed by Philippe Starck.

Parrot’s Zik 3 Bluetooth headphones, designed by Philippe Starck.

The headphones haven’t garnered the same kind of mainstream traction as, for example, Beats by Dre, but the fact that they keep updating the Starck-designed line is proof the sleek headphones are resonating with a niche market focused on taste over trends. 

Netamo Smart Thermostat and Radiator Valve 

If you already know Starck’s interior design work, it should come as no surprise that he has also penetrated the growing Internet of Things.

His work on the Netamo smart Thermostat and Radiator Valve retain his familiar design touch. Nevertheless, they both stand out among the wide array of more pedestrian IoT devices already on the market. His work in this area is particularly noteworthy because, as IoT devices continue to proliferate, the skill of hiding technology in unobtrusive forms will be in high demand, so Starck’s studio will likely be busy in coming years. 

V+ Volteis Electric Car 

Tesla may be dominating the headlines when it comes to electric cars, but that doesn’t mean competitors aren’t working hard on coming up with other solutions to make petroleum-free vehicles sexy. 

In a collaboration with electric car company Volteis, Starck designed a jeep-meets-golf-cart vehicle that offers a decidedly fresh take on the electric car. Will this be the electric-powered chariot most people will take to work in the future? Probably not, but it’s probably just weird and design-centric enough to attract at least a small group of passionate electric vehicle devotees. 

LaCie Blade Runner Hard Drive 

Hard drives are the last place we look to when it comes to discovering new design treatments. But that didn’t stop major hard drive manufacture LaCie from pairing its tech might with the design flourishes of Starck. 

And the combination didn’t disappoint. Depending on how you look at it, the limited-edition Blade Runner hard drive is either a Zaha Hadid-like piece of desk candy, or a useful hunk of backup space you can tell friends is really a spacecraft replica from the latest sci-fi film epic.  

Moustache MASS Electric Bikes 

With the Moustache electric-powered MASS mountain bike, Starck lives up to his pedigree by allowing the bicycle to retain its rugged underpinnings while accenting the e-bike with just enough Starck-ness to make it truly stand out. 

Steve Jobs’ Yacht 

Yes, Starck is a giant in the world of design. But he’ll likely never achieve the historic design renown of Apple, which is why the choice by the late Steve Jobs to have Starck design his yacht is so important. 

The super yacht 'Venus', built for Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs and designed by Philippe Starck, spotted Sailing In Hvar Island, Croatia in 2014.

The super yacht ‘Venus’, built for Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs and designed by Philippe Starck, spotted Sailing In Hvar Island, Croatia in 2014.

Image: Sipa via AP Images

What it tells us is that even though Jony Ive and now Marc Newsom are the undisputed masters of Apple design, Jobs had a deep appreciation for the mastery of Starck, paying him the ultimate compliment by employing him to design one of his most personal possessions.  

In light of that final design commission from Jobs, could a Starck-designed iPhone have been in Apple’s future? It’s possible, but we’ll probably never know. At this point, the best idea of what Starck might have done with the iPhone is best represented in the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept smartphone. It’s beautiful and futuristic in all the right ways, and a dead ringer for a could-be Apple product. 

That alone is enough reason to keep an eye on Starck’s eccentric but powerful forays into tech design in the coming years. 

from Mashable!

Intel’s new chips are for smart cars and the Internet of Things


Intel has been investing in IoT for years, playing catch up to compete with companies like Qualcomm that got to the market early and saturated it with their chipsets. But a declining PC market pushed them to make more drastic moves, cutting 12,000 jobs back in April to refocus on IoT and data centers, which made up 40 percent of their revenue last year. Continuing that commitment, today Intel announced two new Atom processor lines: the E3900 series for connected devices and wearables along with the A3900 for smart auto apps.

The E3900 will be Intel’s IoT workhorse for applications in multiple industries, prioritizing which processes to perform itself and which to push to the data center, a strategy known as fog computing. The chip series will have quad core processors running up to 2.5 ghz that will be able to manage graphics on three screens at once. The A3900 series, on the other hand, is dedicated to automotive experiences, from in-car infotainment to digital instrument clusters to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). That processor line won’t be available until Q1 2017.

Intel’s already working with IoT device creators and software vendors like Delphi, FAW, Neusoft and Hikvision, according to their press release. The new processors are clearly intended to be versatile enough for a broad range of industries, but the company’s also growing its product library, and likely its client base, with acquisitions. They bought Movidius back in September, and just yesterday the high-end chipmaker announced that their processors would power Hikvision’s upcoming line of AI-equipped security cameras.

Source: Intel blog

from Engadget

Sorry, hipsters: The skinny tie is over


Buried on page 86 of the October J. Crew catalog is a sentence to chill the blood of any man who has shopped for clothing in the past five years:

“We widened our ties by ¼” to keep up with today’s changing proportions.”

It is almost an aside. Nearly an afterthought! But for the loyal J. Crew neckwear client, who has been investing in 2.5-inch-wide ties since the year 2011, it signals a potentially seismic shift. See, the width of ties across the broader market had actually been shrinking since the start of the decade. Could it be that men’s neckties are again expanding after an all-too-brief moment of discreet, clean lines? Is that modest quarter-inch the start down a slippery, silky slope into ties the size of mainsails?

Say goodbye to this 2.5-inch J.Crew tie

Say goodbye to this 2.5-inch J.Crew tie

Don’t panic. Loosen your collar, take a breath, and absorb some context: The J. Crew customer is a relative youngster, with a boyish figure and a breezy air that helped him carry off a 2½-inch tie in the first place. More staid brands such as Charles Tyrwhitt and Thomas Pink never went so narrow with their standard ties, each holding the line at 8 centimeters, or 3.15 inches.

Second, this is not an abrupt about-face—yet—just an indicator of future change. The 2½-inch tie remains the most popular width sold by Tie Bar, according to company President Allyson Lewis. But, she noted, “In the last year, we’ve seen three inches get a little more pickup.”

A Brooks Brothers tie, at 3.25 inches.

A Brooks Brothers tie, at 3.25 inches. Source: Brooks Brothers

“The average mainstream tie is roughly 3 to 3¼ inches at this point,” said Andrew Tarshis, owner of Tiecrafters, the country’s preeminent tie-cleaning and alteration service. “It’s a nice, safe width.” A look at such big brands as Brooks Brothers (currently 3.25 inches) and Hermès (eight centimeters for its boardroom-ready classic, as opposed to 7.5 centimeters, or fewer for its “contemporary” models) bears this out. So does Lewis’s experience at Tie Bar: Seven years ago, the company’s most popular tie width was 3½ inches. These days, they don’t even manufacture that. With the exception of old stock, the widest model at Tie Bar has “migrated down to 3¼,” she said.

A Brooks Brothers tie at the incredibly fat width of 3.25 inches

A Brooks Brothers tie at the incredibly fat width of 3.25 inches

Basically, since the end of the ‘00s, tie sizes at mainstream companies have been generally shrinking, a result of the influence of such fashion-forward designers as Thom Browne and Hedi Slimane, who pioneered nipped, short suits (Browne) and ultra-slim, boyish silhouettes (Slimane for Dior) on the runway a few years earlier. When the influence of these suits eventually made it to the world’s shopping malls, ties were narrowed to match increasingly smaller lapels. Without even realizing it, your fashion-agnostic dad is probably wearing a narrower tie than he did 20 years ago.

But the skinny suit is gradually falling out of fashion on the runway, replaced by softened shoulders in the Italian style and a general air of relaxation. With suit lapels no longer resembling boning knives, it is only natural that neckties should move further away from the Reservoir Dogs collection. 

Here’s my prediction: The slim tie of the hepcat and the plump one of the company man are on their way to converging at the mutually happy medium of the 3-inch wide tie. I don’t think we have to worry about anyone’s neckties returning to the napkin-like dimensions witnessed at mid-‘90s NBA draft nights and mid-‘80s insider-trading trials. (“The wider stuff was too much,” Tarshis un-fondly remembered of an earlier era. “You look at old episodes of the Tonight Show, some of Johnny Carson’s ties were 4-, 4½-inches wide.”)

That said, broader ties will always look good on burlier men and those who favor spread-collar shirts. And there continue to exist fashionable men who favor wider ties for lavish philosophical reasons. Some of Tom Ford’s current models come in at 9.5 centimeters, or 3.74 inches. “There is something a bit meager and uptight about a skinny tie and jacket,” Ford once told an interviewer. “I think that accentuating the natural V of man’s body makes men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general, more powerful.” It’s a knotty issue.

This article originally published at Bloomberg

from Mashable!

Uber’s new Driver API gives developers access to Uber’s other user pool


Uber has had developer tools for reaching riders for over two years, but not it’s also letting third-parties build products tailored specifically to its driver community, via a new Driver API revealed Wednesday. The Driver API will provide developers a direct channel to build apps for a targeted user group of drivers that Uber says is over 1.5 million people strong, according to a Medium post from Uber product lead Chris Saad, which is itself larger than most consumer-side communities enjoyed by a lot of apps and services.

The Driver API will make drive profile data, trip, earnings and other info available to developers for the purpose of creating apps tailored to enhancing or complementing the Uber driver experience. It’s also exposing Driver Ratings data, which Uber says can be useful as a kind of reputation metric to “bootstrap trust” for new services, or to act as a measure that can drive rewards.

Drivers have control over authorizing apps to access this data, similar to how apps that use Facebook or Google accounts for login or registration request access to that profile information. The three endpoints available to developers including driver profile info, including rating as mentioned; trip info, including things like distance and far; and payment, including payments made to the driver, when and for how much.

Uber has already been working with some partners to demonstrate potential uses of the Driver API, and the results include a resume building tool, a Sears Auto Center loyalty points reward program based on number of completed trips and an app that creates route recommendations based on combined trip data to maximize driver earring potential. There’s also a Stride app for helping drivers keep on top of their taxes and earnings, and an upfront payment app called Activehours.

The Uber Driver API is available in a limited capacity now, though documentation is available publicly for anyone considering applying for access, which Uber will gate for the time being. Uber is smart to start making the most of the other side of its two-sided marketplace with these new developer tools, both in terms of further capitalizing on a sizeable resource and in terms of building an ecosystem that could lead to more loyal service providers.

from TechCrunch

Windsurfing During Extreme Hurricane Conditions Might Be The Most Badass Sport You’ve Never Seen


Until I came across this footage of windsurfing in extreme hurricane conditions I’ve always considered the sport of windsurfing to be the red-headed stepchild of the board sport and extreme sports world. In fact, if you’d had asked me yesterday if windsurfing is an extreme sport I’d have told you ‘hell no’, but I’m suddenly thinking about it a little differently. I’ve always considered windsurfing to be the lame ass sport of your friend’s step-dad named Ron, or your aging cousin Lisa, not something that hardcore extreme sports enthusiasts do when hurricane-force winds bring raging waves into the region.

The footage above is part of the Red Bull Storm Chase, an event for windsurfers that has the sport’s elite athletes chasing down the craziest conditions worldwide. This is a promo clip for the 2017 Red Bull Storm Chase, an event that will feature Force 10 winds (89-102kmh), with raging waves. The event will take place in Winter 2017, when the conditions are just right, and if you’re a crazy MoFo looking to get in on this action it’s not too late to sign up.

You’d have to be a total madman to want to put yourself in these conditions:

…(h/t RedBull)…

Share This


Helmet cam captures horrifying wingsuit crash into trees


BASE jumper Eric Dossantos, 30, from San Diego, California, is lucky to be alive after a horrifying wingsuit crash left him with multiple broken bones.

Dossantos was “flying” using a wingsuit at a speed of 90 mph in picturesque Chamonix, France, on Sept. 29 when he misjudged and clipped the top of a tree, sending him spinning back to earth. He later woke in a hospital after spending three hours on the forest floor until trail workers came to his rescue. 

In an interview on BASE jumping site Top Gun Base, Dossantos says that everything was going pretty well in the jump, and it wasn’t until just before impact that he noticed a problem.

“It wasn’t until about the last five seconds that I felt the trees below me getting closer than I expected or wanted. Everything before that felt flyable to me,” said Dossantos.

According to a GoFundMe page setup by his friends to assist him pay with his medical bills, Dossantos suffered multiple injuries, including a scapula fracture, left neck abrasion, clavicle fracture, three left side rib fractures, head trauma and multiple lacerations.

“I should have died on a wingsuit crash in France,” Dossantos wrote on his Facebook page in early October.  

from Mashable!