Think You’re Ready to Launch?

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating a product and getting it ready to be launched. After countless hours of work, all of that effort is about to pay off in a big way. Or so you think.

Before you get too carried away with excitement, it’s important to slow down, take a deep breath and make sure that you’re actually ready to launch. One way to do that is to ask yourself the following eight questions that should be a part of every tech-entrepreneur’s launch checklist.

1. Is it unique? Everyone likes to think their product is special, but is it really? Uniqueness is even more important if you’re entering a crowded market.

For example, if you’re making a photo-sharing app, then it better not be Instagram with a different name. Whether it’s related to features or something else, people need a compelling reason to use your product over all of the other options that exist.

2. Does it solve a problem? If your product doesn’t improve people’s lives in some way, then it can be hard to get their attention. On the other hand, if you can solve a pain point that consumers have, then you’re making something they want before they even know about it. The best way to figure this out is just ask. Determine your target market and talk to them. I realize many entrepreneurs are concerned their dreams will be crushed by negative feedback but it is better to figure out what consumers want then invest time and money into something they don’t care for.

3. Is it attractive? While back-end developers are a hot commodity, front-end designers are also highly sought after. The reason being is your product will be judged based on its design, and if you want to be taken seriously, then there’s just no excuse to not have an attractive product. While a designer can be costly, there are inexpensive options. For instance, affordable graphic-design marketplaces like 99designs provide great looking designs for entrepreneurs on a tight budget.

4. Can you understand it within five seconds? Technology has made us impatient. You may have the best product in the world, but if people can’t understand what it does and why it’s important within five seconds, then you’ve probably already lost them. What you need are one or two descriptive sentences and images that can help you cross that first attention hurdle and get people to take a closer look. Depending on the product, this introductory experience can take place on your website, an app store or the product itself.

5. Will people want to tell others about it? Your users are your best sales team, so make sure that they’ll want to talk about what you’ve created. This can be accomplished by making something that’s interesting and enjoyable to use, but it can also be accomplished by building social features into the product that make it easy to share content and successful product experiences. Get influencers and loyal customers on board quickly.

6. Will it keep users coming back? Getting someone to make the decision to try your product is an important first step, but it also has to be designed in such a way that it encourages continued use or else you’ll lose that user right after you get them. How many desktop, online or mobile apps have you only used once or twice? Learn from those experiences by adding features that make people want to use your product on a regular basis.

7. Is it ready? Some entrepreneurs might argue that a product is never fully finished, and while that may be true to some extent, at a certain point you have to decide the product is ready to launch. Even if you’re building a minimum-viable product to get started, remember you only get one chance for a first impression. You don’t want to be known for a half-baked product that barely works and is filled with bugs. So take the time to get it finished to a reasonable level.

8. Would you use it? This can be the most difficult question to answer in an objective way. The fact that you decided to create something doesn’t mean it needs to exist. Put yourself in the shoes of an average person in your target market and try to determine if what you’ve created would be interesting to you. If you wouldn’t use your own product, then how can you expect others to use it?

Of course, you’re not guaranteed great success even if you have good answers for all or most of these questions, because there are a lot of different elements that go into a launch. But if your product passes this launch checklist, you’re better positioned for success.

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5 Key Characteristics Every Entrepreneur Should Have

1. PassionA startup founder is often driven by the quest for deeper purpose beyond the sheer mechanics of operating a business. My mission for my startup, Yes Man Watches, is to empower people to consider the most valuable asset in their lives: time. I rise early every morning because I don’t want to waste my day. If you have passion for your startup, this will drive you to turn your idea into a reality. Without that missing spark, you’ll lack the necessary motivation to put in all the early mornings and late nights to get your business off the ground.

2. Perseverance. Entrepreneurs need to be able to deal with obstacles. A business does not get built overnight, and turning your idea into a reality will take time. You’ll have to become accustomed to people saying no to you. What makes entrepreneurs great is having the perseverance to grow regardless of how many times they are shut down. When creating the supply chain for my startup, we screened two dozen watch manufacturers. After approaching through about 10, I became quite frustrated at hearing that my company’s patent-pending buckle couldn’t be made. Without perseverance, I would have given up.  

Follow-up is key. People might present plenty of excuses for not getting back in touch with you. Yet if you show persist in trying to make things happen, you’ll probably succeed. For a Kickstarter campaign, I contacted dozens of writers at a single media outlet in the hopes of reaching one who might write about my company. Even though the conversion rate may be minuscule, it only takes one person to make a difference.

Related: Shoestring Budget? No Problem. Just Be Creative.

3. Resourcefulness. A vital ability for an entrepreneur is knowing how to make the most of what you have. Your assets as an entrepreneur will be limited, so use them to the fullest. Tapping into a network is key. When looking for a photographer, I reached out to the photography department at my university and the staff sent an email blast to students looking to build their portfolio. Within a week, I had professional-looking photos.

4. Open-Mindedness. As an entrepreneur, you may think you’ve zeroed in on a business plan, but you’ll need to learn to take in the opinions of others. Then if it appears that your plan won’t work, then adjust. As Mark Cuban once said, “Follow the green, not the dream.” If your dream startup won’t make you any money, you may need to change your focus. When my friend Morgan Schwanke started OnMyBlock, he originally wanted to focus solely on a social platform for college students to find off-campus housing. He now concentrates his startup on every aspect of renting an off-campus space; it provides tenant listings to landlords and facilitates the making of rent payments.

Related: 50 Signs You Might Be an Entrepreneur

5. Spongelike nature. Being an entrepreneur involves a learning process. If you’re not willing to learn, think about leaving the startup world. You need to be able to soak in everything and anything you can, just like a sponge. The more you learn, the better. A saying I’m fond of is “One who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.” When starting Yes Man Watches, I honestly didn’t know anything about watchmaking. I looked up everything I could and soaked in all the information. Now I know quite a bit about watches, from the types of stainless steel used to make the watch case and the variety of battery powering the watch movements.

Entrepreneurship is much more than a 9-to-5 job. I don’t breathe without thinking about progressing my business aspirations. If you have an idea you’d like to turn into a reality, go for it. You’ll never know the outcome if you don’t try. 

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This startup figured out how to charge devices wirelessly through walls from 40 feet away

Wireless charging isn’t a brand new phenomenon, but what exists today largely requires a device to be within close proximity to the charger. And that’s where Ossia’s patented technology, called “Cota,” is different.

There are two parts to Cota: A small, embeddable charger and a large, stationary charging station.

The tiny charger can be installed inside devices and sends out a low-power beacon signal to the transmitter, a charging station that mimics a large PC tower and contains thousands of smart antennas. The transmitter then can return focused streams of targeted signals to power multiple devices — from smartphones to cameras to wearables — simultaneously at a radius of 40 feet and through obstructions like walls or human bodies.

Even when a device moves around the room, Cota is able to instantly redirect those signals and send power from the charging station. It’s a solution that uses the law of physics and a little bit of imagination to work successfully.


The top image shows a device sending out low-powered beacon signals to the charger. The bottom image shows the charger returning focused streams of targeted signals back to the device.

“I’ve always been fascinated by what you can do with physics,” Zeine said. “If you know your physics, you know that spooky things can happen — if it’s common sense, it’s not science.”

Cota’s transmitter can send about 1 watt of power, or one-third of what today’s phone chargers provide. The energy is sent over the same bands used by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so Cota can take advantage of existing antennas already embedded inside our devices, with some slight modifications.

The technology also has software, so it can tell which devices have lower power and direct signals accordingly. People will also be able to use an app to control which devices receive charging power.

Cota’s tracking beacons only use about 1/10,000th of the signal power of Wi-Fi, making the technology safe to use based on regulations set for the energy that mobile phones already emit today. Safety has always been Zeine’s number one concern with Cota, which is now in advanced stages with the FCC for regulatory approval.

“This is inherently safe,” he said.

Ossia, founded in 2008, spent five years in super stealth mode before demonstrating its wireless charging technology for the first time at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference last fall. Since then, the company has reduced the size of the Cota charging station and improved Cota’s non-line-of-site capability by up to 40 feet.

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Tim Cook Apple Video

Apple just released a new promotional video. 

On the surface, it’s about how the company is going to take care of the environment. But, digging just a little deeper reveals that this is a mission statement by CEO Tim Cook. 

Since Steve Jobs died in October 2011, people have wondered what kind of company Apple would become under Cook. This video, which leads right now, is the answer.

It is narrated by Tim Cook:

Here’s what he says:

“‘Better.’ It’s a powerful word, and a powerful ideal. It makes us look at the world and want more than anything to change it for the better. To innovate. Improve. To reinvent. To make it … better. It’s in our DNA. And better can’t be better if it doesn’t consider everything. Our products, our values, and an even stronger commitment to the environment for the future. To use greener materials, less packaging. To do everything we can to keep our products out of landfills, Changes that will benefit people as well as the planet. To us, better is a force of nature. It drives us to build things we never imagined. New data centers powered by the sun and wind. A new manufacturing facility that runs on 100% clean energy. And new product designs that make use of recycled materials. All ways to reduce our impact on the environment. We have a long way to go and a lot to learn. But now more than ever we will work to leave the world better than we found and make the tools that inspire others to do the same.”

While Cook mentions the environment, the big picture here is that he wants Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet in better condition. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone has made millions of lives better. 

This video feels like it’s Cook’s version of “The Crazy Ones” ad from Apple. When Steve Jobs took over Apple, he helped develop an advertisement that showed creative geniuses throughout history. (Full story on it here.) 

Interestingly, Jobs did a voice-over for the video, but chose actor Richard Dreyfuss for the final cut. We’re not sure why he didn’t use his voice. You can see the video with Jobs’ voice here, and it feels like a statement about Apple, which at the time was in trouble. 

Apple isn’t in the same trouble, but it’s clearly in a transition. Cook’s video, with his voice, feels like a big statement. 

Here’s “The Crazy Ones”:

Read more:

The Only Watch That NASA Astronauts Trust With Their Lives

Plamen Petkov

Back in the 1960s, NASA had a problem: To keep track of time while bagging moon rocks, astronauts needed a wristwatch with otherworldly ruggedness. Many high-grade chronographs were auditioned. One lost its crystal under extreme decompression; the hands on another warped in the test oven. But the Omega Speedmaster—and its particularly robust movement—had the right stuff. The watch has since been strapped to every astronaut’s wrist from Gemini and Apollo to Skylab and the shuttle. Its movement, now known as the Calibre 1861, has seen a few changes over the years to improve its precision, but it’s been requalified by NASA for each new mission, and it remains the most strenuously tested movement in history. It’s even performed a few tasks those neurotic engineers couldn’t have foreseen: After shutting down their computers to save power, the troubled Apollo 13 crew navigated back to Earth using their hand-wound Speedmasters.

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Here comes The Upshot, the new explanatory journalism effort from the New York Times — Tech News and Analysis

Ever since Nate Silver left his perch at the New York Times and took his FiveThirtyEight blog to ESPN, where he subsequently launched an ambitious experiment aimed at data-driven journalism, the NYT has been working on a new venture aimed in part at filling the hole he left, and also at competing with the “explanatory journalism” of Ezra Klein’s recently launched Vox project. The new effort from the Times — known as The Upshot — debuts on Tuesday.

In a post on the project’s Facebook page, editor David Leonhardt, formerly the paper’s Washington bureau chief, said that the idea is to give readers some help in understanding complex stories like Obamacare, inequality and the problems in the U.S. real-estate market. The Upshot will “build on the excellent journalism the New York Times is already producing,” he said.

“We believe many people don’t understand the news as well as they would like. They want to grasp big, complicated stories… so well that they can explain the whys and hows of those stories to their friends, relatives and colleagues. We believe we can help readers get to that level of understanding by writing in a direct, plain-spoken way, the same voice we might use when writing an email to a friend. We’ll be conversational without being dumbed down.”

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We’re approaching the post-Internet age. You need to learn about mesh networks

Once, the Internet was the paradigm of decentralized, anonymous, citizen-based, secure communication. Now, mesh networks are being touted for that role.

Mesh networks are small, standalone communications exchanges that rely on phones (or other devices) talking directly to each other, with their range sometimes amplified through line-of-sight routers or other extenders. These hyper-local area networks can have a link to the outside Internet, but they don’t always need it to accomplish their central aims: local communications in spite of natural disaster or political suppression.

The Serval project in Australia, for instance, was launched after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti to provide emergency communications even when the larger cellular and Wi-Fi networks are down. Android phones running a Serval app can communicate directly with each other, a Wi-Fi-based peer-to-peer structure that uses other phones to hop between distances.

Tests by the Serval project indicate that two phones can communicate directly through a Wi-Fi mesh over 100 meters if they have a clear line of sight. A new device has been developed by the Serval project to extend that link further, and the project is currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign.

The Commotion Wireless project of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute is another such effort, designed to keep a local network going among protestors when regimes have cut off Net access, which has been a favored first step to quell protests in Egypt and elsewhere.

As a standalone and largely peer-to-peer network, mesh networks are potentially more secure against surveillance by governmental agencies. A spy agency could, of course, set up shop within the mesh network. To prevent that, the Commotion project has developed an encrypted program that allows communication to be routed only among trusted devices.

The technology is still developing, with reports of latency, range, stability and other technical issues hampering its utility. But, in an appropriate irony, the U.S. State Department has become a major driver and funder of mesh networks because of their usefulness for democratic movements in other countries – even as adoption of mesh networks in the U.S. is being driven in part by a desire to avoid the peeping eyes of another part of the U.S. government, the National Security Agency.

Via The New York Times

Apple staffing up for ‘very, very serious’ mobile payments push


Apple executive Jennifer Bailey, who previously ran the company’s online stores, is said to have been meeting with “senior payments industry executives” about joining the iPhone maker to lead the initiative. Word of the talks was first reported by Re/code.

Apple’s “ambitions are very, very serious,” one source told the publication, though they likely will not come to a head in the near future. Both positions that Apple is attempting to fill — heads of product and business development — are usually foundational roles that are filled early in a product development process.

Whispers of an Apple-built mobile payment system designed to leverage the hundreds of millions of credit card-backed accounts in iTunes have been circulating for years, but took on a new urgency earlier this year with a report that Apple was “laying groundwork” for such a move. At the time, it was said that Bailey had been tabbed to spearhead the project and that Apple was in talks with payments giant PayPal as a partner. 

According to Monday’s report, those talks have been ongoing and conversations were held as recently as last month. PayPal was previously thought to be willing to white label large swaths of its infrastructure for Apple, including logistically challenging areas like fraud prevention. 

Earlier this year, AppleInsider discovered an Apple patent filing detailing a touchless secure e-wallet system. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also said that mobile payments were “one of the thoughts behind Touch ID,” adding weight to the rumors.



Apple staffing up for ‘very, very serious’ mobile payments push

AppleInsider - iPhone owners may soon be able to use their device to purchase goods and services at brick-and-mortar businesses as Apple has reportedly begun interviewing senior-level candidates to build an iTunes-backed mobile payments business. Apple executive Jennifer Bailey, who previously ran the company’s online stores, is said to have been meeting with “senior payments industry executives” about joining the iPhone maker to lead the initiative. Word of the talks was first reported by Re/code.

Google scoops up another high-profile scientist for anti-death project

Google’s secretive Project Calico is aimed at defeating death itself — or at least staving it off far longer than ever before.

To that end, the company has been recruiting some of the top names in anti-aging and genetics research. The latest is Cynthia Kenyon, a high-profile biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

VentureBeat actually reported in November that Kenyon would be joining Calico; she has served as a consultant to the project since then. The Chronicle confirmed that she has finally left her UCSF post to join Calico full-time, although she’ll retain the title of emeritus professor at UCSF.

Kenyon’s UCSF lab has focused its research since the 1990s on a small roundworm, C. elegans. Kenyon’s team found that modifications to a gene called daf-2 resulted in doubling the lifespan of the worms, from two weeks to four; another gene, daf-16, kept them youthful despite their extended ages.

“Seeing them is like being with someone that looks 40 and learning that they are really 80,” the lab notes on its website.