Tag Archives: startup case study


By Nicholas Beshiri

After researching entrepreneurial events in Athens, there were many at my disposal. Between the University of Georgia and Four Athens, a local technology startup incubator, there was something almost every day of the week. I had no idea this community was so large until doing research for this class. When I looked over the calendar of events, most of them were just simple meet-and-greets at local bars around town, but one caught my eye. I decided to attend the open house for a new technology start-up in Athens called Hackyard.

Hackyard is described as a non-profit hacker space located in the Four Athens tech incubator in Athens, Ga. The goal of the non-profit is to provide a workshop space for the community as well as teach classes that range from the basics like Intro to Electronics to the more specific Build your own i3 Prusa Rework. Although I have very little knowledge of the subject matter that many of the classes cover, I thought it was a really cool idea for the community. To have a space that is so specialized in these fields could bring an entire new industry to the Athens area.

Like many of the gatherings put on by Four Athens, the open house was a low key event and gave people from the surrounding community the opportunity to come in and explore the space without having to enroll in a class. The space is set up in such a way that anyone one could draw inspiration from it. Although modest, the one large room had everything one would need to build their own computer hardware, including a 3D printer, or learn computer animation. Hackyard also held several computer stations that are used for classes in software development and coding. After walking around the space for a few minutes, I saw a familiar face from my days in film school at UGA.

One of the members of the team, Josh Marsh, was a grad assistant in a few of my undergrad classes at UGA. Marsh’s title on the website reads: Hacker-artist, Hackaday writer, animator, 3D printer and electric vehicle guru. I was excited to see that someone from school had also stayed in Athens and was a part of such a great project. It brought this class into perspective and helped me to see that I could also become a part of a startup similar to Hackyard in the future.

Attending the Hackyard open house was a great experience. It was great see a startup that is still in its infancy and developing. Hackyard will hopefully continue to grow, and with the classes it provides for the community, it has the potential to help develop several other tech startups around town. This event also inspired me to become more involved in these types of events around town. The people who were at the event were extremely friendly and I had similar backgrounds as the attendees. Being able to talk to likeminded people about their different ideas and experiences is a great way to spend a few hours each week. The open house will definitely not be the last event that I attend and I am looking forward to attending one of the “Hackathons” in December to see what hacking is all about.

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Pretentious Beer Glass Company

By Lori Shull

Matt Cummings and two friends who are fellow glass artists are transforming a successful Etsy shop into a brick and mortar shop, gallery and microbrewery.

“We’re always backordered,” Matt said when he gave me a tour of his new space, then under construction. “We average four or five weeks on backorder.”

Pretentious Beer Glass Company has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon in a big way; Matt has created a bunch of forms that have been specially designed to enhance beer’s taste. He’s been brewing his own beer for years and has several recipes that he’ll be taking commercial from the back of his downtown Knoxville shop.

“There’s no real craft beer scene in Knoxville,” he said. “Craft beer is a proven industry and it’s just getting started here.”

It’s also a way for him and his counterparts, Thoryn Ziemba and Sam Meketon, to balance their incomes. Matt and Thoryn especially specialize in glass sculptures that cost thousands of dollars; it tends to be feast or famine.

“There’s this weird myth out there that if you can’t succeed in school, become an artist. What Matt and Thoryn teach is that if you want to be an artist, you’d better be disciplined,” said their professor and mentor Curtiss Brock. “The myths of being a flaky artist die when you have gas bills that are two or three times the average rent.”

In opening the space, which is two connected storefronts, Matt is making his business tangible to consumers, by encouraging them to drink his beer in his glasses and watch glassblowers in action in the studio, as well as giving other glass artists a place to come. The space includes a retail shop, beer garden, the brewery, spaces for artists to blow and craft glass and a gallery. Customers can sit at bar tables and watch it all happen.

The three guys are clearly passionate about what they are doing; they have to be. They are betting a lot on this space and dealing with things that they never thought they would.

In opening the company, Matt has patented one of his designs and selected all but one of the shapes so that they had to be handmade to prevent competition from China.

He’s dealt with commercial leases, all kinds of inspections from the city of Knoxville to make sure they are following zoning, mechanical and fire codes.

Lori photo

One of the spaces – the one that will house the gallery and hot shop, didn’t have any electricity and some major plumbing problems. They couldn’t afford to get the space laid out using computer-aided design, so they visualized it all themselves. Good thing they’re artists and visual people.

After talking to Matt, Thoryn and Sam I realized that as difficult as it is to come up with a good idea, write the business plan and attract investors, it’s even worse to actually make a brick-and-mortar business come to life.

I also can’t wait to go back to Knoxville to see how it turns out.


Startup Case Study: Upworthy

By Cheryl Hayes

Upworthy.com is a social media startup company launched in 2012 by Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley with $4 million they raised from New Enterprise Associates and angel investors, according to Wikipedia.com and privately held by Cloud Tiger Media, Inc in New York City.

The media startup started out with 11 employees, plus the two founders. The startup currently has 40 employees, including reporters, curators, and website and content engineers. Check out the Upworthy team at https://twitter.com/Upworthy/lists/we-are-upworthy. According to Upworthy, its audience consists of “The Daily Show” generation. Upworthy attracts an audience that likes to stay connected to what is going on in the world, but prefers to learn about what happening in the world in a fun way.

Upworthy has done an excellent job at reporting current news, which links viewers to videos that are fun to share on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Upworthy has an eye-catching website that lists various pictures to represent news events followed by a catchy, clickable headline. For example, click this link http://www.upworthy.com/you-should-see-what-this-woman-sees-every-day-its-gorgeous-and-really-messed-up?c=fea to see a video report. Upworthy reports a wide variety of news from around the world, including  topics such as  community, diversity, the economy, entertainment and culture, the environment, gender, guns and crime, health, immigration, LGBTQQ, military, parenting politics, science and technology.

Upworthy describes their goal as trying to “help people find important content that is as fun to share as a FAIL video of some idiot surfing off his roof.”  Upworthy strives to provide news that is awesome and meaningful as well as entertaining, enlightening, shocking and significant. Upworthy’s media technique is best described by David Carr, a well-known reporter for The New York Times, as “serious news built for a spreadable age, with super clicky headlines and a visually oriented user interface.” Read Carr’s 2012 article about Upworthy at http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/two-guys-made-a-web-site-and-this-is-what-they-got/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0.

Upworthy is also good at making its content go viral. Upworthy often uses a two-phrase headline that is recognizable and it is easily shared from one social media subscriber to hundreds, thousands and even millions of other connected subscribers. In turn, Upworthy receives a great number of hits.

How did they define and meet a previously unmet need? Upworthy conducted a study to learn what makes up the online world in news. Upworthy’s findings were: 200-word articles turned into 15-part slideshows; 19%; things like “weird old tips about belly fat” 27%; social media about social media; 7% long articles we plan to read sometime 6%; tenacious muckraking journalism about potential new iGadgets 3%; stuff that actually matters .01%; and poorly made porn with weak character development 38%. See article at http://www.upworthy.com/could-this-be-the-most-upworthy-site-in-the-history-of-the-internet.

According to David Carr’s article “Two Guys Made A Web Site and This Is What They Got”, Upworthy “optimizes content for social sharing to build traffic and, to generate revenue, works with causes to connect them to an audience in return for a referral fee.”

Upworthy’s media content and market strategy includes those two-phrase headliners that “promise stories that will ‘blow your mind,’ ‘change your life,’ ‘make you feel mesmerized,’ ‘electrified’ or otherwise ‘wondtacular’.” as reported by Christopher Zara for the International Business Times. Read Zara’s article here http://www.ibtimes.com/rise-clickbait-spoilers-bloggers-expose-whats-behind-upworthys-histrionic-headlines-1505972 about Upworthy’s headlines. This two-phrase headline strategy leaves those that frequent the website, or receive the shared content, wondering what the story could possibly contain. It draws the viewers to the content by striking the viewer’s interest and immediate need to satisfy their curiosity.


Startup Case Study: Flipboard

By Lori Schull

While it’s not exactly new anymore, I still love Flipboard, the create-your-own news-magazine app released for iPad in 2010. It was founded by a former iPhone engineer and the former CEO of Tellme, a phone-based application that Microsoft purchased for $800 million in 2007.

Flipboard does not create any content itself. Instead, it creates a personalized magazine for its users and allows them to create and share their own magazines. It was designed to recreate the usability of a print magazine on a mobile device and allow users to easily share and connect with each other through other social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Since they are not creating their own content, they have been able to focus on the usability of the app, and it shows in its beautiful design and intuitive interface. It has also made some great video tutorials, as well as blogs about its internal functioning and recruiting on its website.

This app is all about personalization and allowing people to tell the app what kinds of content they want to see. It’s the news junkie’s version of Twitter because it allows for easy access to the news you think is important, without all the white noise. My favorite thing about Flipboard is they are not setting out to solve the media’s problem by creating more content; instead, they are finding the content and putting it together in a novel way. The world does not lack for great journalism; what it lacks is a great way to aggregate that content and make it easy to find without being a slave to Google or the whims of your Facebook newsfeed. The articles on this app are usually already vetted; they are not coming from a maniac’s blog or fringe media.

The design is truly incredible. The founders started making a way to recreate beautiful magazines like “National Geographic” online without losing the art of the design. It seems to have grown from there.

The need they ended up meeting was the aggregation factor. It’s all the news you want in one place, but it also interfaces with social media to facilitate sharing and communication. It has a search function and a way for users to create their own magazine, like a Pinterest for articles.

A lot of their money seems to come from private investors. To date, they have raised more than $60 million from private investors. Recently it did start allowing video advertising.

Most of their marketing strategy seems to be aimed at the technology media. Flipboard was named Apple’s 2010 iPad app of the year, and it has been featured on a wide variety of media outlets, including the BBC, Mashable, USA Today and The Verge.

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Startup Case Study: Oyster

by Ketevan Dolidze

After browsing the internet for some ideas for great media startups, I came across a few that sparked my interest. However, among all, one stood out the most –  Oyster, which is a company that provides its users access to a lending library of over 100, 000 digital books. It was founded by Eric Stromberg (worked on the business aspect and met with publishers and lawyers to produce a workable contract), Andrew Brown (product manager at Google’s DoubleClick division, built the tech platform), and Willem Van Lancker (former lead designer for Google Maps, crafted the user interface) in September of 2012.

In a phone interview, Eric Stromberg, CEO and co-founder of Oyster, said: “I initially became fascinated by the transition from the print book to digital while working on a research project at Duke. Our team loves to ask the question, ‘What will the future of books look like?’ We want to bring books to the center of your life, and inspire you to read all the books you wish you’d read.” When the company launched in September, along with its iPhone app, it gained its members only through invitations. Once the individual joined Oyster, he or she now had access to more than 100,000 books for only $9.95 a month. By October of 2012 the company was able to receive $3 million in funding from Founders Fund, venture capital firm in San Francisco. By January 14, 2014 Oyster raised $14 million though an event led by Highland Capital Partners. The company states that it will use the $14 million on some expansion efforts, but no official statements describing the expansion efforts were made just yet.

After Oyster launched, some studies were conducted by Oyster’s marketing department that showed the company was losing readers by having the restriction of being able to join only by invitation. To reach out to a larger audience, Oyster removed this restriction, came out with an iPad app, and offered the user a 30-day free trial. As Mr. Stromberg stated in a phone interview: “The thesis is that over the next five to 10 years, more reading will happen on tablets and phones. We’re trying to create an experience that will lead the way.” Oyster was also successful at convincing some publishers that the all-you-can-read model will be beneficial to them as much as the company itself. Just a few months after the official launch, Oyster signed such publishers as HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin, Workman Publishing and Perseus. When asked about the actual collection of books in a phone interview, this is what Stromberg said: “We don’t put every book on the platform. We say, ‘Look, here are the great books we want to put on the platform.” Books are curated algorithmically and by real people.

In a formal pitch, Oyster argued that ”the business will draw in more readers, eventually expanding the universe of book customers. If you can build a product that builds a new audience, inspires people to read more books, that’s a win for publishers and readers.”

Some people refer to Oyster as another Netflix or Amazon. To stay ahead of its competition, Oyster is making their lending library more desirable to its users. Because Amazon offers a lending library for all Kindle owners, Oyster attempted to do this by making it a lot more desirable. Amazon’s lending library allows its Kindle users a “one-at-a-time” book borrowing system. However, Oyster did away with that restriction and allowed its users to borrow multiple books at a time, even the more popular ones.




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Startup Case Study: With Bob, You Are Never “Bowling Alone”

In a post on her own blog, Robin Spielberger introduces us to a really interesting startup: Bob. Bob is “a unique Android-based TV stick that enables families to communicate, share content, interact and play, all via the TV – no matter where each member may be physically located.” 

When she presented it in class, many of us were intrigued. It’s similar to Chromecast, but with more interactive and social features. As Spielberger writes:

Moran and his team believe Meet-Bob will revolutionize TV watching, said Sigalit Klimovsky, CEO of the Meet-Bobproject in a January 2014 article by David Shamah of The Times of Israel’s Start-Up Israel section.  “It’s a device to bring families together.  Technology was supposed to get us closer; it has opened the boundaries and has become a commodity enabling us to communicate easily with anyone, anywhere.  But while we connect more with a bigger group of people, we interact and communicate less with the people we care about – our family.”  BobKlimovsky said, will harness interactive technology to bring people, especially families, closer together.


Be sure to check out her full post!

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Startup Case Study: Digital Television Programming Provider Aereo

In a piece his own blog, Barry Parks wrote about Aereo, a startup that provides consumer Internet access to live broadcast television programming. This startup has become embroiled in a number of lawsuits but is one to watch as experts continue to speculate over how television will be disrupted going forward.

As Barry writes:

Even with litigation at the Supreme Court pending, Aereo has at the very least presented the television broadcasting industry with an important disruption that may change the face of the business for good.  Millions of Americans are already ‘cutting the cord,’ leaving behind former means of attaining television programming to opt for Internet services.  Aereo meets this need head-on.  

Be sure to check out his full post.

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