Pivot Patrol

Harvard Business Review Clutches Its Pearls at Pivot ‘Promiscuity’

Not what social media was invented for. (pulse2.com)

Is there any startup that doesn’t pivot at least a couple of times these days? The term is everywhere, to the point that, during a recent round of putt-putt golf, we overheard an entrepreneur passing off the many pivots of his e-commerce startup as acceptable first-date small talk.

Well, the Harvard Business Review has discovered the trend, and the venerable publication isn’t so sure it likes what it sees.

The magazine’s September issue takes a look at four recent(ish)ly released business books–The Launch PadThe Lean StartupStartup Weekend and The Ultralight Startup–and came away quite alarmed indeed. The title of its review: “Too Many Pivots, Too Little Passion.” Read More

Fashion Tech

Y Combinator Startup Shoptiques Hired Models to Give Out Free Hugs in NYC Today

(Photo: Shoptiques)

What’s a good publicity stunt without a stable of pretty women? Apparently even Y Combinator startups fall prey to that age-old logic. DNAInfo reports that Shoptiques, a fashion marketplace for local boutiques, has planned an elaborate jaunt around Manhattan today to dole out free hugs in exchange for some brand recognition. And judging from their Facebook page, looks like they’ll also have a ton of hot pink swag in tow.

Starting at 11 a.m., five models will begin giving free hugs out in SoHo, then travel up through Washington Square Park, Union Square, Times Square and end at Columbus Circle. The whole schtick is so well-planned that you can even track the models’ location on a sweetly-drawn map on Shoptiques’ website. Read More

Linkages

Booting Up: Tech-Mad Millennials Edition

Good morning, sunshine! (Photo: flickr.com/globochem)

Gen Y just loves working for tech companies. This study cites “flexibility,” which we’re just going to read as “free food.” [CNN Money]

AT&T towers are reportedly screwing with a pricey new police radio system in Oakland, California. [Ars Technica]

Quora assesses Y Combinator’s latest batch of graduates. [Quora]

Speaking of YC: Revenue was all the rage at yesterday’s Demo Day. [Bloomberg]

Shoreham, Long Island is one step closer to having its very own Nikola Tesla Science Center: The Oatmeal-instigated Indiegogo fundraiser to buy the inventor’s last remaining lab surpassed its funding goal late yesterday afternoon. [Indiegogo]

Six percent of the American population lives out of reach of broadband. [Wall Street Journal]

Y Combinator

Startup Hustler Pitches via Parking Tickets Outside Y Combinator Demo Day

Oh, snap. (Photo: Peter Sullivan's Instagram)

Today was Y Combinator Demo Day. While Paul Graham-approved crème de la crème were inside, pitching their racing hearts out, Peter Sullivan was outside, slapping fake tickets that proclaimed, “You have illegally been subjected to make a big investment decision based on a two-minute demo pitch” on the cars outside.

Mr. Sullivan is the CEO of the social travel startup Tripl, conveniently available for download via a QR code on the ticket.

We can only hope for Mr. Sullivan’s sake that Silicon Valley investors pay more attention to pesky parking tickets than many a wealthy driver.

Tourist Season

Vayable Launches a Concierge Service, Because Alcatraz Sleepovers are No Longer Enough for People

Those people on the tour bus sooooo want to join that homeless man-guided walking tour (Photo: blog.vayable.com)

If you’ve ever hoped of touring Paris’s sewer system in the dead of night accompanied by a lovely French homeless man, then you and I have a slightly different definitions of the word “vacation.” But for more adventurous travelers, Vayable might be able to make your unorthodox dreams come true. The San Francisco-based travel start-up announced a few new features today, including concierge and improved international payment services.

Y Combinator-backed Vayable, which launched in April 2011 and opened an office in New York a few months later, offers over 2,500 unique travel experiences to its users in 600 cities around the world. Some special souls have used the site to spend the night on San Francisco’s former prison island –Alcatraz – while others have gone on tours of the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco guided by a homeless man. Read More

Betabeat Investigates

Playing the Mystery Startup Guessing Game: Which New York App Wants to ‘End Loneliness’?

Mr. Waxman. (Photo: Twitter)

Would you answer this mysteriously vague job listing? “Hackers seek hackers in NYC for absurdly fun + challenging startup” is the title of this ad for a Y Combinator startup that claims to already be funded by “some of the best investors in the world” and is now seeking “social hackers.” The ad, a repeat of a listing posted back in April, is at the top of the Hacker News forum. Read More

Planet Reddit

Loving the Alien: How Erik Martin, King Bee of Reddit’s Hive Mind, Harnessed the Buzz

erickredd

The top-scoring link of all time on the social news website Reddit is a post that users were never meant to see at all. It is titled “test post please ignore,” but almost 27,000 Redditors found it so amusing that they voted it up.

That is testament to the website’s impassioned community—and their brand of dry, often geeky humor (the site’s logo is an alien, after all). But Reddit’s user base, which a recent PBS documentary pegged as 72 percent male, has wide-ranging interests. Other top posts include a link to a news item about the elderly volunteering to clean up nuclear waste in Japan following the 2011 tsunami, and a Q&A session with the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Reddit is one of the country’s most highly trafficked websites, but its general manager, Erik Martin, keeps a remarkably low profile. Most Redditors know the 33-year-old Mr. Martin solely by his username: HueyPriest. Read More

Searching Towards Bethlehem

Can This Y Combinator Startup Solve the Site Search Problem?

Swiftype's sweet offices. (swiftype.com)

Talk to anyone who primarily works on the Internet, and you’ll eventually bump into the same grievance, no matter the industry: site search–the mechanism that allows users to search your website for key words–is broken. Actually, broken might be too soft a word: fucked is really more apt. On the whole, site search is fucked.

Last week we were at a bar with a fellow Observer staff writer, when the conversation turned to site search. “I abandoned my Tumblr because their site search doesn’t work,” he declared. We all nodded our heads in agreement.

But it’s not just Tumblr. Have you ever tried to search this very website? Read More

Lawsuits

Pair, the Buzzy App for Couples, Gets a Third Wheel: A Lawsuit

Can Pair thumbkiss its way out of a lawsuit?

Looks like thunderstorms could ruin the honeymoon for Pair, the “perfect sexting app” that struck us as less sexy than monogamy-inducing. The Y Combinator-backed social network for couples just raised $4.2 million last week from a slew of high-profile investors, but today TechCrunch reports that the company is getting sued for employing the very name that defines it; a Pittsburgh-based hosting company named “pair Networks” filed a suit against the app Pair for trademark infringement. Read More

Teach Me How to Startup

About One New Accelerator Is Launching a Day, Says TechStars Founder

(Photo: CERN)

Yesterday we wrote that the tech accelerator epidemic had hit New Jersey. The truth may be closer to: The tech accelerator epidemic has hit everywhere. Tech accelerators are so in vogue that Forbes added an accelerator ranking to its “Midas List” coverage, which includes a list of the top 100 venture capitalists.

Incubators have become so popular that about one accelerator launches every day, David Cohen, the founder and CEO of TechStars, told Forbes. He’s said it before; he was echoing his own earlier line from a panel about accelerators at SXSW. “It’s become a new college for entrepreneurs,” he added.

Forbes has rated Y Combinator, TechStars and DreamIt Ventures as the top three accelerators in the country. We’re all for accelerators, but one a day seems excessive. Echoes of ’99?