2013 Launch Conference – #launch2013

March 6th, 2013 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

The Launch 2013 conference resembled Disney World, with hoards of people (5000 registered guests) eagerly waiting outside the San Francisco Design Center. Jason Calacanis surely out did himself this year with an incredible diverse turnout, which included entrepreneurs, investors and many other startup groupies. According to the program, Launch is “the best place to launch your startup, raise money and learn about starting a company.” I have to say, as an attendee;Jason went beyond launching companies to igniting thoughtful discussion surrounding heated topics such as lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. Typically, as a woman, I usually feel like a minority at tech events but due to the Launch team’s great effort to increase their female presence, I felt like part of the group!

Vivek Wadhwa certainly sparked a compelling debate during the diversity panel where he said Silicon Alley is not a meritocracy and he said something along the lines of Silicon Valley having a gender problem. It was refreshing to hear Vivek, and his panelists Adria Richards, Freada Kapor Klein and Danilo Campos discuss their firsthand personal battles with overcoming gender and race inequality in the Valley startup world.

Danilo did not sugar coat anything, by stating his work your butt off attitude regardless of your credentials. Not only did speakers discuss umbrella themes such as gender and race but also the need to see beyond an Ivy League education. In an earlier fireside chat led by Jason, Social + Capital Partnership’s founder Chamath Palihapitiya illustrated the significance of our actions rather than our resumes, “its not about a degree that makes you smart and valuable its about how you can do cool and interesting useful things.” The diversity panel and the fireside chat with Chamath confirmed society’s needs to see beyond education and reputation. Overlooking gender, academic background and race will not happen over night because as Freda pointed out “as human beings our brains are wired to be bias.” For me, the Launch conference not only exposed attendees to dynamic disrupter startups found in demo pit/the stage but also ignited tremendous debate. The first step to rid ourselves of biases starts with addressing the problem that exists! As a member of the startup world, I not only witness people changing our behavior through new adoptions of technology but also new practices of thought!

Maybe this launch conference isn’t just a place to launch a company but a new wave of thinking….overcoming biases, understanding Silicon valley is not a meritocracy ….and changing our views and definitions of successes


In the trenches as a Small Business Owner

February 22nd, 2013 by Jay Levy View Comments

Over the past 18 months in conjunction with running Zelkova I have been working on building a new company with my close friendGreg, Uproot Wines.  At Uproot we’re trying to reimagine winemaking to create a modern, energized experience for a newgeneration of wine drinkers.

]As I think about the balancing Zelkvoa and Uproot its turns out they are incredibly beneficial to each other and its not a zero sum game.  Uproot has made me a better investor and Zelkova is helping Uproot to innovate and think differently.

Uproot is a customer of several Zelkova portfolio companies.  We are using Ambassador, HelpScout, Lettuce, Customer.io, RJ Metrics and Reachli to name a few. Being able to actually use the products has made my feedback more valuable. I’m in the trenches as a small business owner, no longer am I just a Monday morning quarterback when I’m giving product feedback and advice.

Zelkova has helped Uproot by providing access to incredible technology and talent.  Every day I have the luxury of meeting great entrepreneurs with great ideas many of which are looking to help businesses.  Uproot is leveraging this and will hopefully prove to help accomplish our goal of creating an innovative company in the wine space.

As we launch Uproot in the coming weeks we are looking to push the envelope as far as possible feel free to send me any thoughts or suggestions.


Start Engine Demo Day at the Armory

November 29th, 2012 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Despite the recent surge of female entrepreneurs, Startup Engine’s demo day attendees illustrated the population of venture capitalists remains predominately male. Start Engine, a Los Angeles based “rapid accelerator,” is the brainchild of successful entrepreneurs Howard Marks and Paul Kessler. Start Engine, an incubator referred to by a participant as “Entrepreneur Paradise,” is a 90-day program suited for LA tech startup companies. The chosen businesses receive up to $20k in funding along with connections/introductions to some of the most renowned human capital in the startup world including Venture Capitalists and Angel investors. Start Engine not only provides crucial services such as legal administration assistance, but also office space. The portfolio of participant companies tends to be early stage with a focus in the e-commerce, mobile or web space. Howard Marks, who introduced the 10 companies presenting said the key reasons for starting his own incubator were to “help LA become a startup city” as well as “help entrepreneurs build successful businesses.” The 90-day program happens four times a year and features 15 companies per class. The support and camaraderie amongst the presenters confirms the positive impact incubators have for breeding wonderful companies! The 10 startups that presented are:

Pagewoo is platform for the mobile ad industry. Advertisers can highly target their ad campaigns through algorithms designed to deliver demographic targeting as well as choose where to advertise their ads.

GonnaBe is a social life concierge, which combines social, geo and the future. The company’s goal is to be more than a tool but a resource that assumes the role of a “hooked up best friend” for users.

The Style Club makes celebrity style affordable and accessible for teens who love to share their favorite fashion finds on the web. Each month, a celebrity designer will create a capsule collection sold only through the Style club. Users can also buy items from each other’s closets displayed on the site.

Enplug is an interactive advertising platform enabling the world of advertising to be a social experience. The platform includes social media, analytics and traction engagement all in real time.

MyRight allows users to learn their rights as well as seek legal information prior to hiring a lawyer. The platform’s goal is to create interactive legal content.

Smilu is a gaming platform, where all gamers can play all their games in one place despite a myriad of devices. Through Smilu, gamers will be able “to compete everywhere.”

Wheremydogsat is a social platform for people who love dogs and have dogs. Owners can coordinate with each other to find dog friendly places as well as other necessities for their pups.

Overhead.fm connects businesses with a legal way to play music without any special hardware. In addition, the site has the capability to recommend certain music depending on the brand.

Hoonto helps employees make more data driven decisions and manage all different SaaS platforms on one dashboard. It’s a “business intelligence tool,” that enables users to create widgets refreshed in real time.

Flinja is a marketplace where college students/alumni can receive help in procuring and securing jobs. Users must have an edu email to access the site creating an exclusive environment.


Be Curious, Please

October 17th, 2012 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

What do you get when you combine modern technology with unlimited curiosity? The answer: Innovators with life altering innovations. The great Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents I am just…curious.” Without a doubt from this comment we can assume Einstein was a man of modesty because he sure had tremendous skill. On the other hand, perhaps curiosity is what separates the doers from the talkers. A few weeks ago, I attended the Feast Conference, where innovators/entrepreneurs/”potential game changers” gathered to question, share and discuss ways to make our world a better place. During the conference, a common thread was leveraging the accessibility and advancements brought upon by technology brings with the persistence and diligence of those willing to challenge today’s existing behaviors.

Innovators, life shakers and inventors must not only constantly question but must also strive and prepare for criticism. During the conference, general manager of Chaotic Moon Labs, Whurley, said, “If you don’t hear no a lot, your idea sucks.” While you should be prepared to face critics during the innovation process, be careful not to judge your own idea too harshly. According to Lead NASA Engineer Adam Stessler, “in the beginning if its truly stretching the state of the art it will look crazy. You can’t bear criticism in the beginning of the process.” While those looking into your projects should unleash their negative questioning, be careful not to do it to yourself!!!! Ideas can be crazy! The lesson here is challenging behavioral norms can often lead to success. When one steps outside the box and discovers new solutions to current problems, people will often judge harshly. Paradoxically, don’t be discouraged if your idea appears to be too simple, because sometimes the best inventions are just that. Ideas do not have to be complicated but they should be followed with critical questioning (by others)! As part of society, it’s our job to look to the future. LORE founder Joseph Cohen said, “the future belongs to the curious.” And “curiosity gives birth to boldness and gets us to try.” If you possess high hopes for the future then please apply your questioning to good use. With the advances in technology, there are tremendous opportunities in making today a better place for tomorrow. Adam Stessler quoted Intel CTO, Justin Rattner, “science and technology have progressed to the point where what we build is only constrained by the limits of our own imagination.”


Girl Power!

October 3rd, 2012 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

As an all-girl school alumna, I greatly appreciate any networks that foster, bolster and inspire women to conquer their goals. Prior to the world of Venture Capital, I was entrenched in a female dominated space: fashion.  I had my fair share of long bathroom lines as well as minimal contact with men uninterested in Vogue. Upon entering the tech startup community, I felt Silicon Alley lacked the estrogen I had grown accustomed to!

After 2 years immersed in the entrepreneur startup tech world, I am proud to say the number of female founded companies and female members of startup teams has grown exponentially. The growing number of women in Silicon Alley is partially due to the presence of companies like Women In Mobile (WIM) and Golden Seeds, which both support female entrepreneurs. WIM is a tech startup incubator intended for companies founded by at least one woman. WIM encourages female businesses fiscally as well as provides them with a curriculum similar to organizations like TechStars. WIM also illustrates the broad spectrum of female-headed companies extending beyond beauty and fashion. Like WIM, Golden Seeds’ investment criteria focus solely on companies founded by women. Golden Seeds is comprised of angel investors who rally behind women in hopes their investments will result in a successful portfolio of female companies.

A few weeks ago, WIM and Levo Labs hosted Plum Alley’s launch party, an exclusive e-commerce site where female founded companies are promoted and showcased. All the companies featured on Plum Alley are provided with custom graphics and logos, which are archived in the company site. As networks supporting women continue to develop, I truly believe more women will have the confidence to transform their ideas into fully functioning businesses due a boost from companies like Plum alley as well as the expanding female ecosystem in the startup world.

In previous blogs I discuss the drier cycle most women face in their fundraising cycle due to the sea of male investors, which will hopefully decrease with the uprising of the companies listed above. Part of Plum Alley’s mission is for “successful female entrepreneurs (to) have the economic power to invest in new female founded companies”…which results in “a greater pool of investment funds” hopefully ending the drier cycle!!!

As women, we have to support one another and eliminate as many barriers as possible!!! Lets put more females on the cover of Forbes! Who knows maybe one day, one of my readers will make front page of a glossy business magazine!! Historian and educator, Samuel Eiot Morison, once said, “Dream dreams, then write them. Aye, but live them first.” Build those companies, and then have TechCrunch write about them!!!!

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About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »


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