Thomas Edison once said that “genius” is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. In the world of technology startups, that 99% involves a heck of a lot of coding and wireframing. If you’ve got an idea for a startup, that’s great — but odds are that an idea is all you have. (Well, maybe you have passion and some savings, too.) But you’ll need more than that to bring your idea to life — you’ll need a developer who can transform your vision into an elegant app or website.

If you’re just foraying into the land of entrepreneurship, you may wonder where the to even start looking for such a person. And even if you do find a developer, how will you know the extent of his talent and whether he’s a good fit for you?

From trolling your network to attending meetups, there are myriad ways to meet skilled developers. When you find one you like, you should have an informal meeting — you’ll be spending a lot of time with the person, so it’s good to get to know him on a more personal level. Plus, you can determine whether he’s equally excited about your vision. If you’re not jibing, let him go — there are other dev fish in the sea, and it’s not worth it to force the partnership. When you find a personality match, move into the formal interview. If all goes well there, you can confidently extend an offer.

Throughout the search, there’s plenty of room for missteps, and you might not know the right questions to ask. But there are some pro tips you can employ to make the dev hunt more efficient and successful. The folks at General Assembly have created this easy-to-follow flow chart as part of the curriculum for its “Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship” program. If you’re serious about your startup idea, this chart can help you navigate your dev search and find someone who’ll turn your napkin sketches into a reality. And if you have any personal experience hiring a dev, tell us about it in the comments below.




Image courtesy of iStockphoto, nullplus, Infographic courtesy of General Assembly

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Popular social bookmarking site Pinterest has become the hottest startup on the web, luring millions of people to the site to collect and share things they like on the Internet.

But a new report from social media blog LLSocial reveals that the site may be “quietly” generating revenue by adjusting and tracking the links attached to pins that are posted by users.

LLSocial noted that Pinterest may be collecting money through an affiliate program when pins are connected to ecommerce sites. For example, a picture of a sweater pinned to someone’s online board might have a link that connects them to a site where the sweater can be purchased, and this is when Pinterest reportedly steps in.

“If you post a pin to Pinterest, and it links to an ecommerce site that happens to have an affiliate program, Pinterest modifies the link to add their own affiliate tracking code,” LLSocial said. “If someone clicks through the picture from Pinterest and makes a purchase, Pinterest gets paid. They don’t have any disclosure of this link modification on their site.”

LLSocial said Pinterest is reportedly doing this via a service called skimlinks, which automatically scales the site and adds affiliate links to products associated with an affiliate program. The service makes money by taking a percentage of the generated affiliated revenue.

Although adding a tracking code isn’t rare, the blogger said Pinterest isn’t informing users about the practice.

“As most bloggers are aware, when you use an affiliate link in your post, you need to provide some type of disclosure either by it clearly being an ad, mentioning it is an affiliate link or at a minimum providing some type of prominent disclosure that your site features affiliate links,” LLSocial said. “This is done because you have a financial interest is promoting the product.”

“In Pinterest’s case, since they are not creating the content and are inserting the links automatically, they might feel that they are not promoting affiliate linked pins any more than other pins, and thus they don’t need to disclose as the placement is not affected based on the financial gain,” the site continued.

Pinterest hasn’t responded to Mashable for comment.

LLSocial added that Pinterest should disclose this practice to users to maintain trust, even if they aren’t legally required to do so.

Pinterest’s popularity is undenaible. In fact, it has reportedly become the fastest standalone site ever to reach 10 million unique visitors in a month, according to comScore data via a report by TechCrunch.

Pinterest recently raked in 11.7 million unique visitors in the U.S., helped largely by adoption among 18- to 34-year-old women. Members tend to spent about an hour and a half (98 minutes) on the site each month, the report said.

Do you think Pinterest should make it more clear that they are adding tracking code to user-generated pins? Do you know of other websites that don’t disclose this type of profit-generating behavior? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

March 2010: Pinterest Launched

Pinterest is launched to a closed beta. Later it will move to the email invite system it currently employs.

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Kieron-Scott Woodhouse was fed up with cellphones all looking alike, so he took the matter into his own hands, building his own brand of smartphone out of a solid block of organic bamboo.

The 23-year-old design student at Middlesex University in the UK created a design concept for the ADzero Android phone, posted it on a website, and soon it was spotted by investors who helped him bring the project to reality.

As you can see in the video, not only is the ADzero phone a beautiful work of finely crafted art, but it’s made of sustainable materials. The fast-growing bamboo takes just four years to grow. Woodhouse says it’s durable as well. According to Woodhouse, that bamboo is “just as strong as any kind of plastic.”

The handset has additional niceties on board as well, including a ring flash. Which, if it’s anything like professional ring flashes we’ve encountered, gives your photos smooth, even illumination, especially for close-ups.

The smartphone will be released first in China and the UK. Take a look at the video above, and hear Woodhouse talking about the phone and its unique capabilities for yourself.

[via JustAdZero]

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Ryan Martens is the founder and CTO of Rally Software, which provides agile application lifecycle management solutions and services to software developers. Rally is Ryan’s fourth software startup. Follow him on Twitter @RallyOn.

Unfortunately, Twitter and Facebook have become real-time streams of rotten tomato throwing.

Just ask Bank of America, which encountered wrath from its Facebook customers when it decided to tack on monthly debit card fees. Or Virgin America, when its site crash and subsequent system failure ignited a blaze of ticked-off fliers.

We all know the drill: You’re supposed to listen to your customers in social media, engage them authentically, and act like the human you are, not the company you represent. But I’m here to add that engaging with customers after they start using your product isn’t enough. You simply can’t wait until customers start getting mad and yelling at you online to change your product or strategy. At that point, it’s too late. 

Given the ability to reach customers and prospects via social networks, it’s now easier than ever to embrace customers in your product development process. Changing this process may not save you from the inevitable system failures, but it will help you avoid the slip-up phases typically associated with releasing new products or services. 

Users rule the world now; therefore, businesses must be more responsive by using agile and lean practices. Here are three simple steps to guarantee the development of desirable products and services.

1. Find Your Earlyvangelists

Today’s smart company asks lots of questions up front. The brand involves its customers in the product development process from the very beginning. Often called the “customer development model,” the premise is described by Steven Blank in The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Blank describes earlyvangelists as “a special breed of customers willing to take a risk on your startup’s products or service because they can actually envision its potential to solve a critical and immediate problem.”

2. Build a Minimum Viable Product

Start with bare bones. Put together a product that has the minimum bells and whistles, focusing on the must-have features only. Let your customers try it out and see what they like. Let them tell you what is missing. Let them tell you what is extraneous. Then build what really satisfies that problem, and stop there

When you solve a problem for earlyvangelists, you build a supportive customer base that will promote the product to other visionary customers.  You may now consider whether this product is desirable for an even larger market. 

In the software world, agile and lean software development methodologies leverage fast feedback from customers. Google’s product cycle is a pretty classic example of this customer-focused approach. Gmail Labs was designed to tighten the feedback loop between users and developers, so that it could learn quickly what people liked and disliked. It took out the extra step of having to go to a customer support forum or email a representative, and let users communicate directly with developers. This experiment greatly increased the frequency and quality of feedback, which in turn, allowed Google to rapidly improve Gmail and its suite of apps. 

Eric Ries’s book, The Lean Startup goes into these concepts in great detail, explaining how applying a combination of agile customer development methods and lean social media engagement can create a true collection of thinking and acting tools for today’s complex world. 

3. Release, Iterate and Repeat 

Once you have a desirable initial product, you can begin to test extension and offers into other markets and user segments. Using tools like KISS Metrics, you can now easily track the conversion metrics based on different offers to different segments before you build. This type of market feedback allows you to bring back “validated learnings” to the product team.  It lets you co-develop your market in the most capital-efficient and viral way possible.  

This is where the value of agile development kicks in. The short growth cycles that adapt to both positive and negative feedback let you steer your product into the segments without wasting precious development cycles. 

Surprisingly, many companies aren’t really embracing customer development yet. Maybe because they’re still afraid of what lies beyond company walls. If you have not figured out how to energize or support your customer base in 21st century social networks, then you might be very cautious with customer development.

So knock those walls down and begin truly embracing customers and prospects early in your development process. It’s clear that users rule, but they need you to make projects affordable and scalable first. Otherwise, be prepared for a social media rotten tomato storm.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Mableen

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Nitin Gupta is the co-founder of, an online marketplace for businesses to receive crowdsourced legal advice from lawyers. You can follow LawPivot on Twitter @LawPivot. This post was co-authored by Eric Hutchins, a patent attorney at Kilpatrick Townsend, & Stockton.

On Sept. 8, Congress passed a patent reform bill named the “Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.” President Obama signed the act into law on Sept. 16. The most relevant aspect of the act for startups is the switch from a “first-to-invent” to a “first-to-file” system.

The United States has long been the sole nation with a first-to-invent system, which ensures — in theory — that the first person to invent something receives the patent protection for that invention. The rest of the world has long employed a first-to-file system, in which patent rights are awarded to the first person to file an application for the invention, regardless of the date of invention. The America Invents Act will harmonize U.S. patent laws with international standards.

Here are three things startups should do, given the new patent reform.

1. Have the Rights to File Patent Applications on Behalf of Your Employees

Add language to employee agreements that give your company the right to file patent applications on behalf of the inventor. Prior to the Act, the Patent Office required a declaration from an inventor stating under oath that he or she was indeed the first person (to his or her knowledge) to conceive of the invention. While this declaration was of key importance to the first-to-invent system, the Act recognizes the realities of the modern workforce, where inventors migrate frequently between employers, and provides companies with the ability to submit a substitute statement. This statement functions in lieu of an executed inventor declaration. In it, the employer states that it has the legal authority to seek the patent without the inventor’s declaration because the inventor is deceased, legally incapacitated, unable to be found after a reasonable search, or refuses to assign his or her patent rights to the employer in violation of a valid contract to do so.

Startups should review existing employee agreements and revise them if necessary so that they can use these substitute statements to avoid delays when locating a former employee or when obtaining his or her consent proves difficult.

2. Encourage Your Employees to Quickly Report the Inventive Aspects of New Product Features

Emphasize to your teams the importance of quickly reporting inventive aspects of new product features. Rather than leave the process to chance, work with your patent lawyer to have a clear protocol in place to identify inventive features and to prepare a description of the invention that will allow business managers to decide whether a patent makes sense. This will enable the lawyer to quickly prepare the application.

3. Make Rapid Decisions on Whether or Not to File Patent Applications

Once a team member identifies an inventive feature, decisions on whether or not to file a patent application will need to be made quickly in a first-to-file system. More frequent communication with your patent lawyer is key. Rather than hold monthly or quarterly meetings with your patent lawyer to discuss new inventions and the status of pending applications, plan to notify your lawyer of new inventions earlier and more often to avoid being beaten to the patent office.

The first-to-file system will take effect 18 months from now. This gives you time to plan ahead, consult patent attorneys and adjust your processes to account for these changes.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, aluxum

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Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook all compete for top talent. In doing so, they lure and acqui-hire the brightest minds in tech — who, unfortunately for them, later go on to trade these cushy jobs for the rough-and-tumble life of a startup founder.

Which of these four mega powers in tech (at one point or another) has produced, and hence pushed out, the top talent in the industry? A little analysis of the startups that have come from the former employees of these tech heavy-hitters, and a look at the funding these startups have raised, might shed some light on the answer.

TopProspect to the rescue. The startup, a site that helps you get hired through your social network friends, fashioned the infographic below after analyzing data, dating back to 2006, from its users and their social connections — that pool includes more than 3 million folks mostly in the Silicon Valley area.

“We only focused on companies founded in the last 5 years,” the startup explains of its data analysis. “Second, we made sure that the companies had at least 10 employees in our network (a pretty good sign that they’re legit, and well-connected). Finally, we only included companies with publicly available funding information.”

Google is birthing the most successful founders, if you measure success by funds raised (which isn’t always the best measurement of success). The search powerhouse-turned-social-media company has spawned 13 qualified founders in five years — who’ve started companies including Foursquare, Color and Qwiki. Together, these startups have raised a whopping $309 million in funding.

Lowest on the totem pole, at least for now, is Facebook. Its offspring includes seven founders — altogether raising more than $65 million — who have gone on to found startups such as Quora, Path and Asana.

Surprised by the results? Check out the full infographic below and share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, satanslaundromat

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Coding can be a solitary and frustrating enterprise, but the best thing about it is the community, which is generally waiting and wanting to help struggling programmers get past bugs and issues.

HackerBuddy is a clever, free application that capitalizes on the strength of that community. It allows web developers to find and give help in their areas of expertise — be those areas C++ or Python, SEO or marketing.

The app is simple to use, attractively designed, and with the right userbase, could be a real boon to programmers and startup types.

Hacker News and other developer-friendly forums are often littered with simple requests for help with coding or startup-related projects. These requests can fall on the wrong ears or appear at the wrong time, and giving or getting hacking help isn’t necessarily the purpose of these platforms, which are generally devoted to discussing the news of the day as it pertains to web developers.

On the site, we read that HackerBuddy will allow users to “help out fellow hackers, get the chance to beta test new apps and maybe even make friends with an awesome new startup. Tell HackerBuddy what you’re good at, and it’ll pair you up with a fellow hacker that could do with your friendly advice.”

The app matches you one-on-one with a fellow hacker and potential mentor/mentee in the subject area at hand. For example, I’m learning Java; if I choose the “Get Help” option from my HackerBuddy page, I can find a hacker to help me and chat with me about my Java challenges.

When the app matches up two compatible users, it swaps their email addresses, then “gets out of the way.” The users take over from there with an email exchange, which may evolve into phone or IM chats or even in-person meetings.

In addition to getting one-on-one help, you can also browse all users (there are currently around 1,200). We wish you could browse users by areas of expertise; for example, if I was building a Java app and needed early-stage startup and coding help, I would like the option to get both kinds of advice from the same person.

HackerBuddy was built by Dave Peiris, an iCrossing analyst, developer and SEO expert. He said the site is “a weekend project built using Ruby on Rails.” He built the app to learn RoR and writes, “There is a very large chance that this site will collapse under the weight of its own awkward code. If it does, sorry. I plan to improve it as I get better at coding in Ruby; please bear with me.”

We’re more than happy to bear with Dave; perhaps he could use a HackerBuddy of his own.

Give the app a shot, and in the comments, let us know how your experience with it worked out. Did you get the help you needed, or were you able to help out a fellow hacker?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pkline

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Y Combinator‘s new designer-in-residence (DIR) Garry Tan has announced the incubator is compiling a directory of ” the best and the brightest interaction designers and visual designers” who might like to work in the world of web startups.

“One thing we hear about a lot from our companies is that great designers are hard to come by,” writes Tan. “We’re trying to make that easier by putting together a list of preferred designers.”

Y Combinator is including designers from many disciplines, including logo and branding experts, interaction designers, and visual/web designers. Designers are needed in remote, on-site, contract and full-time positions to work with Y Combinator’s constantly growing portfolio of web startups, which includes alumni companies such as Loopt, Reddit, Scribd, Disqus, Dropbox,, Heroku, Posterous, DailyBooth and more.

Interested parties can apply for inclusion in the directory starting now. The directory will be in use beginning in February 2011.

Especially at very early-stage companies, there is a tendency to skimp on the more subtle niceties of design when the team is frantically trying to get a product to market. And very often, hybrid designer-developer founders find themselves wearing many hats as they work on a product in relative isolation.

Tan recently left his startup, Posterous, to work with a variety of early-stage startups at Y Combinator. As the incubator’s DIR, Tan is acting as a sort of UI guru to the batches of early-stage startups and projects that come to the incubator. Launching a directory of hand-picked, top-notch designers to work with any startup in need of design help is an excellent first step.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Andresr

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twitter republic image

Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, public speaker and author of Never Get a “Real” Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke. The content for this post was sourced from the Young Entrepreneur Council, a group of successful Gen Y business owners. You can submit your questions to this group on

To tweet or not to tweet. That is the question on many business owners’ minds.

For some, Twitter has proven to be a powerful way to engage customers and build a community. For others, tweeting has been nothing but a useless time suck. The fact is, most small business owners have no concept about how to use Twitter effectively. Many entrepreneurs simply produce and promote useless spam, while others over extend and over engage.

In order to teach business owners how to benefit from this tool, I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs how their entrepreneurial brethren can utilize Twitter to their advantage rather than to their dismay.

1. It’s A Social Tool

ashleyTwitter is an amazing tool to market and really interact with fans and customers. It gives you real-time conversation with them, but if you don’t interact and answer questions people have, it’s a complete turn off. There is a reason that it’s a ‘social media’ tool and the key word is ‘social.’ Don’t constantly shove information down their throats. Be social and see what your customers want or need.

– Ashley Bodi

Company URL: Business Beware

Twitter: @businessbeware

2. Avoid Insecurity Work

Ryan“Insecurity Work” is when you compulsively check your e-mail, website traffic, blog comments, etc., and it’s poison. Twitter is one of the most common causes of insecurity work that I see among young entrepreneurs. I suggest that you limit the time you spend on Twitter each day to less than a half hour. Remember: You don’t need to @Reply every single person that mentions your brand.

– Ryan Paugh

Company URL:

Twitter: @paughginney

3. Engage With Your Followers

KrisAfter running Ruby Media Group, a social media and personal branding agency for over a year now, my best tip for using Twitter to market to customers and fans is to not market! This sounds contrary to everything traditional marketers know, but the best companies on Twitter create conversations with fans and become “followers” of their lives, making their product embedded into their daily lives.

– Kris Ruby

Company URL: Ruby Media Group

Twitter: @sparklingruby

4. Autoresponder

ElizabethI have an automatic responder using set up so that when people “follow” me on Twitter they get a direct message regarding my website. For Schedule Makeover(TM) time coaching and training, the goal is to drive traffic to my newsletter signup.

– Elizabeth Saunders

Company URL: Schedule Makeover

Twitter: @RealLifeE

Facebook: Time Coaching

5. Provide Value and Get Software to Help

LucasThere are two goals you should have when using Twitter to market to customers: Establish yourself as an expert and deliver relevant valuable content. Post tips, advice and guidance that will help your potential customers. Once you get the content down on what you want to post, I recommend using software like Tweet Adder to help you manage your account and stay active with your followers.

– Lucas Sommer

Company URL: Audimated

Twitter: @audimated

6. Provide Relevant Information

AndersonTwitter is a brilliant tool to push information out to your customers and fans, but it is important to remember that Twitter is not about self-promotion. Be sure you’re engaging your customer base and starting a dialogue. Create genuine interaction and work to distribute information relevant to your customers. Using this approach will help you harness the power of Twitter.

– Anderson Schoenrock

Company URL: Scan Digital

Twitter: Scan Digital

7. Be Personal and Interesting

MattSeventy to eighty percent of your tweets should be informational, fun or personal in nature, and only 20 to 30% should be commercial. Retweet interesting links, useful articles and photos taken from your cell phone. For example, at SitePoint we recently tweeted about Movember mustaches, posted photos of 10 staff members who grew mustaches, and asked our Twitter followers and Facebook fans to vote on the best one.

– Matt Mickiewicz

Company URL: 99designs

Twitter: @sitepointmatt

8. Twitter Etiquette

HeatherFirst, understand that quality always trumps quantity when it comes to social media. One hundred evangelists far outweigh 100,000 mere “followers.” Second, follow Twitter etiquette: listen, be relevant, mind your brand, engage, and give more than you get.

– Heather Huhman

Company URL: Come Recommended

Twitter: @heatherhuhman

More Business Resources from Mashable:

5 Masterminds Redefining Social Media Marketing
24 Professional Events & Organizations for Social Media Strategists
The Future of the Social Media Strategist
7 Tips for Succeeding as a Social Media Strategist
HOW TO: Define the Role of Your Social Media Team

Image courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

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Fresh off raising $8 million in funding, “information experience” startup Qwiki is opening up its alpha to the public Monday.

Qwiki, as a refresher, weaves together multiple data sources in near real-time to create more than 3 million interactive video presentations on reference topics. The startup aims to create an information consumption experience as culturally relevant as Google or Facebook.

“Qwiki is not search -– it’s a new media format and a groundbreaking method of consuming information,” says Dr. Louis Monier, co-founder and CTO. “The future of Qwiki is to allow mass creation and customization of rich media via our platform, and our new public alpha features represent the first step towards that vision.”

With the public unveil comes a few new features, most notable of which is the ability for users to contribute content by suggesting web photos and YouTube videos for Qwikis in the new “Improve this Qwiki” tab. Here, users can also report mispronounced words and note whether the audio is too fast or too slow.

In the new release, there’s now a “Contents” tab that provides users with a clickable list of all the information contained within each Qwiki. The startup has also finally enabled users to embed Qwikis on third-party websites, as evidenced by the Qwiki of the Day:

The public launch marks the startup’s interest in reaching the hundreds of thousands would-be users who signed up for alpha access. The product still maintains its alpha status, however, so users should expect some kinks.

Qwiki has a long way to go before it completes its platform strategy — an API, iPad and iPhone app are all in the works — and is attracting naysayers in the meantime. The startup’s most common criticism is that it’s an over-hyped, visual talking version of Wikipedia, but the startup’s investors and founders believe they can change how information is experienced.

“We don’t have a me too product we want to trade in for free lunches at Google. We have a proposition that grabs most people by the throat and doesn’t let go,” Monier said in a private e-mail to co-founder Doug Imbruce late last week. “We have a new brush and new colors to paint anything we want. We have complex technology … that delivers magic and will be hard to imitate. We are the first to explore a whole new world.”

Now that Qwiki is a public product, you can be judge of that.

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