The Importance of Branding


Like most companies that Great Oaks invests in, these guys found an concept that people want and turned it into a business plan. In an highly competitive industry, Chubbies has found their Niche. The founders, fraternity guys from Stanford, started this company in 2011 after being bored with their day jobs. Tom Montgomery, one of the cofounders, describes Chubbies as, “Constantly building this brand around the weekend and the feeling you get around Friday at 5 p.m.”

While Chubbies has been ecommerce start up, they have begun to open a few stores with a ton of success. Their goal this year is to have their traditional holiday sale around the fourth of July, in which they sell out of the classic American Flag bathing suit, and hopefully make over a million dollars on that day alone.
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The Importance of Branding

Helping Economic Development in Rural China, One Digital Loan at a Time


On Thursday, Alibaba launched an all-digital bank, MYbank, which services the financial needs of China’s rural areas. MYbank has no physical branches but uses cloud computing, providing 24/7 access for users. It also uses facial-recognition technology to verify account holders’ identities. With lower operating costs, the digital bank may pass on savings to customers. Still, people cannot open accounts as MYbank faces off against strict regulation.

MYbank could open up the tightly regulated banking sector in China. It has a registered capital of 4bn yuan and is capable of issuing loans of under 5mn yuan. MYbank could also encourage development in the rural areas of China, providing loans and capital inflows to the region. Digital banking has a promising future in China, tapping regions that were previously underserved by traditional banks.


Helping Economic Development in Rural China, One Digital Loan at a Time

Learning from the Failure of the Kreyos Meteor Smartwatch

Kreyos was the company behind the Meteor smartwatch, an advanced piece of wearable technology that sought to take on early smart watches such as the Pebble, Android wear, and offerings from Sony, LG and Samsung. The company rose out of an enormously successful indiegogo campaign to fund the Meteor, which raised over $1.5million in august 2013 (%1,502 of their $100,000 goal) and had completely ceased operations by september of 2014. Many backers of the indiegogo campaign never received their Meteor smartwatch, and those who did found it fell short of the promised specs in nearly every category.

So what could have gone wrong in just one year to sink a company that was able to attract so much attention from the media, private investors, and crowdfunding end-users alike?

Although uncovering the whole truth behind what happened to force the failure of such a promising startup has not proven to be an easy task, the road to the failure of Kreyos and the meteor smartwatch is clearly one paved from the very beginning with misguiding and lessons to be learned. In fact, the difficulty in discerning where exactly the Meteor train leapt off the tracks is the key to the first lesson learned from kreyos’ failure. The company was dishonest and uncommunicative with backers of the crowdfunding campaign from a very early stage. The company’s founder, Steve Tan, even admits to this in his scathing post-mortem “The Rise and Fall of KREYOS.” But the failure of Kreyos and the reaction of its backers has clearly demonstrated that misleading crowdfunding backers, and failing to communicate is a recipe for disaster.

Honesty and complete transparency are key, along with frequent updates. A company with so many backers at such an early stage really can’t communicate enough when it comes to its progress, and especially setbacks and delays.

Another of the mistake that contributed to this failure, was that the crowdfunding campaign was launched using marketing materials based on concepts alone, the team at Kreyos had no functional hardware or software prototypes to proof the Meteor watch. Without a working prototype or engineered specs in hand, the Kreyos team marketed a concept watch with features that proved impossible or impractical to realize, and represented it to backers as a final product. The Kreyos Meteor, as it was presented to prospective indiegogo backers was a wonderful concept but it was just that, an idea with no engineering to back up its feasibility. The kreyos team’s inability to deliver on the promises made with the meteor was apparent immediately to backers who did receive their watches, and the defensive stance that the company took against angry backers only stood to further harm it. As Kreyos fought to control damage to its image, backers posted complaints to facebook, twitter and youtube, and contributed to documents such as “Kreyos backers lose faith,” coauthored by Andrew Wright and Kenneth Larsen, in preparation for the end. Founder Steve Tan’s attempt to come clean at the end of the project was not particularly well received by backers. It was seen as an attempt to shed blame and wash his hands of the project, rather than further resolve the nightmare situation they were left with.

Funding from investors or crowdfunding platforms shouldn’t be used as verification of a products viability. It’s critical that companies prove their concepts independently and seek funding at an appropriate time, after they are sure they can deliver on promises.

The final and most critical mistake made, and the largest nail in Kreyos’ coffin, was one made at the very inception of the company and the project. There is no denying that Kreyos would have been a technology company, with hardware and software at the root of its business, yet Kreyos’ team consisted entirely of marketing and customer service specialists and graphic designers, no engineers. All work for the development and productions of the Meteor’s hardware and software was to be completed by a contract manufacturing company. Without an engineer on staff, warning signs as to the fate of the project went unnoticed until it was too late. Contract manufacturing and contract engineering companies can be instrumental to the success of small companies without the resources to hire teams of engineers or spin up rows of factory equipment, but without a single engineer to check the facts and progress of their contractor, the team at Kreyos was doomed to be left holding the bag when the manufacturer was unable to deliver.

If Kreyos had employed at least some level of engineering in-house, then they would not have had to rely on the word of another company to tell their backers what to expect and when.

The story of Kreyos is a tragic one, rife with opportunities to prevent or lessen the fallout of the companies blunders. The failure of the project makes an excellent case study for others seeking to start companies using crowdfunding or outsourced engineering and manufacturing. By examining the failure of Kreyos and its emergent project, the Meteor, treasure troves of knowledge, much of which may seem like common sense, can be grained about what to do and what not to do when bringing a product to market. It would be wise for those seeking to fund a project on a crowdfunding platform to take heed of the warnings that Kreyos missed, especially now that the precedent has been set for crowdfunders in the US to be held accountable for fraudulent or mismanaged projects by the FTC complaint brought against Erik Chevalier two weeks ago. Chevalier was the creator of a kickstarter campaign to fund a board game called “the Doom that Came to Atlantic City” which failed to deliver either a board game or refunds to its backers.

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Learning from the Failure of the Kreyos Meteor Smartwatch

Juno Therapeutics and Novartis Continue Testing T-Cells in Search of a Cure to Cancer

Michael Jensen of Seattle Children’s Hospital
Michel Sadelain of Memorial Sloan Kettering

In the constant search to find a cure to cancer researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have caught the attention of Novartis, the world’s second-largest drug company. Following promising initial results in their study of genetically modified T-cells, Novartis gave the university $20 million to build a new a cell therapy center in exchange for the rights to sell whatever potential medicine the researchers produce. Merely a year after this deal in August of 2013 Lawrence Corey, an infectious-disease doctor, with funding from Robert Nelsen of Arch Venture Partners and help from Richard Klausner chief medical officer of the DNA-sequencing company Illumina, founded Juno Therapeutics. Juno entered the T-cell field by purchasing patents and licensing rights to T-cell trials in Seattle and at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. Since August of 2013 Juno has taken off; in December of 2014 a mere 16 months after its founding they went public raising $304 million in the process. They sold 11 million shares at $24 each in their IPO. By the time the market closed the following day the stock was selling at $35, a 46 percent increase, and had a market valuation of approximately $2.7 billion. In the time since going public the market value has continued to increase reaching $6 billion.

All the excitement about their new approach to treating cancer stems from eliminating the use of chemotherapy in patients with leukemia and lymphoma. T-cell therapy works by removing a patient’s T-cells and introducing them to a virus which genetically modifies them. T-cells have receptor sites which are meant to bond with foreign or harmful antigens and then kill them. The problem with cancer is that tumors are formed from one’s own cells and are therefore not recognized as dangerous. The genetic modification changes the antigens that the T-cell receptor sites are designed for. While most antigens found in tumor cells can be found throughout the rest of the body in healthy and vital organs, Michel Sadelain, a researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and one of the scientific founders of Juno, has identified an antigen that is exclusively found in tumor cells and B cells, which are non-essential to human life. This allows scientists to genetically modify T-cells to bond with this specific antigen (CD19) without harming the patient. Upon bonding with the CD19 antigen the T-cells proceed to kill the cell it has bonded with and hence remove the tumor. Sadelain’s discovery was groundbreaking as previously modified T-cells had actually killed patients by bonding with antigens that were not only in the tumor cells but also in vital organs. But methods for preventing genetically modified T-cells from killing other patients do not stop there as “suicide switches” have recently been added to this T-cells. These switches are incorporated in the DNA given to the T-cells and cause the genetically modified T-cells to become inactive when in contact with one does the drug Erbitux.

The research being done by Juno Therapeutics and Novartis is so promising that last summer the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave them both breakthrough designation so that their leukemia treatment can be approved after only 1 clinical trial. In the meantime the companies have to figure out how they can commercialize the treatment. Currently the centers that are used can not mass produce genetically modified T-cells. In fact the center used by Michael Jensen of Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of the leading hospitals in T-cell cancer research, can only modify the DNA of 10 patients per month and it costs $75,000 to modify the T-cells of each patient. Given the cost and time necessary to modify the T-cells of each patient it seems like the easiest way to commercialize the treatment is it use T-cells not produced by the patient. While T-cells generated in a dish have been successfully used on mice, and other labs are working on instruments to pump the new DNA into T-cells through electricity or pressure, currently all trials involve removing the T-cells from a patient’s body, genetically modifying them, and then reinserting them via a ten minute IV drip. If labs can engineer T-cells successfully fight cancer and are not originally from each individual patient the treatment will become readily accessible. In the mean time, the treatment is very difficult to access and if approved may be the most expensive cancer drug available. A Citigroup analyst recently estimated that it may cost upwards of $500,000 per patient for the one time treatment. As research continues doctors are waiting for what may be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of modern medicine.


Juno Therapeutics and Novartis Continue Testing T-Cells in Search of a Cure to Cancer

Amazon’s Echo: “Siri in a Box”


What is Echo?

  • Wireless speaker with a voice controlled personal assistant built in
  • “Amazon has named the smart speaker Alexa. Alexa is named after the library of Alexandria, which stored the knowledge of the ancient world
  • Similar to Google Now and Apple’s Siri
  • Always-on, always-listening (downside: has woken people up in sleep)à quick way to provide answers

What are the Echo’s properties?

  • Standard Bluetooth speaker
  • Ability to answer questions
    • You just need begin commands or questions by saying “Alexa” to appropriately address the robot.
  • Wi-Fi network connected device


  • Music comes through shallow, tiny and compressed
  • Once music starts to play, Alexa cannot hear your commands
  • Rated 7 out of 10 on The Verge


  • Black cylinder
  • Size of tennis-ball
  • Blue-green light flashes around top of canister
  • Volume ring on top of device

What else can Echo do?

  • Play music and podcasts on demand
  • Order products from Amazon with just a voice command
  • Report the time
  • Report the weather
  • Set timers and alarms
  • Calculate measurements
    • “How many tablespoons are in a cup”
  • Add items to your shopping list
    • “Alexa, add chicken broth to my shopping list”

What if Alexa can’t answer your question?

  • A query is made in the Echo App and with one tap becomes a Bing search

Echo App

  • Stores a running history of all your questions
  • Helpful tips on how to talk to Alexa

Significant dates

  • Announced Echo technology Novemeber 2014
  • Needed an invite to purchase prior to today
  • Now Amazon is opening up the purchase of Echo to anyone with shipments beginning July 14th

Price = $179.99

New features since launch

  • Hub for a smart home
    • Turning on various lights and appliances
    • Belkin’s WeMo + Philips’ Hue connected home systems
  • Improved speech recognition and accuracy
  • Info can be stored on third party services with IFTTT integretaion (if this then that)
    • links with Gmail, Twitter and Evernote

Amazon plans on providing additional applications for the Echo that will make it the leader in smart home technology.


Amazon’s Echo: “Siri in a Box”

Verizon Closes $4.4bn Acquisition of AOL

AOL – You’ve Got Bought.

This morning, Verizon announced that it closed on a $4.4bn acquisition of AOL. The telecommunications giant plans to use AOL’s technology for online video marketplaces. For years, Verizon has struggled to penetrate the online video marketplace space, but now it can take advantage of AOL’s technology for selling ads and delivering high-quality Web video. Decades ago, AOL was the authority in web-based platforms, allowing users to combine email and web browsing. Now, the company is a wholly owned subsidiary, purchased to increase digital ad revenue.

When was the last time you’ve heard “You’ve Got Mail”?  Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s 1998 romantic comedy is a distant memory – a ruin from a different time.   Still, the acquisition proves that AOL has a lot of use in the modern world.  While apps like Tinder and Hinge have taken over the chat room space, AOL has a lot more to offer than email services.



Verizon Closes $4.4bn Acquisition of AOL

Uber Drivers might become employees and the effect that has on the “On Demand” Economy

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: In this photo illustration, a smartphone displays the 'Uber' mobile application which allows users to hail private-hire cars from any location on June 2, 2014 in London, England. The controversial piece of software, which is opposed by established taxi drivers, currently serves more than 100 cities in 37 countries. London's black cabs are seeking a High Court ruling on the claim that the Uber software is breaking the law by using an app as a taxi meter to determine rates.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Last Wednesday, Uber lost a case in California that could force them to classify all of their  drivers as full time employees. If this happens, Uber will have to allocate funding for social security, health insurance, and other expenses that come with having employees. This will not decimate Uber, which recently was valued at 40 billion dollars but for other startups that copy the “Uber Model”  this could pose a serious issue.

This effect on the “On Demand” economy is huge. In an industry that Uber helped create, this ruling could now prevent other start ups from scaling like Uber because they will have to set aside large chucks of cash for employees benefits. Other companies that could be affected by this outcome include: Lyft, Seamless, Grubhub and any apps that hire independent contractors.

Uber is currently appealing this vote.


Uber Drivers might become employees and the effect that has on the “On Demand” Economy