lunes, 30 de septiembre de 2013

Shyp Raises $2.1M To Pick Up And Ship Your Stuff

I don't consider myself a lazy man.

To the displeasure of many a recent startup, I like to do stuff for myself. I like to clean my own house. I do my own laundry. If I need something from the store down the street, I go to the store down the street. If I want a Philly Cheesesteak from Philadelphia, I think "I should go to Philadelphia!" and then don't and then eat Quiznos and feel sad.

But man, do I hate shipping things. I've never really understood why. I have things sitting around my house that I've intended/promised to ship for months. I'm fully aware and appreciative of how wonderful it is that we can put a box on a truck, have it disappear for a few days, and then have it arrive on the other side of the world. It's magic. I just suck at actually doing that.

Shyp is a startup squarely aimed at my particular breed of lazy. You push a button, they show up and pack/ship your items for you, charging you just a couple bucks more than what you'd pay to ship it yourself.

If you've been paying extra close attention lately, the name "Shyp" might ring a few bells.

Earlier this week, a bunch of headlines were written about the hyper-connected author Tim Ferriss having used the new General Solicitation laws to help a startup raise $250k in 53 minutes (making him one of the first, if not the first, to utilize the change) by way of a blog post and AngelList's Syndicate program.

That startup was Shyp.

One small detail got buried as that story spread, though. Shyp didn't raise a seed round of just $250k — that $250k was just a chunk that they set aside to experiment with the new laws. They actually raised almost 9x that much, closing their seed round at $2.1M in total. I couldn't find any solid confirmation as to how exactly their entire round came together, so I dug a bit deeper. Here's what it ended up looking like, as I've pieced it together:

  • Shyp raised $2.1M in total.
  • $1.35M of it came from more traditional fundraising sources (Lead by Hunter Walk's Homebrew and Sherpa Ventures, backed by a bevy of Angels)
  • Tim Ferriss privately raised $500k of it from his own contacts. Some of the investors in that chunk include Antonio J. Gracias (Board of Directors on both SpaceX/Tesla) and Daymond John (FUBU founder, and one of the Shark Tank sharks)
  • That leaves $250K, which is what they set aside to raise through general solicitation on AngelList by way of a Tim Ferriss blog post.

So, how does Shyp actually work?

You open the Shyp app and snap a picture of the item you'd like to be sent away. This picture is sent out to Shyp's network of contracted employees (which they call "Shyp Heroes"), any of whom can then elect to pick up the package. They show up at your location, grab the item, put it in a padded bag, and take it back to be packed and shipped. If you're shipping one item, they charge you the amount that UPS or FedEx would charge, plus a $5 pickup fee. If you send two or more separate items, they waive the fee. Packaging costs are included, and each item is insured at up to $10,000 from the second it leaves your house.

Wondering how they can afford to do that? So was I.

Shyp tells me that the key there is in the volume. By shipping (hopefully) hundreds of boxes a day, they're able to ship each package at a discounted rate. They charge the end-user the retail price they'd otherwise pay anyway, and make their profit in the difference.

The economics seem challenging, to say the least. Assuming that their discount margin nets them a few bucks per package on average (it'd vary based on the size of the item and box), they've then got to pay for packaging and logistical overhead, and actually, you know, pay the people picking up the boxes. Shyp tells me their "Heroes" are paid per pickup. Unless these people are somehow doing dozens of pickups per hour, they'd need to be paid at least a buck or two per pickup to start breaking minimum wage. Shyps founders and its investors seem certain it'll all work.

During my conversations with Shyp, I mentioned Shiphawk, a TechCrunch Disrupt alumni company that, while not a direct competitor, is of a similar vein. Shiphawk acts as a sort of Kayak/Hipmunk for shipping, fetching quotes from established packing/shipping companies for people looking to ship things like art. Turns out, Shiphawk (unintentionally/unknowingly) had a bit of a role in Shyp's fundraising story. Says Shyp co-founder Jack Smith:

It's interesting that you bring up Shiphawk actually. Kevin (my co-founder) was watching TC Disrupt NYC live online earlier this year and heard [AngelList co-founder] Naval [Ravikant] critiquing Shiphawk's pitch. He said:

"I'm surprised you didn't take it one level further [and dispatch someone] to your house or to your business, grab the thing, wrap the thing, package it and take it out. Because, I know as an infrequent seller and buyer, that's the kind of service I would additionally pay for. It might be more of a differentiator than looking between a few carriers and printing a label"

Kevin emailed Naval live and said "um you just described our business, check out Shyp". Naval loved it, asked to meet, then subsequently invested.

(I've confirmed this with Naval.)

Cold calls for the win?

Shyp is currently running a small, private Beta in San Francisco, having contracted around 10 "Heroes" to start moving things around. They're doing pickups in SF only for now, pledging to roll into a second city "very soon" based on the zipcodes of users that sign up for their waiting list.

3 Beliefs That Transformed My Work-Life Balance

It was probably about my third month living New York City when I realized that I had lost control. I was working long days while also trying to stay fit, build rapport in the media community and have a vivacious social life (and maybe get some shut-eye). My schedule would be booked for weeks in advance, but still I wouldn't want to turn down requests to do anything, and would instead try to puzzle-piece them in. At the end of each day, I would come home drained at 10 p.m. or later, feeling like I didn't do half of the things I'd meant to.

But what was worse than the exhaustion was the frustrating realization that my calendar was controlling me — not the other way around.

So, after an especially hectic week, I decided it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was filling my all-too-limited time (seriously, when will they figure out how to add more hours into the day?). And I realized it was going to take some serious mindset changes to live the healthy, balanced life I was hoping for.

Read, below, for the new beliefs I've adopted that have given me much more control over my time — and a much more balanced life.

1. Free Time Doesn't Have to Be Available Time

I'm sure we've all been in this situation: A colleague asks you to attend an event with her next Thursday evening. You peek at your calendar to see if it would work, and sure enough, that block of time is free of any obligations. "Sure, I'd love to do it!" you answer, before really thinking about it. But as the words come out of your mouth and you scan the rest of your week, you realize that block of time is the only one that isn't filled — the only time you would've had to yourself to run errands, cook dinner or watch your favorite trashy TV show.

Until now.

Especially during my first couple of months in NYC, when I was trying to take advantage of every social opportunity possible, I found myself doing this far too often. And then I found myself getting to that Thursday evening, and secretly hoping that the event would get cancelled just so I could have a hot second of down time.

Maybe you're the type of person who can keep going and going without needing a break (and if you are, please share your secrets). But if you're like me and need time to recharge, saying yes to anything that happens to fit into your schedule is not sustainable. It's important to remind yourself that you can turn invitations down for no other reason than you want that time to yourself, and that your free time can be just that: free.

If keeping this idea in the back of your mind doesn't help you get a few moments to breathe, try the strategy, below.

2. If it's Not on the Calendar, it Won't Happen

I'm sure you've heard this refrain — most often in reference to actually exercising during the week. But I've started applying it to almost everything in my life after realizing that there were important tasks that were just never getting done because other things were butting them out. These things include planning my upcoming vacation or cleaning my apartment.

I used to operate under the mindset of "I'll get to it when I have time," or vaguely promise myself that I'd tackle my life maintenance "sometime this weekend" — until it dawned on me that I will never have that time unless I make it.

If you feel like basic things are starting to slide off your schedule, try this: Sit down and make a list of things that need to get done every day, every week and every month, and determine how much time they take; this can include everything from activities you need for basic living — an hour a week for personal administrative tasks (e.g. buying plane tickets, paying bills), 15 minutes every day for tidying up — to personal non-negotiables like an hour twice a week to cook, or a few hours of "you" time every week.

Then, put blocks of time on your calendar for all these things for the next three months. It may sound super militant to schedule your life like that, but the times you schedule now don't actually have to be set in stone. As events come up that conflict with your personal tasks, feel free to move them around; just make sure you move them somewhere else on your schedule — not remove them altogether.

3. Sometimes My Time is More Valuable Than My Money

I attended a panel a few weeks ago where journalist Jean Chatzky shared how she had recently allowed herself to hire a car service to drive her daughter around because doing it herself was preventing her from having time to focus on other important things.

I'm generally a do-it-myself kind of person — especially when doing it myself can save me money — but hearing her say that gave me pause to think about places in my own life where it would be worth spending extra to save time. For me, that meant finally coughing up the cash to have someone else do my laundry, giving me a few extra hours every couple of weeks to focus on side projects.

Think about the regular tasks that suck time away from you, and then look at your budget to see if you might be able to pay a little more for them, so you're able to do more valuable things. If it's cooking, look into meal-delivery services. If it's cleaning or home maintenance that you feel is holding you back, try a service like Handybook to have someone do it for you. You could even consider hiring a virtual assistant.

Whatever it is, if you have room in your budget, do it without guilt and don't look back.

Like many of you, I will continue to be busy, and continue to say yes to too many things. But by adopting these new beliefs, I have a little more control over my time.

Image: Flickr, Wiertz Sébastien

This article originally published at The Daily Muse here

Benedict Cumberbatch to Assange: 'The Fifth Estate' Won't Be That Bad

Although Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate garnered widespread acclaim, the actor had a harder time impressing one critic in particular: Assange himself.

"I tried to justify my reasons for doing the project," Cumberbatch, 37, told press at a Toronto International Film Festival roundtable earlier this month. "It mattered to me a lot that he felt so passionately, but I wanted to persuade him that it wasn't necessarily going to be as bad as he feared it would be."

Cumberbatch said an older draft of The Fifth Estate script had leaked to the 42-year-old Assange, who described it as "a mass propaganda attack against WikiLeaks, the organization and the character of my staff." (The film is partly based on the tell-all book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website by former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg, with whom Assange famously clashed.)

Director Bill Condon, 57, rejected Assange's assessment outright.

"It's in no way an attack on WikiLeaks," he told Mashable in an interview at TIFF. "It's a celebration of WikiLeaks and what it set out to do. It is occasionally critical of Assange, and one of his tactics is to kind of conflate the two ideas so that anything that might be critical of him becomes, as he says, 'a propaganda attack.'"

Still, WikiLeaks isn't backing down. The website recently posted what it is calling a "mature version" of The Fifth Estate script, along with a memo that condemns the film as "irresponsible, counterproductive and harmful."

Assange, who founded WikiLeaks, also criticized Cumberbatch's portrayal, specifically calling out the British actor's Australian accent.

"We're all used to foreign actors trying to do Australian accents, and it's so grating on the ear," he said in a video interview. "When you hear someone trying to do — a Brit trying to do an Australian accent and your own accent, I can't tell you how grating it is."

For his part, Cumberbatch reportedly had issues with Condon's direction for The Fifth Estate.

"On a lot of the stage direction, we collided paths because Bill did seem to be setting him up as this antisocial megalomanic," he told Vogue for its September issue.

Cumberbatch's co-star Daniel Brühl, who plays Domscheit-Berg, conversely had a much easier time interacting with his real-life counterpart. Domscheit-Berg invited Brühl, 35, to his house several times to discuss his relationship with Assange.

"He seemed to be very open and unrestrained, and I could tell how important that moment in his life was, and how he still suffers from the fact that this intense friendship relationship just collapsed and ended up in a disaster," Brühl told Mashable. "I realized this was maybe or probably a significant moment in his life, and he was willing to do anything — leave his job, whatever — to support WikiLeaks."

Brühl added that a flaw in Domscheit-Berg's behavior was "wanting to be bigger than he is."

Both actors described their characters as "complex," saying they strived to portray them accordingly.

"It was important to me to portray him as a three-dimensional human being, and not get into a slagging match about whether he was good or bad," Cumberbatch said. "The kind of perception of him in a tabloid sense is very two-dimensional."

While the actor declined to characterize Assange in a simplistic, clear-cut way, one thing he was unambiguous about was his involvement in the upcoming Star Wars film — Episode VII — which will be directed by J.J. Abrams.

"No offer — it's all rumor, it's all gossip. No one's being offered other than the people we know are being offered," Cumberbatch said. "Would I like to do it? I've said many times of course I would, but J.J.'s worked with me before. He knows where I live, so it's all up to him."

Image: Jason Merritt/Staff/Getty Images

22 Funniest Twitter Reactions to 'Breaking Bad' Finale

Warning: Serious spoilers ahead.

Breaking Bad ended with a bang — well, a lot of bangs — Sunday. Five seasons of tension, twists and breakfast scenes wrapped up with a satisfying conclusion that Twitter couldn't stop talking about.

Sure, there were the armchair philosophers yelling "What does it all mean?" and the criers cuddling their oversized bags of Funyuns, but that didn't stop the jokesters from offering their take.

What did you think of the Breaking Bad finale? Tell us — and make it funny — in the comments.
























Image: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

22 Reasons to Love Aaron Paul

This list could easily contain 200 reasons why we love adorable and talented actor Aaron Paul, but sadly, we just don't have the space for that. Plus, you have a finale to watch, bitch.

After five seasons of Breaking Bad, Aaron and the rest of the show's crew have hung up their hazmat suits and left the dry Albuquerque heat behind.

Lucky for fans, we've been able to spend these five years (or maybe a marathon binge weekend for some) watching Aaron morph from that kid you kind of recognize from the old Corn Pops commercial into one of the most beloved actors on television.

As Jesse Pinkman, he has pulled our heartstrings farther than we thought humanly possible.

Now before we all start crying thinking about the penultimate episode again, here are our reasons why Aaron Paul is quite possibly the most endearing person on Earth.

Homepage Image: Getty Images, Frazer Harrison

'Breaking Bad' Vs. 'Homeland': Battle of the Sauls

Sunday's Breaking Bad finale means we must wave goodbye to everyone's favorite attorney Saul Goodman (or just until his spinoff premieres).

Luckily, season three of Homeland also premieres Sunday, which means everyone's favorite CIA Division Chief Saul Berenson can step gracefully into the Saul-shaped hole in our hearts caused by Goodman's departure.

But while the names are the same, the men most definitely are not. Can Berenson live up to our Saul needs? And which really is the better Saul?

Looks like Saul Goodman takes home the prize for the better Saul. But tonight's Breaking Bad finale and Homeland's season opener could always shift the scores.

Or, perhaps, the better Saul is all just a personal preference — like Coke versus Pepsi.

Image: AMC, Showtime