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Vivogig: how a non-developer created a widely popular tech startup

Not all tech startups are created by coders, and not all entrepreneurs are as honest in their advice as music app Vivogig’s founder, Daniel Senyard who gives an honest interview about the rewards and challenges of his company’s explosive growth.

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From South Africa to Austin

AGBeat is headquartered in Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World and birthplace of Austin City Limits and South by Southwest, so we are surrounded with music and most people in the city has friends in the industry, be they performers, producers or writers. This environment is what brought Vivogig founder, Daniel Senyard to Austin all the way from South Africa.

I first bonded with Senyard over a wild band from South Africa via something a mutual friend shared on Facebook, and when we met in person at the Big Ass Social Happy Hour, our discussion focused solely on music, with his passion shining much more brightly than mine, despite my growing up in Austin surrounded by music. Senyard is a family man first and foremost, a music junkie second, and his passion has required sacrifice, but has now blossomed into one of the hottest, most popular tech startups in the music industry – and he did it without having any experience developing an application.

New solution for an obvious problem

As a frequent concert-goer, Senyard noticed two things. First, that people collect their concert tickets and photos of concerts almost like a “trophy case” and refer to them later so they can say they saw a band before they went mainstream. Second, people are generating endless content that is specifically relevant to the person standing next to them at a concert, but there was no way to really connect all of that media with the users. As a social media strategist, Senyard had spent time using and studying geolocation apps like Gowalla (before it sold to Facebook) and Foursquare, but found himself using them more out of obligation, not fun, and found there were no real discovery options and that most content was unrelated.

These three observations came together to form a solution to this complex problem: Vivogig, which allows users to capture live music photos and compete to earn the top spot on the photo charts. The startup gives music fans a place to put their concert-specific photos, much like a geolocation app, and comment on the photos, thus creating an instant community for music fans which is something all music industry insiders want and need.

Challenges in creating a tech startup

Senyard says that technology is like religion – everyone has a different answer as to what the right way to go is. When he arrived, he didn’t know anyone in Austin, he didn’t have a tech background, or have endless contacts in the music industry, so his battle was uphill from the start.

Early on, he began asking questions of anyone who would talk to him, especially non-developers, and found inspiration by learning about how other startups came to be. Ultimately, the company used a Ruby on Rails backend with an HTML5 web app as their choice of technology.

Advice from a founder: don’t hide your idea

The first thing most people do when they believe they have an innovative idea is they shut their mouth in fear of someone stealing the idea. Senyard said that this was his first instinct as well, but he credits Austin entrepreneur, Matt Curtin with inspiring him to loosen up, telling Senyard that only 1 in 100 people will try to steal the idea.

With that knowledge, Senyard said he began “getting out there” and advises innovators to “socialize” their idea, and talk to others about it to gain insight as to how to make the product better, or find the missing piece to their puzzle, or to find co-founders or coding talent. Senyard advises startup founders to go to every happy hour possible in their city, and to get on the scene and talk to as many people as possible about that brilliant idea.

What this entrepreneur loses sleep over

It is well known that entrepreneurs are frequently perfectionists, and most lose sleep over one company pain point or another. Senyard was honest with us in sharing that his lost sleep is mainly over seeking funding. In pitching to raise money, investors typically want the company to have an army of investors, but Vivogig has a very small team and needs funding to expand the team – a common catch-22 for startup founders.

The company has bootstrapped but is now on a mission to show investors how the company makes money, a feat that keeps any entrepreneur awake at night. Senyard has experienced setbacks, but is still running as fast as he can to expand the company so there is less strain on his personal and family life – yet another sleep killer for many entrepreneurs.

The finish line

As the company continues to seek investment, they gained an injection of international attention at the recent South by Southwest festival, as they were part of the massive LaunchRock retreat where startups went to take a break from the festival and chill at a campground with acoustic live music (with Vivogig’s logo projected on all of the building walls nearby, of course). Additionally, they were part of the City of Austin’s showcase of local startups for international media to highlight up and coming tech startups hailing from Austin.

Vivogig has wider implications than simply music, and although the company seeks to go the route of investment, we can easily see Senyard’s company acquired for a hefty chunk of money – just think of all of the types of events the technology could apply to and create a legitimate showcase for music and music fans.

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Better.com CEO fires nearly 900 folks over Zoom, right before the holidays

(NEWS) Better.com CEO, Vishal Garg is no stranger to controversy, but now he emotionlessly laid off 900 employees, effective immediately, via Zoom.

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Better.com CEO Garg

The ironically named website, Better.com, is a mortgage originator with a 4 Billion dollar valuation. Better.com CEO, Vishal Garg is no stranger to controversy not only for alleged fraudulent activities at two previous business ventures and for allegedly misappropriating tens of millions of dollars, but also for the mistreatment of his employees. His now-infamous email, which was leaked by Forbes where he berated his staff, calling them “Dumb Dolphins” and claimed they were “embarrassing him”. One of his “most loyal lieutenants” had to be placed on administrative leave for, surprise-surprise, bullying.

Once again, Garg is making headlines for the mistreatment of his employees. He emotionlessly laid off 900 employees, effective immediately, via a Zoom call. Garg cites “stealing from co-workers and customers by only working two hours per week the as a reason for the mass lay off, claiming that some of his staff only worked two hours per week. What is important to remember, however, is that much of his staff are comprised of underwriters, who are capped at a certain number of files per day, and once they have completed those files, they cannot work again until the next day. This obviously means that “productivity” would look very different for underwriters as opposed to other members of staff.

He also laid off the entire diversity, equity, and inclusion recruiting team, showing what values are actually important to him, and apparently, it is not diversity and inclusion. He claims that Human Resources will be in touch with the recently laid off staff about severance, however, it is unclear what their severance packages will look like. To make matters worse this mass firing occurred just weeks before Christmas. Better.com recently became publicly traded and is prepping to end the year with more than a one BILLION dollar balance sheet.

To treat your employees so callously, and with no regard is totally unacceptable, and the common practice of treating your staff as commodities is becoming increasingly more intolerable. This behavior however is unfortunately not uncommon among CEOs, with an estimated 4%-12% of ALL CEOs exhibiting psychopathic traits, a statistic I was hesitant to believe prior to learning about Garg. And if you feel like you’ve been wrongfully terminated, check out our article to find the best next steps. 

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Toys R Us is coming back with a vengeance after a rough bankruptcy

(NEWS) Toys R Us is opening their newest store complete with a 2-story slide and ice cream parlor, as well as an exclusive partnership with Macy’s.

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Toys R Us

Millennials rejoice!

Toys R Us is back and better than ever. The toy giant filed for bankruptcy in 2017, which resulted in many nostalgic adults lamenting the loss of their favorite childhood toy store. Not only is Toys R US opening up a new 20,000 square foot location inside New Jersey’s Dream Mall, which will boast a two-story slide and an ice cream parlor, they are also partnering with Macy’s to have products available in 400 stores across the United States, as well as maintaining their presence abroad and online.

This store will be the first Toys R Us owned by WHP Global, who bought a controlling stake this year, but also the only store in the United States. Between big box retailers and one-click ordering with practically instantaneous shipping, many brick-and-mortar retailers just can’t compete. If that wasn’t challenging enough, many businesses face ever-shifting consumer demands, a dragging economy, and a global pandemic, making maintaining brick and mortar stores and businesses, even large ones, incredibly difficult.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses including JC Penney, J. Crew, and Neiman Marcus have faced the same fate and had to declare bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy is rarely the end for many companies. For companies, bankruptcy can mean many things, from reorganization to liquidation, and in some cases other companies get an opportunity to purchase these businesses, meaning consumers may see their favorite businesses return. Other companies choose to completely eliminate their brick and mortar stores entirely and return solely online.

Many stores and businesses are shifting their offerings, creating limited-edition offerings, and going to great lengths to stay in hopes to compete and stay relevant. For example, PetSmart is targeting pet parents this holiday season by offering matching, customizable pet and human sweaters, and holiday pet portraits. In keeping with the “ugly” holiday sweater craze, Microsoft created and sold out a minesweeper “ugly” sweater. Proactiv, which is a famous skincare brand known for its acne healing effects, is rebranding as Alcheeme and is expanding its product lines to offer solutions to many common skincare issues, including eczema, rosacea. And the Container Store is partnering with vendors such as Circuit, The Home Edit, and Blueland. Their Chief Merchandising Officer, John Gehre, said “Sustainability and the support of small businesses are not only priorities for our company, but our customers, too.”

Businesses are attempting to keep up with the needs and interests of the consumer in many creative and well-researched ways during one of the most difficult times for businesses in history

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Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Seasonal employment scams are back on the menu and here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation surrounding the holidays, employment scams typically have a resurgence during this season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions and beyond aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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