1. Cherif Habib has invited you to download Cotap

    Cherif Habib has invited you to download Cotap.

    Cotap is a free app that lets you securely text message your coworkers without exchanging phone numbers.

    Keep your work contacts separate and your mobile number private.

    You can download Cotap on your mobile device by visiting:


    To unsubscribe from this notification, please visit

  2. Please stay classy and stop copying Birchbox

    I just got off a transatlantic flight and I am writing this on my iPhone so please excuse the rambling.

    I met BirchBox’ Hayley and Katia in the summer of 2010. They had just graduated from HBS, had a few hundred monthly customers on their service and weren’t sure whether they would be able to raise a seed round.

    They were two lovely ladies trying to make it as first time entrepreneurs.

    Fast forward 2 years and the story is completely different. They are darlings of the NY startup scene. They are poster childs of the tech+fashion trend. They raised more money than I’ll ever see in my life. They are signing up paying and recurring users by the boatload. They are apparently very profitable.

    And they are still two lovely ladies. They haven’t become too cool for school.

    I went to an event where they spoke about the experience last year. After their talk, a couple of guys I knew went up to them and asked them for all kind of operational metrics. Hayley and Katia were gracious enough to indulge them with as much info as possible.

    A week later, these guys wanted to have coffee with me to get my thoughts about a new startup they are launching. You want to guess what it was? Yup, a BirchBox for guys. “Imagine every month you get a tightly curated box of shaving cream, hair gel, condoms, etc”. I

    don’t know about you, but I really don’t need a tightly curated selection of condoms every month. I am also quite satisfied with my Kiehl’s shaving cream I have been using for 10 years. Would I consider switching? Absolutely. Would I pay $10/month to two clueless frat boys to “curate” my grooming products? Absolutely not.

    BirchBox is successful because the girls are passionate about their product. Katia worked for Estée Lauder and has an intimate knowledge of how the beauty industry works.

    That first clone launch an folded a few month later. Nice lesson for the founders, no harm done. My problem is that people are still copying them every day. I received 5 BirchBox clone plans in the last 6 months. One of them is a legit twist on the subscription model by people who know something about their market. The other 4 are just plain rip offs with either a different geographic focus (“Europe is completely greenfield for this”) or a different gender focus (“curated condoms”).

    Please stay classy and stop copying BirchBox. You will not succeed unless you somehow innovate on their model or know something extra special about the market you are entering.

    Update: BirchBox Man launched a few weeks after I wrote this. I hope this taught everyone who ripped off the original BirchBox that you can’t just blatantly copy someone’s else idea without having a secret sauce or a unique differentiator. 

  3. No way I am calling you for a price

    We’ve outgrowing the manual payroll process we’ve been using so far so
    I was looking for a managed payroll solution.

    I already knew about ADP and Ceridian but decided to quickly check
    with Uncle Google to see if there are other options in Canada. Turns
    out that, yes, there are other providers.

    I checked out all the sites and one thing they have in common is
    tricking you in giving them your info (incl mandatory phone number) so
    that they can “give you a quote” or asking you to call them. Typical
    enterprise sales cycle. I fucking hate it.

    Ceridian was the only exception. They have a clear and well designed
    website. Their pricing is transparent. I can even sign up for their
    service online. I don’t care if they are a bit more expensive (and I
    bet you they are not) but I will never get sucked into some big
    company’s CRM and get hounded by commission-seeking

    Ceridian just got my business by being clear with their pricing and
    making it easy for me to sign-up. Sound like a no brainer but
    apparently it is not in that industry.

  4. Testing email posting

    It works!

  5. Bought Amy’s album last night. Will be listening to her all day today.

    Bought Amy’s album last night. Will be listening to her all day today.

  6. Press != Success

    We had a really nice press hit for our startup this week. A number of our friends have tweeted about it, Facebooked it and emailed us to congratulate us. What they don’t know is that we are struggling like hell with our startup. We have little traction and still haven’t nailed our product/market fit.

    I myself make the same mistake all the time. A friend is a founder that is receiving great press. They were featured on national mainstream TV a couple of times in the past 3 months. I assumed they were crushing it but my friend told me today that they are seeing little traction and are already thinking of a pivot.

    Success == maximizing shareholder value.

    Success != getting press.

  7. As strange as it sounds, I miss taking public transport to work. The morning commute was a rare moment to catch up on my reading. 30-45 mins a day allowed me to finish on average a book per week. Now that I drive to/from work, I lost my precious reading time.

    I need to re-prioritize my things and catch up on my ridiculously long reading queue.

  8. http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/11/writing.html →

    Sums up why I am starting this Tumblr:

    “ The investment I’ve made in my communication skills over the past eight years is paying huge dividends for me now.”

    Fred’s blog is probably the single most important inspiration for me as a new writer.

  9. HSBC

    Had a good meeting with HSBC business banking account exec today. He had some trouble understanding our business model (what’s so complicated with a distribution business?) but was overall competent and helpful. 

    He asked me to prepare a bunch of financial projections to help him make a decision to extend credit facilities. I wonder how much of it is just posturing. I am guessing that his decision is already made and that this is mostly for CYA purposes.

    I am also going to see what RBC can offer in terms of business banking and financing options. 

    I like HSBC’s international orientation and aggressive attacker position in Canada but the bad experience I had with their US Premier team left a bad taste in my mouth. RBC’s service has always been stellar (I have always banked with them on the personal side) but they are a much more conservative bank).

  10. A fresh start

    Inspired by Om and MG's posts, I decided to give blogging another fresh start today. 

    I always feel self-conscious about my writing and I am not sure about which topics to write about.

    So to find my voice and just get stuff out there, I will start with an anonymous blog and see where it takes me.