DipJar Raises Funding For A Tip Jar Where You Pay With Plastic, Not Spare Change

The move to a more “cashless” society has not been without its victims – namely, those whose incomes relied on the spare change and small donations that once came from customers emptying their pockets, but are now locked up in digital bits and credit card swipes. The lowly tip jar today often sits empty, as few carry around the quarters and dollars with which to fill it. A company called DipJar wants to change that, and has now raised a $420,000 seed round to scale production of its hardware.

The round was led by Project 11, the new fund from Bob Mason, Brightcove founder, and Katie Rae and Reed Sturtevant, former Techstars Boston directors. Other angels in the round include Will Herman, Warren Katz, Joe Caruso, Mike Dornbrook, Bill Warner, Scott Heller, and others.

The New York-based company, currently incubated by the Bolt accelerator in Boston, was founded by CEO Ryder Kessler, a former director of strategy at New York cab-sharing startup Bandwagon and VP of Sales Jordan Bar Am, previously of McKinsey, and the co-founder of fruit importer Oke USA.

Kessler said the idea occurred to him simply because he began to “feel like a jerk” at one of his favorite coffee shops which only offered tipping via a cash-only tip jar.

Not only was everyone paying with plastic these days, reducing the tips overall, the baristas there also confided in him that they would rather the store stay empty since there was no financial upside to an influx of customers.

The problem with the reduction in cash-based tips means lower-income workers or those who once depended on a tip-based boost to their salaries, would likely turnover faster as they exited to try to find better-paying jobs, Kessler realized. That’s bad for the businesses who would then have to incur more training costs, and, ultimately, the turnover could affect customer service, too.

DipJar_FrescoBaristas, of course, aren’t the only ones affected by customers’ disappearing cash. Deli workers and sandwich makers, ice cream scoopers, coat checks, valets, barbers and hairstylists, hotel housekeepers, and more also once relied on handfuls of dollars customers gave to them, whether by hand, placed in tip jars, or left in envelopes.

Though customers are now paying by credit or debit, they’re not always getting receipts, or getting those that do don’t necessarily have a line to enter a hand-written tip, because business owners don’t want the hassle of accounting for the extra funds and distributing those back to their employees.

This is what the DipJar, as it’s called, aims to solve.

How It Works

The company began building custom prototypes of the DipJar tip jars, and rolled just under two dozen out to New York-area businesses and charity groups starting back in summer 2012. One recent adopter of the technology is the Central Park Conservancy which used the DipJar to raise funds from those attending a film festival, and now plans to roll it out to visitor centers.

DipJar_Dos Toros

 

 

Currently, the DipJar’s hardware involves off-the-shelf parts, but with the funding, the company is working to scale up to mass production.

The unit itself is basic: inside the jar is a standard credit card reader, and not much more. The customer inserts their card and pulls it out to swipe, and the jar will automatically deduct a pre-configured amount (as determined by the business).

Just as important, the act of swiping makes a loud “change clinking” sound so the employee will know you’ve tipped. That will save you from one of those awkward Seinfeld situations (remember George Costanza reaching back into the tip jar because he wanted to make sure he got credit for having done the deed?). Kessler also says version 2 will include a light array as well, along with other refinements, to help encourage and notify other customers and staff of the tips being processing.

The funding will be used to grow the team of two to 4 or 5 over the next few weeks, and further develop the software for businesses that will allow merchants to enter in employee information and track tipping as a metric of customer satisfaction, if they choose. The team is also working to automate the payouts to employees, which are currently distributed by check every two weeks. And, of course, the hardware is being improved to make it a scalable solution.

The team is also gearing up to be ready when the shift to EMV takes place, or if Apple Pay helps push NFC adoption into the mainstream, says Kessler. “We already own the trademark for ‘TapJar,’” he notes regarding the latter.

Dipjar_Central Park

 

Kessler won’t detail the cost to produce the jar today, or how much it will sell for, explaining that the company has been exploring several business models, including monthly pricing, upfront pricing, and pricing by volume. Similarly, it’s too early to disclose metrics of the DipJar’s impact on increasing tips, he says, since those can vary wildly by business and the DipJar only has a handful of customers today.

However, he would tell us that the DipJar hasn’t cannibalized cash tips, from what they’ve seen. “The DipJar brings in new money for the recipients,” he says.

Plus, he adds, though the team was planning to run short 3 to 6 month tests, “no one wanted to give it back…that speaks to the success of the product.”

 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

5 Frugal Millionaires and Their Best Advice

The wealthy who flaunt it, who are the Joneses, are the only rich people you see. There’s a bigger camp of frugal millionaires who shy away from the limelight and often are richer than the ones you see splashed over tabloid covers. The frugal millionaires are the ones you want to learn from, starting with some of their most sage advice.

1. Gilbert Gottfried, actor and comedian

One of the few famous folks who are equally famous for frugality, Gottfried highlighted his tendencies when he and his wife were featured on Wife Swap. When he said, “If someone else is paying for it, food just tastes a lot better,” he was dead serious. From taking public transportation on dates to refusing to ever host parties because they are costly and people come just for the food, some of his moves are extreme but there’s no denying that he’s hung onto his wealth.

2. Shailene Woodley, actress

Woodley has made some headlines for her frugal ways, such as refusing to buy any new clothes except for red-carpet appearances (and those are often donated by designers). Her “I exclusively buy used clothes,” quote had every teen girl heading to Goodwill. A proud thriftier who prefers to enjoy her fame and wealth under the radar, she proves it’s possible to be a trending actor without driving a Bentley. She’s helping to make frugal cool for younger generations.

3. Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby

He sold his company for millions, but Sivers never let getting rich change his healthy money habits. “I’ve always been very debt-averse. I don’t like being in debt at all, even on the small level. I never bought anything with a credit card unless I had that much money in the bank. The credit card was just a convenience. I never went into negative debt on a credit card, even as a teenager, because I just hated that feeling. They say that there are two ways to be rich: One is getting more money, and the other one is lowering your expectations, lowering your needs.”

4. Dan Nainan, comedian

Nainan said it best when he talked about overspending’s simply not making sense, no matter how much money you have. “Figure out how you can save money. Don’t spend as much. Don’t go to Best Buy–get it off eBay because sometimes it’s a 10th of the cost of retail. Go to Craigslist. I use Craigslist and eBay a lot. You can save a tremendous amount of money because people buy stuff and they don’t need it anymore, and it’s cheaper than buying retail. You’re not only saving money, but you’re also buying something from someone so they’re not throwing it out. That’s helping the environment a lot. I mean, there are countless ways you can save a lot of money and not consume a lot. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

5. Matthew Tuttle, founder of Tuttle Wealth Management

Budgets seem too constricting to you? According to Tuttle, all that really matters is that you’re at least saving something. “I’m not a big fan of budgets. I’m not a big fan of trying to impose that discipline on someone who just can’t do it. I also find a lot of times spouses vehemently disagree when it comes to budgeting. What I am much more a fan of is, save as much as you can and if you’re saving as much as you can, as long as you’re not going into debt, then I don’t necessarily care where you’re spending your money.”

Being frugal is a crucial part of building and sustaining wealth. What good does a million do if you’re filing for bankruptcy a year later? Get it, save it, and make it work for you.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com 

Steve Jobs’s 3 Most Surprising Secrets to Success

In the final minutes before Apple’s press conference, my thoughts drifted to what Steve Jobs would have thought about his legacy. I envied him in high school as one of the few guys for whom the creative die seemed to be cast as a teenager. His swagger throughout life and his approach to leadership never seemed to change–until the years just before his death.

Steve never lost that sparkle in his eye or that ever-present flow of ideas, even in his last moments. But in the final weeks before his passing, he shared three things that shocked me–not so much because he admitted them, but because the first one was something he’d embraced only fairly recently, while the other two were lifelong values.

1. “Ditch your ego completely at least once each day.”

Dump judging others as well as the self-criticism. Be open to hear what you need to change on the long, winding road to building your dream. This is something that Jobs acknowledged was a real challenge for him. (Perhaps it would be for any of us!) It’s a bit of a paradox of ambition plus humility. You need a lot of hubris to believe your ideas can be the best in the world, but you also risk losing your edge and falling behind unless you’re an obsessive listener. You have to soak up the brilliance of the people and customers you’ve worked so hard to recruit.

2. “Be unapologetically ambitious about your passion.”

This was Steve’s (and is most leaders’) blessing and curse. Your obsession to live your passion against all odds is one of the greatest of all assets, but arrogance is also your biggest weakness. Steve lamented that he led Apple to an unnecessarily high rate of lost talent, as well as ideas that he’d attracted but ignored–particularly back when his career and Apple hit the skids in the ’90s.

3. “Be grateful to others for what they contribute, but don’t do it for validation.”

Remember, there are plenty of loving critics and critical lovers who will unintentionally (and intentionally!) sabotage your ambitions because they care for you or they’d like to see you fail. If your venture is meant to impress someone, you’re setting yourself up for endless confusion.

The advice of a dying man, particularly this guru, is hard to ignore: “Don’t give yourself to anything unless you’re clear that it really matters.”

-Courtesy: Inc.com

What Steve Jobs Got Wrong About the IPhone

The launch of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus–and the latter’s massive 5.5-inch screen–appear to prove Apple founder Steve Jobs was completely wrong when he said in 2010 “no one” would want to buy a phone with a big screen.

And while this sort of hindsight wisdom feels a little bit tawdry, it actually cuts to the heart of what is driving the $276 billion smartphone market right now: screen size.

Apple launched its new phone with 4.7- and 5.5-inch screens for a reason: Rival companies, particularly Samsung, have spent the past two years building a market in a space that Apple ignored–the market for people who want big, bright screens that are great for consuming media and doing work.

To recap: Jobs launched iPhone and its initial updates with a 3.5-inch screen. When the iPhone 4 ran into trouble because it appeared to drop calls when users held it the “wrong” way, Jobs held a news conference. He was asked, why not just make the phone bigger, so that the antenna might have more space within the device and thus get better reception?

He replied that he disliked the new crop of bigger phones from Samsung et al. “You can’t get your hand around it,” he said, “no one’s going to buy that.” He also derided big phones as “Hummers.”

By 2013, however, executives within Apple began to rethink that. Internal documents from that time show that iPhone sales growth was slowing, even though the market as a whole was growing. All the growth was in the sub-$300 price range and among phones with screens bigger than 4 inches. “Consumers want what we don’t have,” was the title of one slide in the documents.

Another document showed that Apple’s own customers placed the small screen size of the iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S among their top complaints about the devices. The iPhone’s small screen size actually seemed to be a liability for Apple, not–as Jobs argued three years earlier–an advantage.

(The leading big-screen devices in this market were, of course, Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note phones, with their 5-inch-plus screens. The Note 4 now comes in a 5.7-inch size. It’s an interesting exercise to ask Note owners how they like their big screens and whether they would ever consider going back to an iPhone-size 4-inch model. You will find the answer is always “no”–consumers love big screens.)

So it is notable that both the new iPhone 6 models are big-screen phones, of 4.7 and 5.5 inches.

There is no “iPhone 6 Mini,” giving people the option of a Jobsian 3.5-inch screen.

Samsung poured scorn on Jobs in a piece of marketing fluff released to counter the iPhone 6 launch. It produced this graphic, which actually misquotes Jobs as saying “No one is going to buy a big phone.”

The response underlines one of the strangest things about Jobs’ big-screen error. When the iPhone became a huge hit at its launch in 2007, with a 3.5-inch screen, its screen at the time was itself one of the biggest displays on the market.

Consumers were used to candy-bar phones from Nokia, on which most of the device was given over to the keypad and the screen had room for little more than a name and a number. BlackBerry was still huge at the time, one of the reasons being that it had a screen that was a little larger than a Nokia candy bar, and you could type emails onto it.

The original iPhone provided even more real estate than that, letting people consume real media and apps.

In hindsight, it’s not weird that Jobs might have been wrong about consumer preference for screen sizes in the four years following his death. Rather, it’s weird that he didn’t acknowledge that the iPhone’s (relatively) big screen size was actually driving its popularity while he was alive.

The iPhone (at launch) was the biggest screen on the market. Jobs didn’t seem to see that as the key.

Here’s the current lineup, size-wise:

-Courtesy: Inc.com

Before $100 Million Raise, Square Was In Talks With Apple

According to a filing obtained by VCExperts, Square has raised another $100 million in capital. The company authorized 6.4 million Series E shares, according to the document, at a per-share price of $15.46.

Square is incredibly well capitalized. The company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, has a nine-figure credit line and, now, a fresh $100 million traunch to use.

The company lost around $100 million in 2013, and it isn’t clear how much cash the firm had on hand before the new capital injection. Square was reported to have $155 million in cash at the end of 2013, a figure that was recorded, of course, before its debt event that took place earlier this year.

Square declined to comment on how it intended to use its new funds, specifically whether the monies were earmarked for acquisitions, or operational expenses.

The new share price values Square at $6 billion, up from its recent $5 billion valuation that was set during a secondary offering of its shares earlier this year. As TechCrunch reported at that time, Square’s valuation has grown as its payment volume has increased. As time has passed, Square’s valuation has fallen behind its payment processing rate: In June of 2011, Square was processing payments at a rate of around $1.46 billion per annum. Its valuation was $1.6 billion. Recently, Square was expected to process $30 billion in calendar 2014 while being valued at $5 billion.

In recent months Square has shown an appetite for acquisitions. The company recentlypulled the trigger on a $90 million deal to buy Caviar, a food delivery service. The deal was executed with Square stock. Square could be linking up new cash to help it lock down other purchases. The company’s core business, processing credit card payments, has difficult margins, and increasing competition. Square wants to diversify its revenue supply.

Presuming that Square doesn’t need the $100 million to eat, it could deploy the funds across several purchases that would also include a stock component. Equity is great, but the short-term allure of cash is impossible to deny.

Separately, TechCrunch has heard from multiple sources that Square and Apple were recently in acquisition talks, but that Square walked away. Apple wanted the company to come aboard, according to one source, but the discussed price was a sticking point: The tipster held that Apple wanted to buy Square for less than half of the $6 billion valuation it eventually would raise at (around $3 billion). Square, valued at the time at a firm 66 percent delta to that price point, declined to accept.

Apple also showed Square a software register, restaurant and spa booking services and a payment system for iPhones said the same source. This did not sit well with Square execs, who felt like the products would compete with their own offerings.

Apple recently announced Apple Pay, a way to execute in-person payments with your phone.

Square has long been rumored to be heading for an IPO. That offering hasn’t happened due to, it’s usually said, revenue growth concerns at Square, and the same adverse market conditions that have sidelined other offerings.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

On-Demand Home Services Startup Handybook Hires Amazon Exec Jeff Pedersen To Be Its CFO

Customers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of booking services on the web and on their phones, so companies like Handybook are taking off. It’s for that reason that the on-demand home services startup has decided to hire former Amazon exec Jeff Pedersen as its new CFO.

It probably seems early for a startup like Handybook to add a CFO with such extensive experience. After all, it’s just two years old and is nowhere near going public. But the company was scaling quickly and CEO Oisin Hanrahan believed it could benefit from having someone to handle its finances.

“We really needed to add some talent in terms of financial operations for the business,” Hanrahan said in a phone interview. “The business has scaled pretty significantly. It’s 10 times bigger than it was on the first day of the year. We’re processing millions of dollars a month and we felt it was time to add some serious horsepower to the team.”

The CFO appointment comes just a few months after Handybook raised a big $30 million round of funding led by Steve Case’s Revolution Growth. Altogether it has raised about $45 million, with other investors that include General Catalyst, Highland Capital, David Tisch, and Bullhorn CEO Art Papas, among others.

With that funding and its new CFO, Handybook will be looking to expand beyond its current base of 27 markets, including increasingly moving into new overseas markets.

Admittedly, Hanrahan says that Handybook is “hiring ahead of the curve,” but believes the hire will help the company pull ahead in an increasingly competitive market. Rival Homejoy recently started encroaching on Handybook’s turf by not just offering cleaning services, but also launching a series of handyman-type services.

Pedersen held a variety of roles while at Amazon, but he served most recently as the company’s head of hardline finance. In that role, he oversaw financial operations for a $30 billion chunk of Amazon’s overall sales. He also held various operational finance roles at Dell and IBM.

According to Hanrahan, it was that combination of operational and financial expertise which attracted Handybook in pursuing Pedersen. And it’s his experience handling high transaction-volume businesses that ultimately led the company to hire him.

“It’s one thing to have a finance background, and it’s another thing to have operational finance background,” Hanrahan told me. “You really want your CFO to be operationally excellent, and Jeff comes with a deep operational finance background at Dell, at IBM, and at Amazon.”

For Pedersen, the decision to join a startup after working in major public companies will be a change. But he also sees promise in the two-year-old startup. In an email to TechCrunch, he wrote:

“I am thrilled to join the Handybook team. As the leader in on-demand home services, Handybook is a great example of a company transforming a traditional industry through the use of technology… In so many ways, the ambitions of Handybook remind me of Amazon’s own beginnings and I look forward to assisting the brand that has emerged as the leader in this space as they grow and scale.”

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

7 Secret Eating Habits of Charismatic Leaders

Even outside their areas of expertise, charismatic leaders often demonstrate qualities of their own commitment to greatness. Here’s a look at some of the secret eating habits of seven charismatic leaders:

1. Mark Zuckerberg ate only meat of animals he himself killed (in 2011, at least).In 2011, Zuckerberg disclosed that he was taking a personal challenge to eat only meat that came from animals he himself killed. Zuckerberg claimed the effort was to remind himself to be thankful for how readily available food is in the modern world, and to experience the significance of sustainable farming practices. While the effort was temporary, ending in 2012, Zuckerberg is still committed to eating healthfully and responsibly.

Zuckerberg’s experience was temporary but powerful. Few people in the modern world would be willing to go to such lengths in order to prove a point or enlighten themselves. His challenge encouraged several habits: taking charge of his own food preparation, practicing economically savvy farming, and eating more healthfully. In line with the characteristics of many charismatic leaders, this effort allowed him to take control of his own situation, make a unique effort that impacts a broader environment, and take better care of himself.

2. Henry Ford ate weeds that came from his own garden. According to Sidney Olson’s biography Young Henry Ford, Ford began to think of his own body as a type of car, which needed the right fuel in order to work properly. Paying close attention to what he ate, Ford’s diet would consist largely of “roadside greens”–vegetables and weeds that he would harvest himself and prepare as salads or as parts of sandwiches. His eating habits turned many of his associates away, but he remained adherent to his culinary philosophy.

While the nutritional value of weeds varies, Ford’s habits are interesting because they were an extension of his company’s vision. Ford wanted to build the best machines, and the best machines needed the best fuel. That uncompromising philosophy extended to his own meals, giving him the motivation and grit to pursue a better diet, even though most of us would consider it unpleasant (if not disgusting).

3. Howard Hughes was extremely germophobic. Brilliant and reclusive, Hughes was well known for his obsessive-compulsive habits and extreme fear of germs. Before Hughes completely isolated himself from society, he hired several servants to ensure his meals were as clean as possible. According to some reports, Hughes demanded that his utensils be wrapped in plastic and then handled with tissues before he would use them for a meal.

Hughes’s habits were extreme, but germophobia and obsessive-compulsive habits are all too common in charismatic, successful leaders (take Donald Trump as another example). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious mental illness, but obsessive habits are hallmarks of perfectionists and detail-oriented individuals. If you find yourself nitpicking small details and fine-tuning setups, chances are you apply that same sort of perfectionism to your business.

4. Margaret Thatcher went on a crash diet before the 1979 election. First female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was recently revealed to have gone on a dramatic “crash diet” in 1979, in the weeks leading up to her landmark election win. Boiled eggs, grapefruit, black coffee, and vegetables constituted most of her diet in an effort to lose weight quickly–but she cooked all her food herself.

Thatcher was a strong leader who worked hard to execute her ideals and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty by doing the work herself. These core characteristics are evident even in her eating habits, given the fact that she would opt for such a restrictive regimen just to improve her appearance. Crash diets aren’t healthy, but to see them through takes discipline and commitment–both of which are essential for leaders.

5. Charles Darwin discovered countless species–and ate them. Darwin is well known as being the father of evolutionary theory, a result of his dedicated passion for discovering and studying forms of life. Over the course of his career as a scientist, he discovered countless species of animals, including iguanas, tortoises, and owls. What most people don’t know is that Darwin was a part of a Cambridge University organization called the Gourmet Club, whose members thrived on cooking and eating such rare and new species.

While the motivation behind Darwin’s eating habits was never explicitly revealed, it’s fairly obvious that he was passionate about his work. Darwin wanted to know everything he could about the animals he studied, and strangely, that manifested in a desire to eat some of them. Still, that passionate desire to know everything you can about your subject is what drives people to become great leaders in their field.

6. Winston Churchill valued dedicated, full meals. Churchill’s strong personality is still well known and celebrated. Tenacious, witty, and tactful, Churchill is said to have valued table talk as a medium for important discussions, and preferred large meals of oysters, cheese, and various meats. He prioritized meals, even in periods of high stress or chaos.

Churchill saw meals as an important part of his lifestyle, regardless of circumstances, and used them to his advantage when it came to holding diplomatic discussions. Like Churchill, great leaders prioritize certain elements of their own lifestyle even when under great pressure–it is a consistent foundation that can keep you sane and focused.

7. Steve Jobs was a vegan–and would eat one type of food for weeks at a time.Many people familiar with the ingenious former CEO of Apple know that he was a longtime vegan, believing that his vegan eating habits were pure, healthy, and kept him free of body odor. Fewer people know that he would spend weeks at a time eating only one type of food, such as apples or carrots. As reported in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, he once ate so many carrots that his skin turned bright orange.

Jobs was one of the most eccentric leaders of our time, and his strange eating habits may not come as a surprise to those familiar with his obsessive personality. Charismatic leaders are able to determine which efforts are most important, and see those efforts through no matter what. Jobs was willing to see his eating habits through even after turning orange, and he was able to turn Apple into one of the most successful companies in the world even after facing adversity.

Conclusion

Your own eating habits may or may not be a reflection of your style of leadership. If you find yourself creating uncompromising, almost ritualistic habits, you’re probably the type of person who plans ahead and prioritizes consistency, both of which are important. If you find yourself being picky or eating in strange ways, you’re probably a perfectionist and you don’t care what other people think, which are also important qualities.

No matter what type of leader you are, it’s important to learn from the leaders who came before you. By knowing their mistakes and shining successes, you can adjust your own approach and become a better leader in your own right.

-Courtesy: Inc.com