Why I Really Started Kibin

When people ask me why I started Kibin, I always have the same answer.

Back in 2010 I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. The personal statement element of my application was more critical for me than probably for most applicants. I didn’t have great grades in college, yet I was still set on applying to top-tier law schools. It was vital for me to tell a compelling story, to sell the admissions committee on me and not my statistics.

As I worked through the first couple drafts, I knew I’d need some serious revision and feedback. I initially asked friends and family for help. But I quickly found that this channel provided one of two things: Superficial “this is great” comments or a complete inability to find the time to help.

I gave up and began a search for my solution online. Proofreading services seemed to be a dime a dozen, and that was the problem. There was no clear differentiator, and it didn’t seem like any of them offered what I was looking for: in-depth comments and feedback, not just simple edits and corrections.

My solution finally materialized in the form of an online forum where prospective law school students were swapping personal statements to give one another feedback. I ended up going back and forth via private messages in the forum with an applicant on the east coast.

And through this experience, Kibin was born.

I dropped my flimsy law school aspirations and began figuring out how to build a site that could better facilitate that review process.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good story. It’s easy to follow and it makes logical sense. And therein lies the problem. While this story is logical, it lacks any emotional appeal. It’s not actually relatable to most people.

And while this story is completely true, it’s also a lie. (more…)


Stop Shanghaiing Your Users

The other week someone posted a question on dashboard.io (our 500Startups internal forum) about whether subduing an unsubscribe link in email newsletters proves to be beneficial to the unsubscribe rate. The individual also posted a question on Quora to get input from another channel.

I’ve been meaning to get around to answering this since I saw the email come through, because it reminded me of how we started out in the early days with Kibin.

When new users signed up for Kibin, we auto-opted them in to our email newsletter. Furthermore, we tucked the unsubscribe link way down at the bottom in very small font.

Why did we do this?

Well, we wanted to beef up our newsletter subscribers so everyone would see our awesome news, we could market to EVERYONE that joined our service, and we’d reap ridiculous rewards for it. (more…)


Ten Things Poker Taught Me About Being an Entrepreneur

When I graduated college, I left with a degree in Economics, one course short of a minor in Bio-Chemistry, and absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

I graduated in 2005 and had been playing poker for about a year.  The poker scene was heating up quickly with the Cinderella story of Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 World Series of Poker main event victory.  The ‘Moneymaker effect’ was, for lack of a better word, in full-effect. Like millions of other people, I was inspired.

I remember my first encounter with the game. I was waiting patiently for my (now ex) girlfriend to get ready. We were headed out the door for something… well, we were supposed to be.  I was flipping through the channels and ESPN was covering a World Series of Poker event.  I was instantly intrigued. (more…)


Raising Money for your Startup? Stop Talking to Investors!

It was mid April and things with Kibin were cranking along nicely. Jim and I both had our heads down and were working like crazy to push the product forward.  Unfortunately, keeping your head down doesn’t pay the bills or quiet your grumbling stomach.  I had decided we needed to raise some money.  It should be easy, right?  Hell, I remembered back when I had time to read TechCrunch… it seemed 80% of their posts were about a company raising a round.

Turns out, its not easy.  Turns out, when people tell you that raising money will always be a lot harder than you thought, they’re actually telling you the truth. (more…)


How it Feels Being a Startup Founder

I spend most of my time stressed, worried, and frustrated. We’re really on the cusp of having everything ready for Wednesday, but we’re definitely cutting it close.  There are a million things to do.  It feels like finals week in college.  You know you’re going to get through it and you would be extremely excited, but you can’t really visualize the end because you’re so caught up in the now. (more…)


Kibin is Back on Track (Part 3/3)

With Pablo back in the picture, I definitely had a revived hope to get everything back together.  Pablo was ready to go, but my expectations remained muted until I could get a team back together and start seeing some headway.  It was now sometime in mid August.

I knew Brion would be the most difficult to get on board and I asked Pablo to try and get in touch with him.  I was pretty certain Jim would be wanting to get back into things as he was always motivated and excited about the project. (more…)