On-demand ride-sharing startup Lyft is expanding aggressively in the U.S., announcing the launch of service in 24 new markets today. Along with the expansion, Lyft company will be offering free rides to new users in all launch markets, while also lowering its fares by another 10 percent in existing markets. Read More
Managing credit and debit cards is still a relatively complicated process. You can control some elements of your cards like accessing your balances and transferring money online, but you can’t turn off cards, or set transaction types via the web, or from a mobile phone. Ondot Systems, a stealthy company that has raised $18 million in funding, has developed a white label solution, called… Read More
Chobani has been one of very few large food companies to be wholly-owned by its founder. No longer.
Hamdi Ulukaya has long belonged to the rarest breed of entrepreneurs: Those who’ve built multi-billion dollar companies without any outside investment. In the food industry, where Ulukaya’s Greek yogurt-maker Chobani has become a giant, it’s even more uncommon.
Now, that chapter in New Berlin, New York-based Chobani’s history is coming to an end. Chobani announced on Wednesday that it has accepted a $750 million loan, with warrants attached, from private equity firm TPG. The loan comes due in six years. The warrants could give TPG up to 35 percent of the company if Chobani reaches certain milestones–including an initial public offering of its stock, which is expected as early as next year.
Meanwhile, TPG will receive two seats on Chobani’s board. The deal also stipulates that Chobani will aim to bring in a new CEO within the year. Ulukaya will remain the company’s biggest shareholder and will become chairman of the board.
Chobani had reportedly run into a cash crunch after the opening of its $450 million plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, took longer to get up and running than anticipated.
The Greek-yogurt market in the U.S. has become more competitive in recent years, as companies such as Danone and Yoplait have tried to capitalize on the increased popularity of the market that Chobani seeded. Chobani still has a 38 percent share of the market, with about $1.5 billion in sales expected in 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Chobani will use the $750 million for a raft of ambitious expansion projects. One of them is an organic version of its Greek yogurt, which some consumers have long called for. Chobani also wants to expand to offer other cooking ingredients. It already hosts a selection of recipes on its web site, some of which, like chicken and white bean chili, would initially seem to have nothing do with yogurt. The company also wants to sell yogurt with steel-cut oats and a line of desserts.
Ulukaya’s ex-wife unsuccessfully sued to stop the TPG deal, saying she is owed a share in the company and that Ulukaya stole his yogurt recipe from a rival.
Chances are, your next business opportunity is already waiting for you. You’re just not looking in the right place.
I received an email this past weekend from a reader of my column that included the following:
“I am aware that I will probably not get a response due to your busy schedule and workload, but I thought it might not hurt to try.”
It is a shame that this person’s first thought is that I wouldn’t think he was worth the time to warrant my response. As our connections with each other grow more “virtual,” it’s easy to overlook (or ignore) an email from a stranger or an introduction made by someone you know to someone new.
But isn’t that the point to sharing so much information with each other? To find new customers and make new connections?
In fact, I submit that your next customer may have already emailed you.
I have always looked at it this way: If someone takes the time to sit down and write me an email to ask me a question or make an introduction, I will always respond. Always.
I am not suggesting that you respond to every sales solicitation you receive, but if you know that another person took the time to reach out to you for advice or to make a connection, my advice and experience has been that you should always follow up. In fact, some of my best business and awareness opportunities have resulted from random connections made this way.
The biggest hurdle I hear from fellow entrepreneurs is simply remembering to follow up. Here are some tips I use to be successful:
Use a Tickler
It is very easy to mark an email for follow up. Almost every email system allows you to “flag” a specific message. You can then sort your inbox by that flag.
I love the arrow that Apple Mail automatically adds to my emails once I respond. I can quickly review the past 24 hours of mail I have received and determine if there is anyone that I have missed by keying in on the reply flag.
I have a virtual assistant who does three things for me. She helps me manage my calendar, books my travel, and she is copied on every e-mail I receive into my public inboxes.
By providing her with this e-mail access, she helps me keep of a list of individuals I am supposed to reach out to or might have missed. I simply BCC her on any response and she then knows that she can take them off her watch list. Once or twice a week I receive a list of individuals from her that I might have missed.
Manage Your Contact Channels
You should close or redirect others from any channels you are not actively using. If you don’t use a channel, simply put the best way to contact you in your profile information.
I am amazed at the number of people who don’t check their LinkedIn inboxes regularly or have their LinkedIn inbox forwarded to their regular email. The primary purpose of LinkedIn is to make and foster connections with others.
Many of the contacts I receive are through my about.me page. If that page didn’t provide an easy way to get in touch with me, I would have missed out on countless opportunities to weigh in on a breaking story for a journalist with a deadline.
The most important reason to perfect the follow-up? The opportunity to secure your next customer, best partner, or critical business contact may very well be sitting in the emails and social media messages you have been ignoring.
This morning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that its first drone testing site is operational. There will eventually be six such sites. The first is located in North Dakota. The agency is more than two months ahead of schedule.
Tests on the Draganflyer X4ES drone will commence on May 5. Read More
Seriously, people. The internet is officially freaking out about an odd image spotted on Apple Maps, which some are claiming is “proof” of the Loch Ness monster’s existence. By “some,” of course, I mean amateur Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts, whose Fan Club founder Gary Campbell has been talking to press about the now-viral image, which his organization has been… Read More
It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make as founder. Here’s how to settle on a company name you won’t regret.
If you’re a fan of the new HBO show Silicon Valley, you’re probably still chuckling about the theme of last night’s episode.
To break it down: The show’s protagonist, entrepreneur and programming whiz Richard, has just landed a $200,000 investment in his startup called Pied Piper. Now he needs to secure the Pied Piper name.
Richard faced some rather hilarious obstacles in trying to keep his beloved startup name. First, there’s the fact that his four employees thought naming the company after a “predatory flautist who murders children” was a terrible idea. Then, there was the salt-of-the-earth sprinkler maker who already owned the name Pied Piper and refused to give it up for less than $250K.
You’ll have to watch to find out what happens, but the episode is a good reminder that naming a startup is one of the most important and difficult decisions a founder faces. A name can drive–or deter– growth. It’s often the way a startup makes a first impression on customers, investors, and partners.
So take a note from Livestream CEO Max Haot, who describes in the video below, how his company picked the wrong name–and then had to figure out how to find the right one.