Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 5 years, you're aware that Facebook is one of the most successful startups Silicon Valley and they have one of the most active developer communities using their platform-- as seen by the number of apps and their heavily attended F8 conference.
In the summer of 2008, Facebook began awarding seed rounds of $25-100K and mentorship to promising developers on the Facebook platform under the name fbFund, a joint venture with Accel Partners and The Founder's Fund. This summer, fbFund announced that for this third round, it would be bringing all the companies to work together for 12 weeks at the former Facebook offices in downtown Palo Alto.
On Tuesday's demo day, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg explained, "We brought people together "IRL" (In Real Life)...so people could really work together and Innovate."
The idea of bringing stellar seedling companies together to work from the same place is no new concept. It's one that has brought Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston of Y-Combinator much success and many top investors are latching on, seeing this as an opportunity to get in early on new innovations. fbFund REV's top dog, Dave McClure mentioned in his opening remarks that he even stole as much from these previous successes (like Y-Combinator and Boulder/Boston based TechStars) that he could get away with.
Because it "takes a village" to build a company, much of the success of fbFund comes from their relationships with mentors who help to select and make investments as well as work directly with these companies by building up their teams and advising on product. They featured talks from experts like BJ Fogg, Eric Ries and Tim Ferris
In addition to mentoring the companies, fbFund also kept to the social incubator environment by drawing on many of Stanford University's Institute of Design practices where everyone worked in an open space and collaborated on the same whiteboards. It provided an interruptive environment serving to get people out of their comfort zone while fostering communication and collaboration.
So what is REV? REV first and foremost stands for revolution, the social revolution that the Facebook platform has started, allowing developers to utilize and individuals "social graph" in ways most people could have never imagined. But REV is more than just that- it stands for REVise. Forcing companies to make constant iterations on their products. To get a minimum viable product out the door and then look at metrics to make decisions based on numbers and A/B testing. REV stands for REV the Engine and go faster! As McClure said, "If you don't feel like you're out of control, you're not going fast enough." Companies aren't built in years anymore, they're built in weeks or months. You've got to act fast and get to market to succeed in this landscape. And finally, REV stands for REVenue. fbFund is happy to boast that of the companies involved this summer, 5 of them are currently profitable or breaking even with another 3 expecting to by end of year. Profitable companies even wore special "REVenue is Sexy" t-shirts for the event.
I first want to say that having seen the companies grow over the entire 12 weeks, and watched these presentations several times, that ALL of the companies had phenomenal improvement on not only their products, but in their ability to clearly communicate their products to potential investors. So everyone deserves a huge BRAVO!!!!
Now, I get a chance to be a tiny bit biased. Instead of an overview of each and every company, I decided to keep it to my top 5.
1. Zimride- Finally a company that is solving the carpooling mess at universities AND making money! Website is simple and easy to use and it saves money and the environment by solving a real problem in the real world. Plus, they've forged a partnership with car-sharing company Zipcar.
When I first saw the presentation for Groupcard, I thought it was cool enough, but didn't really stand out enough to make it long term. It's a cute idea, people can pass around a virtual card online and even print it out if they want. They were making money, great. They had lots of users, awesome. It just didn't have the staying power. Then, they announced that over the course of this incubator, their company had taken a new direction and had a new focus. Interactive gifts. They have built a platform that allows business to issue codes to send money to consumers using PayPal. This changes the world of social marketing, business gifting and rebates.
3. Runmyerrand- I enjoy Runmyerrand because it solves a problem that we experience in the real world, which is "when am I going to find the time to do ____?" Runmyerrand is great for metropolitan areas where sometimes its just not convenient to walk a bag of clothes to the donation center 11 blocks away. I'm excited for their expansion to other cities. Also awesome to have another Zipcar connection, Runmyerrand was incubated out of the Zipcar headquarters in Boston.
4. Samasource- OK, so Samasource is a non-profit, but I was so moved by the impact that they are able to have on the people they train and put to work, I had to include them. Samasource connects people living in poverty to computer based micro tasks. Not only do they find companies willing to outsource their QA or computer based tasks, but they have also facilitated training and set up tech centers where the work can be completed. Their slogan "Give work, not aid" really stood out as an amazing innovation and a great way for those of us here in Silicon Valley to help. Please be sure to check out the website and maybe even make a donation!
5. Thread (FKA Frintro)- So I'm not currently on the market, but if I was, I'd probably use Thread. They're right about dating sites being less than desirable and the best people to date are always friends of friends. What a great way to take what people are ALREADY doing on Facebook and find a way to build an app around it.
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