Blog

WebFWD in 2014

Feb 10, 2014

Last quarter we shared how we plan to extend Mozilla’s resources and expertise to a broader universe of startups around the world. This is a brief update on our progress, next steps, and how you can be involved!

What is happening?

We’re transitioning from a hands-on accelerator program to serve a wider universe of startups providing resources from Mozilla to entrepreneurs around the world. We are working with various Mozillians to bring Mozilla expertise around areas such as privacy, data integrity and security to the startup world.

Because our new offering will require less day-to-day management, Diane has taken a program management role in Mozilla’s Developer Engagement group. And Didem will be an account manager for the Marketplace group. You can continue to use the webfwd@mozilla.com to reach us.

What’s next?

Today we launched a new website (many thanks to Aaron Druck for his help here!) which serve as the hub for content from Mozilla for entrepreneurs. This also has the fantastic entrepreneurship content we’ve created with our fabulous mentors over the past 2.5 years.

How can you help?

  • Share your expertise. The Mozilla community is rich in depth and breadth of knowledge and skills that can help startups. If you have some information or resources that you think will help them, contact us!
  • Localize our monthly communications and website in your own language. As a global offering, we’ll be reaching entrepreneurs across various countries. Localization will be a huge asset!
  • Spread the word. If you know of incubators, accelerators or others in your community who would benefit from these workshops, feel free to spread the word.

As always, do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or insights.

To the open web!

Diane & Didem

Opening Up Open

Dec 16, 2013
events 

Not every company operates in the open, and certainly not every startup. So we’re always happy to share what opportunities open source, open standards and open operations offer to a variety of people. Over the past few weeks we’ve had the chance to take our message to lots of neat folks:

  • Didem had a chance to share about WebFWD with our friends at the Latino Startup Alliance’s first Summit. We’re big fans of what LSA is doing to support entrepreneurs from a very young age on up!

  • Didem then went on to share about WebFWD at the Girl Geek Dinner sponsored by Mozilla. The turnout was great and lots of Mozilla women were there to share various ways women can be involved.

  • Didem shares about WebFWD with lots of Girl Geeks

  • Diane had the pleasure to participate on a panel at Dell World, “Bringing The Outside In: Fueling Future Innovation Through Entrepreneurship.” She sat alongside managers at American Airlines and the NASDAQ Private Market (Sharespost) to discuss trends in entrepreneurship and how larger organizations can collaborate and foster startup activity as well as benefit from it. Dell announced a new startup fund at the event, which was pretty cool.

  • Diane seriously thinks about Windows.

    Below is an important update on WebFWD. We look forward to hearing from you!

    — Diane & Didem

    When we embarked on the journey of WebFWD over 2 years ago, our vision was to scale the way we support projects and startups that we believe are healthy for the web.

    An oft-repeated use case of why we needed to do this was the case of John Resig, who Mozilla hired full-time in part to support his development of what is now one of the most widely used JavaScript libraries today. We knew hiring every interesting project that helped the web was not scalable, so we tested the waters and learned there was indeed a market - in fact, a global market - of entrepreneurs who stood to benefit from Mozilla’s resources and support.

    Where We’ve Been

    What started as a cohort of 2 teams and weekly lectures in 2011 has evolved into a robust, 3-month program of structured curriculum and applied learning for over 33 teams around the world. Not only have we grown our curriculum, but we have also seen amazing progress in both the reach (we got a record number of over 100 applications to our last cohort) and the quality (we increasingly receive exciting news of funding, milestones, market recognition and paying customers from our alumni in their respective markets) of the entrepreneurs we touch.

    We cannot emphasize enough how much this growth has been powered by amazing people both in and outside of Mozilla (that is, many of you reading this note): our mentors, teams & alumni, Scouts, service provider partners, subject matter experts, investors and more. WebFWD is truly a Village.

    Where We’re Going

    It’s precisely you - a powerful, mobilized community of people who believe in both the power of the web and of entrepreneurship - that leads us to our next phase. Because our community and Mozilla have too much to offer to keep this value to a limited number of teams.

    Starting next year, we will broaden the universe of startups we work with, working in close partnership with leading startup programs around the world. We’ll be rolling out a series of workshops and resources that will help entrepreneurs to get more customers, scale faster and become viable more effectively - and do this all in a way that makes the web better.

    This is about making a larger impact. By involving our community more deeply in the future of the web, and expanding who participates in it. And by partnering more tightly with our startup partners, following the advice of our teams to take even deeper dives into what Mozilla can uniquely offer tech entrepreneurs.

    Where You Can Join Us

    In the next quarter, expect to hear more details about what these workshops will look like and where we’ll be offering them. And more importantly, about how you can be involved in this exciting next chapter.

    Until then, do not hesitate to reach out to us with any initial thoughts or input. Because this is after all a you-powered effort :)

    To an even Better Web!

    New regulations went into effect this September allowing U.S. startups to publicly advertise their quest for funds. And more changes are coming. The Startup Policy Lab was formed to bring together people interested in public policy issues like these that impact startups. In their words, “it’s not an advocacy group, and it’s not related to any organization. The purpose is to start bringing the community together to educate, network, organize amongst itself, etc.”

    Last night we had the pleasure of hosting its first meeting at our SF office. Charles Belle (Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation Law at UC Hastings, College of the Law), Kevin Laws (COO AngelList) and Ken Priore (Counsel) all addressed the history, recent developments and upcoming issues with these laws to a full house.

    Catch the full (roughly 40-minute) video below. Stay tuned for more juicy topics to come!

    Dia, Dia, How Do We Love Thee? Let us count the ways.

    Dia works with Really Important People, like Clinton Global Initiative speakers and the official Olympic Committees in Brazil and Turkey. It’s no wonder: she is a communications dynamo. You’ll feel her energy when she walks into the room, and she’ll help you build up your own so you can make the impact you want when sharing your idea and story.

    How does she do this? For us, she does things such as:

    • Hearing our teams pitch at Orientation….before Graduation…on the phone…
    • Having our teams count in a group to train others listen as much as they speak
    • Forcing our teams to only ask questions rather than make statements.
    • Getting our entrepreneurs in touch with their bodies by jumping clapping and stomping (note this also helps them embrace failure)
    • Producing tools such as the Story Craft framework to guide us in framing and structuring our stories

    Dia also ensures we do not develop a codependent relationship with her by leaving us with other ways to be self- sufficient, such as pitching in front of a group and getting their feedback, and encouraging us to do the same for others.

    But we’re hooked. Thank you Dia for all you have done for our teams! More than enough reason to be our newest mensch. We thought it best to leave the proof in the words of our entrepreneurs:

    • "more Dia Bondi!!! One each month for all teams and 1:1 meetings upon request if she’s available."
    • "I feel that if we had Dia Bondi’s story telling session at the beginning of the program and not at the end, it would have had more impact."
    • "Dia Bondi was amazing. It would have been great to have had more sessions with her. I thought her exercises were super helpful and it would have been nice to have swapped some of the straight pitching for exercises."
    • "The story spine was awesome, do it earlier!"
    • "We found the session with Dia Bondi the day before the graduation very helpful. It’d be nice to have more sessions like that with her throughout the semester."
    • ….and our team Playir even called her out in their Kickstarter update!
    • Look out, Dia’s here!

    Alumni Updates!

    Nov 7, 2013
    alumni 

    It’s been awesome to not only hatch our latest batch of teams but also hear from the ones we’ve worked with over the past two years and track their successes. Please take a look and see how our alumni are continuing to thrive and let us know if you want to meet any of them - we think they’re kinda awesome.

    • CASH Music (WebFWD I) has launched their 2nd Kickstarter campaign after chalking up some serious crowdfunding success last year. This new campaign is in support of their amazing Summits convening some great minds to chart the future of music. Please have a look and support them!
    • Harp (WebFWD II) has lot of exciting updates, including officially launching on November 12th with a new website and other goodies, so check back in a week! Their private beta was a smashing success, serving over 3.5 million requests to over a thousand apps; they were the top trending repo on GitHub!
    • mist.io (WebFWD III) has entered its public beta allowing sys admins to manage cloud services via mobile devices. The team has grown from 5 to 9 people, and secured funding from StartupMonthly and is on its way to closing its seed round. Over 1,000 servers are currently managed by mist.io to date.
    • Diwank Singh (WebFWD I) is one of 2 WebFWD alums participating in the prestigious Thiel “20 Under 20” Fellowship (so yes, that means WebFWD represents 10% of the current Thiel Fellows ;). He was just featured in Business Insider as one of the "hottest teenage startup founders"!
    • Nick Liow (WebFWD III) is representing the other 5% of the Thiel Fellows. After raising $12,000 from his Open Game Art Bundle, Nick published a public, polished prototype for Nothing to Hide, his upcoming open-source crowdfunded game. The playtester feedback form got over 250+ responses and 3000+ plays, and despite explicitly just being a prototype, was featured on IndieGames.com and JayIsGames.com. Nick is also currently making a satire game about mass surveillance. More details on Nick’s crowdfunding-hacking from his blog.
    • Sketchfab (WebFWD II) has reached 50K users, and the 3D modeling platform is now supported in both Indiegogo and LinkedIn. They’ve also featured leaked models of the Nexus 5 and a map of Grand Theft Auto V, attaining over 100K views in under a week.
    • BigBlueButton (WebFWD I) is pushing hard to incorporate WebRTC audio into its next version; the team traveled to Porto Alegre, Brazil for a developer summit last month, working out of AllWorking Brasil.
    • Meemoo (WebFWD I) became Forrest Oliphant’s thesis project and an artist residency at Eyebeam NYC. Forrest joined forces with some more people interested in flow-based programming and launched the NoFlo Kickstarter campaign. Their graph editor is getting “close to being awesome” and they will be publicizing some demos soon, as well as porting Meemoo’s playful components to the new, more powerful system in the coming months. Please get in touch if you have ideas for a NoFlo library or component.

    We’re proud to see them off but as a part of Mozilla, it’s just a transition, not a goodbye. You can watch the presentations here, and see some highlights from the Twittersphere care of Storify are below. Enjoy!

    Our conversations with our fresh batch of graduates revealed a common theme: the incredible impact of our community of volunteers who serve our teams throughout the 3 months we work together (and often after).

    Specifically, it’s our Mozillian colleagues, industry mentors, UX professionals and other subject matter experts who are the glue that rounds out the resources of our lean-running early-stage teams. They effectively extend our teams’ capability to attain their audacious goals. It’s incredibly valuable help in a market where timely execution is critical.

    Like a movie production, each cohort is an orchestration of key actors and production staff. So please, sit back, grab a bag of popcorn and scroll through our ‘list of credits’ for WebFWD IV!

    Production Team: Mentors

    Strategy Mentors

    User Experience Mentors

    Act One: Orientation

    Act Two: Weekly Team Calls

    Act Three: Graduation

    Our 8 teams enter the world of AlumniDom this week and we hope you get a chance to watch them graduate on Wednesday! We have a feeling our PredictionIO team won’t be sharing this at graduation:

    Frog power.

    • At one point, the PredictionIO founding team was simultaneously based in London, Hong Kong, Macau and California, making it the startup on which the sun never set.
    • Following in the animal theme of other popular open source projects PredictionIO’s logo is a frog. If you can’t guess why, it’s because frogs can predict the weather and earthquakes. Now they’ll be predicting a lot more :).

    As our fourth cohort of WebFWD teams hone in on their pitches for you all next week (reminder this is happening live and via stream on Wednesday, October 30; details here), we are divulging some fun facts about them that may not come out in their pitches. If you enjoy any of the political theater in US presidential elections, you will certainly love this from our Hyperaudio team. Enjoy and see you next week!

    "About a year ago when I was trying out Hyperaudio technology with Al Jazeera, I built in an “easter egg" into one of our interactive pieces where you could make subjects (in this case, US Presidential candidates) repeat the same word or phrase repeatedly as it appeared in the discussion. Unfortunately it didn’t go as viral as planned and so I chalked it up as a failed experiment.

    Then early this year I spoke about Hyperaudio at Scotland.js and decided to demo the aforementioned easter egg. Much to my surprise, the audience thought it was quite entertaining. It certainly got the biggest laugh of the whole talk (check out ~24:00).”

    Which goes to show that sometimes virality has a lag. :)

    Update November 14, 2013: We’re currently doing a “pause” in new applications; please stay tuned here (or email us at webfwd@mozilla.com to be added to our dist list) and we’ll share updates with you soon!

    Are you an entrepreneur committed to building new web technologies that align with Mozilla’s values to support openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web?

    Today we’ve opened up applications for the next WebFWD Cohort! You can do this on our website or on our AngelList page.

    The next cohort format will be a slightly shorter 3-month schedule to incorporate some learnings from the current cohort in the spirit of continuous improvement. High-level timeframes are:

    • Deadline to Apply: December 15, 2013
    • Notification of Final Decisions: January 28, 2014
    • Class Kickoff: Week of February 10th, 2014

    We look forward to reading your application!

    The WebFWD Team

    In two weeks, our current cohort will become alumni. We’re sharing a few fun facts on some of our teams in case they don’t have time divulge this in their pitches on October 30. Enjoy today’s from ViziCities!

    • When our ViziCities team announced its ambitions to make SimCity real, they reached the #1 slot on HackerNews within minutes. The world clearly seems to want more City with their Sims.
    • Just as fun, if you haven’t figured it out yet, co-founder Robin Hawkes has two birds in his name. You can get the unique backstory here.

    Hope you meet the team in 2 weeks! Details at http://webfwdivgraduation.eventbrite.com.

    When he isn’t looking at birds, Rob likes to talk HTML and the future of the web.

    Until we all gather in San Francisco or on the live stream for our graduation on October 30, we thought it’d be fun to share some little-known facts about our teams that you may (or likely may not) hear from them at Graduation. Enjoy!

    From our founder at clay.io (who attended University of Texas ;):

    "Shortly after launching, we built a game about another U-Texas student who was hit by a bus (he walked away without any serious injuries). UT (until this incident) would have a foam sword battle in an intersection on campus during the crosswalk period the last day of school before finals every semester. In May of last year, they did it and this guy Nick ran into the intersection prematurely and was hit by the bus with another student recording the video. After I saw the video and found out he wasn’t hurt, I had a feeling it would quickly become viral so I started working on a quick game about the incident. Less than 24 hours later the game was done and it too became pretty viral on Twitter and was on some news sites like http://news.com.au, Kotaku and our local news stations. Link to the game is: http://nickvsbus.clay.io/, the video is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o8oJDVfvTM

    As a global program, we’re happy that many of our teams hail from a diverse set of countries. But as a tech program, many of them wish to establish a presence in the U.S. (often Silicon Valley or New York City) to forge closer ties to customers and sources of capital.

    As a result, it’s not surprising that teams such as our alumni at mist.io have embarked on the route of incorporating in the U.S. Today our current class had a chance to chat with co-founder Chris Psaltis, who shared some key things that other teams embarking on a similar path should consider. Some takeaways:

    • Things take longer than you think. Chris assured us that bureaucracy lives in the U.S., there is only one way to do things, and it is difficult to find it. It takes time, so plan to wait.
    • Get a lawyer. Specifically, get one for enterprise matters and one for immigration. They may need to work together to get you a visa. U.S. immigration is very complicated. Unlike countries like Canada who are passing progressive Startup Visa laws, in the U.S. it’s still complicated for startups.
    • Plan your work. Much of the process is successive, as follows:
    • First step: Incorporating. You will not get a U.S. investor if you don’t do this. Ideally, incorporate in Delaware. In general, the less you deviate from the most common route, the less barriers you create among potential investors. For mist.io, this also will entail creating a Greek subsidiary and proudly becoming “a multinational with less than 10 people.”
    • Second step: open a bank account.. While this may sound simple, it’s not, and what bank you pick makes a big difference. Talk to Chris about who he recommends ;).
    • Third step: get an accountant.. While tax regulations for Delaware corps are very friendly, you also need to build an infrastructure for the long run and a bank account is not enough. You’ll also need accountants and bookkeeping so you can track what’s going on and prepare for tax filing.
    • Don’t cut corners on price. Build for the future by getting the best people to help you with legal and infrastructure issues. If you don’t, you may save a little money in the near-term but it might cost you much more later. There is no reason to risk this.
    • We and our teams are lucky to have alums like Chris, whose war stories can save them lots of time and money in their own ventures!

    Me, Please

    Oct 8, 2013
    mom 

    "Me, Please" pretty much embodies the attitude of this month’s esteemed mensch. It’s our huge pleasure to give an October shout-out to Jennifer Selby Long!

    Jennifer’s can-do participation and support of WebFWD all started early in our program (think 2012), when we ran weekly live lectures for our teams called LearnFWD. Jennifer jumped on board by sharing how startups can get the most out of their teams natural energy, drawing off of her expertise on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) in leadership and team development.

    Jennifer also draws off of her experience as a coach to executives at tech leaders including Cisco, Genentech and LinkedIn to help our teams refine their pitches. Specifically, she’s joined our pitch panels where she helps our founders go beyond “what” is said into the hugely impactful “how.” And she even developed a whole session on the elements of storytelling for our current class orientation.

    In addition to all of the professional expertise Jennnifer lends, she also makes it a point to attend almost every mixer, orientation and graduation we have to better get to know our teams and community. All with great humor and positivity, we might add. Please send Jennifer a tweet of thanks at @JenniferSelby for all she does for us!

    Jennifer and hubby Kirk experimenting at one of our mixers :)