An Unexpected Wrinkle in Preparing to Launch a Tax Business

25 Jan

Imagine preparing for the SAT, only to find out three days before the test that it had been struck down, and was no longer required for entrance to college.  That’s sorta what today felt like.

As Benny and I prepare to launch our tax preparation and advice startup, GoodApril, we have been prepping to take the Registered Tax Return Preparer exam with the IRS to help bolster our tax credentials.  While the test is really intended to ensure your local preparer knows their stuff, we thought passing it would help with fundraising and gaining customer confidence.

It turns out, however, that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the IRS’s registered tax return preparer program on Friday and is preventing it from enforcing the regulations.  As a result, the IRS today suspended the entire program, including its qualifying exam.

With the tax-filing season starting Jan. 30, hundreds of thousands of return preparers won’t have to register with the federal government, pass a competency test or meet continuing- education requirements.

So, it’s back to the drawing board on how to demonstrate that our product is being produced by financial technologists with legitimate tax “chops.”

I guess entrepreneurship is all about rolling with the punches.  In the meantime, you’ll just have to trust us: we know tax.

How to Improve the Y Combinator Interview

16 Jan

yc500Benny Joseph and I were thrilled to have our startup, GoodApril, selected for an interview with Y Combinator (YC) for the Winter class of 2013.  Getting into YC is competitive – acceptance rates were just 2% in Summer 2012 – so getting one of the final 250 interview slots to be one of the 50 companies accepted, was exciting unto itself. While we weren’t accepted, the process was a valuable experience, but could have been even more entrepreneur-friendly.

What We Got Out of our YC Interview

We’re glad we chose to apply to YC, and don’t regret the time we devoted to the original application and interview preparation.  We gained some real benefits from the experience:

  1. New friends – In order to prepare for the interview, we actively built many new relationships with YC companies and founders to better understand the program and selection process.  This new network of peers has already proven invaluable for introductions, best practice advice, and camaraderie in the ups and downs of being an early stage startup.
  2. Incentive to revisit the big picture – After working intensely on customer development (interviews, surveys, advertising tests, etc.) it was good to be forced to come back to the “30,000 foot view” of the business we were building, to put to the plan to paper, and practice saying it.
  3. Pitch practice – Paul Graham’s famed hatred of marketing speak forced us to figure out how to describe our business in real, simple language, and to practice delivering our messages in succinct ways.  We now feel quite comfortable in pitch settings, whether describing the business at a cocktail party, to a potential employee or vendor, or a potential investor.
  4. Enhanced credibility – Kudos to the YC team for their standing as the top-tier startup accelerator program.  Just being selected for an interview has earned us impressed “ohhhhs” from others in the Valley.

How the Experience Could Have Been Better

In total, the application and interview preparation process was a substantial investment of time – writing and re-writing a tight, compelling application, filming a video, prepping answers to dozens of potential interview questions, practicing those answers, discussing tactics with YC founders, going through practice interviews, and more.  YC was top of mind and at the top of the to-do list for weeks.

While we definitely benefited, the experience felt one sided: dozens of hours invested for a 10 minute meeting.  Here are a few ideas on how it could have been better for us, as startup founders:

  1. More exposure to the partners – I still have never met Paul Graham or Jessica Livingston, the most prominent YC founders, nor seen them present.  My entire exposure to 5 members of the extended YC partner group lasted the 10 minutes of our interview, and the “thanks, but no thanks” email we received later that night.  YC hosts an event called Startup School, but not all YC interviewees gets invites – I did not. To give entrepreneurs a little more “bang for the buck” of the experience, I would challenge the team to host a lecture and networking event for invited interviewees the day before interviews begin.  Give us a flavor for the YC dinners we would enjoy if accepted.

  2. More constructive feedback – We received a couple nuggets of useful feedback in our rejection email, but mostly it boiled down to “we don’t believe customers want this product” and “we tried to think of a better, similar idea, but couldn’t.” There’s an opportunity to “pay it forward” to the rejected entrepreneurs by giving them a taste of the sage wisdom YC could provide as startup mentors and advisors.

    What made you question our evidence of customer demand for this product?  What approaches could we take to test market demand further?  Were there nuggets of the product concept, of the market, of the customer acquisition strategy, of the monetization model, that you thought had promise? I recognize this would come at some cost to YC: either more time invested per interviewing team and more days of interviews, fewer interviews, or longer delays in notifications of rejection. Nevertheless, if the interviewers invested 5 minutes post-interview brainstorming some tips for each team, these could easily be communicated by a single interviewer.

  3. Demonstrate your commitment to “The Team” – Little about the questions asked in our interview, nor the rejection email, reflected YC’s statement that their primary yardstick for inclusion is the quality of the team, not the idea.

    How do we choose who to fund? The people in your group are what matter most to us. We look for brains, motivation, and a sense of design… Your idea is important too, but mainly as evidence that you can have good ideas.

    The interview experience should reflect this. Ask us to bring screenshots or include links to our prior work if you want to see our sense of design. More importantly: address the shortcomings you saw in our team in your rejection – that way we can seek self-improvement and/or recruit to plug the hole.

Why Y Combinator Should Care

YC remains undisputedly the most successful startup accelerator program.  At the same time, competition is coming from many angles, including accelerators with similar models like AngelPad and TechStars, incubators with a more hands-on and resource-intensive approach like The HatteryRaj Kapoor‘s more intimate “operating advisor” model with CoFounder.co, and others.

For YC to continue to lead the pack, it must continue to have a disproportionate number of biggest startup successes coming out of its program.  The only way to do that is to keep seeing the best ideas and entrepreneurs.

The best way to ensure they see the best entrepreneurs?  Make sure YC has a sterling reputation both in the eyes of those who succeeded in getting accepted, and those who didn’t make it on their first try.  They should want to make sure they see not just GoodApril, but also my next startup, and those of the next generation of founders who ask me about my experience.

Closing

Let me re-iterate that we don’t regret our YC experience.  YC should keep innovating, however, to make the experience even better for the entrepreneurs.

Many thanks to BoDavid, and Jason (YC founders at FutureAdvisor, Bump, and Leaky), Brady (of Khosla Ventures) and the several other friends and acquaintances who helped us prepare for YC.

Appendix 1 – How our interview progressed:

Almost exactly 10 minutes total

  • Shake hands, get seated
  • Asked to close laptops with prototypes loaded (they never looked at it)
  • “How are you different from TurboTax?”
  • “Are you guys tax experts?”
  • “Who needs this?”
  • “What was the specific situation [Benny] had with the IRS [that inspired the idea]?”
  • “How much money can you save the average customer?”
  • “What are the top 3 tax saving algorithms?”
  • “You data do you need beyond what you can get from banks, and how do you get it?”
  • Thanks, shake hands, walk out

Introducing GoodApril

19 Dec

GoodApril Tax Services

GoodApril is like Mint.com for personal income taxes.

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know how much you owe in taxes until you file in April, and what’s worse, you’re not confident you did the right things during the year to make sure you’re paying the least amount possible.

GoodApril plans to solve this by providing a web-based solution that aggregates your financial account data, just like Mint.com, to generate a constantly updating forecast of how much you will owe next April. Our algorithm can then identify specific actions you could take to reduce your tax bill.  At the end of the year, we can then enable you to file your taxes in a fraction of the time it takes today with TurboTax.

In the near term, GoodApril plans to offer consumer-friendly tax forecasting tools to help you understand your tax situation, and to prepare for your tax bill come April.  Visit GoodApril.com or email founders@goodapril.com to get on our launch news list.

API-Based ACH Payment Vendors for Web Developers

26 Oct

While there has been tremendous progress in the world of plug-and-play online credit card payments providers for web developers (see: Stripe, Card.io [now PayPal], Braintree, and others), as well as the introduction of some exciting alterative payments platforms (e.g. Dwolla), it is shockingly difficult to find a robust API-based solution for accepting ACH payments online [and apparently has been for a while].  I have spent the last couple months looking for just such a solution while leading Product management for an online small business lending platform, Endurance Lending Network.

Quick overview of the Pros/Cons of ACH:

ACH PaymentsACH (Automated Clearing House), also sometimes called “eChecks” or “electronic bank transfers”, is an old-school framework for inter-bank money transfer, governed by NACHA. There are two kinds of ACH transactions – a “push”, where a user instructs their bank to send money to another bank (that of your business), and a “pull”, where a user authorizes one bank (i.e. that of your business, through your web application) to request money from another bank.

  • Pros: It’s cheap (per transaction costs can be as low as $.10 per transaction), it’s scalable (it’s typically charged per-transaction, not as a percent of the transaction amount), and it’s reasonably common and therefore not “scary” to customers
  • Cons: It’s fraud-prone (while you will receive an NSF  (insufficient funds) error within 3 days, a customer can walk into her bank up to 60 days after a “pull” transaction has occurred and claim she never authorized your payment. Her bank will then claw back the money they sent you, and you’re left with little recourse outside of a lawsuit, if you can even find the customer), and the rest of this blog post as evidence, it’s hard to find a good plug-and-play provider.

Given we’re building a lending product, and have a solid legal contract in place with all of our borrowers, we’re not worried about fraud, we are moving high volumes of money per transaction, and so ACH seems like an ideal solution.  So what providers are available?

“Next Generation” solutions:

  • ZipMark – utilizing the framework for Digital Checks (think: photo deposit of paper checks) and layering in security features to guarantee ACH transactions in real-time (they take the hit in the event of insufficient funds). Solid technology, nice team based out of New York, and fixed per-transaction fees – great! Problem is, they cannot yet offer web developers substantial customization of the user experience. Your users interact with ZipMark through a “context-ignorant” Facebook-connect-like modal window.  That means that while my web application is collecting SSNs, DOBs, and other information from my users, they have to re-enter these into ZipMark to make a payment. Similarly, using ZipMark requires that users create a username / password with their service – they cannot yet handle single sign on with our application. So, overall very promising technology, but not yet about to deliver the user experience what we are looking for. 1% per transaction, capped at $5.
  • BancBox – offers a robust set of payments capabilities, including Credit Cards, ACH and PayPal, through a single set of APIs.  What’s more, they’re able to create “eWallets” within your app for your users, helping you keep their money within your marketplace vs. having to send it back out to an external bank account.  Problem is, they charge for ACH on a percent-of-transaction basis (~1%), which is far to expensive than other solutions (at ELN, we’re sending loans of up to $500K here – it’d be cheaper for me to fly to our customer’s house with a suitcase of cash than send it through BancBox). 1% per transaction, no cap.

Traditional ACH providers, with APIs:

  • PaySimple – offers an API, but it’s from a 3rd party, meaning they don’t have the expertise to support it if you run into trouble.  Overall, they just don’t come across as being very developer focused – their primary solution is a white-labeled payment interface hosted on their site.  I asked, and no, you can’t just iFrame this into your site (or at least, they won’t support you if you do).  $35/month + $.55/transaction
  • ACHDirect – same deal. Another web developer who used them told me “they sucked, but they seemed to suck the least.” — needless to say, I didn’t rush to sign a deal with them. $20/month + $.35/transaction

Others:

I’ve heard about these offerings, but when I reached out to them, they didn’t get back to me.  So… while they seem to have the capabilities, they haven’t exactly won me over yet:

Build it Yourself?

Interestingly, I have read in a few places the idea that it’s actually still easier to build your own ACH capability.  Until recently, I wasn’t really clear what that meant.  Randal Lucas recently tipped me off to this:

  • AirBnB’s Do-it-Yourself ACH Guide – AirBnB apparently went through a similar process to mine, and ended up building a simple mechanism to generate a daily dump of all the transactions that needed to be processed, would login to their bank’s portal, and upload the list.  This required daily, manual work, and manual error-handling, but as you’ll read, they think it’s the best solution available.

Hopefully this has been helpful.  Unfortunately, I can’t yet provide you a recommendation since we’re still figuring this out.  I’m leaning towards ACH Direct, Authorize.net, or do-it-yourself.

Have you found a good solution you would recommend?

Performance-Based Acquisition Marketing

12 Jul

Zecco Logo

I recently completed a year-long period managing acquisition marketing for online brokerage firm Zecco.com.  One of the most important changes that I brought about during that tenure was to transition our markting focus from being purely CPA-based to consider not just cost of an account, but also its resulting quality.  Recognizing that different channels, and even specific partners within a channel, could yield dramatically different kinds of accounts was an important insight that led me to drive for this change.  Additionally, I recognized that a multi-year focus on getting as many, cheap accounts as possible had yielded an unbalanced, unscalable marketing machine.

In order to justify spending in more expensive channels like online banner display advertising, we had to be able to prove that the resulting accounts were “worth it” and generated sufficient revenue to justify the acquisition cost.  In order to do this, we had to overcome a lack of tracking and reporting tools to evaluate new account value based on acquisition source.  We had to solve this on two fronts: First, through the development of a reasonably comprehensive data warehouse which brought together account-level trading details to the website user-level at which we could track the original source of a new account. Second, through the adoption of tracking technologies that enabled us to more definitively attribute a specific new account to one of our multiple marketing channels.

Once we had established a way to track performance, we had to settle on standardized measures of account quality.  With input from our Finance team, we settled on using the average of an account’s first three months of account activity, extrapolating that average out to a year, and dividing that annualized revenue figure by our cost of acquisition.  If the average “payback period” on the accounts from a particular channel (ultimately, we got this down to the publisher and affiliate level), was less than one year, we considered that a success since the average customer lifetime of new accounts was a multiple of that.

While we only had a short period of time running this new approach at full-speed prior to Zecco’s acquisition by TradeKing (I apologize I can’t therefore share robust figures to demonstrate the impact), it proved to be an exceedingly valuable marketing management tool.  We could quickly evaluate a new display advertising partner’s promise, and re-allocate spend to the partners that were outperforming the others.  We were also able to identify specific affiliate partners were substantially under-delivering on account quality and remove them from our network.

I’d be happy to get into more detail to help other online marketers understand this methodology and approach.  Get in touch!

Consulting versus Investment Banking after Undergrad

23 Feb

Consultants in board roomAfter completing my undergraduate business degree, I pursued management consulting as a career, first at the Monitor Group then at Bain & Company.  While I left consulting three years ago to pursue a career in technology startups, I still get asked about consulting as a career, especially as compared to investment banking.

It’s easiest to frame my opinion in the context of what you can learn – this is because the majority of investment bankers and consultants end up moving into other careers within 2 – 4 years.  While consulting and I-banking are great training grounds, they aren’t necessarily great matches for everyone long-term.

What you Learn as a Management Consultant:

  • Data Analysis: Depending on the firm and specific clients your work for, you will either do a lot of Excel analysis or TONS of excel analysis.  While this can feel like drudgery at the time, it is an increasingly valuable skill in the workforce, especially in fields like online marketing.  Surprisingly few business people are trained how to think about and solve business problems with data – consultants are.
  • Problem Solving: Consultants are trained how to break down a complex problem into component pieces, understand the assumptions and hypotheses behind each element, and craft a path toward understanding and solving them.
  • Project Management: As the most junior person on the team, you’re often left handling the coordination between the consulting team and the client.  As you get more senior, you spend a lot of time crafting communications (often in PowerPoint decks) about project status, timelines, etc.  This constant management of what’s getting done, by who, and when it will be done is broadly applicable.
  • Communications: In line with the note above, consultants spend a LOT of time in PowerPoint, crafting and re-crafting communications for clients.  This often comes on the heals of analytical work that you’ve done.  When combined with the ability to break down a problem and do analysis to help solve it, the ability to then synthesize and communicate those answers to another professional is extremely valuable.

What I Didn’t Learn as a Consultant, but you Probably Learn as an Investment Banker (based on those I’ve worked with who come from that background):

  • Financial Modeling: While in some cases the data analysis I mention above can take the form of creating a financial model, it rarely does.  More often, you’re analyzing results of a customer survey, pulling apart operational numbers within a business (how many phone calls to customer service, at what average handling time, resulting in what average cost-to-serve?), or calculating market sizes and growth rates.
  • Corporate Finance: While you might be deep within the operational metrics of a business, rarely does that analysis bubble up to the level of looking at corporate financial statement (Balance Sheets, Profit and Loss statements, Cash Flow Statements, etc).  Most everything I know about this stuff I learned as a business undergrad, not in consulting.
  • Public Markets: Similarly, the evaluation of a business as a potential investment target really isn’t part of what the typical consulting project.  A consultant might be looking at the likelihood that a potential joint venture will work out operationally (is there demand for this new product? what capabilities does each side deliver?), they aren’t often tasked with making the ultimate investment decision.

These are obviously just my own experiences and thoughts, but something I thought was worth sharing.  What have your experiences been?

Wedding Venues in Sonoma

23 May

Ellaine and I spent several weekends over the last couple months looking for great wedding venues in Sonoma County, California.  Here are some links and quick notes about our favorites:

  • Vine Hill House – Beautiful, compact garden setting on a hill overlooking Sonoma vineyards.  Well planned out, with a lawn area for meals, paved patio area for the ceremony and later for dancing, and a cocktail area under oaks by the entrance.  No indoor space.
  • WildWood Retreat – A gay mens’ retreat tucked up in the hills above Guerneville.  Includes a number of modest retreat-style rooms, and a full catering kitchen and on-site chef. The hillside setting is the real attraction here, and the potential to create a true “getaway” for guests.  Indoor space available, but it’s not very attractive.
  • Arista Winery – A very high-end garden venue.  Beautifully manicured gardens and wonderful estate wines are the big draws here, however you’re required to serve their wine exclusively, which adds a substantial additional cost for couples.
  • Chenoweth Woods – Rustic, forested setting amongst redwood off Green Valley Road. More casual atmosphere, showing off the more laid-back side of the historic Russian River area.  No indoor space.

We ended up selecting Vine Hill House and are excited for the big day.

* Update: Dan at Vine Hill did an amazing job for us on our wedding day.  Dan’s knowledge of how to best run an event at his venue shown through time and time again.  Plus, it was just a stunningly beautiful setting.  We would highly recommend it to other couples.

Cost diagnostic at the University of North Carolina

22 Jun

As a management strategy consultant, I am often asked what consultants actually do.  I typically answer with a host of analogies, most often the simple “doctors for businesses” comparison, because we often play the role of diagnosing and providing recommendations to solve specific issues ailing a business.

It is rare that I can share an example of Bain’s work, due to confidentiality restrictions and operating guidelines.  It is unique, therefore, that the University of North Carolina has published a narrated video of an interim report provided by Bain.  A few quick highlights of the video:

  • Highlights of the cost issues Bain is helping UNC address – the “burning platform” that makes it clear that action must be taken
  • Explanation of how Bain’s corporate toolkit and approach, while used most often for businesses, are still relevant for addressing administrative costs in a public / non-profit organization
  • Interim results of their study, such as the finding that there are 9 levels of management within the university, with 50% of supervisors managing only 1 – 3 direct reports, signs that organizational structure / complexity and “spans and layers” of management could be part of the problem

The video is about 15 minutes long, but should be interesting to anyone with a tie to UNC or an interest in the management consulting approach.  View it here: http://universityrelations.unc.edu/budget/

I applaud UNC for publishing the video.  I must imagine that the student body, faculty, and administration of the university are much more at ease getting this explanation of the project than they could have been based on news media and rumors alone.

California Clean Tech Open Finalists

22 Jul

California Clean Tech Open

The California Clean Tech Open, a business plan contest with considerable, hefty backers, this morning announced its list of finalists.  I found the list of technologies and business ideas so interesting I decided to share it here to help bring attention to these impressive entrepreneurial ventures:

Air, Water & Waste Category Finalists

  • Clean Coal Inc.: Removes contaminants from coal
  • Over the Moon Diapers: High performance reusable diapers and service network
  • Porifera: Carbon nanotube membrane for reverse osmosis desalination
  • PURE-T: Salt free water softener using nanobeads
  • Purite: Zero-energy chemical-free whole house water filtration
  • SequesCO: Microbial CO2 capture and conversion to biofuel
  • Waste Water Works (WWW): Microbial wastewater treatment also generates electricity

Energy Efficiency Category Finalists

  • Atomic Precision Systems Inc.: New semiconductor process for ultra-cheap LED lighting
  • Enovative Group: Smart pump for hot water circulation
  • NexChem: Energy-saving process improvement for zinc galvanizing
  • Transoptic: Solar energy assistance for conventional water heaters
  • Viridis Earth: Domestic HVAC retrofit to improve efficiency
  • WicKool: Energy efficient water recovery for existing rooftop air conditioning

Green Building Category Finalists

  • BottleStone: Ceramic stone countertops include 80% recycled glass
  • en-vis-age: Green, modular and customizable buildings
  • Green Design Systems: Straw wall building panels
  • GreenHomeAnswers.com: Home improvement website for green products and services
  • GroundSource: Residential geothermal system with installation services
  • ISTN: Eco-friendly building insulation
  • Parco Homes: Manufactured green (zero net energy) home kits
  • Solar Red: Low cost rooftop PV installation system and components
  • Team Wawa: Water-conserving shower system

Renewables Category Finalists

  • Covalent Solar: Organic thin film solar concentrators
  • Focal Point Energy: Solar thermal water heater for industrial processes
  • IEM Applications: Landfill methane accelerated recovery
  • Renewable Fuel Technologies: Agricultural waste biomass converted to Green Coal
  • Solar Ice: Solar powered ice maker
  • Solindis: Optical solar concentrator for thin film PV

Smart Power Category Finalists

  • 1ARC Energy: Higher capacity lithium-ion batteries
  • Cooler: Carbon calculator to allow B2B targeted advertising in LOHAS
  • Energy Empowered: Home display and control to reduce standby power usage
  • Enverity Corporation: Greenhouse gas tracking and compliance
  • Power Assure: Data center energy management software service
  • Renewable Voltage: Treat organic waste to provide hydrogen and energy storage
  • Tangerine Network Devices: Home energy display and control

Transportation Category Finalists

  • AAA Fleets: Turnkey electric vehicles and solar charging systems for fleets
  • E-Chargers: Plug-in hybrid charging station
  • ElectraDrive: Gas to electric drivetrain auto conversion
  • Electric Drive Research: Plug-in/gas hybrid 2 person, 3 wheel sports car
  • ElectronVault, Inc.: More efficient traction battery for hybrids
  • Enhanced Vehicle Acoustics: Flexible engine sound generator for quiet cars
  • FuelMotion: Series hybrid conversions for the developing world
  • Goose Networks: Hosted dynamic scheduler for carpools/vanpools
  • Philo Fuel: GPS-based audiovisual cues to help drivers optimize fuel efficiency

Based upon these short snippets alone, I think I will have my eyes on BottleStone, 1ARC Energy, and ElectronVault.  These all play on existing market demands (countertops, batteries, hybrid vehicles) and don’t require the kind of massive market shifts needed to make ideas like Energy Empowered or IEM Applications viable businesses.

Mashable’s SummerMash San Francisco 2008

16 Jul

SummerMash SF 2008Mashable hosted its annual SummerMash event tonight – it was the third such entrepreneurial hob-knobbing event I have joined since moving back to San Francisco in March.

After receiving a free drink ticket from PubMatic for signing up for their iPod drawing, I set out to meet some other guests.  The first dynamic duo I met were Adam and Braxton from Zannel, the Twitter of mobile phone rich media.  By which I mean, they turn your mobile phone photos and video into micro-blog updates, the same way Twitter and FriendFeed do.  Adam, Zannel’s CEO and a former McKinsey consultant, mentioned that users seemed to take a lot of photos of food, and we got into a conversation about how they might try to monetize that and other types of user content to build a real revenue stream for the micro-blog.

The second person I met was David Koehn of Phlooq, a stealth-mode social technology startup that connects individuals with the events and businesses they are fans of.  Phlooq will enable a publisher like San Francisco’s 7×7 to tap into the social graph of a reader when he or she indicates what events she will be attending.  I got a sneak-peak of the new app on David’s iPhone and from our conversation it sounded like the business was nearing the point of “unveiling.” I would say more, but then I would probably have to kill you…

Finally, I met Brendan Nee and his friend Justin, two young business partners working on an interesting new iPhone app which will help digest the powerful GPS data of local public transportation into a useful form.  Using your phone’s own GPS signal, you could determine the best route from your current location to the destination of your choice using public transit, taking into consideration the current location of the busses, trains, and other vehicles in the network.  The challenges confronting them, they explained, were two-fold:

  • First, getting MUNI and other public transit networks to share their data.  Releasing this data would be potentially embarrasing to the transit authorities, since it could reveal just how often their services fail to arrive on time.  Then again, argued Brendan and Justin, by sharing the data with an application like theirs, users would be better equipped to react and make alternative arrangements.
  • Second, how to monetize the application.  If MUNI doesn’t even want to share the data in the first place, it would be a stretch to think that they would be willing to pay a software developer for delivering it in a user-friendly form to riders.  We discussed alternatives, including helping public transit systems without GPS-enabled networks get online.  The two could serve as a center of excellence in deploying the technology, and deliver the technology to analyze the GPS data on a fee-for-service basis to help the transit authority cut costs and optimize its network.  They could then also push that proprietary data out to riders in the form of a application, perhaps with a small monthly fee.

SummerMash was a great event, even if the organizers didn’t quite manage to get the doors open on time.  It’s nights like these that I will miss most after leaving the SF Bay.