LA Tech Updates: Open Raven On a Hiring Spree, Tinder's Pandemic Dating Feature

Tami Abdollah

Tami Abdollah was dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.

Open Raven

Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Open Raven Adds Three Cloud and Security Veterans to its Team
  • Tinder Tests Video Feature for Pandemic Dating

    Open Raven Adds Three Cloud and Security Veterans to its Team

    Open Raven, a Los Angeles-based company that offers a cloud data security platform, said Thursday that it has expanded its leadership team to include three new cloud and security industry veterans. The move comes weeks after the company announced its second major round of funding.

    Rob Markovich joins the company as its new chief marketing officer from his prior role as chief marketing officer at Wavefront. Alan Buckley has been hired as the senior vice president of sales, finance and operations, from his prior role as the business operations lead at Tanium. Bill Hau will be the new vice president of customer success. Hau has more than 20 years of offensive and defensive cybersecurity operations experience and previously worked at companies including Cylance, Mandiant/FireEye, IBM and McAfee.

    Their hire follows Open Raven's raise of a $15 million Series A round this June — four months after it emerged from stealth to announce seed funding. The round was led by Kleiner Perkins as well as existing investors like Upfront Ventures, bringing its total capital raised to $19.1 million.__

    Do you have a story that needs to be told? My DMs are open on Twitter @latams. You can also email me at tami(at)dot.la, or ask for my Signal.

    Tinder Tests Video Feature for Pandemic Dating

    As COVID puts a pause on dating for many singles, Tinder has rolled out a new video chat feature. The dating app announced Wednesday that users in 13 countries, including four U.S. states, can now try out "Face to Face."

    This is part of Tinder's big sell on a feature Bumble launched last year that has become popular. The video calls "prioritize control and comfort" by prompting users to agree to a set of ground rules (keeping the interaction PG) and letting them disable the video feature at any point. You're also able to leave a report once the video ends.

    "We're looking to better understand how video chat fits in with the overall journey of getting to know someone new," Tinder spokesperson Evan Bonnstetter explained in an email.

    Users in Virginia, Illinois, Georgia and Colorado can meet their matches face-to-face. But the feeling has to be mutual — both parties need to opt-in before the chat switches to a split-screen video call.

    Like Snapchat, the appeal of talking on dating apps lies in anonymity, for some. Plus, chatting on an app relieves the stress of giving out personal information.

    As stay-at-home orders remain in place, virtual dates have become default. Will this last? A Tinder survey of users found that over half of its U.S. users have used the video date function with a match in the past month. Plus, 40% of Gen Z members surveyed who tried video dating said they'd continue using the feature "as a way to decide whether to meet IRL (in real life) in the future — even once their favorite date spot is open again."

    Launched in 2012, Tinder, now boasting over 60 million subscribers, is available in 190 countries and over 40 languages.

      Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

      Cadence

      How To Startup: Part 5 - Minimum Viable Product

      Spencer Rascoff

      Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

      Minimum Viable Product
      Image by Master1305/ Shutterstock

      When thinking about tech giants like Facebook, Amazon or Google, it’s hard to imagine their weak and humble beginnings. When going from nothing to something, the founders of these companies all had similar startup journeys - they started with a minimum viable product or MVP. In the same way you can’t build a house without laying the foundation, you can’t create a successful product without building an MVP.

      The Purpose of MVP

      One of the biggest reasons startups fail is because founders design their initial product based on assumptions. As an entrepreneur, you don’t want to put an enormous amount of time, effort and money into a product the market may not even want.

      Quibi - yes, that Quibi - is an excellent example of this. After spending upwards of $63 million, Quibi never quite found its footing among TikTok, YouTube and its many streaming competitors. The company never ran an MVP or any experimental public beta to test what kind of content and features resonated well with audiences, and simply built a product that nobody wanted or needed. After raising $1.75 billion in venture capital, the company shut down less than a year after its initial launch. This is why starting with an MVP is so important.

      How To Build An MVP

      By definition, a minimum viable product is a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate a product idea early in the development cycle. It allows founders to collect the maximum amount of user feedback with the least amount of effort. When building an MVP, you’ll want to keep the following things in mind:

      - Answer the right question. It’s important to determine what your central hypothesis is. When Airbnb’s founders wanted to see if they had a viable idea, they didn’t rent out space or buy new beds. They simply tested the question “Will strangers pay to stay in my apartment?” by providing a free lodging experience in their living room with the promise of networking with like-minded people.

      - Decide which metrics matter. Identify what will define the success of your product. Common MVP metrics include churn rate, customer acquisition cost, average revenue per user and lifetime value of a customer. However, the data collected should include both qualitative and quantitative insights about how your product is used and what customers actually think about it.

      - Actively measure what you are testing. It is important to continuously test, measure and learn until the product is finalized.

      - Build internally if possible. It’s easier to meet internal needs and challenges first. For example, the original Twitter prototype was designed for internal users at (the now closed) Odeo as a way to send messages to other employees and view them on a group level. After initial internal testing and positive feedback, Twitter launched publicly in 2006.

      - Do things that don’t scale. In this early stage, you have nothing to lose. Create a great experience for initial users and cater to their needs. Put in the extra amount of effort while you continue to build confidence. Talk with every user and every customer, and do things that would never scale once the company gets bigger. For example, Yelp’s founder Jeremy Stoppelman famously went to every bar in San Francisco to pitch them on Yelp in the early days.

      Not Great But Good Enough

      When launching Zillow in 2006, we had to decide how good is good enough to launch. The first version of the product had Zestimates on 40 million homes with about a 12% margin of error. When launching, we knew that the Zestimates weren’t going to be entirely accurate and mainly just wanted to see how Americans would react to being able to publicly view valuations and information about homes.

      We actually held up the Zillow launch by about two months to avoid angry and upset consumers. We spent this time building out an extra feature called My Estimate that allowed users to modify the estimates of their home with information Zillow didn’t have, such as for things like remodeling or significant changes to square footage. We were worried people might not be happy if the estimate was incorrect and they couldn’t do anything about it, which is why we held off. It was a difficult decision to push back the launch, but worth it in the long run. When striking this balance between our MVP and V1, we knew it didn’t have to be great but just good enough to entice users. Now, 15 years later, Zillow has upwards of 100 million homes with about a 3% margin of error, and the product is much more fully evolved.

      Key Takeaway

      The key takeaway here is that MVP allows organizations to start small, and slowly build up to the best version of their product. When starting Hotwire, we started by just selling airline tickets from a few carriers. Later we expanded to include more airlines, additional flight options, and eventually hotels, rental cars and cruises. But the early MVP was as stripped down as possible. See below for Hotwire’s beta site in 2000. About as bare-bones as it gets.

      Image from HotwireAn MVP of Hotwire sold airline tickets from just a few carriers.Image from Hotwire

      https://twitter.com/spencerrascoff
      https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencerrascoff/
      admin@dot.la

      'It's Almost Winter-Agnostic': At This Annual Gathering of Creators, Recession is on No One's Mind

      Kristin Snyder

      Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

      Vidcon 2022
      Photo by Kristin Snyder

      The creator economy is the bedrock of this week’s VidCon convention, which is drawing creators, companies, investors and fans alike to Anaheim to discuss the rapidly growing realm of digital content and entertainment.

      To discuss how investors, in particular, are viewing the booming creator landscape, Thursday’s “Betting Big on the Creator Economy” panel featured the likes of MaC Venture Capital partner Zhenni Liu, Investcorp managing director Anand Radhakrishnan, Team8 Fintech managing partner Yuval Tal and Paladin co-founder and CEO James Creech.

      Read moreShow less

      Netflix Lays Off Another 300 People

      Christian Hetrick

      Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

      Netflix Lays Off Another 300 People
      Photo by DCL "650" on Unsplash

      Netflix has imposed its second round of layoffs in less than a month, cutting another 300 people from its staff.

      “Today we sadly let go of around 300 employees,” a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to dot.LA. “While we continue to invest significantly in the business, we made these adjustments so that our costs are growing in line with our slower revenue growth.”

      Read moreShow less
      RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
      LA TECH JOBS
      interchangeLA
      Trending