While in graduate school at Stanford University, they launched Jumpstart Technologies, an incubator for their business concepts, which in turn spawned Tagged in 2004—roughly the same time that other social network was being developed by another Harvard student. Later, in 2007, realizing they couldn’t outpace Facebook, Schleier-Smith and Tseng switched their objective from a social media company that connects acquaintances to one linking up new contacts.
As chief technology officer, Schleier-Smith figures out how to make ideas conjured up by the team functional. Tseng, CEO, provides the business development, vets acquisitions, and oversees product development. They realized, however, their combination of talents represented two-thirds of a whole, and tapped their mentor Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and a former PayPal executive critical to financing efforts, to serve on Tagged’s board of advisors.
Both Tseng and Schleier-Smith have a double-digit, controlling percentage ownership in Tagged, with venture capital firm the Mayfield Fund as the other principal owner. Obtaining funding requires that founders of startups not only spend hours toiling in the lab but dedicate sufficient time to promoting their products and pressing the flesh with prospective investors. This summer Schleier-Smith and Tseng mentored participants in the NewMe Accelerator by helping them navigate the rocky terrain of making connections and forging alliances as an outsider in the Valley.
Protecting Your Concept
While it’s important to collaborate, new startups must be careful not to disclose their “secret sauce” when pitching ideas to investors. “If you have what you feel is going to be a killer product, first lock down your patent,” says Michelle Fisher, CEO of Berkeley, California-based Blaze Mobile, a developer of mobile commerce solutions. The inventor recently received a patent for the 5-year-old payment sticker idea she invented to help consumers make purchases and payments and keep track of retailer’s rewards points via cell phone. “You have to walk a fine line. You have to put enough detail in there so that you can get a patent granted but at the same time you can’t give away too much so that you make your patent a complete blueprint for others to steal. As a small company you are very vulnerable.”
(Continued on next page)