Tag Archive | startups

Dorm Room Fund-Backed Skillbridge Is A Freelance Marketplace For High-End Professional Services

Skillbridge logo

A startup called Skillbridge is trying to create a new kind of marketplace for freelance work – not for the programming and writing jobs that you’d find on a site like Elance, but for strategy, finance, marketing and other professional services.

The company is announcing today that it has been backed by First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, the firm’s student-run investment arm that offers mentorship and $20,000 in funding to each company. (Skillbridge is also part of Highland Capital’s summer incubator and the MassChallenge accelerator..)

Co-founders Brett Lewis and Raj Jeyakumar have worked as consultants themselves – Lewis, for example, spent nearly three years at Bain & Company. They’re both recent graduates of Wharton Business School, and they said that when they were students, they wanted to use their experience for freelance work. However, they discovered that it was incredibly difficult to actually find interested companies, so they created Skillbridge to match qualified workers with businesses looking for professional services.

Lewis outlined the vision in a post for the Wharton Entrepreneurship Blog, where he said that the United States’ freelancers have grown from 6 percent of the total workforce in 1990 to 20 to 30 percent now: “Elance, an early talent marketplace, has focused on low-end providers of technology and creative talent. Yet the biggest growth trends are in areas of financial planning and analysis, accounting and legal strategy, where only behemoth white-shoe firms have dominated until now.”

Lewis and Jeyakumar said their core talent base consists of stay-at-home parents and graduate students who have either an MBA or at least three years of experience at a finance or consulting firm. These are people who either aren’t in a position to work full-time or aren’t interested, but they are willing to take on smaller projects or part-time work with flexible hours. And by hiring these workers, companies don’t have to pay for the overhead of a traditional consulting firm.

Not that Skillbridge is trying to replace the big firms. Jeyakumar compared them to Ferraris: “There will always be a need for Ferraris, but there are people for whom a BMW is just fine.” If the BMW doesn’t seem like much of a compromise, that’s Jeyakumar’s point. With Skillbridge, companies that probably couldn’t afford to hire a traditional consulting firm can still pay for high-quality work. He added that there’s already been interest in companies ranging from “pre-revenue startups that need help with market sizing for their pitch decks” to large e-commerce organizations.

The company supposedly delivers a “highly curated” experience, where it provides customers with templates for work requests, identifies two or three of the best matches that they can choose from, and helps to create milestones for the project to ensure that things stay on track. It’s currently in beta testing, with plans for a full launch later this year.

A Year In The Making, Machine Zone Launches Game of War, An Impressively Large MMO For iOS

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While iOS games started out as either simple physics or casual simulation titles when the platform launched about five years ago, the bar has gotten steadily higher and more hard-core. Midcore studios like Kabam started to rise in prominence.

Now the iOS platform might be seeing is most hardcore title to date – a very, very massive multi-player title from YC- and Menlo Ventures-backed Machine Zone.

The company, which started out doing text-based RPGs a couple years ago like iMob, is launching Game of War: Fire Age. It’s a title where players build and grow empires, train massive armies, forge alliances with other players to win kingdoms.

The game can handle hundreds of thousands of players concurrently in the same universe, which is not an easy technical feat. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, in contrast, typically handles a few thousand players simultaneously in a single realm. All movement on the game’s map is visible to everyone else.

“We wanted to take the company to the next level and be really ambitious,” said Machine Zone CEO Gabriel Leydon. “We decided to build some things that had never been done before. We had the capital to do it and the willpower.”

Leydon didn’t hire just typical game designers to build the title. He also found people who had experience in scaling massive systems. The game’s user interface is in HTML5 and is rendered natively, allowing the company to handle different screen sizes.

The other really cool thing about the game’s social capabilities is that there is a mechanical turk-like translation system where the players themselves translate chat in exchange for virtual currency rewards. That helps Game of War have really interactive play with a proper critical mass of users who can talk to each other, even if they don’t speak the same language. The in-game chat system helps Game of War get manage slang and gamer speak, which a third-party translation system probably wouldn’t handle correctly. If say, 50 players translate the same words in the same way, then the game will start using that translation automatically.

“It’s like a highly structured Facebook,” Leydon said. “My goal as a game designer was to create a feeling of what it would be to be a king, where you’d have a lot of people under you. You’d have to subjects, wealth and land.”

Assuming say, the game grows to 1 million players, there might only be 20 kings in the game. To reach that level, players have to woo others to form alliances with them. Within those alliances, there are ranks for different officers.

“This is a very hardcore game. This is not Candy Crush,” he said. “This is a complex system with a lot of potential trees of outcomes. If you’re the type of person that’s fascinated by systems like this, then this is for you.”

Machine Zone used to be known as Addmired, and rebranded last year when it took $8 million in funding from Menlo Ventures. Leydon said this is what the company took the round for, even though its older titles like Original Gangstaz and iMob 2 were pretty lucrative early on.


Healthcare Crowdfunding Platform Watsi Grabs $1.2M From Tencent, Paul Graham, Vinod Khosla, Ron Conway And More

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At TechCrunch Disrupt NYC back in April, former Facebook exec-turned-venture capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya delivered a deflating critique of the tech industry – in particular, the quality of its startups. Had he been issuing a report card, the Tech World would have gotten an “F,” with an extra side of “shame.” His frustration seemed to emanate principally from the fact that “Big Ideas” are few and far between in the industry today. Rather than aiming high, he intoned, entrepreneurs seem content to reach for low-hanging fruit despite the diminishing returns inherent to that approach.

While Big Ideas may not be at all-time high, today’s news brings some assurance that they are still alive and well in the tech industry – and that there’s even capital to support them, for-profit or not. Watsi, a Y Combinator-backed healthcare crowdfunding platform, is tackling one of the biggest: That more than one billion people can’t afford (or don’t have access to) adequate medical services. Even Chamath would likely agree that falls in the “Big Idea” camp.

Today, the non-profit crowdfunding platform announced that it has raised $1.2 million in what is its first round of financing, or “philanthropic seed round,” as the startup is calling it. Granted, if Watsi is setting its sights high, than $1.2 million will only be a drop in the bucket compared to the capital and resources it will need if it truly hopes to make a difference at scale.

A good start, to be sure, especially when considering the impressive roster of names contributing to its first financing, which includes institutional investors, like China’s largest Internet services portal, Tencent, Y Combinator partners – including personal investments from founder Paul Graham and YC Partner Geoff Ralston – along with the “godfather of angel investing” and owner of the most pristine coiffure in the Valley, Ron Conway, Sun Microsystems and Khosla Ventures co-founder, Vinod Khosla, venture philanthropy fund (and Kiva investor), The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and Flixter founder and Rotten Tomatoes CEO, Joe Greenstein – to name a few.

While the list is impressive, it’s not a group of investors one would typically find contributing to a non-profit fundraiser. Watsi founder Chase Adam explains that the reason the company opted for this approach is that the traditional mechanisms for non-profit fundraising sometimes act as a counterproductive force by undermining the social movements they’re trying to support. Instead of devoting themselves to their “Big Idea,” socially-minded entrepreneurs often spend their time entering online voting competitions and hosting banquets to raise money to support their operations.

Instead, Adams hopes that the collection of VC, angel and institutional donations represents a move toward a new future of non-profit fundraising. Granted, Watsi is in the unusual (and fortunate) position to have been the first non-profit startup to be accepted into Y Combinator and to have had the vocal support of Y Combinator’s founder, Paul Graham, who also recently accepted a seat on the startup’s board – the first time he’s done so for a YC incubation.

In reference to this question, Graham suggested to Watsi that they call this raise a “Series N” (non-profit and n=variable).

On the flip side, Adams tells us that he set a three-month deadline for fundraising, deciding to go after industry leaders and big names in the angel and venture world, regardless of whether or not the efforts proved to be successful. By doing so, the Watsi founder hopes that this might help encourage other social businesses to consider forgoing traditional sources of fundraising.

Ben Rattray, the founder and CEO of social action platform Change.org and I recently spoke on this very subject after the socially-minded for-profit company closed its own $15 million round of funding. As a for-profit business, there’s more pressure for Change.org to raise institutional or venture capital.

As a non-profit, Watsi would likely be more attractive to investors, whereas Big Idea-based, for-profit companies have traditionally found it difficult to raise money from these types of investors. However, both Adams and Rattray share similar goals, as the Change.org founder that would enable them to remain independent without having to constantly be looking for a one-time liquidity event.

“These kind of social enterprise businesses are working over the long-term, 15 to 20 year windows, which is beyond the scope of most venture capitalists,” Rattray said at the time. However, he believes that it’s going to change: “I have no doubt this is going to change – that eventually more investors are going to start backing socially-conscious businesses,” Rattray says. And it’s for that very reason that I think the juxtaposition of Watsi and Change.org is worthwhile. Although perhaps idealistic – and, admittedly, Watsi is a non-profit, perhaps the startup’s funding is the first sign that it is, in fact, beginning to change.

Nonetheless, for Watsi, this raise is an important validation of its own ambitious, “Big Idea” goals. Of course, eliminating poverty or fixing global healthcare and covering the uncovered, don’t happen over night and aren’t solved by one person or one founder. That’s why Watsi is leveraging the “many hands” approach of crowdfunding to let anyone contribute to the funding of low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for those in need.

Furthermore, the platform automatically creates profiles for those in search of financial support for treatments or surgeries and makes it easy to make direct donations. Furthermore, these profiles, besides providing critical transparency into how your donation will be used and actually help someone, it also works towards attaching actual, human faces to global poverty – which sounds cheesy but is critical to conditions or problems like this that are so huge that providing real faces, one-by-one, can help discourage, say, just ignoring it and hanging for a lower-hanging fruit.

To further incentivize donations, Watsi offers 100 percent of the donations it collects from the crowd to those in need. Graham also says that the startup is paying “all their operational costs from their own funding, and none from your donations,” and in turn, even stomach credit card processing fees. A noble gesture in its own right.

The startup hosts the profiles of people in need but who can’t afford them, allowing donors to peruse profiles, donate as little as $5
, Watsi hosts profiles of people in dire need of medical care, but who can’t afford it. Donors can browse the profiles and donate as little as $5 to help someone get well. 100% of donations go to the sick, and Watsi funds its operations and even pays credit card processing fees on donations out of its own pocket. We name

ArtCorgi Streamlines The Art Commissioning Process With Its New Marketplace

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All startups have an origin stories of some sort, but for ArtCorgi, it’s both about the beginning of the company and the engagement of its co-founders.

That’s right, it’s a startup run by an engaged team of Malcolm (CEO) and Simone (COO) Collins. You can read Malcolm’s full account of the proposal here, but the gist of it is that he commissioned 21 pieces from 18 artists via online art community deviantART, and then posted them on Reddit. Maybe not the way you would propose, but still, pretty darn amazing. (And most importantly, she said yes.)

Apparently Malcolm (who’s also a grad student at the Stanford Business School) and Simone (formerly director of marketing at HubPages.com) were working on another startup called Gigaverse at the time, but they found that people seemed much more interested in talking about the proposal story and the commissioned art. Malcolm said that as he thought about it, he realized “just how ridiculous” the process was. In fact, he said that he had to contact more than 300 artists to get the final 21 pieces, because so many of those artists were no longer active or said they were too busy.

So with ArtCorgi, they’re aiming to make the process as easy as possible, and they’ve developed the system in consultation with artists. Someone looking for work can upload their portfolio, showcasing different types of art that they’re proficient in, then users can browse the submissions and choose the style that they like – so for example, you could say, “I want a picture of me done in this style.” (What you’re really purchasing on ArtCorgi is the digital art, but if you want a physical copy, it also connects you with printing services.) To deal with the disappearing or inactive artist issue, artists are removed from the system once they don’t do a commission.

Simone said they talked to Justin Cannon, founder of Y Combinator-backed art commissioning startup EveryArt (which appears to have shut down) about some of the challenges that he faced. Apparently the big difficulty was the “attrition rate” during the initial back-and-forth between the artist and potential customer. ArtCorgi tries to avoid that by making it clear what you’re asking for (hence the style-based ordering) and by offering set pricing, so there shouldn’t be any negotiation or surprises.

In fact, the money is held in escrow during the commissioning process, so you know the artist isn’t just going to disappear before they finish their work, and the artist knows that they money is there for them to get paid eventually.

Of course, there can be complications. You might agree on a style and a subject, and then the artist comes back with something that you hate. If that happens, the art gets sent to a five-person panel of other artists in the network. The panel is asked to evaluate whether the piece is, in Simone’s words, “the same style, the same level [of quality], the same subject the artists said they were willing to depict.”

The company isn’t focusing too narrowly on one particular audience, but Simone suggested that one likely customer base is romantic – not just marriage proposals, but also Valentine’s Day cards, wedding invites, that kind of thing.

Beyond the launching the site (which currently has 70 artists, they said), Malcolm and Simone said they want to build an ArtCorgi community, which will probably be important from the business side, because it turns one-time customers into repeat buyers. And in the long-term, Simone said they want to build “a series of boutique marketplaces that leverage a connected backend of freelance suppliers.” In other words, there would be a number of different brands focusing on different types of work, but behind it all would be “a huge network of expertise.”

“We wanted to bring a different idea to freelannce work online,” Simone said – she compared sites like Elance to Costco and Walmart, and she suggested that the ArtCorgi approach will be higher quality (and presumably offer higher payments).

Zuckerberg Calls Snapchat A “Privacy Phenomenon”

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Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook’s innovated by creating a place where people could share what wasn’t shared before, which is also why he thinks Snapchat is important. Today in a low-profile talk at Stanford alongside discussions of the NSA and venture capital’s shortcomings, Zuckerberg said “Snapchat is a super interesting privacy phenomenon.”

Zuckerberg sat down today with Stanford’s President John Hennessy onstage at the school’s Memorial Auditorium for a wide-ranging hour-long chat in front of Stanford students, professors, trustees, and Facebook employees. Here’s a video clip of a more light-hearted anecdote from Zuckerberg about Facebook’s early days that Stanford published.

The NSA And VC

The CEO spoke at length about Facebook’s three new goals after reaching 1 billion users: Connecting the rest of the world to the Internet, understanding the world through an artificial intelligence-powered unified model, and fostering the knowledge economy so more of the world can thrive.

Zuckerberg pointed out how Silicon Valley venture capitalists aren’t necessarily equipped to fund solutions to these problems (emphasis mine):

“You know there’s a great venture capital system here for investing in problems that require maybe like one to ten million dollars to kind of get started solving. But there aren’t really a whole lot of places in the world where you can solve problems that require, say, a billion dollars or three billion dollars of investment up front before you can really make a huge amount of progress on them.

And I think some of these problems are really worth solving like Internet for everyone in the world, or trying to build this unified model and build some kind of early AI, or trying to solve some of these issues around the knowledge economy…and there are only a handful of companies and a handful of governments in the world that are really in a position to make those kind of investments so I want to make sure that we put a lot of our efforts towards doing big things like that.

This means we should expect to see Facebook continuing to pursue programs like Internet.org and its new artificial intelligence initiative. Zuckerberg explained, along the way to solving huge problems, there are often rapid advances in technology – much in the way Bell Labs invented the transistor while trying to make phone signals travel across the country. So while these goals might have no “end” in sight, they may produce intermediary benefits to Facebook’s product and armory of intellectual property.

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As for the impact of NSA relations on the average Facebook user’s willingness to share, Zuckerberg noted “I haven’t seen it in anything that we measure.” However, he said that the United States has been a champion of freedom of speech as the right policy, but that our insistence on surveillance could make the world lose faith in that ideal. Zuckerberg stated:

“The biggest concern that I have is that the NSA revelations knock that down a peg and I think the U.S. loses the moral high ground a bit, which makes it so that other countries which may have different views on how this should work now are more kind of empowered to do things in a way that might kind of balkanize or splinter things a bit more, which I think would be quite unfortunate if the Internet ended up working very differently or there were different rules for connection.”

Snapchat As A New Place To Share

The most fascinating part of the talk was where Zuckerberg said Facebook thinks about privacy much differently than most people expect, hinting that the world believes the company is pretty much against it. After all, the latest Grand Theft Auto video game did parody Facebook by naming its in-world social network “LifeInvader.”

Zuckerberg explained that before Facebook, there was instant messenger for communicating with one other person or a small group, and there were blogs for sharing publicly, but there was nothing in between. Zuckerberg said (emphasis mine):

“There was no privacy infrastructure to communicate with your community or just a set of friends all at once, and because of the lack of that, basically if people wanted to communicate something they had to choose to communicate with a very small audience or communicate it publicly. A lot of times you’re not comfortable communicating it publicly and maybe it’s just not worth communicating it to a small set or that’s not the full potential of what you want to communicate so you just don’t do it, it just gets lost. And that potential idea that could have been shared, or thought, or human connection and kind of option to have more connection and do more on that over time is lost.

So I actually think kind of the fundamental innovation that Facebook brought was creating this space. Right, which is really, it’s a private space that didn’t exist before. That there was no tool to be able to communicate in that space, and by opening that up and enabling people to kind of fill that space we unlocked a huge amount of potential in terms of people being able to communicate ideas and learn about what’s going on around them.”

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Unfortunately, that statement is at odds with a lot of how Facebook actually handles privacy. As far back as 2009 and 2010, Facebook began recommending that existing users share their status updates, photos, and other content publicly. It also began defaulting users to share these types of posts with everyone – something I criticized at the time for putting users at risk, which I still believe. A lot of people don’t change their default settings. And though Facebook shows a privacy indicator every time you’re about to post, many people ignore it and end up sharing more publicly than they’d like to.

More recently, Facebook has also been giving marketers limited access to searching the firehose of public posts, and encouraging users to post more publicly with hashtags, trending topics, embeddable posts, and other Twitter-like features.

Getting people to share publicly gives Facebook better data to improve everything from search to artificial intelligence, which it sees as a positive. But the honorable thing to do would be defaulting people to share with friends, and giving them the choice to share publicly – not vice versa as it does now.

Yet still, Zuckerberg seems to see a little bit of Facebook’s innovation in Snapchat. He continued his discussion of how Facebook created a home for previously unshared content, saying:

I think a lot of the most interesting startups today are actually doing different interesting things like this. Whether they’re messenger companies that are allowing different ways to communicate very quickly with small groups.

I think Snapchat is a super interesting privacy phenomenon because it creates a new kind of space to communicate which makes it so that things that people previously would not have been able to share, you now feel like you have place to do so.

And I think that’s really important and that’s a big kind of innovation that we’re going to keep pushing on and keep trying to do more on and I think a lot of other companies will, too.

So just because Facebook’s attempt at ephemeral messaging Poke failed and its bid to acquire Snapchat was turned down, don’t expect it to bow out of this fight. If there’s sharing that people aren’t doing on Facebook today, you can bet Zuckerberg will try to absorb it somehow.

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Maybe with a more tactful approach to its quest “to make the world more open and connected,” that sharing would already be happening within its walls.

Facebook’s privacy changes and constant prodding to share more widely have generated a fair amount of ill-will. So perhaps Zuckerberg shouldn’t see Snapchat, where you get to specifically choose who to share with every time, as a “privacy phenomenon.”

Maybe if people weren’t worried they were always one wrong privacy setting away from broadcasting to the entire world, they wouldn’t be so desperate for Snapchat.

Additional reporting by Billy Gallagher

[Image Credit: L.A. Cicero via Stanford]

Everpix, The Cloud-Based Photo Startup, Is Shutting Down

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When it comes to photo-oriented web services, for every slam-dunk success like Instagram, there seem to be quite a few Color-esque shutdowns. And today, another photo startup is hitting the deadpool.

Everpix, the San Francisco startup that launched its cloud-oriented photo storage and sharing platform at SF Disrupt in 2011, announced today it is shutting down. Starting now, new sign-ups and subscriptions are not available, and Everpix apps will switch to read-only mode. Operations will cease completely on December 15th, 2013. Everpix says that it will email its users with full details regarding exporting their photos and obtaining refunds.

The company, which had raised $1.8 million from investors including Index Ventures and 500 Startups, has six staff listed on LinkedIn. In a post on Everpix’s official blog today entitled “We Gave It Our All…”, the company said that the shutdown comes as a result of failing to secure more capital or find an aquirer:

“It is with a heavy heart we announce that Everpix will be shutting down in the coming weeks.

…It’s frustrating (to say the least) that we cannot continue to work on Everpix. We were unable to secure sufficient funding in order to properly scale the business, and our endeavors to find a new home for Everpix did not come to pass. At this point, we have no other options but to discontinue the service.”

Casey Newton wrote a great post-mortem of Everpix for The Verge today, which you can read here. I’ve reached out to Everpix’s CEO Pierre-Olivier Latour for additional comment on the shutdown, and will update this post with any response.

Everpix really had created a beautiful app – you can see a demo of one of the most recent versions in this video interview from this past March – but it seems it just wasn’t enough to keep things alive. Kudos to the Everpix team for being honest about its shutdown story and the difficulties the company faced in its final days.

Amidst Obamacare’s Marketplace Madness, The YEC Wants To Help Startups Take The Hassle Out Of Health Insurance

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Amid partisan shenanigans, a government shutdown and much squabbling, The White House launched a new website today that will eventually allow Americans to compare the price of health insurance plans – which is now mandatory under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. While the exchange, or the Insurance Marketplace as it’s being called, did in fact go live this morning, it’s been having a rough day, thanks to technical issues and an onslaught of heavy traffic.

Today has been a showcase of how challenging it will be to bring coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, reiterating many of the concerns that entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses across the country have had in anticipation of Obamacare going into effect in January. In response, one organization is taking steps to help startups navigate these new premiums, exchanges, compliance issues – and the change health insurance landscape as a whole – with the launch of StartupInsurance, a portal where startups can go to buy health insurance and other policies.

The new resource is a product of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization of entrepreneurs that aims to provide small businesses with the resources, mentorship and tools they need to thrive – and counts executives or co-founders of startups like ReTargeter, Yodle, Disqus, Klout, Hipmunk, Rent The Runway, Hootsuite and Indiegogo, to name a few, as members.

The organization has been developing its new portal over the last year in the hopes of providing a resource and “insurance destination,” says YEC founder Scott Gerber, which will contain a curated collective of providers and affordable insurance plans from around the country. The goal, he explains, is to provide startups, business owners and all those likely to transition into self-employment as a result of being able to purchase health insurance, with direct access to affordable plans that are compliant with Obamacare. Minus the confusion and time sink, of course.

Thanks to the direct carrier partnerships the YEC has been able to strike, StartupInsurance will give entrepreneurs access to “one of the largest medical footprints in the U.S.,” with insurance options available in nearly every state.

“In speaking to thousands of entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners over the years, we have learned what is important to them, what’s working for them-and most importantly, what isn’t,” Gerber says. “And this direct feedback has guided our thinking in creating StartupInsurance – it’s meant to be a destination created by the people it aims to serve.”

The idea, according to Gerber, is that the YEC has done the homework for startups so that they don’t have to worry about spending the time, energy and resources it usually takes to assemble these packages and navigate the new exchanges.

When asked what the plans will cost when the portal officially goes live with Obamacare in January, what kind of coverage will be offered and so on, Gerber said that he isn’t able to discuss the details yet for legal reasons – in other words, because he is not a broker himself. However, we do know that, like Kayak and other metasearch engines have done for years in travel, The YEC will be paid referral fees every time it sends a customer to one of its insurance partners and, while other carriers will no doubt enter the fold over time, as of now, the portal’s chief insurance carrier is Assurant Health.

In conversation with the New York Times, however, a spokeswoman for Assurant said that the plans “were the same plans Assurant already offered,” which is certainly a good deal for the insurance carrier, but doesn’t necessarily seem like it will guarantee startups access to the most affordable plan.

Other questions remain as well, particularly around what will differentiate StartupInsurance.com from the two additional portals YEC is launching, SmallBusinessInsurance.com and FreelancerHealthcare.com, other than the fact that they will be serving their own particular verticals. However, the YEC founder did point out that the freelancer portal will not be offering group coverage and that differences between the three will be come clearer overtime, as the organization incorporates feedback from startups and entrepreneurs and preps for January.

While some of the plans that the portals will be offering will not, in fact, comply with Obamacare’s provisions for minimum value – meaning that they’d have to pay the penalty of the individual mandate – Gerber said that, after speaking to thousands of business owners, the YEC found that a portion of entrepreneurs would be willing to pay a tax penalty in order to receive more affordable coverage. The portal, he continues, will offer an array of Obamacare-compliant plans, but that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for startups. Instead, some will prefer to incur the tax penalty in exchange for accessing its lower premiums – as well as a destination that could be decidedly less noisy.

The YEC founder rightly points out that, today, many insurance providers are moving away from offering individual or small group coverage, because, put simply, the new regulations will make it difficult for brokers to make money off of these types of customers – and plans. It’s a fact that has led companies like Zenefits – which helps startups set up and manage group health coverage, payroll and other benefits by automating the process in the cloud – to believe that there’s opportunity in this space. Or, said another way, there’s a gulf that’s growing as insurance brokers move away from small group coverage, and someone has to meet the demand.

It’s likely that, rather than compete, the two will likely be able to help each other meet the growing demand among small businesses that are looking to comply with Obamacare and get their employees covered. The YEC’s portals still have some time before Obamacare goes into effect in January, and it will need to be able to distinguish its three portals from each other, and make clear the benefits of each.

Startups and entrepreneurs themselves will need to decide whether the inexpensive, affordable option is what they want, or whether costlier, fuller coverage is a better way to go in the long run. But, either way, for startups, the more options and the less headache they have to wade through, the better.

After all, as Gerber says, “we want to stay away from all this partisan nonsense … in the end, healthcare is a personal decision, and one startups and entrepreneurs need to make for themselves.”

Readers can find more of our coverage on the launch of the White House’s health insurance exchanges here or find StartupInsurance at home here.

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