Secret Sauce #GrowthHacking book – the review of a preview

I recently got my hands on the free chapter of the Secret Sauce Growth Hacking guide. You can get it too here – secretsaucenow.com. In a nutshell, it’s a 14 pages walkthrough on how to get free press, whether you’re a startup or a more established company, but struggling to get your foot in the door with the media reps & journalists.

The chapter is well written and uses good examples and step-by-step sections where one can easily take the learning and apply it right away. Hell, I’m going to try it next week to see what happens, how fast I can get those couple of dozen media articles. I even have the right campaign in mind to do it. I bet you have one of those ideas, too, right now. But like me, you may be lacking the tools or the knowledge about the order or the approach which you need to take on to get noticed and published.

Even with my 10 years of digital marketing, growth hacking and PR experience in corporate, startup and agency environment, I was impressed with the big promise it starts with – the 1000s of journalists you can reach out to in a scalable way without risking to be a robot.

What you need to do to achieve this is to build that list of 1000s of websites (pay attention here, it’s websites, not contacts). Use the Chrome Scraper add-on for speed – it gets you directories. Cool, right? Ok, then once you have the list, then go to Buzzstream.com and push that list to get the contact details (magic!) and you are only left with the email and press kit to put together. Then you start mailing and replying to the ones interested.

Download the free chapter to find out exactly how to pitch and what to include in the press kit and please come back and tell me if it was worth your time.

Featured image source

Did Azimo follow the copyright rules in this blog post?

Later edit: No, they did not follow the rules, see the Twitter replies.

Today I stumbled upon this article on one of our competitor’s blogs. Azimo tries to capture more Romanian market share with 6 images that capture the country’s beauty. Ok, that’s a great thing, I’m Romanian and I love it when someone talks highly of my homeland.

The problem is that I’m not sure if they actually asked permission to use those photos they embedded via Twitter. The rules of online copyright say that if you use images for commercial purposes (as they clearly do), you must purchase/transfer the rights in some form from the user before posting the images online.

If the images are marked as Creative Commons, then you must showcase the license and type of rights the image holder has granted.

If a company / consultant does neither and they use those images on a commercially beneficial property, like a company blog, they are in breach of copyright laws. It’s 2016 and these rules have been around for some time so you’d expect every company that’s out there to know before they click publish.

So @HistoryTime_, @cliveyquack, @Itasha75, @sysgenic, @swedeninromania (instagram), @ancientorigins, did you give Azimo the right to use your images on their blog?

I wouldn’t want to hear an answer that’s not Yes in this case. Here’s a 5 year old article to back up my claims.

p.s. see the featured image to find out how to search for commercially usable images online with Google Search

TransferGo

I have an announcement to make. Starting this week, I joined the London team of the international fintech startup TransferGo as the Romanian Country Manager.

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TransferGo is a London-based (Level39) fintech startup founded by migrant entrepreneurs, which has transformed lives of tens of thousands of migrants in the UK. In only two years TransferGo has grown their customer base to over 73,000 users and has quickly become the leading international money transfer service for CEE migrants, enabling them to make transfers across 33 countries within Europe with same-day settlement for only 99p.

I’m very excited to pursue extraordinary challenge, because it allows me to combine the two fields I’m most passionate about: management and business development on the one hand, and the advantages provided by digital solutions on the other, in an industry that is changing the rules on the international financial markets for the good.

With this link, the first money transfer is free of charge, so why not join?

The tables have turned: VC Pitches @ Money Talks #IFweek

Big turnout today at the Innovate Finance event at Level39, where entrepreneurs, FinTech enthusiasts, interested parties have come to see who and why is channeling money into finance innovation projects.

Of all the intros, I found Gerard Grech’s (Tech City UK) to be the most noteworthy, with him presenting the UK VC funding landscape: 20x increase since 2010, high growth segment on AIM.LSE, 42% of EU unicorns are in the UK, two 500 million + exits – Deepmind, Naturalmotion Games – to Google & Zynga. And that the Future Fifty program raised 22 rounds and 675 million in 16 months. Pretty impressive achievements given its relative short lifespan.

5 minute VC pitches

After the intro sessions, we moved on to the 5 minute pitch sessions by VC representatives, which was sort of a ‘turn the tables on the investors’ endeavor. The organizers made it very difficult for them by keeping a strict time check with personalized (and somewhat ridiculous) music that was turned on at the end of each pitch. Many entrepreneurs who participated in pitch events were happy to see their judges going through the same things as they did. Long story short, here’s a summary of what I deemed worthy of mentioning from each of the pitches:

Zach Tan at InfoComm (State-run Singapore initiative)

  • He’s here to promote the opportunities in SE Asia – middle class (consumer class) growth and wealth expansion
  • They are privatizing former public sector legacy service and infrastructure providers & expanding the e-commerce sector
  • UK has a natural mind-set advantage in SE Asia, thinking beyond the homeland
  • “American companies are like aircraft carriers, EU start-ups are like speedboats”, the waters may not be suitable for the first ones

Nicolas Sharp at Passion Capital (early stage tech VC)

  • Announced a 45 million fund, strategy similar with the first fund – small seed investments (invested 124 million in 42 companies at a valuation of over 400 million)
  • Invested in 10 companies last year out of 3000 they see
  • They claim to treat people really well and want to help
  • All numbers are public, the term sheet is one page plain English and used in 5 MBA classes

Michael Treskow at Accel Partners

  • 300+ investments, 30+ years’ experience
  • Invested all over the world (25 countries)
  • They focus on increasing the percentage of NON-US companies in the fin-tech sector

Mariano Belinky at Santander InnoVentures

  • They released a Fintech 2.0 paper with some key trends:
    • Smart data
    • Friction-less processes
    • Internet of Things in banking
    • Distributed Ledger (blockchain)
  • Entrepreneurs shouldn’t struggle with compliance and ma banking quirks
  • Santander’s OpenBank – .8 million customers, 5.5 billion in balance

Rob Moffat at Balderton Capital

  • YOOX and Betfair IPOs
  • European focused VC
  • Former Goldman Sachs and Google employees, a couple of entrepreneurs
  • Invested 4 million in Crowdcube

After all the pitches were over, we witnessed a feedback committee Q&A, withBill Simmons at Crowdcube – CFO, Nezahat Gultekin at Atlantic Bridge Capital (Senior adviser), Russ Shaw at Tech London Advocates (Founder), Louise Beaumont at GLI Finance (PA and Marketing), Alain Falys at Yoyo Wallet (Founder). This was a bit less structured and the VCs received further grilling from the Q&A guests. Again, I captured what I deemed worthy to remember.

  • VCs don’t see themselves as in competition, but in collaboration especially at early stage – seed / series A. More competition can be found at series B or larger rounds, when your graph goes hockey stick.
  • The entrepreneur needs to do the work, the VC needs to be the part time psychologist, mentor and financial stake provider, you want to partner with someone that has been in your field
  • The Chairperson that manages board relationships is crucial so that entrepreneurs can work together with investors
  • Risk & how VCs manage it: is this team right for now, 1 year time and 5 years’ time, cofounders and why they have chosen them, credibility of the founders
  • Metrics are crucial for Series B, preIPO stage
  • Check for the first questions that VCs ask, check for the personality fit, investment strategy, follow-up rounds, business understanding
  • Entrepreneurs need to ask more questions, grill the VCs more
  • Don’t build growth on high CPAs, but on technology investment focus and competitive CPAs to drive growth

Last but not least, what is an industry event without some predictions? Here’s a take at the opportunity in FinTech from the VC representatives:

  • Asia – payment, block chain
  • “Plumbing” – SaaS, IaaS – allow other companies to build on what you build
  • Frictionless data, IoT banking, Smart data (yes, that’s Santander)
  • Selling to financial institutions themselves
  • Insurance

The Extra Dish on Wall-Street.ro: Delicious business in the UK: A Unicorn start-up for food lovers

Needless to say how happy I am that The Extra Dish has had such amazing feedback and is now featured on one of the biggest news & business websites in my home country. I’ve translated the article below and plan to make it the first of many. Thanks Wall-Street.ro & Alex Goaga for letting me put it up here, too!

Titus, 27, is at his fourth attempt in the world of startups. This time, along with two other partners, he chose a field full of flavor – a platform that connects people who cook at home dishes that are more more or less conventional and those who want to order home-cooked meals. The network is called TheExtraDish.com.

Meet the founders of The Extra Dish

The Extra Dish founders, Kate Wolfenden, Roberto Lucci and Titus Capilnean met in the Executive MBA program at the Hult International Business School where they worked together on several projects. After graduating, they kept a close relationship and the three are now working together for The Extra Dish.

Kate, 34, spent the past few years in the charitable sector and in the past had a business that combines pubs and street festivals in London. Kate is now working on WWF and will serve as a Non-executive Director for The Extra Dish.

Roberto Lucci, 46, is the one who came up with the idea in the first place. He helped build a tourism business focused on luxury villas, business that has achieved multi-million turnover and where he is now working to automate the processes using digital tools.

Titus, 27, has worked in the online industry in Romania from 2008 to 2014 on NGO campaigns, in agencies and in the corporate sector, when he decided to move to London. It’s the 4th attempt in the world of startups, having tried to build two agencies and a foursquare for websites on which he worked in various stages and in different positions.

The team is now expanding with Alex Nicolaica, who recently moved to London and will bring his expertise in marketing and digital built in the IT&C & FMCG sectors, and Aishlyn Angill, a Londoner who loves meeting new people and is excited by the big challenges behind such a business like The Extra Dish, where she can put her amazing sales skills to good use. Alex takes care of marketing strategy and Aishlyin of the operations and relationships with the home cooks.

Why The Extra Dish?

In Romania, such a platform would be a niche of a niche, as it would cover a still very small, only emerging market. However, only in the UK, convenience and take-out food markets exceeded 60 billion pounds in 2014. This includes all fast-food delivery, restaurant delivery services and convenience food sales in stores like Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s.

“Roberto, a lover of good food tired of restaurants or traditional takeout, came up with the idea when he tried to order something from a local cook. He couldn’t find a solution to solve the problem and knowing that there are other people with the same needs, started working on the project with me and Kate, “says Titus.

The first iteration of the idea consisted of a Business Model Canvas, a few platform specifications & user journeys, a business plan and lots of enthusiasm. These were validated at Startcelerate London, Seedcamp Office Hours in Paris and LCIF London and also helped to attract about 50 people potential cooks who love doing this at home and to whom they will facilitate the connection with “foodies” in London.

The Extra Dish Startcelerate Pitch

“Looking ahead, our vision is that everyone who is a talented home cook should be able to use their talent through The Extra Dish. That translates into global infrastructure (directly or through partners) and a brand at least the size of Airbnb and Uber”, said Titus Capilnean.

What is the business model?

“The business model is simple and transparent – we create a link between people who cook at home and those who want to order home-cooked meals and we charge a percentage for brokering the deal (the order will have a set minimum value adding the delivery fees on top). We try to close the circle when it comes to take-out, as we have learned from all other food startups that we have studied while defining the concept of The Extra Dish. Our ambition is to create an ecosystem that will connect people passionate about cooking with those who want to order food cooked with love and care, and that means we need to cover all stages of the transaction – presentation, packaging, transportation, payment, so the only concern of the cooks is what to cook next and for those who order to benefit from an experience at least as good as ordering from a restaurant delivery service“ notes the young Romanian.

Currently, the team have been in touch with dozens of home cooks who have shown interest in being included in the platform and estimate that in the next 12 months, they will have about 500 active home cooks.

“From the marketing point of view, we are looking at a two sided approach, with the cooks group being our beachhead. The tactics and channels are somewhat different then for the foodies. For the home cooks we use recruitment events and cooking groups, cooking schools and generally we are targeting the information providers and learning platforms that they visit, like forums and cooking magazines. The initial focus will be on the cooking schools, as there we have the security of having a qualified audience of willing and skilled home cooks or future chefs.”

The other side of the market is that of users who want to order home-cooked food. Here we’re talking about standard channels: performance marketing, social networks, cooking blogs, but beyond acquisition campaigns, the entrepreneurs will work on retention and loyalty campaigns for users. They will also leverage platform usage data and personal preferences to generate the best recommendations.

Looking for investors

For the last few months months the three have been working at both the testing and modelling concept and presentations, pitches and individual meetings and are in discussions with a number of investors. “We want to enter in a partnership with one or more investors who understand the business and want to contribute actively to the its development, bringing on board their experience, network and ideas, not just the money. We’re a super strong team, enthusiastic and full of energy and will put all our “brain power” to good use to achieve fantastic results!“, says Titus.

They aim to fully launch platform in the coming months, with own resources and use the capital injection to ensure a consistent impact and strong growth. “In the coming weeks we are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign where we would love to see contributions from everyone who believes in our vision and ability to go global. Of course, if wall-street.ro readers (or my blog readers for that matter) are interested in our business, we are open to any investment proposal (just say hello (at) theextradish.com) “.

For the first 18 months, the focus is on the London market, given that the main goal is to become sustainable before the next step into new markets. Most of the team is already there, the market is very large and very dynamic. “We want to cover about 50% of the London until next year and then to replicate the model and learning onto other markets. We’re looking at the US, especially the west coast, but the list includes 2-3 cities in Europe, too “.

(…)

The initial investment

So far, the founders have invested some thousand pounds in project and expected that they will continue to fuel it’s setup, “but our time was the main resource to date and consisted of tens of hours per week invested in documents, meetings and presentations. So the 6 months of dedication would amount to a total of £60-70,000” according to their own estimations.

“But back to the discussion about investment, we need at least £50,000 to launch and then a total of £600,000 pounds during the first 12 months to be sure that we can scale the business at the desired pace” set out by the “blue sky” scenario. The recovery time of such an investment is about 3 years.”

“In the world of startups, we would call our company a Unicorn, which requires a bigger initial investment, as it’s profitable only at volume. Investments in this type of companies support the fixed costs and the expansion, but when the business becomes profitable, the results are usually extraordinary. The other type is the Pony, meaning that the company produces enough income from the beginning and the only cash it needs is that which it helps it to grow faster, but the growth & gain rate is not as staggering. The Pony is a more common type of tech startups, easier to launch, but usually they don’t scale as much as a Unicorn,” concluded Titus Capilnean.

An extra dish of lokshen kugel

e39f24718bd53bddf7383cbd5f7840b9I moved out of my home country this year and I had previously left home for college 7 years ago, so home cooking was something I used to get just on public holidays, when I would travel home and my mum would cook for me. But somehow, with all these years past, I still longed for a piece of lokshen kugel (sweet noodle pudding for those who don’t know what I’m talking about).

I couldn’t find it anywhere in Bucharest, where I had lived prior to coming to London, and even here you could only get it in certain Israeli restaurants, but never as good as my grandma used to make it. You know what I am talking about, we all have our lokshen kugel even if yours is called differently. It’s that dish that your elders used to cook for you with everything in the right place, perfectly cooked and with that extra sprinkle of home cooking to make it taste right. No restaurant or takeaway or convenience dish can match that. It’s just something you have to make in your own home.

The why

This September, myself and two great friends decided to work together towards something that we think could revolutionize the way we order take-out food. We call it The Extra Dish.Just a few months later and we are ready to tell the world about it; and this is where we need your help. We know you have a great community of passionate home cooks and we’re sure that some of them are based in London and would surely benefit from our project.

So what is The Extra Dish?

It’s a food sharing platform. But instead of connecting restaurants, professional chefs or takeaways, we connect hungry commuters with talented home cooks in their neighborhood. Imagine getting an amazing Brazilian stew from the woman that knows it best, or maybe that secret-recipe curry or proper Yorkshire roast dinner like you remember your mum making back home. That’s the food we will be sharing — The food restaurants just can’t do. Now, what if we had all of that and we promised that every meal bought on the platform also bought an emergency meal for someone, somewhere else in the world that needs it most?

Scouting for talented home-cooks

Right now we are on the scout for talented home cooks that would want to make a bit of extra income from home by doing what they love the most — cooking! All they would need to do is make the food and we would take care of the rest — even the delivery! Plus ordering, advertising and money transfer is all handled safely and securely online (soon enough, we’re still in pre-launch phase). So the cook earns the money and the food-lover gets fed a great home-cooked meal. This is why we would very much appreciate your thoughts on The Extra Dish and, if you really like it and want to empower talented home cooking, we’re recruiting in London, Zones 1 or 2 for our initial launch.

Startcelerate London – test your startup in a 2 day marathon

Last week I was talking to some of my Romanian friends in the UK and one of them introduced me to Startcelerate London, a pitch & match event that will take place at Level39 (great Canary Wharf co-working space) in the October 31 – November 1st weekend.

I said it before on my blog, Romania is one of the rising stars in tech thanks to high quality programmers, a still emerging market in terms of costs and very high Internet speeds. Thus, Romanians have decided to come to London and provide great programming and product development services to 20 eligible startups.

20 startups and up to 10 tech companies to pitch one another, get essential insights from renowned industry specialists and engage in a close matching process out of which investment partnerships can result. It’s not about money investments, but about direct investments of tech resources from strong established software companies into promising startups in exchange for equity.

How to participate as a STARTUP?
A technology partner can be the essential element in developing your startup, allowing you to build or scale your technology and team. Apply here be one of the 20 selected startups for pitching in front of 10 strong tech companies and get a resource investment from one of them. If your project is selected you will have to buy a ticket for the event in order to finally confirm your presence for the event. You will receive a link with the ticket information in the confirmation email.

Who are the sponsors (direct resource investment, remember?)

investors pitch

As this was not reason enough, the organizers have prepared a list of speakers to share their knowledge and inspire the participants into building the best products ever. They are:

John Spindler, Enterprise Capital
John Spindler is the CEO of Capital Enterprise and Founder of Capital List. John has several years of experience with early stage businesses both as a founder, investor and an advisor. The last few years he has focused on supporting startups in the investment process and has successfully helped startups raise finance through introductions to accelerators, angels and venture capital. John is an invaluable resource for startups looking for advice in the investment process.

Thilo Schneider, Pinset Masons
Thilo is a corporate lawyer with Pinsent Masons LLP, an international law firm specialising in the technology sector (www.pinsentmasons.com). Thilo is head of the firm’s Bootlaw (www.bootlaw.com) initiative which runs monthly events aimed at tech start-ups and his firm regularly advises emerging tech companies and their investors on corporate, IP and other legal issues.

Jaspar Roos, Future Ideas
Jaspar is a renowned authority in the field of innovation. Jaspar has been the Chief Inspiration Officer for ABN AMRO Bank for many years. Managing the innovation and venturing lab Dialogues Incubator, Jaspar has been one of the pioneers in themes as wearable technology and crowdfunding. Currently, he is entrepreneur, writer and inspirer. His main outlets are www.futureideas.eu, www.chiefhumorofficer.com, www.ventur.es and XL Family. He loves life.

Bill Morrow, Angel’s Den
Bill is CEO & Co-Founder of Angels Den, Europe and Asia’s largest angel network with an established equity crowdfunding platform. Since founding Angels Den in 2007, he has changed the rules on angel investing and led the way in making investment truly accessible to great businesses.Bill has run businesses in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Russia and Dubai. He is a popular keynote speaker who inspires his audiences with his open approach and determination to promote angel investing and crowdfunding and make business finance more accessible for all.

Josh Krysiak, Citinite
Founder of Citinite, a digital marketing startup for the nightlife sector. While completing a Law degree at UCL and the University of Hong Kong, Josh gained extensive experience in the entertainment industry, from managing stages at festivals to organising, promoting and playing at events on multiple continents. Building on this expertise, he spearheaded the development of the Citinite platform in order to fill the gap in the market for a comprehensive and targeted promotion solution.

Update #1:

Two Pitch & Match events were held already in Romania, Cluj and Bucharest, both validating the event structure, the internal team efficiency and the need for this kind of alternative founding of the market. Specific to Startcelerate’s investment process is a bespoke convertible security that simplifies the negotiation, prevents premature valuation, and covers specific risks.

Update #2:

They’ve added new sponsors and partners for the event and prolonged the application deadline until the 26th of October.

UCL Advances(the entrepreneurial wing of UCL), Level39 (the Tech Accelerator in Canary Wharf), London & Partners (representing the Mayor of London and TechCity), Pinset Masons, Thomas Eggar LLT, F6s (the biggest network of startups and investors in the world) or DotForge (a strong accelerator specialized in tech and social).

Last but not least, some useful links about Startcelerate:

Video of Startcelerate concept
Video with highlights of Bucharest event

The Pitch&Match London Event Overview presentation
The Startcelerate Concept presentation
The Executive Summary & Sponsorship packs presentation

How to use moral psychology to grow a community around your startup

A few weeks ago, Gus Ferguson sent out an email with a call for workshops for the Digital Growth Day (18th of September) at Google Campus London. On any other occasion, I would have gone forward with a regular topic like: “How to leverage social media to attract customers”, “Increase your digital footprint and generate awareness, responses and sales”, “Turn your likes, shares, tweets into real paying customers” and so on.

But no.

This time I had just finished reading The Righteous Mind, a book by Jonathan Haidt, where he uses moral psychology to show how politicians can become more appealing to their constituents, but at the same time lays the ground for an interesting paradigm that can be used in consumer marketing (both for corporations and startups). That’s how I ended up emailing the topic of:

How moral psychology and digital marketing can accelerate your customer acquisition – a talk about messaging and leveraging the inner moral structures to strengthen and grow the community around a start-up

Digital-Growth-Day-Agenda-banner

I’m not going to spoil the workshop itself by revealing it on my blog, but I can tell you this. If you subscribe here (it’s FREE) and be selected as one of the 12 participants, you’ll get to see me:

  • talk about myself for a bit 🙂
  •  giving you a test on the moral foundations
  • talking about ideology and creating groups around your startups and products
  • focusing more on community and on the outside than on the founder(s) and team(s)
  • showcasing some of the more successful messages and decode their moral substance

All that and a bag of M&Ms for the most relevant contribution of them all. So join me next Thursday, looking forward to it.

Update:

And here’s the presentation that I used to make my point:

Digital emotions processing & a new start-up program by Paypal

We struggle to better ourselves, to understand more how emotions, personality traits and other characteristics influence the way we shop, do business and interact. It’s not only useful to better understand our own reactions, but also for companies that rely on predicting a positive or negative behavior based on past experiences, likes, dislikes and attitudes towards certain events or political doctrines.

Some go to the extent to which they manipulate what their users see, as Facebook did in January 2012 (paywall), while others have other, less intrusive approaches. The less intrusive approach is, of course, much preferred and it can rule out any government investigations, as in the case of Facebook, due to consent issues. But let’s go back to the three examples that I’ve seen at the Minibar Meetup last week.

Digital emotions processing

It’s somehow ironic how a lifeless, emotionless computer can be taught to read and process our emotions. Some may argue that this is the sure path to androids and to robots taking over the world, manipulating our thoughts and forcing us to make decisions in their favor. I have a less apocalyptic view of the fact and these three companies, their business models and their customers confirm my judgement.

So there’s VisualDNA, who combines psychological testing with big data analysis. For ordinary people, this means that they help them understand themselves better. For businesses, they contribute to a better understanding of customer behavior. Their main revenue stream comes from selling data and, what I found to be the most interesting, a new way of calculating credit risk by examining the psychological profile. Mastercard has already paid for this product and they made no effort to hide that in their presentation.

And there’s Position Dial, a site that helps you explore where you stand on the issues you care about – and matches you with politicians and brands who act in line with your position. They also show you the different sides of every story: left, right and beyond, to help you make your own mind up fast. They have no revenue stream right now, but seem to be built on social stereotypes and labels and might be useful for political & social awareness campaigns. Their presentation was rather dull, but the product is interesting if you give it a second thought.

The last ones were the worst, if you take just their presentation into consideration. Crowd Emotion was the most interesting product showcased that evening. They use video technology to detect emotions via the facial expression captured from people all over the world. This can be culturally challenging, but they are expanding the comparison base to make the software even more accurate. They make money by selling video hours processed by their platform and have a huge applicability potential in customer service, interactive POS advertising, customer satisfaction, but also in clinical conditions – psychologist and psychiatrists can better analyze patient data and share results with their peers.

The world will become more creepily predictable once these type of businesses become the norm in advertising, market research, healthcare and so on.

Paypal’s new startup program

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They were the sponsors of the entire Minibar Meetup, so they held their presentation first. The Blueprint Program that they have in place for startups can mainly be accessed through accelerators, but they also allow direct applications for select companies. You would think that just by providing free transactions up to 50k would be enough, but no. They went a step further and added customer service support and mentoring with their development teams as an extra benefit to the entire scheme.

So if you think your startup might benefit from it, here are the eligibility criteria:

  • IT&C company with a focus of e/m-offline-commerce
  • privately held
  • have a Paypal account and have not breached ToS
  • you have not applied before