Ryan Junee is a tech-startup CEO based in San Francisco. Billabout caught up with him in his cityscape apartment to talk tech and get the scoop on life in Silicon Valley.
Where are you from Ryan, and how did you make the move across to San Fran?
I’m originally from Sydney where I studied engineering and commerce at Sydney Uni. I moved over here in 2003 to go to grad school at Stanford for electrical engineering.
What made you stay on in the west coast?
The energy of the place and the environment is great.
Can you talk us through being an entrepreneur in the silicon valley start up world?
My first company called Omnisio was a video editing site that ended up being bought by Google in 2008. When we were bought, I worked for them for a year and I left at the end of 2009. I pretty much spent 2010 thinking about what I wanted to do next. It’s a lot easier to have credibility with investors, get introductions and raise money for the second company when you tell them “Yeah I did this before, I sold a company to Google.”
What’s Google? What happened next?
At the end of 2010 I started this new company Inporia – its focus is on fashion technology helping people to discover and buy fashion online. We’re focusing on a mobile app called Kaleidoscope that’s all about discovering fashion. You stream aggregated images from fashion blogs or around the web and we have an editorial team that curates them. You can “Shop The Look” and find different price points in recreating a particular look.
How does the business side of it work?
If someone buys something, then we get a small commission on that sale. We just did a collaboration with Details Magazine for Coachella fashion coverage and we were written up in LA Times and The Wall Street Journal. We have an embeddable version of the app which Details embedded on their site, AOL embedded it on their fashion blog during Paris Fashion Week when we did a promotion with them, and then another fashion site embedded it for NYFW, so we’ve been doing these partnerships around events, and that’s been working. The brands all realize that bloggers have so much influence now, which is why we’re focusing on pulling in images from fashion bloggers.
How popular is it?
We saw 400-500 downloads a day in the first week that it was out – which is pretty good. As of last month, we’re at around 10k downloads. We also recently launched a web-based version, so we’re getting a bunch of people using it on the web each day now. We’re going to start adding more features to let you share with your friends via social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. Our focus over the next few months is 100% on getting new users.
Are there many Australians involved in Silicon Valley?
There’s been a lot of press in Australia about the technology boom and Aussies moving out to San Francisco – there’s a fairly large community now.
What’s the appeal?
The startup community in the valley is the best in the world. You’ve got everyone from entrepreneurs, VCs, lawyers, and PR firms that specialise in startups. You go to any coffee shop in the Valley or Palo Alto and there will be ten people on their laptops coding away or pitching their idea. There’s a culture of everyone wanting to help each other and pay it forward helping the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Why do big tech companies often buy startups really quickly?
There’s a lot of startups raising a lot of money so everyone’s trying to hire engineers, which means right now it’s basically impossible to hire engineers in the Valley and even in New York. Even the big tech companies like Google and Facebook are trying to hire and they’re paying ridiculous salaries. The big companies figured out the best way to get talent is to find an early startup with a good team that have proven they can work together successfully and buy early to bring them into that big company; that’s why a lot of these early acquisitions happen these days. I think the goal is always to try to build a company and grow it into something big.
What’s the deal with Instagram’s quick success?
The Instagram success story is extremely rare, like the company is less than two years old and to go from zero to a billion dollars in cash or Facebook stock or whatever they’ve got, in less than two years that hardly ever happens. It was a tiny company of 12 people or something, so they’ve done pretty well for themselves; it’s grown like crazy, tons of users, but not making any money. Facebook sees that there’s value in owning these users, because photo sharing is one of the most common things that you do on their site and they’re starting to realise mobile is where the future is, but Facebook’s mobile app is not amazing. Instagram was dangerous to Facebook because they were starting to own photosharing on mobile.
Who are three young Aussie tech people/companies on your radar?
Flight Fox – Lauren McLeod, Todd Sullivan
99 Dresses – Nikki Durkin
Switchcam – Brett Welch, Chris Hartley
There are a ton of others, and some bigger ones like 99designs etc.
3 of your favorite restaurants in the bay area?
There are so many… I like Gitane and Absinthe in SF. The French Laundry up in Yountville is of course an amazing experience, but I’ve only been there once and dropped over $1k for two people.
What are your favorite coffee spots in the Bay Area?
Not a big coffee drinker honestly. I like Epicenter Cafe in San Francisco and Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto because they are always full of entrepreneurs cranking away on their laptops or pitching VCs. Usually a good place to meet people.
Most likely cafe to run into Mark Zuckerberg?
Well he lives in Palo Alto, so I guess any of the restaurants and cafes along University Avenue or California Avenue. I’ve heard he hangs out at The Creamery (an old 50’s style diner in Palo Alto which is a bit of an icon, and Facebook’s old office used to be across the road)
By Pete Maiden