Archive for June, 2006

Thinking of Adding to Your Team?

It is obvious that as companies grow, they need to find qualified candidates to fill openings. One thing is seems to be changing radically is how to look. One traditional mechanism, newspaper classifieds, are being turned upside down by Internet classifieds as described on the CBS Evening News earlier this evening. In their story, it’s not even close.

When the owner of a San Francisco coffee house and Laundromat (the concept should be a story in its own right) posted an add in the San Francisco Chronicle and another online with Craigslist, the results were dramatic, 4 responses from the Chronicle ad and 400 from Craigslist. That’s a 100X difference in response rate. I wouldn’t even want to begin the calculation on ROI since the Craigslist post was free!

So, there are alternatives and, if you are looking to hire, the best tool for the candidate search might just be the free one.

The Beerbelly, A Great Story!

During lunch yesterday at the WOMMA conference, we met Brooks Lambert, CEO of Under Development, Inc. With a company name like that, you just have to ask about it. He has a great story about how significant buzz can be created around a product through word of mouth.

He and a couple of friends decided to create a personal, portable beverage system that would allow one to surreptitiously bring a beverage into a public arena. This sounds to stuffy, they wanted to sneak their own beer into a baseball or football game where this is frowned on. After all, on average, beer is 12X more expensive than regular gasoline and we know how we all fell about that.

So, Brooks and his team created "The Beerbelly", and after a few refinements, had a product ready to launch. They put up a web site with a shopping cart and were ready for orders. They had decided that they weren't going to spends a lot on marketing and advertising. After all, they had a product that people should want to talk about if they could get the ball, or belly, rolling.

For some reason, that was made clear, they decided to send the product to Gizmodo, the tech gadget Bloggers, and asked them if they ever talked about stuff like this? As you can see from the link, they do and did talk about it.

Now here is the power of Word of Mouth, Gizmodo has a pretty significant following and this one, 160 word post, generated two million, that's 2 MILLION, hits on the Beerbelly site and resulted in thousands of sales. Not to mention a lot of notoriety and media interviews.

You just have to love it! They could have spent thousands and thousands of dollars over an extended period of time and not gotten anywhere near the buzz they created for about $.0. And people still ask if Word of Mouth Marketing can really work?

I can't wait to see what the nect product will be!

WOMMA Keynote by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

I have spent the last few days at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) conference in San Francisco. Over the next few days I will put up some posts to cover some learnings that I have picked up especially since many early stage companies can really benefit from the new techniques that are being used most of which require fewer dollars than traditional marketing programs.

But first, I had a great opportunity to see the keynote this morning by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel talking about the things they learned while writing their best seller "Naked Conversations". If you at all follow the Tech Scene, and haven't been off the planet the last couple of  weeks, then you know that Scoble has resigned from Microsoft and off on a new venture with Podtech.net.

The first thing that struck me was the way the room buzzed when Scoble entered. A young woman at my table described him as a "Rock Star". That's quite a label for someone who grew to fame by blogging and vlogging.

Although he might be described as a Rock Star, he certainly does not act like one. He carries his fame with a large dose of humility. Blogging made him famous, but he says that blogging got started because he and a number of other geeks from Silicon Valley were laid off in the '90's and were upset with corporate America. Having nothing to do, they developed the tools that allowed Naked Conversations to flourish. They needed to rant about how Corporate America screwed them. I don't think that any of them had a clue that they were pioneering a new way  to communicate moving from monologues to dialogues.

To show the power and speed at which things can now happen, Scoble mentioned that it had only been about a week and a half since word leaked about his decision to leave Microsoft. He told 15 people it on Saturday before last and asked them to keep it quite until he had a chance to talk with his manager at Microsoft. Unfortunately, one of them, who knows maybe more, couldn't keep it and it got leaked. Within 12 hours, it had gotten all over the net and major news outlets were calling him asking for comments. It forced him to have the exit conversation much sooner than planned.

One of his other comments what that he clearly understood what was happening and saw that he needed to shape the conversation the way he wanted to, which meant to focus on what his new opportunity was about and off why he was leaving. By Monday, he was the hottest news story in Tech. Amazing, in very little time and at no monetary cost, he became a worldwide story. This supports the ideas about Naked Conversations in the new book and shows the speed at which things can happen.

As famous as he is, he still quipped that "Lattes still cost $3.00" while Shel mentioned that "He still had to wait in line at Safeway".

I am looking forward to seeing what happens to the Alpha Geek Blogger at Podtech.net and how he might further vlogging in the industry.

 

Here Are Some Things to Consider

Well maybe I should throw out a few thoughts on the subject of presenting to investors. However, I’m going to start on things you should do before the presentation so that you are better prepared.

First, before the scheduled meeting find out which investors will be attending the session and then do a little research to find out more about them and what types of investments they make and see if any invest in your type of business.

Most people don’t understand that it is perfectly acceptable to call a couple of days ahead of time to see if the presentation is still on schedule and ask who will be attending. If this is an investment firm, you can also ask the relationship of the attendees to the firm. Even if this is a meeting where a number of companies will be presenting, you should always be able to talk with the organizers and find out the same information.

Once you do a little investigating about the attendees, you should also be able to tweak your presentation to better match a specific investor that you believe will be attending.

As part of your presentation, try to restrain yourself from making a demonstration an integral part of your pitch. In my experience, these fail more often than work and wastes precious time that could be used to better explain your business proposition. If you absolutely can’t resist the urge, offer to demonstrate after the sessions, on a break or some other time.

Another thing that should be part of your pre-pitch routine is to go through your presentation and make sure that everything hangs together. For example, if you quote market share numbers, make sure you specify the source. Also, make sure all the financial information is connected throughout.

Here is an example, one presenter recently identified the need to hire an Executive Team yet did not list these costs as part of the Uses of Funds, nor did his projected income statement include the finding and ongoing salary costs. Consequently, any projected profitability was in jeopardy but, more importantly, was just sloppy. Once you give an investor a reason to question one thing, they begin to question everything.

As a final chick, go through your presentation and ask yourself on each slide “Is there anything on the slide that might give an investor a reason to say No?” Remember, for most investors, once they say No it generally never becomes Yes. This is your time to shine; don’t screw it up by not spending extra time making sure your presentation is squeaky clean!

Starting an Investor Presentation

Last week I sat and listened to a group of entrepreneurs pitch their opportunities to a group of Angel/Venture investors. As I listened, it occurred to me that there must be a book, article, website or dream that every entrepreneur gets that tells them to disregard any advice they may have gotten about how to start their presentation.

Over the last four years of listening to pitches there is a consistent practice of starting their presentations with their background, a funny story about how they got started, how the founders were great friends, …

It seems they cover everything in the first couple of minutes except what the investor wants to hear. What is the business opportunity that they are presenting and why should the investor listen to the rest of the pitch? In fact, there are times after 15-20 minutes of presentation that I am still waiting to hear these things.

I am not sure why this is, but it is consistent. One presenter last week started by saying "Well let me start with my background and resume so that I can get that out of the way"! Like that was the most important thing an investor wanted to hear. He must have thought he was applying for a job. I guess he thought his past was more interesting than his future.

For any entrepreneurs who might read this, please remember that the investor is really interested in hearing about your current or potential business or, if you are really early stage, about how your technology or product solves big problems in a large customer segment that is willing to pay for it and how you know this.

Everything else that you talk about in the first 45 to 60 seconds is not important except that it gives an investor a reason to stop listening and once they stop you can't get them started with the remaining presentation.

Does anyone else have any recommendations?

A Big Gain for Podtech.net, Big Loss for Microsoft!

Well as you have probably heard by now, the original blogger at Microsoft, Robert Scoble, has decided to leave the establishment and join Podtech.net the fledgling Silicon Valley emerging Media Company. Robert's blogging was instrumental in giving a human face to Microsoft when it most needed it. Today there are about 1,500 people blogging at Microsoft and these conversations have continued to improve the image of Microsoft in the marketplace.

I also like to see hear about people who have such an impact but seem to be surprised by how much buzz they create. Doc Searls has a great post on Robert that you should read.

 I am really interested in seeing what someone like Robert can do for a organization like Podtech.net when they already have a pretty good reputation. He must see something since he remarked in a recent interview that he would rather go some place that had problems to solve, otherwise there is no opportunity to grow. He has certainly given an additional layer of credibility to the mediums of blogging and podcasting.

Way to go Robert! In more ways than one.

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