Intrapreneurship Examples: How to Launch a New Product in Under 2 Days

Time and focus are at a premium when you’re pushing to build and launch a new software product in less than two working days. But, I was lucky enough to grab a few moments with the ringleader of an ambitious entrepreneurial circus.

Eric Tobias founded the Midwest-based software company iGo Digital, a product recommendation platform that powers online personalization for clients like Best Buy, Staples, and Amazon. He’s an innovator with a track record of launching and growing other successful web-enabled businesses like Technuity and Batteries.com. His creativity is contagious and, clearly, company-wide innovation fuels the organizations he leads.

Much like the intrapreneurial execution of Factory Week, a week-long hiatus from “business as usual,” Tobias and the iGo team took time out of their schedules to move offsite (to a startup coworking space called the Speak Easy), to build something new and peripheral to their core business. Here’s what he and his team learned with their #iGoInnovate days to build Scribblr, a more effective way to turn your company email signatures into marketing tools:


Intrapreneurship Example, Main Takeaways:

Capitalize on opportunity.

The iGo Digital team found their product inspiration for Scribblr in the opportunity identified by their sales team. Reps were including links to recent blog material and whitepapers in their email signatures and prospects were clicking on those links more frequently than other content.

Opportunity!

Or is it an opportunity? You’ll never know unless you try. And that’s where dedicating time to exploring new opportunities can be so powerful.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

It’s no secret that you work different parts of your brain when you remove yourself from familiar environments and plunge into new roles. Tobias’s team learned a lot and refreshed their company-wide camaraderie.

Imagine the empathy you build for your fellow teammate when you’ve actually worked a few days alongside them—or better yet, doing some of their work. You also do some serious flexing of your communication muscles when you have the finite project capacity that two-day off-sites (like iGo Digital’s) deliver.

Get everyone on the same page.

It’s easier to get in a rhythm when everyone’s playing from the same sheet of music. The Scribblr launch team found that things fell into place after they organized their sub-teams and defined their goals.

Don’t save this last tip for intrapreneurial exercises or product launches (though these certainly help to encourage the syncopation). Things always go a little more smoothly when there’s even a rough plan in place.


Have you ever launched a product that wasn’t core to your business? What kinds of opportunities are still on the table?

How SXSW Found Its Swagger in 2012 [video]

Is it just me, or was South by Southwest (SXSW) an entirely different animal this year?

According to Indiana by SXSW, 112 Hoosiers trekked out to Austin, Texas this year for SXSW—the annual convergence of artists and tech weirdos. Thousands of others from the Midwest also caravanned and jetsetted their way down south to pitch their startups, connect with industry phenoms, and fill up with ideas and inspiring experiences.

For the third time, I was one of those weirdos, but from day one I could tell things were going to go a little differently this year.

An immediate Austin monsoon had 40,000 tech conference attendees feeling South by South wet. And by the end of night two, thoroughly dampened clothes more than filled my extra bag (which I had planned to use for all of the sweet startup tees that I look forward to bringing back from SXSW each year).

But it wasn’t until the sun showed its face that Southby-ers really came out to play. Luckily, our cameras caught SXSW in full bloom. Here’s a peek at some of the energy that fed SXSW 2012 (as told through the startup SWAG that wrapped nearly every tech geek in Austin):

This video got me thinking about our startups here in the Midwest and the pride that we take in wearing our favorite startup tees. What does it mean does it mean to you when you wear your startup shirts?

 

Live from SXSW: Interview with Espree Devora

The Verge team is out in Austin for SXSW and we’re getting excited for the founders panel that we will be covering this Sunday at App Sumo HQ. The panel was hand-selected by a friend of mine, Espree Devora, who has a knack for connecting people and getting things done.

She’s an inspiring person and a go-to for business insights and perspective. Check out what she shared in this recent interview we did:

What do you do?

Espree DevoraMy company Save Business Time is the AAA of Small Business Software. For $135 a year you get a SBT Gold Card that grants you access to exclusive discounts on the best business tools. As a small business owner we only have so many hours in a day and not having enough time can literally take the air right out of our tires, derailing our journey down the road to financial success.  SBT gives us the tools we need to get back on track. We are 100% word of mouth. I wanted to create an offer people were so excited to share they’d run to mountain tops to get the word out.

What excites you?

I get an adrenaline rush from seeing my fellow entrepreneurs succeed. Just for the joy of it I spend a lot of time connecting people who would mutually benefit knowing one another. I can’t begin to express how incredible it feels when a connection I make ends up making someone 100s of 1000s of dollars or other huge gains.  It’s incredibly rewarding. May sound silly, but it feels like I am making a small difference this this world.

You decided to start your own company instead of going to work for someone else. What tipped the scale?

I was born an entrepreneur so it was never a thought to “get a job”. That being said in my journey to be a business owner I’ve been… a yacht stewardess, dish washer at Johnny Rockets, graveyard waitress and a ton of other random jobs. But they were all just stepping stones in order to become a business owner full time.

What is it like being a female leader in what is often perceived as a male-dominated industry?

I LOVE IT. I think it gives me an advantage because being a female in technology I stand out.  When I attend a Ruby on Rails meet up, internet mastermind group or any other “nerd fest” they always are seriously confused when a spunky California beach girl with gems on her face walks through the door ready to take action online.

How do you connect with the people who can really help you build your business?

I ask.  It’s that simple. When I see someone who can benefit me I ask for their help  and then I also make sure to look for a way I can benefit them in return for their time.

#####

This year during SXSW a bunch of successful entrepreneurs got together to produce an unofficial panel called “The Most Important Panel You’ll Ever Attend: How to Get Your First 100 Paying Customers”

Panelists include the founders of Mixergy, AppSumo, Lujure, and Liam Martin (interviewed in the post above). If you’re going to be at SXSW, I highly recommend getting in on this panel (no badge required!) http://appsumo100.eventbrite.com

If you’re not going to be in Austin this weekend, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our Verge media team will be there to livestream all the action for you, simply sign up here and we’ll send you the details for the interactive livestream.

How do you connect at conferences like SXSW?

How to Hack Your Workday: The Real Benefits of Outsourcing

We’ve all heard horror stories of outsourcing mishaps and virtual assistants gone wild.

But, whether you’re scaling your business or bootstrapping a startup, the benefits of outsourcing jobs and small tasks can be a real game changer. For many of us, the horror stories and lack of guidance are enough to hold us back.

Benefits of OutsourcingSo, when I had the chance to interview someone with years of outsourcing experience, I jumped at the opportunity. Liam Martin is not one of those guys who just talks the talk. He has a successful track record of building profitable, scalable businesses Staff.com and Time Doctor by applying his own field-tested principals for tapping into the benefits of outsourcing. Over the years, he’s learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.

After building my first web design business by leveraging some outsourced talent, I’d like to think that I have some expertise myself in the area of outsourcing benefits. But, after my conversation with Liam, I could tell that he not only knows how to outsource effectively, be he’s also very skilled and helping others learn to do the same.

Here’s the interview with outsourcing expert, Liam Martin…

The Real Benefits of Outsourcing

Benefits of Outsourcing Jobs

How did you get your start with web-based businesses?

I finished grad school just in time to see the economy completely collapse. After months of job searching I decided to start tutoring students online. After a few months I started to hire my friends to tutor students, then their friends and before you knew it we had 100 people in the company, tutoring mostly premed students through skype.

What was one of the biggest lessons you learned in your first year as an entrepreneur?

If you want to grow past being a ‘onetrepreneur’ you must systematize all the processes within your business before moving forward. Once you’ve conquered that and you have a scalable profit funnel, you’re set.

What are the biggest obstacles of outsourcing?

Three things:
  1. Lack of education in the process. Educating someone virtually is completely different from doing it locally and you have to change your management philosophy in order to adapt to virtual companies.
  2. The realization that outsourced employees are smarter than you. Just because you’re paying them a fraction of what you would pay a local employee does not make them less effective. In most cases they are more effective and can usually do jobs better than you ‘the business owner’ can. Delegate work and stay out of their way.
  3. Proper tracking and accountability. Since everyone is working virtually many employers are wary of whether their outsourced employees are getting work done. We have a great solution to that problem but any tracking option that places accountability  and productivity at it’s core will help solve that.

How can new founders realize the full benefits of outsourcing?

Business Process OutsourcingEducate yourself before jumping in. Read a few books and blog posts, speak to other companies that already do it. 1 in 5 employees now work remotely so it shouldn’t be that hard to find a company that can help you.
Next, systematize your business. Write down your top tasks and choose the most time consuming one then create a step by step guide. Give that guide to outsourced employees and ask for input, figure out what changes you need to make until it runs smoothly and you no longer have to do that job. Rinse and repeat.

If you could tell one thing to someone considering starting their first business, what would that be?

Don’t worry about problems of success before you’re successful. Business success boils down to three things. Acquisition, conversion and retention. Don’t worry about the last two if you haven’t figured out the first one.

#####

This year during SXSW a bunch of successful entrepreneurs got together to produce an unofficial panel called “The Most Important Panel You’ll Ever Attend: How to Get Your First 100 Paying Customers”

Panelists include the founders of Mixergy, AppSumo, Lujure, and Liam Martin (interviewed in the post above). If you’re going to be at SXSW, I highly recommend getting in on this panel (no badge required!) http://appsumo100.eventbrite.com

If you’re not going to be in Austin this weekend, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our Verge media team will be there to livestream all the action for you, simply sign up here and we’ll send you the details for the interactive livestream.

Have you tried outsourcing with virtual assistants or offshore talent? What kinds of questions do you have?

The Compounding Effects of Contributing

Entrepreneurial Giving

Giving is magical.

Whether it’s giving time, giving attention, or giving advice…

Its astonishing effects can be seen in every aspect of life. The simple act of lending a hand is something so small and nearly effortless. But the power of consistent contribution to a common vision creates — as if from thin air — an energy and intention all its own.

I witnessed it first hand at a recent Verge event, where the enthusiasm and passion of 150 software developers, investors, and business founders filled up an old converted warehouse space in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis:

Giving gains momentum.

It’s addictive and it attracts other givers. And as the energy of a group of givers builds, the energy compounds.

Smaller and smaller amounts of individual energy produce increasingly impressive effects as the collective group of givers magnifies the intent.

Givers contribute without expectations of receiving anything in return. But if you pay attention, I bet you’ll witness that it’s this group of magicians who gain the most in the long run.

Verge Pitch Night at The Speakeasy: What to Expect

There’s a buzz around the Speakeasy that’s been going since last night.

This evening, 175 founders, software developers, and startup investors will flock to the converted warehouse space of the Speakeasy. Here’s what we have prepared:

There are two pitches from new startups:

Then we’ll have an intimate fire-side conversation with serial software entrepreneur, David DeRam.

If you won’t be joining us in person, you can tune in on the livestream on the Verge Facebook Page. You will be able to ask questions in our Q&A and join the conversation with the Twitter/Google + hashtag #vergestartups.

Will you join us?

How Startup America Regions Hyperconnected in Miami

What happens when you put 20 Startup America Regions from around the country into a room for two days?

Many grew new relationships and sprouted new ideas (just add Miami sunshine). This is what Scott Case, CEO of Startup America, had to say about it:

Scaling Startup America Regions

How does your startup region connect with the global entrepreneurial community?

5 Miami Startup Events That Foster Startup Community

What makes a good startup community? Just ask Brad Feld.

Brad is a partner at the Foundry Group and has helped build Boulder Colorado into the thriving startup community that it is today. He’d be the first to tell you that, among other things, sustainable entrepreneurial communities need to answer to an important question.

Miami Startup Events

That is, can new entrepreneurs easily get connected with experienced entrepreneurs and investors in your community?

In my recent voyage to Florida, I found one of the gateways to the growing startup community in Miami. Or, more like she found me…

At the first break of the summit I was attending, I was blind-sided by the bubbling energy of Susan Amat, the head honcho of Startup Florida and Executive Director of The Launch Pad at the University of Miami. She is a hyper-connector and evangelist for all things in the Florida Startup Community, and for four inspiration-packed days pulled me into the world of Miami startup events.

Susan, along with nearly a dozen young Floridian founders, eagerly told me which Miami startup events they loved and who was making things happen for South Florida.

I dove in head first to learn more about what makes the Miami startup community tick. Here’s what I found:

The 5 Best Miami Startup Events

1. Refresh Miami

Brian Breslin and Davide Di Cillo do an awesome job of picking presenters and regularly packing venues with 50 and 100 passionate start uppers at Refresh Miami. Presentations are technical, candid, and laid back.

I had a chance to see a lineup of demos from the Miami Game Developer Group. The developer-centric audience engaged with great questions and a few clever comments. As long as Miami’s technical talent continues to come out, Refresh Miami will only build on the momentum it already has.

2. SuperConf

SuperConf MiamiThe SuperConf speaker lineup is a magnet that attracts South Florida’s entrepreneurial and technical talent. Presenters are imported from San Francisco, New York, and other startup hubs. But it also hand-selects some of its homegrown talent to grace its stage.

When I walked into SuperConf, I found a room of around 150 people who listened, took notes, and engaged in thoughtful Q&A.

Auston Bunsen, the mastermind behind SuperConf, has obviously built something incredibly valuable for the Miami startup community. He also knows how to throw an awesome oceanfront party, which was the perfect crescendo to this killer startup conference.

3. South Florida Hack and Tell

South Florida Hack and TellShow of your software development chops at South Florida Hack and Tell. This meet up brings together resourceful hackers in an engaging, educational format.

Get in touch with organizer Mike Greenberg and the Hack and Tell crew to get involved today.

4. BarCamp Miami

This user-generated “unconference” has a national network and a reputation for providing engaging collaborative learning. BarCamp is usually focused on early-stage companies and open-source technology.

BarCamp Miami is well attended by the smart software developers in South Florida. So, grab your laptop, and get yourself to one of these unconferences.

5. Miami Startup Weekend

Build a startup from scratch in less than three days. There’s no better way to get a feel for entrepreneurship than at Startup Weekend, a global startup event series that has helped launch hundreds of new businesses, build stronger startup communities, and educated thousands of start uppers around the world.

It’s clear to me that Startup Weekend Miami  events have sparked many of the connections in the conferences and meetup groups I attended in my sprint through the Miami startup community.

It was fun to immerse myself in the Florida startup community for a few days. While the car-centric sprawl of South Florida poses serious challenges for founders who are hungry to connect, a consistent cadence Miami startup events is establishing lines of communication and new opportunities for collaboration.

Have you experienced the same?

How iPad App Development Can Help Build Your Business

Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

While that is a pretty classy pickup line. There’s a Midwest startup who thinks there’s a better way to find your soul mate. And they used an iPad App Development Tool to do it.

Our video team caught up with Kevin Emmons, co-founder of Miss Pivot, a social experience company that just launched an iPad app that’s been picking up a ton of press. Here’s the interview:

iPad App Development as a Tool to Transform Your Business.

Miss Pivot launched in 2009 as a breakthrough wing woman service that helped people who want to learn social skills and how to connect better with others. But it has become so much more.

Since then, Miss Pivot has expertly managed the metamorphosis from local service company to a confidence company, where they give people the skills they need to succeed in social situations. And they want to help as many people as possible.

Here’s what they did…

Use Mobile Apps to Engage Customers

iPad App Development ToolGlobalizing Miss Pivot meant creating products. They used video and content to engage people and to get them to interact with your content. With their iPad app, Fire Cupid, they’ve connected with their customers in new ways while acquiring a whole new set of potential clients

Fire Cupid was developed by a core team of four people. They used an iPad development software called Corona to rapidly develop and launch the app after a month of focused effort.

Build New Revenue Streams

Since building the app, they have productized the interactive book development platform  they used to build Fire Cupigfto offer other authors to publish their work to the app store. They created an off-shoot brand and company called Pixl Publishing to connect with their new-found target market of authors.

They have already begun to make money off this new revenue channel and user response has been positive. This iPad book development opportunity is just another example of effective startup intrapreneurship.

Have you run an experiment like this recently? How are you using mobile technology for your business?

Want to learn more about Fire Cupid and Pixl Publishing:

Tune in to the live stream from February Pitch Night on the Verge Facebook page on Wednesday, February 29 at 6:30 PM Eastern Time.

 

New Site Launch: Indiana by SXSW

Whether or not you’re bound for Austin in March, you’re going to love this.

SXSW DirectoryIn less than a week, a simple idea materialized into a useful tool for tech geeks going to SXSW. After putting out a late-afternoon poll let Friday, the wheels started turning.

Through a collaboration between SmallBox Web, KA+A and Verge, we present to you: Indiana by South by Southwest, or “IN.SXSW,” a beautifully designed directory for all hoosiers interested in the Southby experience.

You can register yourself to be included in the directory for free. Or see who else is coming on the directory page.