When It Comes To Your Business, When Should You Rely on Data vs. Instinct?

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Everyone talks about “data” these days as key to making good business decisions. Can you share about a time when you relied on instinct alone? How did it work out for you and what’s your advice to others who rely heavily on their business instincts?

 

1. If You Torture the Numbers Enough, They’ll Tell You Whatever You Want 

Diana GoodwinAs my marketing manager likes to say, “If you torture the numbers enough, they’ll tell you whatever you want.” Raw data is powerful, but when I’ve had to make big decisions without historical data, I (A) did as much research as possible, (B) talked to experts who had knowledge I didn’t, (C) considered what I stood to lose if the gamble did not pay out and prepared to own the results no matter what.

– Diana GoodwinAquaMobile 

 

2. Just Because Something Is Working Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Work Better 

Kristopher Jones (1)Just because something is working doesn’t mean it can’t work better. Often, data only allows you to make decisions about how you are doing and fails to tell you what might happen if you change things. Conventional wisdom tells us, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, I recently defied data and used my instinct to pivot from a proven business model to a new one because I sensed an even greater upside.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com 

 

3. Data Is King, But Time and Resources Are Scarce 

Jayna CookeData is the king — I agree with that. However, you do not always have time or resources to get the data you need and may be forced to rely on your business instincts alone. Data is hard to manage and getting “clean” data might not be worth the time and resources it would take to get everything perfected. Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut, as you might already know the answer.

 

– Jayna CookeEVENTup 

4. Data Is Only as Good as the Person Making Sense of It 

Andy KaruzaAs you probably noticed during the last election cycle, the polls were all over the place. One would say Trump was winning by 10 points, but another would say Hillary was winning by 10 points. The difference comes down to how the data is interpreted or gathered. Audience, sample size, and many other variables can affect the outcome of “data.” This is just one good example on when you should use your gut.

– Andy KaruzaFenSens 

 

5. When It Comes to Interviews… It’s All About Instinct 

Hongwei LiuMost of your intuitions about running a business are wrong; it’s best to be data driven. But with people, you’ve had 20, 40, maybe 60 years experience evaluating who you work well with, and the qualities that make someone trustworthy. You should always trust your instincts about people.

– Hongwei Liumappedin 

 

6. It’s a Balance Between Art and Science 

Tim ChavesDesign is all about instinct. Imagine trying to gather feedback about every step along the way when designing an application. I like to design the first time with just instinct and redesign with the door open to feedback. That process works for me. I would recommend that everyone seek to find a balance between what you feel and what can be proven with data.

– Tim ChavesZipBooks 

 

7. You Need Both, For Different Reasons 

Shawn PoratThe decision to start my latest company, Scorely, was largely an instinctive one. Data is valuable, but it only tells you so much because it’s all based on the past. After all, even the best economists and financial experts are often wrong. That said, even if you make your decisions from instinct, you definitely need data to research your market and do your financial projections.

– Shawn PoratScorely 

 

8. Data Can Only Tell You So Much 

Peter BonacWhen I started my company Mobiado, there was only one luxury mobile phone manufacturer. It had been around for two years, with losses every quarter. Data showed that this was not a successful business model. However, my gut feeling was to go a different route; by focusing more on the design and less on precious materials, the concept could be successful. Thirteen years running and we remain profitable every quarter.

– Peter BonacBonac Innovation Corp. 

 

9. When It Comes to Partnering, Using Only Data Might Be a Mistake 

Diego OrjuelaSo many things in business are more of an art than a science. This is never as true as with finding the right company to partner with. Basing your decision on data alone might get you tied up with a partner who is dishonest, incompetent, or plainly no fun to work with. Use instinct when making important decisions that will affect your business, because in the end, you work with humans, not numbers.

– Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors, LLC 

 

10. An Instinctive Leap of Faith Is the Only Way Ideas Have Ever Become Reality 

Manpreet SinghData helps narrow the margin of error to get business models and maneuvers on solid ground, but data in the abstract can only get you so far. In any decision-making process, there comes a point where you have to take a blind leap of faith to test your hypothesis despite a great deal of uncertainty. For me, every step — from launching to pivoting — involved leaps, both big and small.

– Manpreet SinghTalkLocal 

The Key To Building Real Wealth and Confessions of a Master Connector with Cole Hatter

PowderKeg Podcast #003

This master connector has built a network that includes the likes of Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank, James Altucher creator of the James Altucher Show, Jack Canfield author of Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul and Lewis Howes from The School of Greatness. In fact, he recently connected with all of them in person at his global conference Thrive. He’s an author, investor, speaker, and entrepreneur who has built a mission-driven business and life that has impacted millions.

Cole’s (@colehatter) power comes from his perspective. After 2 accidents 2 months apart, he was left me in a wheel chair. His body was physically broken, his heart emotionally broken, and his bank account…it was “broke” too.

Out of desperation and an uncertain future, Hatter pursued entrepreneurship. He has since launched several multimillion dollar businesses and lives what some might consider to be only a “dream” lifestyle. His motto is simple but powerful:

“It’s important to know how to make the kind of money you’ve always dreamed of making, but it’s more important to not sacrifice actually living your life while you do it.”

In this episode with Cole Hatter you’ll learn:

  • The art of manufactured urgency. (10:00)
  • The importance of authenticity. (26:32)
  • The importance of work/life balance. (30:30)
  • The true meaning of wealth, and the importance of for purpose business. (44:10)

These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg

Please enjoy!

powderkeg subscribe on itunes

powderkeg-subscribe-stitcher

This episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by DeveloperTown. If you’re a business leader trying to turn a great idea into a product with traction, this is for you.

DeveloperTown works with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies who want to build and launch an app or digital product. They’re able to take the process they use with early stage companies to help big companies move like a startup.

So if you have an idea for a web or mobile app, or need help identifying the great ideas within your company, go to developertown.com/powderkeg.

If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powder Keg Podcast.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

People:

Jay Austin

Tony Robbins

Than Merrill

Lewis Howes

Tucker Max

Adam Braun

Jordan Harbinger

Robert Herjavec

John Assaraf

Jack Canfield

James Altucher

JJ Virgin

Mark Cuban

Gary Vaynerchuk

Books:

Chicken Soup for the Soul, 1993

Websites:

attendthrive.com/friends

Connect with Cole Hatter:

Did you enjoy this conversation? Thank Cole on Twitter!

If you enjoyed this session and have 3 seconds to spare, let Cole know via Twitter by clicking on the link below:

Click here to say hi and thank Cole on twitter!

COMMENTS?

What stood out most to you about what Cole shares in this podcast?

For me, it’s the importance of  having a balance of work and life.

You? Leave a comment below.

WANT MORE?

To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:

Click Here to Subscribe via iTunes
Click Here to Subscribe via RSS (non-iTunes feed)

To download the PDF file for the full transcript of this podcast, please use the link below:

Click Here to Download PDF file

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking in iTunes incredibly! Thank you so much!

These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg. For more episodes and show notes, check out the Powderkeg Podcast official website. 

How to Build a Software Business on the Salesforce Platform + SaaS Leadership with Jeremy Roche, CEO at FinancialForce.com

PowderKeg Podcast #002

I made my way through the crowd of 170,000+ people attending Dreamforce to find a private conference room where I connected in person with FinancialForce.com CEO and President, Jeremy Roche (@Jeremy_Roche). With more than 20 years of experience building and leading both public and private technology companies, Jeremy brings a wealth of executive leadership experience.

He has led businesses through IPO, de-merger and acquisition (both as acquirer and acquiree). And his work with growing FinancialForce offers insight into how to play the game of business at a rapid pace and growing scale. With $110 million in capital raised in 2015, the company’s growth has exploded, and Roche has led the team to disrupt the space of financial software.

Roche also offers a global perspective on building companies. He holds or has held Board positions in technology companies in US, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Hungary, Estonia, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. And FinancialForce now has offices in the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, and multiple offices in the US.

In this episode with Jeremy Roche, you’ll learn:

  • How Jeremy Roche got into ‘the emerging world of software’ and SaaS (4:44)
  • How to balance enthusiasm from a SaaS leadership perspective (9:16)
  • The importance and practice of ‘peoplecasting’ in achieving your goals (11:17)
  • How to surround yourself with a strong team of people that are prepared to disagree with you (13.47)
  • How Salesforce and FinancialForce came together, and how they have worked together to the  benefit of both businesses (22.15)

These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg

Please enjoy!

powderkeg subscribe on itunes

powderkeg-subscribe-stitcher

This episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by DeveloperTown. If you’re a business leader trying to turn a great idea into a product with traction, this is for you.

DeveloperTown works with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies who want to build and launch an app or digital product. They’re able to take the process they use with early stage companies to help big companies move like a startup.

So if you have an idea for a web or mobile app, or need help identifying the great ideas within your company, go to developertown.com/powderkeg.

If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powder Keg Podcast.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode with Jeremy Roche:

People:

Companies and Organizations: 

Connect with Jeremy Roche:

Did you enjoy this conversation? Thank Jeremy on Twitter!

If you enjoyed this session and have 3 seconds to spare, let Jeremy know via Twitter by clicking on the link below:

Click here to say hi and thank Jeremy on twitter!

COMMENTS?

What stood out most to you about what Jeremy shares in this podcast?

For me, it was his ability to instill a transparent culture amongst his team.

You? Leave a comment below.

WANT MORE?

To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:

Click Here to Subscribe via iTunes
Click Here to Subscribe via RSS (non-iTunes feed)

To download the PDF file for the full transcripts of this podcast, please use the link below:

Click Here to Download PDF file

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking in iTunes incredibly! Thank you so much!

These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg. For more episodes and show notes, check out the Powderkeg Podcast official website. 

How to Invest In Your Talents and Tell Your Story with Kristian Andersen

PowderKeg Podcast #001

I was less than a year out of college when I fist met Kristian Andersen (@KristianIndy). And while I had met a lot of people in school, I had never met anyone like him.

Andersen is positive but direct, which I believe is the key to why he is able to accomplish so much in his companies, investments, and community. You can trace the start of his streak of successes back to 2003, when he founded Studio Science, a design and innovation agency where he still serves as CEO. He and his team have helped many B2B SaaS and innovation-driven organizations (including Verge and Powderkeg) find their brand voice, define their positioning, and design their customer journey.

kristian-andersen-studio-scienceKristian Andersen is also an active angel investor and co-founder of Gravity Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund that invests in tech-focused startups. He’s gone on to co-founded a few startups of his own, including; Octiv, Lessonly, Visible.vc and Pathagility. In 2016, he also co-founded High Alpha, a New Venture Studio that conceives, operates and scales enterprise cloud companies.

Beyond working on his direct startup investments, Andersen sits on a few non-profit boards, co-founded The Speak Easy & Indy Made, and serve as a mentor at The Iron Yard, RunUpLabs, and the ARK Challenge accelerators. He lives in Indianapolis full time, his wife and six (yes, six!) kids.

So dive in with open ears and an open mind, and absorb some wisdom from my good friend and mentor, Kristian Andersen.

In this episode with Kristian Andersen, you’ll learn:

  • Why geography is not a factor in the success of your start up. (6:30)
  • The  power of entrepreneurship and how it’s transforming communities (10:30)
  • Why developing your narrative can mean the difference between success and failure. (22:00)
  • What separates the winners from the losers in terms of mindset.  (27:30)
  • The importance of gratitude. (32:00)
  • How to hire A players into your company. (37:00)

These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg

Please enjoy!

powderkeg subscribe on itunes

powderkeg-subscribe-stitcher

This episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by DeveloperTown. If you’re a business leader trying to turn a great idea into a product with traction, this is for you.

DeveloperTown works with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies who want to build and launch an app or digital product. They’re able to take the process they use with early stage companies to help big companies move like a startup.

So if you have an idea for a web or mobile app, or need help identifying the great ideas within your company, go to developertown.com/powderkeg.

If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powder Keg Podcast.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs:

Companies and Organizations:

Connect with Kristian Andersen:

Books:

Did you enjoy this conversation? Thank Kristian on Twitter!

If you enjoyed this session and have 3 seconds to spare, let Kristian know via Twitter by clicking on the link below:

Click here to say hi and thank Kristian on twitter!

COMMENTS?

What stood out most to you about what Kristian shares in this podcast?

For me, it was his ability to instill a transparent culture amongst his team.

You? Leave a comment below.

WANT MORE?

To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:

Click Here to Subscribe via iTunes
Click Here to Subscribe via RSS (non-iTunes feed)

To download the PDF file for the full transcript of this podcast, please use the link below:

Click Here to Download PDF file

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking in iTunes incredibly! Thank you so much!

These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg. For more episodes and show notes, check out the Powderkeg Podcast official website. 

12 Entrepreneurs Share Tips For Hiring Your First Employee

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

It’s time to hire my first employee. With no prior hiring experience, what’s your best advice for me?

1. Don’t Hire a “Mini Me” 

Brittany HodakWhen hiring a first employee, it can be tempting to look for a “mini me.” Don’t. Every employe  is critical in a small business. It’s much better to hire someone with complementary strengths and interests than someone who is like yourself but a few years more junior. Look for a candidate who enjoys the things you hate and excel at areas that intimidate you. Then, empower them to succeed. – Brittany HodakZinePak 

 

2. Imagine How You Would Feel If You Had to Report to the New Hire 

Shawn PoratI like to imagine what it would feel like if I had to report to my first hire. When I interviewed my  first employee and started thinking about reporting to them, I immediately realized they were not a good fit. The communication and leadership skills were lacking. I’ve used this test for every interview going forward, and it has protected me from many bad hires. – Shawn PoratScorely 

 

3. Outsource or Ask Your Friends in That Industry 

Michael HsuIf you are not hiring core production employees, you may not know what you are looking for. In this case, consider outsourcing because while it “feels” like it’s more expensive, it is almost always cheaper due to existing expertise. Otherwise, ask your friends who are in the industry for help. When I was hiring a developer, I called up all my buddies in the industry for advice on what to look for. – Michael HsuDeepSky 

 

4. Put Candidates on a Probationary Period 

 Firas KittanehSet a 30-, 45- or 60-day probationary period for new hires so that you can vet them on the job. It’s increasingly difficult to filter candidates out based purely on their resume and a couple of interviews because many have become well-trained at selling themselves. However, few will succeed on the job, so using a “trial” period will allow you to hire them on a contract basis and limit your risk. – Firas KittanehAmerisleep 

 

5. Hire Slow 

Bill LyonsYou’re not going to eliminate bad hires all together, but the best way to avoid them is to not attract them in the first place. Spend time on the basics: background checks and real reference checks, but also implement real behavioral assessments that are tailored to the performance-driven culture you want to create. The best thing that works for us is multiple interviews, job shadowing and auditions. – Bill LyonsRevestor 

 

6. Consider Contract and Part-Time Work 

John RoodDon’t forget that there are plenty of good people who are looking for part-time work, either because they are freelance or to supplement their income. By hiring someone part time, you take less of a hit on your cash flow. As a bonus, you get great experience managing a team without all the pressure of full-time employment. – John RoodNext Step Test Preparation 

 

7. Don’t Settle for the First Person Who Lands in Your Lap 

Peggy ShellHave a plan, be consistent, and stick with it. With people falling onto your lap or low-hanging fruit from referrals, you’ll be tempted to hire people who are “good enough.” You don’t have to settle. Follow a process that is well thought out and aligns with the job description you have worked hard on. Hiring takes time, but don’t let that inconvenience you from learning throughout this process. – Peggy ShellCreative Alignments 

 

8. Prepare and Be Honest 

Maren HoganIt is absolutely key to know what you need. Many first time hiring managers hire people just like them. Don’t interview desperate (which means you should make your first hire slightly before you need them), and listen when someone tells you who they are the first time. For example, I send an email to all potential candidates explaining exactly what to expect. It weeds out any shaky candidates. – Maren HoganRed Branch Media 

 

9. Hire Attitude and Train Talent 

Douglas HutchingsThe first employee is going to help set the culture for the many more to come. Everyone will need training to get up to speed, so hire for attitude. By definition, you are probably doing something that has never been done before, so you need someone who is passionate to be a part of your vision. The wrong attitude will be contagious to everyone who comes next and that is extremely hard to fix. – Douglas HutchingsPicasolar 

 

10. Understand That Job Descriptions Are Perfect, Humans Are Not 

Eric MathewsIt is important to realize that when you write a job description, you are creating in your mind a perfect, idealized version of a candidate. That candidate doesn’t exist in real life. During the selection process, know that you aren’t compromising on the idealized version of the candidate; more so, you are determining if there is a net benefit to your organization from adding the candidate. – Eric MathewsStart Co. 

 

11. Test Real Skills, Not Just Credentials 

Anthony PezzottiIt’s easy to default to a resume when deciding if a candidate would be a good fit; however, successful business owners will test real skills during the interview process to ensure they are solid on the team. This process can range from an on-the-spot test to a quick homework assignment. These tasks will help set the tone for the position and weed out any unfit applicants. – Anthony PezzottiKnowzo.com 

 

12. Prioritize People Who Have Done Their Own Things 

Adam SteeleAlmost everyone I’ve hired has had a side project or something of significance that they were doing before I hired them. The barrier of entry to doing something interesting and putting it in front of thousands of people is low enough that most people should be able to talk about personal projects that have received attention. These are people who have the will to work and experience with feedback. – Adam SteeleThe Magistrate 

3 Tips for Nailing Your Startup Pitch and Getting Funded

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of startup pitches – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are a million different ways to piece together an effective pitch, but the following are consistent feedback points that I always coach entrepreneurs on when helping prepare them for fundraising. Here are my top three tips for nailing your pitch every single time.

1.) Establish a target for your startup pitch.

Verge

Before you present your startup onstage, introduce yourself at a networking event, or arrive at your potential investor meeting, you need to do a little backward planning to ensure you make the most out of your pitch. Ask yourself – what is my number one desired outcome? What do I want to happen after I deliver my pitch? Regardless of where you’re pitching or who’s hearing your pitch, having the desired outcome – or a target – in mind will help you remember why you’re pitching and zero in on what you came to achieve.

As you’re thinking about your target, specificity is key. There’s a big difference between a target of meeting key contacts and a target of securing three meetings with three investors in the e-commerce industry within the next week. The latter is much more specific and thus, much more effective. To ensure your target is specific, you can use the SMART goals acronym.

S – Specific. Can you define your target using clear, precise language?

M – Measurable. Can you measure the impact of your target in quantifiable criteria?

A – Agreed Upon. Is the rest of your team on board with this target? Does it make sense based on your quarterly and yearly objectives?  

R – Realistic. Is your target reasonable, given your startup’s current traction?

T – Time-Bound. Have you set a time constraint to help hold yourself accountable?

Follow these guidelines and you’ll have a specific, clear target that will keep your pitch on the right path towards success.

2.) Hook your audience of venture capitalists or angel investors.

Verge

There’s a reason clickbait articles get so many clicks, and it’s not rocket science – it’s a hook. Whether you’re writing an article for Buzzfeed or you’re up on stage delivering your pitch, you have one chance and one chance only to grab your audience’s attention, and you do so with a catchy, juicy, irresistible hook.

How do you know if your audience will take the bait? Here are a few key elements of a good hook that you can incorporate into your own pitch.

Effective hooks are…

  • Genuine. Your hook should be catchy, but make sure it’s honest. If you don’t have the numbers you currently want or a highly-emotional story to open with, that’s alright. Find an angle that accurately reflects your startup and go from there. Authenticity is appealing, no matter how it’s delivered.
  • Emotional. Attention – please read the following disclaimer: not all hooks have to be emotional, however, some of the best ones often are. If your startup solves a problem that could be considered more personal for the consumer, rather than professional, consider using an emotionally-charged hook to capture your audience’s attention.
  • Direct. The opening lines of your pitch are not a good place to beat around the bush. Be direct. Don’t waste time introducing yourself and over-explaining your background (at least in the beginning), get started and hook your audience by jumping right into the action.
  • Creative. Some of the catchiest hooks use an out-of-the-box format to break the norm and jar their audience’s perspective. You can do this by asking your audience a question, telling a narrative, using a fun fact or statistic or using second person narration to put your audience (“you”) in your customer’s shoes.

The key to a successful hook is to break the norm. By interrupting your audience’s everyday thought patterns and challenging their assumptions of what a pitch might be, you’ll be able to not only hook their attention, but keep them hanging on your every last word.

3.) Don’t just talk about startup traction, show it.

Verge

Now that you’ve hooked your audience’s attention, your next job is to continue building excitement around your startup. It’s this stage in the pitch where a lot of startups fail, because they simply tell the audience who they are, what they do, and where they’re headed. The best entrepreneurs know, however, that in order to truly get investors on board, they must show how they’re changing the industry and making an impact.

So, how do you show traction in your pitch? There are a few different ways.

  • Social proof. Use testimonials or positive customer feedback to show how you’ve made an impact.
  • Authority. Demonstrate authority in your field by highlighting media attention, certifications, and/or other recognizable awards and achievements.
  • Numbers. Investors want to know every detail about every number in your records before they’ll invest. A few good numbers you might want to highlight in your pitch:
    • Market Size and Value
    • Revenue Projections
    • Profit Projections
    • Funding and Budget Allocations
    • Current Customer/User Base

You don’t have to incorporate all three of these elements—social proof, authority, and numbers — into your pitch in order to be effective. A solid approach is to pick your top three most impactful traction points to highlight in your pitch, and focus on those. A quality over quantity approach is always more memorable when it comes to demonstrating value.

Keep these tips in mind as you’re crafting and practicing delivering your pitch. Get clear on your target, craft a juicy hook, and demonstrate traction to set yourself apart from your competition and deliver a memorable, investment-worthy pitch.

You can apply this method to any field, including open source projects.

Check out one of my favorite pitches of all time on our startup pitch resources page. http://vergehq.com/pitch/

Can You Manage a Buzzing Community?

“Why isn’t this door unlocked?!” Frantically cupping my eyes peering into DeveloperTown. It is April 1st, the first day, of my first big girl job, anddd I’m late. Someone walking by takes pity on me and lets me in, I mumble something resembling, “Thanks, I’m new” and scurry to the Verge House. (If you have not had a chance to stop by DeveloperTown, you should.)

Sitting on my desk is The book, Buzzing Communities by Richard Millington. Matt with more excitement than normal beams, “Happy First Day! Here’s a book to help!”

'b

Mimicking as best as I can, I put on my “YES! I LOVE READING!” face, and grab the book and put it in my bag. (I have a pretty calm and just go-with-it type of demeanor, so trying to copy his excitement all the time is hard. Anyone that knows Matt…. knows he is generally always very excited)

Buzzing Communities in its simplest form, is a how-to for community managers. Millington identifies the real problems that we should focus on, and the wrong problems that community managers tend to waste time on. Community managers, will more likely than not, fall in the trap of listening to their instinct rather than data. Too many of us are reacting to a minority of members rather than focusing on the activities that make our community thrive. As community managers we overlook the need to value the community with hard facts with data to support it, which Millington mentions is crucial when surveying a community.

Follow These 8 Key Areas to Focus your Energy:
giphy (1)

Millington identifies 8 categories/chapters that community managers should focus most of their energy: Strategy, Growth, Moderation, Events and Activities, Relationships and Influence, Business Integration, and User Experience.

The book is organized into very clear sections, with chapters, action items, and real world examples to back claims up. The sections go into moderate detail explaining what a community manager needs to do to get their online community thriving. It is supported by scholarly theories and he even throws in some macro and micro economic buzzwords. Do not be intimidated by it, it is still very relatable, easy to read, and well explained.

Millington goes into detail about why these overarching themes are important, provides tips on how to achieve, and provides specifics on how to measure how well you have done.

Every page got me more excited and fired up, I literally wanted to collect data and measure everything in the community (calm down, Kotterer).

3 reasons this book is a winner:

(1) I was actively thinking about my community while reading. I would be asking myself questions in between sentences, “Are we at this point yet?” “How do I collect data about a community!”, “Is my community healthy?”, “What value add can I bring to the table”
(2) It made my vision as a leader and manager clearer. There is a lot of noise in startup communities, and it gets loud. Focus on the right noise that will help you achieve your goals.
(3) Reiterated the importance of the return of investment (ROI) for your community and the significance of maintaining community loyalty. Millington does great job of going beneath the surface and identifying the real problems that community managers face and provides real insight and problem solving tactics.
I would recommend this book to anyone in a community management role at any level, or anyone who wants to know the inner workings of a community. Marketing and PR teams, will find this useful if they intend to build a community around their brand. If your job is to build an online community that has developed relationships around a strong common interest, this book is for you.

giphy

Update: Four months later I am now have a key card so I’m not locked out and I am equipped with skills and knowledge to be community leader…

 

How to Find and Attend the Best Conferences to Grow Your Business

Ludovic Ulrich hails from France, but he’s spent more than a decade leading projects at Apple, Microsoft, Salesforce—the goliaths of Silicon Valley. Sure, these companies may dominate the digital world, but they all wield a powerful weapon in engaging their customers and partners. . .

how-to-attend-conferencesConferences.

Sometimes it’s their own user conferences like Dreamforce, and often its partner conferences where they speak, exhibit, or and attend. Through all of his travels and conferences, Ulrich has developed a superpower he’s learned to use to support startups and his own initiatives.

Beyond being the Director of Salesforce for Startups, Ludo is a is the sensei of startup and technology conferences, having spoken at, sponsored, and attended dozens (if not more). In this interview, Ulrich shares exactly how to find the best conferences and how to attend those conferences to yield insane results for your business and career. Watch it here:

Or listen to the audio on how to find and attend conferences here:

I’m going to dive right in. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room . . .

Are conferences a waste of time?  

events a waste of time

Well… Yes. 

The way that most people attend conferences, it’s a complete waste of time. But that’s not you. You’re in the 1% who wants to get the most out of your experiences. So, we’re going to show you have attending conferences can become the most valuable thing you do, mmkay?

“Do your homework,” Ulrich says. “Who are the sponsors? Who are the speakers?” If you’re not seriously curating your list of potential conferences, you’re missing the most important part of developing your event efficiency.

Find the conferences where you know—or are very familiar with—at least one of the speakers, sponsors, or organizers. These people can be your seminar sherpas, blazing the trail for your at conference breakout sessions or on the tradeshow floor. Lean on these people to get to the good stuff, especially if they’ve attended the conference before:

Which after parties are the best for your industry?

Which sessions are the most productive?

Use social media at events to follow the connections and chatter in your industry. Leverage connections with large brands to gain access to the best parts of conferences and learn how to make the most of your visit. Then, go to work on your plan of attack. . .

How do you stand out at conferences?

This ain’t no junior high school dance. So why do so many people play conferences as a lone wolf or around the periphery?

how to attend events

If you’re going to spend the money, and more importantly take the time, to attend an industry conference, you must jump in there and make the most of every minute. You want to be yourself, but you really want to be the best version of yourself. 

Don’t mingle for the sake of mingling. Have 1-3 specific asks in mind before you even go to the conference (for investors, it’s __________ …. for developers, it’s __________ … for the media and bloggers, it’s __________).

Don’t actually take breaks during the break. That’s for suckers or people who drink too much Mountain Dew 🙂 …. But seriously, find the people who you really want to connect with (you probably created this list while doing your pre-conference research).

Don’t be a clingy conference goer. Make your connection, find an opportunity to reconnect later, then move on. No one wants to be latched to someone at the hip for an entire conference. This will inhibit your ability to move around, meet new people, and find new opportunities. So get your ninja uniform on and be the event assassin that I know you are. And yes, I mean that as a metaphor.

You were probably wondering, and the answer is yes, you can go too far. . .

WARNING: Don’t Be This Person at a Conference

Keep an eye out for any behaviors that might group you into one of these conference attendee categories:

  • The eye darter: These are the people who are never fully present in anything. They have so much FOMO (fear of missing out) that they’re constantly looking around for the next best thing—even if they’re already in a conversation.
  • The card pusher: “Here’s my card!” We all know this person. They push their cards on anyone and everyone even if there’s no logical reason to exchange contact info. As a general rule: don’t give out your card unless someone asks you for it.
  • The frat boy/girl: You can always find this person within proximity of the bar. “Open bar, dude!” is the warcry of the conference frat boy or girl. But a conference isn’t a frat party. So just know your limits, and you’ll avoid being grouped into this category.

How do you approach someone at a conference?

Ahhh, now you’re asking the right questions young padawan. This is the most important skill in for a productive conference attendee and there are a couple of important principles to keep in mind.

make friends at conferences

 

First and foremost, be respectful of people’s time. Everyone has ponied up their time and money (or their employer’s money) to be at the conference or tradeshow and there’s a finite amount of time to take it all in. So you need to always be thinking about answering one question:

How can you make it worth someone’s time to talk to you?

There are a couple of strategies here. It’s important to be interesting, so even if you can’t do something to directly help someone or their business, you at least have an engaging exchange and that person remembers (at least in general) what you’re all about. That means you should have a couple of canned anecdotes that bring you and your business to life!

be interesting at eventsAsk your marketing director (or a friend who is a good story teller) how to talk about what you do in a way that makes it interesting. You can find a few ideas here.

And I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. . . Have a clear ask. Preferably this person will have mentioned something that makes you think they can help, but even if the opportunity doesn’t present itself, you can always go with something along the lines of “You know, I’m working on this facebook ad campaign and it’s really challenging because it’s my first time doing an ad buy… You wouldn’t happen to know anyone with experience with that, would you?”

Not the most tailored approach, but still much much better than “So I heard the Foo Fighters are playing later. That’s pretty cool.”

When in doubt, show that you’ve done your homework. If you don’t know anything about your new conferencemate’s company or industry, you can always create some value by sharing something interesting you learned about the conference during your pre-conference research. Maybe it’s an uber-secret after party, or maybe it’s just a hidden gem of a coffee shop that has great wi-fi and lattes . . . but if you’re generous to conference goers, the conference will be generous right back to you.

Don’t forget to follow up with connections made at conferences (you can do this more easily if you track your conversations along the way) and take notes for next year.

Where can I do more research on conferences and industry events?

Startup SummitI’ll be putting these strategies the Salesforce Startup Summit, a conference produced by Ulrich and his team within the larger Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. If you want to join me, just drop a comment below and I’ll send you a code to get 50% off your Startup Summit registration. Or check out other great conferences in your industry.

I like using Lanyrd when researching and searching for events, but you can also find great stuff on Techmeme and similar information hubs. As you attend more conferences, you may even learn some techniques for getting into events for free. Now, you’ll be the pro. 

What conferences have you attended? What are the most productive parts of events for you?

 

How Monthly Investor Updates Scored $10 Million in Funding for WedPics

Before Justin Miller’s mobile company had 2.5+ million users, he was working out of a basement, searching for an industry where his tech company could thrive.

Miller has since been kicked out of that basement office, threatened by large-scale companies, and faced several funding crunches. But Miller’s startup, WedPics now powers personalized photo-sharing for 10,000 weddings per weekend, with monthly uploads in the millions. Watch Justin Miller’s candid interview from Verge North Carolina and learn the real story behind how he grew WedPics (and exactly WHY monthly investor updates are so important):

WedPics CEO and Co-founder Justin Miller didn’t have prior expertise or experience in launching or growing a tech startup. But the team’s resourcefulness made creative use of the resources available in the growing tech hub of the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel-Hill).

justin-miller-monthly-investor-updates“This was everybody’s first startup,” says Miller. “But we were just driven and had the determination to figure out how to make things happen.”

Miller believes in his team and the startup community in North Carolina. He is a graduate of North Carolina State (NC State) University and veteran of IBM, where he spent 7 years honing his skills before launching WedPics (then named deja mi, inc) in 2011.

WedPics has $9.9 million in 5 rounds of funding, according to CrunchBase. Investors include the likes of well-known thought leader and investor Brad Feld and “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran.

“None of us knew anything about the wedding space,” said Miller. But the team has prevailed through effective user acquisition, tech development, and communication. The co-founder attributes the WedPics investment success to one key CEO habit:

Write Monthly Investor Updates

“I needed to figure out a way to stay at the top of everybody’s radar,” said Miller. “[Doing monthly investor updates] is one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Here’s what Miller did with his WedPics investor and partner updates:

  • Send at the beginning of every month
  • Give overview of how we did the previous month
  • Provide cumulative overview of how we’ve been performing to date

“That is one of the best things we’ve ever done,” says Miller. Several investors and investor groups have explained why monthly investor reports are important and have even provided investor update templates for founders to use. But Miller shares which qualities made the WedPics updates so valuable:

5 Keys to Effective Investor Updates

  1. WedPics-investor-updateStay relevant (share only the information relevant to company’s current direction).
  2. Show traction.
  3. Make it a quick read (Pro Tip: use charts where it’s helpful).
  4. Be transparent.
  5. Don’t expect responses (people are busy, so be consistent even if updates don’t immediately spark a dialogue).

Even if your tech company doesn’t have investors, you can use monthly investor updates to form and direct your thinking, keep your team on the same page, and facilitate partner opportunities. WedPics not only shared with investors and potential investors, but used the monthly investors reports to keep potential partners, acquirers, and acquisition targets updated on their team’s progress.

Side note: social sharing app Buffer does a great job of sharing their monthly investor updates. Read through their past updates here. I also really like the notes on investor updates from Groove CEO Alex Turnbull: read his advice here.

Watch the Full WedPics Interview to Learn More About Investor Updates AND:

  • WedPics User Growth Strategy
  • Why Sharing Personally is Important for Founders
  • Why WedPics is Still Taking Risks
  • How North Carolina is Supporting Startup Growth

Watch the WedPics interview …or…. leave a comment below! Are you currently sending regular investor updates? What benefits (or even negative side effects) have you experienced as a result?

Why Learn Coding? w/ Scott Voicemail Inventor Scott Jones [VIDEO]

I sat down into the red velvet seats of one of the greatest home theaters in the world. But I wasn’t in New York or Los Angeles.

Voicemail inventor Scott Jones recently made his home (read: mansion) into one of the most ambitious undertakings in the field of education. With the unveiling of Eleven Fifty coding academy, Jones launched a new approach to learning to code software. Full disclosure: Eleven Fifty is a sponsor of Verge. And there are very good reasons why we decided to partner up…

Watch the video below to see Scott’s answer to the question “Why learn coding?” and maybe even more intriguingly… Why Indiana?

So, why learn coding?

C’mon! Are you living under a rock?

I know I’m not the only one getting hit up dozens of times a week asking if I know anyone who “knows how to build iPhone apps” or someone in search of a “technical co-founder.” Coding skills are in high demand.

It doesn’t matter if you know the latest language or not, it’s the underlying principles and thinking strategies of software development that lay the foundation to build great software–whether you want to build the next enterprisey software death star… or just annoy your friends with a new app that will be hotter than Flappy Bird.

Why learn coding in Indiana?

scott-jonesWell, besides the fact that the Indiana startup community’s got it going on, there’s one critical aspect that sets Indiana apart. . .

Immersion.

By hosting their intensive coding courses in the home of voicemail inventor Scott Jones, Eleven Fifty has crafted an immersive approach to learning to code. Walking through the halls (and the sick home theater, and indoor basketball court, and commercial kitchen…), you can feel the knowledge being pumped into the brains of students as they develop real-life apps with hands-on guidance from some of the most talented trainers in software.

There are also several great developer communities and new organizations that are working relentlessly to help more people become more technically proficient.

Why learn coding now?

It seriously has never been easier. If you want to learn to code but haven’t written your first line yet, it’s just because you’re lazy.

Hey, I won’t hold it against you. Just get started. Like… now.

If you want to get a taste of this immersive approach to learning to code, we’ve got something special for you. . .

Use the discount code below for 40% off the Security course

May 28th and 29th. Get the deets and get registered for the course here:

https://elevenfifty.com/course/security/

Code: verge@efa
The code can be entered at the checkout! So… check. it. out. (sorry, I had to)

If you’re within driving distance of the academy, I hope you’ll join us for our May 28th Evolution of Code event at Eleven Fifty. You can register here (while tickets are still available):

evolution-of-code.eventbrite.com

So, let me know where you’re at. . . Are you learning some coding basics? Or wanting to take your technical game to the next level? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me a tweet!