How to Steal the Best Digital Marketing Ideas

Eric Clapton MasteryEric Clapton became a guitar god by first practicing riffs created by blues guitar legend Robert Johnson. Clapton developed his own style as he listened to other artists, played with new bands, and found the guitar licks that he grew to love.

Becoming a master of digital marketing is no different.

But first, you’ve got to get the right stuff into your brain (Clapton wouldn’t have become Clapton if he’d imitated amateurs). If you want to master digital marketing idea generation, you have to first get comfortable with borrowing things that work elsewhere.

Use this 20-minute daily practice to steal the best digital marketing ideas for your start up or growing company.

Become a magnet for digital marketing strategy ideas.

Set aside 20 minutes a day. Go ahead and block it out on your calendar so you commit to it. Then use the time as follows:

First 5 minutes: Choose the 10 best growth articles of the day.

Skim through the 3 best marketing ideas bubbling up on the internet that day. You can subscribe to company emails that you like to find fresh digital marketing ideas. But I like to use Q&A and user-submission tools to help me identify what’s worth reading and what isn’t. I highly recommend:

During this first 5 minutes, you should simply identify the 5-10 most compelling articles. Identify these by finding the submissions that have the most upvotes, comments, or keywords in the title that indicate the article might be particularly relevant to your business.

Pro Tip: You can do this process even more quickly by hold shift while you click each tab. This will open the article in a new tab without changing windows and allow you to complete this first part of discovery quickly.

Second 5 minutes: Identify the best digital marketing ideas.

Is it worth reading every word of every article that catches your attention online? (hint: probably not)

digital marketing ideas

Get in the habit of good skimming technique by taking the 5-10 articles identified in your first 5 minutes of discovery and forcing yourself to review the article in 30 seconds or less. Do this by reading through the headlines and subheads, bolded words, and key phrases (which generally appear in the first and last sentences of paragraphs).

Your goal here should be to find the best 3 articles for you to dig into and really comprehend. These should be articles that challenge you to think in a new way or learn something new.

Third 5 minutes: Dig in.

Now that you’ve figured out where the gold is hidden, it’s time to put on your headlamp and headlamp. Because, we’re going mining!

In each of your final three digital marketing ideas, look for explicit tactics that are tied to measurable outcomes. As you identify clear tactics, jot some notes on how you might apply those same marketing tactics to your business. Here’s an example of a digital marketing concept:

“Add a live chat function on product pages”

Keep it brief, but descriptive. If necessary, add a couple of extra thoughts on how you could make this marketing idea work for your business. We’ll need that for the final step.

Final 5 minutes: Build out one digital marketing idea.

You should have about 7-10 concepts from three articles at this point. Now it’s time to identify and dig in once again.

Rank your marketing concepts by potential impact to your business or ease of implementation, depending on your current work capacity. Write a number to the left of each concept statement indicating which should be top priority (number 1).

Then, take your number one idea and bullet out a few more notes on that concept:

  • What existing campaign or marketing strength would this concept leverage?
  • Given your existing marketing strategies, what kind of impact could you expect to your key metrics? Write these down as rough goals.
  • How quickly could you expect to implement? Jot down what you think might be a good goal.

Save these notes to review at the end of each week. This is an important step for getting your marketing ideas implemented

Make your digital marketing idea your own.

Using this 20-minute daily practice with allow you to see enough digital marketing ideas to come up with your own ideas. By giving yourself some time between initial idea generation and review at the end of each week, you’ll give your subconscious the space it needs to gestate.

By making this a daily habit, your brain will begin to see patterns in digital marketing ideas. This discipline will help you steal and implement the best ideas, and give our business the biggest opportunities by making them your own.

BONUS: How to Get the Best Marketing Ideas before they hit the Internet

Pssst… here’s a little secret that the best entrepreneurs and marketers don’t want you to know…

The very best marketing ideas are usually shared at industry conferences months before the case studies get shared publically on the internet. This gives you time to capture the market and refine before others start stealing the same marketing ideas.

Join the MBO Digital Marketing Conference and Ideate Like a Boss

Verge HQ teamed up with one of the Midwest’s best digital marketing conferences, MBO. We’re hosting our pitch night this Wednesday, April 29th. We’ll have a panel of marketing tech thought leaders, as well as some of the most innovative software companies presenting their tech and marketing.

But just for you, you can attend the entire MBO conference and get more than $60 off your registration with the code VERGE15.

Register now >>

MBO Indy




It’s no secret that Indianapolis is a leader in Marketing and Tech. I hope you’ll join us!


From Open Waters to Red Oceans: T.A. McCann’s Adventure as a Successful Sailor and Entrepreneur

T.A. McCann is one of the few people on the planet who can claim astronomical success in not one but two areas; in his case, sailing AND entrepreneurship. But are they that different? I sat down with the tech company founder and America’s Cup winner about both bouncing back from failure and tips for achieving success.

Watch the full interview with T.A. McCann here:

Adventures in Entrepreneurship and Sailing with T.A. McCann

sailing and entrepreneurshipMcCann got the entrepreneurial bug around the tender age of 12 when he started a lawn care business: “The feeling of independence and being able to control my own destiny has always been important to me.” Perhaps that’s why, after graduating from Purdue (which is still going strong when it comes to shaping entrepreneurs!) and becoming a mechanical engineer, he quit to pursue the freedom of the open waters. An accomplished professional sailor, he won the America’s Cup in 1992.

What do Sailing and Entrepreneurship Have in Common?

Quite a lot, in fact! In his blog post on the subject, McCann observes that the skill, engineering excellence and perseverance shown by Larry Ellison and his victorious Oracle Team USA are “all things that go into a building a successful startup.” From finding a competitive advantage to working under a deadline, watch McCann draw all the parallels →

“If you’re only achieving at 20%, the goal is too hard. If you’re achieving at 100%, then the goal is too easy.”

-T.A. McCann, Sailor / Entrepreneur / Investor

Resetting the Goal Posts.

TA MccannMcCann’s sailing career was not without some setbacks. When competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race (now called the Volvo Ocean Race), his team was closing in on victory when suddenly, the mast fell down. Bitterly disappointed, almost everyone on the team wanted to quit. But in the three days it took to get back to land, a transformation from despair to hope took place: “We tried to find what we could salvage. Could we still win the last leg? Could we actually complete the race?” After resetting the goal posts, the team did in fact win the last leg handily and achieved a lot of reset goals.

“We just showed up at the wrong time.”

Not every entrepreneurial venture was a success, either. McCann returned to the tech world from sailing in the late 90s – in the midst of the dot-com bubble – with a startup called Helpshare: “It was a reasonably good idea, and we had built the company properly, but right when we were planning to go raise money, the crash happened.”

The Case For Corporate Experience.

ta-mccann-americas-cupThe loss was devastating, and McCann ended up joining Microsoft. During his three years there, he financially and emotionally recharged while still innovating and learning skills on the scale of a large company, “things that are different than what you need to learn for a startup,” like how to build software for hundreds of millions of customers in 123 languages. Eventually, a venture capitalist McCann had worked with through the product he had built for Microsoft Exchange invited him to become an entrepreneur-in-residence.

Entering a Red Ocean.

In 2008, McCann launched Gist amid several competitors already in the content discovery space. It started with the goal bringing users relevant news but evolved, using integrations with Google’s and Twitter’s APIs, into a social address book: “If I have all of my contacts in one place, and the system can give me news both about them and by them, then I can use to better understand them, and by understanding them I can build better relationships with them.” Through consistent customer feedback, Gist evolved into a relationship manager and caught RIM’s eye, which acquired the company in 2011.

The Importance of Building Relationships.

rival iq ta mccannWhen I asked him for advice he would give to entrepreneurs, McCann underscored the importance of building relationships for recruiting, reaching thought leaders, courting investors, and finding customers: “The stronger a relationship is, the more likely someone is going to do something for you or recommend you or your product to somebody else.” His most recent tech venture, Rival IQ (which we use at Verge, and I highly recommend), can help you learn how to best build relationships with customers through data-driven marketing. McCann also shared his 5-3-2 Rule for building relationships on social media. Watch him explain the strategy →

Want to learn even more from T.A. McCann?

Join 1,000 founders, investors, and builders at this year’s Innovation Showcase in July! A limited number of Early-Bird tickets are available for the full conference with more than 70 fundable companies. Reserve your spot here →

Raw notes/timestamps:  show

Why did Jay Baer move to build his business in Bloomington, Indiana?

I lived there for three years of my life. But I was still surprised when I heard that Jay moved his wife and kids more than 1,600 miles to make their home in Bloomington, Indiana.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Bloomington. I mean, I started and sold my first real business in B-town. It’s just that you don’t run into many people who relocate their lives to what you might call a “college town,” and then not do business with the university. Best-selling author and marketing keynote speaker, Jay Baer recently explained his reasoning for moving to Bloomington, Indiana. Watch this candid story, shared at The Speak Easy co-working space  in Indianapolis:

In case you don’t have a relational database pulled up in another tab, let’s break it down in case you’re considering “B-town” for your business.

Pros of Bloomington, Indiana for Business:

  • jay baer bloomington indianaSave your capital for building your company. You sure as heck won’t need it to find a great place to live. In Bloomington, you can live and eat well, while keeping cash in the bank for your next full-time hire.
  • There’s literally a talent factory producing tech talent through the IU Informatics and Computing program as well as business brains pumped through the #1-ranked public school for entrepreneurship, The Johnson Center.
  • There’s a community of other people building businesses in Bloomington. Whether you visit startup accelerator, SproutBox, or an event at Verge Bloomington, you’ll find an energy unlike anything you’ll find on the coasts.

Cons of Bloomington, Indiana for Business:

  • It’s a college town, so there is a certain amount of transience. It could be more difficult to get local clients, if that’s your thing.
  • You have a smaller pool to test your product. Whether you have a new service, widget, or app, you have around 100,000 people in the town to use as your testing ground.
  • There’s less access to capital, if you don’t know where to look. While there are startup accelerators like SproutBox, who have helped build several successful companies (with a few wins, already), there just aren’t as many angels or VCs as you’d find in a metro area. That said, many investors travel to Bloomington regularly for business, visits to IU campus, and national conferences like The Combine.

Speaking of The Combine, I hope I’ll see you there this weekend. Yep. I’m going going, back back to B-town.

And I’m pretty stoked about it. With a few hundred people registered and keynote presenters like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (and serial entrepreneur, Jay Baer!), Bloomington is going to be a blast this Thurs-Sat. Use the code “INDYVERGE2014” and get 25% off when you register. So, if you haven’t already, get yours now!

So, what has your experience been with doing business in a college town? Is Bloomington an anomaly?

Reducing Small Business Expenses: 3 Startup Expenses That Pay For Themselves

Reducing Small Business ExpensesStartup founders are always looking for a creative way to reduce small business expenses. And to some, it may even seem almost pathological. 

“You ride your bike 10 miles to the office every day, Tim! Are you training for a triathlon or something?” …nope. Just reducing small business expenses. 

“Why is this proposal printed on the back of a takeout menu?” Well, obviously I’m reducing small business expenses. 

“Really? Dumpster diving!?”

Reducing. Small business. Expenses.

Luckily, Lauren Rose from BlueFirePR has broken down 3 small business expenses that end up paying for themselves and outlined how your startup or small business can benefit (and so you can sleep better at night). 

Less than 1 percent of entrepreneurs in 2009 came from an extremely rich or poor background, reports OnStartups. The finding represents 549 major company founders, and stresses a greater truth about starting a business: One does not need to be wealthy or come from extreme beginnings to flourish as an entrepreneur. One way start-up business owners can succeed is to use the techniques listed below to find small business necessities that pay for themselves.

Reduced Small Biz Expenses vs. Tax Write-Offs

The earliest stages of business development rely on those welcomed tax write-offs that will become inevitable at the turn of the first year, which include many purchases discussed in greater detail below (system software, tax filing). Such purchases pay for themselves because they can be deferred as tax write-offs and may include business cell phones, computer parts and entertainment purchases related to business that affect the bottom line. details the big 12 write-offs that are self-paying:
  • Vehicle mileage
  • FurnitureReducing Small Biz Expenses Meme
  • Home office supplies
  • Child care
  • Social security
  • Retirement contributions
  • Insurance
  • Business-related gifts
  • Travel
  • Software
  • Telephone
  • Meals

Setting Up the Paperwork

doing-paperwork-like-a-bossPaperwork is a major initial expense for a small business. Fortunately, such an expense will rarely appear again, and may vanish forever. Because paperwork is required to start efficient business practices and attain prosperity in the field, it pays for itself almost immediately (though certainly in a different way than more tangible aspects of business). Paperwork pseudo-assets include bonding forms, tax identification, EIN number qualification and general business type filing for corporate, LLC, partnership and other company types, according to

Of course, legal documentation is important. For a business in a creative field, trade marking various graphics and names will pay for itself immediately because doing so protects the business from being inherently sued right out of the gate. Copyrighting and trade marking logos, general business graphics and the business name facilitate business credibility. Without them, the business is left more vulnerable and may potentially collapse due to legal fumbling.

Software: The Crux of Small Business

small business cloud computingMany businesses prosper because of the software behind their functionality. A graphic design firm requires a sophisticated design software to succeed, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. A company that offers cloud services for firms unduly rely on cloud computing software systems to offer the service. These pivotal software systems, detailed by PC World, pay for themselves, because a firm would not be able to realistically offer the service without them.

One example, WordPress, is a borderline groundbreaking component to the modern Internet and business landscape, signaling WordPress-built home pages, integral blog pages and SEO-qualified specifications. Quickbooks by Intuit becomes paramount for accounting businesses, as well as Peachtree for administration and tax accounting.

As far as software goes, one of the most complete and essential is credit card processing software. The system is necessary to receive digital payments. cash flow, for example, assists business in grounding their digital transactions en masse.

A business stands on the use of its software, whether the field is digital-based or not. No business can escape the need for a quality software and, if it does, it is unlikely to be a business that can gain major traction in this globally focused, small business environment.

For more information about starting your first business, check out these business skills you can put into practice for better results.

Where 11 Leaders Turn to Boost Business Decision Making Prowess

Business Decision MakingWe make hundreds of little decisions every day. Wear the black shoes, not the brown ones. Salad for lunch. Turn left. We don’t often doubt our own judgment in these situations. There isn’t much at stake, after all.

But when we run up against big business decisions that come with serious implications, something changes. We become more aware of just how unreliable our brains can be, and the stress we feel from uncertainty amplifies our own doubts. In these situations, we need a little help.

Avoid Common Business Decision Making Traps

Sometimes, we’re able to help ourselves. Here are a few examples of how you can pull yourself out of a business decision making trap (from the HBR):

  • Anchoring. Many people give disproportionate weight to the first information they receive. Be sure to pursue other lines of thinking, even if the first one seems right.
  • Status quo. Change can be unsettling and it’s easy to favor alternatives that keep things the same. Ask yourself if the status quo truly serves your objectives and downplay the urge to stay in your current state.
  • Confirming evidence. If you find that new information continually validates your existing point of view, ask a respected colleague to argue against your perspective. Also try to avoid working with people who always agree with you.

Here’s a little trick to pull yourself out of the quicksand of uncertainty and take action on a decision:

Work towards a binary decision (i.e., yes or no, this or that) and, once you have two options, flip a coin. Don’t go with whatever George Washington tells you to do–rather, try to gauge your reaction to the coin toss. If you’re disappointed by the outcome, then you should go with the other option.

Sometimes all of us need a little help.

So where do some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs turn to enhance their business decision making?

Business Decision Making Inputs

The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Where Leading Entrepreneurs Turn to Make Better Business Decisions

Michael Patak1. My Team
My team is going to be with me before and after a big business decision, so they should be part of the process. They know our customer base, and they can offer valuable insight to things that will affect the company.
Michael Patak, TopstepTrader



Laura Roeder2. My Intuition

I’m a huge believer in following your gut. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” for a scientific explanation of the incredible amount of wisdom and knowledge stored in your intuition. When faced with a tough decision, I go inward. Is my gut telling me this feels right or wrong? I’ve never regretted listening to my intuition, but I’ve often regretted ignoring what I knew to be true.
Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media


Joe Apfelbaum3. My Partners and Mentors

When I am faced with a big business decision, I always speak to my partner first. He is the person I spend the most time with in business, and we discuss everything. I also have a few mentors with whom I discuss decisions. I do that because they have been there already. They know from experience where things can go wrong, and there is nothing better than experience.
Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union


Panos Panay4. A Broad View of Perspectives

I tend to reach out to multiple people with multiple experiences and relationships to get as broad of a perspective as possible. It’s not uncommon for me to talk to as many as 15 people. Once I feel that I have input from a good cross section of people, I’ll make sure that I have some time alone to ponder the feedback, figure out how I feel and what my own inner voice says. Then I act.
Panos Panay, Sonicbids


Trevor Summers5. My Competitors

Yes, I talk to my competitors and people facing highly analogous challenges. You will be surprised what you can learn if you are willing to be transparent. Your secrets aren’t so secret, and if you help a competitor and yourself, you are both better off than facing the entire marketplace alone.
Trevor Sumner, LocalVox



David Ehrenberg6. A Group of Dissenting Opinions

I like to be surrounded by strong people who think differently than I do and whom I respect. These kinds of people who have different opinions are my go-to people when I’m facing a big business decision. They attack the issue from a different angle, play devil’s advocate to my traditional line of thinking and challenge me to defend my perspective.
David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services



Andy Karuza7. My Business Partner

My business partner and I are open in our discussions about our ideas. Most business decisions ultimately affect him, so it’s good to put two heads together to solve the problem by dissecting it and brainstorming possible solutions. Both of our experiences and the way we think are different, but our values are the same. The different ideas and aligned values help us make good decisions.
Andy Karuza, brandbuddee


Vanessa Van Edwards8. A Personal Board of Advisors

A personal board of advisors is a group of people you meet with regularly who are smart, savvy and trustworthy. They do not have to be in your industry; they just need to be able to help you when you have a big business decision. I love my personal board of advisors because the group is an amazing way to get feedback and have a personal support system.
Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People


Derek Capo9. My Father

My dad has a lot of experience growing a business as a pseudo-entrepreneur. He deals with the operations of the business and was instrumental in teaching me how to communicate with employees, suppliers and potential business partners. He isn’t afraid to give me constructive criticism on the decision or the process, and it is something that is needed for me and the company to improve.
Derek Capo, Next Step China


Eric Holtzclaw10. My Top Five

I have a group I call my top five, and it serves as my personal board of directors. I rely on my top five to help me look at big business decisions from different perspectives. I make sure these individuals have varying outlooks, experiences and temperaments. My Vistage group, a professional organization of other CEOs, has helped me more than I can express with some of my toughest decisions.
Eric Holtzclaw, Laddering Works


Heidi Allstop11. My Non-Startup Friends

Few founders use friends outside of the startup world and wrongly assume that they won’t understand. Though non-startup friends rarely ask questions about ROI, competition and investors, they often shed light on the valuable humanistic aspects of the decision, asking things such as, “Why are you hesitant? What do your users think? What do you want to happen?” Outsiders reveal a lot.
Heidi Allstop, Spill

How to Use Open Book Management to Drive Bottom-up Success

Open Book Management A company performs best when its people see themselves as partners in the business rather than as hired hands.

-John Case, Inc. Magazine

“Why is it that when private companies share their business data, everyone freaks out?” Scott Hill, Co-founder and CEO of PERQ, said as we examined the performance metrics plastered on a wall next to PERQ’s kitchen. “I mean, nobody gets uneasy when public companies disclose their earnings–they have to, after all–but when a private company does it, people wonder why. I don’t get it.”

Cracking a smile, Hill explained to me how Open Book Management has become core to PERQ’s culture–and success–in the video below.

Open Book Management Turns Business into a Game

“I’m not going to show the score to my team,” Hill said, tongue in cheek. “I’m just going to tell them when to play hard, I’m going to tell them when to be excited, I’m going to tell them when they’re not doing well.”

Yeah, right.

“We believe that business can be played as a game,” Hill said. “And in no other game does it make sense to not show the score.”

The Basics of Open Book Management

When John Case coined the term Open Book Management in the early nineties, he described three principles that would amount to a fundamental shift in business management:

  • Know and teach the rules: every employee should be given the measures of business success and taught to understand them
  • Follow the Action & Keep Score: Every employee should be expected and enabled to use their knowledge to improve performance
  • Provide a Stake in the Outcome: Every employee should have a direct stake in the company’s success-and in the risk of failure

The Great Game: Open Book Management Book

While John Case coined the term, Jack Stack at SRC Holdings made Open Book Management famous. For more info on Open Book Management, including Open Book strategies and the conference for Open Book Management, check out The Great Game.


Just Knowing the Score isn’t Enough

“If you know the score and you’re just playing a game of basketball, people might not care if you win or lose,” Hill said. That’s why simply sharing business data with employees isn’t enough. For Open Book Management to really succeed in practice, employees must be empowered to take independent action and incentivized to do so.

Hill’s game board is updated daily on where the team stands for the day, the month, and the game period, “So everybody always knows how they stand on their bonus opportunity.”

“To me,” said Hill, “There is nothing worse than a bonus being paid out in March for the previous year and no one even knows what they did or how it occurred, it’s just ‘Here’s your bonus for the year.’ You’re not getting the actual performance increase you can have happen when the team understands how the bonuses actually occur and what they can do to improve upon that.”

Questions or Comments About Open Book Management?

If you have other examples of Open Book successes (or failures), or if you want to dig a little deeper into Open Book Management, you know what to do–comments are below.

Special Invitation: We’re Launching PERQ’s new platform, FATWIN, at a very special Verge Pitch Night event on November 20th.

UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT! But there will be a livestream on the Verge Facebook page. Here’s a sneak peak of the PERQ office:

The Art of the Ask

how to close more sales







Everyone knows that one person that has the “it” factor. They hustle, they convince, and they close. And whether they’re raising a round for their startup or making a sale, perfecting the art of the ask is the closer’s surest path to success. So, what do we know about the art of the ask?

Close More Sales Through the Art of the Ask

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Be intentional. Spend plenty of time thinking about your audience’s pain points and structure your conversation around that. Form each chunk of your pitch so that the next segment or point is the next logical step. The first 80% of your pitch should lead naturally to the ask. Establish a chain of logic to do this, one that your audience can follow step by step. If you’re asking them to purchase a product, walk them through a use case. Your ask is the punchline, so build to it.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Draw out the simple equation for success in your venture, and show them exactly where and how they can be a part of it. For fund raisers: if you don’t begin your pitch by telling the audience precisely what you’re asking for, then you should at least give them a good idea of what your ask will be. And your ask slide should have three easy to read points:

  • What you’re asking for
  • What you’ll do with it, and by when
  • Projected outcome

Prove it

While entrepreneurs might thrive in uncertainty, buyers don’t. Ever. Before you make your ask, you’ll need to demonstrate the value (track record, energy, core values, external validators like clients/other investors/team) your audience seeks. This helps establish credibility–and creditability is fundamental to the ask.

Similarly, build credibility with your audience by appealing to their intellect. People like their intelligence to be respected. So, while you may need to do some education in your pitch, be sure to discuss ROI, the marketplace you’re playing in, and the probability of success your audience can expect.

To really be able to prove it, you’ll also need to know exactly what you need. That’s what you’ll ask for–that, or 20-30% more (for negotiating). This is debated, but both are reasonable strategies.

Drama Isn’t a Bad Thing

Appeal to your audience’s emotions. People require data to qualify their decisions, but they respond emotionally to stories. You already know that emotion (pain points) drives most buying decisions, so be sure your pitch is focused in on those emotions.

In order to really understand how to appeal to your audience’s emotions, it’s a good idea to spend plenty of time creating buyer personas for your audience before entering the conversation. If you haven’t created them before, you really should learn more about buyer and user personas.

And when you can appeal to your audience’s nobler motives (Dale Carnegie nailed it) while solving their pain points, your ask will feel like a no-brainer.

Shut Up

Ask and then shut up. Don’t fill space with more babble because it feels awkward. Some people call this the silent close.

React with clear next steps if they say yes. Don’t act surprised, don’t waver, don’t give them any reason to second guess. Communicate REALLY well. And, regardless if they say no, don’t fail with a “second ask.”

Entrepreneur Education

Schooling should never get in the way of your education

Entrepreneurial Education

It’s exciting to see new entrepreneurship programs popping up at more and more Universities these days. Undergrads are increasingly well equipped to start up or contribute to small entrepreneurial teams, thanks in part to our growing domestic and international focus on technology entrepreneurship at the institutional and cultural levels.

At the same time, there are fewer groups that shun traditional education more than startup entrepreneurs. We pride ourselves on learning by taking action, by stepping forward–even if we misstep. We know some of our best lessons learned are the hardest ones earned, and since we know that we don’t know everything, we are willing to surrender ourselves to the startup curriculum: build, measure, learn, repeat.

But knowledge is power, and if you’re getting all of your new knowledge from your daily work, odds are that you’re limiting yourself and your startup. Mark Twain is right; to catch the trade winds in your sails, you first must leave the harbor.

Check out Startup Digest for local listings of startup events, startup workshops, developer meetups and other ways to leave your safe harbor. And here are a few more ways Indiana entrepreneurs can continue to learn along their startup journey.

Techpoint Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Growth Stage Companies


It’s hard to press pause on your work, but sometimes it only takes one day to provide inspiration, strategies and tactics that you’ll rely on for a long time. If you’ve learned enough along the way to take your startup to growth stage, you won’t want to miss your chance to gain the knowledge that will help your team’s next step the right one. On October 11th, Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Growth Stage Companies will feature speakers and discussions with experienced professionals like Rich Rella of BidPal, Jeremy Dearringer of Digital Relevance, Sean O’Connor of Flat12 Bierwerks, Don Aquilano of Allos Ventures, and Mike Fitzgerald of Gravity Ventures. The agenda for this daylong workshop includes:

  • Stories from the Trenches: “The Rise of Flat12 Bierwerks “How Flat12 Bierwerks grew from a crazy idea into one of the hottest local breweries in Indy, with striking similarities to software-as-a-service and other tech startups.
    • Fundraising
    • Buying Out a Co-founder
    • Product Considerations and Marketing
    • Creating a Board of Directors
    • Regulations and Licensing
    • Distribution Channels
  • Mock Investor Negotiation
  • Protecting Yourself vs. Protecting the Business
  • Human Resources and Employment Law: “The Do and Don’t List”
  • Preparing for Funding: How Diagnotes Attracted Capital
  • Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies Panel
  • Growth-Stage Investors Panel
  • “Ask the Experts” Small Group/1-on-1 Time

Startup Weekend

Startup Weekends are 54-hour hands-on sprints where marketers, designers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to take an idea to fruition over a weekend. The events are great for sharpening the skills you already have while working with new teammates to pick up others. Other learning opportunities at Startup Weekends include determining if a startup idea is viable, pitch practice, lean startup methodology implementation on a new problem, and more. At the end of the weekend, teams demo their products and receive feedback from the panel of experts and the community.

Entrepreneur Training for Specific Skills

Pragmatic Marketing


Marketing is about so much more than messaging. The best modern marketers understand customer identity building, win/loss analysis, go-to-market strategies, and more. Product management, inbound, outbound–entrepreneurs pursuing marketing skills today will certainly be doing their well by their startups. I attended the Practical Product Marketing training from Pragmatic Marketing last year, where I picked up their framework (which I love). This type of training can be expensive to attend, but most attendees agree: its worth it.

Individual Google Adwords Certification

Google Adwords Individually Qualified certification brings skills in search media and online advertising that startups need to succeed. If your startup advertises online, someone on your team should either already have this certification or be working toward it. The world of online advertising changes quickly; some of the most well-known principles of search have been stale for years, and one of these certifications helps to ensure that you aren’t left behind.

Get out of your safe harbor and learn something.

Let me know how you like to learn as an entrepreneur in the comments or on twitter!

Announcing more Companies to Pitch and Exhibit at Innovation Showcase

Innovation Showcase

The Innovation Showcase is shaping up to be a fantastic event! On July 11th, 60+ fundable companies of varying stages will share their story in the Dallara Indycar Factory exhibit hall and give their 60-second pitch for a chance to win $60K in cash and services. Attendees get a chance to see the pitches, tour the hall, and attend two great panel discussions before the winner is announced at the end of the day.


Grab your attendee tickets to catch all the action!

And in case you missed it, watch Showcase participant PocketCab on Inside Indiana Business:

PocketCab pitches on IIB

PocketCab pitches on IIB

We’re thrilled to announce the next group of Innovators to watch:

ShopTalk was founded in September 2012 to solve the most talked about pain point for online retailers today – how to best capitalize and engage potential customers through Facebook. ShopTalk’s subscription-based product gives retailers exposure to their customers’ social network by providing shoppers an instant discount (or other direct incentives) for sharing their purchases to Facebook, while also providing retailers analytics behind customer profiling and the reach/interaction of posted products.

Innovative Photonics Technologies, LLC Increases the performance of electronics systems used in communications and computing networks by miniaturizing current fiber optic architectures onto photonic integrated circuits (PICs). Development work has included fiber-optic architectures for analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters (ADC / DAC), photonic switching, and optical processing of multiple simultaneous radio frequency (RF) communications and radar signals for antenna arrays. The first product InPhoTec is bringing to market is a high-speed and high-resolution all-optical ADC based on an architecture developed by Dr. Siahmakoun that takes advantage of the reduced path lengths and high-speed devices available in photonics chips to achieve market leading performance. Currently raising funds to complete implementation of this photonic ADC.

DermaLife, LLC provides advanced skin care solutions. Since our company’s founding in early 2010, we have focused on launching in the U.S. an improved formulation of a classic French remedy that generates $50M in annual revenues and is used in over 70% of French households for burns, wounds anti-aging. Since Dermal Life achieved FDA clearance on May 1, 2013 and recently launched LaFONTAINE to achieve revenue generation, we are pursuing both strategic private-label partnerships and strategic angel-investor funding of up to $1 million to launch Rx indications into radiation oncology and dermatology market segments.

Infinite AI, Inc. builds intelligent end-to-end automation systems for supply chain operations and healthcare organizations that utilize artificial intelligence, robotics, RFID and high performance computing.

MYTM8 is a management tool for youth sports teams that simplifies the lives of parents and coaches. The application was developed to alleviate the day-to-day management and fundraising challenges uncovered by conversations with local sports teams. In the past several months, we have built and beta tested a functional team management application. MYTM8 is currently expanding our user network and engaging the feedback of our existing member teams.  To build upon this success, MYTM8 is working to enhance the fundraising potential of youth teams – enabling team parents to give back to their organization through everyday purchases on their smartphone. Within the past few weeks, we have developed a relationship with the state’s governing soccer body, the Indiana Soccer Association, to eventually test and promote our fundraising application to their member base of 60,000 players.

Envigilator We solve the problem that teachers don’t have any insights into the methodology or steps their students use in completing assignments by recording data and syncing it to the cloud for further analytics and review. You might remember us from the Innovation Showcase last year. At that time, we were capturing data for the purposes of cheating prevention. We’ve learned that there isn’t much of a market for cheating prevention software. However, our users loved using our recordings to help students who struggled in their classes. So we listened and now we’re working on building Envigilator into a complete assignment level learning analytics system to help students and teachers discover and correct the difficult points in the learning process. Do you know educators that give computer-based assignments? It could be coding exams, graphic design, or even english or history papers written on a computer. We’d love to talk to them!

Curvo Labs, LLC Hospitals and surgery centers purchase $200 billion in medical devices each year. Medical device companies spend more to sell a product than to manufacture it. Hospitals and surgery centers need to save money. Medical device companies need to sell products efficiently. With Curvo, they both win. solves the challenge of remotely managing patients with multiple chronic conditions by enabling healthcare providers to truly “prescribe” a personalized health management plan directly to their patient’s mobile device. The idea for originated when the Founder of the company was diagnosed with a second chronic condition, after having launched an app (MyGiTrack) specific to his first chronic condition (Crohn’s disease). The Founder didn’t want to use two different apps to manage his health. The health management platform has evolved into an enterprise-level SaaS-based system, supporting population management and care coordination for patients with multiple chronic conditions. The system will soon receive approval from Allscripts to integrate into their Enterprise EHR system. We are now pursuing partnerships with regional hospital groups for clinical evaluations.

Bookacoach For decades, the $6B sports coaching market has operated on an archaic and unsafe process of finding, booking and buying private instruction. The complexity of managing private lessons for one athlete involves the use of yard signs, word of mouth, cash/check, and lengthy email exchanges. With more than 700K active coaches and 40M athletes ages 6 to 18 participating in sports instruction in the US, growth is expected to exceed $7B by 2017. bookacoach is an online mobile responsive web app platform that offers a simple and robust solution to the complexities of managing private lesson instruction for both coaches and parents. Coaches receive their BAC Safety Certification thru our exclusive background check API, offering parents peace of mind while booking. Upon launch, we were the featured trending story on and since then have taken bookacoach to over 600 coaches in 33 states and 200 cities. This number continues to grow at a 50+ % growth month over month.

Courseload, the leading innovator in the aggregation, delivery and use of digital course materials in higher education, helps institutions increase student access to course materials, improve affordability and enhance learning outcomes. Courseload eliminates the barriers that have impeded the print-to-digital evolution in academia through a business model inclusive of all stakeholders, an innovative platform incorporating study tools and analytics to enhance learning and pedagogy and a team with deep experience in implementing educational technology solutions. Most recently, Courseload was identified as the leading contributor to a 12.5 percent increase in student retention at one of our partner institutions, Berkeley College. In addition, the IMS Global Learning Consortium recently awarded Courseload and its partner, Indiana University, with a Gold Learning Impact Award. Courseload has also been identified as an Indiana Company to Watch and Best Place to Work (2012,2013).

7PSolutions, LLC  delivers one comprehensive GPS-GSM monitoring solution to the pharmaceutical, biotech and life science industries for the transportation of climate control cargo, with integrated security and quality management. This technology is also being recognized by high-value and time definite manufacturers and service providers. Our company was founded in 2010 to fulfill an unmet need in the life sciences and transportation industries. Our management team consists of logistics, quality assurance and operations veterans who have cold chain and pharma experience. Our current clients include small and medium sized trucking companies, manufacturers of climate controlled cargo carriers, cargo airlines and major couriers. We are currently expanding our product offerings to include telematics fleet management for small vehicles, and enhancing our software to provide greater visibility to our clients of their location and environmental data.

Sapphire Education, LLC is using analytics and social collaboration to improve student academic performance. By allowing students to forecast their grades and share their academic knowledge with one another, we intend to use social metrics to enhance learning. We have seven confirmed high schools and colleges ready to beta test our software in the fall. Currently we are working on an algorithm that screens the web for relevant education content.

IN3 is a digital products company in West Lafayette that focuses on developing paperless solutions. These solutions include a note taking tool for conferences and classrooms named paperlessMe; survey tools; mobile documents; and directory applications.

Wasatch Photonics Wasatch Photonics is developing an imaging device using Optical Coherence Tomography(OCT)that will provide new information and evidence to physicians to aid diagnoses and treatment of vascular disorders. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major complication of diabetes – about 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. Our product development is driven by trends in medical care requiring higher value physician patient interactions along with the growth trend of vascular disorders mirroring diabetes.

Wasatch Photonics (WP) was founded in 2002 in Logan, Utah to build volume phase holographic (VPH) gratings initially for the telecom industry. In 2010 Wasatch Photonics expanded into optical systems with the acquisition of Kiara Biosystems. This systems division has been focused on optical systems for Raman spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography. In the OCT space we have sold systems to researchers and OEM’s.

Evacua is using the ride-sharing business model to create an evacuation marketplace during emergencies of all kinds. Members can get out before a hurricane strikes, or even avoid missing that important meeting when their commercial flight gets cancelled. Resource sharing during these scenarios can lead to exponential savings, and improved efficiency. We have already secured sponsorship of the Global Congress of Travel Risk Management, and have been mentioned in articles surrounding travel startups on Tnooz and Skift.

SpeechVive enables people with Parkinson’s disease to speak louder and communicate more effectively through a spontaneous reflex (the Lombard effect). Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system which affects over 1.5 million people in the U.S.
90% of people with Parkinson’s (PWP) have hypokinetic dysarthria and cannot speak loud enough to be heard. SpeechVive has 4 years of clinical data which demonstrates the ability of the SpeechVive device to revive the patients voice immediately in over 75% of cases. Another 15% show significant improvement after wearing the device for 8 weeks. One patient recently commented, “I am tired of people talking over me as if I didn’t exist.” She is excited to try SpeechVive as soon as it is commercially available along with thousands of other PWP.

Animated Dynamics’ Biodynamic Imaging platform is a breakthrough biomedical technology that is like putting vital signs monitors inside living tissue to measure its health and how it responds to drugs…simply by shining light on it. It has applications for the selection of personalized cancer therapies, the discovery of new drugs and improving the efficiency of in-vitro fertilization.

Dynamic Auto Dealer Solutions, Inc. has created a Cloud-based Dealer Management System that supports the entire Dealership Lifecycle. Both New and Independent Dealers can now benefit from Internet Technology that doesn’t require additional sotware products to run on tablets or cell phones – our products already run on them because they were built from scratch on state of the art technology. Needless rekeying of data between business units and business partners is eliminated. With crisp designs and similar screen layouts, the front and back office adoption is quick and easy. We provide CRM, Inventory, Desking, Finance and Insurance, Service, Parts, and Integrated Accounting and E-Mail. New technology allows dealerships to reduce costs, time, and errors and provides real time reporting for both Sales and Service. We have joined forces with key automotive and financial companies to create a true Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package that also improves upon current DMS products. empowers small business owners and field sales personnel to deliver person-to-person communication to the individuals and small groups important to success, for either relationship building or revenue building. Our software platform is online, putting custom content and actionable contact “at your fingertips.” Output media includes postcards, email, letters, and 3-dimensional mail. All production is handled behind the scenes by Enfront partners. Delivery can be immediate or at pre-defined future intervals. Enfront has established accounts coast-to-coast via independent Consultant Partners and headquarters sales to National Accounts. Our multi-media capability is providing an increasingly sought-after alternative to email only marketing, and Enfront is pursuing production partnerships with email players such as Indy’s Weblink International. We believe that e-glut and related marketplace noise represent an enormous opportunity, and we are positioned ideally.

BoxFox helps small brick-and-mortar retailers appraise and liquidate their excess merchandise via its B2B marketplace. Retailers can automatically determine their inventory value through proprietary web-based software and then sell it to authorized resellers. BoxFox charges resellers a tiered subscription fee and takes a small transaction fee from both parties.

PeeqMe For employees working in the ‘people economy,’ dizzying levels of value-destroying disengagement exist because people often feel misunderstood, misused and abused. How people work matters. PeeqMe socializes the personality, behavior and talent assessments that over 100 million people have taken with the right level of intimacy and simplicity to be useful. When people understand their style and their teammates’, when they use their strength and not weakness, and when they get positive not negative feedback, people do better together. By applying the smartest science, best practices, and social trends, PeeqMe allows professionals to know themselves, show their best, and grow with crowd-sourced, positive feedback. PeeqMe launched beta in June on iTunes for our high-potential, early adopting members. We are signing up small enterprise clients to pilot in higher ed, non-profit, professional services, and high tech. PeeqMe is developing enterprise functionality for a 2014 launch.

CloudOne Driving our business (and the cloud in general) is the dissatisfaction with the old ways of information technology: buy the hardware and software up front, pay to have it installed and configured, and then make expensive maintenance payments year after year that offer few new features or updates. Organizations were stuck with whatever they owned, even as their needs evolved. We’re using our unique capabilities to address this issue: 1. It’s economical, because organizations pay only for what they use, and we operate their software in the most expert and efficient way. 2. It’s elastic, because it grows and shrinks with changing business cycles. 3. It’s global, because everyone involved can connect from anywhere, anytime: sharing data, processes and knowledge with each other. Everything about business has become on-demand: utilities, facilities, staffing – and now we’re helping customers in all industries make the move to dynamic IT. There are 200,000 3D printers currently around the world, and that number is growing fast. With a growing number of printers, there will be a growing number of 3d printable content. is the Istockphoto of 3D printable designs. We provide makers the content to do much more with their 3D printers. Recent successes include TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield Finalist/Alum, SXSW V2V Venture Finalist, X-Lab Winner.

AlGalCo, LLC has the exclusive license from Purdue University to commercialize a new technology in which hydrogen is generated on demand simply by adding water to a solid alloy comprised of 90% common aluminum. The deployment of hydrogen reduces the demand for oil as it replaces gasoline and diesel when powering any internal combustion engine or fuel cell. When hydrogen is combusted, it burns with zero harmful emissions, only water vapor. Since our feedstock is aluminum, it can be recycled indefinitely. AlGalCo is currently involved in numerous applications both commercial and for the military. Weekly, we invite all interested parties to visit our beta test site located at the city of Carmel Street Department garage. We operate a standard F 250 pick-up truck partially on our hydrogen. The results are a 15% increase in mileage and a reduction in harmful emissions. Testing for Revision 2.0 of our hydrogen on demand system is also demonstrated on the test vehicle.

Tymora Analytical Operations, LLC has been established to provide new research products and reagents to Research and Development (R&D) organizations within the life sciences market. Tymora has developed a set of highly effective technologies for the analysis of protein phosphorylation that relates to the onset of numerous diseases, most notably cancer. Tymora’s flagship products, PolyMAC and pIMAGO, greatly enhance an organization’s ability to discover and develop new therapies that combat disease.

As you can see, this is going to be an action-packed Showcase. I hope to see you there!