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 

10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Hiring Their First Employees

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. 

What’s one mistake entrepreneurs can easily make when hiring their first employees?

1. Hiring Friends/Family Without Experience 

Amber AndersonIt’s easy when you first get started to think about hiring the people who are closest to you — like friends and family. But your first few hires are critical to your success. You want to make sure you hire team members who have the skills you need to fill the gaps in your company. In the long run, hiring someone you know who is not prepared can impact your relationship and your bottom line. 

– Amber AndersonMORE 

2. Going Cheap 

Diego OrjuelaYour first employee is a very big expense for a small company. Typically, we want to hire for the size of our company and employ someone who is not very costly to hire. But this first hire is critical. It will define the early stages of your business and should not be brought in based on what salary you are willing to pay. Bring in someone with experience, with talent. A good hire will prove invaluable. 

– Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors, LLC 

3. Hiring Someone Just to Fix a Problem 

Joey KercherThe biggest mistake I have made is just hiring someone to fix a problem. The problem starts with the entrepreneur. If you do not have a process or roadmap to fix the issue, hiring someone to attempt to fix it will cost you more in the long run. Ensure you understand what the problem is, and ensure you give proper training to make sure they will be successful as they grow with your company. 

– Joey KercherAir Fresh Marketing 

4. Hiring Employees Who Are Just Like You 

Brian LischerWe tend to gravitate towards like-minded personalities in our lives, but I’ve found it’s best to keep this tendency in check when hiring. There’s nothing worse than ending up with a conference room full of clones (even if those clones are all highly skilled at their positions). A lack of diversity in personalities stifles creativity and is a nightmare to manage. 

– Brian LischerIgnyte 

5. Not Having a Well-Defined Role 

John RoodEarly in my business I had a vague thought that I had too much work and should hire someone. I hired a smart young professional. However, we quickly ran into problems; I hadn’t thoroughly thought through exactly what she would do. My mistake was hiring before I had thoroughly defined the role and responsibilities, so I didn’t have the right framework for finding the right fit. 

– John RoodNext Step Test Preparation 

6. Hiring Too Fast 

Duran InciHiring too fast without properly vetting potential hires. Let’s face it, fast growth forces us to hire quickly, but better vetting of candidates can prevent problems down the line. Slow down and put greater emphasis on really hiring the right people for your business needs. Find out what kind of expertise you need and hire them first; they will have the greatest impact initially. 

– Duran InciOptimum7 

7. Skipping Background Checks 

Zach BinderHiring first employees may be a casual process, so there may be no background checks or in-depth checking on them. This is a huge mistake. There needs to be a formal process for ensuring you are hiring the right kind of people, especially if you have trade secrets or a disruptive idea and you don’t want anything stolen. 

– Zach BinderRanklab 

8. Not Having An Employee Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement 

Doug BendIt is crucial that anyone who does work for your company signs an Employee Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement. The agreement makes it clear that the work they do for the company belongs to the company. Investors will want to see the agreements in place, and it is the best way to protect yourself from showing your company’s secret sauce only to have the hire set up a competing company. 

– Doug BendBend Law Group, PC 

9. Hiring an Employee Who Doesn’t See the Founder’s Vision 

Piyush JainYou should make sure that your first employee understands your vision and can grow into it. If he/she is willing to grow with the vision, then they will drive it without worrying too much about the salary and efforts. Your first employee will become an inspirational figure for your other employees. When I hired my first employee, I communicated my vision to him and he has been with me since 2009. 

– Piyush JainSIMpalm 

10. Not Building ‘a Team’ 

Adam SteeleIt’s important that the first set of people you hire be able to work closely together. Your first employees will play a large part in your company culture, and you need them to be people that work well with and play off of one another. Hire your first set of employees with an eye toward building a functioning team. 

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate 

9 Ways Knowing How You Think Will Help Your Company

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.

How has understanding whether you’re a “big picture” thinker or a “detail-oriented” thinker helped you move your business forward?

1. Make a Conscious Effort to Incorporate the Other Mindset 

Leila LewisWhen you understand what type of mindset you naturally approach business with, you can then make a conscious effort to incorporate the other mindset and/or seek out team members to help. For example, if you’re naturally a big-picture person, set aside time in your schedule to work on the details or assign a detail-oriented person on your team to help bring the big picture to life.

– Leila LewisBe Inspired PR 

2. Understand Past Successes and Failures 

Charles BogoianRealizing that I’m more of a detail-oriented thinker has allowed me to better understand and evaluate why certain business decisions I’ve made have worked and, more importantly, why others have not. I have been able to avoid repeating mistakes because of this and our customers have recognized the growth of our business over time.

– Charles BogoianKenai Sports, LLC 

3. Talk Through Big Decisions With Colleagues 

Justin BlanchardI tend to be a detail-oriented thinker. When I decide on a goal, my efforts go toward achieving it. I don’t spend much time re-assessing whether it was the right goal in the first place. I’ve learned it’s beneficial to take a step back every now and then to reconsider, and to talk to colleagues who might see something I don’t. Talking has often helped me see “big-picture” issues with my approach.

– Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc. 

4. Reevaluate Decisions and Opinions 

Roger LeeUnderstand what type of lens you use to see the world and what the alternative is so that you can be more rigorous when reevaluating your own actions. Asking myself, “Do I think this only because I’m a detail-oriented thinker?” and “What would a big-picture thinker do in this scenario?” expands my options and helps me arrive at an optimal solution, not just the one that I’m comfortable with.

– Roger LeeCaptain401 

5. Distinguish Between Working “In” or “On” Your Business 

Kristopher Jones (1)The difference between being a detail-oriented or big-picture thinker really comes down to the critical distinction between working “in” or “on” your business. Details matter most when you are working in your business — the day-to-day stuff like meeting payroll, hiring new employees and selling stuff. In contrast, the big picture is working on your business, like future goals and opportunities.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com 

6. Surround Yourself With Different Thinkers 

Mitch GordonI’m definitely a big-picture thinker, and that’s not always a good thing. I tend to miss important details along the path to success. Realizing that I need to surround myself with detail-oriented people has been a huge part of the success of Go Overseas. We have three co-founders and our strengths are well balanced. We’ve also grown to more deeply appreciate the value each of us brings to the table.

– Mitch GordonGo Overseas 

7. Focus on Strengths and Delegate to Others 

Daisy JingThis realization allows me to delegate better knowing that detail-oriented tasks should be given to someone else. It also allows me to better decide what task I should spend more time on and to whom I should give a task to. My business moves forward as my strengths complement my team’s individual strengths. As a big-picture thinker, I allow the details to come from my team.

– Daisy JingBanish 

8. Find the Right Team 

Michael GleasonAs a former physicist, there is a duality in nature that I find everywhere in business. Both big-picture and detail-oriented thinkers are key to driving an organization. The difficult part was understanding my strengths — based on conservation laws — and recruiting complementary executives to create a holistic team.

– Michael GleasonConsumer Brands, LLC 

 

9. Train at Both 

Ross ResnickYou actually have to be both. No matter which one you think you are, you have to train yourself to be a big-picture thinker and a detail-oriented thinker. Otherwise, you’re either going to be stuck on the little things or you’re going to be in the clouds.

– Ross ResnickRoaming Hunger

Strategies for Bootstrapping When One Co-Founder Has Greater Financial Assets Than the Other

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.

What is your best advice to startup co-founders who plan to bootstrap their business, but one has greater financial assets to contribute than the other?

 

1. Offset Cash Contributions With Additional Labor 

Charles MoscoeI’ve entered into founder agreements where different founders offer a different level of capital contribution, but that can be offset by additional responsibilities. For instance, for a startup that I am involved in now, I am financing the majority of the capital spend with the understanding that I will recoup my investment first, but my time commitment as a result is substantially less. – Charles MoscoeSkinCare.net 

 

2. Draft an Operating Agreement and Plan for the Worst 

jeff epsteinYou should draft an operating agreement that accounts for all the assets (and time plus energy) contributed to the business. The reality is many partnerships don’t last — planning for the worst (a breakup) will allow all parties to have full transparency on the range of outcomes and a full understanding of how to calculate the value of their contributions. – Jeff EpsteinAmbassador 

 

3. Keep It Equal 

Jared BrownIt doesn’t matter whether one founder has a million to invest and the other just has ,000. If the business can succeed with just ,000 from each founder, keep it equal. It makes things much simpler and is better for overall accountability. If the business needs more funding, the extra money should be considered a loan, not an investment. – Jared BrownHubstaff 

 

4. Distribute Equity Fairly, Not Equally 

Nicole MunozThis may be counterintuitive, but splitting equity 50/50 isn’t the best solution for co-founders. Because each founder brings a unique set of skills, resources and assets to the table, equity should be divided based on those attributes rather than equally. Careful consideration now about how to divide the company fairly will eliminate many headaches and unnecessary battles down the road. – Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now 

 

5. Put Together a Spreadsheet 

Andy KaruzaYou need to put together a spreadsheet that adds weight to each person’s contribution. We devised a spreadsheet that places weighted values on how much a founder brings to the company in terms of cash, hours, intangibles, ideas, resources and unique management processes/documentation created. Agree to the value of these inputs collectively; then use it to determine fair equity compensation. – Andy KaruzaFenSens 

 

6. Balance Equity 

john ramptonBalance equity and cash put into the business. If one person is putting in equal time but more money he should get more of the pie over the other person. Paul Graham put together a very simple equation for startup founders bootstrapping. 1/(1 – n). In the general case, if n is the fraction of the company you’re giving up, the deal is a good one if it makes the company worth more than 1/(1 – n). – John RamptonDue 

 

7. Think in the Opposite Direction 

Blair ThomasWhether one founder has more capital than the other shouldn’t matter as much as what does the business actually require? If a founder can invest 10 times more than another, that doesn’t mean they should. Find the lowest capital commitment required to get the business off the ground so that founders can garner equity equal to the expectations they had in place while bootstrapping the company. – Blair ThomasFirst American Merchant 

 

8. Differentiate Between Financial Capital and Sweat Equity 

Ross BeyelerWhen posed with a situation where one partner can contribute more (financially) than another, consider creating two classes of stock and treating financial investments in the company different than ‘sweat’ investments. Split the business as desired based on your partnership structure, and then treat whatever investment is made by one partner the same as you would an external investor. – Ross BeyelerGrowth Spark 

 

9. Hire a Lawyer 

Kristy SammisUse whatever extra assets one of you has to hire a very good lawyer. In all seriousness, expert legal guidance is critical and always worth it in the long run. No one ever said, “Gee, I wish our working agreement had been less clear.” Whatever arrangement you come to, it’s not enough to get an agreement in writing; get a fantastic, ironclad agreement in writing. – Kristy SammisClever Girls Collective, Inc. 

 

10. Allot 20 Percent to Each Area: Finance, Operations, Sales/Marketing, Founder and Product 

Erik HubermanSplit equity according to which aspect(s) each co-founder contributes. If you can’t have a fair conversation on equity, don’t go into business together. If one finances the entire thing, that 20 percent is his. Split the percent for Founder evenly. It comes down to why you’re partners. Who’s the “product person?” Who’s got sales? How do you divide the work? – Erik HubermanHawke Media 

 

11. Have Active and Passive Roles 

- Engelo RumoraOver the years I have seen (and been involved in myself) way too many business relationships that go south due to someone not pulling their weight. The best way to go about this is to always have one person doing all of the work and the other person being more passive but investing most if not all of the funds. This keeps things simple with everyone knowing what is needed from them. – Engelo RumoraList’n Sell Realty 

 

12. Deferr Payouts 

Dan GoldenIf you’re keen on keeping a 50-50 split amongst co-founders, consider a deferred payout for the co-founder with greater financial assets. This lets one of the co-founders take larger draws upfront, and then even out the payouts once the company has grown beyond the early bootstrapping days. Sure, there’s some risk, but startups need cash to hire and scale. – Dan GoldenBe Found Online 

 

13. Be Balanced and Fair 

Julian MillerJust because a contribution isn’t financial, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. I was at a well-paid corporate job and my co-founder was five years into a Ph.D. when we met. His contribution was potentially giving up five years of work to bet on our company. Because we aligned on what it meant to contribute from where we were, it was easy to build a solid, equitable base for our company. – Julian MillerLearnmetrics 

 

14. Have Skin in The Game 

Bryanne LawlessMake sure both partners have skin in the game, whatever it may be. If both partners aren’t equally invested into the company, where both need to be held accountable, the partnership will be uneven and the work-relationship could end poorly. – Bryanne LawlessBLND Public Relations 

14 Pros and Cons of Having a More Involved Relationship With Your Investor

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.

What is one pro (or con) of having a more involved relationship with your investor where you actively seek or get advice?

1. You Get Brutal Honesty

Angela RuthWhile this can be a pro or con, a person who knows you better will tend to be more brutally honest about how they see things. The advice will hit at a much more personal level for this reason. While it may not always be something you want to hear, it is most likely something you need to hear. The tough love of a closer relationship with an investor can be what helps create change.

– Angela RutheCash

2. They Have Seen It Before

jeff epsteinGreat investors are happy to share advice from other portfolio companies. We’re fortunate to have a great relationship with our lead investors and provide insights from experiencing many of the issues we face. From high-level strategy to tactics, we can leverage to push forward as fast as possible.

– Jeff EpsteinAmbassador

3. They Want to Run Your Business

Blair ThomasInvestor advice is almost always welcome; so long as there’s a boundary between what is acceptable and what is not. It is important that an investor offers you advice in his or her area of expertise, but sometimes an investor can mistakenly feel that they know how to run your business, offering insight where it’s not needed, which could be detrimental to your operations.

– Blair ThomasFirst American Merchant

4. They Can Help You Network

Adam SteeleInvolved investors are probably the kind who have been working in your industry for a while. Their experience may have involved working with some of the biggest leaders in your field, and it’s possible that they’re willing to help put you in touch with them. The most experienced investors are often networking goldmines, and if you don’t know who you need to talk to, they likely do.

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate

5. You Can Overshare

Miles JenningsAlthough its great to have a close relationship with your investor, you want to try and be sure not to overshare too much while seeking advice and being open with this individual. This doesn’t mean you need to hide things from them, but you shouldn’t be stressing your investors out with every little detail and up and down within your business. Keep conversation focused on your relationship.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

6. They Support You During Tough Times

Nicolas GremionWe keep our investors updated in both the good and the not-so-good times. And while I was anxious to report bad news at first, I’ve learned that our investors are truly supportive. So don’t be shy to reach out to them in tough times. They may prove to be the help you need.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

7. You Might Take the Wrong Advice

Brian SmithSome advice you pay for, and some advice you’re paid to take. Taking good advice from an investor may make the next round easier to raise. But take the wrong advice and the next round may not happen. There’s a reason you have (or should!) set aside equity for advisors and board members. Surround yourself with smart guidance, not just rich advice.

– Brian SmithS Brian Smith Group

8. They May Know Too Much

Derek CapoSometimes it may be best that they don’t know everything. For example, if they get a sense that you aren’t getting along with your co-founders that may scare them from investing in the next round, especially if that said co-founder was a major reason for investing in the company. In a case like this, if they already know the issue, be transparent and ask for advice on what you’re struggling with.

– Derek CapoeFin

9. They Can Provide an Outside Perspective

Corey NorthcuttWe tend to be blind to ourselves. Nobody ever thinks they have an ugly baby. More than just an investor, any outside perspective helps, and getting feedback on how you’re doing from more angles is always a good thing.

– Corey NorthcuttNorthcutt Inbound Marketing

 

10. They Think About You in Their Off-Hours

Brennan WhiteGetting investor feedback is usually a great thing. However, the more powerful thing about a close relationship with an investor is that they are more actively thinking about you in their off-hours. For us, the investors we talk to most are constantly bringing leads, making introductions, and helping move the mission forward. They’re subconsciously working on the project at all times.

– Brennan WhiteCortex

11. They Help You Stay Focused

Brandon StapperI want investors to know that I do not operate in a vacuum and that seeking advice is part of my job. However, I tend to stay more focused dealing with investor input. I know what I want, get my questions answered, and then go back to work.

– Brandon Stapper858 Graphics

 

12. They Feel More Ownership Over the Investment

Andy KaruzaOne good reason to involve your investor by seeking advice is that they feel more ownership over their investment. This is one of the top two most important concepts for any investor. If they feel more involved, they will be more at ease and will trust you to make the right decisions. They will also be more likely to help you lead on your next round if they have a personal stake in the company.

– Andy KaruzaFenSens

13. They Don’t Have All the Context

Matt DoyleAn investor, as close as they may be, is still someone who has their livelihood to protect. You need to be very, very careful about venting about things that they may not be able to put in the proper context. You could accidentally leave them feeling threatened or conflicted about their investment even if there isn’t a real danger.

– Matt DoyleExcel Builders

14. They Share More of the Experience

Obinna EkezieChances are your investor has experience in many aspects of building a successful business. Therefore, it makes sense to keep your investor as close as possible at all times, and actively seek advice when his or her experience can help you make the best decision. Building a business should not be a test. You should do everything within your power to succeed, and one way is to keep investors close.

– Obinna EkezieWakanow.com

15 Ways to Reach Potential Funders on Kickstarter or Indiegogo

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.

What is the best way to reach potential funders when launching a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign?

1. Find Influences in Your Niche

Andrew ThomasIn the beginning of the campaign, I recommend reaching out to bloggers and influencers in your niche, either directly or through an early-stage PR firm. Find people who will join your mission and share it with their community. You want to focus on your niche and avoid casting too wide a net. This was a key part of our success — raising almost $600,000 on Indiegogo for our video doorbell.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

2. Snowball Fast with Media Support

Jonathan LongSuccessful crowdfunding campaigns all have one thing in common: They launched with a bang. When sites like Mashable and TechCrunch write a story about a crowdfunding campaign, it creates instant credibility and the campaign snowballs into a funding monster. Establish media contacts well in advance and make sure your campaign has some major press ready to help you get it out there at launch.

– Jonathan LongMarket Domination Media

3. Work With a Strong Marketing and PR Company

Ken CauleyCrowdfunding is the future, no doubt about that. But success in crowdfunding is easier said than done. As this space continues tomature, startups will need to hire a qualified company to help manage the marketing and PR element of successfully raising capital.

Ken CauleyAdvanced Media

 

4. Start Early

Wei-Shin Lai, M.DWe funded in less than two hours, and it was because we did a lot of promotional activities before the campaign launched. We sent press releases to the local media, which put us on air and in the papers. We let our social media fans know, and we sent out emails to tell previous customers the exact hour of the launch. I exported my contacts from Gmail and sent most of them emails using the BCC field.

– Wei-Shin Lai, M.D.AcousticSheep LLC

 

5. Create a Video

Stanley MeytinCreate more content to encourage people to invest in your project. Consider creating videos like behind-the-scenes, inside the technology, or even a simple video that will update funders on the campaign progress. You want to create content that will make people excited about the product or service, leading them to share within their communities.

– Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

6. Connect With Bloggers Who Reach Your Audience

Andy KaruzaGo after the major PR channels, but don’t count out the smaller, tier-two bloggers who still have a considerable following. It’s pretty easy to identify the audience they cater to based on their profile and the types of articles they write about. Many of them who would be happy to review and share your product with their followers without requiring a large budget to do it.

– Andy Karuzabrandbuddee

7. Launch An Event

RahulAn event already has a captive audience, press, influencers, bloggers and the potential for your product to go viral. The Pebble Watch, for instance, launched at SXSW. It surely helped Pebble get the word out there. They went on to have the most successful (potentially second highest grossing campaign) Kickstarter launch. You can even run an event-specific promotion for your campaign.

– Rahul VarshneyaArkenea LLC

8. Find Social Media Influencers

Marcela DeVivoUnless you are a social media rockstar already, leveraging your social circles won’t yield much visibility. An ideal way to gain massive exposure is to reach out to existing influencers on Youtube, Instagram and other channels and tell them about your campaign. Additionally, write for sites like Buzzfeed, Medium.com and Linkedin Voices to get instant visibility.

– Marcela DeVivoHomeselfe

9. Give Back

Miles JenningsAs an incentive for funders to put money into your Kickstarter campaign, give them something back for their donation and contribution toward your idea. You could give them anything from a branded T-shirt to a coupon to your products and/or services. You could even make them a part of your company in some way. This will push funders to get involved and even stay involved in the future.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

10. Get Feedback

Andrew SchrageElicit feedback from potential donors and use this to improve your pitch and overall campaign. Folks will be more willing to invest when they’re engaged and involved.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

 

11. Spend to Get Started

Blair ThomasAlthough you‘re already looking for funding to help launch your business, spend some of that all important starting capital on hiring contractors to make your campaign a worthwhile endeavor. A well-designed, well-written page, with focused content and clear messaging, can go a long way — and it’s going to take a team of (part-time) professionals to ensure a win!

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

 

12. Learn from Others

Clayton DeanCrowdfunding is a challenge and there’s no exact science to it, but you can start on the right foot by researching what other successful Kickstarter or Indigegogo campaigners have done to generate visibility. Better yet, find and connect with them on Twitter or Facebook and ask them. From my experience, most are more than happy to share their strategies and fundraising secrets.

– Clayton DeanCirca Interactive

13. Facebook Ads

Andrew TorbaFacebook advertising is something you should consider experimenting with for crowdfunding campaigns. Set up a few small budget experiments to test out different target markets and see how well they convert. Start small and scale as you learn what works best. Facebook’s video ads are also great for creating awareness and driving traffic back to your campaign page itself.

– Andrew TorbaAutomate Ads

14. Build an Email List in Advance

Mattan GriffelBefore running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, it’s very important to build a potential audience to promote your launch to; ,otherwise. you‘re starting at zero. One of the best ways to do this is to set up a blog-style site using Weebly, Squarespace or WordPress, and start writing regularly. You should shoot to get to at least 1000 emails before launching any sort of crowdfunding campaign.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

15. Ask Mom and Dad to “Kick Start” Your Campaign

Obinna EkezieSuccessful Kickstarter campaigns generate social proof by getting backers right out of the gate. The most tried and true way to get early backers is to start with first level connections. Family (mom and dad), friends, co-workers, whatever it takes. Kickstarter investors invest in companies with traction. Don’t launch a Kickstarter campaign without having early friends and family backers.

– Obinna EkezieWakanow.com

3 Reasons to Get Stoked on #CNX14 Morning

Photo Credit: @Scott_Thomas_ET

Photo Credit: @Scott_Thomas_ET

Ring the bell, Indy! It’s finally here. At long last, ExactTarget’s Connections Week is upon us. This week, the best and brightest in the marketing tech industry are going to converge on the Circle City  to put their moxy and know-how on center stage.

This event gets better every year and as the city turns orange, we’ll all be turning to the Convention Center for lessons learned.

“But Tim! I’m a startup! I don’t have the time or money to go to Connections!”

Good observation, rhetorical device! I totally get that. That’s why I’ve decided to give you a quick preview of what you can expect this year, plus a super cool offer that can help you grow your business without leaving your couch.

Here are the three reasons I’m so stoked today:

Mindy Kaling, Comedy Icon

As some of you may know, I have a comedy background and I think this can be overlooked in a marketing setting. That’s why it’s so encouraging to me to see a comedy icon giving the closing keynote at this year’s event.

You may know Mindy from her performances on The Office or The Mindy Project, but if you’re in the content marketing world, you should know her for her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? It’s no secret that Mindy is a hilarious actress and comedian, but her skill as a writer trumps even her funniest moments. Mindy’s ability to combine humor with thoughtful opinion, all wrapped under the sassy bow that is her own personal voice, is an inspiration to me as a content producer.

This interview on her struggles in Hollywood is a great illustration of her wit.

If you take yourself seriously as a content writer, I’d encourage you to study the voice behind Mindy’s writing. Don’t forget, a ticket to this week’s Verge event also buys your way into Connections to see Mindy! Get yours before they run out!

Let’s Workshop That

Conferences are all about self-improvement. Say hello to my theme song this week:

This year’s workshop lineup is great as always and I’m luck enough to have a full pass to this year’s conference. That’s why I’m thrilled to offer a great deal to anyone who’s interested.

If you can’t make the workshops or keynotes, I’m going to take some SUPER GOOD notes and send them out to anyone who’s interested! If you want my personal notes from this year’s workshops, or you just want to be my friend, let me know here!

Will.I.Am (L-L-Let the Beat Rock)

Hi, my name is Tim and I’m an early-2000’s junkie. I still remember bumping some Black Eyed Peas, driving to good ol’ Roncalli High School here in Indianapolis (I know, I know… I’m young.)

Anyway, as great as Will.I.Am is as an entertainer, you don’t get to where he is in life without some business savvy. I’m excited to hear the lessons that he learned from the music business that can be applied not just to marketing, but to the startup community as a whole.

Also, I’m so 3008, you’re so 2000 and late.

This year’s Connections conference is going to be bumping, and I hope to see you there! If you’re going, let me know! If not, drop a comment and let me know what workshop notes you’d like to see!

I’m stoked for this year’s Connections conference, and I hope you are, too. If you want to bum some notes off me, let me know here or follow me on Twitter and I’ll see you at this week’s event!

 

Why 11-year-old “Super Business Girl” Has an All-Star Pitch

“I’m asking for an eight dollar investment because not only are you investing into me, but you’re investing into my future and my business,” says 11-year-old Asia Newson. This kid has something that makes her pitch for her “Super Business Girl” business irresistible. See for yourself:

What!? OK, take my money.

I was in. The first time I heard Asia’s pitch on an episode of This American Life I knew this young lady had it. Young Newson has the most important part of any business pitch.

Asia Newson has conviction about Super Business Girl.

She is 100% committed to her product, her business, and herself. She believes in what she’s pitching and is able to convey this with conviction.

But where does this talent come from?

“It’s my personality,” says Newson in her interview with MSNBC. I’m not 100% convinced. Look for yourself:

Somewhere along the way (probably from her father), Newson learned to use her whole voice and her body to present herself and her business, Super Business Girl. She learned to use her voice inflection and facial expressions to keep her pitch engaging.

She kept it short. She said what she had to say with conviction, and then she did something really important.

She made the ask.

So Asia Newson, age 11, has already put together 3 of the most important elements into her pitch:

  1. Present with conviction
  2. Keep it brief
  3. Make the ask

Do you follow these best practices in each and every pitch you give?

Asia Newson a.k.a. Super Business GirlWhy don’t you see for yourself? Here’s my challenge to you:

Turn the camera on yourself today. No one has to see this. It’s just for you.

Flip your phone camera to video mode and set it 10-15 feet across from you so you can see your whole body. Find a private space so you don’t scare your officemates or coworking buddies. Then, pitch your business or product like your life depended on it. Remember to:

  1. Present with conviction
  2. Keep it brief
  3. Make the ask

Then watch it. What did you do well? Then get real with yourself… What could use some fine tuning in your pitch?

The Overlooked Pitch – Your Online Presence

online-presence-will-ferrellToday’s post comes from Nick Wangler, a recent addition to DeveloperTown. Every two weeks, Nick will be sharing stories of DeveloperTown startups and the lessons we can learn from them. Today, he’s introducing us to the overlooked pitch – our online presence.

You know those videos where celebrities read angry tweets about themselves? If you haven’t seen them, imagine Will Ferrell sitting on a toilet reading tweets where he is heckled mercilessly and you’ve got the idea.

There’s something surreal about the moment when words clearly intended for the internet are heard in a different context. Read aloud and considered, what’s written online often takes on a new perspective.
For instance, imagine reading your LinkedIn profile from the stage of the next Verge event. Are you totally satisfied with how that would go? Would there even be anything to read? Would it be compelling? And if not, why? I know I’ve got work to do and I’m sure others do too.
Everything we write online is a pitch to the unseen yet seemingly ever present potential investor, partner, employee, and customer. A pitch for who you are, what you’re about, and how well you can communicate big ideas in constrained spaces.
What’s more, taking the time to write original thoughts with the constraints of a summary on LinkedIn or 140 characters on Twitter forces you to understand exactly what you want to convey and do it concisely. As author John Piper once said, “The effort to say is the path to seeing.”
While I’ve always paid attention to the way I communicate online, I hadn’t given this area as much thought as I should until a recent discussion with Jason Seiden made me reconsider. He said, “If you aren’t at least as compelling online as you are in person, you’re doing it wrong.”
When is the last time you read your LinkedIn profile from the perspective of a potential client? Or took the time to think through how to communicate an original thought in 140 characters rather than just sharing yet another blog post about your industry to appear knowledgable? (I’m guilty.)
Frequent writing and refining of original thoughts through online platforms doesn’t just broaden your reach, it strengthens your core ability to communicate. While design and development is (righfully) experiencing a huge boom, the need for good writing is as important as ever and will multiply the effectiveness of whatever position you find yourself in.
So go watch Will Ferrell read tweets on a toilet (somewhat nsfw, obv), check out one of my favorite resources for learning to write well, and then go write something.

To learn more about improving your online presence, make sure  you check out our September event with Connections!

Using Data to Change an Industry: The felix + iris Story

felix-and-irisWe live in an era where “big data” is more of a buzzword than a business tool, especially for a small or medium-sized team. Solving problems with data is a noble, if cumbersome, task and many teams just aren’t up for it.

The team at One Click Ventures, however, isn’t built like most teams.

As the founders of the online retailer, Randy and Angie Stocklin saw a problem. They were providing world-class eye wear to their customers, but their customers weren’t nearly as satisfied as Randy and Angie wanted. It was extremely difficult to ensure that customers were getting the exact right fit. They were providing a world-class product, but they weren’t providing a world-class experience.

Data to the rescue.

Introducing The felix + iris Brand

The problem that Randy and Angie were really observing is a lack of specificity. If I, a 20-something kid with great vision and impeccable sense of style, went to their product page, I’d see the exact same results that my sister, aunt, or mom would see. Sure, you can have customers self-select their product page based on a number of criteria, including gender and product type, but how can you get them to self-select their product page based on face shape or lifestyle?

felix + iris was introduced to solve this problem.

Their team built an online “Fit Profile.” This short quiz uses customer-specific data to create a customized online store for each individual user. So when I go to shop at felix + iris, I’d see a product page filled with glasses like this:

eyeglasses

If Hunckler went to shop at felix + iris, however, he’d probably see a product page filled with glasses like this:

dorky-eyeglasses

This is the future of E-Commerce. A lot of E-Commerce sites already use browsing, search, or social data to market, but few are customizing the entire customer view. This is a solution.

Using Data to Solve Customer Problems

This really fits under a general theme. How do you use data to solve customer problems? What can your startup learn from felix + iris? Here are a few tips on how any business can replicate this approach:

Collect a Lot of Data

You can’t know solve problems with data unless you’re willing to collect it first. Whether it’s a survey, buying patterns, website flow, or demographic data, make sure you’re collecting as much data as you can get your hands on. The more systematic the approach is, the better.

Take an Objective Look at Your Customer’s Process

Randy and Angie had a world-class product. A bad ownership team would stop there. Randy and Angie didn’t settle for this, however. For them, they wanted a world-class buying experience, and that can be much more difficult to achieve. Don’t get blinded by your own biases. Make sure you understand the weaknesses in your offerings inside and out.

Start Small if Necessary

Not everyone needs a customized web store for each individual customers. Don’t think that you need to build something great and extravagant on day one. Use the lean startup approach and build something with what you have, even if it isn’t Earth shattering.

This Sounds Interesting, I Want To Learn More!

What a coincidence, you’re in luck!

We’ve already announced our big September event with Connections. What we haven’t announced is our big October event and what makes it so special.

As a premier brand for fashion eye wear, felix + iris is going to be launching in New York City for Fashion Week, but after talking to Randy and Angie, they want to take that magic and bring it back home to Indy. This October, One Click Ventures is going to be rolling out felix + iris on the Verge stage and teaching the community about solving consumer problems with data.  Between all the data nerds, fashionistas, and the awesome, secret downtown location this party is going to be bumping and you won’t want to miss it!

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 29th. More info to come.

In the meantime, tickets are going live for our September event this week! Keep an eye on your inbox. You won’t want to miss your Verge Connections Experience!