Monday night marked the first ExitEvent Startup Social where it was public knowledge that I was no longer in charge. To be honest, I've actually not been in charge for a couple of them now, but with the news having broken earlier this month of ExitEvent's acquisition by American Underground, there was no more false pretense, so to speak.
Now, I can't say I spent a whole lot of time between the acquisition and the formal announcement worrying about whether or not things would change. This is due to two reasons:
1) The team at American Underground and I spent a lot of time making sure that what I didn't want to change would not.
2) We then spent an inordinate amount of time making sure that everything else would.
I like change. Change is good.
Those changes are starting to play out. They were noticeable Monday night in downtown Raleigh, where over 130 entrepreneurs and investors from all over the Triangle came out to the new American Underground @Raleigh facility. There they enjoyed a selection of half-a dozen local craft beers provided by Tasty Beverage and, for the first time ever at an ExitEvent Startup Social, wine.
So you've got a product? That's great! And a handful of early adopters? Even better!
Now comes the hard part. Going from the first handful of friends/family/charity customers to executing a process that will drive your next 100 or next 1000 customers is no small task. I know because I've been through the wringer twice—at Bronto Software as employee #1 and at Argyle Social as the founder and former CEO. It is a monster undertaking that requires quite a bit of trial and error...and mostly error at the start.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that there is a “How To Get Your First 100 Customers” playbook, though there are a number of things that you should consider early on—email marketing, paid advertising, content marketing, affiliate marketing, social media, co-marketing, integrations, etc. Outbound sales is a strategy often overlooked and also a strategy of particular interest for my new joint, RevBoss.
Ultimately, you'll need to do a little bit of everything. For the purposes of this mini-treatise, however, I want to focus on social media, an incredibly misunderstood marketing channel particularly for early-stage companies that are hungry for distribution. So if you're building a sales and marketing organization at a startup (or any sized organization), here is your to-do list --Read On
Put her in an ELF and bike her around downtown Raleigh.
Google for Entrepreneurs' top exec Mary Grove got that experience during a stop in the Triangle to visit American Underground and its many partners last week. She called Durham-based Organic Transit's solar and electric trike "edgy" and "a very practical solution", symbolic of the type of startups she met in town. Local community leaders took her on a tour of co-working spaces, universities and startup offices, and she attended American Underground @Raleigh's grand opening (where she's pictured second to right above). Another big a-ha, she said, was the region's "pay-it-foward," mentality.
"There's a strong sense of community," she said. "And this idea of 'I want to help the next person because I was helped along the way.'"
Grove's colleague Bridgette Beam (left woman above) gave an insightful talk about Google Analytics, telling startups at American Underground how to use tools like Google Trends and Apps data visualization, AB Tests and design thinking helper DesignStaff.org, mobile trends researcher Our Mobile Planet and infographic creator Think Insights.
High Speed internet is the lifeblood of our entire society. Gigabit speed internet would be crucial to our area, especially for entrepreneurs. Right now, the state of the United States internet is pretty bleak. Globally, the U.S. ranks 8th in connection speeds, having an average of 9.8 Mbps throughout the country. South Korea in comparison, is ranked first with an average of 22.1 Mbps. There is a very clear need for faster internet throughout the entire country, and the battle for broadband dominance in North Carolina is happening right now.
On February 19th, Google announced that Raleigh, Charlotte and seven other cities are on the short list for next cities that might get Google Fiber. Interestingly enough, this announcement is on the heels of an acquisition announcement of Time Warner Cable by Comcast, for $45.2 billion. Google Fiber could be the next big broadband player locally here in N.C. as early as two years from now. The announcement though, is not as simple as one would hope. --Read On
When you think “startups” you probably think young, white, male confers playing ping-pong and shooting Nerf guns at each other during coding binges in someone's apartment. This image is increasingly not representative of startups as a whole, and that's a good thing.
Startup Families At trinket, four out of our six team members are parents. Five out of six of us have spouses. The median age is solidly in the mid-30s. We have plenty of fun, but there are no Nerf guns in the office. This composition not only makes us better able to realize our vision of everyone in the world teaching each other what they know, it's increasingly common.
I don't personally have kids but I've seen firsthand that the maturity and good nature required to care for kids has translated directly into a more sustainable, effective and forward-thinking culture for us. It's a cliche perhaps, but “making the world a better place for our children” is indeed a powerful motivator and makes the vision we have of pervasive open teaching that much more tangible.
We're not alone in this. I'm part of an occasional CEO breakfast of local companies that are post-Angel, pre-VC. An informal headcount finds again that founders with kids are the majority. One of the great strengths of our community is our ability to combine our businesses, families and our philanthropic passions. I'm pretty sure that our experience on a recent snow day where kids *almost* outnumbered team members on a 'daily standup' video chat was more common than you might think. (See above) --Read On
The problem is a hidden bias that tech executives are generally unaware of. They honestly believe they are a meritocracy but don't understand how their words and actions can discourage others who are not like them.
The excuse that tech companies make for their lack of gender diversity is that the pipeline of women studying engineering is shrinking.
Sadly, this is a self-perpetuating cycle. Because there are few women in engineering, girls don't perceive computing to be a friendly profession, so fewer are entering the field.
In larger companies, the diversity data that corporate executives usually look at are at the company level rather than at the departmental level and include lower-level administrative/support roles. If these data were analyzed at the departmental level, particularly in technology, executives would be shocked at what they saw. They would realize that the deck is stacked against women at every stage of the game.
This issue is important because the technology industry suffers from a severe shortage of talent. Diversity also fuels innovation. So, by leaving out women, we are excluding more than half of our potential talent pool and limiting our innovation capability.
Here are some things that companies — big and small — need to do.
In a December post, I discussed the impact of the changes to Reg D 506c on regional funds, investors and startups, and the rise of online fundraising sites like AngelList, FundersClub, Gust, Wefunder, Fundable, Seedrs, Dealroom, and hyperfund. In this post, I will examine new opportunities for seed and early stage venture fund managers and angel investors as a result of these changes, and then briefly look at what the changes might mean for entrepreneurs.
For Fund Managers:
If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em: AngelList and other sites are still getting to critical mass, and that creates an opportunity for first mover advantage. Fund managers who decide to allocate some of their existing capital to investing through an online platform can form a syndicate and be one of only a dozen or so large and credible lead investors. The large size and investor-friendly terms of the syndicate (as well as the dearth of current competition) create an opportunity to become entrenched as one of the big, early players on an online platform, enabling the fund to attract third party angel investors as syndicate members (yielding additional carried interest for the fund managers). Over time, and provided the platform continues to grow, this status could be increasingly significant.
A variation on join ‘em: If current or would-be fund managers don't have an active fund, they can raise capital from investors for the express purpose of creating an online platform investment syndicate. A fund of say $5 million with a strategy of investing in deals alongside high-profile online investors like Foundry Group, Kevin Rose, Naval Ravikant or Jason Calacanis can be a fairly attractive opportunity for prospective fund investors. Though a lower management fee (maybe 0-1% instead of 2%) and carried interest (maybe 5-10% rather than 20%) is expected, the fund manager also receives an additional 5% to 20% carried interest from any third party investors who decide to join the online investment syndicate. That makes it a pretty compelling alternative to option 1. --Read On
Jon Leonardo was an Elon University junior when he won a summer job in Washington D.C. that changed the direction of his career.
Yesterday, the co-founder of Triangle Entrepreneurship Week announced a new brand for his popular events— Forward City—and a plan to hold them in 200 global cities over the next several years. He's got big name sponsors and directors in 12 U.S. cities already on board to aid the launch.
But it was his humble beginnings at Elon, the mentorship of a well-connected D.C.-area entrepreneur and the by-in of the Triangle region that helped Leonardo develop a business he believes fills a niche in startup training and can help more people around the world build successful companies.
Leonardo was already interested in startups when he moved to D.C. that summer—he'd built a laundry business serving Elon's student population and started a charity lacrosse organization. But during that summer, he and two partners (one his mentor and now Forward City advisor) planned a week of entrepreneurial events to be held in D.C. that fall. And the week was so successful that Leonardo planned an Entrepreneurship Week in Raleigh after his May 2011 graduation. --Read On
The American Underground@Raleigh officially opens its doors tonight with a launch party that means more than just another coworking space in the Triangle. The third American Underground location is perhaps the most unique of the trio and its opening is a meaningful milestone for the Triangle entrepreneurial community.
I have to admit, one of AU@Raleigh's selling points starts before you even walk in. It's literally above one of Raleigh's favorite bars, Foundation.
For years, we've known our entrepreneurial community is based on our region, larger than any single city or university affiliation. For the first time, there's a common thread in the physical hubs across the Triangle.
And that's exactly what Adam Klein, American Underground's Chief Strategy Officer, is so excited about with their first presence in Raleigh. In Adam's eye, the new space will foster new energy and connectivity between the various parts of the Triangle, and that translates to practical benefits for startups. --Read On
The Raleigh mobile app startup that made a splash with its Super Bowl launch last month announces today its second major event partnership, this time targeting the 400,000 visitors expected to visit Pinehurst and Southern Pines for the PGA Tour's U.S. Open Championship in June.
In partnership with the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) for that region, Yillio will provide its free route-based search app to travelers in town for the tournament and to hotels, restaurants and retailers hoping to get their business.
Yillio holds a unique patent for search along a route—it helps consumers identify the most convenient places to eat, stay or shop and provides the most up-to-date gas prices (based on real-time credit card data), and businesses can target them with deals or advertising messages.
Yillio's mission, says president and co-founder Tully Ryan, is to make Yillio an app people use daily. But major events like the Super Bowl and the Open help his team of Raleigh and Boston-area developers get thousands of users at once and demonstrate the usefulness of the app on a journey. --Read On