On digital marketing and unrealistic expectations


In 2012, Coca-Cola put together a pretty intense multimedia marketing campaign to promote a livestream of its animated polar bears watching and reacting to the Superbowl in real-time. To top it all off, for two of their 60-second ad spots, they were going to decide — again, in real-time — which of 2 versions of an ad to show, based on which team was losing (the bear supporting the currently-losing team would star in that ad).

Point being, this was an all-hands, pull out all the stops, pedal to the metal marketing effort, to the Superbowl’s 111.3 million viewers.

Please, take a guess at how many people they expected to RSVP to the Facebook event.

No, really, I’ll wait whilst you ponder this…


Ok, here’s a hint: The day before the Superbowl, Coke’s Facebook page had 38,428,062 likes.

Got your guess?

The answer is, with all that ad spend… and potential audience… they expected 2,100 Facebook RSVPs (they actually got 15x that, 32,000, but I think you get my point).

So, yeah.

Please align your expectations accordingly.

I’d love to you hear your thoughts. You can find me tweeting about online politics, whisky, and cephalopods at @SteveOlson — and if you liked this post, I’d appreciate you clicking the “recommend” button below. Thanks!

Written by

digital strategist for political and non-profit clients at Trilogy; wannabe poli scientist; lover of whiskey; obsessed with cephalopods. More at @SteveOlson

Social Media is dead and here’s why!

An analytical insight into the death of social media.

Ok so you’re probably wondering what on earth I’m on about. Every marketing expert in the world is telling you that social is the future, everything is going towards social media and you need to invest heavily in social media now before it’s too late.

Well I’d like to beg to differ. I don’t believe that social media is the future and I don’t think that we all need to put all our eggs in one basket right now.

You know what I think?

Social Media isn’t the future and it isn’t anything new. It is a digital version of the past. It is an online pub, watering hole, park, mall… where ever you used to hang out with your friends and peers. Notice I said USED TO!

For me Social Media has allowed us to go back to our roots, back to where we were before the 1980s and rediscover our love for one another. It is for this reason that I joked with my headline that Social Media is dead.

I don’t mean that Social sites such as Twitter and Facebook are dead, I mean the term “Social Media” is dead. It’s almost like saying, “I’m going to the discoteque.” It’s already an outdated phrase because the internet is now social. The lines have well any truly blurred and social is now the entirety of the internet in some shape or form.

So when marketers tell you that Social Media is the future take a step back and notice that it’s already happened and that anyone who is only now trying to implement a social strategy is probably going to be going about it all wrong.

They will tackle it like everyone else did when Social Media first came on the scene and no one quite knew how to harness its powers. We all knew that it was important and we all knew that we had to use it in some way but it hadn’t matured yet.

Today social is all grown up and you should come to realise that dealing with social campaigns online is not about campaigns at all. Social in today’s world is about a philosophy and a way of life.

Treat the internet like not like your shop front but like the inside of your shop where your customers come for their personal experience.


Stop trying to figure out the best social campaigns to use and ways to get new customers using Facebook. Instead connect with all your current customers and relate to them in the say personal way you would if their were at your business talking to you at your desk or over your counter.

Our kids’ kids won’t even understand what the concept of Social Media is because their whole world will be what we today refer to as Social Media. Every app, every piece of hardware and every appliance will have connectivity and a way to share info with the world via a social platform.

We are becoming more connected every day and the one’s who will succeed are the ones to remember back to the good old days of family businesses and proper customer service.

Treat people well and you’ll be treated well back.

Written by

Owner and Senior Creative Director of @BanterMediauk | I have more pet #lizards than I have pairs of shoes.

A Tech Founder’s Take on the Google Bus Protests

I moved to San Francisco almost two years ago from the U.K. to pursue my dream of building an awesome technology company in Silicon Valley.

This was a hard choice for me. I had a comfortable life, a great job, and awesome friends back in Europe, but in the end I decided I was excited enough and young enough to make the move.

My story isn’t unique. San Francisco is one of America’s 20 fastest-growing cities. That growth, coupled with a widening income gap in San Francisco, has been the source of a lot of tension and even protests.

Activists claim that the city’s more established communities have suffered from the influx of well-paid tech workers. Google’s shuttle buses have become a symbol of this struggle and even a target for attacks and vandalism.

I don’t work for Google, but I, too, have suffered from this city’s housing crisis. I’m a founder of a venture-backed technology company, and I think it’s unfair to blame the crisis on tech workers, including myself, my employees, or Google workers.

Here’s the other side of the story:

Renting My First Place

The U.K. is not exactly a cheap place to live, and its property bubble has been in the news so much that the prime minister has had to calm fears about the climbing property values.

San Francisco is much worse, and it’s not just the price.

When I first looked for an apartment back in 2011, $18,000 a year was pretty much the minimum price — even if your only requirement for a home was to have your own bathroom.

Eventually, I was lucky to find a studio for under $2,000 per month. Even though it was barely big enough to fit a bed and a cabinet, it was a clean building a bit farther than the rougher parts of “Tendernob” and walking distance from work. (It was even luckier that I had some savings when the landlord asked for $6,000 up front as a deposit.)

My wife eventually moved to San Francisco, too, and for nearly two years, we thought about moving to a more comfortable place. Every time, we bumped into problems: crazy rent, unsafe neighborhoods, bad public transit options. Many times we looked, there were barely any apartments advertised for rent!

Even for a young couple with moderate requirements and tech jobs, choices are few and far between. The housing crisis affects us as much as it affects everyone else.

In the few years I’ve lived here, I’ve learned about the symptoms of this housing crisis, but also about some of the causes. It isn’t fair to blame it all on tech workers because the problems run much deeper than that.

Let’s stop pointing fingers and start looking at what the Bay Area needs for everyone to coexist and for San Francisco to be a great place to live.

3 Requirements to Grow a City Without the Downsides of Gentrification

1. You need space to fit people.

As job growth explodes in the Bay Area, people will need to move to fill them.

When I lived in London, you could see the effects of this on the skyline. This is not happening in San Francisco. The law of supply and demand is a pretty basic, and since there’s an increased demand for housing, the first thing to do is to find a way to add some housing supply too. That will ensure affordable housing for newcomers and life-long residents.

Don’t forget: People who move to the Bay Area want to be “locals,” too. They need an opportunity to establish a life here.

2. You need efficient public transportation.

Don’t like the Google buses on principle? Me neither.

We have two choices: One is having more cars jamming the roads, which is bad for everyone. The other is to provide a public alternative. The slowest bus network in the country and trains running once every hour are not really a viable choice for a commuter. If there are enough passengers to warrant Google chartering private buses at the cost of millions of dollars, then maybe the city should consider running this route instead.

The city could take those dollars, use them more efficiently, and the bus would be available for those who don’t work for Google, too.

3. You need to clean up the city center.

(Source: crimemapping.com, crime data of Dec 17, 2013.)

This is a map of all the gun crimes, assaults, homicides, and robberies that took place in the city center in one day. Each dot represents a violent crime. Notice a concentration around a few blocks? That’s the Tenderloin district.

The Tenderloin is one of the most convenient places in the city. It’s within walking distance to the SOMA startup ecosystem and close to every public transit artery, but it’s been taken over by gangsters and drug cartels.

Of course “reclaiming” the Tenderloin is no easy task, and you cannot just ask the city’s thousands of homeless to “disappear”. The police need to fight the criminals. Social services need to help the homeless and those in need. Drug addicts need help and rehabilitation.

All of these things cost money and require manpower. Yet the current state of the Tenderloin is a huge waste of an opportunity, both for the neighborhood and its residents.

As often in life, the decision of inaction is actually the one with the biggest consequences. San Francisco is growing fast, and this migration is causing tension between established communities and newcomers.

San Francisco is lucky enough to be one of the few places in the U.S. where young graduates see truth in the promise of a job after college. Compared to the job prospects for recent graduates across the country, this is a nice problem to have. Rather than blaming these people for problems the city has encountered as a result, we should ask our local politicians to rethink the city’s planning, policing, and transport policy to accommodate this growth.

Ioannis Verdelis is Founder and COO of Fleksy.

Opinions are my own.

Written by

Founder and COO, @fleksy

Izzie Lerer’s Animal-Focused News Site The Dodo Launches, Funded By Lerer Ventures

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The Dodo, a new animal-focused news site launching today, is Isabel Lerer’s initial foray into the viral news business that her father, Ken Lerer, is well-known for, having co-founded Huffington Post and serving as Chairman of BuzzFeed and Betaworks. The company is disclosing the Lerer investment today as well, with The Dodo having raised under $2 million in a seed round led by Lerer Ventures, the fund managed by father and son team Ken and Ben Lerer, the latter also co-founder at Thrillist.

Also participating in the round, which closed last fall but had not yet been announced, are Greycroft, RRE, Softbank Capital Technology Fund, Sterling Equities and Fred Harman (partner at Oak Investment Partners).

The Lerers, incidentally, were the focus of a timely profile over the weekend by NY Mag, which referred to the family as “a little Mafia-esque,” referencing the way they had their hands in nearly every buzzy New York area startup. This also includes NowThis News, another news site making headlines this week, thanks to an NBCUniversal News Group investment.

As for The Dodo, the site’s launch is a real family affair: It’s co-founded by daughter Izzie, invested in by Lerer Ventures, and running atop RebelMouse, a newer content management system, which is also a Lerer investment.

“It’s the first site [RebelMouse has] powered from scratch, and they’ve been building it for the last four months,” says Ken Lerer, noting that future installations will be turned around more efficiently, eventually reaching the point of becoming turnkey. RebelMouse, for those unfamiliar, is a platform focused on customizability and deeper social integrations, including the ability to integrate “calls to action” with posts, which The Dodo plans to soon include.

The service also includes several of the same investors as The Dodo (besides the Lerers), it’s worth noting.

Isabel’s passion for animal rights led her to study the impact of animal and human interactions at Columbia University, where she’s wrapping up her Ph.D studies. And she convinced father Ken to give up eating meat, too. Asked how long that would last, Mr. Lerer laughed, “you haven’t met my daughter – it’s going to last forever.”

As for The Dodo’s news coverage, it certainly has its share of feel-good stories ripe for social sharing, but more of the articles have a pro-animal rights bias to them, not surprisingly. For example, the lead today references the documentary “Blackfish,” and details the aftermath of a SeaWorld animal trainer’s death. The headline’s question, “will SeaWorld sink?” leaves no doubt as to The Dodo’s agenda.

Though any website touting its “animal-focused stories” would compete against, say, the entire Internet, the Lerer influence can be felt at The Dodo which currently features a contribution from Arianna Huffington (disclosure: AOL owns TechCrunch and Huffington Post), on its front page. The site is also being run by former Salon.com editor-in-chief Kerry Lauerman (CEO), and has attracted known names like Popular Science associate editor Dan Nosowitz, to join its team.

At launch, there are under a dozen writers working for the site, but no advertisers as of yet. While it’s easy enough to attract advertisers around fluffier animal stories (pun somewhat intended) designed to go viral (like on BuzzFeed), The Dodo will clearly take stronger positions on topics like hunting, animals used for entertainment purposes, wearing fur, keeping exotic or wild animals as pets, and more. The hope is to soften the blow of these stories with the lighter fare like “learning to love a hard-to-love dog,” or “pug and baby battle over cookie.” (Yep, “pug and baby” is doing well, in case you’re curious.)


Who Gets Rich From Google Buying Nest? Kleiner Returns 20X On $20M, Shasta Nets ~$200M

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Google just bought Nest for $3.2 billion cash, and that means the startup’s early investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and Shasta Ventures have struck it rich. Multiple sources say Kleiner invested $20 million in Nest and got a 20X return to pull in $400 million. [Update: Meanwhile, the deal returned “almost all” of Shasta’s second $250M fund.]

Nest didn’t disclose the size of its Series A and B rounds or who invested how much. That makes it’s hard to pinpoint who earned what on the sale of the home automation startup that sells smart thermostats and smoke detectors.

Shasta and KPCB funded all of Nest’s Series A round back in September 2010, just a few months after the connected device startup was founded. Then in August 2011, they both participated in Nest’s Series B, which also included Google Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Intertrust, and Generation Investment Management.

10998v8-max-250x250Multiple sources say Kleiner Perkins was Nest’s biggest investor, and was able to invest $20 million in Nest across the A and B rounds. Our sources say the $3.2 billion cash price Google paid for Nest will generate a 20X return for KPCB — which matches the 20X multiple Fortune’s Dan Primack heard from a source. The money came from 2010′s $650 million KPCB XIV fund, which means Kleiner returned over 60% of the fund with just its Nest investment. The treasure should also boost the status of KPCB partner Randy Komisar, who sourced the investments and sat on Nest’s board.

The win for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers is reminiscent of its early home runs on investments in Google, Amazon, AOL, and Intuit in the 1990s. Recently, it’s gotten a piece of huge exits like Facebook and Twitter as well as rising stars like Square and Spotify, but not until later rounds when potential returns are much lower. But with Nest, KPCB got in on the ground floor and will reap the benefits when the acquisition by Google officially closes.

Shasta Ventures' Managing Director Rob Coneybeer, who led its Nest investment

Shasta Ventures’ Managing Director Rob Coneybeer, who led its Nest investment

As for Shasta Ventures, today is a massive win for the firm and its managing director Rob Coneybeer, who we hear fought relentlessly to get the $250 million Shasta II fund into Nest’s Series A and B rounds.

[Update: A source familiar with Google’s deal to acquire Nest tells us Shasta’s investment will bring it enough money to return “almost all” of the $250 million Shasta II fund. That means Shasta pulled in $200 million or more from the Nest acquisition.]

The Nest deal almost surely trumps other Shasta hits like Zenprise which was bought by Citrix, and Mint which was bought by Intuit. The returns could bolster confidence in limited partners and help Shasta raise its next fund.

Google Ventures also pulled in big money today, as it led Nest’s Series B and C rounds. Oh, and so did Nest’s founders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers.

For the venture capital industry as a whole, the Nest acquisition may contribute to a frothy market for hardware entrepreneurs. If companies like Google are out there paying billions in cash for young startups that build devices instead of software, it may become easier for hardware tinkers to raise serious capital and move from their garage to a real laboratory.

[Additional reporting by Kim-Mai Cutler]

Click below to read the full story on Google buying Nest:


Putting Square’s $5B Valuation Into Context

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Square’s growth has been a story of sustained momentum. Rising from a payment-processing run rate of $1 billion in the middle of 2011, Square is now expected to process some $30 billion this calendar year.

As Square’s payment processing run rate has grown — bolstering its revenue in near lockstep — so too has its valuation expanded.

The following set of bullet points lists Square’s reported or leaked processing annual processing run-rates, and most recently rumored full-year figures for 2013 and 2014:

Now, Square’s valuation at its funding intervals:

In January of 2011, Square was valued at around $240 million, and two months later reported that it was processing $1 million per day, an implied annual run rate of $365 million. Given Square’s growth rates at that time, doubling from March to April, and again from April to June, it is possible to predict that in January, the company was processing 50 percent less than it was in March, putting its processing volume run rate on par or below its valuation.

In June of 2011 the company was processing at a $4 million daily rate, or an implied $1.46 billion annual rate, and was worth $1.6 billion. That works out to a ratio of 0.9125 processing-rate dollars to each valuation dollar. Here again we see a run rate processing figure below the company’s dollar valuation.

Square’s growth then began to spank its valuation. In November of 2012, Square was processing payments at an annual rate of $10 billion. Two months earlier, it was valued at $3.25 billion. That valuation was pegged from a $200 million investment.

Now investors are putting money into Square at a valuation of around $5 billion (that’s up more than 50 percent since its last valuation point, of course), in between it processing around $20 billion in 2013 (aggregate) and $30 billion this year (aggregate).

Looking at the timing, it appears that Square was able to raise through its Series C on the promise of future growth. We can see this as investors valued its then-extant processing volume at a higher per-dollar figure than they later did. Then, following its $100 million Series C (June 2011), Square delivered incredible growth, and by the time it went back to the well for more capital its processing rate was a multiple of its valuation, not a fraction thereof.

So, investors are now valuing Square more on the strength of its current and perhaps forward 12-month processing volume (to which its revenue is directly tied), and less — again, perhaps — against its three-year growth potential.

Investors that believed Square had a period of hyper-growth ahead of it have become rich due to their bet.

The ratio between processing run rate and the company’s valuation may have stabilized, however. The 50 percent growth in Square’s valuation from its Series D to today’s news is roughly commensurate to its aggregate processing bump from 2013 to the current year. The dates become slightly tricky as we move from run-rate figures to full-year sums, but you can grok the gist.

So, would you buy in at a $5 billion valuation?

Top Image Credit: Flickr


What VCs listen to in meetings

Basic human psychology tells us that humans are unable to fully concentrate for more than 20 minutes in a row

What does that mean when your day as a VC is typically a series of 1 hour, back-to-back meetings?

No VC would like to admit it, but inevitably they are not always paying 100% attention. I am not always paying 100% attention. No matter how much coffee I drink, I just can’t do it.

The brain’s coping mechanism is to filter out some content. I thought it might be helpful (for me, and maybe for others) to work out what I filter out, and what I do always pay 100% attention to, in a typical first pitch.

What I filter out:

  • Biographies of team members, beyond their single most impressive achievement to date
  • Advisory board
  • Top down market size/growth stats
  • Discussion of exit options or valuations in sector
  • ‘Motherhood & apple pie’ comments e.g. “We use agile”; “we are fully in the cloud”; “we are a lean startup”; “we can move more quickly than Google because we are small”
  • Detailed description of the tech stack (will want to cover this, but not in first meeting)
  • Any discussion of competition before I understand the product
  • Videos
  • Everything said by people who are not operational in the company (advisors, non-execs)

What I listen to closely:

  • Pain point being solved
  • Product demo
  • Traction
  • Pricing — why it is disruptive, why it is great value for clients
  • Bottom-up addressable market
  • What the founders each do & how they work together
  • Balanced discussion of closest startup competitor(s)

Would love comments / questions.


Any VC’s ability to pay attention is reduced dramatically if they are checking their phone in meetings. Politely ask them if they are taking notes, and if not to put phone away — most will be embarrassed & comply immediately. Those that don’t aren’t worth working with…

Written by

Principal at Balderton Capital in London. Formerly Google & Bain. Statistician by education