Tag Archives: transportation

linkedin-china-720x522

A Linkedin Beta Is Now Available In China


Linkedin (Nyse:lnkd) has formally started a Chinese beta rendition of its expert informal organization under the name 领英, or Lingying.

Linkedin is one of the few western informal organizations that isn’t hindered in China, and it reported four million enrolled clients of its English form on the terrain. A Chinese adaptation has been normal following the time when the organization employed Derek Shen as its new president of China operations.

On the Chinese desktop form, clients will discover Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo choices to import contacts, and also a couple of Chinese email suppliers. Not at all like the universal form, Twitter and Facebook are no place to be found.

photo techinasia

Start-Up Drugs


ADVENTURE-JOURNAL.COM

ADVENTURE-JOURNAL.COM

Start-ups can be a vice grip of stress. At first you don’t have money, and so when you finally do, it’s feels like a victory. You are funded at last. So much effort goes into fundraising that it feels psychologically like you’ve made it.

You haven’t.

Within six months of raising venture capital, something goes wrong. It always does. You quickly realize you’ve added a huge new source of stress: getting a return for major shareholders who define winning as building a huge business. That goes on top of the formidable baseline stress of building a great product, delighting your customers, and providing stable and meaningful jobs to your team.

The new capital is different than the angels who invested previously. They came in for the love of the game and owned a tiny stake. The venture capital is a different ballgame. These folks are fiduciaries whose own jobs are on the line, and they probably own at least 10% of your business, and on frequently more.

You don’t want to let them down. So why did you feel a sense of accomplishment when the capital came in, when you really were just getting started?

It’s a paradox that because the process of raising venture capital is hard, it feels like an ending when it’s really a new beginning. The goal was never the fundraising, it was the innovation that fundraising enables.

So now what? The core business isn’t producing. The thesis of the investment isn’t panning out. You’ve got capital. But you’re not deploying that capital into growing your business effectively.

The narrative is gonna be you raised money against something that showed promise and could have been great, you took dilution and raised the stakes with pricey valuation, and now you’ve screwed the whole thing up because you couldn’t translate that capital into growth.

The pressure to grow increases as you miss numbers. You know it, your board knows it, your team knows it: growth is the lifeblood of a start-up. Your current investors can’t put more money in if there aren’t new investors who want in. Fresh blood is required. And the romance phase with your VCs moves into the marriage phase. Will it end in divorce?

You thought not having money was more stressful than having it. Now you’ve got it, and you realize you are even more stressed than you were before when it was just you in the garage.

What do you do when you have cash but no productive use of it? Drugs.

Crack

Advertising, or paid marketing, is one way out. You spend money, you make money. You spend more money, you make more money. The only problem is the money you are “making” is showing up on the top-line and not the bottom-line.

Once the dust settles, as you look more closely, you will find you are acquiring worse and worse cohorts of customers. In many cases, to make the advertising really sing, you are running promotions and deals that erode your margin and your brand.

Now everyone is hooked on the top-line growth. The revenue expansion is driving a (private market) valuation that you need to keep “up and to the right” to raise capital. You must avoid the dreaded down round at all costs.

With supreme intellectual dishonesty, everyone marches on, temporarily intoxicated by the envisioned share price appreciation that comes from growing your top-line. Founders are usually the most guilty of this delusion. If you don’t have honest investors around you to tell you the truth, god help you.

What does advertising have to do with this? It’s the crack. It becomes more and more addictive as you use it. As one of my lead investors — the Oracle — once told me:

Spending a lot of money on paid marketing is a great way to scale a bad business.

Once you start, it’s like building a time bomb into your P&L which pushes out your break-even. It cannot be shut off without shutting off growth. Your investors may get liquid along the way, but if you really care about this company, you as the entrepreneur are screwed because your company’s never going to win.

How does this happen? Everyone wants to see that the advertising works, so they look for the confirmation bias of good news: more advertising equals more growth. What they don’t do is the more nuanced (hard) work of looking at how the marginal cohorts are declining in value. What they don’t look at is the detailed impact on the quality of that growth, aka the margins and repeat transactions attached to it.

Why don’t they do this?

Part of it is the systems to look at the data are rarely very good in a start-up. Part of it is you’ll need really talented analysts, a precious resource and often a luxury at the early stage where most people are zapped just keeping the trains running on time. Part of it is even if the systems are pristine and the data is rapidly returned by ready analysts to business (which I’ve not seen three for three at any start-up), it can take twelve to eighteen to twenty-four months to have confidence in where the cohorts are going.

In startup lifetime, that’s an eternity, and you’ve already burned through cash for a business which might be cash flow negative even pre-marketing dollars. You’re ready to raise your next round, because you need to, and you don’t even know if your growth is good.

Something stinks, but no one has an incentive to look under the hood because the bad news could preclude the next round.

A paradox is that it can be worse if you actually get the money raised without addressing the problem. You may have your conviction furthered in using crack to scale by the new capital coming in. Worse still is when founders get liquidity as part of these “hit the crack-pipe” rounds. Founders take huge sums of money off the table before employees or other investors have made a penny. The stomach turning part is that non-founder shareholders may never become liquid due to this top-line expansion/death spiral valuation fallacy.

So what to do now? Your whole company is hooked on crack. You are, your board is, even your internal team culture and organizational structure is architected to it. The very people you have in chairs is structured to deliver that shot in the arm.

What are you going to do? I don’t know exactly. What I do know it is likely to involve emotional turmoil and that ultimately nobody cares.

Speaking of which, can we get Ben Horowitz posting up in here?

What I can do is tell you what I did. When I do, the word did will become a link.

What I can do is tell you is that if you’re not going to pivot, you’ll need lead bullets and little bets.

Ecstasy

Founders have a gift for imagining a future that might be and then endeavoring to make it so.

By definition if you make it past the first few years, you have a track record of envisioning the future, attracting resources to that envisioned future, and in fact creating it.

This track record of success in achieving something likely thought contrarian when you began — otherwise everyone would be doing it — is both the reason for the company’s being and a threat to its existence.

The former we all get. Why the latter?

Mostly because the act of scaling a company once created is very different from the act of creation itself.

Scaling a company requires focus and execution. Starting a company requires imagination and being driven to distraction by life so much so that your imagination becomes your reality.

When the time comes for imagination vs. execution to do battle within your own company, it won’t be clear who is right. As the founder you will have history on your side (we made it here by following me, didn’t we), persuasive ability on your side (you wouldn’t be in the chair if you couldn’t attract talent and capital), and one of the most powerful home court advantages in humanity going for you (everyone is there because of you).

This doesn’t mean you will be right about what to do, which will be tricky for you, internally. Deep down you know you don’t know the future, and so you may end embodying a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr:

Frantic orthodoxy is most often rooted in doubt.

According to a little Harvard Business Review ditty called The Founder’s Dilemma, 30% of founders are gone in three years, 50% in five years, and 90% in ten years. I believe the fundamental reason is because creating something and scaling something are different jobs.

Yet the paradox is that the biggest companies are created by founders who can grow into becoming CEOs. I don’t have much to add on why this is, as Andreessen Horowitz pretty much wrote the book on it.

What I can say is that start-ups which become big companies are a survivorship bias of rocketships. Rocketships are start-ups which grow so fast that the founder has the luxury of learning on the job because they’re viewed as geniuses, or are indispensable in the early innings. That genius attracts a lot of capital, and capital plus indispensability plus strong growth equals plenty of founder time to evolve from founder to CEO, and to over time hire a leadership team that can cover for their weaknesses. As time heals all wounds in life, growth solves all problems in start-ups.

Perhaps I spare too much credit though for the rocketship founders, which leads me to this: most founding CEO are better at focus and saying no than I have been over the past six years. Particularly under duress, I find myself coming up with new ideas and getting excited about shiny new objects. The really good founding CEOs I’ve seen are much, much better at saying no.

Hope is not a strategy.

Prior to a lobotomy I just underwent which removed shiny new object syndrome (SNOS) from my brain, I was both an asset and a threat to my own company.

The company is trying to do one thing, and I would come up with another. I can’t tell you how dangerous this is. If the founder doesn’t know what the company is doing, the company won’t either.

In some cases the shiny new object you come up with saves the company. In other cases it sinks it. If it’s the former, they will call it a pivot and hail you as brilliant. If it’s ends up being a distraction or taking the company off course, they will call you delusional and un-focussed.

So which will it be? The evolution of the company that creates an awesome core business? Or a hope-fueled delusional fantasy of what the future might bring that creates the accurate narrative that the founder screwed the whole thing up?

I’ve attempted both. One thing has worked so well it might change retail forever. The other thing went so poorly I literally can’t understand the self that thought it possible.


When something isn’t working, there are two strategies. One is do more of what isn’t working. That’s crack. The other is do something totally different. That’s ecstasy.

If you have to make a radical pivot, do it. It’s the equivalent of leaving South America on a man-made raft to sail to Africa. You might make it, you probably won’t, but if it’s more hopeful than staying the course, then go for it.

In all other cases, there is a third path which I have come to believe is better: let’s call it LB squared, which stands for lead bullets and little bets.

Little Bets + Lead Bullets = LB Squared

There are no silver bullets for this, only lead bullets.

First, you just have to do the hard work of fixing what’s broken about what you began in the first place. A lead bullet is this: just fix it. Do whatever you have to do, but fix it.The godfather lays it all out here.

Once you’re on the lead bullets track to fix the core, it’s time to make some boundarized little bets to expand the horizon for what the company might become, and this is critical — without de-railing the core endeavor which is in the lead bullet itself.

In the words of the author of the man who wrote the book on it, Peter Sims:

We all want to make big bets. That’s a Silicon Valley mantra. Be bold. Go big. But I think ingenious ideas are over-rated and that people routinely bet big on ideas that aren’t solving the right problems.

A little bet is this: you take your pivot idea or an aspect of it, and treat it not as a game change but as an experiment. You might even be able to run a couple little bets in a year while you focus on fixing the core, the lead bullet. Remember: don’t make any little bets which are too big to fail.

If they’re too big to fail, you’re actually attempting a pivot.

It’s critical that the company understands whether the experiment is a pivot or a little bet. They need to know where the lion share of the company’s energy is going. They need to know if what they’re doing is fixing the existing business or moving into a new business.

Sound like fun? This job largely isn’t. It’s one of the great myths of starting a company that it’s fun. It’s like being with an infant. It’s really hard work, it’s often miserable, it’s frequently stressful, it’s incredibly meaningful, and it’s sometimes fun.


Start-ups are my favorite thing in the world because they are the direct collision of fantasy and reality.

Charisma will get you capital. It won’t get you a business. Imagination will attract people. But it won’t give your employees the lasting sense of purpose that winning will.

Getting to a real business from something that is a twinkle in your eye is a long journey. If you really want to build a P&L vs. just sell your top-line user or revenue growth story to an acquirer, be prepared to buckle in for ten years at least.

When it gets hard, and it will, avoid drugs. They’re temporary relief but as they do in real life for addicts — they only make the recovery harder, the lead heavier, the stakes of the little bets higher.

The stakes are high enough already.

The magic of a founder in times of duress is that you have the imagination and the moral authority to lead people through the scary parts of the journey. The scary part is that the very personality traits that enabled you to start the company could ruin the company if you can’t rein yourself in and become a CEO.

Written by

Hear everyone and listen to nobody (while eating sushi)


Advice for a happier start to motherhood

The world I entered the moment I became pregnant was surprising in every way. There were the obvious things: a complete freak out about work (I was consulting and on the lookout for my next startup, and the search became a lot more complicated as I got increasingly pregnant, but that’s another story); a lovely three month bout of morning sickness during which I most closely resembled a yeti, and the bizarre and forceful freight train of anxiety and excitement about becoming someone’s Mom that I tried, and usually failed, to hold in about once an hour.

The less obvious and unexpected shifts were subtle at first, but had a common thread. For the first time I can recall as an adult, there suddenly was a way to do things, and a way not to. Alongside the rules, a chorus of people were seemingly always present to keep me on the right path.

Simple things, like my intake of coffee and sushi were a popular discussion point. Drinking wine? Everyone wanted to share their tips on to drink or not to drink. Yoga. EVERYBODY wanted me to do Yoga, because apparently it is what you do all day long when you get pregnant. (I’m sorry, yogis, I hate yoga and this was probably the moment that put me over the edge.) Then there were the big things. The genetic testing I was or wasn’t going to do with our physician, the amnio, to do it or not to. And work. Would I still work? What was my plan — “my wife had a career too.” (Notice the past tense there, also another story.)

We hadn’t even had our funny little baby boy yet, and I was barraged with instructions and input from people “just trying to help,” that slowly but surely began to make me feel less in charge of my life. I had gone from being an independent woman who had made it three decades in this world making my own calls and finding my own information, to being a someone dependent on input on what I ate, how I exercised and how I made choices that go the depth of who I am in this life.

All at once, my world was getting bigger while my sense of self became smaller, and for first time in my life I was scared I was about to do everything wrong. When I went online, I saw myself reflected back in the hundreds of nervous posts women had put up regarding their pregnancies and the choices in front of them.

We were all helpless.

When I realized what was happening, I took a step back. I stopped listening, and began trusting myself to do the right thing and figure out what I needed to know, when I needed to know it. What helped me the most was when I realized something profound: I was joining century after century of women in bringing new life into this world. Getting this job done was in my genetic make up, and as screwy as it sounds in today’s self-worshipping world, I wasn’t doing anything that complicated. In a simple, cheesy mantra, I understood: “I got this.”

Yes, the world is different now and women are doing more than ever. Of course this is worth talking about (and I will likely in a future post), but somehow in our cultural fascination around the balancing act, motherhood has gone from something personal to something far too public, with rights, wrongs and far too many opinions interrupting something that is inherently private.

Here’s the thing: becoming a mom is physically and emotionally difficult, and everyone sharing their two cents does, of course, mean the best. That said, there’s a difference between getting help and advice when you seek it, and being helpless. We are our own best resources, and when we listen to ourselves and our intuition, we know when we need help and when we don’t. Sometimes more information and opinions just lead to more obsession, and I saw this potential in myself and in many around me. The result is at best, an anxious and sleepless night, and at worst — a growing self-doubt that only gets worse when your cute baby bundle arrives.

Everyone makes their own path, but here’s my few pieces of advice for those of you looking to have a more fun and less anxious pregnancy and first chapter of motherhood:

  1. Find your inner hippie: Every time you feel uncertain about your ability to “do” this — whether it’s working and being pregnant, getting through labor any which way you choose (or don’t choose), or dealing with a mother-in-law who tells you you’re doing it all wrong, find your connection to your earth mother, or your own mother, or your friend who’s a mother. Any mother will do. My point: you aren’t the first out of the gate on this, and I hope that provides you with comfort and confidence.
  2. Read less: No offense, but you’re not learning Ruby on Rails here. You’re a woman and you have what it takes to make a baby and birth a baby. You can even feed a baby after he’s out all by yourself for a shocking amount of time, and he’ll grow in front of your eyes. You’re amazing. PS: read a David Sedaris book instead. They’re even funnier the third time.
  3. Be okay with not knowing: There’s usually no answer to the question you suddenly have about your pregnancy, and there’s certainly no perfect pregnancy. Learning to let things unfold without having data and absolutes is one of the surest ways to stay mentally and physically healthy.
  4. Eat sushi if you want to: Trust yourself. Ask your own questions when they feel important, and find your own answers, like I did. It’s your life, and sushi tastes SO good.
  5. Don’t go online. I know you will, I did too. Just work hard not to, especially at night. Or at least look away after five seconds. Why? Because the posts you’ll read about whatever you are worried about were written by another equally sleep deprived, equally worried pregnant woman in the middle of the night. She has no clue and you don’t either. So, you might as well go get a cookie and watch TV.
  6. Say hi. You are growing a human being inside of you. AND you made it to work in the morning. Have fun with this insanity and say hello to the little man or lady in there. They’re the reason for all this hubbub and they’ll be 100 percent worth every second of it all, and then some. You’re already being a great mom and he or she is the reason you get to do that. So focus on the baby in there, and buckle up for not having a clue what’s happening for a while to come. It’s pretty amazing.

Written by

Sequoia And Jim Goetz Are Big Winners In Facebook’s WhatsApp Acquisition


Next Story

Facebook today announced its huge, $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp. Obviously the company has a lot to cheer about, having grown to 450 million active users over the course of the last five years. But from a pure venture perspective, the purchase represents another huge win for Sequoia Capital and partner Jim Goetz.

You can’t really blame other investors for not getting in on WhatsApp earlier, since it really only did one public round of funding. With the number of users that the company has and the purchase price it went for, it’s hard to believe WhatsApp had raised just $8 million over the course of its lifetime.

The point is that Sequoia’s investment in WhatsApp looks pretty damn smart right now. As the largest acquisition of a venture-backed company in history, that clearly puts it in the early lead for biggest single return this year.

“For the past three years, it’s been our privilege to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Jan and Brian as their close business partner and investor,” Goetz said in his post on the topic. “It’s been a remarkable journey, and we could not be happier for these talented underdogs whose unshakeable beliefs and maverick natures epitomize the spirit of Silicon Valley.”

Of course, WhatsApp isn’t the first company Sequoia had invested in before being acquired by Facebook. It led a $50 million round of financing in Instagram just days before the photo-sharing app was acquired. But it’s by far the biggest.

Assuming Sequoia held about a 10 percent stake in WhatsApp, its take is a solid $1.6 billion — or a 200x return on that initial investment. The deal by itself could provide a return on the $1.3 billion fund the WhatsApp investment came from.

This WhatsApp deal might even be considered Sequoia’s revenge, after passing on Facebook because once upon a time Mark Zuckerberg showed up to a pitch meeting in his pajamas.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/19/sequoia-and-jim-goetz-are-big-winners-in-facebooks-whatsapp-acquisition/

Beware of Fake-Work and Make-Work


I remind myself that just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that I’m being productive.

Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

I imagine that every kind of work has its fake-work and make-work. For example, as a writer, I remind myself:

  • create, don’t fiddle around with italics and formatting
  • typing isn’t the same as writing
  • cruising around the internet isn’t the same as “research”
  • answering emails, checking LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and similar tasks, while important, must not be allowed to get in the way of writing and thinking
  • if I’m finding it very hard to write, I should stop trying to write and instead, start thinking harder
  • if I’m finding it very easy to write, I’m probably falling into cliché and should start thinking harder

Of course, one of my Secrets of Adulthood is that the opposite of a profound truth is also true, and I have several resolutions aimed at helping me not to worry constantly about being efficient, but instead, to Force myself to wander and Schedule time for play.

Virginia Woolf noted in her Diary: “My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.” Sometimes, I work best by doing things that don’t look like “work.” But I enjoy them as play; I don’t pretend that I’m “working.”

In your job, do you have to fight the urge to do fake-work and make-work? What form does yours take?

 

Happier at Home is now available in paperback. If you’re thinking, “Sure, Gretchen, this book was a New York Times bestseller, but how do I know if I’ll like it?” Well, you can…

read an excerpt from the chapter on “Possessions” on “Find a true simplicity”

watch the Behind-the-Scenes video (this was so much fun to do)

- sign up for personalized, signed bookplates for you or or friends, (U.S. and Canada only, sorry)

+++

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. She writes about happiness and habit-formation (the subject of her next book, Before and After) at gretchenrubin.com. Follow her here by clicking the yellow FOLLOW button, on Twitter, @gretchenrubin, on Facebook, facebook.com/GretchenRubin.

Photo: palladyne, Flickr

Posted by:Gretchen Rubin

Postcard For iPhone Lets You Post To Any Social Network At Once, Even Your Own Website


Next Story

A new application, Postcard, launching today, will help you cross-post to various social media websites, but with a few unique twists. Unlike similar tools, this “Swiss Army Knife” of an app lets you set any one social network, or even your own website, as the content’s host. So, for example, if you run multiple Twitter accounts, the app could allow you to tweet from one, while the others re-tweet you.

In other words, Postcard is a pro tool designed for those whose job likely involves social media management of some sort.

What’s old is new again, perhaps? In the early days of Web 2.0, with the arrival of social media, a series of applications like Ping.fm, HelloTxt, or Socialthing, helped early adopters handle the psychological overload of having to post to multiple social media websites at once. Today, those consumer-facing businesses have generally shut down, with companies turning instead to pro tools like HootSuite to manage their online presence, while self-promoters might use something like Buffer or IFTTT to manage their daily social media workflows.

screenshot-2

The problem with many of the current solutions is that they’re designed to automate sending messages from one account or service to another, but that’s generally not how social media is used. Sometimes, you’ll cross-post the same message everywhere, but generally you would pick and choose the right destination(s) depending on the type of content being shared.

Postcard gives you that post-by-post control about where and how your message should be shared. This includes posting to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or LinkedIn, for example, but also to your own website.

For this, there’s a WordPress plugin available, as well as a “Custom Network” feature which lets developers configure any web server to receive content via the Postcard API.

What’s more, you can designate a website or a social network as the content’s “host” using Postcard, which sets it as the primary destination which is then shared via a link to the other networks. This could be your website, as noted, or it could be Facebook, or Twitter, or something else. That means you could post long-form content which is then shared and truncated when posted to Twitter, or you could leverage your Twitter network to draw users back to your Facebook page, or all your social media sites could just serve as an extension of your company’s website itself…or whatever else you want.

Postcard was designed by Kyle Newsome, a WordPress blogger himself, who says he came up with the idea because he was struggling to keep posting great content on his website, despite the fact he was posting to social networks multiple times per day.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 12.07.49 PM

The initial focus for the app, which has been in beta testing over part of last year, was more so on the WordPress angle, but is now more broadly focused on supporting a variety of use cases.

“I wanted to find a way to keep doing the social media part but proverbially ‘hit two birds with one stone’ and also have the ability to search, filter and display feeds of my content however I please,” Newsome explained at the time. “So Postcard was born of the idea to help website owners get their own websites communicating on a social frequency and keeping content fresh.”

The app itself is a free download with support for 3 networks, and you can purchase an additional 2, 5, or unlimited networks ($0.99, $2.99, $4.99 respectively) via in-app purchases.

You can grab it here on iTunes.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/19/postcard-for-iphone-lets-you-post-to-any-social-network-at-once-even-your-own-website/

Everything there is to know about startup competition.


Here are a few things I’ve learned about competitors to the four startups I’ve worked for or started (Odeo, Wesabe, CrowdVine, Lift).

  • Competitors don’t matter.
  • If you’re going to get technical about it, worrying or planning for competitors doesn’t matter.
  • Competitors will find a way to put themselves out of business no matter what you do.
  • You’re at risk of putting yourself out of business also, so mind your own ship.
  • Competitors aren’t very good. Think about it, most startups are run by complete amateurs (remember the first company you started?), tackling a space they don’t understand, with extreme pressure, and limited resources. This is not a recipe for awesomness.
  • Take your eye off competitors for a moment and you’ll notice that your own company doesn’t have any customers. #morepressingproblems
  • Go back to examining your competitors and realize that if you were to knock them over the head and steal every single one of their customers that your startup would still be screwed.
  • When competitors kick you in the teeth it comes with such strength and suddenness that there was nothing for you to do anyway. Some examples to come.
  • Beat down #1. Odeo’s podcasting directory didn’t matter after Apple added podcasting to iTunes. Nothing to do beforehand other than not start the company. Nothing to do afterward but try something else. We tried audio comments, an online recording studio, audio messaging, short video messaging, audio status updates, an online radio player, and 140 character status updates.
  • Beat down #2. Mint sprinted by Wesabe with a clearer design, better name, and aggressive marketing. This was obvious from the second they launched. Kudos. The only thing to do beforehand was to be better (which, duh, we tried). Not much to do after except hope they take themselves off the board (Which they pretty much did when they got acquired and most of the team quit.)
  • Beat down #3. I just finished my beta version of CrowdVine as a “create your own social network service” when Ning refocused on just social networks and raised $100M. One day they looked completely unfocused, the next they looked unbeatable. Four years later they’d peaked and shrunk significantly.
  • Two of the beat down stories involve competitors looking less strong over time. This “put yourself out of business” impulse is strong. I can’t stress this enough. If you insist on competing then use the “don’t go out of business” tactic. This tactic has a 99% effectiveness rating.
  • In the Odeo case, isn’t everyone happy we got chased off of podcast directories and did Twitter instead?
  • CrowdVine had seven direct competitors launch after we pivoted to social networks for conferences. Six of them put themselves out of business. For example they raised VC money and then pivoted after finding out that the market was too tiny, they failed to land any paying customers (this was B2B software), the founders got bored and tried something else, etc.
  • The seventh CrowdVine competitor, the one that didn’t put themselves out of business, validated the market and made it easier to land new customers.
  • A lot of weaker competitors will focus on you (and maybe even seem like they are copying you). Let them. Better to have second rate copies rather than for one to discover there is a fundamentally better approach.
  • If you’re thinking about competition because you’re one of the copycats, then you’re lame. You’re missing the point of entrepreneurship. There are so many fresh problems to solve.
  • Some cometitors give you the creeps. They try to buddy up to you (it’s hard to find the respect to reciprocate when they’re copying your ideas). They publicly compare themselves to you even though they’re miniscule and you’re barely any bigger. They make outlandish claims before about being number one. They post links to their product in the comments whenever you get press. They behave weirdly toward you in person. Having the creeps is a distraction from your real problems: your product isn’t good enough and you don’t have enough customers.
  • Competitors will have tiny wins. You wanted those wins. Seeing them win will make you feel bad about yourself. The best thing I ever did for myself was delete my vanity search for CrowdVine competitors. Again, you have real problems that you need to save your stress for.
  • If a reporter asks you about a specific competitor the proper response is to pivot and respond to the product category. How does Twitter deal with Facebook? “Social networking is a huge category and we believe Twitter holds an important place.” See? You never even have to say the name of a competitor no matter how big.
  • The better competitors are actually your peers and you will be friends with them someday because you have a shared passion.
  • Competitors really only matter if your users are telling you that they matter. But this is just the same as any other case of your users telling you that you need a better product. So keep making a better product.
  • This post might look like it’s about strategy, but it’s really about productivity. Stop thinking about things that don’t matter.

Hopefully this realization about the futility of worrying about competitors makes your startup experience as zen as mine is (which is to say more so, but still a long way to go).

If you read this far, would you do me a solid and share this Designer @ Lift post with your designer friends?

Further Reading

Designer @ Lift

 — Hi there, we’d like to work with you.

Written by

Lessons Learned After 5 Weeks of Beta Testing


Transparency in numbers, problems, and vision.

We launched Kuhcoon into public beta on January 10th, 2014. Our vision for the beta was simple: keep press and marketing to a minimum, build one-on-one relationships with users, and iterate based on their feedback. Quality over quantity.

Our approach paid off tenfold. By keeping the beta small and organized we were able to build personal relationships with our users and gain invaluable insight into our product. We started a small private Facebook group where we have been posting consistent product updates and answering questions from some of our most loyal users. This group helps us connect with them in a way that wouldn’t be possible through something like email.

“It’s so much better to make a few people love you, than a lot of people just like you.”—Paul Buchheit

Thanks to the amazing feedback from users in this group we’ve made a number of important product improvements. This was only one of the many ways our early adopters helped us this month. Several wrote blog posts, made recommendations to friends on Twitter, made email introductions to new users, and spent time communicating with us directly to give their feedback. The numbers below were only made possible because of these early adopters:

Total users: 541

340 are daily active users

402 are weekly active users

Time spent on site per user visit: 1 min 48s

Time spent in app per open: 40 seconds

Optimized campaigns created in past week: 212

Total campaign spend from optimized campaigns in past week: ~$5500

Total active campaigns monitored on system: 4732

Total spend of active campaigns monitored on system: $2,519,820.53

Average savings per optimized campaign: 18%



Our first month also came with several roadblocks and problems:

  1. How do we differentiate between our mobile app and our web app?
    Many of our users are strictly using our mobile app and missing out on the powerful campaign optimization features of our web app. This will be one of our more difficult problems to solve going forward. We have a few ideas in mind, but are focused on shipping our full line of mobile apps before we implement some new feature testing.
  2. How do we price a cutting edge product?
    Facebook has over 1 million advertisers and growing. Our goal is to help each of them cut costs and increase the conversions of their Facebook Ads from the palm of their hand. This market is largely untapped when it comes to third party tools for SMB’s. We are also first to market with a full line of mobile apps, leaving us little to compare to. I’ll be writing a full post on our thought process and struggles with pricing when we go live, so more on this later.
  3. How do we scale distribution when we exit public beta?
    Distribution is arguably the most difficult part of scaling any business. You might have the best product on the market, but if no one knows it exists that won’t matter. We’ve spent the past several weeks meeting with partners and agencies who have been beta testing our product. We’ve lined up several trusted partners who will expand our distribution efforts beyond anything we could have accomplished alone. Our goal is to build mutually beneficial relationships with partners who believe in our vision for the future of social advertising.
  4. How do we improve the product and user experience?
    This is something I don’t think we will ever be done asking ourselves. We are obsessed with creating the best product on the market and saving our users time, money, and headaches. We love hearing from users and nonusers alike. Some of the most brutal “negative” feedback has been our guiding light in product development and improvement, so don’t be afraid to reach out to us with any and all insight you have to offer!

What’s next?

  1. Ship our Android app. Update: Done 2/17/14.

2. Ship our iPad app in the next 2-3 weeks.

3. Exit public beta and turn on pricing.

4. Ship web product improvements specifically: better optimization and more detailed analytical data.

5. Focus on strategic partnerships for distribution.

6. Use our own product to run Facebook Ads and increase digital marketing efforts.

We started testing various campaigns this week.

7. Explore financing options, but focus on customer growth and product development.


We are excited and humbled by the response we’ve received over the past five weeks and can’t wait to keep improving our product. Stay tuned for monthly updates like this one and follow along with our transparent progress as we grow.

Written by

Respect Is Earned, Not Inherited


Over the last 25 years of my career – from serving as a partner at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), to my time at Delta Air Lines, to my current role as president and CEO of Red Hat – I’ve been exposed to my fair share of leaders. I’ve learned that leaders and leadership styles can vary greatly depending on the company culture, industry and size, but there’s one commonality I’ve noticed among all of them: to be effective, leaders must be respected.

Sometimes people aspire for a title within their company because they believe title alone will result in respect from their peers. Of course, based on implied hierarchy, people will be likely to accept your direction and listen to you, but to me, this is not true leadership. True leadership is based on respect, not titles, and can be shown at any level of an organization. In truth, nobody respects a position. People respect people. By watching leaders around me, I’ve gleaned a few important takeaways about both leadership and respect that are worth sharing.

Respect has to be earned. In today’s workforce, creativity is a critical skill. I strive every day at Red Hat to be a catalyst with our associates to fuel and spark their creativity and not stifle it by simply telling people what to do. At Red Hat, where we believe in meritocracy and celebrating the best ideas no matter where they come from in the organization, that wouldn’t work. To earn respect, leaders need to do three things.

First, you have to show passion. Whether it’s in the mission of the company and/or individual projects, a leader has to be passionate. They have to show their commitment and interest in driving both personal and team initiatives. At Red Hat, our mission is to be the catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners creating better technology the open source way. The most respected and influential people at Red Hat are those who show passion for our mission and live it every day. A leader cannot begin to earn respect from their teams if they are not passionate about their job.

Second, leaders must demonstrate confidence. Occasionally, individuals are put into leadership positions but lack confidence. Colleagues will typically sense this lack of confidence and may question their authority and ability. Leadership requires confidence (not to be confused with cockiness). It’s a trait people respect and look for in their leaders. People want to be led by people who believe they can achieve their goals, and better yet, help their collective team to succeed. Leaders must display competence and confidence to help encourage those same beliefs in their teams about themselves.

Lastly, leaders have to engage their people. They cannot simply command others in a meeting and walk away expecting everything to happen as they ordered. Leaders are consistently engaged, interact with teammates, and supportive. They have to show that they are open to others and their ideas, and available if needed.

Leaders get the best out of the people around them, whether we’re talking about team leadership, or leadership among peers. Leaders inspire others. The best team leaders I’ve seen catalyze their team’s direction and give them the freedom to do their job even better than they could have imagined.

It starts with being comfortable with who you are. Positional leaders who lack the confidence I discussed earlier close themselves off and frequently use tactics – including avoiding engagement – to hide their insecurities instead of embracing and being open about their personal limitations. When I was first hired by Delta to serve as Treasurer, it was a role that was rather foreign to me. I had deep knowledge of finance strategy but I didn’t know anything about the skills needed to be a treasurer. So, when I arrived at Delta, I was open with my team. I shared both my strengths and weaknesses. I was honest with them, and in turn, they were honest with me. Collectively, this enabled us to best leverage our team’s strengths, leading to our team success. Beyond success on a single project, we built a foundation of mutual trust and respect, which led us to many additional future successes and a wonderful work environment.

Photo: Lu? / Flickr

Burned marketing partner makes overtures to Facebook, but this relationship may be toast


Burned marketing partner makes overtures to Facebook, but this relationship may be toast
Peter Hamilton

Chastened HasOffers CEO Peter Hamilton

If you hear howling, look no further than the doghouse, current residence of HasOffers.

The chastened chief executive of this advertising marketing startup, which was recently shown the door by Facebook for violating data storage policies, apologized to the social media giant Tuesday and said his engineers have introduced new feature sets so the snafu never happens again.

“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry about it. Absolutely. We should should have pressed harder with the Facebook audit team and worked harder on the best ways to comply,” with the social media giants data storage and file sharing agreements, HasOffers CEO Peter Hamilton told VentureBeat.

HasOffers and Playhaven-Kontagent were both notified by Facebook earlier this month that they were no longer welcome partners in their mobile advertising agreements. Both players provide mobile analytics to customers that allows them to tell which mobile advertising campaigns are generating the best traffic, or clicks.

HasOffers does not monetize their clicks, nor does it sell advertising.

Facebook’s decision is a potentially big hit for both startups and the mobile advertising space at large, said Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin.

“I do think it is a big deal,” Bajarin said. “The nature of advertising is changing with an eye to mobile. Companies are now figuring out how to best capture ads from the desktop to the mobile space.”

The mobile advertising arena is expected to grow from $11.4 billion from 2013 to $24.5 billion in 2016, Bajarin said.

Playhaven-Kontagent chief executive Andy Yang did not respond to multiple emails for comment.

A Facebook spokesperson said both startups violated the contracts.

Facebook was up front from the beginning about how the relationship would work, the spokesperson added, and there “was no miscommunication on our part.”

The spokesperson declined to comment whether the social media titan would work with either companies ever again.

The agreement with Facebook and its existing mobile marketing partners, including Apsalar, Trademob, and Localytics, stipulates that all data collected must be erased after 180 days and that information generated by the mobile analytics platforms be stored differently from Facebook’s.

Facebook still has over a dozen mobile advertising partners.

Hamilton expressed contrition at the blowout.

“We needed to be storing Facebook’s data in a different channel, but it wasn’t clear to us at the time we weren’t doing it right. So now, we’ve created a whole new feature set for purging data,” Hamilton said.

HasOffers has 144 employees and his headquartered in Seattle. Revenue for the company clocked in at $19 million last year, and Hamilton projects that number to reach $45 million by the end of 2014.

Hamilton said Facebook’s decision was a minor setback for his startup but that a majority of his clients, whom he declined to name, continue to support him. Less than one percent of HasOffer’s revenue derived from their Facebook account.

“Today we are already 100 percent compliant with the 180-day data-deletion policy. I do wish we could have moved faster, but we were hoping for more clarity before pursing various tech solutions,” Hamilton said.

“These events have inspired us to create custom data deletion tools to make sure partners and advertisers can easily work with each other in the future,” he added.

 

http://venturebeat.com/2014/02/18/burned-marketing-partner-makes-overtures-to-facebook-but-this-relationship-may-be-toast/