The Rise Of The Hedge Fund Startup Investor (Again)

TechCrunch

The first question I thought of when I read that San Francisco hedge fund Coatue Management was the backer behind Snapchat’s $50 million round of funding was which VC firm lost the deal. My second question was why take money from a hedge fund?

In the past two years or so, you have seen more hedge funds dabbling in tech investing. As one venture investor put it in 2011, “They are the antichrist of patient, supportive early-stage investing. But increasingly, hedge funds are scoring some of the deals you would expect traditional VCs to get. Case in point — Snapchat. Over the past few weeks, I spoke to a dozen or so public and private market investors around this trend, why it is taking place, and what it means for founders.

Coatue isn’t the first “cross-over” fund (an investment fund that crosses over to the private from the public markets)…

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A Networking Protocol For Labor

I think this is a great space to experiment, pushing the boundaries and allowing more diverse sets of individualized solutions to emerge. The flip-side is education, which allows new users and/or job-seekers to take advantage of the new opportunities. The possibilities are astronomical.

TechCrunch

The core advancement of the Internet was the capability to move information very quickly across a decentralized network of nodes. That advancement was predicated on the development of protocols like HTTP, SMTP and Bitcoin that codified how such data should move to accomplish our tasks.

Despite this level of progress, we continue to lack the ability to request labor over the web using a standardized protocol. It’s not for lack of trying. Elance was one of the first attempts to aggregate freelancers online through a bidding marketplace, all the way back in 1998. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk was launched in 2005 to create a processing infrastructure for work units that could be easily handled by humans but were difficult for computers to process. Newer startups like TaskRabbit have tried to take the lessons of these pioneers and make labor marketplaces more approachable.

We need to do better than this if we…

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Primer: CIO and CMO need to work together

While big data becomes available to more companies through cloud applications and other technology, it requires a much more open dialogue between marketing and IT departments…

            As the leaders of these teams, it is up to the CIO, CMO, (and CEO) to effectively anticipate the needs of their departments, and properly prepare so they can work all work together, effectively.

“As marketing becomes fully digital, CMOs need more than just plain-vanilla tech services from their IT departments — much more.” – (7 things marketing want to say to IT)

In an article by Mary K. Pratt, she brings up some interesting “things that marketing wants to say to IT” … The items brought up in this article include:

     1)    Understand our new KPIs

     2)    Deliver on analytics

     3)    Guide my technology spend

     4)    …but let me run my own systems

     5)    Loosen the handcuffs, please

>>> The rise of the chief marketing technologist

     6)    Teach us how to dive deep

     7)    Help us meet our customers wherever they are

     Another article, from the Harvard Business Review, describes the importance of the relationship between CMOs and CIOs in more detail. In fact, the article’s headline: CMOs and CIOs Need to Get Along to Make Big Data Work, gets right to the point. In this article, the authors describe the relationship in the following way:

The CMO and CIO are natural partners: the CMO has an unprecedented amount of customer data, from which s/he needs to extract insights to drive revenue and profits. The CIO has the talent and expertise in infrastructure development to create the company’s Big Data backbone and generate the necessary insights.”

That article is really worth reading for more on the subject. “In addition to clearly defined goal, empathy, and a shared covabulary there are five other imperatives necesary for CMOs and CIOs to make their partnerhip work:” … read the article to find out what these 5 things are.

The amount of data, and the difficulty of finding the time to research and utilize insights, depends greatly on the size of the organization you work for. However, in many organizations there is an evolution of the “marketing technologist”…which can be hugely valuable to both Marketing and IT departments. A few quotes from this article shed more light on the relations…

“The truth is, CMOs and CIOs have the potential to grow the pie – really grow it – but only if they stop worrying about who is going to “win”.  The bottom line is, CMOs and CIOs must be able to work together to merge market vision and technology opportunity to deliver innovation and growth.”

The article is featured in Information Age, and it is also a post very much worth reading.

Using those two words, market vision, and technology opportunity can go a long way in defining the role of data in different environments. Developing a common language is a big part of corporate culture.

Along the same lines, here is another article (written by Mary Shacklett from Tech Republic) that discusses how the problem relates to the market research analyst, and the position “needing a boss to report to”…especially in organizations that are not traditionally focused on market research:

“When you’re a market research analyst in a non-market research-oriented company, it can be one of the most frustrating experiences out there. For instance, will you report to IT, even though your major responsibility is performing technical research for the marketing department? Or should you report to IT, since most of your skill set is IT oriented?”

She goes on to talk about this problem in the context of the banking industry, and how things are changing in the context of the movement into a “big-data” environment:

In the banking industry, this conflict between marketing and IT first surfaced with the appearance of customer information systems (CIS) 30 years ago. During the pre-big data era, CIS were created by IT or outside service providers as data marts that could be queried for customer demographic information by marketing. The information was then used in target marketing campaigns.

But with today’s focus on big data as a corporate strategic asset, executive expectations and responsibilities for creating actionable information and then acting on it have also been raised—even in industries (like banking) where market research was rarely emphasized. 

     This change is being seen across nearly every industry…and the implications are serious for both IT and Marketing, allowing both increased collaboration and increased autonomy through the integration of new interfaces to collect, manage, and analyze data without needing to be a computer scientist.

To illustrate, in a 2011 survey of more than 4,900 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs), IBM concluded that there was a “call to action for improved collaboration between CMOs and CIOs…brought on by a digital revolution that now requires marketing to become more technical in its analytics.” 

As research firm Forrester observed in 2011,

The CIO’s number-one job in the coming decades will be to drive business results—and by definition this requires CIOs to reshape IT for future success. Failure by CIOs to recognize this shift and shape a new IT for the future will result in turnover in IT leadership. CEOs can no longer afford IT leaders without the vision and influence to effect business change.”

The observation from Forrester could just as easily have been made about CMOs, because now is the time to abandon territoriality, familiarize one another with each other’s disciplines, and learn how to “pull the wagon” together—with the CEO out in front as a definite lead.

Links:

By Ben Rossi, comments by Kevin Cochrane of OpenText | 2/7/2014

By Jesko Perrey and Matt Ariker (HBR) | February 4, 2014

By Mark Fidelman, contributor on Forbes.com

 Mary K. Pratt (Computerworld – US) | 2/05/ 2014

By Virginia Backaitis | Dec 9, 2013 

By Mary Shacklett | 2/13/2014

By Pete Swabey (Information Age) | 1/16/2013

 

The “Low-Hanging Fruit” of Startup Growth

Yellow-Plums 600 x 450 px

In a recent post, Neil Patel covers a topic that is fitting for those using content marketing to grow their startup, the Low-Hanging fruit of “growth hacking”… for more on that term, you can see past articles here (the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking), and here (the Rise of the Content Hacker).

Keep in mind that in general these are tactics, which may or may not fit well into the process with which you approach your marketing or other company process (Sales, Acquisition, Design, or Biz Dev).

To see more on process vs. tactics, check out this guide to Building an effective Content Marketing Plan.

In this post, I’m going to go with my Top 15 low hanging fruit of growth hacking.

1. FAQ Page –  “for the long tail”: Andrew Dumont

  • Keyword Research:
  • Primary, Secondary, and “long-tail” keywords:

2. “Manual Outreach to your First Customers” -Andrew Dumont

First, you should set up a process for Customer Relationship Management. Personally, I use Zoho for my CRM, but if you use something else that’s nbd. (Here’s a list of the best)

3. Partners: (Andrew Dumont, Neil Patel, and Startup Owner’s Manual)

“Provide a way of getting partners to distribute your product at little to no cost in return for you providing benefits to them. Moz does this with their incubator outreach program in which they give incubators’ companies 90 free days of the product instead of the standard 30. This has resulted in tens of thousands of new free trials (with credit card registered) at almost no cost. And surprisingly it has even converted better than their typical free trials that they get through other channels.” –Andrew Dumont

Link Building is also a key part of building partners and guiding SEO. See more here.

4. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) —-

This is an interesting program, but I’ve never used it personally. What I will say is that the first thing to talk about is Creating press kit. One of the key’s to “growth hacking” is being prepared with a strong framework for your brand and message, and having a solid press kit is a good way to take a huge load off of your shoulders when the time comes to share that message with the public.

    To start, think about your company’s ability to prepare a Press Release.

This should take about 2-4 hours for one or two people, but it can be done in less than 20 minutes where there is a process in place.

(See here for more about creating a plan for media relations)

     Be prepared for when they reach out to you.  For more, how to handle press requests.

     Don’t oversell it! 

The more you can do to provide a reporter with great content to write about, including graphics, raw data (& analysis), anything that backs up your words, the better. You don’t want to tell them exactly what to say, but make their job as easy as possible.

     If they don’t reach out to you, think about when it is okay to start reaching out to reporters… and follow these guidelines when you’re ready to take that step.

5. Social Prospecting (Andrew Dumont)

This is part of a larger social media process, but the key to “social prospecting” is to provide real answers that are valuable to the people asking questions. If you’re curious about tactics to find users who are asking questions related to your topic/keywords, see more here.

6. Video Syndications

From Andrew Dumont on Kenotek.com:

“Get your content on sites that will push it out to their user base for free. A great example is online education. For example you can create a course on Udemy around the service that your company provides. Just make sure it’s truly a great course and not just a marketing pitch.”

Rand Fishkin talks about the idea of using Wistia to get analytics and improve your messaging… check that video out here.

7. Commenting (Andrew Dumont – “Comment Marketing”)

From Kenontek – “make helpful comments, not ones that just link back to your site.”

8. In-app Sharing could be considered part of Viral Loops – which Andrew Dumont includes as Long Term (#15), but I’m just going to talk about sharing in more general terms.

Integration (APIs) for Biz Dev

Double Loop Referrals – for more about virality, see this post regarding startup metrics.

9. Influencer Programs

This is something that can be a hugely valuable “growth hack”…but don’t take it lightly…if you’re still in the early stages, haven’t found product market fit, or are still in product development, it might not be a great idea to reach out to an influencer unless you already have a relationship.

Reach out to friends, followers, and early customers… the best growth hack of all is great customer service. Focus on creating relationships, and you won’t have to ask for people to share your content and become brand advocates.

The following are more focused on Neil Patel’s recent article, which can be found here.

10. Cross Promote your Twitter profiles:

“One simple strategy is to cross-promote your Twitter profile with other people within your organization. Chances are you have a personal Twitter profile and a corporate one. At least a few of your employees have Twitter profiles too.” –Neil Patel

11. Top Keywords:

[How to, List-related numbers, Free, You, Tips, Blog post, Why, Best, Tricks, Great]

Headline Formulas: 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work from copyblogger

12. Use Facebook Connect

“…if you are looking to build your list at a faster pace, use Facebook Connect. It allows users who are logged into Facebook to subscribe to your blog with a click of a button.” –Neil Patel

See here or more about Facebook Connect 

13. Share Your Content More Than Once:

This can be effective, but make sure that you follow the “etiquette” of whatever channel you are on…for example, this tactic would be better suited to Twitter than Linked In or Facebook.

14. Use a Content Calendar:

I use Google Spreadsheets to keep a collective list of past and future posts, using the paint bucket to color-code posts which have been posted, or are ready to be posted.

15. Analytics

Neil Patel’s post on the growth hacks is a bit repetitive, it breaks down the following into more detail, but I have combined several tactics (“hacks”) which all relate to one of the most important parts of content marketing (or any other department) in a startup today.

  •      “Don’t ignore the numbers” – Neil Patel
  •  “Replicate what works” – Neil Patel
  • Be Data Driven – I followed this post by Avinash Kaushik to design my system.

Neil includes a few more related to the creation of content itself— I don’t include them all here, so if you want to learn more about content marketing, visit the original article here.

If you found some value in this list, it would mean a ton to me for you to share this with your friends, colleagues, or other contacts. If not, drop me a comment and tell me why!

Educational Links:

http://moz.com/blog/how-to-grow-21-tactics-to-acquire-customers

  • And another featuring Andrew Dumont on kenontek, from 1/2/2014

http://www.kenontek.com/2014/01/02/growth-hacker-tips-andrew-dumont-of-moz/

Should an aspiring entrepreneur mention that he wants to be an entrepreneur in an interview?

In my experience, I have started some really great conversations with potential employers by talking about a side project or entrepreneurial venture that I’ve worked on in the past…so I think if you have something you worked on in the past, it’s not totally out of line to bring it up. (That is, if it is related to experience/value you bring to that company..which most of the time it won’t be, so take care)

In terms of wanting to be an entrepreneur in the future, I don’t think that would come off the way you would hope with an employer…you might want to show that you are a self-starter and have an innovative way of thinking about things, but ultimately it is more important to show them that you are committed to working at that company. In a job interview, I think it is important to talk about how you are excited to work for THAT company, and are interested in what THEY do.

I wouldn’t take my word as gold, but I thought some insight from my experience as a recent graduate from UMass might be a little bit helpful. To that end, I would also mention that your ambition to take the risk of starting a new venture is something I think many college students feel, but keep your mind open to other opportunities. You might find that many employers share the values that you consider meaningful, and there are many opportunities to be a valued member of a company that is already achieving much of the success you hope to have yourself. This would hopefully give you the personal satisfaction of working for something you care about, as well as the added experience that you can use when you end up setting out on your own.

Leverage the fact that you are a student and still exploring your opportunities, and try to reach out to different companies that you find interesting…figure out what they need, and start making connections. You can use this research to develop the skills and make yourself the ideal candidate for a job or internship at a great company…that way you can continue to build and network while working in a related field until you are able to pursue your long term entrepreneurial goals.

If you’ve heard of the “4 hour work week”, a book by Tim Ferris, it references a somewhat new idea of the “intrepreneur”, someone who uses entreprenuerial skill from inside a large corporation. (also from “Lean Startup”, etc.) Innovation and freedom are taking over as common practice not only in start ups but in larger corporations as well. I think most of the draw of being an entrepreneur is the freedom, and it is worth considering the possibility of finding a company that satisfies your entrepreneurial spirit, while also providing experience you can use, and provides you with a steady income. This book talks a lot about methods that let you be more productive and potentially start your entrepreneurial venture while you are still a full time employee.

Anyway, best of luck, I hope this was somewhat helpful!

I think it’s a great question to ask, and hopefully you get some answers from other business owners or recruiting professionals.