Day 2 of Launch: Launch off your chair and MEET PEOPLE!

February 24th, 2011 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Day 2 of the Launch conference, I realized the power of social networking not just online but off. The real world version of “friend me” is “here’s my card shoot me an email,” but exchanging cards is not enough. Engage with those in your environment. Freezing in the main atrium of the Launch conference I began a conversation with another attendee who was also trying to shake the chill. This real-world social networking led to invaluable advice. Too frequently, people cling to their smart phones/lap tops and avoid in-person contact. Talented entrepreneurs occupy the stages and booths, but attendees are just as significant. The art of direct conversation beyond a keyboard or screen has become an almost extinct behavior. While society has become dependent on technology, we must not forget to interact with the people in our environment minus our gadgets. YOU NEVER KNOW whom you’ll meet and their effect. I conversed with someone who provided different investment strategies confirming the importance of human capital. As a population, we must not overlook the power of PEOPLE and direct communication. Technology is wonderful. It has created more efficiency and illustrated untapped needs we never knew we had. An idea, a site, a company are only parts of the puzzle. The glue and MOST essential part is the TEAM.

Everyone loves social networks because they provide communities, why not leverage a real world community and combine interpersonal skills with the viral effect of the Internet. Like a demo you saw? Blog about the company! Spread the word! Transfer your real life connections to the online space. Leverage the viral nature of the Internet, but first, use your voice and meet people offline!

Do not just take, give! If we love communities online lets act like one!

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Day 1 of Launch Conference… It’s a Blast!

February 23rd, 2011 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs, Food, Great Ideas, Entrepreneurs and Great Ideas neatly summarizes day 1 of theLaunch Conference. The Bay Area incubates some of the best start up companies, some of which presented at The Launch Conference in San Francisco. While a number of the Launch companies are based in the bay area, other companies traveled from Africa, London, Singapore, and a myriad of other International/Domestic cities. The companies presented a breadth of ideas, ranging from new event meetup sites to real time location based textmessages. Two sites stood out as completely unique and useful: GreenGoose and TripBod.

GreenGoose would have been useful during the childhood days of parents rearing children maintain personal hygiene. Remember the days of parents badgering you to brush your teeth, drink lots of water, exercise, and take your vitamins??? GreenGoose enables you to fulfill all of those tasks but earn points for them as if life’s a game. GreenGoose transforms mundane human behaviors into fun activities, which can be tracked. Who knew, brushing your teeth could be an online game? GreenGoose is not only fun for competitive healthy lifestylers but also provides marketing channels for big brands. For example, if you rack up the vitamin user points, the Vitamin Shop might send you coupons or suggestions to take additional vitamins to maintain your health. GreenGoose sends you sensors marked appropriately for water, tooth brush etc, which you place on the specified objects in order to keep track of your usage. Finally, being recognized for making healthy choices not only benefits your body but earnsGreenGoose points!!!

While GreenGoose monitors/motivates wellness, TripBod improves travel. Ever travel to a city and feel your experience and wallet are being ripped off? Desire to be a part of the local vibe of a city rather than be at the mercy of a Hotel concierge? Check out TripBods, a London based company, which couples travelers with locals who reside in the city intended for visit. The locals, known as the TripBods, are paid to assist travelers in planning an itinerary. The TripBods peel away any tourist element of a city, revealing the delectable fruit known as the local experience. Resturants, stores, bars and other activities untapped by tourists are revealed by the TripBods. You can live like a New Yorker rather spend three days in Times Square buying I HEART NY junk, you overpaid for and will never wear.

Visit www.greengoose.com and www.tripbod.com

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Forrester & Crimson Hexagon Social Media Webinar Recap

February 16th, 2011 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Crimson Hexagon & Zach Hofer-Shall of Forrester recently hosted a webinar, focusing on social media data behaviors. Below is a summary of what was discussed.

Zach talked about the need to shift from monitoring social media data to proactively using the information, which he calls social intelligence. Businesses need to decipher the difference between monitoring and the term social intelligence. The social media ecosystem, as he sees it, resembles a ladder with creators at the top rung, followed by the conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and, at the bottom, the inactives,–which represent 16% of U.S. residents. Businesses must evaluate the relationship and interactions between these sub groups to evaluate people’s interactions with brands.

It appears businesses do not take advantage of the valuable information social media sites provide. While 78% of businesses collect customer data or look at feedback, a very low number of those people actually use the data–only half of that 78% actually use the data for a competitive advantage. Zach used the metaphor of the online world as a pile of garbage and one must find a needle in a haystack in terms of gathering relevant data to help one’s business. Everyday people interact with brands and share their opinions, but many businesses miss out on these key conversations with consumers. Businesses need to decipher the difference between monitoring and the term social intelligence.

The first step to analyzing social media data is monitoring the information. After, marketers must act on their findings and use their insights to discover. Thanks to the immediacy of social media, this can be achieved in real time, which means a brand’s strategy can be constantly altered.

In order to successfully execute social intelligence, Hofer-Shall listed the four Ps of social intelligence: people, purpose, platform and process. In terms of people, internal resources must be evaluated to decipher who will take charge of social media. Responsibilities and skill sets must be assigned to the team in charge of social media. The purpose is defined as having social intelligence goals parallel business goals. Social media goals, which are the business achievements that social media can help attain, also must be set. The third p, platform is really about technology: does your business have the technological dashboard to service the team? Lastly, the process, which is to allocate each goal with an insight and decide, which roles will achieve which goal.

Hofer-Shall recommends the four Ps be handled in the following ways: for people, evaluate their roles and assign appropriate responsibilities. For the purpose, determine the business and social goals. For the platform, start to return data with a potential partnership with a listening platform. Lastly, for the process, one should establish a reactive monitoring practice, than plan for a proactive insight.

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Leverage Your Investors Don’t Get Jipped!

January 18th, 2011 by Jay Levy View Comments

Dear First Time Entrepreneurs,

Investors hate surprises, both good and bad, so communication is key. The benefit of keeping your investors in the loop is far greater than the opportunity cost of not doing so. If it resembles a chore, you have the wrong investors.

If you don’t engage your investors and get more than money from them, you sold yourself short. In other words: you got jipped.

Keeping your investors engaged is important because it should help grow your business, make the re-investment decision quicker and easier, get you introductions to other investors, and it may eventually help you sell your company, among other reasons.

I haven’t met an investor who is not willing to help, especially in the angel / seed community. Many of them do so in order to be involved and see returns. The issue we seem to run into is the entrepreneurs don’t ask for help. In my experience this is for a few reasons:

1)They are afraid to
2)They don’t know how to
3)They are too busy to
4) They think it will be distracting

So here are some tips on engaging your investors in a way that is beneficial and not hurtful to your company.

1) Keep them Updated: Send out regular e-mail updates with what is going on. These should briefly cover all aspects of the business (sales, marketing, operations, product development, etc.) These letters should also have an “ask”. The companies that I have seen do this best generally come through programs like TechStars, where this is ingrained in them.

2) Give Your Investors Direction and Things to Do: Ask your investors to do things for you and be specific. For example, don’t just ask them to make intros to leads, give them a list of leads you are working on and ask them who they know and how they can help.

3) Be Picky: Not every investor can be involved in helping you in every aspect of the business, nor should they (For instance, we tend to be very product-focused and are called on in that area). Know what your investors are best at, leverage that, and be open about this to them.

4) Big Important Scary Decisions: When it comes to make important decisions (i.e. raising more money, selling the company, shutting down, large pivots,) your goal should be to get as much feedback as possible, synthesize it and then get the buy-in of each investor ahead of the “official” communication or sign-off. This can be accomplished by group e-mails, group calls and/or individual calls. My advice is to do a few of these things. Start with a casual e-mail to the investors letting them know what’s going on (see example below), then do one-on-one calls, and then do a group call if everyone isn’t on the same page. Once you have sent the official e-mail, the document reviews will all just be a formality.

5) You should manage the type and level of help from your investors. Don’t let your investors get to into the weeds and wind up managing you. It will only frustrate you, your team, and your other investors. We invest and believe in your abilities and give you enough rope. If you hang yourself with that rope, it was a risk we took.

A Few Disclaimers:

1) Remember you are the leader and there will be times that not everyone agrees. It is your responsibility to make the best possible decision based on sound reason, analysis, and input. If this is done, people should not fault you if you are wrong.

2) Make sure you manage the process right, and solicit feedback from the right investors in the right areas. Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth.

3) This post is targeted to companies that have raised seed rounds from many investors. Some of the process changes as your investor group grows and matures.

Example letter:

Investor,

As you know, we have been in fundraising mode and we have received a term sheet. The broad strokes of the offer are $4m preferred on a $12m pre money valuation, a 1x participating preferred and the expansion of the board to include members for the lead, XYZ Venture Firm.

I’d like to set up some time for us to speak within the next few days to get your thoughts on the terms, ask for your advice on how to proceed, and discuss any questions you may have. I have attached the term sheet for your review, obviously to be kept confidential. Send me some times that work for you to talk.

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Gilt City Customers 2nd Class Citizens

January 16th, 2011 by Jay Levy View Comments

This weekend I tried out two of the recent Gilt City deals, Bar Basque and Aspen Social Club. Both deals turned out to be absolute failures for the merchants as none of us would return to the establishments. The shame of it is that if the restaurants would have been a bit smarter about how they serviced the new customers they were trying to win over we probably would have went back to both places and the offering would have been a success to the merchants.

Bar Basque
Great spot in Chelsea with an interesting concept, new chefs every few months. They went wrong with a few things:

  • They put all the Gilt City customers in the semi-outdoor auxiliary room, which was cold and loud
  • The Gilt City room was understaffed and causing atrocious service. We had the tasting menu and items came out of order and were skipped totally. We ordered wine (outside of the deal) and it took 20 minutes to arrive.
  • The wait stuff was clueless to how the deal worked

Aspen Social Club
We had the 10 apps and 10 cocktail deal, the big mistake here was that they was the put a $12 cap on the cocktails included in the deal, only issue here was that there were very few cocktails available under $12. They did allow you to do cocktails over $12 but it would count as two. They did redeem themselves partially as the food was decent. Also, the wait staff was clueless to how the deals worked.

Retailers are using Gilt City to attract new customers and Gilt is doing a good job at that, but restaurants are treating them as 2nd class citizens, which is counter-intuitive to what the should be doing if they want the Gilt deals to pay off in the long term.

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About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »

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