Archive for the 'Business' Category

Startups, Investors, and Networks Dance Closer

The StartUp Health incubator has launched the StartUp Health Network, a vertical ecosystem directory service. Read more about it in TechCrunch.

The network looks like a home grown effort.  I’ll share a few insights here.  What do you think?

  • It’s a nice step in the startup ecosystem world as entrepreneurs, startups, investors, and service providers dance around one another to find the right fit for deals and partnerships.  But innovation has been excruciatingly slow over the past 15 years with limited service innovation.  It reminds me of  a galaxy rotating billions of years (that’s real years as opposed to Internet years) with only rare and random star collisions.
  • I’ve long been a champion of the transparency and social good of free information.  The first generation was wikis, then directories, and now networks.  Nice move, StartUpHealth.  But it’s more than helping others.  It’s strategic. If you own the info, you own the market.  It’s also a valuable marketing tool for lead generation, SEO, and partnerships.  Gust has done a nice job using part of this approach.
  • At their core such networks are a basic directory app with a social coating.  There is a low barrier to entry.  AngelList led the way with a Web 2.0 product. They solidified their leadership with their API.  Where are the branded and white-labelled platforms?
  • Market segmentation has been slow, confined primarily to investors and natural geography. StartUp Health points to the potential for integrated startup services, including investing and networks.  There are opportunities, assuming adequate business models, by location, industry, funding level, and technology sector, as well as at large events, associations, and corporations.
  • Where will this innovation come from? The primary source right now are ventures riding the crowdfunding wave.  But do be cautious amid the explosion of crowdfunding activity and interest this year.  Contrary to the US Congress’s best intentions, that wave will crash hard due to the SEC’s delay and concerns and the universal need for due diligence and disclosure.



Free the Times!

The New York Times has gone retro.  They’re creating an online paywall.  The first 20 articles are free.  After that it’s $15 a month.  It didn’t work the first time a few years ago.  But like the McRib they keep bringing it back.

Now I don’t expect the Times to get Net religion. But it should charge a reasonable fee.   $15 is excessive pre-Internet thinking. It’s like record companies charging $10-15 for an online album with protected files, often more than the price of a physical CD.   How well did that work out?

At some point I hope the Times will do the math, accept real-world economics, and grok that it’s better to land 1 million subscribers at $5/month than 100,000 at $15.

If you are an anarchist, pirate, renegade, digital rights activist, or are cheap, vote with your wallet, have little better to do with your time, or are just not in the mood to be old school, you can just say No … just like it was easy for consumers to get around the music industry’s stone age practices with mp3’s and p2p file sharing.

Here are a few ways to free the Times.

  • NYTClean Bookmarklet.  An elegant solution.
  • Go to the address book, delete the text after .html, and reload
  • Twitter feed of Times articles – FreeNYTimes, Free Unnamed News
    , and The Times direct.
  • Use a different browser
  • Use Firefox with Cool Previews add-on, which happens to show the whole article.
  • Paywall Smasher extension for Google Chrome.
  • Launch a new  “incognito” window in Chrome.
  • User Script. Requires manager like Grease Monkey for Firefox or  Greasekit for Safari and scrip like this.
  • BugMeNot. There already is a cottage industry in sites with free passwords.
  • Aggregators.  Links from blogs will be free.  An army of sites will spring up virtually mimicking the Times now that there is a need.
  • Use Google to read 5 free articles a day.
  • Erase all your cookies or just that of
  • Use a different computer or device, or IP address proxy like dtunnel

If the Times cracks down on some of these practices, fear not!  There will be plenty of new cracks, tools, and techniques to take their place.

Note:  The following techniques appear to no longer work.

Is Marketing for companies with sucky products?

VC Fred Wilson writes “Marketing is for companies who have sucky products.”

Yes. And No.

I absolutely agree with him that the key is to build a great product and not force or pay for marketing. But much of building that product … is marketing.

Fast growth doesn’t magically happen.

Marketing is the difference between technology – which is a better widget – and a product – which is a better widget that gets used. Marketing is THE customer expert and advocate.

Marketing is responsible for understanding customer pain and market competition and opportunities.  Marketing ensures that product has the right features, optimal positioning, pricing, packaging, and promotion, and a market and customer-oriented product roadmap. Marketing typically writes the business and marketing plans and develops the pitch and slide deck to help gain funding.  Marketing directs the UI, grows and supports evangelists, handles outgoing and incoming communications, articulates and writes benefits and copy, and develops partners and channels.

All of this is critical to fast track the product so it can go viral and be a great success … without spending the unnecessary money or time on PR, SEO, and other external programs that Wilson cites.

Market on!

The Claw … it’s fixed!

In What’s Really Going on at the Arcade Freakonomics blog author Daniel writes about the arcade game The Claw.  I’m sure you are as shocked as I to learn the game is rigged. Regardless of the morality of the Claw, or airlines charging for checked bags, one has to admire the inventiveness of such revenue optimization models.  Vegas wishes it could do the same.

Hamermesh writes:

A student described her summer job at an arcade. In the “crane” game you win prizes by manipulating a claw to grab stuffed animals or basketballs, but the arcade owner can and does manipulate the odds of winning. If a new crane machine is played rapidly, the crane is automatically adjusted from its normal settings to make the odds longer because the player is signaling an addiction to the game. If the machine lies idle for a while, the odds are made more favorable than normal. This three-tier price discrimination takes advantage of implied differences in players’ demand elasticities. This is the first example I’ve come across of price discrimination based on manifestations of individual-specific differences in demand elasticities rather than those based on the demographic or timing characteristics of demand.

Ultimate Networking FREE tomorrow!

I invite you to come to Ultimate Networking Wed. Nov 10 at 5:30 and personally experience the difference that intelligent computerized matching makes in generating quality meetings and leads.

I finally convinced the supplier to let us give it away just this one time to celebrate its launch in Dallas and let you test-drive the service. Plus I’m waiving our own DallasBlue fees (yeah, it’s crazy Marc time).  So Ultimate Networking is zip, nada, zilch.  We do ask for a $5 donation for The Hoffen Foundation. If you’re unemployed and can’t afford that, send me an email and I’ll even drop that.

Hoffen benefits children in need.  They’re the beneficiary for DallasJingle, our Charity Holiday party on December 2.  It will be a big event, composed of several groups.  So do put that date on your calendar or sign up now.

Ultimate Networking is typically $40-$60 in other cities.  So free is a rather amazing deal.  Now you have absolutely no excuse not to check it out.  You do want to find new business partners, prospects, services, investors, staff, or a job, don’t you? We’ll even have free chair massages!

So register now and pay your $5 donation. Feel free to invite your colleagues and friends. You MUST register by Tue. 5pm. You’ll be sent the web site url to enter your meeting preferences, which must be completed by Wed. noon.

If you can’t register by the deadline, you’re welcome to do so at the door.  You’ll miss the computer matching and personal schedule.  But we’ll fit you in, similar to speed networking.

More Info: DallasBlue Ultimate Networking is a structured event where our computer matches you based on your preferences and creates a personal meeting schedule.  Your schedule contains full contact information  and the time and location for each meeting.  Every 10 minutes you’ll meet another business executive or professional.   You’ll gain up to 12 high-quality contacts during the evening, all selected based on mutual interest.  It’s science … not luck like other networking events.

“I have attended numerous receptions and networking events over the years and (this) was a pleasant shock to the system. I met more people at the event who were truly relevant to my business than all other events combined this year.” ~ Peter Cunningham, EO Network

Ultimate Networking

Wednesday November 10 5:30-8pm

Bravo Technical Resources, Dallas

Heritage Square I, 4835 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1000

Get Your web site

SPONSORS & PARTNERS. Ultimate Networking is brought to you by Bravo Technical Resources, Park Central Chiropractic, Blue Entrepreneurs, MIT Enterprise Forum, and DFW EStartup. Contact us to add your own group!

Helping Build Your Business,

Marc Freedman

Ultimate Leads from Ultimate Networking – Wed. Nov. 10

IS YOUR NETWORKING NOT WORKING? Success isn’t achieved through luck and random encounters. Yet that’s exactly how you run your business if you spend time and money at typical meetings, mixers, and meetups.

Want to find new business partners, prospects, services, investors, staff, or a job? DallasBlue Ultimate Networking ensures results with unique computerized matchmaking. You’ll meet 10-15 quality business executives and professionals who best match what you seek. It’s science … not luck.

Registration is open. Sign up now for our special low introductory pricing! Plus get free chair massages.

Ultimate Networking

Wednesday November 10 5:30-8pm

Bravo Technical Resources, Dallas

Heritage Square I, 4835 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1000

Get Your web site

SPONSORS & PARTNERS. Ultimate Networking is brought to you by Bravo Technical Resources, Park Central Chiropractic, Blue Entrepreneurs, MIT Enterprise Forum, and DFW EStartup. Contact us to add your own group!

Is advertising on Groupon, LivingSocial or another group buying site “Fee Splitting?”

I last wrote about Daily Deals or Group Buying in I Can Get It For You Wholesale.

WikiPedia defines fee splitting as either a kickback or a non-licensed professional getting paid for a referral.

Groupon and LivingSocial sell licensed professional services. They take the customer’s money, keep part of it, and give the remainder to the professional.  Therefore the platforms encourage and facilitate “Fee Splitting.”  They should not be used by any licensed professional to offer his services as it’s prohibited by the licensing body as a fee splitting activity.  Right?  Am I missing something?

I’ve seen dentists and chiropractors in Groupon, as well as cosmetic surgeons and MDs (but no lawyers or psychologists yet).  So how can they advertise on these sites if they’re prevented by fee splitting?

Join the discussion on LinkedIn.

I can get it for you wholesale

The Daily Deal bubble continues to explode.  VCs pour in ever more money.  Aggregators and white labellers build out the market.  Major estores and sites like have even joined the fun.  Amazon bought Woot. Twitter has @earlybird.  Marketers contrive 90% off packages that include “free” services, fake retail prices, and future discounts.

It’s no coincidence this product segment took off during a global depression.  It’s 2010-style coupon clipping.  This isn’t just a discount.  With today’s deals, you don’t just avoid paying retail.  You can buy at wholesale prices.

The deals started to move discontinued merchandise.  It was only a short hop to extend them to service businesses that have a high margin.  Now there are so many deals that you can get much of what you need –  such as PC … headphones … restaurant … massage … golf … trip – all at 50% off.  Or more.

This isn’t just promotional marketing. It’s deflation in action.  People have less money and are spending less.  Businesses have to cut prices.

When was the last time you paid regular prices for dinner when you could have used a 50% off deal?

Social Media for CEOs 2: Everything Old is New Again

Digital Conversations are not truly a “New” Marketing Paradigm.

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets (people) are getting smarter — and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members
communicate in language that is natural, open, honest,
direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or
complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is
unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk
in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission
statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-importantto-
us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder
networked markets have no respect for companies unable
or unwilling to speak as they do.

That and much  more were written over 10 years ago during the Internet go-go years.  It’s the Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger & Levine with an update here.

Social media and marketing is no longer a fad or hip.  It’s mainstream.  Customers aren’t ad targets.  They are beyond being  just stakeholders.  They are active creators and owners of your brand.

Social Media for CEOs 1: Play or Fade

This post kicks off a series based on my recent presentation for CEOs –  “Digital Conversations: The New Marketing Paradigm.”

Social media is very real.  It was bleeding edge ten years ago.  It’s mainstream today.  Facebook has grown to 400 million users.  LinkedIn has 60 million business  members.  Growth is starting to tail off, but only because the market is starting to become saturated.  It’s embedded in how people interact and communicate.

If you don’t participate, you condemn your organization to irrelevance.  Look at the music industry.  The major recording labels refused to embrace digital technology and changing consumer behavior.  As a result they’ve been left behind.  It’s a business in freefall.

The stock market reinforces the impact of social media. Two year old video site YouTube was bought by Google for $1.6B.  NBC TV has been around for over 70 years.  The major TV network is worth about $6 billion.

In the phone field, eBay bought Skype, another 2 yeard old company for $4.1B.  Qwest is a former Regional Bell Operating Company and over a century old.  It has 30,000 employees and a market valuaton of  $9B.

Major new media publisher Facebook is estimated to be worth $4B.  Compare that to the NY Times Co., which owns a stable of top newspaper and magazine properties and a valuation far less of $1.7B.

Are you ready to play, or have your consigned your company to fade into oblivion like the record labels?

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