Category Archives: Startups

Internet companies that are new, different and trying to change the world whether funded or bootstrapped.

Finishing the week strong: three things to do right now

2014-12-5-finish-strongDo you want to have an even bigger holiday season?

The stats are in and Facebook traffic, digital word of mouth is even larger than we’ve expected (hm, it’s sounding like Facebook is the Google of 2014). However, depending on your category, either or could be the largest driver of traffic for your site.

The single biggest reason for sites that are not getting the engagement they should is not posting enough. Go on, use the free tools they provide and set up a few for this evening. I’ve already done it for every brand I work with, it takes but thirty minutes to setup an amazing finish for the week.

Who doesn’t like to finish strong?

In other news, one of the reasons we do this is because at my company, hookupJS, we know that winning teams keep winning.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be resting up because I feel a cold coming on *cough*. Or is that just the sounds of WoW?

The sexiest man in tech is not me, it’s Mashable’s Pete Cashmore – pic inside

As they said in a movie once, “Feast yer eyes!” and then read my post below for the punch line :) It’s worth it, I promise.

2014-12-3-mashable-sexiest-man-in-tech

See, I’ve been lucky enough to get TechCrunch’d once upon a time, both for my company and also as part of an early stage start-up just this year.

However, despite an introduction to somebody on the Mashable team years ago, I could never, ever figure out how to get them to cover us. We had a great vision, stellar team, massive traction, emarketer & comScore accolades on growth, the quote in the Wall Street Journal…well, if I do say so myself, we had it all. But then again, we didn’t, and I think now I know why Pete and company never gave us the air time I firmly believed we were entitled to.

It wasn’t a story about giving, it was a story about how big my ego had become

Back then, wow, the things you believe when you think that the grass will forever be green, when your start-up hasn’t gone from 7 million visitors per month to less than a quarter million and even worse…like having the President of the country where you live have the police trying to break into your house the night before your birthday.

Yep, that happened and trust me, it sucked. Hard.

Eating a slice of humble pie teaches you a few things about value, about building something real, for the long term. The startup was good, the team was stellar…but, I wasn’t giving. Instead, my former business partners and I held 100% of the equity, didn’t have an ESOP, never filed to incorporate (kept the LLC, etc). Long story short, we were jerks and deserved to be ignored. The story wasn’t about the community, it was about how inflated our heads had become.

My bad, and I sincerely apologize. I won’t be making that mistake again, for a few reasons. The main one is in building, the good parts were really, really good. Seeing the growth in the community, the moderation team we built, especially the awesome time we sent everybody t-shirts, and everybody updated their profile. It felt like being a member of a fun little club, and I was one of the few who controlled the whole thing. My partners and I, well, we’ve all learned from the experience in various ways, and we’re all better people. That definitely messes with your sense of what’s right, what’s fair and then some. Bootstrapping a business also makes you really, really feel entitled to every drop of anything that appears, especially when the first real profit arrived in 2007, a long four years after the website was initially built.

Pete, I’m glad you never covered us and I still read Mashable. The site has morphed, you guys have experimented and continued to grow, to expand, and now I see it as a real top tier general media brand, with a solid edge in tech. It’s a powerhouse, and an amazing story. From everything I can tell in the media, you’ve also treated the team, the brand, exceptionally well. It’s the kind of thing I am doing now, in sharing, in ensuring that the company, the team, comes first.

It feels fantastic. It’s already my older son’s birthday today in Hong Kong, and the best thing I can give him, or anyone, is a better tomorrow. More opportunity, more freedom and help shine a light, give hope to everybody who needs it. At the end of the day, who doesn’t appreciate getting hooked up? I know I’m grateful for every opportunity I have, with each one, my next trip to see my children in person arrives that much sooner.

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Launching in three, two, one… HookupJS: the next chapter

Earlier today, I couldn’t help but think, as we’ve been hard at work building HookupJS, about the late, great Steve Jobs. I’m a huge fan. The thing is, there are many ways of looking at any icon who has had such a huge impact on the computing industry. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page…wow. There are those in our industry whose efforts have reached almost every human being living today, in one way or another.

The splash we make is small today, but every action creates a reaction…and who can say what tomorrow will bring? Our blog is up, which is where you can find more and stay in touch.

Jeremy Goodrich in Steve Jobs Attire black turtleneck and blue jeans with macbook pro

Jeremy Goodrich in Steve Jobs Attire black turtleneck and blue jeans with macbook pro.

Predatory pricing and false advertising on Airbnb: word to hosts, don’t

2014-11-23-airbnbI’m a huge fan of Airbnb. The service I first used about a year ago, even though friends had used it, I’d read about it in the media and more. As a result of using it, of course for the upcoming holiday, we decided to use the service again to find an amazing place to stay.

The listings are incredible, varied and have everything we could want. So far, so good. The house was on a river, beautiful and sounded like the ideal vacation. When we booked, Airbnb held onto the money for a deposit. “No worries,” I thought, “Sending them the money guarantees the booking and makes sure that we get approved. The rating from our last stay was top notch, we’re clean, have excellent credit and more.”

When the gentleman wrote back, he explained nicely that instead of honoring the publicly posted price, which did not include any mention whatsoever of a different rate for the holiday, he would instead like to price gouge. The offer he sent was more than $200 per night, when the listing price was $117 per night. A pretty unbelievable increase, if I do say so myself.

I’d love to take the offer I thought I paid for, instead of being told I need to pay extra (you know, being extorted).

The only way this all works is if we trust each other. Lying, stealing, being exceptionally greedy and violating advertising laws benefits nobody. Airbnb might miss out on my trust and or a transaction fee if l use VRBO or similar. The owner will lose out on renting the listing, because a Thanksgiving booking three days before arrival is unheard of in most places.

Happy Holidays, everybody.

Every startup is a “social network” – at least, that’s the memo I got

A few times I’ve heard the term, “Two sided marketplace,” it made sense and sounded like a new concept. However, I’ve been thinking more and more about the whole market concept. A place for buyers, for sellers. Reality is, every marketplace is, “Two sided,” online and off.

Taking it a step further, every business is a network – a social one. From the local automotive shop like the one my uncle and cousins run to the clothes store to the peony business – every one of these is a social network. They depend on the word of mouth, the community, the infrastructure. Without sellers, it’s impossible to have buyers – because there is no inventory. Without buyers, all the inventory in the world won’t make a business.

Given enough mass, on either side, people talk. In fact, word of mouth is one inevitable side effect of any kind of attention, critical mass, community presence.

However, not every business does enough to cultivate each side of the market. Attract enough buyers, sellers will crawl through any hoop to get there. Attract enough sellers and eventually, the selection, scope and size will drive buyers by the droves.

Training prospects to buy, to move through a funnel – it’s a well worn track. Countless articles on conversion rate optimization, analytical tools to move a cohort through at a higher rate than before – done.

Tools to increase seller satisfaction tend to be a secondary concern. Having received checks, sold items and drove traffic from many of the top websites, the tools tend to be light. Less than optimal.

My take? If you want to build a local business, an online one or any other, cultivate both sides of the marketplace. Equally.

Robin is the app that puts a stop to the question, “Did you reserve this room?”

robin app smarter meetingsAfter several stints in corporate America, I know exactly how the age old game of conference rooms work. “Did you reserve this room?” If they are same title or lower, the answer is always, “Yes, we did,” then the ensuing question / debate over open rooms, finding them and whether or not outlook in fact ate the invitation. While this system had it’s flaws (namely that if you were in the middle of an important discussion, you might get bumped by those more senior, impatient or heartless), Robin aims to solve the problem.

What happens when two people walk into a room at work?

Usually, they continue and or start the conversation they had about project / plan, etc. That’s why they’re having a meeting. If they could book the room, continue uninterrupted, perhaps that would save 5 minutes? Imagine with a thousand employees, saving 5 minutes a week. That’s the same as adding, every week, two whole weeks of productivity per year. Annualized, that adds two people to the payroll, without a single new staff member.

Those kinds of productivity gains might be fictional but when you consider that office worker productivity is at an all time high, the main areas of innovation for modern spaces are, “How do we give workers back time to get mission critical tasks accomplished?” With a service like Robin, in tandem with things like light switches that go on when you walk into the room, or flick off, if there isn’t enough activity, your office space can become truly smart and context aware. Enough productivity gains, and your company has the upper hand in the category, in recruiting and in retention. While it’s easy to argue that simply adding an automated soap dispenser to the men’s room will not attract new employees, it’s the kind of convenience which makes tech enthusiasts feel like we’re finally making progress.

Cisco Webex or Google Hangouts likely the acquirer?

As more of a feature than a full blown product, Robin is easily an acquisition target for the likes of Google, Cisco Webex or Microsoft, to add to Google Apps, Office in the Cloud, or simply improve collaboration. Dropbox and Box would be two other likely, potential candidates for acquisition, or whatever company has the most meeting rooms and employees who make meetings. From their website, the API for buildings, not just conferences, is launching soon. Examples are interesting, but not comprehensive. Let’s get a bit more creative than this, shall we?

Call Robin and ask:

  1. How many people are in a room
  2. Data based on, let’s see, gender is probably available too, right?
  3. What they’re breathing patterns are like (normal, or heavily exerting themselves?)
  4. …you can see where this goes downhill, fast.

True, the building API might not be that creepy. Let’s hope not. In the meantime, Get Robin, and start making your office smarter. I say this is a winning concept, time will tell if they have a winning business too.

The story of a burger, JG Publishing, and why I went solo

A homemade burger story

If you, like me, grew up in the US of A, you probably grew up with some amount of barbeque, hamburgers and the like. The difference between fast food and higher end restaurants, and homemade, is always one of those things that’s easy to articulate. Familiar to anybody who eats out, who likes to cook, who has had the opportunity to experience fine dining, you know that the quest to get a fantastic burger is a difficult one. Not unlike starting a business. While burgers come with fries, frequently, it’s incredibly rare to have the experience at home or out where both the fries and the burger are majestic. So, it’s better to focus on one thing, in this case, the burger, and do it exceptionally well.

That brings me to the mission of JG Publishing (note my initials – I’ve never actually done that before). When thinking about it, I love the publishing business. First as a marketer, then as a social network co-founder, then now as a writer, I thoroughly enjoy connecting branded stories with the audience which will appreciate them the most. That’s what I’m doing now, through a combination of consulting and publishing. Back in the day, I was in the media business and focused on advertising revenue. Now it’s about ecommerce and lifetime value.

When I experience that amazing burger, that wonderful story, that exceptional product – I tell my friends. I’m so satisfied, I can’t imagine getting a burger anywhere else. Products that inspire, stories that move, these are the things that personal time and life are made of. Not banal corporate, white washed and toneless tag lines. Real, juicy and filled with variety, the stuff of life is cut from a rainbow colored cloth.

Daring to be different, being bold in the decisions you select, these are the characteristics that more and more define the successful startup stories we read daily. Taking risks, both in product, in experience and in style, leads to incredible business results. Not all brand voices are willing to be different, to be edgy, to be so unique as to be unforgettable.

Those are the kind of companies I’m chatting with and the businesses I’m helping. Daring to be different, to be unique, to stand for something larger than the balance sheet. It’s those voices that have something to say, that have an understanding of the symbiotic nature of company, culture and people, that I enjoy promoting the most. At the end of the day, they have an amazing story, which gets told and retold.

So, business number eleven is a chance for me to do something that matters, something important, to combine my goal of spreading social good for profit. No matter what political party I believe in, the idea of some form of government comes with costs, and services that benefit the whole of society. Companies that take this approach, where by growing, scaling and generating more profit, society overall benefits, are the ones I love. This is my chance to create a business that does so, in a bigger, better way than others I’ve built.

On to the next chapter. If you’re looking for marketing help or somebody that can assist in the growth and spread of your unique story, feel free to get in touch. I’ve only got time to work with a few companies, but I’ve not yet filled my quota, and probably won’t for a week, two at the most.

A quick update, since I noticed somebody read this, recently. For current works, news and our product, hookupJS, check out the website, here. Or read the blog, here.

Armed with mobile experience, scouting my next opportunity

After nearly a year in, “Stealth mode,” and then witnessing the launch of a mobile only Saas solution, I feel like I’ve grounded myself in the modern web. Then reading a statistic from the latest #MWC, I find that 7% of people are, “Mobile only,” which means that they never use a desktop.

Cool beans, dude! But…there’s like 14% or more of US households that don’t have a smartphone OR internet. Close enough to be within a standard margin of error, this is a particularly important bit for anybody who wants to do mobile marketing. In other words, if your target demographic might not be a smartphone hugging hipster, you might still consider, “Desktop first,” instead of, “Mobile first.”

So what do I do with my marketing budget?

Like any good marketer, including me, it’s the same tried and true method that I’ve heard smart people at Intuit and elsewhere re-iterate: Launch, learn & tune. At present, I’m basically rolling up my sleeves and building a brand from, “Scratch.” Sort of, it’s been around since 2011, but never had any real marketing applied. Website? Nope. Social media? Nope. So I’m basically running a month long marketing experiment to see what works, what doesn’t and why.

Give me a holler; the first hour of consulting is free, mostly because I’m figuring out if you quality as a client. Likewise, you’re trying to figure out if I would be a good fit; if we’re not a match, I have an awesome network and will promote you for free, no strings attached. See that? 😉 NSA and it’s all business.

Let me put this another way; if I can’t help you make an extra $100, in recurring revenue from our hour long conversation, I’ll be thrilled to provide some advice and consulting until the numbers jump to the next level. Right now, I’m working with one company, other than my own, and I am chatting with a few others to fill up my schedule for this month.

Two standard deviations ahead of the curve is where disruptive innovation starts

A friend of mine (Hi, Ashok) started a business a while ago. At the time, I was wondering, “Who needs X?” Now, as it turns out and the world we live in, I keep thinking, “Dude, you HAVE to win here…I want your product. I want every company that needs your product to buy from you.”

When he got started, it was non obvious that there was a need for X. However, a paradigm shift happened and suddenly, every hot company in Y category is begging for X. In fact, I’d argue fortunes have already been made by technology that’s inferior to what my friend is building. But of course, I haven’t seen it, used it or anything else and I’m guessing. Plus, it’s a friend of mine so my POV is inherently biased.

Back then, I was a newbie entrepreneur, working full time for myself in my first long term, successful venture as a consultant. Despite selling a few businesses before, as those were part time, this was a lot bigger, a lot more influential and a lot more effort overall. There was no day job and I got to witness a lot of very, very interesting companies.

Lala before they sold to Apple (Hi Geoff, and thanks, for both the help at Yahoo and after). Power Reviews (Andy did an awesome job with the remote Powerpoint and I was stunned at the implications of the service). Photobucket, Sidestep, Dotspotter, Maya’s Mom, Kaboodle…I got to see a lot of very interesting companies, close up. Work with the teams, learn how they operated, how they thought about business, hear from some amazing people in technology, product and marketing.

Personally, I’ve always felt that a sustaining innovation is one that enables a small, standard size amount of growth. A disruptive one transforms the way value is created in a category. Mint.com for Finance, POF for online dating, Wave / Outright for accounting, etc. They both delivered on improved product and changed the way value for the company is created, in each case, successfully. Time will tell for Wave but the others achieved exits or sustainable business models.

Then there is the, “Moonshot,” concept from Google – self driving cars, terraforming Mars, automated drone delivery in response to a Google Glass view of an ad served in a heads up display.

Having seen the world over a few times, met presidents and billionaires…it’s hard to think small. When you have family that suffers from incurable, terminal disease, it’s also hard to hold back, to think that tomorrow, I have more time. It’s today that counts, it’s breakthroughs that matter. A base hit is okay for some, but for me, I’m more interested in how people can hit a home run, or better yet, knock the ball so hard it hits the moon.

I can’t talk about work yet because we’ve still got our shields up. The Klingons might get wind of our approach, so the cloaking device is intact and fully powered. 😉

However, what I can talk about is crap. Literal, figurative crap. There was a book I read to my younger son called, “Everybody Poops,” that I think every adult should read, if they haven’t already. It reminds us we’re all human, that we all, in fact, defecate. If not, we should because otherwise, things will get ugly and there will be bigger health issues. Sure, what went into said load might have been a fantastic meal, or a cheap fast food burger, but it all comes out one way in the end.

Are there opportunities in poop? Perhaps. Or it could be I’m just talking sh!t 😉

Happy Wednesday.