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8 Mind-blowing Uses of Wearable Technology (Seriously...)

8 Mind-blowing Uses of Wearable Technology (Seriously...) | Competitive Edge |
Some of the most interesting applications of wearable technology will come from the fusion of technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data.

What would your colleagues say if you asked them what wearable technology was, or what it can do?

You’ll quickly hear about smart watches like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, fitness trackers like those produced by Fitbit and smart glasses projects like Google Glass.

As for what these products can be used for, after a bit of thought most people would come up with a few sensible use cases – like taking pictures using voice commands, keeping track of your daily calorie expenditure or receiving inbound messages.

Now try asking what wearable technology might be used for in the future – as in 10 years in the future?

It’s at this point that you’ll probably start getting blank looks.

In this research paper we describe 8 remarkable use cases for wearable technology that we believe will become possible within 10 years.

These 8 use cases are several full market cycles ahead of those that Google has  envisaged for Google Glass.

Some of the most interesting applications of wearable technology will come from the fusion of three different technologies:

Advanced wearable products: The three main wearable technology product categories are body sensors, smart glasses and smart watches. We expect dramatic improvements in all three categories in the coming years - in terms of capabilities, optimization of the user interface, size, battery life and price;
Artificial intelligence (AI) platforms: Technologies like Now (Google),  Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft) and, most recently, IBM’s decision to provide mobile app developers with access to its supercomputer platform, Watson point to a future where it will be possible for users to carry out advanced web tasks simply by speaking or, in some cases, just thinking;
Big data: Whether it is the location of an individual, data about an individual’s search history or ad preferences or even information about what that person was looking at 30 days ago there is no shortage of data. If developers can gain opt-in programmatic access to very granular data about a user’s behavior – a goal that is extremely important to Google – then a whole panorama of new service possibilities will open up.

We think that when all three of these technological ingredients are combined then some truly remarkable and, in some cases, rather unsettling use cases will become possible:

To read the full article, click on the image or title.

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Via Richard Platt, Fang Yang
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

It's as if a door opens to a whole new industry. Many more startups with great ideas will take advantage of this and find their niche. Great article.

Richard Platt's curator insight, March 12, 10:36 AM

8 Use Cases for Wearables, not so mind blowing as this list is not something that we haven't seen before, (if you read my postings), and this isn't the whole list of use cases for wearables, this industry is just getting started.

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How to Avoid Letting Choice Overload Your Customers

You need to take advantage of the power of choice in your business without overwhelming consumers.

We have an overwhelming amount of choices--and, as Americans, we make 70 different choices a day on average.

It's no wonder we are often indecisive and feel paralyzed with options.

The Downside of Choice Overload

Barry Schwartz famously described this phenomenon as "the paradox of choice." He writes, "When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy, control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates."

This debilitating feeling can have a couple of outcomes:

1. Decision paralysis

Jane Porter wrote on Fast Company about a time she couldn't make a decision, and it's all too relatable. Searching for a toilet brush for her new apartment, she discovered that Amazon sold 1,161 kinds of toilet brushes. After spending nearly an hour reading contradictory reviews and considering her choices, she said she "felt grumpy and tired and simply gave up."

2. Decreased satisfaction

In his TED talk, Schwartz described how, when we do make a choice between a number of options, we end up less satisfied with the outcome than we would have been if we had had fewer. He says this is because it's easy to imagine making different choice that would have been better. The feeling of regret subtracts from our satisfaction--the more options, the easier it is to regret anything at all about the option.

How to Be More Choosy About Your Choices

There are some ways to make these decisions a bit easier, whether you're the one choosing or providing options to customers of your own:

1. Trust the experts.

There's a reason Pandora exploded the way it did. It allowed users to discover new music by simply inputting a favorite song or genre--no choice overload involved. With 100 hours of content uploaded to every minute to YouTube alone, there is a lot of content to sift through on the Web. At my company, Pluto.TV, you simply put your trust in the experts to find the best of the best for you. Actual humans curate our 100+ video channels, so you can simply choose a topic that interests you, sit back, and watch.

2. Put limits on your options.

Even if there are tons of options in front of you, putting a little more thought into your decision can help cut down on frustration. For instance, instead of searching for the best-rated restaurants in your area, identify a specific type of food you're craving and filter by that type. This can help speed up your decision process and, hopefully, increase your satisfaction with your final choice.

3. Offer consumers fewer options.

In a TED talk, Sheena Iyengar discussed a study about the retirement decisions of nearly 1 million Americans from about 650 retirement plans. The study found the more funds that were offered in a plan, the fewer people participated. Furthermore, when there were too many choices, people's decision quality was actually affected negatively. Since too many options leads to reduced engagement and satisfaction, you're doing your customers a favor by paring down their choices.

4. Condition customers for complexity.

Iyengar also pointed out that people can more easily make complex decisions when the complexity is gradually increased. If you condition for complexity, the first decision is one of fewer categories and options than the ones that follow. Utilizing this method makes people more likely to participate in ongoing decisions.

The example she uses to illustrate this point is customizing a car online. With 60 different decisions in total, each choice varies in how many options are offered. Providing the easier choices first--a choice of four types of gears and four types of engines--keeps customers engaged in the process. Then they are able to choose from the 56 car colors available.

Too much choice can be completely overwhelming to even the savviest consumer. Avoid decision paralysis by simplifying choices for your customers, putting trust in experts, and setting limits on your options.

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10 Ways to Destroy Fear While You Startup

10 Ways to Destroy Fear While You Startup | Competitive Edge |

You stand at the edge of the deep-sea of your life, afraid to cast sail.  You know you should, but it seems oh so safe in the harbor.  But is it truly safe? 

If you listen to the crashing waves, you just might hear the words of Maud Muller echoing in your ears:

For of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these. “It might have been!”

So, what is greater?  Is it the pain of trying for what you want and possibly ending up smashed upon the rocks?  Or is it the pain of wondering what might have been?

If you are an adventurer or an entrepreneur, you know as part of this grand voyage you must set sail, cast all fears aside and travel into shark infested waters if you wish to arrive at that tropical island where Cuervo Gold Margaritas flow from glass fountains.

1. THE ROCKING CHAIR TESTSo the first step in considering your fear is to go through the “Rocking Chair Test.”  Imagine yourself when you are 90 years old, sitting on your rocking chair, and consider how you will feel if you didn’t do the thing you are afraid of.  If it does not bother you, then don’t do it.  But if you feel like you missed out and you regret not going for it, then there is the moral imperative to move forward.


Know that fear is always going to be a player in your life.  I know you don’t want to hear it, but if you are human (and I assume you are) fear is always going to have a habit of raising its sea-serpent head just when it seemed there might be calm waters to the horizon.  The trick is understanding fear will show up uninvited and that it is a normal part of life. Just recognize the fear and say to yourself, “oh, there you are,” then focus on managing fear with the strategies below.

First, why do we fear?  According to Anthony Robbins, except for the fear of physical pain, when all is boiled down, we have two main fears.  Either we fear:

1)       We won’t be enough; or

2)       We won’t be loved.

So, just examine your fear.  Is it rational?  How likely is it that the fear will actually bring you pain?  Why do you think you won’t be enough or won’t have love.  Sometimes, just knowing you are acting like an irrational idiot will take the energy out of the fear.

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.  Mark Twain.


Part of the sting of fear is your feelings of helplessness.  Sit down with a piece of paper and think of at least ten things you can do today to mitigate or protect you from the circumstances you fear.  Then do everything you can do to protect yourself from the unwanted outcome.


Even if the fear is irrational, sometimes you will do something called “looping,” where the fear just keeps repeating itself in your head.  This is what some Buddhist monks call, “bad-ass monkey mind.”  The best cure for monkey mind is to sit quietly in a room, count your breaths and focus on the silence between the thoughts.  Strangely enough, science has unequivocally shown meditation may reshape your brain and your reality.


Sometimes you are just stuck in fear and need to move out of your head and onto a different perspective.  Napoleon Hill would often imagine a boardroom of trusted advisers, people he admired and would ask the how they would handle the fear.  Carl Yung would have you imagine first a wise king (or queen) and have you ask for answers to your concerns.  Then Yung would have you follow that same process with a warrior, a lover, and a magical person.


Despite Tom Cruise’s Scientology based rant against drugs, as a last resort, you may want to talk with your doctor about looking into medications that may take your mind off the pain and at least let you step back a bit to get a handle on the fear.


I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of Neurolinguistic Programming and Human Needs Psychology, which is taught by the Robbins Madanes Center.  If you can find a good practitioner, the results can be amazing.  Here is a video of the process: Video

8) EMDR  

Although this sounds a bit strange, you can help alleviate fear and post traumatic stress with  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  The process requires you to move your eyes in a specific pattern, while conjuring images. More than 20 studies have shown its effectiveness and it is endorsed by the US Department of Defense and the American Psychiatric Association.


Also, it helps to understand the fear is mostly an illusion.  Consider the worst case scenario and then think a year ahead, then five years and then ten.  If you’re not going to be worried about it a year from now, why don’t you give yourself a gift of not worrying about it now.


Sometimes fear can disappear just by having a lunch with a friend, going for a run or just doing something different.  Try this three-step process:

1) Get moving.  Get your body moving.  Take deep breaths.

2) Change your focus.  Use your voice to say empowering things.  Tell yourself how powerful and happy you are.  Your mind might say “BS” but if you do it long enough with enough physical emotion, you will soon change your state.

3) Cancel.  Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho Cybernetics, instructs that whenever the fearful thought raises its ugly head that you specifically say, “Cancel.  That is not the truth.”  Then you should say something that is empowering.

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Via Deb Bailey, malek
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Excellent article. Often the main problem with moving forward is yourself. Break through the resistance. Observe, contemplate, and just 'do it'.

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Hiring startup engineers? Talk about challenge, not pay

Hiring startup engineers? Talk about challenge, not pay | Competitive Edge |
Here's what matters most to people when considering a job.

Back when I worked at Microsoft and Amazon, I spent a lot of time hiring and building teams. I had the methodology down: Get referrals from strong people already on the team. Look for someone who is uniquely great at something, preferably something that makes them different from the rest of the team. Don’t let problem personalities past the first step no matter how capable they are.

When I decided to take the leap from the corporate world to starting my own company, I figured hiring would be the easy part. But when I sat down to write the copy for the careers page on our company website, I got stuck. I’d always advised job-seeking friends to choose the manager first and the specific job second. Most of my colleagues looking for jobs in the corporate world would talk about what they were looking for in terms of factors like pay and opportunity for continued advancement.

But the more I talked to people at startups, the less relevant these factors seemed to be. Although several people mentioned the potential long-term payoff of sweat equity, they were mostly not motivated by immediate pay; they would have been working at corporate jobs if they had been. They talked a lot about wanting to be part of a team of smart and collaborative people, but few mentioned direct manager as a consideration. Many of them talked about how much they were learning. I never heard anyone discuss promotions.

We didn’t want to advertise our roles in a way that would attract the wrong candidates — or worse, no candidates at all. We are also huge analysis nerds. We wanted to get beyond the anecdotal conversations. Just as we do for any important product or business decision, we decided to get some data.

We wanted to understand what candidates look for when they visit job listings. And not just any candidates but the particular candidates who fit the profile of people we want to hire. Our career site needs to be true to who we are as a company; it’s important to speak to our genuine values and hiring philosophy. It also needs to speak to the unique concerns of the people we want to hire.

I did a quick survey of nearly 350 developers, designers, technical marketers, product managers, sales leaders, and user researchers who work at a mix of corporations, startups, midsize companies, and nonprofits. Participants answered a single question: what are the top three factors that you look for in a job? I suggested some possible answers with the question, including challenge, pay, location, team, manager, flexibility, social purpose, and specific job description, although respondents were free to add any factors of their choosing.

What I had observed anecdotally showed up in the data. Here are the job selection criteria techies mentioned most often in different kinds of organizations, along with the percentage of respondents who mentioned them:

Everyone cares about things not in their top three list. Few people would turn down great pay on a fun team working towards a cause they believe in. But the data shows interesting and relevant differences between what people in different kinds of organizations care about most.

Manager, scope, and growth are corporate terms. Team, challenge, and learning are their startup equivalents. Corporate workers prioritize immediate pay more highly, while people at startups value flexibility. We realized as we looked through this data that the selling points we have to offer people joining Kidgrid aligned well with the factors that people working in startups value. That made us feel like we were on the right track.

Now that we’re up and running, we’re finding that the people we’re the most interested in are the ones who care about team, challenge, and learning, because those are the things we care about too. That’s true whether they currently work at startups, at corporations, or in some other environment. A good culture fit is just a good culture fit.

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How One Man Launched Over 45,000 Entrepreneurs to Fight Unemployment

How One Man Launched Over 45,000 Entrepreneurs to Fight Unemployment | Competitive Edge |
Ugandan entrepreneur takes education into his own hands by creating local self-employment opportunities through pragmatic training programs.

The idea that schools overemphasize theoretical learning at the expense of practical skills is an old one. Maalik Fahd Kayondo thinks Telesat International could be a new solution.

Telesat is a nonprofit trade school in Kampala, Uganda, that prepares students for self-employment in Kampala, Uganda, where for up to 95 percent of the population, self-employment is sometimes the only option. “Five percent of the working population have job security,” says Kayondo, “For others, you work today, and tomorrow you don’t know what is going to happen.” So Telesat focuses on teaching skills relevant to Ugandan market demands, so that students can earn at least a modest income as soon as they finish—skills like farming, bookkeeping, engine repair, candle-making, and book binding.

Kayondo knows about developing practical skills. After leaving Uganda to practice screenwriting in Oxford, he traveled to India to pursue a masters in manufacturing engineering technology at Anna University. Upon arriving back in Uganda in 2004, he was faced with the harsh realities of the nation’s labor scene. “We have over 50,000 youth graduating every year,” he says. “But it is estimated that only 8,000 make it into a productive job.”

I said I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life.

Kayondo felt that part of the problem was that few of those 50,000 graduates each year were learning skills that they could immediately put to use in the workforce. So when a friend asked in 2005 if he could help his son find a university scholarship, Kayondo said that for $100, he could offer a different path. “I said I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life,” he says.

In three weeks, the young man had learned how to repair printers and refill ink cartridges. About two years later, he started his own business doing just that, a business that is still supporting his family seven years later. He ended up being the first of more than 45,000 people Kayondo has helped become financially independent workers through Telesat.

Kayondo formalized his educational service in 2006 as Telesat International. In keeping with Kayondo’s emphasis on immediate, on-the-ground skills, Telesat constantly changes and adapts its course offerings to reflect market demand “We look at the local market demand because we want the people we train to be able to sell within their local communities,” he explains. For example, for $12, students can take a two-day course in making notebooks, which they can sell to secondary schools to the tune of about $15 per day, says Kayondo. That’s roughly five times the average income in Uganda.

Telesat currently has six full-time and two part-time employees and has generated about $500,000 in total revenue. Kayondo is now looking to build a small campus where Telesat can offer machine training and host exhibitions of student products.

Kayondo’s pursuit to empower his Ugandan sisters and brothers is seen through his international efforts as well as his local involvement. He is currently garnering the interest of the United Nations global accelerator committee as a delegate and American nonprofits, such as Bead for Life. Kayondo remains optimistic as he looks to reach 74,450 Ugandans by expanding Telesat International’s curriculum within the next five years.

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Via Samuel Pavin
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Wow, what a story. Sure stimulates the creative juices.

Jan Moore's curator insight, September 11, 11:42 AM

This is a brilliant example for all of us. We can create our own work - if we have the will to do so.

Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Entrepreneurs!

Five Startups That Are Reshaping The Web Economy - Forbes

Five Startups That Are Reshaping The Web Economy - Forbes | Competitive Edge |

Five Startups That Are Reshaping The Web Economy

People are always trying to define and explain the different stages of the evolving economy of the Web. It started way back when no one had a clue what the Internet would become and Al Gore was still talking about the ‘Information Superhighway.’ Then, after the web was a bit more mature, technologists started talking about Web 2.0, and all of the user generated platforms and social media. Today, the biggest buzzword might be Internet of Things, and it’s certainly an exciting area of development.

Yet, all of these buzz words seem less important today than they used to be. The Web is a mature and thriving economic powerhouse and no one questions the fact that it is going to continue to grow and evolve at a rapid clip – if not quite as dramatically as it has in the past. Some might see this as a sign that all of the most exciting services have already been developed. With giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook firmly entrenched, what role is there for startups?

In truth, the opportunity for startups is as great as it’s ever been. While there may be less room for $100 billion dollar companies, there is a lot of room between that and zero. A more mature web economy requires an army of smaller companies to keep it humming along. For these companies, there is not only a great opportunity for growth and wealth creation, but also to help content providers, publishers, and other entrepreneurs tap into the incredible energy that drives web businesses.

It can be hard to sift through all the amazing (and not so amazing) web companies in business today, so here are five incredible startups that are helping to reshape the web economy:

Sharewall – Moving Beyond The Paywall

Is there a more beautiful word than ‘free’? For consumers of content, it’s clear that the answer is no, but some of the producers of that content might beg to disagree. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing the Web economy – how are companies going to monetize the massive amounts of content being produced when so many aren’t willing to pay for it? Ads are always an option, but so far they aren’t generating the huge numbers that some publishers were used to back in the days of print. For some, the answer is to lock content down behind a paywall – you may limit your audience, but you’ll generate more revenue per individual piece of content.

Sharewall is a young startup that believes there is another way. Instead of locking down content behind a paywall, users will be able to access content in exchange for a social share. The site wins because its content is passed on to a wider audience and the reader wins even more free content. Beyond that, the company is looking to build a closer relationship between publishers and readers, which will help content providers find new pathways to monetize.

Mobilizr – Monetizing The Selfie

Every decade has its iconic images, and for this decade that might just be the familiar look of someone with an outstretched arm taking a selfie. Most of these selfies usually go straight up to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter where they don’t provide any additional value – well at least to the people who posted them. One startup is looking to tap into this trend and reward users for the multitude of photos they snap with their smartphones.

Mobilizr created a mobile app that allows users to become “brand ambassadors” and get rewarded for the photos they post online. The idea is simple: a brand posts a campaign idea and Mobilizr users post selfies and other images along the guidelines of the campaign. Users are rewarded (with real money) for every like, share, and tweet their images generate. Others have attempted this form of crowdsourced engagement before, but Mobilizr is banking that the power of smartphones and the mobile revolution will help it take off.

Webydo – Power To The Designers

In every industry there are gatekeepers, key players who dictate the pace of change and control the flow of new ideas into the system. In the current web economy, that role is played by developers who have mastered the coding languages that are the behind the scenes force of the Internet. But, that leaves the creative side of the web – designers – on the sidelines of the industry, dependent on developers to make their designs a reality.

Webydo, is a cloud-platform for designers that allows them to build and manage websites without the need for coding. It automates the development process while providing designers with what the company claims is pixel-perfect accuracy of their designs. While I’m sure this isn’t the right fit for the largest and most complicated sites, it does empower designers to take a more leading position in the creation of sites for small businesses and other entrepreneurs. This seems like an exciting step for the web economy that could inject some much needed creative mojo into the designs of hundreds of thousands of SMB sites.

Wibbitz – News Videos For Everyone

As I writer, I’m naturally a fan of the written word. I’m also an entrepreneur, so I recognize the power and the incredible value of video content for news sites and other content providers. Unfortunately, making high quality video content is often an expensive and daunting task that consumes a lot of time and resources.

Wibbitz is hoping to make that process easier for online publishers by automating the process of video creation. The startup has created technology that automatically creates news summary videos based on the text content of a post. It pulls in photos and relevant video clips from news services and provides a human or computer voice to narrate the story. While some readers may be wary of computer generated content, the incredible demand for video news updates shows that Wibbitz has found one corner of the web with tremendous potential.

Atosho – Read, Click, Buy

The world of online media is a harsh place to do businesses. Publishers are faced with the difficult challenge of competing against a vast sea of other websites, while looking for a way to make money when content is expected to be given away for free. Atosho, a Copenhagen-based startup is betting that publishers can turn sites into ecommerce engines as an additional path to monetization.

The platform lets websites sell products without users ever leaving the site. It enables consumers to buy a product directly out of a publisher’s editorial content – whether that’s an article, a product review, an image, or any other digital content that creates demand – and the user completes the purchase right on the site. We have all come to accept ads as a given in free content – perhaps an easy and transparent path to purchase those same advertised products is the logical next step?

The Web is an exciting place to do business, but it’s also proven to be one of the most challenging. These startups, and many others, are working to make sure that there is a rich and varied array of options for professionals doing business on the web. Do any of these startups provide a solution that you need, or do you think there is still a huge problem out there waiting to be solved?

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Via ventureLAB
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

More interesting startups all the time.

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How mobile marketplaces are creating a million new U.S. jobs   

While these jobs require little training or higher education, they usually pay above minimum wage and offer many workers lifestyle flexibility and the opportunity to work close to home.

Online marketplaces such as Uber and Instacart are rapidly transforming the way people get what they want – whether it’s a ride, a meal, or a pet sitter – when they want it. To make that happen, these companies are on a hiring spree, one that’s gone virtually unnoticed by the statisticians and economists who track the labor market.

An analysis by Menlo Ventures suggests that these emerging new businesses are already on track to create one million brand-new jobs in the U.S., many of them well paying and all of them filled in local markets by Americans. And that is likely a conservative estimate.

While these jobs require little training or higher education, they usually pay above minimum wage and offer many workers lifestyle flexibility and the opportunity to work close to home. This is especially important now, when studies indicate that other industries clamoring for employees are frustrated because they don’t have enough nearby applicants with the advanced training or experience to do these often-technical and specialized jobs.

What will drive this job growth? Digital marketplaces are being built on four megatrends of today’s Right-Now Economy, including:

  1. The increasing penetration of smartphones. Nearly one billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2013, according to Gartner. Couple this with the rise of big data and a dramatic decrease in the cost of software development and you have a technology environment well suited to the marketplace concept.
  2. The rise of Millennials (age 18 to 34) who are digital natives as the dominant consumer group. They are already spending an estimated $1.3 trillion annually and have surpassed baby boomers as the leading consumer demographic group, according to the Hartman Group.
  3. The growing availability of a freelance labor market willing to take jobs with non-traditional hours that fit into their individual lifestyles. By some estimates, there are already 42 million Americans who work freelance, and freelancers are projected to compose more than half the American workforce by 2020.

Latent consumer demand for the services can now be obtained more easily through digital marketplaces. For instance, there are 100 million dog-owning households in the U.S., according to the American Humane Society, yet only 230,000 dog-sitting jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If dog owners have access to a more efficient marketplace of potential dog walkers and dog sitters, there could be a huge opportunity to create new jobs.

Marketplaces are capitalizing on these trends by aggregating supply (whether it’s dog sitters, babysitters or cars for hire), increasing demand by creating easier and better buying experiences for consumers, and adding value to the transaction by providing add-ons that freelancers or small business can’t or don’t offer (such as on-call veterinarians and liability insurance). Technology makes it easier than ever for these companies to expand to new markets, creating strictly local jobs for workers but doing it without having to open costly and risky satellite offices.

To arrive at our job’s estimate, Menlo Ventures looked at the job-creation activities of numerous fast-growing marketplaces, including many in our own portfolio. For example, looking at Uber’s growth in Seattle, the company currently has 900 UberX drivers for a population of 635,000 people, compared to the 300 taxis in the city. By extrapolation, through the use of a current national figure of 170,000 traditional taxis (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), we estimated that Uber has the potential to expand to at least 360,000 UberX drivers nationally. It’s worth noting that in Seattle alone, there are more than 3,000 peer-to-peer drivers if Lyft and Sidecar are included in the calculation.

Furthermore, Uber pays more than traditional taxi jobs. The average U.S. taxi driver makes $30,000 a year at a rate of $14 an hour. By comparison, fulltime Uber drivers make $39,000 a year at a rate of $18 an hour.

Another example comes from Rover, a dog sitting service. There are 230,000 dog sitters in the U.S., and 430 dog-owning householders per dog sitter. A single dog sitter cannot service that many households. By opening up the supply of dog sitters through a frictionless online marketplace, in markets where Rover operates, the ratio comes down to 261 households per dog sitter. Rover has already created 25,000 new dog sitting jobs.

These figures represent only some of Menlo’s portfolio companies. When you include their competitors and other categories such as food service, creative and technical services, and home improvement services, the estimate can reach of one million – or more – American jobs created by online marketplaces. The same type of growth also is likely in international markets as these American companies expand globally.

Some argue that these are startup companies and that such growth is far from being a guarantee. But these companies are providing necessary consumer services, and once they scale, the network effect will take hold and they will become durable companies – much like Amazon – that will be able to survive and grow through changing economic environments.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

A new economy is being created and growing stronger every day.

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How A Feisty Start-Up Uses A Relaxed Management Style To Take On The Big Banks

How A Feisty Start-Up Uses A Relaxed Management Style To Take On The Big Banks | Competitive Edge |

Every day, it seems, brings a fresh scandal from the financial sector. But what is bad news for the bankers and their investors is good news for those trying to steal away some of their business. A case in point is TransferWise, a young start-up that has recently been seeking to get its message across through provocative ads at bus stops and underground stations across London.

Based (in the modern way) in London and Estonia, the company was born out of a frustration with what the founders saw as excessive hidden bank fees for cross-border money transfers. Taavet Hinrikus, one of the earliest employees of the internet-based phone company Skype, and Kristo Käärmann, a former consultant in the financial sector, hit on the idea when they were each sending money between Britain and the Eurozone and spending huge sums in commission charges on the exchange rates. Kaarmann explains how the friends devised a simple plan. He worked in London, but had a mortgage back in Estonia that he needed to pay in euros, while Hinrikus worked for Skype in Estonia and so was paid in euros, but lived in London, and so needed sterling to pay expenses. Once a month, the two of them checked that day’s mid-market rate on Reuters to find a fair exchange rate. Kaarmann put pounds into Hinrikus’s UK bank account, and Hinrikus topped up his friend’s euro account with euros. Both got the currency they needed, and neither paid a cent in hidden bank fees. Realising that others in the increasingly mobile economy must be in the same situation, they decided to make a business out of it – and TransferWise was born.

That was back in 2011 and since them the fledgling company, which has fewer than 100 employees split between London and Tallinn, has picked up numerous awards and accolades as well as attracting funding from investment vehicles headed by the likes of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and early backer of Facebook. More importantly, perhaps, it has already helped hundreds of individuals transfer more than $1bn around the world, saving them substantial amounts in foreign currency commission charges. Since Kaarmann points out that the global market is about $200bn a year, that gives TransferWise a tiny share. But – with substantial backers now on board – he and his colleagues believe that they can make inroads, once they educate people. Hence those ads.

Kaarmann – who looks after operations, technology and regulatory issues, while Hinrikus focuses on marketing and related matters – acknowledges that the rapid growth that has already occurred and is set to continue requires a special kind of leadership. “I am a big believer that people don’t need to be managed. They need to know why they are doing what they are doing,” he says. One of the problems for large organizations like the banks with which TransferWise is competing is that it is hard for employees “to see that the things they do make life better for somebody else. The chain between the customer and the person doing the work is very long”. As part of making clear the link between the work done and making things better for TransferWise and its customers, engineers spend time with customers to understand their needs. Possibly more contentiously, Kaarmann is a great believer in measuring effects and believes extensive measurement of employees’ efforts is not a problem, provided they know it is happening. “Building a team fast is tricky and building technology fast is tricky. A lot of the magic is in making sure everybody knows what they are doing and doesn’t need to be told.”

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6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business

6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business | Competitive Edge |
Nothing is more overrated than learning things the hard way.

I co-founded my business NutraBella, Inc. in 2005 after hearing my pregnant friends complain about their horse-pill sized pre-natal vitamins. We dreamed of giving women better vitamin options with Bellybar.

Fast forward to today where I spend my days on the QuickBooks team working to make small business management easier and more fun.  As I hear from small businesses owners from all walks of life, I am constantly reminded of the things I wish I had known. Owning a small business is a challenge, but here are six tips that will make the road to success easier.

1. Follow your passion and don’t let go. Your business probably stems from something you’re passionate about, but over time, the day-to-day running of the business makes it hard to keep that passion alive.

Fuel it daily by reminding yourself why you started your business. Make sure that you fall in love with a problem, not a solution. If your first solution doesn’t work, fall back on your passion for solving that problem to find another answer for your customer.

2. Cash is king. Running a business is an art and a science. The art is your passion. The science is your business model. Make sure you understand your own business model. It’s not something to abdicate to someone else. Understanding money-in, money-out, is critical to business success. Ignorance is not bliss. If you know how your business is doing at every moment, you can celebrate your success or plan for how to get more cash.

3. Hire smart. Hiring a team is thrilling but also scary. Take time to hire the right people for the right job. Fire them quickly if it doesn’t go well. As a small business owner, you can do anything but you can’t do everything! Hire people who love to do what you hate to do so you can focus on your dream and evangelize your passion.

4. Communicate with partners. Partners can be a great way to bring complementary talent to grow your business but, just like a marriage, it’s critical to communicate values and expectations. Create a business “pre-nup” to set expectations for the partnership.

Like every good marriage, go on date nights and remind yourself why you went into business together in the first place. You can also use it as an opportunity to brainstorm new ideas or talk through problems in a less stressful space.

5. Protect yourself from the unexpected. Think about roadblocks you might hit along the way. Expect the best but prepare for those unexpected hiccups.

Things will happen that you can’t control. Do what you can to protect yourself. Set up systems and processes in your business so that you can take a vacation or care for a sick child. Make sure that things won’t fall apart if you step away for a moment. Respect yourself enough to ensure that you can take care of yourself outside of your business.

6. The buck stops with you, but… You don’t have to be alone! As a small business owner, it can be lonely making all of the decisions. Ask for help. Not everyone has the courage to start a business but most people want to help and support you.

Find other entrepreneurs to learn from. Someone a few years ahead of you can provide invaluable advice. Someone just starting can bring energy and creative ideas. The best advice I ever received came from other entrepreneurs. It takes a village.

Running your own business is one of the most exciting, and challenging, adventures you will embark upon. Take care of yourself as you set the tone and culture of your growing business. Protect yourself to ensure the business will survive the ups and downs. Running your business can be fun with a little bit of planning and with processes to make things run smoothly. Take time to set it up right so you can get back to doing what you love. I’m cheering for you!

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How Data Can Be a Competitive Weapon in Your Content Marketing | Oracle Marketing Cloud

How Data Can Be a Competitive Weapon in Your Content Marketing | Oracle Marketing Cloud | Competitive Edge |

We’re competing for YOUR attention. Each day, you make a countless number of decisions related to content. Which song do you play on your iPhone? Which link do you click in your Twitter feed? Which article do you read at

The answers may be: Bruno Mars, a Buzzfeed article and a feature on abalone divers. Your decisions determine the outcome of numerous mini-competitions. With such strong competitive forces at play, how can we possibly get YOUR attention?

We can write about best practices, how to’s and market overviews, but all that hard work results in a “finished product” that’s not much different from other vendors in our space. To you, they all look the same. So what’s the answer? How can we create content that resonates with YOU?

3. The Answer is: Data, Data, and DATA
Whether it’s from surveys or customers, data that you collect, manage and analyze is unique and valuable. Data is a form of content that your competition cannot copy. It helps you gain awareness, drive conversations and garner trust.

Earlier this year, DNN authored a research report. The report was titled “Marketing Got Complicated: Challenges (and Opportunities) for Marketers at Mid-Sized Companies.”

This was a successful content marketing campaign for us: we created a wealth of content that generated awareness, inbound traffic, mentions on social media and earned media coverage. In the remainder of this post, I’ll share tips on how to do a similar campaign.

1. Ensure Relevancy to Your Target Audience
Our average customer is a marketer at a mid-sized company. We knew that providing useful, persona-based research would be relevant. It’s kind of like saying, “Want to reach mountain biking enthusiasts? Then perform research on mountain bikers.” We heard from a lot of mid-sized company marketers who told us how useful the report was.

2. Ensure You’re Not Duplicating Existing Research

For our next study, we considered doing research on how marketers use content across the stages of the sales cycle. Then we received an email invitation from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. They are doing similar research - it’s actually their fifth annual study.

Because our survey would be too similar to their’s, we decided to hold off. So search for existing (or upcoming) research that’s similar to yours. Pursue new and unique angles, because that helps you stand out from the crowd.

3. Consider Desired Outcomes Ahead of Time
While you’d never want to influence research outcomes, you ought to think about desired results. Surprising results can generate attention. In our research, 79% of marketing executives say it's a challenge to get (and hold) the attention of target customers.

The high percentage surprised some of us and it generated a lot of discussion online. In addition, results can identify contradictions that instruct readers on actions they should take (e.g. 80% of marketers rate measurement as highly important, yet only 40% have deployed web analytics: time to deploy web analytics).

4. Don’t Just Report. Recommend Solutions, Too
If all we did was present a series of charts to marketers at mid-sized companies, they’d probably read the report and yawn. Instead, we provided recommendations related to each of the findings. This made the content more useful and helped us build trust with our readers.

5. Create Many Varieties of Related Content
Your data provides the seeds. Plant those seeds to make a hundred flowers bloom. Using our research report as the seed, the additional content we generated included:

  • Blog posts on our website
  • Contributed blog posts on third party sites
  • LinkedIn posts
  • A live webinar featuring a panel of marketing experts
  • A SlideShare of the webinar
  • The on-demand recording of the webinar
  • A detailed blog summary of the webinar
  • An infographic highlighting some of the key data points
  • Blog posts featuring the expert panel from the webinar

As you can see, we used the unique insights provided by the research to create multiple flavors of content. If each piece of content reaches a different reader, then you’ve dramatically extended the reach of your campaign.

It’s fairly easy to write your next blog post or author your next eBook. Providing data-driven content is more challenging. However, it can create outsized returns. You should continue to publish blog posts and eBooks, but if that’s all that you do, your competition may be eating your lunch. Make data your secret weapon to win your competitors’ dinner and dessert.

For more best practice insight on using data to support your content, check out how the Oracle Marketing Cloud content team turned a research report into a complete integrated marketing program.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Dennis Shiao, Director of Content Marketing at DNN. Dennis is a contributing author to the book “42 Rules of Product Marketing” and is Editor of the DNN blog. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dshiao. 

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denbro's curator insight, August 21, 1:18 PM

Good article that points out how to use content effectively. If each piece of content reaches a different reader, then you’ve dramatically extended the reach of your campaign.

It’s fairly easy to write your next blog post or author your next eBook. Providing data-driven content is more challenging. However, it can create outsized returns. You should continue to publish blog posts and eBooks, but if that’s all that you do, your competition may be eating your lunch. Make data your secret weapon to win your competitors’ dinner and dessert.

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Startup Marketing And How Emotion Drives Customer Action | TechCrunch

Startup Marketing And How Emotion Drives Customer Action  | TechCrunch | Competitive Edge |

Put down the calculator and ignore the data for a second. Contrary to popular belief, startup marketing is not all about quantitative metrics and growthhacking. It’s time to start mapping out what creates a connection between you and your customer. Specifically, I am talking about driving customer actions by leveraging human emotion through the art of storytelling.

Humans are intrinsically wired to connect with stories. They connect us to people, ideas, places, products and brands; they help us justify how we spend our money and which brands we champion by substituting promotion with engagement.

Digital media has leveled the marketing playing field – savvy startup marketers can tell compelling stories with equal impact as their larger competitors. Creative, emotion-driven marketing enables any size company to drive product awareness with millions of consumers in real-time. These digital and social direct-to-consumer channels have replaced traditional advertising that once favored larger companies with big budgets.

Many companies know exactly what they do and communicate it well (“we make X app”), but few companies advocate the why ­(“we believe that people should have an easier way to communicate with the people they love”). Eric Holmen, president of marketing automation company Invoca, says, “soliciting an emotional response is an intentional process that leads to buyers who see value and act with urgency (disclosure: Invoca is an Accel-backed company). Too often, startups focus on the tactics rather than the intentional emotions they need to create.”

It is easier to build marketing around the former (what), but storytelling originates in the latter (why). The why enables startups to tap into its product/brand’s intrinsic emotional advantages – like excitement, happiness, or contentment.

In short, startup marketers must tap into the “Story Button” part of the brain; an idea coined by advertising agency Innocean, a partner with Accel portfolio company YuMe on advertising initiatives, and neuroscientist Paul Zak. Through a story, startups connect through emotion-driven marketing, which creates more authentic moments of customer engagement.

Emotion vs. Data

Emotional marketing, however, is the ying to data-driven marketing’s yang. Despite the buzz around growth hacking, today’s most savvy marketers understand that consumers are more experience-driven than ever.

“Because of the abundance of data, there is a lot of focus on data-driven marketing, which is very powerful,” said Craig Elbert, VP of marketing at Bonobos, an e-commerce apparel pioneer. “But numbers will usually only tell you what is happening. To get at the why and create actions, marketers need to ensure they are spending enough time thinking about customer motivations and emotions.”

Elbert hits on an important trend: The most admired brands structure their businesses around meaningful, emotion-driven marketing material that doesn’t feel a whole lot like marketing. In short, great marketers make consumers feel something – fear, gratification, guilt, trust, value, belonging, envy, etc. These feelings, once elicited, drive action.

Companies like Apple, Nike and Virgin America have mastered the art of making customers feel connected to their brands. These companies, along with startups (disclosure: Accel invests in the following) like Atlassian (enterprise), VSCO (photography) and Etsy (marketplace) elicit emotional triggers that build trust, which drives loyalty, which drives brand advocacy, which leads to word-of-mouth growth, which 91 percent of millennials utilize to guide their buying behaviors.

The science behind soliciting an emotional response

Psychologist Robert Plutchik discovered eight basic, primary emotions that guide all behaviors: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust. These emotions are product-agnostic, and over time, establish brand-to-consumer relationships that transcend traditional boundaries of engagement.

The question is, which emotions should marketers target, and how do they solicit these emotions? Elbert outlines the following correlations in emotion with user behavior:

  • Intrigue and mystery – creates a curiosity that drives initial exploration and clicks; important for advertising and emails
  • Desire and aspiration – stokes consideration; helpful for site imagery, product pages and lookbooks
  • Urgency and fear – provokes a feeling of missing out, which triggers a purchase
  • Surprise and laughter – drives sharing, as seen through April Fool’s Day

“Emotions change the decisions we make by making us more impulsive,” said Kristen Berman, co-founder of Irrational Labs. “Given a person’s impulsive nature, brands can amplify efficiency by not only looking at the metrics and drop-off, but also in thinking about the human emotions at play during each corner of the decision-making process.”

Emotion-driven marketing for the startup

A startup’s brand strategy and messaging should tailor to the core psychological needs, desires and behaviors of any given audience.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Marketing organizations must incorporate human emotion in all marketing practices, across all marketing channels. For startups, this is even more important as they aim to build early adopter loyalty and a tribal-minded community.

Plutchik’s psychoevolutionary theory of emotion explains that emotions are not only adaptive, but also play an important role both in cognition and behavior. His “wheel of emotions diagram (above) illustrates various relationships among emotions. In the world of marketing, this equates to purchasing a product not because of quality, but out of admiration, loyalty or even envy.

For startups, emotion-driven marketing means thinking about how a product or vision supports a broader cause that your community cares about.

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What kills startups? | BusinessDay

We’ve all heard the statistic that half of all startups fail within their first five years. The actual number is even bleaker. In a study of US firms formed in 1998, only 44% were still around only four years later, according to the Small Business Administration.

Risk and reward

What do we mean when we talk about risk? Simply stated, risk exists in any situation where there is a possibility of an outcome that we would rather avoid.

Unforeseen circumstances and their negative consequences are the very essence of risk. If we could predict the future, there would be no uncertainty, and there would be no risk.

Risk surrounds us. The flip side of risk is opportunity. There is a direct relationship between risk and reward: the greater the potential upside, the greater the risks involved. (As an aside, it’s worth noting that the converse is not necessarily true: situations that involve great risk sometimes have little or no upside. These are stupid risks to take.)

For entrepreneurs, this means that if you want to have a chance at success, you have to take significant risks. Entrepreneurship is neither easy nor risk free. And that’s exactly why more than half of all startups fail within a few years.

While risk is an integral part of entrepreneurship, it doesn’t have to get the better of you. Great entrepreneurs achieve success through keen awareness and management of risks.

The risk management framework

“Risk Management” is the art and science of thinking about what could go wrong, and what should be done to mitigate those risks in a cost-effective manner.

In order to identify risks and figure out how best to mitigate them, we first need a framework for classifying risks.

All risks have two dimensions to them: likelihood of occurrence, and severity of the potential consequences. These two dimensions form four quadrants, which in turn suggest how we might attempt to mitigate those risks:

Once we know the severity and likelihood of a given risk, we can answer the question: Does the benefit of mitigating a risk outweigh the cost of doing so?

Identifying & mitigating the Company killers

Companies flatline when the cash runs out and total current liabilities (i.e., bills due now) exceed total liquid assets. Risk management is all about identifying and mitigating the uncertainties – especially the company killers – that surround cash flows.

Uncertainty plagues businesses in countless ways, but we can group most company killers into the following categories:

These categories are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. Some risks span several categories. Let’s look at some examples.

Market risks

Market risks refer to whether or not there is sufficient demand for what you have to offer at the price you set. Many inventors have died penniless, clinging to the belief that the market would beat a path to his door if he designed the better mousetrap.

Fortune 500 companies spend billions on market research, and every year, they introduce products that are an instant flop. On the other hand, in 1943, the president of IBM allegedly predicted, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Unless what you sell is a commodity, there is no easy way to know how the market will receive any new product. Feedback from friends, surveys of potential customers, focus group testing, and beta testing are all useful techniques for helping to gauge market acceptance. However, nobody – not you, not your best friend, not your venture capitalist – can know for sure whether people will spend money on your solution until you actually try to sell it.

One way for entrepreneurs to mitigate market risk is to avoid perfection. It’s a fallacy to think that any product will ever be “finished” in the sense that it will make all users completely happy. When your product becomes good enough to make some customers reasonably happy, get it into the market where it can start generating cash flow and feedback.

As Steve Jobs put it, “Real artists ship.” Until real customers start using and talking about your actual product – as opposed to some mock-up you test in a focus group – you have no real way of knowing what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Release – observe – improve – repeat.

Competitive risks

Every venture has more competitors and fewer competitive advantages than it thinks. If there is money to be made by satisfying a pressing need in the marketplace (is there any other way to make money?), you can be sure that plenty of others are gunning for that same consumer dollar.

To stay ahead of your competition, you must continuously ask yourself – and your trusted advisors – what others might do to try to beat you, and then develop appropriate defenses. Know your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – S.W.O.T analysis isn’t just a business school exercise. Figure out what you do better than all of your competitors – whether it be price, features, quality, or some other advantage – and focus on maintaining your leadership in that category.

Technology & operational risks

It’s one thing to say you’re going into the business of making and selling widgets. It’s quite another thing to master the actual mechanics of making and selling widgets.

Technology and operational risks broadly cover everything having to do with execution: Can your team finalize the product design on a limited R&D budget? Will your product work as intended? Can you find reliable vendors? Can you manufacture it? Can you optimize the logistics of product distribution? Can you create an effective product support infrastructure? Will your firewall prevent hackers from stealing customer credit card numbers? Do you have a backup plan to keep your company running when an accident destroys some key equipment in your data center?

Mistakes are inevitable; we all learn from our mistakes and become better over time. Learning from past mistakes is important, but if you really want to increase your chances of success, then find some co-founders who have succeeded in the past.

Financial risks

The end of the road for any business is running out of cash. Some days, when you’re an entrepreneur, it seems like all roads lead there.

For startups, the biggest financial risk stems from not having a Plan B in case investors and lenders say no (or don’t say yes quickly enough). Many entrepreneurs fail because they make the mistake of betting everything on being able to secure outside financing.

Financial risks don’t disappear once your business is up and running. Any number of things can adversely affect the cash flows of operating ventures: Customers can default on your invoices (credit risk). The cost of your raw materials could skyrocket (commodity price risk). A strengthening dollar can reduce the net profits from your international customers, or a weakening dollar can jack up the cost of your offshore manufacturing operations (exchange rate risk). A spike in interest rates could raise the cost of your working capital (interest rate risk). A plunge in the value of stocks or real estate you pledged as collateral could cause your bank to cut your credit lines (asset price risk).

People risks

People are, at the same time, the most crucial and least predictable element of any business.

The right combination of experience, contacts, and temperament among the founding team can vastly increase a venture’s odds of success. Failure to recruit, motivate, and retain the right partners can spell doom.

As an entrepreneur, one of your most important responsibilities is to establish a clear vision and culture that the entire team can rally behind. Everybody needs to row in the same direction. Everybody needs to be able to tolerate each other for eighty hours a week. You must manage strong egos, mediate personality clashes and disagreements, and rein in rogue team members.

A company is only as strong as its weakest link. Don’t let personal relationships cloud your judgment: your old college roommate might be a good marketer, but she may not be the best person to market your specific product to your specific target market. If you discover that a member of your team isn’t going to work out, you need to fix it quickly before the situation gets worse.

Legal & regulatory risks

The list of possible problems with legal or regulatory roots is almost endless: tax complications stemming from your choice of legal entity or state of incorporation; disputes arising from poorly structured agreements; lawsuits filed by a competitor alleging misappropriation of trade secrets by one of the hotshot programmers you recently recruited from them.

The first step towards mitigating legal and regulatory risk is to learn enough about the subject so that you can fully appreciate what you don’t know. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law by Constance Bagley and Craig Dauchy is a great place to start.

The second step is to retain the right attorneys – usually, one for corporate matters and another for intellectual property matters. You must manage them effectively and follow their counsel when it makes sense.

Systemic risks

Systemic risks are those that threaten the viability of entire markets, not just a single firm within a market. For example, rising default rates in the subprime mortgage market, and the subsequent domino effect among financial institutions created by linkages embedded in mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps, have had a profound impact on the global financial system.

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Five Things To Check Before You Start Your Own Business

Five Things To Check Before You Start Your Own Business | Competitive Edge |
It's easier than ever to start a business, but not so easy to run one. Here are five items to check for yourself before you hang out your shingle.

For so many of us, being our own boss is a dream—perhaps the dream. Today, it’s easier than ever to put up a shingle.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 15 years and have started three businesses. I’m in continual amazement at how cheaply and efficiently you can get a business going. It wasn’t that long ago that you needed to finance a phone system and servers as they were prohibitively expensive for a startup.  Now, just about everything that used to be labor and cost intensive – from marketing to bookkeeping – can be done inexpensively through technology and cloud computing.

No longer do you need to rent that fancy copier/fax/scanner, you can use a home office printer and TurboScan. Need a bookkeeper? Do it yourself by tracking your expenses through Expensify and managing invoices via FreshBooks. And that expensive phone system with its requisite landline? Instead, get a free business line using Google Voice or spiffy conference capabilities with Uber Conference. And there are a host of services for finding just the right talent for just the time you need it.   

It may seem that the barriers are so low that now anyone can run a business. However, getting a business off the ground isn’t the same as creating a profitable, ongoing enterprise. I spend a good amount of time with entrepreneurs in my work and volunteer time. I also teach in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership program helping coaches develop their entrepreneurial chops. 

Should you throw your paycheck aside and make the jump? When is the right time? While the answers aren’t straightforward, here’s some advice I can provide.  

1. Expect to invest upfront.

Yes, startup infrastructure can be cheap or even free. But you still need to consider the implications of brand. To get started, you need to pay for a quality logo and website, legal and professional fees, as well as for some technology. While incrementally inexpensive, the costs can add up.

There’s also a rub about the cheap alternatives – sometimes they look like it. As a new business, you need to show an enduring and professional image, and you can’t look like you’re operating on a shoe string even when you are. For example, the do-it-yourself websites can be visually unappealing and awkward to navigate — and even damage your brand.   

This is where a good business plan comes into play. Knowing all of your startup costs upfront will tell you if you’re prepared financially to cast out on your own. I typically advise setting aside 5-10K for startup costs as a benchmark for services firms. You may find it wise to do much of the setup work while you still have a paycheck to finance it.  

2. Realize that it takes 2-3 years to establish a good book of business.

I have learned this lesson several times over. You may in fact have clients right away, which is a great way to start. Still, it takes time for word of mouth and referral business to kick in. Patience—and a lot of hard work to establish a solid reputation—are key here.

Part of that work entails the basic block and tackle of mining your network for business. But eventually you’ll need to create ways of generating business beyond your immediate circle, which requires marketing. Start this in the beginning, and as you establish your brand, consider how you might incorporate an email newsletter, blogging, social media or even traditional PR.

3. Prepare to sell yourself—and for that to be the status quo.

I know many entrepreneurs who say they just want to do the work, and aren’t interested in being in sales. My advice: if you don’t want to devote a good portion of your time to sales, then don’t go into business for yourself. You’ll never be able to fully outsource this part of owning your own business. Clients come and clients go so you must always be developing new prospects.  

That doesn’t mean you have to be a natural salesperson or an extreme extrovert to close business. In fact, a meta-analysis of 35 studies of nearly 4,000 salespeople found that the correlation between extroversion and sales performance was pretty much zero. In reality, ambiverts, those people that tow the line between extroverts and introverts, tend to be the most successful salespeople. The good news is that the majority of people are ambiverts, so most of us can be effective salespeople and learn to sell on our own terms.  

4. Be open to evolving.

Most businesses change over time, and what you set out to do may not be what you end up focusing on. To be a good entrepreneur is to see uncertainty as opportunity.

Embracing evolution means being open to risk. A Copyblogger post by Johnny B. Truant makes a persuasive case that the ability to evolve is the top skill that makes an entrepreneur succeed: “You’ve got to learn to be uncertain and take risks. If you stay within what’s known and safe, you will never be truly successful. Doing what’s uncertain and risky isn’t easy, and that’s why the people who dare to do it are rewarded.”

Google started out as a simple search engine, and see how that’s going.

5. People who are interested in multiple business functions have it easiest.  

Entrepreneurs have to do a little bit of everything, especially in the beginning. It doesn’t mean that you have to love each function equally, but it certainly helps if the important ones can hold your interest.

If you can’t imagine dabbling in finance, sales, marketing, product/service development, and delivery, then entrepreneurship may not be the right fit for you. Entrepreneurship is not only the act of wearing many hats, but also the act of prioritizing which hats take precedent over others. It’s a classic mistake of entrepreneurs to spend too much time on the functions they like best, i.e. delivery, and forsake those that the business needs, i.e. finance.

This also means that you have to be your primary motivator. No one else is going to tell you to sit down and run cash flow projections when you’d rather be creating fun client programs.

Now, back to the great news. If you have passion for what you do, you may find that all of the pieces of advice above are merely steps in your bigger plan. And if that’s the case, you can now get your business launched in a few weeks – or even days — and begin making your dream your daily reality.

And to me, it is supremely cool to see so many entrepreneurs joining the party.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. She blogs at

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Fine-arts schools aim to spark students' entrepreneurial savvy

Fine-arts schools aim to spark students' entrepreneurial savvy | Competitive Edge |
As crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter become more accessible than moneyed patrons, fine-arts schools want to spark students' entrepreneurial savvy.

As crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter become more accessible than moneyed patrons, fine-arts schools want to spark students' entrepreneurial savvy.

The Juilliard School, the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music have embraced programs or courses aimed at developing students' business acumen alongside their artistic skill. Entrepreneurship is also a hot topic in courses at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, while the certificate program in design entrepreneurship at Pratt Institute of New York has been in such high demand that the school is expanding the program to accommodate more students.

Focusing on craft alone won't prepare students for life as a working artist, says Joseph W. Polisi, president of the Juilliard School, which holds workshops that encourage an entrepreneurial mind-set; in one session, students pitched business ideas to Tony Award-winning producer Bruce Robert Harris.

Students "can't think that the only world out there is the world that existed" when artists were able to concentrate on their art alone, says Mr. Polisi. "That world, to a great degree, is gone."

Sites like YouTube and SoundCloud, which allow users to post music and videos, have changed the way musicians get noticed and have intensified competition for jobs and recording contracts, students and administrators say. Even for classical and jazz musicians, record labels are more likely to sign an artist who already has a ready-made following online.

The Berklee College of Music has begun holding YouTube "hack days," bringing students together with artists popular on YouTube such as Berklee alumnus AJ Rafael, along with Andres Palmiter, an audience-development strategist at the video platform. During the most recent hack day in March, students made their own performance videos in under 24 hours, and learned about the factors that go into a video's viral success.

Students "have to approach and think about what they're doing in the same way an entrepreneur does and the same way that a startup does," says Panos Panay, the managing director of Berklee College of Music's new Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, or BerkleeICE.

BerkleeICE is also adding two elective courses this fall: one where students work with startups on such projects as designing apps or improving instruments, and another where students spend a semester forming their own music-focused startups. Mr. Panay, a Berklee alum who sold his own startup, Sonicbids—a site for performers and promoters to post about jobs—for about $15 million, will teach both classes.

Colin Thurmond, a doctoral student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, has received three entrepreneurship grants valued at about $4,000 in total from his school, two of which helped fund a performance-design company he co-founded, and another for his online guitar boot camp.

The school, which has funded over 60 projects since 2010, says it wants students to not just learn about startups, but to create them as well. Mr. Thurmond said the grants and ventures have helped him pay for school while continuing to perform.

"It becomes less about one single stream of income," he says. "I want to be able to make my career doing things that I love."

As part of a multimillion-dollar initiative to prepare students for a wider variety of careers in the ever-changing music industry, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is building a music technology facility and expects to add a battery of professional development courses in which students will learn how to write a press release, read financial statements and use crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter.

Assistant Dean MaryClare Brzytwa says the goal is to make graduates viable candidates for jobs as record engineers, independent composers and music supervisors for film and television.

"Many students don't have the practical digital skills necessary to actually secure employment in the field," says Ms. Brzytwa.

The Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles offers a course with nearby Loyola Marymount University on the development, funding and marketing of products such as the iPhone.

Working designers today need a broader understanding of the businesses they work in, playing a role at marketing and sales meetings, says Steve McAdam, academic chair of product design at Otis and a former toy designer at Mattel Inc.

"Because innovation is so important," Mr. McAdam says, "it has become clear that designers have to become leaders, and leaders have to become designers."

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Via Comfortable Home Design
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

No matter what you do, you still have to sell your service, product or craft to your public. It's great to see how crowdfunding brings that notion to art schools or anyone in general trying to commercialize what they have.

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These 10 Peter Drucker Quotes May Change Your World

These 10 Peter Drucker Quotes May Change Your World | Competitive Edge |
Millennials mired inside a traditional corporate environment and people living life inside lean startups will find his thinking particularly spot on.

My first college business professor was a fanatical Peter Drucker devotee.

He launched our course with a dissection of Drucker’s The Effective Executive and concluded with a thorough reading of The Practice of Management.

Through my professor's tireless evangelism, I developed a keen appetite for the timeless wisdom of this prescient thought leader.

Young entrepreneurs unfamiliar with Drucker would do well to study his insightful commentary on the world of "management." Millennials mired inside a traditional corporate environment and people living life inside lean startups will find his thinking particularly spot on.

Even after all these years, 10 Peter Drucker quotes still bounce around in my head constantly:

1. “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”

2. “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

3. “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

4. “What gets measured gets improved.”

5. “Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”

6. “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”

7. “People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

8. “Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”

9. “Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”

10. "Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things"

My cynical side (and my short attention span!) feels especially drawn to number eight on that list.

But the quotes that really excite and ignite my entrepreneurial imagination are numbers two and five.

Which quote resonates most deeply with you? Most importantly, which of Drucker's words will change your world?

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

I like number two best. I agree strongly with three, I love six, and I 'm not clear on five: innovation is usually about solving problems.

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Here is How to Make Sense of Conflicting Startup Advice

Here is How to Make Sense of Conflicting Startup Advice | Competitive Edge |

Everybody has a blog these days and there is much advice to be had. Many startups now go through accelerators and have mentors passing through each day with advice – usually it’s conflicting. WTF? There are bootcamps, startup classes, video interviews – the sources are now endless. What is a founder to do?

There are some smart if not somewhat cerebral bloggers I read who say that you shouldn’t take any startup advice at all because it’s too generalized to be useful to your situation. While I have some sympathy with their intent I must point out that their opinions on this are – ironically – startup advice. And not a point-of-view I particularly believe in.

So what IS one to do?

1. Triangulate
I like to use the shorthand “triangulate” to symbolize asking multiple people for their opinions to get a better perspective on the route you should take. Of course triangulation is a mathematics term that is used in sailing and other activities to help you better navigate when you don’t have your bearings. By having the measurement of some known points you can better navigate to unknown points through inference.

I triangulate in nearly every important decision I make. I tend to ask opinions on nearly every topic that I’m interested in. When I meet other VCs I’m constantly asking how they decide which investments to make, when to pass, when to do follow-on rounds, when to sell a company vs. when to go long, etc. Because I’ve asked more than 100 VCs similar questions I start to notice patterns in thinking. Some of these patterns may apply to me some may not. Some may be repeating long held conventional wisdom that is not necessarily still relevant while others might have views that sound like total heresy.

When I have well established patterns of thought the heretical views are often the most helpful because they cause me to challenge my own beliefs. People like Vinod Khosla, Keith Rabois, Brian Singerman, Marc Andreessen and others have all made head-scratching private comments to me that sounded so foreign to what I thought other people were doing in VC that they caused me to challenge and ultimately change some of my own views.

So far from not taking advice from other people – I want more advice, more data points, more opinions.

2. Draw from Frameworks
The most helpful type of advice in my mind are frameworks for how to solve a problem. This is generally how I try to organize my own views and how I try to give advice.

For example:

1. On market segmentationI often recite my “Elephants, Deer & Rabbits” framework
2. On sales I often talk about “Why Buy Anything, Why Buy Now, Why Buy Me” as a tool to think about a sales process
3. On marketing I talk about “Arming & Aiming
4. On teams I have a framework for tech teams “CTO vs. VP Eng” or  on sales I have “Journeymen, Mavericks & Superstars
5. On investment strategies I have “Deflationary Economics
6. On recruiting there is “Attitude over Aptitude
7. RetentionDon’t Roll out the Red Carpet on the Way out the Door
8. Improving startup productivity? “Level Up
9. How to network better? “50 Coffee Meetings
10. Startup psychology / confidence? “We’re All Naked in the Mirror
11. Fund raising? “Raise at the Top End of Normal

And on and on.

Each is a framework for thinking about a problem. None is guaranteed to be the proscriptive answer for your problem. But would you rather start thinking about your situation with NO advice or with somebody else’s framework who has walked in your shoes?

I’m all for more opinions, not less. Over time you start to realize whose voice you trust more than others. You start to test out whose opinions mapped best to your own situation and whether following their advice would have been useful.

3. Think Critically about Your Situation
So if you take in advice, compare it to others and start to think critically about how it may or may not apply to your situation then you begin to “triangulate” an opinion of what to do. You won’t always be right but it’s important to decide and then continually think about whether your decision was correct.

I had coffee with a friend on Friday. He came to me months ago asking about a “strategic round” of capital for his startup at a high price.  I told him that “Strategic Money is an Oxymoron” and that he shouldn’t take it. I told him that often having strategics lead rounds creates more problems and that it sets the tone for how you build your company. I told him that a high price now wasn’t always the best solution.

He not only didn’t agree with me but at the time I remember him being a little bit mad at me and questioning my motives. At coffee last week he told me in this case it turned out I was right. And that doesn’t really matter. My two take-aways were: 1) he at least had a framework for considering the situation and some reasons why I disagreed with his decision and 2) hopefully the next time I offer advice it will at least measure a little bit stronger than others whispering in his ear – whether he takes my advice or not.

4. In the End Go with Your Gut

In the end there is no recipe for a startup or for business. I caution people all the time from overly following my advice. I am VERY careful in board meetings and in startup pitches to tell entrepreneurs, “I feel very strongly about my opinion on this topic. I’m pretty sure I’m right based on my own experiences as a startup founder for reasons A, B, C. But I can’t say for sure what will apply to your business. You’ll have to make the hard judgment call. My job is just to be your sparring partner.

Saying not to take others advice is itself terrible advice. Take more advice. Mix people’s views into a cup. Stir them around. Think about the motives or experiences of those offering advice. Think about whom you trust based on past advice. Think about your own situation and overlay it against the frameworks that others offer.

Triangulate. But in the end follow your own gut. That’s why you’re a founder.

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Via Chandra Gollapudi
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Exactly. Gather information, then trust your own judgment. no one can decide for you.

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Will your new business idea succeed?

Will your new business idea succeed? | Competitive Edge |

"What if you can test your idea without wasting time and money?"

That's a question worth thinking about. 

Many of people have ideas, and every now and then they come across ideas that might be worth pursuing. Most however, do nothing with those ideas due many reasons such as:

They simply don’t know where to start -  

“I have a great idea! but no clue on what to do with it”. The thought
process of turning an idea to a product can be daunting to certain
individuals, especially when it exists outside of their field of knowledge.

They’re afraid of FAILURE -

The word “failure” above is in all-caps because thats how much people get intimidated by the idea of it. Will my idea work? Is this going to be worth all my time and money? What if I fail?

One way of finding out if an idea is feasible and worth pursuing is to
produce a MVP (Minimum Viable Product). 

QuickMVP is a website that does just that. It helps you test any business idea in just five minutes, without writing any code. Through building a landing page and creating a Google Ad, you can see how real customers respond to your idea before investing precious time and money.

Here's the basic setup:

Landing Page

* Get it live in 3 minutes
* Plain and simple--test your idea, not your design
* Connect any domain name
* Customize the CSS and add your own HTML (optional)
* Test unlimited ideas

Google Ad Creator

* Takes 2 minutes with no expertise necessary
* Add keywords and a budget and you're done
* Automatically optimized for Google's Algorithm

QuickMVP is designed specifically for validating new business ideas and it helps you identify the important metrics to decide if an idea is worth pursuing.

Let us know in the comments if you try QuickMVP. Did it work out for you? 

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Sounds like a great tool for testing new ideas and startup businesses. Give it a try.

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Why our startup has no bosses, no office, and a four-day work week - Quartz

Why our startup has no bosses, no office, and a four-day work week - Quartz | Competitive Edge |

As Paul Graham, entrepreneur, programmer and also founder of YCombinator used to say: “For a programmer, the cost of attending a meeting is always higher.”

In 2008, my study partner Hernán Amiune and I had finished studying computer engineer at Catholic University of Córdoba Argentina.

During our last years at university, we had done some internships in companies such as HP, IBM, and Intel. It was the moment we realized there was a mistake in their work methods.

We couldn’t understand why people without technical knowledge had to tell programmers “what” to do and, furthermore, they had to supervise “how” programmers did it.

So, when we created Project eMT, a comparison search engine for Latin America, we decided to work in a different way: without project managers. Six years later, we operate in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia together with 34 engineers that are part of our team, and we still work without traditional management structures and work weeks, and have managed to grow our annual revenue by 204%.

Here’s how we do it.

No bosses

At big tech companies we frequently observed how programmers would do bad work in a short period of time and receive praise from their bosses. Over time, this leads to the standard: “let’s program with low quality but as fast as possible.”

As Google CEO Larry Page used to say: “Engineers shouldn’t be supervised by project managers with limited technical knowledge.”

On the other hand, as programmers, we used to find it profoundly annoying that our bosses would set meetings with us at any moment based on their needs. This may seem striking, but it’s essential.

A developer needs an average of four consecutive hours of uninterrupted work to be able to carry out a good quality job with significant advances. Consequently, the ideal day would be for a programmer to work in the morning from 9am to 1pm and in the afternoon from 2pm to 6pm, in order to reach maximum productivity.

If for example, our boss assigns a meeting at 11am, then the morning is lost since I have to get ready for the meeting, attend the meeting, greet everybody, discuss the topics, then I have to go back to my desk and pick up exactly from where I had left off, see what I was doing and keep on programming. With all these activities, the whole morning is practically lost.

As Paul Graham, entrepreneur, programmer and also founder of YCombinator used to say: “For a programmer, the cost of attending a meeting is always higher.”

No office

The truth is that when we started, having a workspace wasn’t an option. When we were taking our first steps we didn’t have the resources to rent an office.

The scenario stayed the same until the second year when we were finally able to move to an excellent office with the amenities that we had always dreamt of (like ping pong tables, video games, private and personal chef, gym equipment and huge TVs).

This stage only lasted eight months until we decided to go back to working remotely for a variety of reasons.

To start with, the time we waste by commuting to the office whether it is by public transportation or by driving our own cars is on average one hour to get there and one hour to get back home. That is to say, if we work nine hours a day, we are wasting an extra 22% of time just on commuting. We also have to add the cost of the rent and the cost of commuting to and from the office.

But the economic reason is not the most important one, nor the main reason for going back to working without an office; instead it was the physical and mental tiredness that commuting causes. That time could be used to achieve a much more important goal like spending time be with your family.

Lastly, we work today in five countries and we believe that the habit of working remotely will allow us to continue growing.

Four-day work week

Reducing the length of our work week is a relatively new aspect for our startup; we implemented it almost 2 years ago and until now it has been an excellent decision.

In the industrial era, there was a belief that the more you worked in the, the better the results were; that’s why we have to work 5 days a week and be with our families just 2 days.

In a technology project like ours, more doesn’t always mean better.

What we need is that engineers are satisfied with their jobs and motivated to do them well. We are not interested in the amount they produce; quality is what is essential.

This is strongly aligned with the goal of hiring the best programmers. Indicating that we just work four days a week is an exclusive differential: it allows us to hire only the best people and have a spectacular level of retention.

According to our own experience, an excellent programmer can do in half the time and with better quality what an average programmer does.

What’s more, we are tired of listening to and reading about the balance between work and family. For us, this is the best answer to this historical problem: you can now be with your family 50% more of time.

Step by step

  1. As a starting point, we eliminated meetings completely (one-on-one and group meetings). From that moment on, every internal communication is done through written text. There are no calls, physical meetings, nor teleconferences.

This may sound disruptive, but we have been doing it for internal communication for three years now and it’s something totally normal for us.

Indeed, after reading about how a manufacturing enterprise saved an equivalent to eliminating 200 job positions through reducing the duration of meetings to only 30 minutes and with a maximum of seven people per meeting, we realized we were on the right track.

  1. Furthermore, there is no more agenda; nobody can include a meeting in our work day or organize our schedule. The job is organized by each one of us based on our timetables and knowledge.

In this way, any type of communication, being exclusively through text, becomes an asynchronous communication. This means that we can program (code) fully focused for four consecutive hours without being interrupted and then, when we have the time, we can advance and answer.

  1. Another essential factor was that we eliminated email communication; we definitely got tired of using the email as a to-do list. The email wasn’t designed for this, let alone designed with enough efficiency to perform that role.

We changed from a work methodology that had historically worked through a “push” mechanism to one with a “pull” mechanism. This basically means that nobody can send me a job-related email to tell me what to do (push). I am the one now who selects my next tasks (pull).

Both the meetings and emails elimination is supported by a tool we developed internally and we called “iAutonomous”. It’s simply a SAAS (Software as a Service) app that allows each member of our startup to participate in and create a new project or task.

Like this, we will all see a list of activities in progress inside our enterprise and we can create and participate in those tasks that need our help in order to be successfully completed.

In this tool, we can see what each of the members is doing in real time. We don’t need a boss telling us what to do or if we did it correctly or incorrectly. We are all programmers and we know exactly how our peers work.

Be picky

I personally consider that there is just one main aspect that has been essential to us: the quality of the engineers we hire. The most important thing lies in their capacity of being proactive.

The people that work with us are entrepreneurs themselves—they don’t need someone evaluating whether they work or not.

What is even more problematic is that those engineers that are not proactive cause great damage to our working culture. High-performance engineers will only want to work with another one that works even more and that does things correctly (meaning, writes great code!).

We have made mistakes hiring programmers that didn’t have that profile. But in days—weeks at the latest—we have managed to detect this. I suggest you don’t hesitate to end work relationships that are not working out; it’s not good for neither of the parties. If they need to be supervised, they will surely find their place in any other company (with managers).

I recommend starting with these new habits from the first day. This will be much easier than changing them later.

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Via Günter Schumacher
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great article. Who want bosses? And a 4 day workweek makes the quality of your life so much better, especially when doing work as a programmer/coder.

Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Daily Magazine!

The Truth About What It’s Like Working For Uber | LinkedIn

The Truth About What It’s Like Working For Uber | LinkedIn | Competitive Edge |

I was a Community Manager on the East Coast for Uber for almost a year (February 2013 – December 2013). After being ‘out’ for about nine months, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my time there. I’ve also been encouraged to, due to the number of people who’ve reached out to me, asking how it was, since they themselves are considering applying.

This makes sense. It’s smart to talk to someone who works at a company before deciding to work there. It’s even smarter to talk to someone who currently works there and someone who used to.

So let me tell you what it’s really like working for Uber:

PROS1. The Team Is Extraordinary

The people at Uber are freaking awesome (apparently, the real f-word caused some people to stop reading). There’s no other way to put it. They’re astonishingly smart, motivated, talented, warm, friendly, and very hardworking. Uber is extraordinarily picky about who they hire, and they do a good job of bringing in brilliant people.

For me, my peers were the best part of the job. They not only had my back most of the time, but they were super fun. For the most part (not all the time, but the vast majority of the time), I felt like I could reach out to anyone there, and they’d make time for me.

As a rule, people at Uber are generous and bighearted and intelligent and sharp and creative and cool.

2. They’re Fair

For the most part, Uber is a pretty flat meritocracy. They’re ready to listen to anyone, if what they say is of value. Good ideas are noticed, respected, and implemented. There are obviously some politics (I don’t believe any large organization of human beings can totally avoid that), but it’s not the predominant company culture.

Instead, they’re extremely focused on metrics and analytics. Your success is largely based on your performance in terms of numbers, not whether someone likes you or you’re someone’s cousin or you’ve been there longer.

3. It’s A Crazy Awesome Ride (pun unintended)

There’s nothing like being on the inside of an insanely popular and insanely high-growth tech startup. Uber’s growth is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. The weekly all-team meetings, held via Skype since Uber is now in 100+ cities all over the world, are awe-inspiring. It’s unreal watching baby cities grow into monster cities, or small teams blossom into huge ones. Working for Uber is like being on the inside of a real live game of SimCity.

It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’re part of it.

4. People’s Reactions To, “So, what do you do?” Are Awesome

It usually goes down like this:

Rando #1: “So, what do you do?”
You: “I work for Uber.”
Rando #1: “What!??! That’s so cool!”
Rando #2:I love Uber!”
Rando #3: *just looks at you in awe*

CONSIt’s Stressful

Really, really stressful.

I did an informal poll while I was at Uber, asking people in different departments and different cities: “On a scale of 1-10, how stressed were you at your last position, and how stressed are you at Uber?” I routinely got answers of 2-6 pre-Uber, and 8-10 at Uber. One guy said, “At my last job, maybe like a 4. At Uber? Normally ... 8. This week? 11.”

At Stanford, we had a saying that students there are like ducks on a pond. On the surface, they look like they’re effortlessly floating along; under the surface, they’re paddling like mofos, their hearts going a million miles a minute just to keep up.

That’s Uber. Everyone looks like they’re doing fine, but they’re really working 80-100 weeks and even then, constantly feel like they’re behind. Working for Uber is a sprint, with marathon hours.

It’s Disjointed

Uber is still in the awkward gangly phase of a burgeoning startup. The thing is, it’s not really a startup anymore. It’s a big company with things like corporate values and policies and rules and guidelines. So expectations of employees are really high, but without all the support that comes with that.

As a CM (Community Manager), it was hard sometimes to rally all the things I needed help with, without pissing people off. I was dependent on teammates in design or engineering who were all the way across the country, many of whom I’d never met in person. It was nerve-wracking to not be in control, especially when I had time-sensitive needs and there was limited communication. I often felt powerless, but when I pointed this out I felt like I was just looked at as a complainer. A similar problem was echoed by others around me, those who experienced parts of Uber as rigid, not always willing to make the right systemic changes due to wanting to go at a breakneck pace all the time.

At Uber, you’re not always going to be given everything you need, to do the job you’re expected to do. The right systems simply aren’t in place yet; it’s all still being built. Things can be stressful or difficult, but without the recognition that they are, which can be challenging to deal with. It’s easy to feel alone, even while you’re surrounded by amazing people.

There Is No Work/Life Balance

At Uber, you work nights, weekends, and holidays. Some teams split it up so you get some real time off during the week/weekend, but that’s rare (FYI, some of this may have changed, since things at Uber shift so rapidly, but I doubt it. It’s ingrained in the culture). What’s not rare is to sign on to Hipchat (the way the entire company stays in touch) at 11pm on a Saturday night, and see lots of colleagues online, working, as well. Fortunately, you can work from home, and most teams are pretty flexible about that, but it’s still important to understand that you will be working *all* the time.

Uber does a good job about being upfront about this; they describe it to potential new hires as “the Uber lifestyle.” You’re expected to pitch in and do whatever it takes to have your city succeed, no matter when or how long it takes, and everyone hired is willing to do so.

Joining Uber is like joining the Firm from that John Grisham book … The Firm. Once you’re in, you’re in. Think of it like getting into the military, only cooler and you probably won’t die.


So, would I recommend working for Uber?

It depends on who you are and what you want.

If you’re young and hungry with few attachments, it’s a great option. For someone single, just out of college who just moved to the area, not wanting to get into a relationship or hang out with a lot of people outside the company, it’s practically ideal (practically). You’ll meet incredible people and be part of a strong culture. You’ll constantly be working, but you’ll never be bored and you won’t mind as much because most if not all of your friends will be at the company.

However, if you’re already somewhat established in your life (mid- to late 20s, early 30s, or in a relationship), it’s going to be hard. It will be ‘normal’ to spend your entire workweek working until 9pm or 10pm every day, then work an all-day event on Saturday, for Uber. You’ll miss seeing your friends and family, and resent the constant feeling that you’re not doing enough, despite working so much. This may wear on you over time, and eventually you may burn out.

As for me, my story has a happy ending (not that kind, but it’s still good). I’m happier at my current job than I ever was at Uber. We’re OpiaTalk, a tech startup in the eCommerce space, out of Baltimore. We help retailers make the most of their organic traffic – our social commerce widget turns browsers into buyers, hyper-converting traffic and driving opted-in leads at 4-5x industry average. Our team rocks, and I’m proud to be our Director of Communications. (That's us on the left -- I'm the crazy-looking one in the brown dress!).

Now, I wake up excited about my job and I also have real weekends, which has me feeling rested and ready for the week. During my time off I feel like I’m truly off, which is pretty much the best freaking feeling ever. At Uber, I constantly fantasized about leaving; it was never sustainable. OpiaTalk is sustainable because I work hard, and I have a life outside it.

Finally, I really wasn’t in the right role at Uber, and my manager wasn’t willing to work out a way to put me in one better suited to me in a timeline that worked. At my current job, I play to my strengths, and I feel truly supported by my boss. Shoutout to you, Tom Popomaronis: I love you, your mentorship, your humor, your entrepreneurial fire, your drive, and your heart. It’s why I’ll stick with you through anything, and why I’m pumped to be on the team you’ve built, that we continue to build together. Thanks for including me and for believing in me.


thought long and hard about whether to publish this. My hope is that it came across the way it was intended: as an honest and thoughtful distillation of my own experiences and observations of what I still see as one of the coolest modern companies to come out of the United States.

You want to talk about disruption? Uber has actually disrupted the tech/transportation industry. The world is literally different because of this company, and I say that as a young woman who is guaranteed a safe ride home in most cities where she goes. #Gamechanger. I also respect how Uber helps empower an entire generation of drivers with safe, flexible jobs – an opinion based primarily off my own one-on-one discussions with countless drivers about what Uber allows for them and their families.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work for Uber for a variety of reasons, including gaining a better understanding of where I truly belong and how I want my work life to feel. That was an invaluable lesson, even if was a painful process. Sometimes, yes, it’s important to stick with a position for your own professional growth; other times sticking with it just leads to suffering. Here's the truth: Some jobs fit your personality, and some don’t. Some company cultures fit you; some don’t.

I can’t tell anyone what to do; I can only offer up my perspective. I hope it was Uber helpful. ;)


Melanie is Director of Communications for OpiaTalk, the social shopping widget for retailers. OpiaTalk releases a time-sensitive promo on your site once a certain amount of visitors click, and also drives opted-in leads. Our latest client is seeing 19% conversions (nope, not a typo!). We call ourselves the hyper-conversion widget; check us out at or contact

And if you identify as a Millennial, I've got a quick 4-minute survey I'd love for you to take. If you do it, I'll be as happy as a teenage boy watching Anaconda.

Melanie welcomes connection of all types, including the LinkedIn variety:

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Want to work for a startup? Take a look at this very honest article. I love it, it puts everything in perspective. And yes, not all startups are alike.

Official AndreasCY's curator insight, September 2, 11:25 AM

An ex-employee on what it's really like to work for Uber:

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Startup Mentors — How Do You Filter Out The Good, The Bad And The Ugly? | TechCrunch

Startup Mentors — How Do You Filter Out The Good, The Bad And The Ugly? | TechCrunch | Competitive Edge |

In light of the recent brouhaha over the actions of a particular European investor who had a habit of attaching himself to accelerators as a ‘mentor’, it seems an appropriate time to do a quick rundown on the kinds of things entrepreneurs need to look for in genuine potential mentor to them and their companies. Because, in case you have been hiding under a rock, there a lot of new ’mentors’ flooding towards technology startups, and it would be good if everyone had a clear idea of how this relationship should play out.

I asked on Twitter and on Facebook for some fast feedback on this and got what I think is a pretty representative list of ideas around what due diligence you should do when looking for a mentor for your startup. (Apologies if I don’t name-check everyone who contributed, but to give you a flavour…)

Matt Clifford of Entrepreneur First, thinks there are three main issues.

Firstly, he says, “you can’t get a (good) mentor by asking someone to be your mentor.”

He says a lot of young entrepreneurs think they need a mentor, so they assume that they should go around asking for on. But, the “best mentor relationships seem to develop organically. The entrepreneur has a series of interactions with someone and after a while both sides realise they’re getting value from the conversations and – de facto – the person has become a mentor.”

Secondly, “asking good questions is the key to being a good mentee (but is hard work).” A question like “What should I do?” is way too vague. You’ll get the most out of mentors when you ask them real, important, very specific questions that provide a lot of context, says Clifford.

Thirdly, first-time founders usually “want the wrong mentors.” First timers picking a “celebrity mentor” or one who is far, far ahead, is often a bad idea and they are much better off with someone “two to five years ahead of them on a similar journey” says Clifford.

Most of the day-to-day challenges founders face are highly stage-specific, he says. Is this the right person to help you get your first 1,000 users, for instance? “Hire more sales people” is not really an answer, and someone who’s been in that same place very recently is usually better.

Startups can of course help themselves by clubbing together and sharing information on mentors. Perhaps write a notional “mentor spec”?

But still, the basic questions apply: what they’ve done or achieved besides mentoring and advising.

Entrepreneur Ian Broom tells me: “I get mentors to agree a contract, like a staff member, and set expectations. Especially if you’re offering equity, it’s crucial the mentor vests like everyone else.”

James Bromley of Swiftkey adds that you should ask for references. And are they “ground level practical”? Also check if the mentor is a frequent ‘conference bore’, rather than actually working.

Matthias Metternich of says you should check out the prospective mentor’s network and whether they’d be open to making relevant introductions to others. He also advises getting mentors who fulfil functional roles and who can go deep. “We have separate mentors for mobile, bus dev, branding, marketing, hiring, etc”

Mentors who are still “doers” are more valuable.

And keep them in the loop: “No one can mentor well without understanding what’s up – it’s a two-way street,” points out Metternich .

Russell Buckley, formerly of Admob now partner of Ballpark Ventures, says you shouldn’t over-pay mentors and Non-Execs, and wrote about here.

He agrees that vesting options along with other staff members means “you can fire people who don’t deliver to the stated expectations.”

“I’m also encouraging some of the companies I work with to set OKRs or KPIs (depending on the tools they use) for their Board and advisors. Not a popular idea with many Directors, but I would like to see it as normal. After all, most investor/directors sell themselves as adding value prior to the investment, so why not hold them accountable?”

Use tools to check out a mentor’s credentials and investments such as Companies House /

And looking through their AngelList, LinkedIn and Twitter / social profiles etc is an obvious move but sometimes forgotten.

Eileen Tso Burbidge of Passion Capital says if the mentor has written catchy blog posts that can even qualify as usefulness as a mentor.

Then there is Jason Lemkin’s 2.5x rule which is: “After 2 1/2 meetings, after 2 1/2 intros to VCs or potential VP hires, after 2 1/2 times they “help” … you need to “pay” or they go away. Until then, you don’t have to pay. And many people if they are interested in you will make a few connections and help for free. 2-3 times.”

The simplest way to pay mentors he says is to give them some stock options and if you can, let them invest in your seed, “A and B rounds IF they want to”. But, don’t connect the two. “The first is a (for now) unquantifiable “payment” for helping. The second is a “thank you”. Don’t confuse the two, but try to do both.”

Michael Geer, COO of Dream Industries in Moscow, emailed be a few choice thoughts. “Mentorship takes the perfect timing of the team looking for mentorship and the mentor actually having the bandwidth and desire to mentor. That is much harder to get when just one side reaches out.” He says it comes together roost naturally when his mentorships have “started from accelerators or classes I’ve taught.”

He notes a drawback: many teams are either not ready to listen or not at the right stage to actually action some mentors’ most valuable advice when one side or the other reaches out. “Of course, when the timing is right, both sides learn and gain a lot.”

But how do you avoid bad mentors?

Matt Clifford says: “This is a very effective way of avoiding bad mentors, especially financially motivated ones: they just won’t last out the repeated interactions.”

In other words, bad mentors don’t burnt out, they fade away…

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Stanford Professors Want To Teach You How To Scale Your Business Without Screwing It Up | TechCrunch

Stanford Professors Want To Teach You How To Scale Your Business Without Screwing It Up | TechCrunch | Competitive Edge |

After eight years of studying best practices for expanding a business, a pair of Stanford professors are scaling up the size of their classroom with their first foray into massive open online courses (MOOC).

Huggy Rao and Robert Sutton, the authors of “Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less,” will bring the lessons they learned from their research to the virtual classroom. When their five-week, free MOOC launches on Sept. 15, it will feature interviews with prominent investors like Ben Horowitz and Michael Dearing.

Normally Rao and Sutton teach the book in their executive education classrooms, but true to their research, they found the MOOC to be a scaling tool that could help them reach more readers.

“They can not only consume the book as in reading it, but more importantly they can actually apply it to their own venture or startup idea,” said Rao, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Sutton, a professor at the Stanford School of Engineering, said the pair has experience in teaching for-credit online courses in the past. He said this is most likely the only time that the course will be offered in the free MOOC format.

“It will particularly be helpful to entrepreneurs trying to scale their ventures [...] because when people think about scaling they think about the footprint,” Rao said. “The footprint won’t survive and it certainly won’t thrive unless you have a mindset to sustain it.

Because the course is a MOOC, it is open to everyone, but Rao and Sutton said fledgling entrepreneurs would benefit the most from the class. The course specifically focuses on what small ventures can do once they get funding and are looking to scale their businesses. In addition to offering advice from famous investors, Rao and Sutton will include interviews with successful entrepreneurs, including some who they used for their own research.

The course will include an interview with the founders of Pulse and an executive from Survey Monkey.

Sutton called the Pulse founders Ankit Gupta and Akshay Kothari “stars” of the scaling book, saying they told a story that gave him and Rao important perspective that they hope to share with the MOOC students. When Gupta and Kothari were scaling their business, they began to run into many more problems. They realized that by splitting into smaller subgroups and then reporting what each group did at the end of the day, they could be more effective and efficient.

“To us that’s a scaling problem that comes up quite frequently,” Sutton said. “It’s one that a lot of founders run into.”

When it comes to scaling a venture, Sutton said there should be three ideas that students take away from the course. The first is that it’s a process of both addition and subtraction.

“There’s always the stuff that’s getting in the way,” Sutton said.

The second is that there needs to be a combination of patience and impatience. Founders need to work aggressively everyday, but also be patient for the long-term awards that work will bring. The third lesson is what Sutton calls “the grass is browner problem,” which means scaling startups is more messy than stories and research after the fact would lead you to believe.

“Scaling requires that you drop your tools and develop new tools,” Rao said.

“What got you there won’t get you to the next level,” Sutton added.

Students must register for the course by Sept. 12.

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Box, Dropbox and Hightail Pivot to New Business Models

Box, Dropbox and Hightail Pivot to New Business Models | Competitive Edge |

Box, Dropbox and Hightail are rethinking their core business models, focusing on specific industries or bolstering customer service.

SAN FRANCISCO — Nothing concentrates minds at a tech start-up like living in the middle of a price war between Amazon and Google.

Just ask executives at companies like Box, Dropbox and Hightail. They pioneered a new kind of Internet service that allows people and companies to store all kinds of electronic files in an easy-to-use online locker. But as often happens, the much bigger companies liked the idea so much they decided to do the same thing — at a much lower price.

“These guys will drive prices to zero,” said Aaron Levie, co-founder and chief executive of Box. “You do not want to wait for Google or Amazon to keep cutting prices on you. ‘Free’ is not a business model.”

So how do you avoid free? Box is trying to cater to special data storage needs, like digital versions of X-rays for health care companies and other tasks specific to different kinds of customers. Hightail is trying to do something similar for customers like law firms. And Dropbox? It is trying to make sure that its consumer-minded service stays easier to use than what the big guys provide.

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“It’s very tough just to be in the storage business,” said Brad Garlinghouse, the chief executive of Hightail. “We don’t think that is what we’re selling anymore.”

In the tech industry, they call this sort of reinvention of the core business model a “pivot.” Another way to describe it is a fight for survival.

Box, founded in 2005, has attracted $512 million in investment, and in March it filed papers for an initial public offering of stock. In July, the company said it had 39,000 businesses paying $15 to $35 a month a user. It is hard to know how many people that is, since some businesses have just a couple of people, and others include General Electric and Eli Lilly.

Dropbox has 300 million customers worldwide and actually runs inside Amazon Web Services, as do parts of Box. Many Dropbox customers pay nothing and get two gigabytes of storage capacity a month, the equivalent of 1,000 books or seven minutes of high-definition television. A version for $10 a month offers 100 gigabytes.

Hightail, which used to be called YouSendIt, says it has over a half-million business customers paying $25 a month or more, depending on the features chosen.

“There’s a place for all of them,” said Amita Potnis, an analyst at IDC. “Amazon’s focus is really computing itself. The smaller ones have to focus on ways businesses actually use it.” For example, she said, the services can help companies collaborate with each other online instead of sending emails back and forth with attachments.

While devices and apps get most of the attention, data storage is every bit as important, particularly as objects like phones, tablets, cars and thermostats become appendages of the Internet. Throw in trends like collaboration and big data analysis, and all those bits of data become more dynamic than something in a file cabinet. They are fluid and being entered and retrieved from many points.

Managing all that data should be a good business.

The problem for everyone is price. Amazon and Google have for years decimated competition in their respective fields of Internet advertising and retail. As the two companies move to dominate cloud computing, including online storage, they are turning that relentlessness on each other.

In March, Google celebrated the unification of several cloud computing services with price cuts of 68 percent for most customers, to 2.6 cents a gigabyte a month, about one-quarter the price of Dropbox’s premium consumer service.

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Amazon’s Web Services, which had cut prices at least four times since 2008, responded with cuts of its own, including one cut to 2.75 cents a gigabyte for large amounts of storage, and just a penny a month for data used less frequently. It has made further price cuts on other types of storage since then. Many expect Microsoft, which runs its own big cloud business, called Azure, to follow with similar cuts.

Even by the standards of computing, where services seem almost invariably to become cheaper and faster, storage prices have had an exceptional fall. The first gigabyte storage device in 1980 typically cost $120,000 and weighed 550 pounds. Amazon’s cloud-based storage might cost 12 cents a year.

None of the smaller online storage companies doubt that Amazon and Google can make seemingly impossible pricing moves. Both companies also have a scale that means even the tiniest profit can be huge. A.W.S. brags that almost all of Netflix, and Amazon itself, is inside its cloud, along with hundreds of other substantial companies.

Apple’s iCloud storage service and other parts of Apple, along with operations at several large banks, run inside A.W.S., say people familiar with the service who spoke on the condition they not be named so they could sustain relations with the powerful cloud company.

Amazon would not comment on confidential customer agreements. An Apple spokesman noted that Apple had its own data centers in four locations in the United States and said that “the vast majority” of data in services like iTunes, Maps and the App Store ran on its own computers. Apple uses other facilities as well, he said.

Google does not have anything like the Amazon customer list, but its computer network is probably the largest corporate network in the world. It includes custom-made computing and power systems and several thousand engineers to keep it running. According to one person with knowledge of the system, Google spends about $2 billion a quarter on its computing infrastructure.

Google would not comment on its costs. In an email, Tom Kershaw, a product manager for Google’s cloud service, predicted more cost-cutting. “As more customers store more information, for longer, we’re able to make gains in efficiency and pass these savings along to the customer.”

Both Box and Hightail now say they assume that they will offer customers unlimited storage free and push their costs into the prices they charge for other services. “At this point, it’s better just to say ‘unlimited,’ ” Mr. Levie said. “The thing to do is take into account why someone is storing something online and what their needs are.”

Box has hired people with specialties in health care, media and entertainment, hospitality and retailing. Dropbox still has supposed limits on storage in its business offering, but they start at a terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, and customers can upgrade from there with seemingly no fee.

This niche approach could work, provided the big companies do not go after these industry-specific storage markets or build more consumer-focused service offerings. Mr. Levie said he thought that was unlikely. “No one is going to build Google Health Care,” he said.

Google’s Mr. Kershaw differed. “Industry-specific solutions are the wave of the future and a key part of what Google is building for our customers,” he said.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Coming up with a great idea in the tech world and putting it out is not a direct road to success anymore. Companies, even successful ones, need to adjust, pivot, and compete with corporations like Google and Amazon. Not an easy task. Complex world.

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10 Things Great Talent Always Does

10 Things Great Talent Always Does | Competitive Edge |
Recruiting top performers for your company can multiply its success.

Finding amazing talent is a tricky process. Making talent recruitment a top priority can multiply the success of an organization.

To recognize great talent, hiring managers can look for the following signs instead of paying attention only to resumes and cover letters.

Here are 10 things people possessing great talent always do:

1. They talk about their long-term goals.

Talented candidates aren’t afraid of their future. In fact, they’re excited about their career and what’s in store.

Ask candidates about their long-term goals during a job interview. Those with great talent will talk about their prospective future with the company and what they plan to accomplish if hired.

2. They’re resourceful and prepared for anything.

Great talent is prepared for any situation. The ability to think and act on the spot is a quality few people have.

People with top-notch talent know their resume inside and out, have their portfolio ready and can answer interview questions without stumbling over their thoughts.

3. They display confidence in any situation.

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance when identifying top talent. Confident individuals, however, can handle any situation and accept the reality that it’s OK to be wrong.

During the interview, ask candidates about their weaknesses. Look for a candidate who can confidently speak about weaknesses and explain the lessons they have learned.

4. They market their versatility.

Individuals who are truly talented possess a wide range of skills and can transfer them to different roles and succeed.

Ask candidates about a time when they had to try something new or apply their skills in an unusual situation. A good candidate will be able to share an experience or two.

5. They prioritize results.

Talented people care about results. They have a burning passion to accomplish their goals, both in their personal life or career.

Those who possess top talent will talk about what they want to accomplish once hired without the interviewer having to ask.

6. They ask smart questions.

Bright individuals are curious people. Because of this, they’ll ask questions to learn more about an organization and how it functions.

During the interview, a talented candidate will ask questions about what he or she is expected to accomplish if hired. They will inquire about the attributes of the top performers at the company and about what it takes to drive results.

7. They’re extremely flexible.

Many organizations continuously update their goals and implement new strategies. Top talent can adjust to such changes without becoming derailed from success.

Ask candidates about a time when they had to quickly adapt to a new situation and what happened.

8. They’re comfortable with taking risks.

Risk taking is involved at any business. Talented people aren’t afraid of pushing the envelope to discover new ideas.

Ask candidates about a time where they had to take a risk. Their response should provide enough insight about whether they can take big enough risks.

9. They bring passion to the position and organization.

This might seem like a cliché, but passion is a quality that sets apart those with great talent from lackluster candidates.

When a talented person is passionate about what he or she does, that individual is not afraid to tell a prospective employer. In fact, when someone is truly passionate, a hiring manager can see it in the individual's personality and previous experience.

10. They communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders.

Strong communicators have the ability to take organizations to the next level.

When speaking to candidates over the phone or in person or exchanging emails, pay close attention to how they communicate. This gives employers a better indication of their communication skills.

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20 Signs You’re Succeeding In Life Even If You Don’t Feel You Are

20 Signs You’re Succeeding In Life Even If You Don’t Feel You Are | Competitive Edge |
Do you feel like a failure sometimes? Don't worry, here are 20 signs that you are probably succeeding a lot more than you think you are.

We all feel like failures from time to time. While this is a normal feeling, you have to find a way to see yourself and your life from a different perspective. Sometimes we ignore the “little things.” Just because you are not a millionaire, don’t live in a mansion, and you don’t drive a fancy car, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

Here are 20 signs that you are succeeding in life:

1. Your relationships are less dramatic than they used to be.

Drama is not maturity. As we age, we should develop maturity. So maybe your relationships were drama-filled in your past, but if you have moved beyond that, then you are successful.

2. You are not afraid to ask for help and support any more.

Asking for help does not equal weakness. In fact, it is a strength. No person has ever succeeded in isolation. It takes teamwork to accomplish goals.

3. You have raised your standards.

You don’t tolerate bad behavior any more – from other people, or even yourself. You hold people accountable for their actions. You don’t spend time with the “energy vampires” in your life anymore.

4. You let go of things that don’t make you feel good.

No, this is not narcissistic even though it might seem like it. Self-love is success. Love yourself enough to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t make you happy, doesn’t serve your purpose, or drags you down.

5. You have moments where you appreciate who you see in the mirror.

Ideally, you should appreciate who you see in the mirror at every moment. But even if that doesn’t happen, if you do it more than you used to, then that is success. Love yourself. You are awesome.

6. You have learned that setbacks and failureare part of self-growth.

Not everyone can have success 100% of the time. That’s just not realistic. Life is about victories and losses. So look at your setbacks as stepping stones to something better. In reality, there really is no such thing as as setback. It’s all just part of a wondrous journey.

7. You have a support system that includes people who would do anything for you.

If you have figured out the people who “have your back” and recognized the ones who only pretend that they do, then you have succeeded. This is a painful realization, but once you learn to see the signs of betrayal, you can stay away from those people.

8. You don’t complain much.

Because you know there really is nothing to complain about. Unless you really have gone through some horrific life experience and had unimaginable losses, most of what we all experience on a day-to-day basis is just mundane. And successful people know that. And they live in a space of gratitude.

9. You can celebrate others’ successes.

Just because other people succeed, that doesn’t make you a failure. Applaud the people who rise to the top. The more positive energy you give to other people’s victories, the more you will create your own.

10. You have passions that you pursue.

You are not stagnant. You know you have something wonderful to contribute to the world. You have unique talents and gifts. Not only do you know that, you pursue it.

11. You have things to look forward to.

If you don’t have exciting things going on in your life that you are eagerly anticipating, then you are slowly dying inside. Successful people create goals that they are passionate about pursuing. They let this excitement drive their life.

12. You have goals that have come true.

Even though “failures” are a part of life, you have stuck to your goals and dreams long enough to make them come to fruition. You have  some tastes of victory. It fuels you.

13. You have empathy for others.

A person without empathy is dead inside. Empathy equals spreading love and positive energy into the world. Successful people know this. They love others as if they are family.

14. You love deeply and open yourself up to be loved by others.

Love is risky, and sometimes scary for people. It’s the one thing we all strive for, but it’s also intimately tied to the one thing we fear the most – rejection. If you open your heart enough to love and be loved, then you are successful.

15. You refuse to be be a victim.

You know that life doesn’t always happen to you. Many times, you are a co-creator of your life experiences. Successful people know this and refuse to be kept down by life experiences. The rise up and conquer anyway.

16. You don’t care what other people think.

You know you can’t please everyone. You know that the standards with which society judges people is many times unrealistic. So you just keep true to yourself and love the person you are.

17. You always look on the bright side.

Life can be full of disappointments – if you choose to see them that way. Otherwise, they are learning opportunities. No negative experience is ever wasted as long as you learn from it.

18. You accept what you can’t change.

Let’s face it – there many things you can’t change in life. All you can change is how you view what happens. If you can change your negative perspective on situations to a positive one, then you are successful.

19. You change what you can.

And let’s face it again – there are many things you can change in life. Successful people don’t sit around accepting the negatives that are changeable. They get out there and do something about it!!

20. You are happy.

To me, this is the ultimate definition of success. It doesn’t matter what the balance is in your bank account, how big your house is,  or how many fancy vacations you take. If you are happy, then you are succeeding in life.

Even if you don’t see yourself in many of these 20 things, don’t fret. It’s okay. Be happy that you see yourself in just a few. In time, the rest will come. You just need to keep moving onward and upward.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Very often things like 'feeling good', 'being healthy', 'being happy', are not very obvious, or are just there when there are no negative symptoms or pain. You function and move ahead and focus. It's only when we're out of 'sync' that we become aware of our situation.

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Add Value or Someone Else Will

Add Value or Someone Else Will | Competitive Edge |

The lure of maximising profits at the cost of creating customer value can be devastating in the long term.

In 2006, I moved to Mumbai and as soon as I landed, I looked for a taxi. A smiling taxi driver came up to me and asked me where I wanted to go. When I told him my location, his smile vanished. He was almost leaving when he stopped and asked me if I would be willing to pay Rs350, the fare for a long distance (and more profitable for him) carriage.

‘But I will pay by the meter? That is why you have it? Isn’t it?’ I said, irritated at the attempt to hustle me. The cabbie left without even arguing. I took the next taxi and paid Rs350 when I should have paid Rs100.

Even afterwards, the taxi experience annoyed me. Faulty meters, smelly interiors, no air-conditioning, bad maintenance and a jerky ride that tossed you back and forth every time the brakes were applied.

Everyone wants to grow. Therefore, the taxi driver’s inclination to increase profit cannot be frowned upon. However, he should have known that increasing profits without increasing value is a short-term high and, much like narcotics, can be devastating in the long term. 

Short-term gain, long-term pain

While taxi drivers continued to increase their profit through various means, the value delivered to the customer diminished. The void between price charged and value delivered expanded.

Then, in 2007, a new taxi service came and happily filled the void. While, the fare was about 20% higher, the value delivered was vastly superior.

Proper meters, clean interiors, well maintained vehicles, effective air-conditioning and most importantly, the taxi never refused to go where you wanted to go. In fact, the system remembered your most-frequented destinations saving you time reciting addresses repeatedly.

All in all, you could book a taxi in an instant and get transported to your destination comfortably, in time, and without looking like a zoo animal.

If you are not providing value, someone else will. Today, the old taxi service is without options except to ask the government for concessions. The new tax service, meanwhile, continues to grow. Now, it operates thousands of taxis and has spread across many cities of India. This reminded me of a parable I used in a training program.

The coal merchant

There once lived a coal merchant who had a shop in a village. Every day, the coal merchant would purchase coal from his suppliers at Rs100 and sell at Rs150, making a profit of Rs50. He wanted to grow and was impatient to increase his profits.

One day, an old friend stopped at his shop and made him an extraordinary offer: ‘I will sell you coal at Rs50’, he said.

Unable to conceal his excitement, the merchant asked him ‘How will you do it? The market rate is Rs100, why are you selling at Rs50?’

The friend looked around to make sure that no one was listening, he bent closer to the merchant and whispered in his ears: ‘this coal is very low quality but your customers wouldn’t know. They are little black rocks after all’

After seeing his friend off and tempted at the additional profit that he could generate, the merchant turned to his father.

‘The objective of business is to make profit, isn’t it?’ he asked his father.

‘Sure’ his father answered.

‘…and to grow your business, you need to make more and more profit’ he said further.

‘Yes’ said the father.

‘My friend is going to supply me coal at half the price. It is low quality coal but it will double our profit’ said the son, ‘I am confused. Is it dishonesty to try and increase your profit? We are not here to do charity either, are we?’

‘No, you are right, we are not here to do charity. We run business and profit is our right. But, What is the customers right?’ asked his father.

‘To get coal’ said the son.

‘Not just that. It is to get the benefit of the coal. They pay so that they can burn this coal and use that energy to make their lunch’ said the father, ‘right now, you are extracting the price for the coal and delivering the benefit of the coal to the customer. If you buy the bad quality coal, you are still extracting the price but are you delivering the benefit? Will the customer, after buying the bad quality coal, get the energy that they paid for?’

‘That is dis-honesty son. Seeking to exert your right and ignoring the customer’s right. Seeking to create profits without delivering the benefits.'

The lesson from the story is simple. There is no right to profit greater than the obligation to provide value.

Companies must never forget that their customers are under no obligation to part with a greater amount of their spending, just so they can show up on the Fortune 500. Their growth must be with the customers, not despite them. The Mumbai taxi service is a case in point.

Add value

This could appear to be a fight between large corporate structures and small mom-and-pop structures. Seeing it like that is a fallacy.

Looking at the retail sector in India, the biggest organised retail chains have had to face defeat at the hands of small neighbourhood retailers in numerous cases. The reason: convenience and personalised service. The neighbourhood retailer knows you by name even though he ensures that you never have to travel to his shop. His delivery person comes every day to your house, sometimes even for small (unviable) orders. The retailer celebrates festivals with you, congratulates you on your achievements, and participates in your sorrow, makes small talk with you about the upcoming cricket match and gives you credit (without filling up a form!). Clearly, there is a relationship that is more valuable to the customer than the lower price or choice that a supermarket offers.

The only fight here is to create value for the customer, in some way, whatever way. Bigger is not better. Focussed is better. There is always some value that you can add. Where there is a will to create value, there are many ways, and not all require you to be a large corporation willing to make million dollar investments.  

Large corporations and entrepreneurs, all want to grow and increase their profits. However, trying to increase profits without increasing value delivered to the customers is not only unfair, it is just bad business.

Venugopal Gupta is the founder of The Business Parables, a firm that helps organisations communicate goals and outcomes using the power of short stories. You can follow him on Twitter @venugopal_gupta.

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Via Kenneth Mikkelsen, Pascale Mousset, malek
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Nice stories. Always keep 'adding value' in mind when running a business. It will pay off in the end.

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Why Some Startups Die: The Case Of Earbits

Why Some Startups Die: The Case Of Earbits | Competitive Edge |
So many of America’s biggest ideas come from startups, but they’re brought to us by understaffed, underfunded, and oftentimes underqualified individuals who nevertheless want to change the world. Unfortunately, reality is often the enemy of startup culture.

It might seem strange that so many of America’s biggest ideas come from startups; they’re brought to us by understaffed, underfunded, and oftentimes underqualified individuals who nevertheless want to change the world.

Unfortunately, reality is often the enemy of startup culture. While we regularly hear about startups being bought by monolithic corporations, many more fade into obscurity. Lesser-known startups like Earbits, which you’ll hear more about in a bit, along with more famous cases like Aereo and MoneyParking, have helped to create a sort of business singularity: a thrilling glimpse into the uncharted future where all bets are off.

Of course, carrying out the postmortem after the dust settles from the latest startup implosion – where those involved attempt to diagnose the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again – is far from an exact science.

Sometimes There’s A Second Chance

One startup that caught my eye recently was Earbits, a music streaming service from Los Angeles. I wondered from the start whether they had what it took to compete with the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and Beats –until I realized it was meant for a different purpose.

Earbits has, as CEO Joey Flores puts it, “seen [their] share of ups and downs.” He met future Earbits co-founder Yotam Rosenbaum in 2005, though the company wouldn’t be officially founded until 2010. After securing funding to the tune of $1.7 million from Y Combinator and other investors, it seemed like the future was looking bright. With some much-needed funding finally coming their way, Earbits could concentrate on establishing their brand, building their websites, and deploying their mobile apps.

But then, by June of 2014, they’d run out of money. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Earbits’ financial standing forced Flores and his inner circle to prepare for the end. Says Flores: “We shut down and our mobile apps. It was probably the most miserable event of my life.” The death of Earbits took only three days.

I asked Mr. Flores why his company ran out of money, to which he answered: “The truth is that just wasn’t enough to pursue this vision properly. We definitely made some mistakes, including taking on too many products – web, iPhone, Android – and more. But I don’t think those mistakes are why we ran out of money. I think not having enough money is why we ran out of money.”

Indeed, Earbits likely bit off just a bit more than it could chew. For my part, I was rather surprised to find that they’d invested in an app for the Roku – a platform that even the venerable Spotify doesn’t seem to take seriously; their app is in desperate need of a visual refresh and lacks some of the more important features of the service. The Earbits app, on the other hand, is rather well polished.

After what I’ll call “excessive ambition” brought them to the brink of ruination, the company received an 11th hour pardon: “The next day, we received a call from a strategic partner with an offer to breathe life back into the company. Within 48 hours of the shutdown, the sites were back on and we were discussing plans to open a new office and start staffing up. One of our investors labeled us ‘the startup that wouldn’t die,’ and another said, ‘Wow. I’ll file this one under ‘You can’t make this stuff up.’”

What makes the Earbits story interesting is that this isn’t just another Spotify clone trying and failing to distinguish themselves from a crowded field of competitors; Mr. Flores himself wrote a lengthy essay about the “flavor of the month syndrome” that plagues music startups. Instead, the idea for Earbits came about after Mr. Flores and Mr. Rosenbaum spent $20,000 marketing an album of their own.

In an interview with The Startup Foundry, Mr. Flores said: “We realized that for all the buzz about how easy it is to be a musician in the age of the Internet, all of the services out there either help you sell products to fans you don’t really have, or claim to help you get fans but they really just rely on you to spam Twitter.”

Instead, Earbits positioned itself as a service to help users discover and connect in a meaningful way with great unsigned artists – something that Earbits’ closest competitors struggle with. It’s a streaming service where the focus is very much on the human element.

But sometimes, no matter how great the idea might be, the money just runs out.

Not Yours To Sell
The Earbits business model is not unusual: they’re one of countless other ventures that make their living distributing something that somebody else created. The music industry has become a bit of a lightning rod for questions about ownership and fair use, but such questions seem to appear just about everywhere these days, as was the case with Aereo.

The company set out to change the way people watch TV, and instead found themselves in startup purgatory. Aereo’s plan was to provide quarter-sized antennas to their customers, which would have provided access to over-the-air TV broadcasts. This is no different from buying any one of the dozens of over-the-air TV antennas currently available from most electronics retailers.

That fact was lost on the Supreme Court. If you’ve followed Aereo’s well-publicized court case, you may have come across some choice comments from the Justices, like this one from Sonia Sotomayor: “It’s not logical to me that you can make these millions of copies and essentially sell them to the public.”

Justice Sotomayor’s comment would be on-point if this was 1999 and she was talking about Napster. In fact, she and the other justices continually referenced non-existent technologies like “Netflick” and “iDrop in the Cloud” throughout the oral arguments phase of the hearing. One might say that mild ignorance is what sunk the good ship Aereo.

Aereo is now hard at work reinventing themselves as an online cable provider – a course of action, ironically, made possible by the court’s ruling. For the time being, though, Aereo and its grand vision of the future is dead in the water.

This has been a familiar story lately. A number of other startups faced difficulties recently when they came up against questions of fair use. One such company is MoneyParking, which set out to help commuters find parking spots in San Francisco – and pay for the privilege. MoneyParking users usually pay anywhere from $5 to $15 for information about an available spot.

It didn’t take long for the San Francisco attorney’s office to order the company to cease its operations, citing local laws that forbid residents from buying or selling public facilities. The company resisted at first, but eventually relented and put their service on indefinite hiatus. On their blog, the MoneyParking team indicated that they were looking for legal ways to get their app up and running again.

It would be easy to learn the wrong lessons from the stories of these three companies. A timid entrepreneur watching for the fallout might decide that inventing something outright is the safer bet than selling access to an existing product. But then we might not have Netflix. Or Amazon. Or hundreds of other companies that have irrevocably changed our lives.

Businessmen As Martyrs?

Things are finally looking up for Joey Flores and Earbits, though the real test for the company, having come so close to ruination, is whether they’ve learned from the experience.

In the short time I was able to speak with him, Mr. Flores seemed exceedingly confident, saying that the company was in full rebound mode after their brush with death in June. Now that they’ve secured additional funding, he says they’re already “discussing plans to open a new office and start staffing up.” One has to hope that they’re taking things more slowly this time; “living within your means” is pretty definitely one of the major tenets of building a company.

Regrettably, for Mr. Flores and others like him, there seems to be no silver bullet when it comes to predicting the success or failure of a startup, which probably accounts for the fact that roughly 80% of new businesses fail within the first year and a half.

So the graveyard of failed startups only continues to grow. But how does one categorize these failures? To begin with, startups seem to come in two varieties: those that seek to capitalize on an emerging trend and fail because they were late to the party, and those who want to change something for the better and fail because they’re ahead of their time. You can decide for yourself which category Earbits, Aereo, and MoneyParking fall into.

What the future holds for these three companies is anything but certain, but it’s become clear for the average consumer that startup culture has become almost as thrilling and potentially disappointing to watch as it must be to take part in.

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