Software Experts Advise Startup CEOs to Build those Ecosystems

Facebook recently announced it was buying WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion. WhatsApp is valuable because it has 450 million users and is adding one million new ones per day according to the company.

The app allows people to send each other text and photo messages via the Internet, and will help Facebook grow stronger in the mobile market. A Time article described the deal as “epic” due to the humongous price paid.

Many billion dollar companies have blossomed recently because their apps have been adopted by a huge amount of people.  

And when an app becomes very popular, it can turn into a platform. Facebook, Salesforce.com and Twitter are all platform companies. Other companies make apps that work with them, making them even more popular and innovative.

Developing, building the ecosystem for and monetizing apps and platforms were topics discussed at the SVForum event “Apps to Platforms” Thursday, February 20th, at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose.

About 150 people made up mostly software start-up founders and developer relations executives from large companies like Dell, IBM, Google and Microsoft, and a few consultants like me attended.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed gave the opening remarks, stating more than once that San Jose is the capital of the Silicon Valley. To me, the Silicon Valley is mostly the South Bay and San Jose is the largest city here so I agree with him. Sorry, San Francisco.

Here are some of the other comments from the panelist and keynote speakers.

In the first panel, Adrian Cockcroft, technical fellow, Battery Ventures and Netflix’s former cloud architect said, “There are three questions to ask when developing a killer app. They are, ‘Is it easy to use? How will it spread, and how do you monetize it?’”

Randy Heffner, vice president, Forrester Research says that the granddaddy of APIs, which are tools that help the software programs talk to eachother, Amazon.com took off because it opened its API to mom and pop and boutique websites and blogs. He emphasized the link between APIs and the concept of the internet of things, or how many automated things in our lives are connected.

However, Heidi Williams, director of platform engineering at Box, cautioned, “If you give people all the control in the world, it can lock you in later.” She added that Box’s platform strategy is to build, distribute and monetize.

Saad Khan, Partner, CMEA Capital, who started as an intern at IBM alphaWorks team in the late 90s when I was also working at Big Blue, elaborated on the importance of connecting the software dots. “We’re going to an automated world where everything is modular and connected,” said Khan.

Image

Another keynote speaker stressed the importance of ecosystem in creating innovation. “A platform is a lot more powerful when you can get someone else to build it,” added Matt Thompson, general manager, developers and platforms, Microsoft.

John Wolport, IBM’s Seeker of Awesomeness (his actual title), and creator of its unique Extreme Blue internal incubator program says that a company like Big Blue adds integrity and helps with partner engagement.

ImageAn audience member asked him, “How can start-up founders and big company workers get along? Their situations are so different.”

Wolport said that there are a lot of entrepreneurs within IBM they are not so different after all.

John Sheehan, CEO, Runscope, stressed the importance of platforms saying simply, “They bring you an audience.” Sheehan used to work for Twilio, which started as platform which is uncommon.

Image

SVForum is an organization that fosters networking and best practices among members of the technology startup community. The group recently moved its office to San Jose from the North Bay. Its new CEO is Ms. Adiba Barney. @SVForum on Twitter.

###

Michelle McIntyre is a public relations consultant, executive member of TEDxSanJoseCA, director with the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, and an IBM vet. @FromMichelle on Twitter

The photos were taken by Michelle McIntyre. They are of, in this order, Saad Khan, Partner, CMEA Capital; John Wolport of IBM; and project managers at the uTest booth.

Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Rock Stars on the Next Big Thing in Technology

On Monday January 27, three seasoned entrepreneur rock stars manned the panel chairs at an SVForum event at IBM in Foster City, Calif., giving several dozen early stage start-up founders advice on the dos and don’ts of successfully getting their tech businesses off the ground.
Image
 
The event “The New Venture in 2014 – Choosing the Right Idea, Building the Team, and Getting the Venture Started” was moderated by John Lee, vice president, Silicon Valley Bank.
 
The software-savvy panel included Spreecast CEO and founder of StubHub Jeff Fluhr, Couchbase CEO Bob Wiederhold who was at the helm of Transitive when it was sold to IBM, and Ullas Naik, founder of Streamlined VenturesNaik is a seed stage angel investor whose various firms have backed 200 technology start-ups. Fifty are currently active investments.
 
The three generally agreed that Silicon Valley is the best place to start a technology company because it’s so entrepreneur-friendly.
 
“The technology ecosystem is robust in the Silicon Valley. Your management team should be based here. The way to think about it is if you want to make movies, you move to Los Angeles, not St. Louis,” said Naik.
 
They also said to choose a co-founder whom you know well and that a company’s strategic advisors should receive some sort of equity in order to be truly useful and not just a bunch of impressive names and photos on the website.
 
The panelists had strong opinions on recruiting co-founders. Fluhr said that he founded StubHub with a former Stanford B-school classmate. He added, “It is best if you have known someone a long time, so choose a friend you have worked with before or know from school.” 
 
Naik said, “I typically don’t invest in companies that have related co-founders, for example brothers or husband and wife. I also don’t like to invest in solo founders. There is too much to do. Co-founders who have just met three months ago are also red flag.”
 
He admitted that there are exceptions to the rule, for example, Cisco was founded by a husband and wife team. 
 
An audience member asked the panelists to comment on the next big thing in technology.

Jeff Fluhr said Bitcoin, the alternative form of currency was intriguing.
 
Database company CEO Bob Wiederhold said Big Data and the Internet of Things are important in his market and driving a lot of investments.
Image
Ullas Naik added that data and what people are doing with it as well as wearables are the next big things in technology. Naik also said, “I believe that an alternative form of currency will be big, but not Bitcoin.”
 
If you are interested in getting more hot tips from top technology company founders and investors, SVForum invites you to attend the APPs to Platforms event in in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 20. Register at svforum.org. The all-day event is priced at under $200.
 
Follow SVForum on Twitter @SVForum.
###
Michelle McIntyre is a tech PR consultant with 10 awards for outstanding results at top PR agencies and Fortune 500 companies. She’s a director with Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team at TEDxSanJoseCa. She’s @FromMichelle on Twitter
 

Photo 1: Jeff Fluhr
Photo 2: Bob Wiederhold

Do You Charge for an e-Book?

By Michelle McIntyre

Oakland-based business coach for midlife entrepreneurs, Dina Eisenberg recently spoke to my Women in Consulting (WIC) group in Los Gatos last week about how to kick start an information product or “infoproduct” business.

Image

An information product is any product or service that you can sell to people to provide them with information. It includes e-books, books, audios, CDs, DVDs, seminars, videos, tele-seminars and more.

Because the event description mentioned her law degree and creating a “passive income,” I was expecting tips on self-employed (S.E.) IRAs and 401Ks. I had just set up a S.E. 401K so I figured it will probably be redundant to what I already just learned after spending hours with a Fidelity representative to set up my own plan. I went to the meeting anyway for the networking. 

 I was pleasantly surprised when Eisenberg started talking though.  

What it was really about was creating sustainable income to make, what Eisenberg calls “a cushion for life’s bumps.”  Consultants and entrepreneurs who are typically actively involved in delivering their service benefit from creating passive income streams that work, even when they cannot.

A self-proclaimed “information product junkie,” Eisenberg has also produced a range of products from online courses to retreats and subscription programs.

She said she it all started when her husband, whom she considers a successful entrepreneur just like herself, went on disability for two years due to a medical issue that has since mostly gone away. He was her fiancé at the time.

She shared her tactics with the consultants, many of whom had created their own infoproducts. Several consultants had their products on hand and the talk turned into a brainstorm and information share of sorts instead of just a presentation.

Two of her messages stuck in my mind.

First, start charging!  Yes, the internet is awash in free material however, people will pay for the exact right product that solves their specific problem at that time. Don’t assume you have to start with free.

Second, ask first.  The difference between a profitable infoproduct and one that flops is research.  Search Linkedin threads and comments for a wealth of topic ideas for your information product.

To learn more about Dina Eisenberg, visit her website at http://infoproductdoctor.com/.

Here are related Twitter handles.

WIC: @WIConsult

Dina Eisenberg: @DinaEisenberg

The author of this post: @FromMichelle


###
Michelle McIntyre is a blogger and high tech PR consultant based in Saratoga, Calif. She’s also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA.

 

15 Tips to Become a more Effective Entrepreneur

by Michelle McIntyre

 

Late last year, my Silicon Valley entrepreneur meet-up group gathered for a breakfast networking session. During the event, participants shared answers to two questions posed by Host Sean Murphy.

 

 

 

Image

 

He asked, “What have you learned in 2013 that will make you more effective as an entrepreneur in 2014?” He added, “What will you stop doing to make time for it?”

 

There was a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in the room and I found the 15 tips quite valuable. Here they are.

 

1. Be more patient.
2. Fail faster.
3. Focus early on value proposition, less on technical implementation.
4. Drop less important details.
5. Hire more carefully. Fire faster.
6. Stop coding so much. Spend more time on sales. (Several attendees were software developers.)
7. Delegate more and more effectively.
8. Always build a simpler product than you first dreamed of.
9. Network more. Listen more.
10. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
11. Plan more. It’s really hard to recover wasted hours.
12. Take more time to listen.
13. More focus on time management and effective action.
14. Concentrate on one line of business. Focus for effect.
15. Build on strengths.

 

Thank you, Sean Murphy, for sharing your meeting notes with me for this article.

 

 ###

 

Michelle McIntyre, a high tech press relations consultant in Saratoga, Calif., is on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA and the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators. 

 

 

10 Tips on Podcasting from the Host of Amateur Traveler

Chris Christensen, San Francisco Bay Area resident and co-founder of a new website called Blogger Bridge which connects bloggers to people who want to hire them just spoke to my entrepreneurs Meetup group in Sunnyvale about how to build your reputation through podcasting.

He also owns and runs AmateurTraveler.com which is a popular online travel show (more than a million downloads a year) that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. Here’s a sample episode. This particular one is called “Travel to Morocco: Episode 397.”

http://africa.amateurtraveler.com/travel-morocco-travel-podcast/

Image

A podcast is a show on any topic in audio or video format that is an attachment to a blog through an RSS feed.

Christensen says podcasting is a great way to build your brand. Here are 10 tips on podcasting from his talk:

1. Podcasting is in style again mostly due to the growth of mobile. After a relatively quiet period of a few short years, podcasting is hot again. People listen to or watch broadcasts on the go while walking the dog, driving or exercising through smartphones or other mobile devices.

2. Podcast consumption is stronger in audio. Audio files sizes are smaller and they are more easily consumed on the go, for example, while driving. It’s hard and of course illegal to watch a video while driving.

3. Microphones popular with podcasters range in price from around $100 to $350.  Styles include larger ones that stand by themselves, smaller ones that you hold in your hand and teeny tiny ones that are designed to hook up to a smartphone. Christensen likes the Blue Yeti brand the best.

4. Podcasting is a very personal medium. People may act they you are old friends when you first meet them.

5. Podcasting is not great for immediate response marketing, for example, if you need someone to click on something or take a fast action. Christensen likes evergreen content the best but also says that news shows can be popular too.

6. Podcasting is great for building a reputation or brand. This is because if done right, podcasting can establish you as an expert.

7. Roundtable discussions through Google Hangouts are becoming all the rage now. Link your Hangout account to your YouTube account and the session can be recorded for re-play.

8. Not all podcasts need to be edited. If you do need to edit, Christensen recommends Garage Band available on the Mac and Audacity.

9. You can just post your podcast on your own blog or syndicate.  Christensen recommends sites like Libsyn.com or Rawvoice.com for syndication.

10. Allow up to eight hours to plan, finish and promote one podcast.  Christensen’s “feature-length” travel podcast takes eight hours. A non-edited show takes two to three times the length of the show. A scripted show takes more time. An edited show takes Christensen about an hour per 10 minutes of audio to edit.

In case you are wondering, Christensen is highly envied by the other entrepreneurs in our meet-up group because he actually gets all expenses paid trips around the globe due to the large following of his travel website. Way to go, Chris!

###

Michelle McIntyre is a high tech public relations consultant in Saratoga, Calif., who also blogs for several West Silicon Valley Patch news sites.  Her website is http://www.michellemcintyrecommunications.com

Her Twitter handle is @FromMichelle

Photo credit (camel): iStockPhoto.com

A Shocking Statistic about Millennials and Digital Shopping

By Michelle McIntyre

Image

In recent months, business partners and clients have been using the term “Millennials” a lot.

Millennials, also called Generation Y, are young adults who are now around 18 to 34 years old.  They are social. They are mobile. They are a target for those marketing to a group with uber online buying power.

I’ve been wondering why this group of consumers has become so important so I did some research and found one fact that shocked me.

“Hooked on Social Networking” Blogger and mom to two young Millennials, Holly Nielsen said that some have more buying power because they are living at home with their parents longer and therefore have more disposable income because they are not paying rent.

On the other hand, Nielsen says, some have less extra money because they are paying off their student loans. She added that Millennials grew up with social networking and smartphones so they are totally comfortable on-line.

The Chief Marketing Officer Council just published some facts and figures about this category in a story introducing a new initiative called “Turning Social Feeds into Business Leads.”

The description of the program on the council’s website uses the automotive industry as an example.

It says that Millennials are a lucrative target for automobile manufacturers because they make up 40 percent of the total available car buying population, contributing $200 billion to the U.S. economy annually.

It adds that there’s been a massive acceleration of social media usage, with 70 percent of consumers using social media to learn about other customer experiences when making car-buying decisions. Visit this link for more details about this CMO Council initiative.

Lastly, a recent eMarketer story discusses Millennial online buying trends including one that surprised me.

It said that male Millennials were more into mobile shopping than their female counterparts.

I used to think that women beat men in all areas of shopping but it’s just not so.

The report discussed a January 2013 survey of U.S. Internet users and uncovered these facts about male Millennials:

  • They currently earn more* than, and are happier at work, than their female counterparts. 
  • 43% said they typically shop on auction sites, while only 31% of females gave this response
  • 40% said that in a perfect world they would buy everything online while only 33% female said this
  • 24% typically shop and buy using their mobile devices while only 19% of females said they do so

This definitely shows that young men are a hot target for digital marketers.

Feel free to follow the Twitter feeds of people and organizations mentioned in this story including @CMO_Council, @eMarketer, @HollyNielsen, @FromMichelle. 

###

*One part of this is not so surprising. Men have always earned more than women for the same jobs. The ratio is 77 cents to the dollar so that wasn’t overly shocking. By the way, this is unfair and it needs to change.

SV-IABC Power Panel on Motivating Workers to be Excellent

Image

SV-IABC Power Panel on Motivating Workers to be Excellent

Thank you to these SV-IABC panelists who tonight at our event in Santa Clara, Calif., spoke about creating a motivated workforce that fosters innovation and excellence. From left to right: Moderator Meta Mehling, Principal, Meta Mehling and Associates; Sarah Peterson, Sr. Manager of Technology Communications at Intuit; Francesca Karpel, Director, Internal Communications, NetApp; and Jennifer Johnston, Sr. Director, Marketing and Communications at Salesforce. The next event on killer presentations and “slideology” is mid-day on Nov. 14. For details, visit http://sv.iabc.com/