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.

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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


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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.

 

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Tips from VC Heidi Roizen: Three Things to Never Do When Starting a Company

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Today Heidi Roizen spoke to 35 female company founders including myself about learning from failure at Procopio law firm in Menlo Park, Calif. The event was held by Women Startup Lab Meetup group.

Roizen is a venture capitalist with Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) who also teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford University. 

In the early 80s she founded personal computer software company T/Maker and later sold it at a nice profit to the delight of her investors including VC Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. 

This was an interesting time to be in software because it was before it was hot.  At the time Lotus Development was getting started and Bill Gates, a friend of Roizen’s, was also a frequent co-conspirator at fledgling PC industry events.

I actually did PR for Lotus for several years long after it was bought by IBM. While I was there it had been rebranded enterprise collaboration software and social business which was definitely a smart move by Big Blue. 

After selling T/Maker, Roizen became vice president of developer relations at Apple Computer and after that, a partner at another VC firm before she joined DFJ. It was interesting to hear that she works part time for DFJ now, often from her home office. 

During her talk on learning from failure, Roizen emphasized the importance of knowing the numbers behind your business as well as being realistic.  

She had many great tips but highlighted three main things to avoid when starting a company.

1. RIGIDITY. Instead, be flexible and open to changing your plan based timely analysis of how things are going.  If you are not seeing the results, then quickly change up what you are doing in order to get them. 

2. PERSONAL FINANCIAL RISK. Roizen said she has seen more than one entrepreneur declare personal bankruptcy as a result of borrowing money to exercise stock options (known as the ‘cashless exercise’) and then being required to pay that money back when the company does not live up to its early promise.  She says personal financial pressure can create a hidden agenda and lead entrepreneurs to make bad decisions.

3. ASSUME A DEAL WITH A BIG COMPANY IS THE PANACEA. She once invested in a company that partnered with UPS. The company placed way too much emphasis on the deal as a key to success. Things didn’t pan out exactly as expected.  In 20/20 hindsight, they realized that although it’s a hugely successful shipping company, UPS’s business reasons for doing the deal were not aligned with what would make the startup successful.  

When I asked Roizen about hot technologies she immediately mentioned how mobile is ubiquitous and the importance for designing software for mobility. She also mentioned fellow DFJ VC Steve Jurvetson’s interest in the space industry pointing out the SpaceX launch that happened a few days ago.

The energy in the room during Roizen’s talk was high and I would like to thank Women Start-up Lab co-founder Ari Horie, my former coworker in IBM Storage in the late 90s, for working so hard with her team to put on such a fantastic venue. 

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Final note

Here are the Twitter handles of organizations mentioned in the story: @DFJvc, @HeidiRoizen, @WS_Lab, @Humwin, and @FromMichelle.

 

Six Tips on How to get Funded from the Queen of Venture Capital

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Venture capitalist Ann Winblad recently spoke to our Women Startup Lab Meetup group in Menlo Park.

Winblad is the co-founder and a Managing Director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. With over 30 years of experience in the software industry she is a well-known and respected entrepreneur and technology leader. She is also on the board of directors of SVForum.

She has a slew of impressive degrees and credentials and founded a software company in the mid-80s which was acquired back before software was hot.  I used to work with Winblad when I was with IBM Venture Capital Group and it great catching up with her again before her talk to about 30 female entrepreneurs.

Today software is not just hot. It’s white hot. Large companies like IBM have shifted their focuses from hardware to software in recent years. In fact last I checked software was IBM’s most profitable group.

Winblad estimates that today 60 percent of companies that receive VC-funding offer software.

Hummer Winblad Venture Partners was founded in 1989 as the first venture capital fund to invest exclusively in software companies.

My key take-away from Ann Winblad’s talk was that she doesn’t like to invest in entrepreneurs who focus on risk.

The word “risk,” says Winblad, has a negative connotation. It is associated with the threat of failure and impossibility.

Winblad instead likes to invest in companies run by opportunists and visionaries.  She looks for company leaders with can-do attitudes who look toward the long-term goal. She says companies that IPO are on average seven years old and ones that are acquired are at least 10 years old.

Here are her six tips on how to get funded. By the way, she stressed that her firm focuses on Series A funding, not seed funding.  This means funding a company and not just a concept.

1. DON’T BE A RISK TAKER. Focus on opportunity not risk. It’s not about being a risk taker; it’s about being a visionary.

2. KEEP AN EYE ON THE FUTURE. Winblad says it’s because visionaries are inspired, enterprising, and insightful.

3. SHOW HER YOU CAN ATTRACT TALENT. Do people want to work with you? Are you a team player? Attracting and retaining the best talent is what makes or breaks companies.

4. DON’T HAND HER A COMPANY PROFILE. E-mail her but only if it’s a fit. For example, don’t send her company information if she backs a competitor.

5. HANG OUT AND NETWORK WITH VCs. Half of the companies funded by VCs are Silicon Valley-based and 80 percent of the world’s VCs are based here as well.

6. WHEN PRESENTING, DON’T BE SO BUTTONED DOWN.  VCs invest in people with personalities and heart. This is especially a women’s problem. Don’t be so formal.

Here is a list of selected active and historical Hummer Winblad Venture Partner investments.

 Selected Current Companies:

AceMetrix
Aria

Domo

Baynote

Birst

Insidesales

Kiip

Flite

Infulitive

Karmasphere

Marketo

MuleSoft

Sonatype

Piston

Plumgrid

Voltage Security

And others

 

Historical:

Wind River

Hyperion

AdForce

Powersoft

Starmine

NetDynamics

Intrinsa

Krillion

Liquid Audio

Market Wire

Net Perceptions

Star Analytics

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Visit https://plus.google.com/photos/111651143754275279070/albums/5924958611441888881 for photos of the event.

Michelle McIntyre is president and principal consultant at Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a high tech PR firm based in Saratoga, California. Follow her at @FromMichelle on Twitter. Women Startup Lab is @ws_lab.

Founder of DrinkDrop Finds Inspiration from Other Moms

Lisa Guyman, founder of DrinkDrop find other moms are supportive of her new business.

Lisa Guyman, founder of DrinkDrop finds other moms are supportive of her new business.

According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of businesses owned by women in the United States has gone up 59 percent since 1997. These companies generate $1.3 trillion in revenue and employ eight million people.

I looked up this statistic after noticing that a large number of women, particularly those with children, in my Silicon Valley neighborhood founded their own companies.

Parents Maitjian and husband Todd Welke started their IT services business CMIT Solutions of Southwest Silicon Valley three years ago.  Mom Nikki Brown has been a self-employed graphic designer and personal trainer for years. I have a son and started my high tech public relations consulting firm in January.

My next door neighbor Lisa Guyman has just jumped on the lady CEO bandwagon with her new company DrinkDrop (www.drink-drop.com) and she says the experience has been a good one.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had a lot of very positive feedback about our products, and I’ve been blown away with how supportive other moms have been. I think that’s the coolest part about being a female founder–the understanding from other women about the balance it takes to have a business and be a mom,” says Guyman.

A DrinkDrop is a frozen, two ounce individual size drink mix that contains whole fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Saratogans can purchase them at Gene’s Fine Foods.

Guyman says that all DrinkDrop mixes are designed to be combined with a particular liquor and club soda. A DrinkDrop cup is provided to measure the rest. The all natural drink concoctions are also good without alcohol, Guyman says.

Guyman says you can keep DrinkDrop mixes in your freezer, and when you feel like a drink, just drop one in your glass. In seconds, you’ll have an attractive and tasty specialty drink.

Her husband Jeff Guyman came up with the idea after the couple held a wedding reception in their Saratoga backyard for her brother and sister-in-law. They needed a way to serve special drinks to a large number of guests.

Lisa is keeping busy promoting her company. She recently hosted a tasting table at Gene’s Fine Foods. Distillery 209 of Pier 50 in San Francisco is sponsoring the next DrinkDrop tasting event at the San Francisco Ritz Carlton on Sunday, August 25. The details are on the DrinkDrop website.

Like other female CEOs, Lisa Guyman is master priority juggler. She and Jeff have a one year old son, three year old daughter, and two rambunctious and just as adorable chocolate Labrador Retrievers. She holds an undergraduate degree from University of California Berkeley and a doctorate in physical therapy from University California San Francisco. She also ran Cal Bear track.

Guyman says, “Raising kids is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve always needed that something else. I’ve worked as a physical therapist for years, and I actually love being a physical therapist, but I’ve always wanted something that’s my own creation.”

Husband Jeff Guyman also has an impressive resume. He is a sales executive for a local power supply company and a Stanford University graduate who used to both swim and play water polo there. At one point he was ranked the number one water polo player in Washington State.

However, Lisa tells me that Jeff is totally focused on his 9 to 5 sales job so she started the company and handles the details herself. Due to the uniqueness and quality of her product, she is realizing that there is a lot to do to fill demand.

She elaborates on this point by saying, “These days, there is a big trend toward fresh herbal cocktails and mixology, or drinking your garden. We take all the work out of it and just say here, have a great cocktail and feel good about what you’re drinking.”

For additional information about trends in female leadership, read my review of the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead here.

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Note: This story was originally published in the Saratoga Patch community newspaper in August and as of today, it has received 146 likes on Facebook.

A popular drink drop option

This is what a DrinkDrop looks like. It’s quite small so you can fit a lot of them in a freezer.

An attractive and trendy DrinkDrop option

Hummingbird Nectar is a delicious, attractive and trendy DrinkDrop option.

8.20.13.2.Sueno

3 Business Tips from Tim Draper, the VC who Backed Skype and Hotmail

Here are some business success tips from dynamic Venture Capitalist Tim Draper and founder and managing partner at Draper Fisher and Jurvetson (DFJ).

He spoke at my Women Startup Lab (http://www.meetup.com/WomenStartupLab/) Meetup last night at his incubator headquarters, Draper University in San Mateo.

According to a recent San Francisco Business Times story, per a 2010 study which was the most recent available at the time, only 1% of companies funded by VCs are women-owned so kudos to you if you go out of your way to encourage them. This includes Draper’s firm, Women Startup Lab Founder Ari Horie and Sponsor Procopio law firm.

I’m also doing my part to help female entrepreneurs. One of my favorite clients is Romanian-born Londoner Ozana Giusca, who recently launched Tooliers.com, which some call the “Accenture for small businesses.” I look forward to seeing this new self-service business consulting tool be wildly successful someday.

Here’s a recent clip of Ozana on SiliconAngle TV discussing European VC trends and self-consulting:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brSGZLNVYZs.

You may have also read about Ozana in the San Jose Mercury News feature story about SiliconHouse:

http://www.mercurynews.com/mike-cassidy/ci_23506448/cassidy-siliconhouse-hosts-worlds-entrepreneurs-business-building-crash

Now back to Draper’s talk . . .

If my mom in Cleveland is reading this, she is probably saying, who the heck is Tim Draper?

Well, mom, Tim Draper is a household name in the Silicon Valley having backed Skype, Hotmail e-mail, Baidu, Good, and numerous others. I first met him when we worked together supplying reporters with information about the VC industry overseas while I was with the venture division at a large corporation.

This article mostly focuses on his advice for women who want to start businesses. These three tips stuck with me:

TAKE OVER THE WORLD I believe this one has to do with attitude. Be a game changer. Think outside of the box. Disrupt the way of doing things. Aim high!

BE UNPOPULAR (if needed) One idea in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean-In which encourages women to be leaders is that women who are aggressive at work are sometimes unpopular while men who show the same “level of energy” are applauded.

GO BIG If you start a company, do it with passion and gusto. Be excited. Give it your all.

Draper has backed many successful female entrepreneurs including Robin Wolaner who started Parenting magazine and sold it to Time, Heidi Roizen of T/Maker who is now a DFJ partner, Beth Cross of Ariat, and several others.

Draper says VCs generally don’t care if you are a man or woman. He looks for entrepreneurs who are “extraordinary, driven and excited” who disrupt the normal way of doing things Tesla disrupted the automotive industry.ImageImageImage

The audience last night included both his Draper University incubator students and our Women Startup Lab Meetup group which encourages women to pursue their business dreams.

Ari Horie has done a fabulous job marketing Women Startup Lab which has grown to 430 women in a few short months.

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Photo captions:

1. Tim Draper and Women Startup Lab Founder Ari Horie. Draper says that’s his “Wonder Woman” cape. Draper University sports a super hero theme.

2. Bean bags at Draper U.

3. Draper presents the industries ripe for disruption.

Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communations LLC headquartered in the Silicon Valley. Her clients include early stage start ups and small businesses in California and Europe.