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.

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Timely PR Advice for BART Workers

A commuter at the BART Fremont station (Photo from iStockPhoto.com)

A commuter at the BART Fremont station (Photo from iStockPhoto.com)

I’m not taking sides in the fight between BART management and the BART union. As some of you know BART is a transit system that’s really popular here in the Bay Area. It gets people to work, school, events, shopping and other places. When I last took it, I was going to Golden State Warriors basketball game in Oakland. The Warriors won. It was a great night.

What’s happening now is that the BART union workers are threatening to strike unless they get an agreement for more pay and better benefits.

However, I’d say management is winning the publicity war so BART workers, step up your PR game a bit to get your point across better.

According to today’s San Jose Mercury News, BART union members argue that they are due a pay raise and haven’t had one in a few years. BART is doing well financially so they should be rewarded.

Management’s take on this is that the average blue collar BART worker makes $76,000. That’s a nice salary for someone who doesn’t need a college degree to get a job, even in the expensive Bay Area. So the PR team for management gets more points for getting this point across and in most stories I’ve heard or read about this issue.

I read an Op-Ed by a teacher a month ago who uses BART who made a lot less than the BART workers who might strike. She made at least $30,000 less than $76,000. She was furious that they were complaining about the high salary considering she had to get an undergraduate degree, master’s degree to do her job and, “Shame on them for complaining.” Her letter said she needed BART to get to work so, “Striking is bad,”

But then again, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because teachers are underpaid, doesn’t meet hard working BART workers need to be underpaid.  When we took BART to the Warriors game, I noticed the workers did an awesome job so kudos to them.

I also heard a radio interview yesterday. A news talk show host was interviewing a BART worker who was fighting for better pay and benefits.  The worker who had a ton of time on air to say his peace could not articulate why they deserved more.

I was hoping to at least hear, “There’s a problem with the health insurance. Here’s what it is!” but no, all he did was complain endlessly about how goofy it was for someone PR person to make up that it costs $70 million when they walked off the job about a month ago.

He said, “That can’t be right. Who makes that stuff up?” Seriously, this is the union defense on a popular radio show? Most intelligent people can understand how much money a transit strike could cost the economy. I don’t need proof of the $70 million. In fact I could easily make a case that it’s higher.

I was really just trying to understand what’s so bad about the current package but instead they insulted people in my profession. Epic message fail on his part and waste of an interview to help the union’s case.

One reason BART management is doing better in the publicity wars is because of its great PR team.

So my advice to the soon-to-strike BART Workers is this.

Clearly articulate what is so unfair about your benefits package. Be very specific so that people understand with some proof and not just, “We need more.”

Make the message very short and add a number to it so that every media outlet picks it up, even in the shortest of stories. 

The net is quantify in a compelling manner to fight the “$76k for a blue collar worker” argument.

By the way, thanks for the nice ride to the Warriors game. BART rocks and keep up the great work.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, based in Saratoga, CA. She does PR for high tech start-ups headquartered in California and Europe and is also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, a non-profit that promotes ethical and quality communications.

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.

For Women Only! 5 Tips for Launching a Start-up from the Founder of Mightybell and Ning

Three businesspeople working on a touchpad.

I went to a unique women-only meet-up, or gathering of like-goaled individuals to swap ideas and network in what I call “VC country” – Menlo Park, California — the other day.

Venture capitalists like it because it’s close to both Stanford University and all of those hungry b-school grads who usually have the same three goals:

1. Change the world.

2. IPO or get acquired.

3. Make a boat load of cash.

Because VCs like the area, it’s a popular place to start a business, especially one focusing on technology due to it being on the north end of the Silicon Valley. The ecosystem here supports starting companies.

The fairly new meet-up group called Women Startup Lab (http://www.meetup.com/WomenStartupLab/) was founded by Ari Horie. Ari and I used to work at IBM together. Now we’ve both jumped into the entrepreneur pool. A whopping 300 people joined Ari’s group on-line in just 12 weeks. This shows there is a need for more groups that support women entrepreneurs.

Getting together with other women takes some of the gender-related issues away from the meeting. You don’t have to wonder, did he like or not like my idea because I’m a woman?

And because 80%+ new businesses fail, it’s wise to get as much advice as possible from successful entrepreneurs so you can increase your chances of being in the 20 percent.

This particular meet-up was pretty informal yet there was a motivational speaker. It was Gina Bianchini, founder of Ning (http://www.ning.com/) which sold for $150 million.  But like any good Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus, she’s already focused on starting her next company, Mightybell https://mightybell.com/. You can follow it on Twitter, at yes, you guessed it! @Mightybell

Bianchini had a frank discussion with about 35 women including me the other day about what it’s like for a woman to start a company. Some of her points indicated there are some challenges being a woman but they can be overcome.  I left some of the more “honest” advice out of this blog post out of courtesy to Gina.

 I actually thought that her general business advice was excellent and could apply to any start-up but she meant it for “women-only” due to the venue.

Here are the tips:

1. Five great contacts can help you get going. You don’t need to network or friend hundreds of people to accomplish your goal. Be careful how much time you spend networking at conferences. My friend and fellow Saratogan, Bob Karr, CEO of LinkSV (www.LinkSV.com) says it’s 10 people.

2. Keep a razor sharp focus on your goal and stick to the most important tasks only.

3. Market, market, market. If you are not spending 90 % of your time doing marketing and sales, something is wrong.

4. Take up space. When you are sitting at a table or presenting, spread out your arms and walk around the room.  Women tend to cower and shrink at a table.

5. Don’t apologize so much. This tip is geared towards women and actually came from an entrepreneur from Australia during discussion time and Gina agreed with it.

It was nice to have a unique venue where women’s issues were discussed and to hear tips from a female who has already succeeded in a still predominantly male-run technology business world.

On a final note, kudos to the more forward-thinking companies like HP, IBM, and Yahoo. All three have women running the show.

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Here’s a reminder about who I am in case you don’t want to click through to another page on this website to find out:

I’m the President of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC http://www.michellemcintyrecommunications.com, a high tech public relations consulting firm based in Saratoga, California, a director with the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, an executive board member with the Sixth District Santa Clara County PTA, and a Boy Scout merit badge counselor for communications, public speaking and journalism. I’m also on the Advisory Board of a hot start-up called Fondu Software Inc. which helps companies form more profitable relationships with their channel partners. I have won 10 awards for outstanding results during my two decade career at IBM and three other public relations firms including Global Fluency where I was employee of the year in 1992. You could follow my tweets at @FromMichelle.

 

Three Trends Driving Demand for PR Now

Multi-ethnic group portrait

I attend a lot of business networking events and talk to a lot of smart, experienced and educated people who are on top of industry trends. I also enjoy talking to people who have just a little work experience. Sometimes the ones who have only a couple of years of work under their belts are more in the know about what’s hot and what’s not. 

The Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America Future of PR round table earlier this year in East Palo Alto was excellent with Facebook, Dell and others on the panel, as was a meeting I recently had with Global Fluency, a marketing communications and strategy firm headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. That firm runs the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

I used to work at Global Fluency in the early 90s when it was called something else. It was awesome to touch base with Donovan Neale-May who runs both Global Fluency and the CMO Council again after such a long time. The firm seems to be doing just fine and has evolved over the years along with the market.  It was great to see that Executive VP Dave Murray is still there and doing well.

Additionally, I enjoyed the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communications (SV-IABC) event on gamification in Santa Clara in November.

I took notes at all of these gatherings and have put together the top three trends driving for PR now.

1. The new IR is influencer relations. 

There’s a new acronym in town. It’s IR. No, not investor relations. I mean influencer relations. Because so many people blog now, from large corporations executives and industry analysts to consumers posting on Yelp, organizations should be focused on influence and not necessarily “press relations,” “analyst relations,” or “client relations.” Typically the acronym for external relations is public relations but the term is often misused.

 Public relations actually means “changing someone’s mind.” But over the years, most of us in PR mostly came to know it as press relations.

I advise that all communications departments at organizations globally reorganize their staff and put all of their PR and external communications people in a group called influencer relations. Rumor has it that SAP done a bit of this already and if that’s true, good for them. Nice job IBM for calling its PR team “external relations” because that is a nice start in moving in the direction of the trend.

2. Content marketing is white hot. 

In order to gain attention and make noise in a crowded market place, companies must focus on being great content creators and communicators. It’s called content marketing. They need to hire people who can come up with timely and interesting content.  People with a journalism background do great at this task. Kudos to Global Fluency’s Dave Murray for his recent white paper related to this topic. Here’s the link:  http://www.globalfluency.com/news/index.html

3. Digital marketing is top of mind.

CMO Council and a partner firm recently released a survey (http://tinyurl.com/cckvb3e) that said, among other things, that the thing that most marketers are concerned about is digital marketing. Digitizing everything is a “modern” communications task and it’s an interesting change from decades ago when we just had to hire a graphic designer, write some prose, slap them together, get them printed and mail everything to the intended audience.

I believe the CMO Council survey was much more complicated and meaningful than my summary here, but that was still my key take away from it.

Today the communications expert or marketer creates smart and interesting content and then digitizes it so it can be properly socialized.

It’s wild when you think about communications 20 years ago versus today. Back then, you’d fax a press release to your top 10 reporters or mail a hard copy invitation to 100 customers. Today, you’d socialize survey results on Youtube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and use the online invitation tool to get everyone to the party.

The funny thing is, I remember asking someone 20 years ago, “What did we do before faxes?”
My 12-year-old who is now begging me for his own Youtube account just asked me, “What’s a fax?”

If you want to keep up on the latest trends, join me and my other IABC colleagues at our March 21st luncheon at Michael’s at Shoreline in Mountain View, Calif. I’m a director with the SV-IABC and I personally invite you to come.  It’s not free but it’s also not expensive and the networking benefits are priceless.

This month’s speakers will talk about the pros and cons of consulting for a big IT corporation. To register, visit: http://www.sv.iabc.com/

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MMC PR Blog — The Secret to Phenomenal PR Results

The definition of public relations is “changing someone’s mind.”  This is my specialty and it’s what we do at my new consulting firm, MMC high tech public relations.

I convince people to change their ways or think differently. The main way I do this is on a large scale, through media outlets example. This, of course, is called press, media or influencer relations.

One of my business mentors said something profound that always stuck with me. It’s that great PR is based on logic.

How do you change people’s minds? How do you get great press? You develop relationships with your audience, understand their attitudes and communicate your message in a way that they understand and that has impact.

This is just logic, right? I happen to have a journalism degree and a major in public relations with more than two decades of experience in this area, having spent 16 years at IBM and at several public relations agencies. But if you had the right mindset you could become a great PR pro without all of this experience

A journalist needs to write timely and interesting stories and is often on tight deadlines. Ask yourself. How can what I’m doing, or saying fit into what they are writing about?

For example, phablets are hot right now according to several top IT media outlets including CNET. Do you have a new solution for phablets?  Can you speak intelligently about this topic so that you might be quoted in a story?

By the way, a phablet is a combo phone and tablet. You can think of it as a giant smartphone or a smaller tablet, smaller than an iPad.

iStock_000021652636Medium

One example of a PR tactic is being able to talk about how phablets are changing the workplace. They somehow need to be related to one of your offerings of course. If your solution has nothing to do with mobile computing, you probably want to try something different.

The secret to phenomenal PR is creating awesome messages and materials that contain a simple thought or idea.  Announcing new “mission critical software to solve your financial business problems” isn’t newsworthy or interesting to a journalist unless it has a super interesting twist like, “Oh by the way, Apple and IBM merged and this is the first product result of the pairing.”  That type of “Wow” news doesn’t need a ton of creativity to get press coverage.

The idea you tie to your PR campaign can be linked to industry trends, for example, here are two from a December 7, 2012 Forbes article by Todd Woody.

  • “Mobile Device Battles Mobile devices will pass PCs to be most common Web access tools. By 2015, over 80% of handsets in mature markets will be smart phones.”
  • “Personal Cloud: The cloud will be center of digital lives, for apps, content and preferences. Sync across devices. Services become more important; devices become less important.”

Ask yourself, what are you doing that relates to personal cloud or mobile devices surpassing PCs to be the most common web tools?  Can you help a journalist with a story on cloud or mobile? There is much more to it as well but at a high level, PR isn’t that complicated.

Link what your company is doing to something that people actually care about and test it out on someone who is not in the tech business. If they find it interesting, then you are on your way to a phenomenal PR campaign.And then hire someone who can get the message out and develop relationships for you in a quality way.
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