New insights on how to use Twitter for your business

From the Twitter blog

One of the best ways to learn about marketing on Twitter is through real examples from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Recently, we spoke with a group of these companies about how they use Twitter as a business tool, the results they’ve seen, and their tips for success.

We partnered with research firm DB5 to survey 1100 SMB owners and employees in the U.S. Those surveyed work on their company’s digital marketing strategy, and are active Twitter users and advertisers. Visual.ly helped us create an infographic to detail the full survey results, which revealed that SMBs see Twitter as an effective marketing tool that enables them to accomplish their advertising goals.

Interestingly, two-thirds (66%) of respondents believe that they have not yet fully maximized their Twitter presence.

Stock Offerings and Securities Laws - Broker-Dealer Registration

An emerging business seeking to raise capital by selling stock or other securities often does so without the assistance of an investment banker, relying instead on its own officers, directors and employees to conduct the offering. The “self-distribution” of securities by the issuer and its personnel may be undertaken because an investment banker cannot be attracted or because the issuer desires to avoid paying selling commissions. Whatever the reason for self-distribution, the process raises broker-dealer registration issues.

Broker-dealers must register with the SEC unless they are engaged solely in intrastate business or in the business of trading exempted securities. State securities laws also generally require the registration of broker-dealers.

The failure to register as a broker-dealer if required can result in government enforcement action and monetary penalties. In addition, there is a significant risk that the offering could be subject to rescission by investors whose purchase of the securities was induced by an unregistered broker-dealer.

Federal Law 
“Broker” is defined in the federal Securities Exchange Act to generally mean any person engaged in the business of effecting transactions in securities for the account of others. “Dealer” is defined to generally mean any person engaged in the business of buying and selling securities for such person’s own account, through a broker or otherwise.

With self-distribution, the issuer and its personnel are not likely to fall within the definition of dealer because typically they are not both buying and selling the security. While the issuer would not fall within the definition of broker because it is not effecting transactions for the account of others, the issuer’s personnel are doing so (i.e., they are effecting transactions for the account of the issuer) and might meet the broker definition, subjecting them to broker-dealer registration requirements. The principal question for the issuer’s personnel is whether they are “engaged in the business” of effecting transactions in securities for the account of others.

To avoid uncertainty about whether someone is “engaged in the business” of effecting transactions in securities for the account of others, Exchange Act Rule 3a4–1 was adopted by the SEC as a nonexclusive safe harbor from the definition of broker for personnel of an issuer who assist the issuer in connection with the offer and sale of its securities. Generally, under the rule, an “associated person of an issuer” (a term that includes, among others, any person who is a partner, officer, director, or employee of the issuer) will not be deemed to be a broker by reason of his or her participation in the sale of securities of the issuer if the person:

  • Is not subject to a statutory disqualification under Exchange Act §3(a)(39); 
  • Is not compensated for participation in the sale by the payment of commissions or other remuneration based on transactions in securities; and 
  • Is not at the time of participation an associated person of a broker or dealer.

In addition to the requirements enumerated above, to take advantage of the rule the associated person must meet one of the following conditions:

  • The associated person (1) primarily performs substantial duties for the issuer other than in connection with transactions in securities; (2) was not a broker or a dealer or an associated person of a broker or dealer within the preceding 12 months; and (3) does not participate in selling securities for any issuer more than once every 12 months, with certain exceptions; or
  • The associated person does no more than (1) prepare approved written communications and deliver such communications without oral solicitation of potential purchasers; (2) respond to inquiries initiated by potential purchasers so long as the response is limited to information contained in the registration statement or other offering document; and (3) perform ministerial and clerical work related to the transaction; or
  • The associated person limits participation to transactions enumerated in Rule 3a4–1(a)(4)(i), most of which would not generally be applicable to an offering by an emerging business seeking to raise capital but which include sales of securities that are (1) made to a registered broker or dealer, a registered investment company, an insurance company, a bank or savings and loan association, or certain trust companies and trusts; or (2) made in accordance with a bonus, profit sharing, pension, retirement, thrift, savings, incentive, stock purchase, stock ownership, stock appreciation, stock option, dividend reinvestment, or similar plan for employees of the issuer or one of its subsidiaries.

Visually Will Tell Marketers Whether People Actually Cared About That Infographic


Infographic and “visual content” marketplace Visually is the latest startup trying to take a new approach to measuring the effectiveness of content marketing.

In the past month or so I’ve written about new analytics tools offered by Contently,Chartbeat, and Sharethrough, all based on the idea that content marketers and native advertisers need new sets of data to tell whether their efforts and money are actually paying off.

When I brought up those other companies, co-founder and CEO Stew Langille said Visually is taking a different approach with its new Native Analytics product. It will allow customers to look at how the full campaign or website is doing, but it’s really focused on revealing details about individual pieces of content, regardless of where they get published.

After all, a successful infographic won’t just show up on your website, but will also get published on other blogs and shared on Facebook and Twitter. Visually says it can track that content when it’s embedded on other sites, and also use OCR image tracking to identify other locations where the infographic has been posted. Visually can then tell customers how many times that piece of content has been viewed and shared and use third-party data to break down the people viewing the content into groups like “technophiles,” “movie lovers” and “shutterbugs.”

[Update: I asked Visually for a full list of all the data that it will provide, and this is what I got back — pageviews (on-site and off-site using embed code), social shares (on-site and off-site, no embed code required), top tweeters, press and blog pickups, social media referrals, viewer affinity group, viewer "in-market" intent, viewer demographics, average time spent viewing and total time spent viewing]

The new analytics tools are part of the larger launch of a product called Visually Campaigns. In addition to the company’s previous focus on providing a marketplace and tools for creating infographics, videos, and interactive graphics, Visually Campaigns also allows teams to plan their broader campaigns. Combined with the launch of Native Analytics, Langille said Visually now covers “the whole life cycle” of content marketing — with the exception of distribution, i.e. promoting the content and making sure it gets seen. (And Langille suggested his team will be getting to distribution eventually.)

At the beginning of this year, Visually announced that it had raised $8.1 million in Series A funding.

Turf Signaling Between Investors And Founders

By Semil Shah

This post is intended for founders, and it is a difficult topic for me to write on, so please bear with me. First, this isn’t meant to paint the relationship between founders and investors as antagonistic. Second, this isn’t meant to be a declarative statement, as there are always exceptions — yet, what’s written below comes up in conversation all the time, so I felt compelled to share it more broadly.

This post is about the importance of “turf” in fundraising. In any sales negotiation, turf matters.

Private investors are in the business of sales. They’re selling money, their knowledge, their experience, their partners, their networks, and their signal to the market. Founders seek funding from these investors, and to do so, often try to broker warm introduction to them. They build connections with these investors, and it can take quite some time to schedule a meeting. More often than not, those initial meetings occur at the investor’s offices or at a place of the investor’s choosing. The investors also dictate the time. And, most founders fall in line, patiently waiting for the meeting, the location, and the time, momentarily forgetting that while investors are paid to scout opportunities and meet many people, the founder’s time is also scarce, and even though there’s a very small chance at funding, they continue on. No one can fault them.

When this comes up in conversation with a founder who is frustrated by the process, I try to respond with a version of the following:

“The brutal truth is that some people can just raise money by virtue of who they are or who they know. For the rest of us, the signaling mistakes founders often make can set an irreversible tone in short- or long-term negotiations. For instance, if a founder hunts down an investor, and then agrees to a meeting, shows up at the investor’s office or location of their choice, at a time of their choosing, the founder is sending an implicit signal that they want something the investor has. Yet, the psychology of the investor is to sell their wares — not to be sold to. Therefore, if the founder is able to pull it off, the best entry point to an investor is to be working on something that an investor hears about through multiple channels to the point where they come knock on the founder’s door — where they come to the founder’s turf.”

“Turf” is important. There is so much non-verbal signaling going on when a founder shows up on someone else’s turf.

What are the signs that you have inbound interest from an investor? They’ll meet you at a place of your choosing, at a time what works for you. They’ll likely be on time. They’ll likely be prepared. They’ll be more likely to help you with key intros to kickstart the relationship.

If this is true in many cases, then the job of the founder is to create the atmosphere in which an investor leverages their own network to get in front of you and your company. I realize most folks won’t be able to do this, but it’s a good goal to shoot for. So, what helps? Having a product that people are using, and/or having others espouse the greatness of a product. It’s not all about explosive growth, it can be unusual engagement, a unique design or technology — something that stands out in conversation. It can’t be engineered out of thin air, but it also presents founders with an interesting question — if people aren’t knocking down your door (or email inbox), could that be a signal the offering isn’t differentiated for the investment climate? Again, there will be exceptions, but it’s an intellectually honest question to ask.

Essentially, this type of approach — to create enough of a gravitational effect to attract investors —  takes into account and exploits the motives and business model incentives facing institutional investors. I don’t want to discount the chance for serendipity in these meetings. But, I also want to lay out how I see “turf” factoring into these meetings, the nuanced signaling that happens as a result of who gets to control when and where a meeting occurs. As with anything related to leverage, the best position to be in is fielding inbound requests — by whatever means necessary. In such a competitive environment, it’s the best route to stand out.

Which Venture Capital Firms Have the Strongest Mobile Portfolio?

From CB Insights

Less than 100 VC-backed apps have ranked in the App Store top 1000 'Overall' ranks consistently over the past six months. Here's who's invested in the most.


There are 464 apps in the iTunes App Store that have ranked in the top 1000 every day for the past 6 months.  Of those 464, 91 are investor-backed (VC or other investors).  For reference, being ranked in the top 1000 for 6 months is no easy feat given the average lifespan of an app in the top 1000 is just 23 days.

Given the fickleness of the App Store, it should follow that investing in consistently high-performing mobile apps and their publishers is also extremely challenging.  Below is a breakdown of these consistent top-performers that covers:

  • What categories/genres tend to have the most stickiness in the top 1000?
  • How many of the top 1000 app publishers are VC-backed vs. bootstrapped vs. created by public companies?
  • Which VCs have the strongest mobile publisher portfolio?

Genre / Category Analysis

The chart below breaks down the respective categories of the apps who held a top 1000 overall rank in the App Store consistently over the last six months. As evident, ‘Games’ accounts for the largest share of apps that maintain a top 1000 overall rank over time, representing 28% of the apps. The next highest category by share was ‘Photo & Video’, which made up 11% of the apps and then ‘Lifestyle’ at 9%.

appdata1

The Publishers

Next, we broke down the consistently high-ranking apps by publisher type, separating them into four categories: 1) VC-backed 2) public company/subsidiary of a public company (eg WhatsApp, YouTube) 3) no known funding/bootstrapped or 4) other (joint venture, non-profit, government, holdings company, etc).

Interestingly, the highest number of consistently high-ranking apps fell under the public company or public company subsidiary category at 38.6% of the apps. Bootstrapped apps were close behind, making up 37.9% of the apps.  

Just under 20% of the top apps were those of venture or investor-backed companies from Uber and Snapchat to Lumosity and Flipboard.

Staying power, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean investor or VC-backable.  Some of the apps that have maintained their top 1000 presence range from iPhone flashlights to photo collage tools to wallpaper makers.

appdata2

The Mobile Mafia – Top VCs

Which investors are behind the highest number of companies that have apps consistently ranked in the top 1000 overall ranking? Peeling back the top investors in non-exited companies with apps that meet the criteria, Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins top the list of investors with 9 companies each. Sequoia’s companies include Plain Vanilla Games, Houzz, Whisper and Evernote while Kleiner’s include Shazam, Flipboard, Duolingo and MyFitnessPal.

In total, 15 VC investors have 5 or more portfolio cos that have consistently had an app ranked in the top 1000.  Others with strong mobile portfolio companies include Accel Partners, Felicis Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and Index Ventures.

Of course, this analysis just looks at the # of publishers each VC has in its portfolio and not the stage of entry or valuation of each. More on that in the future.

appdata7


Should I Leave A Voicemail?

By Doyle Slayton

I spent the early part of my sales career believing that leaving voicemail messages was a waste of time. Why? Because return phone calls are rare, and I preferred calling multiple times until I finally got a voice-to-voice connection with the decision maker. I felt like it kept me in control of the follow up process, and it was the most efficient way to crank out more calls throughout the day. I figured I’d save 15+ seconds per call by not leaving messages.

But the game has changed, prospects are hiding behind caller id and aren't answering their phone. No matter how often or what time of day, they just aren’t answering. When I call over and over again and never get an answer, it’s like spinning my wheels. So it got me thinking, “Am I really in control?” and “Am I really being more efficient?” I realized, if I’m going to regain control and gain traction over time, I have to leave messages.

So much of sales is about maintaining perspective. The goal of a voicemail is not to get a call back. The goal, is to be remembered. Here are seven reasons to leave a message...

Build Awareness

Leaving a message lets my prospect know that I exist. Leaving a message plants a seed. It is the first step in opening the door. The prospect knows, I have value added ideas, and I’m going to be searching for an opportunity to connect.

Generate Interest

One thing is certain, my prospect is getting hammered with sales calls all day long. That's why they aren’t answering their phone. Voicemail acts as a filter where sales people move themselves into or out of the picture.Leaving a message puts me in the game!

Introduce an Alternative

When calling on qualified prospects, they're looking for new solutions, upgrades, and alternatives. They might be in a meeting discussing options right now. Your messaging positions you as a viable option. There is nothing worse than finally getting the decision maker on the phone after months of calling and hearing, “Actually, we just signed on with one of your competitors.” That’s when you think, “dang, I should have left a message.”

Create an Opportunity

Most prospects knee jerk response is to say, “I'm not interested… we’re fine where we are.” Click... “Wait a minute!” you think, “I haven’t even said anything.” What good is it to finally get someone on the phone if they are going to hang up as soon as they realize you're a sales person? A series of strategic, targeted messages creates the opportunity for a welcomed conversation when they finally answer the phone.

Establish Credibility

One way to differentiate yourself is to consistently follow-up. While your competition is not following through, not using their CRM to build a pipeline, and turning over sales people left and right, you have to be the consistent consultative voice breaking through all the noise.

Demonstrate Expertise

Every voicemail you leave and every email you send should demonstrate that you are an industry expert. You understand your prospect's business challenges. You know how to solve their problems. You have experience and data to prove your abilities. Share value added, solution building content from your latest blog posts, white papers, case studies, etc.

Gain Influence

You need to have multiple influencers within the company, for example, leave messages for the CFO, Controller, and Director of XYZ. Let them to know you just left a message for their colleague. The goal is to have them sitting in a meeting or conversing over lunch about a problem and all of a sudden your name comes up!

A messaging strategy has to include a very specific set of five to eight targeted voicemail and email messages to leave and send over time. When you're dealing with targets that are difficult to reach, you have to prepare for a long term attack!

Here is What it Actually Takes to Make it as an Entrepreneur

By Vivek Wadhwa

A young male who was born to be an entrepreneur drops out from a computer-science program at a prestigious university. He meets a powerful venture capitalist who is so enamored with his idea that he gives him millions of dollars to build his technology. Then comes the multi-billion-dollar IPO.

That’s the Hollywood version of Silicon Valley. But it is as far from reality as is Disneyland. Entrepreneurship is never that easy and the stereotype of the startup founder is not representative of the technology world. Yes, there are a few, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who made it big. But they are the outliers—and they too don’t fit the stereotype. Here are six myths about what it actually takes to make it:

1. Entrepreneurs are a product of nature.

A common belief is that entrepreneurs are born and cannot be made. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson once said that he was shocked when a professor told him you could teach people to be entrepreneurs. He explained, “I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for almost 25 years now and it is ingrained in my mind that someone is either born an entrepreneur or is not.” Venture capitalist Mark Suster, with whom I once had a fierce debate on this topic, maintained the same.

They’re wrong. My research team found that, of the 549 successful entrepreneurs that we surveyed in 2009, 52 percent were the first in their immediate families to start a business; about 39 percent had an entrepreneurial father and 7 percent had an entrepreneurial mother. (Some had both.) Only a quarter of the sample had caught the entrepreneurial bug when in college. Half didn’t even think about entrepreneurship then, and they had had little interest in it when in school.

This sample doesn’t necessarily prove my point. But look at some of most successful entrepreneurs that we know: Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Jan Koum. They didn’t come from entrepreneurial families. Their parents were dentists, academics, lawyers, factory workers, or priests. I doubt they were writing business plans while in kindergarten or selling lemonade in grade school.

I know many ordinary entrepreneurs who also didn’t sell lemonade. I myself come from a family of government bureaucrats and teachers. I started my career as an I.T. professional and never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. But when I was 33, the opportunity presented itself to me to start a company that could impact the world. I made the leap and helped build a business that generated $120 million in annual revenue.

Silicon Valley luminary Steve Blank, who moderated my debate with Suster, adds another perspective. He says “Change the external culture and environment, and entrepreneurship can bloom regardless of its source—nature or nurture”. He’s right. Entrepreneurship flourishes in places where people can learn from and inspire one another, such as Silicon Valley and New York City.

2. The best entrepreneurs are young. If you’re over 35, you’re over the hill.

Silicon Valley investors openly tout their preference for younger entrepreneurs. One famous investor said, “People under 35 are the ones who make change happen … people over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas.”

My research teams documented that the average and median age of successful technology company founders when they started their companies had been 40. We learned that as many had been older than fifty as had been younger than twenty-five; twice as many had been over sixty as under twenty. Seventy percent were married when they launched their first business; an additional 5.2 percent were divorced, separated, or widowed. Sixty percent had had at least one child, and 43.5 percent had had two or more children. The Kauffman Foundation also researched the backgrounds of successful entrepreneurs and found similar results.

On a post on Quora, Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp—the most expensive technology acquisition ever—wrote “i incorporated WhatsApp on the day of my 33rd birthday. i had no idea i only had 2 years left.”

Look closer at the technology industry, and you will realize that VCs who say that older entrepreneurs are over the hill are misguided. For example, Marc Benioff was 35 when he founded Salesforce.com and Reid Hoffman was 36 when he founded LinkedIn. Reed Hastings was 37 when he founded Netflix; Mark Pincus was 41 when he started Zynga. Pradeep Sindhu was 42 when he founded Juniper Networks and Irwin Jacobs was 52 when he founded Qualcomm.

3. Dropping out is the way to go; education is merely a distraction.

PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel made headlines when he announced four years ago that he would pay students $100,000 to drop out of college. He wanted to prove that higher education is overpriced and unnecessary; that budding entrepreneurs are better off in building world-changing companies than in studying irrelevant courses in school.

His effort proved to be a dismal failure. Some Thiel startups received big media attention and adulation—such as one that announced it would be producing caffeine spray. But none were the successes that had been promised.

The Thiel Foundation quietly refocused its efforts on providing an alternative form of education to college dropouts, and several of its sponsored dropouts returned to school. That’s because there is no substitute for education. Yes, there are good alternatives to universities, but entrepreneurs need to learn the basics of business and management in order to succeed.

Indeed, my research team found that, on average, companies founded by college graduates have twice the sales and employment of companies founded by people who hadn’t gone to college. What matters is that the entrepreneur completes a baseline of education; the field of education and ranking of the college don’t play a significant role in entrepreneurial success. Founder education reduces business failure rates and increases profits, sales and employment.

4. Female entrepreneurs don’t have what it takes to cut it in the tech world.

Women-founded firms receive hardly any venture-capital investments; they are almost absent in high-level technology positions; they contribute to fewer than 5 percent of all I.T. patents and 1.2 percent of open-source software programs. This is despite the facts that girls now match boys in mathematical achievement; that 140 women enroll in higher education for every 100 men; and that women earn more than 50 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees and nearly 50 percent of all doctorates in the United States.

Do female founders receive less VC backing because women are different? Not at all. Research by National Center for Women & Information Technology revealed that there are almost no differences in success factors between men and women company founders. Men and women are equally likely to have children at home when they start their businesses, though men are more likely to be married. Both sexes have exactly the same motivations; are of the same age when founding their startups; have similar levels of experience; and equally enjoy the startup culture.

It’s also not that women can’t cut it in the rough and tough business world. Women-led companies are more capital-efficient, and venture-backed companies run by a woman have 12 percent higher revenues, than others.

5. Entrepreneurship requires venture capital.

Many would-be entrepreneurs write business plans in the hope of finding a venture capitalist to invest in them, believing that, without this funding, they can’t start a company. And that view reflected reality a few years ago. Then, capital costs for technology were in the millions of dollars. But that is no longer the case.

A $500 laptop has more computing power today than Cray 2 supercomputers that cost $17.5 million in 1985. For storage, back then, you needed server farms and racks of hard disks, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and required air-conditioned data centers. Today, one can use cloud computing and cloud storage, costing practically nothing.

Sensors such as those in our smartphones cost tens of thousands of dollars a few years ago. Now they too cost a few dollars or cents. Entrepreneurs can build smartphone apps that act as medical assistants to detect disease; body sensors that monitor heart, brain, and body activity; and technologies to detect soil humidity and improve agriculture. And they can participate in the genomics revolution. It cost $100 million to sequence a full human genome a decade ago. It now costs $1,000. Genome data will soon be available on millions of people, and then billions—allowing entrepreneurs to research the causes of disease.

There are similar advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and many other fields. These technologies too require no major capital outlays.

Venture capital follows innovation. If entrepreneurs build new technologies that customers need or love, money will come to them. They don’t need to wait for venture funding to start.

6. The tech world is for techies.

A common belief is that startup CEOs need to be engineers. Bill Gates argues that liberal-arts degrees don’t correlate well with job creation and that the humanities should be defunded in favor of science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. In Silicon Valley, there is a general bias against liberal arts and humanities. It is very hard for an artist or an English or psychology major to break in.

But note what Steve Jobs said when he unveiled the iPad 2: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.” He taught the world that, though good engineering is important, what matters the most is good design. It takes artists, musicians, and psychologists working side by side with engineers to build products as elegant as the iPad. You can teach artists how to use software and graphics tools, but it’s much harder to turn engineers into artists.

My research at Duke and Harvard looked into the educational backgrounds of 652 U.S.-born chief executive officers and heads of product engineering at 502 technology companies in 2008. We found that only 37 percent held degrees in engineering or computer technology, and that just two percent held them in mathematics. The rest had degrees in fields as diverse as business, accounting, finance, health care, and arts and the humanities.

Critical thinking, communication, and scientific validation are skills that are in short supply in the tech world. And these are skills that are abundant in the humanities.

22 Qualities of Entrepreneurs Likely to Fail

By Jeff Haden

I'm not an angel investor.

Nor am I likely to be providing venture capital anytime soon. So you would think reading a comprehensive guide to angel investing would be of little interest to me.

In fact, often the best way to approach a situation is from a totally different perspective. Say you want to build a thriving business. You could list everything you think is important in founding, building, and maintaining a startup, and build your company that way.

Or you could focus on what experienced investors look for--not because you want to attract outside capital, but because you want to evaluate the same key qualities an experienced investor looks for when deciding whether a business merits his or her money.

In other words, build a company that has all the qualities a successful angel looks for... and you've probably built a company with real legs.

The same approach can apply to you, the founder.

As David S. Rose, the CEO of Gust and the founder of New York Angels, says in Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money & Having Fun Investing in Startups:

"The number one thing I look at when making a startup investment is the quality of the entrepreneur. In this, I--and a majority of professional angel investors--follow the old adage: 'Bet the jockey, not the horse.' A great entrepreneur--especially one backed by an outstanding team--can tweak, improve and refocus a business idea as needed, while a mediocre entrepreneur is likely to ruin the promise of a brilliant business concept. If I have to choose between a great business idea and a great entrepreneur, I'll take the entrepreneur every time."

So what about you? Do you have all the qualities a successful angel looks for in an entrepreneur?

There's no need to guess. Although in the book, David describes certain behaviors of great entrepreneurs, he also lists a number of warning signs.

See if any of these apply to you:

  • Perceived lack of integrity
  • Unrealistic assessment of market size
  • Unrealistic assessment of competitive offerings
  • Unrealistic assessment of competitive advantages
  • Unrealistic assessment of execution challenges
  • Unrealistic assessment of execution costs
  • Unrealistic assessment of timing
  • Unrealistic financial projections
  • Unrealistic valuation expectations
  • Unrealistic declarative statements
  • Unrealistic fundamental business idea
  • Lack of execution track record
  • Lack of domain expertise
  • Lack of technical expertise
  • Lack of long-term vision
  • Lack of historical knowledge of the market space
  • Lack of perceived leadership capability
  • Lack of perceived communication skills
  • Lack of necessary operational skills on the management team
  • Lack of perceived ability to grow with the company
  • Lack of perceived willingness to accept advice or mentorship
  • Lack of carefully considered go-to-market strategy

Of course, you might say, "Wait. I don't plan to seek investors. So an inability to communicate effectively with potential investors is a nonissue."  Of course, you'd also be wrong; although communicating with investors may not be important, communicating with everyone else--employees, customers, vendors, etc.--is definitely important. Any entrepreneur who lacks solid communication skills is working at a huge disadvantage.

The same is true for all the other items on David's list of warning signs. If you can't lead, then your employees can't follow. If you can't grow with your business, then your business can't grow. If you can't identify and leverage your real (not imagined) competitive advantages, then you can't compete.

And although you think you may never be an angel investor, you already are, because you've invested in your business.

Viewing entrepreneurship and your business from a different perspective--especially an experienced perspective--is incredibly valuable, because it can help you identify weaknesses you must overcome...and just as important, strengths you can leverage.

The Art of Evangelism

By Guy Kawasaki

A long time ago I was a revolutionary at Apple. My job title was “software evangelist.” My responsibility was to evangelize Macintosh to software developers. Later my title was “chief evangelist,” and my responsibility was to evangelize Macintosh to anyone who wanted to increase productivity and creativity.

The Art of Evangelism

Post Apple, I’ve been many things: author, speaker, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, advisor, and father, but I’ve never used the title “chief evangelist” until today. This is because the title only works if your product can change the world—or at least a significant part of it.

Macintosh changed the world. It democratized computers. Google changed the world. It democratized information. eBay changed the world. It democratized commerce. After  two decades of looking, I found Canva. It can change the world by democratizing design, and that’s why I’m now chief evangelist of Canva.

Company vs Meaning

We’re big believers in “content marketing” at Canva. It means providing information that’s valuable to our readers and customers. We define “valuable” as something that you can make your life better as opposed to increasing our sales or profits. In this spirit, I’d like to explain how to evangelize a product or service.

1. Make it great.

It’s very hard to evangelize crap. It’s much easier to evangelize great stuff. I learned that the starting point of evangelism is a great product or service. Great stuff embodies five qualities:

  • Deep. This means your product or service has lots of features because you’ve anticipated what people need as they come up the power curve.
  • Intelligent. When people use your product or service, they see that someone smart understood their problem or pain.
  • Complete. A complete product is surrounded with everything you need. For example, great software is not just the downloadable file. It’s also the documentation, support, and string of enhancements.
  • Empowering. A product or service empowers people because it makes them better. Great stuff doesn’t fight you—it becomes one with you.
  • Elegant. This means that your product or service is not just functional, it’s also well-designed so that people could use it easily and quickly.

2. Position it as a “cause.”

A product or service, no matter how great, is a collection of parts or snippets of code. A “cause,” by contrast, changes lives. It’s not enough to make a great product or service—you also need to position it and explain it as a way to improve lives. Steve Jobs didn’t position an iPhone as $188 worth of parts. Evangelists need to seize the moral high ground and transcend the exchange of money for goods and services. 

3. Love the cause.

“Evangelist” isn’t a job title. It’s a way of life. It means that evangelists must love what they evangelize. No matter how great the person, if he doesn’t love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it. If you don’t love it, don’t evangelize it. This has hiring implications too: a good education and relevant work experience are not sufficient. It’s just as important that an evangelist loves the product or service.


Evangelist Isn't a Job Title

4. Localize the pitch.

Don’t describe your product using lofty, flowery terms like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” and “curve jumping.” Macintosh wasn’t “the third paradigm in personal computing.” It simply (and powerfully) increased the productivity and creativity of one person with one computer. People don’t buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives, so localize the pitch and keep it simple.

 

5. Look for agnostics, ignore atheists.

It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion when he worships another god. The hardest person to convert to Macintosh was someone who worshipped MS-DOS. The easiest person was someone who never used a personal computer before. If a person doesn’t “get” your product or service after fifteen minutes, cut your losses and move on.

 

6. Let people test drive the cause.

Evangelists believe that their potential customers are smart. Therefore, they don’t bludgeon them with ads and promotions. Instead they provide ways for people to “test drive” their products and then decide for themselves. Evangelists believe that their products are good—so good that they’re not afraid of enabling people to try before they buy.

7. Learn to give a demo.

“Evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. If you can’t give a great demo of your product or service, you cannot be an evangelist for it. Demoing should be as second nature, even involuntary, as breathing. This is what made Steve Jobs the world’s greatest evangelist for Apple’s products.

Learn to Give a Demo

 

8. Provide a safe, easy first step.

The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope, so remove all the barriers. Examples: 1) revamping an entire IT infrastructure shouldn’t be necessary to try a new computer; chaining yourself to a tree shouldn’t be necessary to join an environmental group; and 3) speaking a foreign language and owning a special keyboard shouldn’t be necessary to register for a website.

9. Ignore titles and pedigrees.

Elitism is the enemy of evangelism. If you want to succeed as an evangelist, ignore people’s titles and pedigrees, accept people as they are, and treat everyone with respect and kindness. My experience is that a secretary, administrative aide, intern, part-timer, or trainee is more likely to embrace new products and services than a CXO or vice-president.

10. Never lie.

Lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because when you lie, it’s necessary to keep track of what you said. If you always tell the truth, then there’s nothing to keep track of. Evangelists evangelize great stuff, so they don’t have to lie about features and benefits, and evangelists know their stuff, so they never have to lie to cover their ignorance.

11. Remember your friends.

Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll see them again on the way down. One of the most likely people to buy a Macintosh was an Apple II owner. One of the most likely people to buy an iPod was a Macintosh owner. One of the most likely people to buy whatever Apple puts out next is an iPhone owner. And so it goes, so remember your friends.

Be Nice to People on the Way Up

12. Conclusion

People often ask me what the difference is between evangelist and salesperson. Here’s the answer. A salesperson has his or her own best interests at heart: commission, making quota, closing the deal. An evangelist has the other person’s best interests at heart: “Try this because it will help you.” Keep this difference in mind, and you’ll be on the right track.