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Kickstarter Tips and Tricks for Startups

Starting a new project can be very stressful for a startup. Investors typically want to see a product, or series of products before jumping on board to help the business grow. Part of the early stages of a startup involves finding the funds you need to get those initial projects off the ground. Not everyone is capable of bootstrapping these early initiatives, and the risk involved with doing so can far outweigh the potential for success.

Enter Kickstarter, a popular alternative to publishers and investors that allows you to find the funding you need by appealing directly to your potential customers. A lot of startups use Kickstarter as a combination marketing tool and pre-order system. Your prototypes may be complete and all you need is some extra funding to initiate the first round of production – or your startup may have a great idea that just needs some extra funding to hire on the extra hands needed to make it a reality.

No matter what your needs are for these funds, Kickstarter is a great way to generate them without giving up a piece of your company to do so.

Here are a few ways startups can prepare for your first Kickstarter project.

Overestimate Your Needs

Offering rewards for various donation levels is great, but it could set you back more than you think. A lot of project founders use Kickstarter with a goal in mind that will just meet their needs, but forget the amount Kickstarter, Amazon, and the rewards take away from that total.

You don’t want to ask for $1,000 when you really just need $500, but you do want to make sure that what you’re asking for is enough to meet your needs. Failing to deliver on a promise made in a project can have a long lasting negative impact on your reputation. It would make it almost impossible to successfully launch another Kickstarter project in the future, and could result in legal action.

Be Honest

Every interaction you have with Kickstarter backers will have a direct impact on your reputation. Your first customers are the ones that pre-order whatever it is you’re putting on Kickstarter, and that means you’re pulling double duty as both a PR and customer service representative.

If you can’t meet the estimated delivery date, explain why in a video and combat pushback with transparency. Kickstarter is a very social experience, and so you definitely want to control the message.

Under-promise and Over-deliver

If you make your project look like the best thing since sliced bread, but know that it won’t realistically be as amazing as you claim, then you’re probably going to end up with a lot of disappointed customers which will be more hesitant to back your project(s) in the future.

Imagine the buzz that would surround your product when it comes out in stores (thanks to the Kickstarter funding) and pre-order customers are eagerly showing their friends and family what your product can do.

You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

Don’t be cheap with your rewards, and spend a little money producing a decent pitch video. This is the first time your company and/or project is being introduced to the world. First impressions is everything, and very few people will be inclined to back (or spread the word about) a project that has no visual representation beyond a few photos and rewards backers poorly.

Let’s face it: A bumper sticker is a terrible reward for someone willing to cough up $25. Consider your needs and calculate the reward into the project total. See if you can’t sweeten the deal with additional content and information. Offer a digital download, exclusive bonuses, and cut the price on your product from what you would expect to get out of it retail. These customers are your front line in generating buzz once the product launches.

Consider Alternatives

Indiegogo is an increasingly popular alternative to Kickstarter. Not only can you start a project and receive funds if you don’t actually hit your goal, but many users reluctant to back Kickstarter projects (for whatever reason) may be more inclined to do is in the socially-rich environment of Indiegogo.

Not every project has to be funded by the crowd. There are still plenty of wealthy investors out there willing to invest in your project, and perhaps even help your startup get on its feet. Kickstarter isn’t (and should never be) used as a startup funding source. It’s intended to fund projects, and that’s a limitation many startups have a tough time working around.

No matter what your reason for seeking this additional funding may be, consider Kickstarter as a lot more than a source of revenue. It could very well be the catalyst that allows you to generate the buzz you need to make your project the next big thing.

Three Common Mistakes Made By (Most) Startups

Launching a new product or idea can be exciting, and undoubtedly most entrepreneurs have done at least some research into what works, and what doesn’t in their given industry. Unfortunately, being excited about a new business can make it easy to lose focus on some of the most important aspects of success.

Unfortunately, when entrepreneurs are excited about their new project or business, they often lose touch with reality for a few moments. While you may think you have the best idea anyone has ever come up, the reality is that there are seven billion people on the planet, and there’s a good chance that more than a few of them have had the same idea.

Startups typically bleed money until they ship their first (or second) product. Service-based startups have to spend money setting themselves up to handle a growing customer base. In the end, the difference between success and failure can be determined by each and every decision you make early on. Many times, startups make these same decisions – and they’re often mistakes

Failure to Research the Idea Fully

Steve Jobs often said that Apple engineers built the products they would want to use themselves. This worked out for Apple, but this same philosophy could be limiting your potential as a business. Apple has the capital to hire on a large team of engineers, the real-world market data gathered from its years in the industry selling similar products to consumers, and it had more than its fair share of failures over the years.

Startups don’t have the luxury to head into an industry without doing their due diligence. Find out who your real users will be and get their opinions on your product and/or service. Offer a wide-reaching beta that allows you to get feedback from an interested community early and often. This research will help you develop a product that not only you would use, but your customers as well.

Not Knowing When to Move On
A large percentage of startups fail early into their existence. This happens all the time, and many entrepreneurs will tell you that failure is an important part of any company’s success story. What separates successful businesses from absolute failures? The ability to pivot when the need for change is apparent.

Sometimes, even the best laid plans are doomed to a life on the back burner. Your startup’s followers may find a specific aspect of your business more interesting than the component you went into it believing would be key. Knowing when to shift your focus and evolve your strategy to meet this new focus is critical to long-term success.

Likewise, it’s important not to give up too soon. If companies like Apple or Microsoft had given up when times were tough, the world would be a very different place today.

Overestimating Growth
In a perfect world, everyone’s business would take off after a few short months of effort by the founders. Money would come pouring in from all sides and we’d all have ten story offices with entire floors dedicated to foosball and gourmet catering for the staff.

Reality is very different. For every Instagram success story, there are a thousand examples of slow growth and even failure. When projecting your business potential over the first five years, be realistic. Investors hear overanxious entrepreneurs pitch them ideas all day long while proclaiming that their company is headed up faster than a SpaceX rocket. What really catches their attention is a realistic expectation set against a solid product that solves a real-world issue.

Even service-based startups should consider the possibility that clients may be few and far between at first. Your business plan should change often during the first five years, and so should how quickly – or slowly – you scale as a result.

The division between success and failure often rests on realistic expectations and adaptable approaches to the business. If you have a startup – or work in one – what are common mistakes you see or have experienced?

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Q&A With Thinkspace Startup: Appuri

There are so many innovative, amazing startups here at thinkspace. This week I had the chance to meet and chat with Damon Danieli of Appuri, one of the residents of thinkspace, to learn a little more about what they’re up to.

What is Appuri, and what do you do?

Appuri is a stealth startup.

We have a big vision for the future, but we use lean startup techniques to learn as quickly as possible and adjust our road map accordingly.

For example, this month we are leveraging the election hype and launching a suite of mobile applications at http://www.robamney.com. The lifespan of these apps will be short-lived, but the metrics we collect inform the design and direction for the next product iteration.

With each product launched, we increase our user base, customer engagement capabilities and underlying technologies.

How did Appuri start?

The founders came together as a team first, then we came up with a vision and immediately started moving forward.

Who is on the Appuri team?

There are 4 cofounders and no employees. We use web services and contractors for all of the non-core assets. We keep the trade secrets, know-how and other intellectual property in-house.

How much funding have you raised (if any), and from whom?

We are bootstrapping the company and have not raised money.

What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?

What is both challenging and energizing about being an entrepreneur is that you are responsible for everything: product vision, customer acquisition, development roadmap, meeting payroll and so on while managing the morale and energy of the team.

If there was one thing you could have done differently, what would it have been?

There is nothing we would have done differently… yet. Which is not to say we’ve been correct, but rather our product is never far away from the last set of real user data and feedback.

What advice do you have for others thinking about building a startup of their own?

Building a company is a lot of hard work and is challenging in ways that you will never experience as an employee. So many things have to come together just right in order to succeed: building the right team, identifying the customer, creating a product, promoting it, growing revenue just to name a few. Successful startups need to execute well across many disciplines.

There is a common misconception of first-time entrepreneurs that raising money is the hard part and the rest is easy.The runway you have plays a big role in the psyche of the team, but there will always be those gut check moments where everyone has to dig deep inside themselves to make the startup successful.

With all of that said, if being an entrepreneur really suites you, it will be impossible to go back to being an employee.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of the thinkspace community?

It is a nice place to work and I’ve run into many other interesting startups and people.

Anything else you’d like to share?

A shout out to all of the Thinkspace crew that welcomed us when we came in and make us feel at home every day: Mieka, Alyssa, Sami, Samantha, Savannah, Jamie, Katie and of course Peter. It has been great working with you.

PR Tips for Startups

Almost every startup I hear has the same three goals; launch a product, get users, and get on that blog. (You know which one I’m talking about.) Making money – let alone enough to be profitable – is rarely even a thought in the minds of young entrepreneurs. Getting press (especially from high-profile blogs) is, however, hot on the minds of most startups. Even if you dedicate someone on your team to the task of PR, be sure you don’t focus on just press releases. Here are a few PR tips that can help your startup stand out – and hopefully get the attention of that blog you really want to reach.

Replace Press Releases With Direct Email

This tip doesn’t mean you have to do away with press releases. They’re still an important part of any PR camapgin. It’s more effective, however, to send a custom email to a number of your most recognized media contacts.

Bloggers and press receive countless press releases every day, and each one of them is filled with spin and jargon that does little to shed light on the actual announcement being made. More importantly, a lot of these releases are actually anything but newsworthy.

If your startup has an announcement that absolutely (and actually) warrants coverage, take a moment to have someone on your team send an email to a variety of contacts – especially contacts you personally have a relationship with. These messages should target the areas that the blogger and/or media outlet focuses on most. If you’re writing to a startup blog, consider including a paragraph on how this announcement impacts the business from a startup’s perspective. If you are sending an email to an organization that writes about server technology, then more time should be spent detailing the technology put in place.

This takes time and effort, but the payoff can be much better than simply forwarding a press release.

Participate in Conversations

If your company isn’t actively participating in conversations taking place on social networks, it should. How many other startups have you seen simply push updates and ignore the comments and/or questions asked by their followers on Facebook or Twitter? These questions are important because they could mean the difference between your customer and your competition’s.

Good feedback isn’t always handed to you. Often, the best feedback you’ll receive is given freely on social networks and in forums around the Web. Someone will bring up your startup and a conversation will develop around the merits and/or pitfalls of its product. By taking a moment to respond to these conversations, you’re actually creating a compelling story that could spread well beyond the initial members of the conversation. And as fellow successful Seattle startup founder Rand Fishkin wrote last week, having a compelling story about your company can either make or break your business.

Additionally, developing relationships via social media can help ensure that news about your startup reaches not just as many people as possible, but targeted individuals and businesses who are interested.

Post to Your Company Blog Often

Company blogs usually offer insight into the motivations and inner workings of a company. It’s because of this many bloggers and even traditional media types pay close attention to them. A company that rarely posts to its blog can be perceived as having little actually going on.

Some startups prefer to keep the interest alive by posting regular updates regarding upcoming products and updates. Others might see the corporate blog as an excellent avenue for expressing corporate perspective on various industry topics. A startup that deals in cloud storage posting regularly about the cloud computing industry as a whole may add value to your data stream. This could drive attention to the very platform on which you can share information about your products or services.

If your blog is useful for more than just receiving updates about the company, you may actually be able to leverage it more successfully when announcing new information than if you were to send out a “traditional” press release.

The world of public relations has undergone a massive culture shift in recent years. There are companies that are stuck in their ways and suffering greatly for it. Startups have the advantage of being able to pivot and adapt to shifts in the business world. Using new forms of media – especially social media – when approaching PR will give your startup an advantage over those that continue choose to use traditional routes.

Thinkspace Member: Donuts – Named to WSJ’s “The Next Big Thing 2012” List

Donuts CEO, Paul Stahura

The Wall Street Journal unveiled its third annual ranking of the top 50 U.S. companies backed by venture capital—A list that attempts to identify start-ups that could become the “Next Big Thing 2012“. Geekwire reported “… after considering nearly 6,000 companies, here are the top 50 startups that The Wall Street Journal editors believe have the the best chance at success.”

Congrats to our very own Donuts, Inc which is ranked 14th on the list! The other company in the Seattle area is Cheezburger which is ranked 28th. Pretty awesome to have both companies on this impressive list.

Updated: 9/29 @ 9:40am: I also forgot to mention that Docusign is on that list as well, ranked #6. I believe Docusign was founded in 2004, I guess they can still be considered a startup!

Here’s a link to a Q/A blog post that we did with Donuts last week.

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DIY SEO Bootcamp For Startups

SEO Bootcamp for Startups image credit
You’re a visionary. Your Idea will change the world!Every time you tell someone about your idea they instantly become a believer and start spreading the word. Your energy and passion for what you do is so contagious that you are attracting talent, people want to get involved. Only problem is you need funding, cash is tight, and can’t afford to hire a top notch SEO agency.

If you’re like me you’re a jack of all trades. My trade is SEO. Little did I know, I’m also a bookkeeper, attorney, real estate advisor, human resources department, project manager, marketing director, sales manager, public speaker, and the list goes on….

So, my fellow start-up friend, let me help make you the best overnight DIY SEO expert possible! Here are some tools and insights to help with your journey!

On Page Optimization

This will show you what the Perfectly optimized page looks like

Keep in mind that 70% of all internet searches are long tail searches, a critical factor when creating your content strategy

Use this tool to do keyword research. It’s important to understand the difference between broad match searches and exact match searches. Also, understand that the long tail lives between the exact match and broad match

Don’t waste your time with the meta keywords tag

Always keep users in mind when optimizing page content, never stuff keywords into a page to rank.

Set up a profile with Google Webmaster tools and Bing webmaster tools

Submit an XML sitemap to both Google & Bing through their webmaster tool accounts. Remember, Bing controls Yahoo. Need a sitemap? Use this Generator

Use this Tool to find broken links, missing alt tags, 404 errors , and other technical issues in your site. Export the report and tell your web dev to get busy!

More tools by the Ninjas! The DIY SEO Guys best friend

SEO Tools

SEOmoz has a great SEO tool kit, some say the best. Hey, with 18 million in funding they should have a kick butt tool kit!

OpenSiteExplorer will show you all of your competitors links. Go get em! Check out the “compare link metrics” on this tool

Megistic SEO will show you how many links your competitors have generated over time

SpyFu will show you how much money your competitors are spending on AdWords, and what keywords they are using. Also, compare two competitors to see what overlapping keywords are used….target these!

Raven Tools – This is SEOmoz’s largest competitors. They have a robust suite of SEO tools for link acquisition, bench marketing, and reporting

Link Building

Use UBL or YEXT to get into the local directories

The Penguin update put a stop on manufactured link building strategies. Put every link service through the test and ask yourself, “Will my target market find this useful?” If the answer is no, stay away.

Always ask link vendors for a deliverable. If they will not show you the link URLs do not do business with them

When you get your deliverable run the domain through Open Site Explorer to see the domain authority. If it’s a high domain authority (30+) then keep the link building service. If it’s of low domain authority then get rid of the service.
Never sign monthly contracts with link building vendors, keep them on their toes with purchase orders.

Here are some vendors that deliver manufactured strategies. Your success is through vendor management : AstaMedia , Link Narwhal, Backlink Mafia, Link Fool

Local SEO

This is your local SEO bible, if you’re a local business or have plans to operate many locations it’s critical that you read this

Content Generation

Media Piston: Crowdsouring platform for content generation. Need 1000 product reviews in 48 hours, this is your source. Need affordable movie reviews writer, product descriptions, or blog content? This is a great place to start. Sidenote: The founder of this company is a local Badass (what up Joe!)

Zerys – Project management platform that connects you with a pool of writers. Find one writer or power a crowd.

Crowd Content – another content platform. Content generation is getting easy now days…..

SEO Resources

 

SEOMoz – worlds largest SEO community, blog, and user generated blog

Search Engine Journal – Search marketing trends and updates. Check out my posts

Search Engine Watch – Authority in search info. Sign up for their weekly updates and get high level major updates in your inbox….

Search Ranking Factors – by SEOmoz, a complete look into the Google Ranking Algo, this is true science

Google Algorithm Changes – Track Google’s Algorithm changes with this web page by SEOmoz

All of the resources in this section (Search Ranking Factors and Google changes) have been tweeted thousands of times. This is because the content is the best in the business…..That’s your goal, create the best content in your business and deliver it to those that care. If you can do this, and you’re an ethical company, Social media will give you life

Alright – this will get you started! Start-up’s stick together….before funding and after! In the comments below, feel free to ask any questions or add to the list. I’m happy to help.

About Gabriel Gervelis
@seo_pro – I’m a digital expert a search marketing samurai, social ad serving gun slinger, start up entrepreneur, & marketing master mind who’s mission is nothing less then to change the world!
Find me on Linkedin

Why Three Founders Is Better Than Two

Creating a company with a good friend or like-minded business partner is common, and allows you to both call the shots and make decisions that have a direct impact on your startup’s future.

Unfortunately, a startup founded by two people can be a tough sell. It opens the door for disagreements and ultimately legal issues that could threaten to disrupt and even close the doors of your company for good.

This is why having a third founder is preferable to many startups that want to keep things equal between the two primary partners, but have an objective third party to resolve disagreements and help keep things smooth and civil.

Imagine a startup where two owners split the company’s assets in half and everything worked 50/50. This sounds like a great deal, but business is rarely a platform for constant agreement. One founder may decide that things would work better one way while the other prefers a different method. This makes an impasse difficult to avoid, and could ultimately lead to legal disagreements between parties for more critical decisions such as a sale of the company or in matters of the startup’s direction.

How it Works
Enter the third founder. This individual would ideally bring something to the table in terms of experience and level headedness. This third founder doesn’t have to receive a significant portion of the startup’s assets. Rather, you could split the business in a number of different ways to accommodate the contributions of this third person. Here are some examples.

Minor Partnership

  • Party A: 45%
  • Party B: 45%
  • Party C: 10%

A 10% stake in a startup is usually not a significant boost in that partner’s income, and it will also limit the amount of personal investment required on this partner’s part. In many ways, this division does little more than offer the third partner a deciding vote should the two primary members of the partnership disagree.

One area where something like this would come into play is a co-ownership of a restaurant in which the head chef (typically the person in charge of purchasing and management of the kitchen) is given the third piece of the partnership in exchange for a long-term commitment to the restaurant.

You could also split a startup this way should it be decided that the third partner is willing and capable of pulling 1/3 of the weight.

Equal Partnership

  • Party A: 33.33%
  • Party B: 33.33%
  • Party C: 33.33%

There is no magic number to these types of divisions, either. You could have a mixed partnership where one founder has a larger percentage than the other two, or a division that grants an even smaller division to the third partner than 10%.

It’s up to the business owners to organize it in such a way that any two members of the partnership have the ability to agree on something and make it happen.

Things to Remember
If the two original founders often disagree, the minor third partner actually wields a lot of power within the company. You wouldn’t want to bring in someone that is inclined to take one side over another on most issues. An objective third party is often best for these types of situations, and that means choosing someone that doesn’t have a previous allegiance.

By giving them enough of the company to reap the benefits of good decision making, you’re also giving them a very good reason to make the best decisions they can regarding the company’s future. This third founder is often handed to the person the partners are most likely to turn to for advice anyway.

There are ways to work clauses into the contract that require a 100% or 75% majority decision for some things. For example, choosing to sell the company or liquidate its assets is a major decision that shouldn’t be made without the two most invested partners agreeing on. By saying that a more significant majority has to agree to make these major decisions, you’re safeguarding yourselves from emotional destruction, a common problem that startups with roots in tight friendships and families face.

From your experience, do you think 3 founders is better than 2? Let us know in the comments!

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Transparency: Too Much Or Not Enough In Your Startup Culture?

Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, has a corporate culture of transparency. Rand spoke to the local chapter of the Entrepreneur Organization recently. Based on the story that he shared with us, it sounded like he was a person that was not very transparent in the early days of Moz. However, today Rand is more like Ryan Gosling (though clearly better looking) and is happy to share all. A recent Forbes article ranked Rand #1 in an article: 10 Leaders Who Are Not Afraid To Be Transparent.

If there’s a President in the world of transparency, it’s definitely Rand. A couple days ago, he posted his own performance review. In it, you can see that Rand challenges himself aggressively. SEOmoz has made their funding decks open to the public, which is unheard of. They share all of their failures (and their successes) with the world so others can learn from their experiences. This impacts their company culture.

How Is Company Culture Created?

Someone once said to me that if you don’t create your own culture, you will get a culture by default. The culture that I have been forming at thinkspace for three years has been focused around a few different pillars.

[listdot]

  • Core Values
  • One Page Strategic Plan
  • Daily Huddles
  • Top Grading

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A blog post on each of these things would barely be sufficient as there are books written on each topic. None the less, I’ll take a stab in the upcoming months describing how we use those pillars at thinkspace to help organizational efficiency and create company culture.

You Get The Culture You Tolerate

Even with these pillars in place, there needs to be consistency across the company. Bending rules for just one person and not allowing other people to do the same thing creates an unpleasant confusing work environment. It’s bad for the other employees and it’s bad as a leader. No one should ever be above the rules. I’m also not a fan of “It’s my company so it’s my way or the highway”.

Employees Are People Not Cyborgs

The hard part about this is when you’re just starting up a company, it’s extremely challenging to think about the various things that might come up because there’s a wild card. Employees are human beings, not cyborgs. Depending on the people you hire, they will request stuff that you couldn’t even begin to imagine. Mix in entitlement, expectations, personality, and prior baggage from other managers and companies where they have worked and it creates an infinite number of things that might come up.

The flip side to this is become a cyborg yourself and run things in a black and white manner. That is a culture of machines. The problem with this is there’s no humanity in running things like a cyborg. I choose to run a company that focuses on being remarkable and human to our customers and can’t be done without humans. I can’t turn myself into a cyborg.

Screw Appealing to Gen-Y

Some leaders try to figure out all the different types of generational differences between boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Millennials. I was that guy. I’ve read tons of articles, graphs comparing this generation versus that generation, heard at least three expert speakers on this subject with my last person being Jason Dorsey at the EO MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program. I’ve educated myself enough to make a decision that it’s stupid for me to try and try to appeal to Gen-Y or any generation for that matter. Creating stereotypes around one generation or another is not smart. Not all Gen-Y are un-loyal and self-centered. Not all millennials are adultolescent and entitled. Not all Gen-X are naturally skeptical, most loyal to individuals not companies. Not all boomers just want to fit in and are ok with delayed gratification. Stop stereotyping.

Create Your Own Startup Culture

So rather than try and appeal to these various generations — create your own culture. When you hire people you have to share with them ‘this is our culture’ and ‘this is what it’s like to work here’. Rand said “Hire people that don’t always agree with you, but they need to share your core values and care about the company”. You have to create an on-boarding process and make sure that they clearly understand what the expectations are and what are the outcomes and consequences. One thing that we just added to our on-boarding process is making sure the new hire picks a mentor within the company. Someone that can help guide and share with them what it’s like to work here. Remember the old adage: You are hired for what you know, you are fired for who you are.

A Culture of Appreciation

I’ve had many failures (too many to count) but one that weighs heavily on me is not sooner implementing a culture of appreciation. This one bites. It’s got to flow in all directions, up, down, and all around. It’s easy to lose mutual respect and appreciation for each other. Disrespect comes from lack of appreciation. It’s easy to judge people and lose respect for people. The way that we are addressing this is during our daily huddle we say one thing that we appreciate about another team member or even another person in the thinkspace community that has positively impacted our day. While I love hearing about wins during our daily huddle, the thing that I look forward to the most each day is what my team appreciates about each other.

Happiness Index

TINYPulse – Date Asked: September 11, 2012

At thinkspace, we keep track of our Net Promoter Score (NPS). That is the indicator for us to know whether or not our customers would refer us to other people. It’s our measurement for whether or not we are doing a great job or just a good job. I’ve also just implemented an Employee Happiness Index (TinyPulse) through my friend David Niu’s company TinyHR (I’m in private beta and you can email him if you want to join his beta). It’s similar to the NPS but it’s for employees. Our Happiness Index is a 9.2 out of 10. The system wide benchmark (average of all companies in the system) had an index of 8.2. A score of 1 being extremely unhappy and about to quit – to 10 being extremely happy and jumping for joy. If my employees are happy they are likely going to be providing incredible customer service. They also will be fun to work with too. The goal for me is to come work every day see that my customers and employees are as happy as possible. I’m the Chief Pot Stirrer for a reason!

I’m still learning like mad. I’m still making tons of mistakes. I would love to hear what is one thing that you do in your company to create an amazing company culture? What is one of your biggest failures in creating your company culture?

5 Things Startups Should Blog About

When you think about building a business around a product or service, the farthest thing from your mind may be starting a blog on your company’s website. That’s completely understandable, though the benefits of having a company blog can be well worth the effort.

A company blog enables you to keep your customers (and investors) informed as to the status of various projects and establish your business as a leader in your industry. You may even grab some customers that might never have heard about your brand had it not been for a helpful blog post that answered a question or problem they were experiencing.

Think about it – people don’t randomly seek out your business unless they have a problem that requires addressing. Either they’re looking for a better app for their phone or even a place to go to relax. Your blog is a value-add for anyone willing to visit your site and see what you have to offer.

So, what should your startup blog about? You wouldn’t get very far talking about breakfast or some unrelated topic that doesn’t pertain to your business. There are, however, several things you can write about that will vastly improve your chances of turning readers into customers.

Blog About Your Company

One of the most important things to blog about is your company. Be sure not to make these posts aren’t overly promotional. Instead, give an update about the latest product or service your startup is developing – and be transparent about the good and the bad that is happening. This is especially important if you are taking pre-orders or crowdsourced funding.

You don’t have to give all of the details, but people love knowing about what’s going on behind the scense. Being active on your blog means staying fresh in the minds of your customers, especially when you have a product coming soon.

Your customers are also a great source of material for you to blog about. Do you have a customer with a story to tell? Consider sharing that story with your community. Perhaps someone was able to take something your company created and turn it into something entirely different? These stories help build your company’s reputation and directs the attention back to the customer.

Blog About Related Interests

If your startup is a related to photography, you might consider blogging about photography tips and the importance of good lighting. You may also want to discuss trends in the industry – and how your product offers a unique solution. You could also hare information about what might be coming in the next few years in the world of photography and cameras.

Blog About Local Tips

Startups that depend greatly on local business should involve themselves directly with the community. You may want to write about issues concerning the local community and recommend some local events such as festivals and concerts happening soon. The more value you add as a member of that community, the higher your chances of the community reciprocating interest in your project, and thereby increasing your chances of success.

If you’re a food truck, for example, you should definitely blog about local produce sources they would recommend, or share some recipes (not necessarily the secret ones). Every startup should strive to personalize their brand more than anything. As far as as food truck, if your head chef has a few tips for home cooks, share them on the blog and make sure his/her name is on the post.

Blog About Members of Your Team

Startups should also feature members of their team and put a human face behind your startup. There are a million different startups out there that promise to revolutionize the way people think about this and that. The ones that last are generally the ones that people connect the most with.

Putting a face behind various aspects of your company makes it easier to decide to stick around. People love knowing who is behind product development or hearing the story of how the founders came up with the idea of starting the company.

Blog About Your Products

When blogging about your products, consider the things you can’t or haven’t said in your promotional materials. Offer a value to the customer such as alternative uses or perhaps some helpful tips and tricks that can improve their experience with your product.

It’s important not to make every single post a promotional piece. Instead, feature aspects of the product that isn’t obvious or answer common questions in a longer form than a simple Q&A can facilitate.

These are just some of the many things your startup can start blogging about from day one. Keep in mind that there is no golden path to success that works for every business. The evolution of business over the past five years have proven that success comes to those that take the initiative and drive the most value before, during, and after the sale.

What would you blog about to bring value to your customers?

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What the Return on Investment Looks like on a Startup Like Pinterest

The return on investing in a startup can be really hard to anticipate. I was reading an article on Tech Crunch titled “The One That Got Away” which highlighted how one investor had the opportunity to invest in Pinterest but passed.

Let’s get real about investing in startups first before we talk about what happens when you invest in the home-run. You could invest $25K and you could even be helping that company out further by opening connections to customers, other investors, helping the person find a co-founder, developer, helping them find employees all of which are invaluable to that company. The truth is you might not see a single dollar back from investing in a startup.

However, if you get crazy lucky and invest in a company like Pinterest you could have seen something like this: A basic $25k investment in Pinterest at $5 million valuation would mean $7.5 million in value at its current $1.5 billion valuation, a $50k investment would be now worth about $15 million.

One of the most interesting things about Pinterest is that it’s been stated on New Media and Marketing: Some believe that Pinterest users live and influence almost everyone within the ultimate social graph and that from a marketing standpoint Pinterest users find and share a lot of great information. Pretty impressive for a startup to have it’s valuation increase to over a billion in a few short years with only 13 employees.

What are some of your expectations when you invest in a startup? Do you like to get involved with the strategic direction? What’s your primary reasons that you invest in startups?