Friday, October 31, 2008

Embed Images in Twitter Tweets

Want to have some Halloween fun on Twitter? Try cutting and pasting the following Twitter Halloween Icons into your Tweets:

Want a Halloween Bat: >o<

Jack O Lantern: `O

Skull and Crossbones: 8-#

Frankenstein: [:-]-I-

Tombstone: +-(

Spider: ////Ö\\\\

Scary Moon: ( | )

Mommy: (|:|/)

Witches Hat: <|:~(

Vampire: :-[

Thanks @ Hajime

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Business Development should start with your VC

We keep reading about the upcoming crisis for startups, and how funding will be more difficult to come by. I wrote a post, How to run Lean and Mean, here. Fred Wilson, a prominent VC wrote about it on his blog, here. I can only help if you hire me, but people like Fred are in an even better position to help.

Though Fred does not work for the companies he has funded, he is on the board of directors for many. Of the investments where he does not maintain a board seat, he at least has a relationship - and likely a direct line in to the CEO.

Now I am not writing this post to pick on Fred Wilson, I am only using him as an example because I am familiar with some of his investments, and some of their issues. Let's take a quick look at just a few of Fred's investments, and show how Fred could be a catalyst to business development initiatives that would benefit all.

Fred Wilson is an investor in Meetup makes it easy for people to locate, create or schedule (off line) meetings using their platform. Meetup appears to be doing well. They are a leader in their space, they have 5M members, and help facilitate over 100,000 meetups a month. They charge $19 a month for someone who wants to create a Meetup. Seems like a good company, and a sound business model.

Fred Wilson is also an investor in Twitter. Twitter monthly unique users are currently over 1M. They likely have around 4 Million users in total, and are the fastest growing social network. As recently as this week, the Wall St. Journal proclaimed that "Twitter has gone mainstream". Unlike Meetup, Twitter has yet to divulge any business model, nor any form of monetization for their service.

This is where Fred Wilson as an investor in both Twitter and Meetup can help out his investments. Fred should be the catalyst in introducing them to each other, and should plant the seed for a business development relationship as well.

Meetup should port their service to run on top of the Twitter network. The benefit is that there is likely little overlap between their similar (in size) user base. So Meetup immediately gets access to an additional 4 Million users. More importantly it is a user base that is growing much faster then their own.

Twitter will be able to receive a revenue share of what will now be known as "Tweetups", and can leverage a Meetup platform that has taken years to build out. WIN WIN.

Fred Wilson need not stop there. Let's look at an even easier partnership he could introduce. Fred Wilson owns a stake in Zemanta, and he also owns a stake in Disqus. Both tools target the exact same customer base, bloggers. Both services are non-competing. Disqus is a "best of breed" commenting system for bloggers. It is also a syndication system of sorts. Zemanta helps bloggers by automatically finding other articles, and "tags" that are consistent with a blog post.

Fred Wilson could read an earlier blog post I wrote that describes a very subtle method to offer a second product after an initial installation. You can read about it here. The general idea though is that Zemanta and Disqus have many commonalities. They are both seed funded, and fledgling (small user bases). They both serve the same end user. Their products compliment each other. This allows for a very easy "you scratch my back, and i'll scratch yours" relationship. Fred Wilson should propose that they offer each others products (Opt In) at the end of each others installations.

VCs - What investments do you have in YOUR portfolio, where you could make an introduction? Entrepreneurs, what other startups do you know of that might COMPLIMENT what you have to offer?

I would like to get your take, please leave a comment here. Do you think other VC's or entrepreneurs might benefit from this post, then please consider Digging it here.

If you want to discuss this or other ideas in real time, you can find me on Twitter here.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blogging is dead come see your NEW BLOG

While clicking around the web the other day, I found an article on Wired discussing why blogging is dead. Immediate thoughts of "man, are they dead wrong" stormed through my head before I had even read the article. Reading it however revealed that the author had some good points. While the "Blogging is dead" mantra is sensationalism, I am starting to agree (somewhat).

I am by no means a professional blogger. Lack of advertising on the afpr blog, and more notably my lack of good grammar prove that! But what started out as an online journal of my random thoughts and comments, has now made it into the top 1% of all Social Media blogs. Now just when all my hard work promoting is starting to attract traffic, I am starting to think...why bother?

I have another blog I did not even know about. It is powered by a commenting startup called Disqus . Disqus while not ubiquitous across the blogosphere is used more and more often by more blogs as their commenting system. Now, whenever I leave a comment, the original blog author (or anyone for that matter) can reply back. Now the original blog topic never has to die. When someone replies to a comment I left, I am notified via email, and have the oppertunity to add to my comment.

I never realized it before now, but I have had more to say via commenting on other peoples blogs, than on my own blog. Disqus, and services like it will be the new way that many of us blog - it just makes sense. You can read my "Disqus blog" here.

What are the new ways that you blog, leave your comments , or move the conversation to Twitter by following me here.
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Twitter the railroad tracks of the 21st century

I just posted this (originally as a comment on Fred Wilson's blog)in answer to yet another call from people asking how Twitter will monetize? Amazingly, people STILL just don't get it.

What might be stupid is the question, since most who ask it have no vested interest in Twitter financially. I have blogged over 15 different methods Twitter can use to monetize. I suggested yet another one in an email to Jack Dorsey this past week. Twitter's ultimate value is in its network, and the ubiquity of it all (both users as well as different plumbing such as email/sms/IM etc).

Try this... I just now discovered that I will be moving to Phoenix in a few months from NYC. Using the Twitter network and one of their API partner's products I was able to build my own little social network on the fly (Link will show you everyone Tweeting from within 20 miles of Phoenix) TwitterLocal .

Now tell me, where else can you build a social network on the fly? As GPS enabled smartphones become even more prevalent, this will increase Twitter's value as the underlying network exponentially. And it's not even just about geographic. Using Twitter one can build a network around anyone, anything, any place (look at Twitter's election board as an example, or Stocktwits as another).

People should start looking at Twitter for what it is... Twitter is the railroad tracks (railroad infrastructure) of the 21st century. How much is that worth? What do you think Twitter is? If you agree, please consider Digging this post

Why not follow me on
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Negotiating & Negotiation

Art of the Deal - Negotiation 101

Negotiation truly is an art. What makes it an art is being able to "read" your partner, and walking a fine line in what you ask for. Make no mistake about it EVERYTHING can be negotiated. Even in instances when price is not negotiable, consider looking outside the box - ask for other extras to be thrown in. There are many things that go into a successful negotiation and these are a few that stand out in my mind as being important:

1) Always, no ALWAYS attempt to let the other side make the first offer...this is regardless of who is approaching who first in the negotiation. This is important because right out of the gate, you have a center point that allows you to not offer too much immediately, nor too little. Make them show their hand first.

2) Know not only their business, and existing partnerships - but make it your business to know everything about their competition as well. Never forget, knowledge is power. The more you know the better the deal will be for your company. There is a secondary benefit in that the person on the other end of the negotiation, will not only respect you more - they will also have a better flow of conversation with you (socially). When two people click or clash, this will determine whether or not a negotiation ends before it even gets started, or gets to a successful deal for you.

3) Do not be greedy. Successful partnerships go much further then the initial contract often having amendments, and secondary contracts from the continual relationship as time goes on. It is important then to note that a successful negotiation is ONLY one where both parties feel happy about the outcome. Getting your company a "steal of a deal" in a negotiation can backfire, should it leave a bad taste in your partners mouth. Negotiation MUST be a win-win for all parties.

4) Make certain you are talking with the decision maker, and not a gatekeeper. Many times even though the party on the other end of the negotiation will tell you that it is their domain, and their decision it actually is not. When you get a rejection from these people, do not be afraid to approach someone else within their corporation. It just might have been that you were initially talking to their ad rep, who told you he was their business development guy - even though he was not. Great starting points to secure you are asking for the right person include sites (services) such as LinkedIn . When possible, try NEVER to go in via the switchboard operator.

5) Do not drop the ball. While some negotiations can be tied up over one email/phone/meeting/lunch, others can take a year to close. Do not get frustrated, and realize that many times (especially if your partner in the negotiation is large) you and your agenda are not the only thing on their plate. Often times, in a large corporation they will actually do a market research study, feasibility study or internal meetings to determine if they want to proceed. Even if they are the decision maker, high level negotiations often involve more then one party. Do not let your mind convince you that there are unspoken reasons why they are not getting back to you in a timely fashion. Just follow up...not daily to be a pest, but again, walk that fine line in your follow up.

Please add your comments, what works for you when you negotiate? If you think others can benefit from this post, please DIGG it. Lastly, you can find me on Twitter here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Facebook Vs. Google = Co-opertition

Jeremiah Owyang, Forrester's Social Media analyst just Tweeted about having met with Google. He went out of his way to make a comment that Google has invited Facebook people to the meeting as well. The "Tweet" seemed to imply that Google and Facebook are best buds. I don't buy it for a minute.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Make no mistake about it, Google and Facebook are no best buddies, think of it more as Co-opertition.

Google has a talent for looking down field, it’s just that they are horrible about executing on their vision. Schmidt recognized the bizillions of page views that social networks get, and that might have been the original catalyst for Google’s initial Orkut (social networking) initiative, and once failed their now Open Social plan. Facebook owns this space, and Google wants to be best buds, but not for Facebook’s billions of page views.

Facebook will eventually become Google’s strongest competitor (yes, not Microsoft, not Yahoo, Facebook). This is not because of what Facebook is perceived as today (a social network with billions of page views). This is because as the web becomes “smarter” (phase #1 we are amassing an amazing database of information about everything and everyone), we will mine both semantically and intelligently (phase #2) the enormous data that is the “web”. Social networks have an even larger advantage in that their data contains more personal attributes. When married to general web (non-social) data, this new social intelligence will provide for an entirely different “marketing” experience then how we currently interact with advertisers and brands today.

Going forward, with the ability to take ones’ social network with you everywhere (phase #3) Facebook will have now gotten a potentially life threatening edge over Google’s bread & butter. I am not talking about Facebook the social network, or even about Facebook the marketing platform. I am referring to Facebook as the *new* Google adwords.

Facebook is putting into place all the pieces it needs to run it's own Adwords network. This means that Facebook will no longer be pitching to brands about marketing solely on the Facebook platform. It will mean pitching to brands that they now have the same global scale and reach that Google has, but with a better, and smarter algorithm to boot!

Google sees it, Facebook knows it, do not believe for a minute that these to 800 pound gorillas will not end up face to face, Mano to Mano at some point in the next few years.

What do you think? Please add to the discussion, or if you like this post, DIGG it. Want to comment elsewhere, Why not send me a Tweet?

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Startup Funding - How to be lean

The other day I read about one of Jason Calacanis 's posts about the lack of liquidity (and funding) coming in the startup space. I never like Calacanis's self promoting rants, but he raises an excellent point. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures sums it up nicely. Startups need to "get focused, get better, get leaner, and ultimately to get profitable". The following is from a comment I left on Fred's blog. I got so many comments on it (most via Twitter) that I decided to add it here as its own post. Here are a few ideas that I have used in the past that entrepreneurs can use to stay lean;

1) Don't pay the rate card - Whether it is online advertising, print or other - I was often able to negotiate steep discounts when paying for advertising (example was rate card was $24k I paid $6k / rate card $70k, I paid $10k ... It's all a poker game, when you first inquire, be a little aloof and ask them to keep you in mind when they have remnant inventory.

2) Don't buy CPM, or even only CPC - Make them a vested partner. When I built an affiliate channel, the most successful partners were ones that were revenue shares (they only made money, when they sold a product)

3) Don't waste your money on a meaningless booth at a meaningless tradeshow (I was dumbfounded by some of the companies that had paid for a presence at this years Web 2.0 in NY).

4) Let others do the heavy lifting - A lot of start-ups that I advise bring their social network business plans to my attention for my opinion/comment. They all make the same mistake, in that they are going to create this great social network around a particular niche. Why reinvent the wheel? If you need to be nimble early on, consider leveraging someone else's already existing social network (ie- make your service into a widget for FaceBook, or use Twitter as your member base). Consider that getting a new user to your service will likely eat up the majority of your cash. Save the driving new users to your site for latter when you have the cash.

5) Partner up with non-competing (even better complimentary) start-ups where you can share infrastructure costs. This can be anything from sharing office space, to sharing servers,etc.

6) Realize that your most important asset is not your programming expertise...consider hiring someone with a marketing background (*hint) early on. Most start-ups I speak with have ZERO marketing guys on board of their first 20 hires! A competent marketing person can often pay for themselves 10 fold by bringing you ideas, partnerships,etc that you likely would not have thought of on your own.

That's all the IP I feel like giving away today. If you want to pay me for it, here's what you can do. PLEASE COMMENT and tell me YOUR vision, or if you liked this Digg it. Want to comment away from this blog, send me a Tweet
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