Archive for June, 2011

Startup Weekend Chandler Day 1

25 Jun
Image representing Startup Weekend as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Normal people look forward to the weekend to relax and hangout with their friends. Entrepreneurs, go to Startup Weekend and decide to get involved in another exciting project. Friday morning, I woke up, got ready, and packed my purse with everything I would need to work for the day. My gear included; netbook, power charger, phone, iPod, extended battery, headphones, mouse, notebook, pens, makeup, extra t-shirt with geek logo, webcam, mouse, and USB hub. Yes, I did pack all of that in my very stylish black patent leather purse that I had to use because they matched my shoes.

I stopped by Gangplank to drop off the stuff for the Women 2.0 Founder Friday happy hour. Hand Things Down was hosting this networking event for the ladies attending Startup Weekend. Then drove to the Chandler Public Library to attend Startup 101. Startup 101 was a chance to get a primer before the weekend for anyone new to the world of being an entrepreneur. They had panels talking about creating a team, product development, and execution.

I thought the best talk was about building teams and resolving conflict given by Derek Neighbors and Jade Meskill. Here are some of their key points.

  • Create a team with a common vision.
  • Look at the vision and use that to help guide decisions and conflict resolution.
  • Read “Core Protocols” to learn about conflict resolution.
  • Ask people at the beginning about their level of commitment.
  • You should NOT compromise, negotiate for the best of each idea.
  • Teams of developers and business people should sit together to discuss direction as the weekend progresses.

As the evening kicked off, the ladies of Startup Weekend got together for Founder Friday happy hour to get to know each other before we joined the guys. There was some good discussion and an exchange of Twitter handles so we could follow each other during and after the weekend.

When Startup Weekend kicked off, we heard about 28 pitches and then the mayhem of self-forming teams commenced. Two teams stood out for me. One of them was Chow Locally who is creating a locavore website to connect local farmers with consumers and delivering the farm fresh veggies and fruit to the Phoenix Public Market.  The second team I was interested in was called and this is the team I joined for the weekend. Surprizes collects birthday freebies and presents them to you on your special day with Facebook and Twitter greetings. Now you can feel the birthday love all day as you go out and collect your freebies.

So that wraps it up for Day 1. Tomorrow I will be writing up birthday related blog posts for Surprizes and greeting people for their birthdays on Twitter. Sign up for your birthday

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Why We Switched to Facebook Comments

20 Jun

90% of visitors to online communities are lurkersEvery couple of weeks we participate in a Founder Institute master class to continue discussions and keep forward momentum for our startup. The subject for the last call was user acquisition. We went over the various tactics on how to drive engagement through social media channels like Facebook fan pages, Twitter, Quora, Youtube, and commenting on blogs related to our business. Each startup participates in a different mix of social outlets, it really depends on where the customers for your company hangout, a business to business (B2B) company may not require a YouTube or Facebook presence. B2B startups may spend more time on Linkedin discussions or Quora answering questions and establishing themselves as subject matter experts in an area related to their product offering.

Driving Awareness on Facebook

After the call, it was clear we needed to switch from using the Disqus commenting system to Facebook comments. Migration will be easy since we are fairly new and we haven’t received many comments using Disqus. While no one wants to be dependent on Facebook for all of the social aspects of their web properties, this is a case where it made sense for us to move to Facebook comments. Moms with toddlers who are on Facebook are our launch target and we want to make sure every comment made on the Hand Things Down blog shows up on their walls to further drive engagement with our brand.

Where does your customer hangout online?

On Wednesday night, I was at a Social Media Planning Meeting and Jeff Moriarity said one of the pros for using Disqus is conversation around your brand from all over the web is aggregated in one place. Here are some questions your startup will need to consider; Where does your customer hangout? What do they read? What videos do they watch? Are they more likely to use Facebook or Twitter? You also need to keep in mind that if your target customer is only on Facebook, perhaps Facebook commenting will help them move from being a lurker to an engaged member of your community.

Your company can listen for conversations around the web using a different tool. We are using Google Alerts to listen for any mentions of our brand and actively retweet or push original content on Twitter and our Facebook fan page.

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Getting Press for Your Startup

02 Jun

Getting your startup in the newsWhen we were in the Founder Institute at the beginning of the year, we had weekly milestones for customer development, market research, competitive analysis or product development to keep our business moving forward. The biggest aspiration we had at the time was to graduate. We worked our butts off to polish the pitch deck and get the 0.1 version of the Hand Things Down mobile app done during our last three-week sprint.

We naively thought, once we graduate we can get back to a normal life. Then as you hit each milestone, you take a breath, maybe catch up on a little sleep and start charging towards the next goal. Startups usually go into beta, then start scrambling to get press for their big launch. We were very lucky to receive our first mention in a Mashable article by Jolie O’Dell on the “5 Ambitious Social Good Startups Created in a Single Weekend” while we were busy with the private beta for Hand Things Down.

Before you begin tackling the tactics below to make a splash with your web startup, make sure you create a compelling story to make people want to share what your company’s story with their friends. Then give them a product they can’t live without so they keep telling their friends about it.

Top 7 things you need to do to launch a web startup, according to Robert Scoble on Quora:

  1. Get a LaunchRock site or create a landing page from WordPress using the LaunchPad theme to collect email addresses.
  2. Make a blog.
  3. Make a YouTube video channel.
  4. Start Tweeting.
  5. Get a Facebook Page.
  6. List your company on Angel List (and, CrunchBase, etc).
  7. Figure out the 10 journalists you want to have seen your product before you launch.
  8. Be lucky…added by me

If you are creating your startup team, the ideal combination is to have one person focused on business and marketing while the other founder focuses on development. My primary focus has been on creating content for the blog, writing guest blog posts on websites that our target customer regularly visits and of course social media. Social media includes tweeting regularly on the company Twitter account, posting questions and content on the Facebook page and commenting on Facebook pages our target customer might read AS THE BUSINESS FACEBOOK PAGE. Do all of these marketing activities even before your company releases the product to build your online brand. Social media marketing takes a long time to gain traction. If you don’t have time to create your blog, create a landing page where you can collect email addresses of interested customers that you can market to when you start your beta.

I added number 8 because luck will play a part in how hard or easy it will be to get your company in the news. Since we participated in Startup Weekend, Founder Institute – Seattle, and continue to be active in the startup community, we are sometimes listed on their websites under the Hand Things Down brand. Being listed in the Startup Weekend company directory got us included in the social good article on Mashable.

Lastly, guest blog and begin developing relationships with 10 journalists you would like to feature your company before you need press and establish yourself and your company as a thought leader in your space.

Image credit: Chlorine-lim

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