Product development

Original post by Fast Company

Advice for startups looking to staff up–fast.

Startups expect a lot of their people. They need to be able to work withinA the confines of a small company–be creative with tight budgets, willing to wear multiple hats, and eager to put in long hours. But they also need to be suited to big organizations; after all, most startups are designed to grow into big companies.

As the founder and CEO of one such aspirational startup, Betterment.com, I’m often asked how I balance rapid growth of company and team with getting the mix of people right. The beauty of creating a business that does things differently is that innovation doesn’t stop with the product. We, as leaders of these companies, have the rare opportunity to reinvent the hiring process. A trailblazing startup bucks convention, and building a team is no exception.

At Betterment, we don’t seek to fill static roles. We look for people with complementary skill sets; people who can slot right into the team and fulfill multiple responsibilities. Ultimately, we just want people who can execute on our vision and bring their own critical thinking to the table.

Complete the Talent Puzzle

Lots of startups begin with an original team of 2-4 people. In our case, a developer, a product lead, a lawyer and me, a banking and finance consultant. We launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010 and immediately gained 1,000 new customers. It was clear we needed to staff up, and fast.

Luckily, we knew what we didn’t know and quickly identified the gaps–a shrewd marketing head and a whole team of developers who could bring our vision to life. Soon after we needed more bodies on customer service, product development, and to create a stronger brand and voice.

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Original post by  via Software Advice 

Congratulations, you’ve done it! You started with an idea, launched a company, and now your product or service is selling well. It’s time to grow. But as you know, growing a business isn’t simple.

“The media plays up the overnight successes like Instagram,” says Jay Turo, co-founder and CEO of Growthink, “but for the vast majority of entrepreneurs, it is a long, slow, and gradually upward growth process.”

From an HR perspective, in particular, there’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s up to you. I recently connected with Turo and Dan Roitman, Founder and CEO of Stroll–two entrepreneurs who have successfully grown their businesses from scratch–and posed the question: What does it take to grow a company from startup to small business?

Here are five must-haves they identified to take your business to the next level.

1. A Culture that Supports Your Purpose

You need to decide what kind of culture you want your company to have. That depends, somewhat, on what you want your company to look like down the road. Start with the end in mind. For many entrepreneurs on the cusp of growth, it’s still go-go-go (and likely will be for a while). But stop working for a second and reflect on what aspirations you have for your company. According to Roitman, “Your long-term game plan should be supported by a culture that will take you there.”

For Stroll, the goal was to be a high-growth company. “We defined what values people need to embrace to make sure our employees are accelerating the business.”

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Original post by Tristan Louis via BI

One of the strange thing that happens when you decide to move into the startup world is that every person out of that world assumes that you’re in it just for the money. There is  a general assumption that people go do startups only to get rich.

But the truth is much more complicated and ultimately comes down to a simple fact: it’s not about the money.

Is it about the idea?

As I’m now on startup number 6, with 4 of the previous 5 being pretty successful, people often ask me about why I keep going back to the startup well again and again and the truth is that I don’t go back to it as much as I’m drawn back to it by an idea.

I’ve often told people asking me for advice about making the jump that there is a simple truth to doing a startup: it’s hard and unless you’re truly passionate and truly believe that you should not do something else, you might want to rethink jumping in.

Startups are about somewhat crazed devotion to the fact that you can make a difference in the market you’re looking to address. Some would say that it’s a crazed devotion to a particular idea but the fact is that the initial idea one kicks off with rarely turns into the final product that enters the market. Through refining and careful iteration, an original idea gets more polished and, along the way, iterates into some variation of the idea to eventually become a product.

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Original post by Recruiter

US cloud-based talent management software firm Cornerstone OnDemand has released its Recruiting Cloud product.

The product allows organisations to manage the entire employee lifecycle through full integration with existing talent management solutions from the firm.

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Original post by Martin Zwilling via Forbes

One of the big advantages of being an entrepreneur and starting your company from scratch is that you get to set the culture, which is much easier than changing the culture of an existing business. The challenge is how to do it, and how to do it right. Why not learn what you can from companies like Apple, who are leading the way with great growth and a great culture?

Jim Stengel, in his latest book “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit” chronicles a ten-year study of the world’s fifty best businesses, including Apple, and concludes that those who centered their businesses on a culture of improving people’s lives had a growth rate triple that of competitors in their categories.

Here are ten culture building principles, adapted for startups from this study, that I believe have the same potential for tripling the growth and survival potential of your entrepreneurial efforts:


  • Communicate your dream and operationalize it.
     Mission statements tend to be narrow, business oriented statements such as “Be the leader in customer satisfaction.” Your dream and your company culture needs to be outward focused with a higher good, extending beyond the company’s financial interests.
  • Be clear about what you stand for, inside and outside your company.Your personal priorities, values, and principles set the culture. The best way to be clear about them is to regularly engage team members, customers, and suppliers. People follow what you do, not what you say.

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Original post by  via The Fordyce Letter

Many of our clients are staffing and recruiting firms, and because of this we have a unique perspective on the industry. So when it comes to our own hiring processes, we try to glean best practices from industry leaders, but we also try things our own way. As we iterate and refine our methods, we thought it might be interesting to share what we’ve learned.

A little background to start. InsightSquared is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but for all intents and purposes we are a Boston-based startup, and that means we are in a competitive city for hiring. Yes, the overall Massachusetts economy has slowed as of late, but the technology startup sector is red-hot. In fact, all across the country, some small/medium tech businesses have increased payroll by almost fivefold, and are having a tough time hiring quick enough. Not only are startups competing against each other, but large companies like Apple and Google have increased their workforce size by 50% in the last two years, snatching up a lot of talent. Either way, tech recruiting is an area of growth and we can tell that recruiters are acutely aware of it.

What Recruiters Should Know

On vacancies…

If you ask a tech startup whether it’s hiring, you usually get this response: “For the right candidate,” meaning that they are never done hiring. In a field where speed and talent wins, if a stellar developer even comes within the vicinity of the office, he/she will be snatched up faster than an intern can be stuffed in the server room to make space.

On interviews…

We’re over the gimmicky interview logic puzzles as many startups seem to be. Real-world coding questions are given to developers during interviews, most from actual problems we have faced in the company. Thinking on one’s feet quickly is giving way to being able to think through coding problems carefully and thoroughly.

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Original post by SARAHPEREZ via techcrunch

Startup incubator DreamIt Ventures is announcing the first Israel-U.S. accelerator, which will help up to five Israeli startups expand into the U.S. market through DreamIt’s NYC 2012 program. The new program, calledDreamIt Israel, will take place over four months, with the first month in Israel followed by three months in New York. The startups will also participate in two Demo Day events – one in the U.S. and the other back home with local investors.

Despite some VCs’ contention that entrepreneurs still need to be based in the Valley to succeed, Israel has been pushing out innovative new web and mobile startups at a rapid pace, including, of course, Disrupt winner Shaker.

DreamIt hopes to now capitalize on this trend with the new DreamIt Israel program, which kicks off on April 15th. Participating companies will have access to the U.S. and other global markets through the program, plus mentorship, guidance, and up to $25,000 in early stage capital. To qualify, founders must be residing in Israel and holding citizenship or residence.

After the first month in Israel, the startups will work alongside U.S. companies in DreamIt’s NYC 2012 program, which runs from May 14th through August 17th, 2012. After NYC’s Demo Day in August, the Israeli startups will return home to present before local investors, too. They will also be provided with two more months of workspace (location TBD) following the second Demo Day in Israel.

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Taking the Plunge

Posted by | 17 January, 2012 | Product development, Startup

Original post by StartUpSmart

Staffing a start-up

It’s a nice position to be in to be looking for new staff for your start-up. At the very least it means the business is growing, and if you find the right person they can help you accelerate that growth.

At Shooii we have currently been recruiting for a junior role which will help free up time for us to move our business to the next level. It’s a process that has raised quite a few questions and challenges for us.

Firstly, we had to think about which role to hire for. With only a fixed amount of resources available for new staff, we need to ensure that we deliver the most valuable output for the business.

For us, this involved a review of all the work that needs to be done, and evaluating not only what tasks an employee could tackle, but also analysing the most effective use of our own time and how a new hire would complement the best use of our own time.

The next decision involved working out how we would get the word out that we were hiring, without breaking the bank. We posted the job on a free job board that was specific to the interest of our likely candidates, and also asked our network of contacts in that field to spread the word for us.

Luckily the quality of applicants we received were strong, and that in turn has required us to ask ourselves which qualities we deem most important for a member of the Shooii team. We’ve had this discussion in the past that for us, possible cultural fit may even rate slightly higher than technical ability.

Dave and I place a huge emphasis on maintaining the right company culture, and while we have our ideas it’s ultimately up to all staff to shape the way a business works together.

Based on this we’re looking for applicants who are multi-skilled, enthusiastic, vibrant and have an appetite for learning – in addition to being proficient in the skills at the core of the role.

It’s likely that their role will grow and change over time, so it’s key that they bring the right attitude to tackle life in a busy start-up office.

Once we’ve come to a resolution, I’m sure it will be time to immediately move on to the next challenge – finding the time to be a good manager!

Mark Campbell is the director for web strategy at Shooii, a retail start-up that is launching very soon. Mark is passionate about branding, innovation and creating a positive company culture. He shares the highs and lows of planning a new business for StartupSmart.
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Oh Private Money, Where Art Thou?

Posted by | 17 January, 2012 | Finance, Product development, Startups

Original post by Jaakko Salminen via ArcticStartUp

One of the generally accepted wisdoms of the Finnish startup and growth company environment is shortage of private money. Startups run to Tekes for funding supposedly due to lack of available private early investments, and growth companies get sold very early when there is no VC money available. Easily available public funding is often cited as the dragon eating away any lucrative investment opportunities, and the vicious circle is ready.

Or is private money simply being directed elsewhere? In fact some very interesting sources for additional private money could be made available, if we take a forward-looking attitude.

By far the biggest investors in Finland are the pension funds. With their €140 B in combined investments they wield a mighty sword. These investments are by definition very risk-averse, concentrating mostly on instruments such as government bonds. Targeted yield is only 4%, and even that is now being lowered. These funds have made some investments in VC funds in early 2000s, but are now reluctant to make new investments. This is partly due to their bad experiences the previous time round, and partly due to the fact that a typical 5-15 M€ investment in a new VC fund is too small a figure to be interesting to them.

By definition, the current pension funds only cover less than a third of the actual pensions. Those still working and paying their pension fees are covering the rest. It is very natural that these funds should be managed with caution in order not to risk future pensions. On the other hand, pension funds need as many people working as possible to keep the payments flowing in.

This in turn means that they have a natural incentive to foster growth and employment. Since the growth companies create a lion’s share of new job opportunities, pension funds would do themselves a favor by investing in them. Also, the few millions that would make a big difference for growth companies amount to little more than rounding errors to pension funds.

There are also other non-obvious sources for private money. Trust funds would be more interested in investing in VC funds, if their gains would be taxed as capital gains rather that income, as Finnish VC Association points out. Private individuals with money to invest would be more interested in startups and growth companies, if there were actual incentives for it.

Many other EU countries have schemes in place to encourage private investments, and the countries with tax incentives have also substantial angel investment volumes, as European Business Angels’ Network has noted. UK in particular has some interesting schemes.

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Original post by Sarah Perez via TC 

Social entertainment network GetGlue has just raised a significant round of $12 million in new financing, led by new investor Rho Ventures. The company’s existing investors, TimeWarner, RRE Ventures and Union Square Ventures, also participated in this round. The company had previously raised $6 million in November 2010.

The NYC-based company, which launched way back in 2008, has gone through many iterations since then. It now focuses on allowing users to share their activities, like watching a TV show, reading a book, seeing a movie and more, and then comment, reply or vote on comments from others who are doing the same thing.

The service is available online (desktop and mobile) as well as on mobile apps for iOS and Android. Over 30 major media companies now use GetGlue (via its API) to integrate the network’s user activity into their own websites and apps. These include Fox, NBC, Showtime, HBO and DirectTV, which offers a “first screen” experience that allows you to check-in to the program you’re viewing using your remote control.

In addition, over 75 major television networks work with GetGlue to reward fans of their 680 popular shows with stickers and discounts. The group, which includes major networks like ABC, CW, FOX, NBC, A&E, ABC Family, AMC, BRAVO, CNN, Discovery, Food Network, FX, HBO, MTV, Showtime, TNT, and USA, also uses GetGlue’s backend monitoring and analytics offerings to track engagement levels among their shows’ fans.

Over the past year, GetGlue has seen incredible growth. At the beginning of the year, the network had 750,000 users. It now has 2 million. Check-ins grew 1000% over 2011 and crossed the 100 million mark by year-end. And GetGlue’s database of check-ins, ratings and comments has over 350 million entries.

Some of GetGlue’s most recent efforts have been behind the scenes. For example, in September, the company introduced a curation feature that uses homegrown NLP (natural language processing) algorithms to automatically filter and hide comments on TV shows to reduce the “noise.” This includes automatically hiding profane speech and other short-form comments. After implementing the change, GetGlue saw engagement levels climb by 50%. Now, every three or four comments will include a vote or reply.

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Original post by Andrew Denham via Startups

The Bicycle Academy’s Andrew Denham explains how he raised £40,000 in five days – and shares his secrets for success

I raised £40,000 in five and a half days but, in truth, the campaign took me almost a year, as I courted what would become my customer base for 11 months prior to launching the actual crowdfunding pitch. Here’s a round-up of the most valuable lessons I learned…

Tell a compelling story that others can write along the way

When I first came up with the idea for The Bicycle Academy I didn’t really think of it as a business, it was just something that I wished existed. From the very beginning I painted quite an ambitious picture of what it might be, then I documented what I was doing, telling the story as I went along. Over time the project picked up more followers, many of whom got in touch to see how they could help. People liked what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it.

Do the legwork before you launch

The crowdfunding campaign was the last push after trying really hard to make sure that people knew about The Bicycle Academy. From the very start I wrote a project blog, kept Twitter and Facebook accounts and created teaser videos. You need to do as much as you can to get your message out there and then you need to keep on updating people. I made sure that there was a build up towards the first day of crowdfunding, so that potential backers knew how important their effort was and how exciting it would be if we succeeded.

Hit the ground running

Some projects try to crowdfund far too soon, with little or no build up. By the time they get publicity for their campaign, it’s likely that very few people will have already backed the project, so the people who would have otherwise been convinced think that they’re in the minority and don’t back it either. People’s opinion of any project will be based at least in part by how well it’s been received by others, so if a lot of time has gone by with little or no money raised, then it will be seen as a vote of no confidence. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to do a lot of legwork beforehand, so you have a base of people ready and willing to back your project as soon as you launch.

Know your customer

The Bicycle Academy project was covered in papers, magazines and on the radio but, in particular, I ensured that the project was covered on most of the cycling websites and magazines in the UK. I knew this would be crucial. Getting mentioned on the right blog can have a far bigger effect than getting onto a nationally-recognised but otherwise irrelevant website. You need to focus your efforts to reach the people who are most likely to back your project.

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Original post by RWC Startup

Within so very little time, internet marketing has created a great enterprise change. Fresh strategies in dealings have been used by firms across the globe. The brand new form of transaction is named as “online video marketing”. Excellent Resources For Online Video Marketing

Firms during the past could have seen Advertising and marketing as being the lone method to campaign their organizations but today, Online Marketing stands out as the valued technique to continue to keep their own company on the move and on the go.

Advertising and marketing firms lately appear to fall out of business a result of the surge of online marketing.Currently, businesses engage in the potential of website marketing which includes those companies that were not convinced of the expertise.

Higher Profit

So many people are reached via online video marketing whilst it does not cost greatly thus it generates better ROI. Classic promotion is more expensive when compared with online video marketing thus more income is gained. Online video marketing really does return more cash as confirmed by internet marketers that had currently tried it. How can online video marketing achieve this specific success?

Bigger Exposure

Behind this task is that it reaches higher number of exposure. On this time where there exists rapid development of modernization, most of us have internet access.The world wide web provides the most recent products and services that this now takes the place of those things which were once not taken over by the world-wide-web such as watching TV and also buying. Internet provides latest details that’s the reason lots of people believe it. Considering that online video marketing easily sends messages across the globe, it is a perfect way to establish interaction throughout the web. For your industry to be interested in your company; you need to simply reach out to them.

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Original post by SERGUEI NETESSINE via HBR

This post is part of the HBR Forum, The Future of Retail.

Along with the growth in scale of leading retailers in the 20th century came a growing attitude toward the people working in the stores: they were a cost to be minimized. Sam Walton, the founder of the biggest retailer in the world, summed it up in his book Made in America: “No matter how you slice it in the retail business, payroll is one of the most important parts of overhead, and overhead is one of the most crucial things you have to fight to maintain your profit margins. That was true then, and it is still true today.” But recent research by my colleagues and I suggests that retailers are thinking far too simplistically about the cost and potential value of their workforces.

Let’s start with stockouts, a problem most big retailers are highly attuned to; they know that when a customer arrives intending to make a purchase and finds the shelf picked clean of the desired item, the store not only loses a sale but also damages the likelihood of that customer’s returning. Fixated on that challenge, retail chains have invested heavily in sophisticated inventory management systems. Yet at one large retail chain we studied (pdf), those systems didn’t seem to be doing the trick. When we analyzed results of a customer survey, we found that nearly 20% of the products they wanted to buy were out of stock. This was despite the fact that, according to the inventory management system, only 2-3% of items ever ran out before being replenished. It wasn’t that the system’s numbers were wrong. The problem was that customers couldn’t find what they were looking for—and without a store associate to help, they left empty-handed.

Saving sales by pointing to merchandise locations is just one of the ways that store employees facilitate the sales process and perform a very important role. But in large retail enterprises, it’s easy for managers to ignore the details of sales floor interactions and opt for large-scale, broad-brush solutions to the challenge of staffing. Most simply set targets for store staffing levels they must maintain over time (mandating, for example, that the cost of labor cannot exceed 10% of sales), and then apply that level across the board. At best, they vary staffing levels based on sales forecasts. Almost invariably, such overall targets lead to a situation where some stores are overstaffed while others are understaffed.

Given today’s technology available for data acquisition as well as new developments in analytics, it is possible to do much better than this. Rather than simply predicting what volume of merchandise will sell in a certain period and scheduling more or fewer labor hours accordingly, it is possible to observe the actual flow of customers through stores and make adjustments—even in real time by moving additional employees to the sales floor or redeploying them to higher-traffic areas. Our studies have shown the wisdom of this: stores that manage labor levels in light of store traffic rather than sales forecasts achieve substantial sales increases without extra costs.

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Original post by Terrie Lupberger via Task 

Twenty years ago, conventional marketing theory said to wait until upcoming products were tested and proven (even perfected) before you start marketing them.  This advice was based on the belief that customers would be turned off if they bought a less-than-perfect product.  A reputation, once lost, they said, is hard to get back.

That’s not sage advice any longer.  Today, you start marketing upcoming products as soon as you know what you are going to be offering.  You start building the buzz out in the marketplace by letting your target markets know how your product will address their needs or solve their problems.

If it’s a business to business product, in most instances, you can start marketing it while it’s under development.  A software development company I work with has been promoting its new software to potential users for over a year.  There are still a lot of bugs in the program and kinks in the process, but they are enrolling select companies to be their beta testers.  The companies get to use the product for free and the software development company gets to use the companies’ names and testimonials in their marketing.  The software development company also gets continuous feedback to improve the upcoming product design before it rolls out to the full-paying customers.  It’s a win-win for everybody and they are building quite a buzz out in their target market.

If it’s a business to consumer product, then you want to make sure the consumer knows that they may be buying an ‘early’ version of the product. They should be acknowledged and rewarded for being an early adopter with discounts or other incentives.

As important as the question is as to when to start marketing upcoming products, it’s an equally important question as to who should be marketing.  It’s no longer just the select few in the marketing department who put together a marketing campaign and then execute it.  Consider that everyone in the company markets.

Everyone in the company is a walking promotion, endorsement and enthusiast for the product that the company is offering.  The art and science of marketing is tapping into that passion and finding the most leveraged channels for them to unleash their enthusiasm and passion.

The best marketing wisdom I ever heard was offered by a TEDx speaker, Simon Sinek.  He said: “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”  There’s a great TED talk by him.

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Original post by Terrie Lupberger via Task 

Twenty years ago, conventional marketing theory said to wait until upcoming products were tested and proven (even perfected) before you start marketing them.  This advice was based on the belief that customers would be turned off if they bought a less-than-perfect product.  A reputation, once lost, they said, is hard to get back.

That’s not sage advice any longer.  Today, you start marketing upcoming products as soon as you know what you are going to be offering.  You start building the buzz out in the marketplace by letting your target markets know how your product will address their needs or solve their problems.

If it’s a business to business product, in most instances, you can start marketing it while it’s under development.  A software development company I work with has been promoting its new software to potential users for over a year.  There are still a lot of bugs in the program and kinks in the process, but they are enrolling select companies to be their beta testers.  The companies get to use the product for free and the software development company gets to use the companies’ names and testimonials in their marketing.  The software development company also gets continuous feedback to improve the upcoming product design before it rolls out to the full-paying customers.  It’s a win-win for everybody and they are building quite a buzz out in their target market.

If it’s a business to consumer product, then you want to make sure the consumer knows that they may be buying an ‘early’ version of the product. They should be acknowledged and rewarded for being an early adopter with discounts or other incentives.

As important as the question is as to when to start marketing upcoming products, it’s an equally important question as to who should be marketing.  It’s no longer just the select few in the marketing department who put together a marketing campaign and then execute it.  Consider that everyone in the company markets.

Everyone in the company is a walking promotion, endorsement and enthusiast for the product that the company is offering.  The art and science of marketing is tapping into that passion and finding the most leveraged channels for them to unleash their enthusiasm and passion.

The best marketing wisdom I ever heard was offered by a TEDx speaker, Simon Sinek.  He said: “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”  There’s a great TED talk by him.

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Original post by Ndubuisi Ekekwe via HBR

In the tech startup world, technology is important for success, but it does not disproportionately determine winners and losers. Two companies can invent similar technologies; one will win and the other will lose. Focusing on technology supremacy alone is a model for failure. Over the years, I have consistently seen what I call “latent factors” — business features that are generally outside the scope of the core tech team — to be real factors in a company’s success.

For entrepreneurs in developing nations where experienced institutional investors are scarce and starting companies is very challenging, the impact of these latent forces becomes hugely vital. Though we enjoy writing about dropout tech legends, most times their success is catalyzed by others — they came up with the ideas and the investors provided the leadership and the non-tech factors (such as pricing models, branding, and promotions, among others) that propelled them to stardom. The incubation system, the ecosystem and the environment are important, but sometimes, it can be a very simple “latent factor” ingenuity that redesigns not just a company, but an entire industry.

Consider the software industry, where we have successful brands like Windows and Oracle. While these two firms have world-class intellectual properties, I think their true innovation is in the pricing model around their businesses. Microsoft would not have been as successful as they are if not for the licensing model where you never actually “own” what you paid for. As soon as you stop paying the licensing fee, you cease to own the software. This is especially impactful with their corporate clients. Imagine if Ford and GM had decided at the onset of the automotive industry that when you buy your car, you need to bring it in yearly for a checkup, with payment — and any year you miss that, the ownership of the car reverts back to them. If they had, you wouldn’t be able to resell your car whenever you want. In the software industry, that’s not easy to do because you never “own” the property. You can’t resell that CD, legally. So, while the software industry is obviously innovative, it’s the pricing model that has made it profitable, as it offers a ready source of cash flow.

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Original post by MICHAEL LUCA via HBR

Yelp’s IPO filing comes hot on the heels of successful IPOs and high valuations for Angie’s List and Groupon. Yelp’s timing reflects both a tech-friendly market and the company’s current position as the dominant consumer-review web site. Yelp has 22 million reviews, and the supposedly imminent onslaught of competing review sites has yet to materialize. But is Yelp really poised for long-run success? My research shows that there are points in its favor — but there are others that should raise investors’ concern.

First, the positives:

Yelp works. Yelp is relevant only to the extent that it affects readers’ choices of where to go. The evidence shows that it does. In a recent paper, I combined Yelp ratings with restaurant revenues for every restaurant that operated in Seattle during Yelp’s entire run there. The data suggest that a one-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue. How do we know that it is in fact Yelp that matters, and not some other information source? To support the causal inference, I exploited the fact that Yelp rounds ratings to the nearest half-star. I found that restaurants receive a jump in sales after a rating is rounded up. So Yelp is driving sales, at least for independent restaurants. Positive ratings don’t help chain restaurants, which already have strongly established brands.

It gets its content for free. Even more impressive than Yelp’s impact has been its ability to generate 22 million reviews without paying for them. Yelp has been extremely effective at leveraging social incentives to make people work for free. It created a network of “elite” reviewers, whose reviews tend to be less erratic and closer to restaurants’ long-run averages. Yelp hosts special events to reward these prolific reviewers. It’s not clear whether upstart review companies would be able to replicate this excitement about reviewing.

Search is moving away from Google. Google recently acquired Zagat, creating a major competitive threat to Yelp. One concern is that Yelp will be hurt as it falls down the Google search rankings (and Yelp acknowledges that most of its search traffic comes from Google). When Yelp began in 2004, this would have been a devastating prospect. And to some extent, it still is. But new ways of searching for products may start to change this dynamic. For example, many people find restaurants on Yelp using smartphone apps, circumventing the standard Google search process. This trend will only increase with time.

Now the factors working against Yelp:

It’s easy to write fake reviews. Yelp and Angie’s List follow very different business models. Angie’s List charges readers to view its content, while Yelp’s reviews can be accessed for free (and the company makes money by allowing businesses to advertise). Angie’s List has a strict quality assurance process; Yelp lets virtually anyone review. The ease of leaving reviews on Yelp has led to a larger number of reviews, but it has opened the door for businesses to leave fake reviews — for themselves, their friends, and their competitors. In a world where we know who is writing the reviews (your Facebook friend, for example), this is not a problem. In a world where reviewers are fairly anonymous, it is.

Legitimate reviews may be filtered out. More worrisome than the fake-review problem is Yelp’s solution: It uses a program to filter out seemingly bogus reviews. This is fine, in principle. But it becomes more troubling when you look at the data. In a recent sample, nearly one out of every five reviews was filtered. Looking only at the five restaurants featured on the front page of Yelp’s Boston site, roughly 13% of reviews were filtered out. Worse, the reviews were filtered fairly evenly across the restaurants. This means one of two things: Either all five have been trying to game the system, only to be outfoxed by Yelp, or Yelp’s algorithm is so coarse that it wipes out a lot of legitimate reviews. While fake reviews clearly exist, it is unlikely that all of these restaurants have been trying to game the system. Combine that with allegations of Yelp sales staff’s being overly aggressive in pushing their paid offering, and Yelp’s filter can be all the more frustrating for restaurants. There is no evidence that Yelp favors advertisers, and related lawsuits have been dismissed. However, the filtering process does give credence to concerned business owners who note that legitimate reviews have been filtered from their restaurants.

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Original post by DIGITAL JOURNAL

The Noo Group Ltd. (‘Noo’), a creative startup in New York, is redefining New Year’s with Noo Year’s once again by hosting The Digital Party, an original, animated fundraiser to help give people in developing countries clean water to start the new year. You’re invited!

“Some people run together to raise awareness and solicit donations, others swim together. I decided our effort for this cause would be to create something together. So we’re creating a special party that anyone can attend to support the cause”, says Mahdad Taheri, Noo’s Founder.

The startup is asking event organizers and website visitors to Give Water right up to the final minute on New Year’s Eve, by donating at http://www.mycharitywater.org/noo2012 to raise $20,000 for charity: water, a non-profit organization in New York on a mission to give almost 1 billion people in the world access to clean water. Donations are 100% tax deductible.

Many view New Year’s Eve as a reason to party hard and wake up January 1st wondering what happened the night before. Taheri says, “the start of a New Year shouldn’t just be about dancing ‘til the ball drops but also about celebrating positive change in each other’s lives.” To bring this idea to life, Taheri aligned with charity: water to celebrate positive change in other people’s lives with something we often take for granted in the developed world – clean water.

Harnessing the power of social media to do social good, Noo’s all inclusive party invites everyone to join by donating to the campaign or by spreading its message – Give Water New Year’s Eve – the night the campaign ends. “I strongly believe our generation is going to leave its mark in the universe not simply by being more connected than past generations, but by using our creativity together to solve big problems that past generations could not come together to do,” says Taheri.

The $20,000 raised through Noo’s campaign will go towards the purchase of a drilling rig, which will help bring clean and safe drinking water to 40,000 people in northern Ethiopia each year. charity: water will track the rig with GPS technology so donors can follow its progress for years to come.

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Original post by   via B2C

As you begin to build your business and attempt to attract customers you quickly realize that everyone is a skeptic. This is especially true if you are are new to your market and not well known before taking the leap to owning your own business. People want “Social Proof” that your product is worth their hard-earned money and time.

What is Social Proof?

Social Proof is the reassurance that others have decided to use your product or service, which proves it is worth considering. In fact, positive product reviews provide enough social proof that a potential customer is 63% more likely to purchase your product online if it is present at the point of purchase.

This behavior is human nature. We all have limited resources, whether it be time or money. We are always looking for ways to maximize our resources in order to achieve our goals. This could be as simple as getting the best stroller for your new baby that fits your lifestyle or just getting a great meal for a fair price. We look for others similar to us and to judge their satisfaction with the product or service being considered.

Leveraging Social Proof to Grow your Startup Company

This information is powerful. You now know exactly what your customers want: “Social Proof”. If you also know who your ideal clients or customers are, you can further leverage customer feedback to drive business to the write customers AND dramatically increase sales conversions without having to spend more on marketing advertising or anything really. You are simply maximizing profit from each sales opportunity.

So what are some simple and practical ways you can gather and use social proof in your startup business:

Add reviews to your Website

Reviews are one of the best ways to create and use social proof. The best part is that the reviews can be for your product or service or even just a positive comment on your blog. You can also reach out to others in your industry who or customers offline and highlight their experience both online an in your print marketing materials and ads.

Add Ratings to your Website

Ratings are great for products and blog posts. They work better with men than women. Women prefer the emotional connection of a review while men like the objective measure of ratings. Be aware though that you may need to ask people to provide feedback in order for them to rate your product, service, or blog post.

Gather Testimonials

Customers new and old love to be asked about their experience, whether good or bad. Find some good testimonials and plaster them all over the place. You should use them on your site, sales page, product brochures, and the back of business cards.

You should also consider getting testimonials from others in your marketplace that have complimentary products. This is similar to the quotes on the back of a new book. This will also help you attract those complimentary customers to your business when you use this person’s quote on your site.

Create an Active Facebook Fanpage or GooglePlus Account

This only works for businesses who have an audience on Facebook, but for them it can be powerful.

Create a Twitter Presence

On Twitter you have a follower list. This is essentially a simple measure of your influence. Twitter is much easier to navigate than Facebook and you can easily target your competitors “followers”. There is a big opportunity if your industry is on Twitter.

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Original post by Peter Hanschke via francis-moran

Startups begin with little to no money. Much of the early development of their product is funded by the owner, by his or her friends and maybe even by an angel. Every dollar is used wisely and focused at the topmost activity. To build the product from concept through to MVP (Minimum Viable Product)and to the point where a small number of customers can use the product, the company has one, maybe two, full- or part-time developers. In some cases the owner pitches in occasionally to help in development or testing.

Young and lean

In such an environment, drive, enthusiasm and the will to succeed fuels the development process. The product takes shape as the development iterations roll by. Occasionally more money is needed to fuel the development engine, which the owner must somehow secure. Without real customers validating the solution, it’s difficult to get significant funding to speed up the development process or build a more enriched product.

Despite the tough times at this stage of the startup, this is in fact a very desirable situation.

A frugal existence means that every hour the development team works on creating the product is closely inspected. Every element that is added to the product (a line of code or a chip or a circuit) is targeted at reaching the objectives of the product. In other words, every element plays a key role in securing those first few customers. Nothing is added for the sheer joy of building something “neat.” Why? Because the company can’t afford to spend money on adding things that do not contribute to reaching its early goals. Marketing campaigns are focused on awareness for the purposes of attracting customers, while operations are located in the minimal required office space. The startup embraces a frugal mentality and only spends what it absolutely has to.

There is an interesting byproduct of this situation … business frugality leads to the creation of a lean product – a product that only contains what is absolutely necessary in terms of functionality, user interface, documentation and so forth. This does not mean that the product is awful or ugly. It just means that it meets the early objectives and absolutely no more. If the rules in my MVP blog are followed, then in addition to being lean, the product will support the primary use scenarios that are needed by the early customers in the target market. Come to think of it, this is the ideal scenario.

Over indulgence

Products as they age or mature have a tendency to become large and bloated. How does this happen? Some products expand to address additional market problems in the existing market or to address other markets. In many cases, however, the resulting “bloat” is a result of receiving the million-dollar cheque.

When the product is first formulated, the members of the startup have many ideas for it. They create lists of features. They cross-reference the lists with potential competitors, if they exist. Business reality sets in and given their financial situation, business frugality drives what is added to the product. In other words, only those features that will help to achieve the objectives are added. But those lists still exist. They may become a bit stale, but they still exist. Expressions like “when we have the time and money we’ll get to that list” abound.

Early customers react positively to the first version of the product, which leads to more customers, which attracts attention in the investment community. And this is where the problem begins – the startup receives its first large amount of money.

This can come either from an investor or a customer that places a large order. In most cases the reaction is to devote some of the money to marketing and some to development. On the development side, people are hired – maybe that original team of one or two developers expands to five or more. The list is resurrected and the team begins tackling each of the items on it. Additional customers add more requests to the list.

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Original post by Peter Hanschke via francis-moran

Startups begin with little to no money. Much of the early development of their product is funded by the owner, by his or her friends and maybe even by an angel. Every dollar is used wisely and focused at the topmost activity. To build the product from concept through to MVP (Minimum Viable Product)and to the point where a small number of customers can use the product, the company has one, maybe two, full- or part-time developers. In some cases the owner pitches in occasionally to help in development or testing.

Young and lean

In such an environment, drive, enthusiasm and the will to succeed fuels the development process. The product takes shape as the development iterations roll by. Occasionally more money is needed to fuel the development engine, which the owner must somehow secure. Without real customers validating the solution, it’s difficult to get significant funding to speed up the development process or build a more enriched product.

Despite the tough times at this stage of the startup, this is in fact a very desirable situation.

A frugal existence means that every hour the development team works on creating the product is closely inspected. Every element that is added to the product (a line of code or a chip or a circuit) is targeted at reaching the objectives of the product. In other words, every element plays a key role in securing those first few customers. Nothing is added for the sheer joy of building something “neat.” Why? Because the company can’t afford to spend money on adding things that do not contribute to reaching its early goals. Marketing campaigns are focused on awareness for the purposes of attracting customers, while operations are located in the minimal required office space. The startup embraces a frugal mentality and only spends what it absolutely has to.

There is an interesting byproduct of this situation … business frugality leads to the creation of a lean product – a product that only contains what is absolutely necessary in terms of functionality, user interface, documentation and so forth. This does not mean that the product is awful or ugly. It just means that it meets the early objectives and absolutely no more. If the rules in my MVP blog are followed, then in addition to being lean, the product will support the primary use scenarios that are needed by the early customers in the target market. Come to think of it, this is the ideal scenario.

Over indulgence

Products as they age or mature have a tendency to become large and bloated. How does this happen? Some products expand to address additional market problems in the existing market or to address other markets. In many cases, however, the resulting “bloat” is a result of receiving the million-dollar cheque.

When the product is first formulated, the members of the startup have many ideas for it. They create lists of features. They cross-reference the lists with potential competitors, if they exist. Business reality sets in and given their financial situation, business frugality drives what is added to the product. In other words, only those features that will help to achieve the objectives are added. But those lists still exist. They may become a bit stale, but they still exist. Expressions like “when we have the time and money we’ll get to that list” abound.

Early customers react positively to the first version of the product, which leads to more customers, which attracts attention in the investment community. And this is where the problem begins – the startup receives its first large amount of money.

This can come either from an investor or a customer that places a large order. In most cases the reaction is to devote some of the money to marketing and some to development. On the development side, people are hired – maybe that original team of one or two developers expands to five or more. The list is resurrected and the team begins tackling each of the items on it. Additional customers add more requests to the list.

READ MORE

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