• Simone Musgrave - Grit, Sales, and using Femininity in business. September 25, 2018 7:20 pm
    Aneme Dlamini of Startup Grind chats to Simone Musgrave of Musgrave Gin about perseverance, building an actual business, and bringing your femininity as a force to be reckoned with in the business world.Aneme = A, Simone = SA: Welcome!S: Thanks.A: So, I am not going to go with the traditional ‘background story’ (laughs), I am sure you’ve been asked that many times.S: I have, yeah (laughs).A: Cool. So, to jump right in, you left the food industry after 13 years. Why after 13 years, why not before or after then? You mentioned in your SG talk that you actually started Musgrave as a side hustle...S: Yeah, I was single mom with two small children and I needed that stability. So I stayed in the role. It was also a really good role in the business. I got to travel a lot, I was exposed to every brand within the business. So, the role was a great opportunity to further learn the industry. But towards the end of my time there, my kids had finished school, and I felt like I was not being challenged enough. So, I decided to leave. So long story short, the timing was right (laughs).A: Awesome! Uhm, I wanted to also question you about your thoughts on expansion (in business). So, first you did Musgrave Original, then Musgrave Pink. Musgrave Pink exploded and was well-received. But my question is, as an entrepreneur, when did you know it was the right time to expand?S:  Yeah, so I always wanted to do a pink from the beginning. But I knew had to cut my teeth on a classic gin, and I launched the classic. But I needed more sales, so that meant I needed another product. My history being in product development and category management, taught me that. Also, from it, I knew that about a year, would do, for us to launch the next product. The timing, again, was important. People were starting to buy and love Musgrave, and they wanted something more from us. It’s never one factor, it’s a combination of factors. I also had the entrepreneurial surge of ‘f*ck it, I’m going to do this now.’ (laughs).A: Okay, and how do you mix that sense of urgency and patience, like how do you balance the two for the sanity and sake of your business?S: It comes down to discipline. What I have seen in the gin industry is that a lot of companies launch one gin, then another, and another, and another. That’s what innovators do, they launch products – the sexy part of the job. Having too many products does not make sense, for an early-stage business. The discipline lies in having a one or two product company and focusing on selling those products to the best of your ability. We haven’t launched a new gin since and we won’t. There is a fine balance between pushing your products and being disciplined enough to not want to do the sexy stuff all the time. It is all about reading the market and knowing whether it makes sense to innovate! ‘Cause often, just putting your energy into your current products will give you more sales and exposure than new products.A: You’re quite fearless in the way you approach business and the way you have done things. Do you ever have days where you say, ‘Shit, I don’t feel like doing this today’? (laughs)S: Yeah, the past few days actually! Being an entrepreneur is scary, you know.A: YeahS: I have just had an employee leave me high and dry. No handover, nothing. Just dumped me in the shit. They were working the most important part of the business… So you’ve got to step up. I mean, who else is gonna do it? I am gonna do it! I now have her job, too. So yeah, there are days where I feel, ‘What the hell?’ There’s also the challenge of dealing with retail, when you’re a small player. It’s difficulty, quite a gritty arena to play in. Having said that, I don’t know if I get unmotivated, but I do get tired of the bullshit. And sometimes, that anger energizes me, other times, I just feel like running away (which I can’t) (laughs).A: Yeah (laughs), that’s the thing about being an entrepreneur, right? You can’t just up and leave when you feel like it.S: Yeah, I always say, my life looks sexy from the outside. The picture painted on social media is: I am travelling around the world, tasting different gins… but at the end of the day, I actually pick up boxes of gin and sell them. You can have the best product but if you don’t get on and sell them, it’s not a business.A: So, talk more to that, right. The, what some would call, unsexy part of business, the actual selling of Musgrave Gin. What’s the daily grind?S: The daily grind is getting listings (getting into the stores you want to be in), and once you’re in: managing that. So, most of my day is spent managing stock coming from the distillery into the warehouse, and out to the retailers – making sure that everything is on time! Big companies have big teams to help them do that. We are four, in the business.Oh, and chasing distributors to actually do the selling. And finding answers to my questions like, ‘Why aren’t we listed here, I am paying you commission. Why aren’t we listed?’ So, it’s a chasing game, constantly. It all comes back to selling, that’s where I spend most of my time. The parties and the events are cool, but if you don’t sell, you can’t have an event. You have to be a good salesperson as an entrepreneur (laughs).A: 100%! And talk more towards, what I call, the ‘fake entrepreneurship lifestyle’- entrepreneurs just doing it for the events, the glitz and glamour, the fame etc. What’s your opinion on it? I mean, you were self-funded from the beginning. Didn’t raise any funds etc. Not very typical. Versus startups that raise R 5 million bucks, but haven’t sold anything at all.S: Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know if those businesses would survive. Also, someone else owns you. I believe in keeping the business 100% owned by myself. I think, if you see an entrepreneur being involved in the glitz and glam that may be just for show. A true entrepreneur does long hours of gritty work. The unsexy stuff – HR, recruitment, cash flow management, etc. So, the guys who you see raising R5 million won’t be around for long. I just don’t believe money comes easily, nor does quality business growth. I think, truly long-term successful people will have done everything from the ground level.A: 100%! What are some of the characteristics that you define as ‘vital’, for an entrepreneur to succeed?S: Grit! I really believe that they need to have grit. Grit and hard work. You have to be focused. You can’t let anyone tell you ‘no’. Whoever tells you ‘no’, just ignore them. And the ability to break the rules. You have to break rules every day. The rules are not made for entrepreneurs or innovative spaces. Just do it, and find out how, later.I also believe an ethical or moral stance will keep you going in the long-term. The guys that say bad things about other brands, bad mouth others in the industry – aren’t going to work out in the long-term. You get caught out much quicker these days than in the old days.If you can put all those things together, you can do anything you want with any product. And I look at the youngsters of today (you’re a youngster, no offence), and it is really hard to find those qualities. Young people don’t have as much grit. And in a time where you’re having to be an entrepreneur more than an employee, I really worry, sometimes.A: What do you look for in employees, or in strategic partners?S: Yeah, so for strategic alliances, we mainly look at whether or not the brand aligns with our brand and whether our customers align. We pay attention to how they speak to their customers, how they treat their customers, and all such things. From an employment point of view, I look for experience. We have a small team. And as a result, we need super-experienced people. I don’t really have the time right now, to grow people, in my business.People management is the hardest part about running a business. The unsexist part, but it is going to be the future of business.A: I have noticed that you’re very open, quite public with your vulnerability. Do you feel like that adds a certain authenticity to your business?S: Hmm. It seems like people like to connect to human spirit. Things that they can relate to. Putting my surname on the bottle is me putting myself out there. Also, I was a single mom – I don’t like to talk about it that much, because nobody would ask a man in business if he was a single dad – I actually reject the question quite a lot. But it is my reality, and that is why I speak about it. I am who I am. I am on this journey, not to be famous, but to build a successful business and a legacy.The ‘new consumer’ wants a story, they actually want to know the person behind the brand.A: That’s quite deep.S: Yeah.A: How, if they have, have your daughters impacted the way you do business? Your values etc.?S: Growing up in a single mom household (our cat is the only male in the house – laughs), they are quite strong and opinionated. They come with a force and a confidence, and I see them becoming powerful and vulnerable – in a balanced way. That inspires me to do as I do.A: Staying on the parenting topic – as a parent you had to make sure your daughters were in school, everything was okay etc. How did you balance the discipline of ‘I really want to start this business vs. parental responsibilities’ Also, what is your advice for parents that want to start businesses but are worried, for example, that the first six months will be unpredictable and they still have kids in school etc.?S: Yeah, so I started it my business while still working. So, I was still getting paid a salary. Just make sure that you are exposed to very little risk.  For me, that worked. It will not always work. But I was at a point in my career where, they weren’t using me that much. So, I had a lot of free time. It’s about finding something that keeps you secure – even if it is your basic salary, and cutting your costs I wouldn’t suggest dumping it all and going straight into business.It’s not about not taking a risk, it’s about taking a smart risk. I am not a conservative person in terms of risk, but I am conservative when it comes to making sure my home, daughters and other necessities are secure – then I do the risky stuff.Also, a lot of people are in a rush. To become an overnight success. It’s okay to transition from a job into a business. I still don’t pay myself as much as I was earning at corporate.A: What are some of the things that you have had to sacrifice?S: I miss leave. Having time off with no responsibilities. That is what I miss the most. Going from four weeks of leave, to zero days at all, isn’t as cool. I don’t eat out as much etc., when I do, it is for Musgrave.A: You had a baby food business that you said didn’t pan out too sexily. Did it knock your confidence as an entrepreneur?S: Not at all. I am actually very thankful that it failed. I learned so much from that business and it actually launched me into the cool corporate position I spoke about earlier. Without that failure, I wouldn’t have been where I am today.It was disappointing, yes. I felt like I had a good idea, and a good product. But you know, that’s part of the game. But I think, if you look at every successful entrepreneur, they have about 3-4 businesses that didn’t work out.A: So, when did you know it was time to let go of that business?S: Yeah, so you could see it, you know? I wasn’t making that much money, the sales were dropping. I was losing too much money on a monthly basis, to continue.A: Do you feel like burnout is a frequent thing in your life?S: Yeah, I do. I have burned out, almost twice, this year. As an entrepreneur, you hardly switch off. You can’t. It’s also part of your personality. A lot of entrepreneurs face the same problem. I think, part of dealing with burnout in a better way, is learning to see the signs. It’s not about taking four weeks of leave a year, it’s about that ‘in between’, are you taking care of yourself when you need to?A: Do you feel like the Type-A/’never switch off’ personality ever disadvantages you? Do you ever feel like you dwell/overthink on certain things?S:  Yeah, I do think it disadvantages us. Not so much overthinking, but I just think that we don’t become as effective. It’s not only about work now, it then becomes ‘I must do yoga everyday’ or I must go for my run every evening. And you just become obsessive. And it actually helps nothing. It makes you less effective, less creative, and less of a leader. With an A-Type personality, you have to watch yourself.A: Just to go back to the beginning for a bit, how did you survive those tough first weeks/months of your business?S: Grit and determination. But also being surrounded by amazing friends. Friends that are supportive and loving can do a world of good! My friends are my go-to group about complaints or successes, anything really. It is important to find laughter within the chaos.A: One key piece of emotional advice to entreps?S: There is an obligation to be true. You don’t really want to paint a sexy picture and have people saying ‘Oh, I can’t achieve that’. Always paint an honest picture of the way things are. You never know who you are inspiring.A: The age-old question, being a female in a male-dominated industry?S: Yeah, it is quite difficult. I often find myself having to put on my ‘manly boots’ in order to have an equal conversation. I am conscious of keeping my femininity with me in meetings, but also not letting people step all over me. And that balance is quite exhausting, I must say. I come back from conferences emotionally tired, sometimes – because I am constantly putting on my ‘male’ side.A: What’s the one message you’d love to give to female entrepreneurs?S: Self-belief and lack of fear. You just have to say to yourself that you’re going to do it. There is no other way. There really isn’t. If you have a good concept, and you work really hard, you will be respected and doors will be opened.And use your femininity. Use it, actually. I am not saying wear short dresses or anything of that manner, but use your intuition. Women have a lot more perceptive ability, emotional connection, and are not as competitive. These three things can really work to your advantage, use your femininity!A: Thank you so much for your time, Simone. Super awesome to chat to you.S: Thanks Aneme!Check out Simone's super inspiring talk, here:
    Aneme Dlamini
  • Behind the scenes: The challenges of building an EdTech startup September 24, 2018 1:30 pm
    Are you thinking about building the next big thing in EdTech? Well, I have to say that the journey is really amusing but extremely challenging at the same time! Many have tried to revolutionize education and failed. That’s why you need to make sure you are up to the challenge and ready for a very long journey and not in it for a quick exit!I want to share with you some of the lessons I learnt (and still learning) while building Knowledge Officer, a career-oriented learning platform for professionals who want to fulfil their dream career goals. I will share the lesson of each stage I have been through so far. We have witnessed 3 stages: pre-MVP, MVP and product.Pre-MVP Stage:This is the stage where you would do the market research and early customer development activities. You are still validating the problem and trying to understand the space more. Many founders, unfortunately, skip this stage altogether and go directly to the next one. They start building blindly without necessarily being equipped with the right knowledge and understanding of the space they want to operate in.Challenges facing EdTech founders:Small Network: A small number of hugely successful EdTech startups (compared to other markets like FinTech, AdTech, etc) so a very small network to learn from and everyone is still exploring and finding his own way.Access to data: It’s very hard and challenging to put your hands on real, authentic and comprehensive data around the market size and different financial activities.Getting research evidence: This challenge continues in the upcoming stages but you should start thinking about it from the beginning. Education startups need science and research based evidence on their approach to learning and education. I would definitely recommend UCL educate program for that side.MVP Stage:This is the stage that comes after going live with an MVP and validating it with users. Usually, this is the stage where you start reaching out to investors as well. This is where you see real and live insights from your potential users and customers and get more confidence on the problem and your solution.Challenges:​EdTech requires rapid prototyping and pivots: I have been playing and testing EdTech products and platforms for more than 7 years now and I can’t remember one product that reached a massive success without at least one pivot. And because usually at this stage your runway is so short, it becomes really challenging to try different approaches and test many grounds unless you forced yourself to be super lean.Investment: It’s extremely challenging to raise for an EdTech startup and you will find very few VCs who focus on only EdTech investment. The reason behind that is that usually it takes years for an EdTech startup to start making decent revenues, let alone profits. Not all investors are patient to invest in a product and vision rather than investing in a business that would yield an immediate or near future return. There is also a challenge with all EdTech founders on how they materialise the impact of learning and education on their users and measure the value of what their product provides especially at that stage.Product Stage:Now, you have secured some investment or decided to bootstrap and have a live product with many users/customers. You now transition from your mere focus on building a product to thinking more about building a viable business that sustains this product.Challenges:It’s not really that hard to acquire users for your product at this stage given your value proposition is clear and the product is somehow useful. The real challenge is with retention and engagement and keeping these 2 metrics at a healthy level while you are growing your user base.Monetization: As I mentioned earlier, it’s always challenging to monetize in EdTech and even the behemoth of this market are still experimenting and trying to figure it out like Duolingo for example. Historically, this is where EdTech entrepreneurs have failed.Learning is a very complex process and involves deep understanding of how the brain works and how people learn effectively. There is a mix of science, engineering and philosophy behind that which needs careful study and growth-minded teams.Schools/institutes/companies usually have approval process that could be very long depending on your product and the compliance needs especially given the difficulty to materialise the value your product offers sometimes because of point (3)While reflecting on those challenges, I wanted also to summarise some of the most famous non-successful stories in EdTech and a short lesson to learn from each one.StartupFailure ReasonSharpScholarLayers of approvals needed for the product to be used. The usage of the product depended on approval from students and admin which complicated the relationship with teachers and made the process much longer and cumbersome.ReadmillLong story short, they failed to monetize to sustain the business.ShelfieSimilar to Readmill and many businesses in the ebook industry, they failed to create a sustainable business model. According to the founder, "In the end the unit economics of ebook sales just don't make much sense if you don't own the platform like Apple, Google, or Amazon."KNOThere were doing well and raised from top VCs and investors till Apple came with its iPad and ate their lunch! They failed to cope with the disruption in the market.Hope we all learn from those lessons and create EdTech products that truly serve learners, continuously innovate and create viable and innovative business models to sustain the growth of our companies. Fixing education and helping people to learn is a noble cause and we believe that learning is one of the main pillars of having a successful life. That’s what drives us to work every day till we get to fix the Skills Gap!About Us Ahmed El-Sharkasy is CEO & Co-Founder of Knowledge Officer. I have been working in startups for more than 7 years now between research, engineering and product management.Knowledge Officer is a learning platform for professionals. Our mission is to empower a generation of lifelong learners and to help people, however busy they are, learn something new and relevant every day and achieve their career goals.
    Ahmed El-Sharkasy
  • Instagram influencer marketing strategies -10 ways to drive sales for ecommerce August 27, 2018 4:00 am
    Social media has become an integral part of people's daily routines, we are addicted to it logging in and checking our feeds and getting likes on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. And, they were designed that way. Despite the recent Facebook data scandals, people have become so reliant on interacting on them, that for most people deleting their accounts is not very easy.  The latest data from Pew Research Center’s 2018 Social Media Use Survey indicates social media usage is not going to drastically decline (although some channels may have quarters where new user growth is slowing) or go away.If you have an ecommerce or B2C product you should be investing in using paid social advertising and influencer marketing strategies to gain brand awareness, traffic or sales. Instagram, now has 35% of adults using it as 2018, which is a 28% increase compared to 2016. According to a recent Business Insider interview with Brittany Hennesey, Hearst Digital Media Senior Director of influencer strategy, "People scroll through 300 feet of [social media] content every day. That's the size of the Statue of Liberty,"  Recent data from media agency Magna, is forecasting that digital advertising sales in the US will reach 108 billion, (a 15% increase from last year) with most of advertising dollars going to paid social content, followed by video and search. Conversely it predicts that TV, print media, and radio ad revenues will be flat or even shrink this year.  So many large beauty and clothing brands are shifting some of their traditional advertising budgets to using influencers to promote their products, instead of doing TV commercials or print advertising, because the ROI is better. "It's people that are the target demographic talking to the target demographic. And that's what makes influencer content so much different than something a brand would make," said Hennesey.         So you maybe wondering if you are a startup ecommerce company how can you get more followers, sales and brand loyalty? Well I talked to an eCommerce Instagram consultant, Sean Kelly, who started a custom sports jersey company called Jersey Champs, and has managed to gain over over 1.6 millions followers to his brand’s Instagram account through a variety of methods including; Celebrity & Social Media Influencer partnershipsInstagram Engagement Groups Contests & giveawaysInstagram shoutoutsInstagram Feed & Story adsSean gave me some tips on how eCommerce startups can use Instagram.  Here are 10 ways your startup can increase your followers and  grow your brand using Instagram:   1 Instagram Ads Through Facebook Ads ManagerIf you aren’t running Instagram Ads in 2018, you are simply behind. Facebook Ads are the quickest way to drive sales to any business and you will see results immediately.2 Learn How Instagram’s New Algorithm WorksIf you’re interested in developing viral Instagram content, you’ll need to understand how Instagram’s sorting algorithm works. The platform uses a variety of factors, including timeliness, post engagement and post location, in order to determine where the post is displayed in a user’s timeline and whether the post makes it to the Explore page.Three main factors determine what you see in your Instagram feed:Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.  Beyond those core factors, three additional signals that influence rankings are:Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.   3 Regularly Shout Out To Engaged Followers To Encourage Further ParticipationAs mentioned earlier, content with high engagement tends to attract new followers through improved organic reach. To keep followers happy and regularly engaged, mention them regularly in Instagram posts. Showing gratitude is a great way for brands to keep Instagram users engaged.  4 Offer Discounted Pricing To Instagram FollowersIncentivize customers to follow your Instagram account by offering discounted pricing to Instagram followers. Some sophisticated eCommerce systems may be able to determine if a customer is an Instagram follower. If you don’t have access to such a system, you can simply share exclusive discounts with Instagram followers via automated direct messages to incentivize others to follow your account.5 Instagram ShoutoutsA simple direct message to a large Instagram page asking for their shoutout prices will give you the direction you need in order to promote your products on their page. You can get your products put on pages with millions of followers for sometimes really cheap price if you know the right pages.   6 Instagram InfluencersCompanies such as HiSmile and Fashion Nova have blown up their presence by using social media influencers such as Kylie Jenner & Conor McGregor. You will have to work your way up there with influencers at just 10,000 followers or so, but you have to start somewhere.7 Instagram LiveYou should make sure to go live at least once a week to keep your followers engaged with your page. Be sure to host giveaways, Q&A’s & any other contests you feel would do well live.8 Instagram StoriesYou should be posting on your Instagram story every day. Once you hit 10,000 followers you will be able to include swipe up links in your stories which you can lead your customers directly to various product pages. Instagram promotes live video differently from other content formats. Existing followers receive a notification (if Instagram notifications are turned on), and live videos are promoted in a dedicated live video discover tab. This can be a great way for social media marketers to quickly increase account reach.   9 Experiment With Instagram Shopping To Create A Better Experience For Followers Instagram recently unveiled Shopping, which allows brands to tag items for sale in an e-commerce store. With just a tap on the tag, an Instagram follower can easily navigate to a product web page and purchase the product—all from within Instagram.E-commerce brands that have used Instagram Shopping have seen incredible results. Marketers who work for e-commerce sites should use Shopping to delight followers, increase post reach and grow.    10 Promote User-Generated ContentUser-generated content (UGC) is a great way to demonstrate social proof while sharing compelling content. A number of highly regarded brands, including Mercedes-Benz (below), regularly share UGC for these reasons Conclusion Those interested in growing their following on Instagram have a number of tried and true strategies at their disposal. Remember that the most effective Instagram marketers tell a consistent brand narrative through a variety of carefully produced and closely measured pieces of content.
    Andrew Broadbent
  • Coaches: How To Sell Happiness to Your Customers (Delivering on Your Promise) August 20, 2018 2:00 pm
    People hire coaches to help them achieve their dreams. On the surface, many of those dreams look like mere money or a solid relationship, but underneath lies the drive to pursue happiness.Effective marketing messages appeal to that desire for happiness. Happiness is the root of what people are after in whatever form they picture it, so it’s the strongest angle with which you can hook them.For example, a barbecue isn’t merely a barbecue; it’s a fabulous tool for bringing the extended family together and creating happy memories one may cherish forever. Happiness sells, but not every product delivers on the promise.Is your ad smiling?Despite ads that depict smiling, laughing families, a barbecue doesn’t necessarily guarantee a joyous family gathering. After everyone admires your new grill, your family dynamics will likely be the same as always.If people don’t usually get along, then they may descend into arguments even while devouring the best burgers they’ve ever had.Experiences create happiness -- products don’t.If your aim to sell happiness is genuine, you’ve got to focus on selling the experience rather than the product. It’s not a hands-off, one-time sale. Think about it as promoting an experience that guides people toward the cultivation of their happiness from within.In the coaching industry, this requires pushing your clients beyond their limits so they can have new experiences. If you’re a coach who only sells digital materials and pre-recorded webinars to maximize returns, you might want to consider adding the option of working personally with clients.This may go against the wisdom of leveraging your time to make more money, but an absence of personal interaction inevitably sells one’s clients short. Coaching has the greatest potential to encourage breakthroughs when it’s a one-on-one relationship: You assume the role of mentor and your clients pay good money to listen to, and follow, your advice.The challenge is to deliver on a promise.The logistics are simple, but the challenge is to deliver on the promise. To deliver, you mustn’t sell ideas and dreams. You have to build a personal relationship with each person, set rigorous expectations, and hold clients accountable for measurable results.You’ve got to be someone your customers respect and trust, even when you’re not letting them off the hook for procrastination or denial. You have to support them and ruffle their feathers in the correct balance, in order to get them to stretch beyond their limitations without quitting.If you can’t get them past their limitations, they’ll never achieve the new experiences that lead to genuine happiness.Selling a dream is like selling dopamine.If the goal is to help people achieve their dreams and experience happiness, a steady flow of income from selling materials doesn’t inherently signal success.Getting rich by selling CDs and coaching sessions requires nothing more than triggering the release of serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters that induce a short-lived high of euphoria.Don’t judge your success on the sales of materials.In the coaching industry, it’s easy to sell inspiring audio CDs, seminar tickets, books, and other tools to clients who are hungry for change. The downside is that many clients never do the work and become addicted to the cycle of inspiration.These clients are your best peripheral customers. They buy every book and CD and will do anything to come up with the money make it to your next event, but they don’t apply what they learn. It’s more comfortable to sit in a chair, pop in a CD, and get high on the inspiration.Inspiration.When people become addicted to inspiration, they aren’t doing the work. If you base your sense of success on how many CDs and books you’ve sold, you’re employing the wrong gauge.The only way to assess your level of success is by looking at the results your clients achieve for themselves. You might sell a million dollars worth of products, but are your clients enjoying the dreams they hired you to help them achieve?Don’t encourage your clients to become addicted to your materials.Think of your motivational materials as a marketing strategy to generate one-on-one clients. Your books and CDs are not the end product; personal time with you is the end product.The materials you create to inspire people aren’t necessarily going to give them enough to achieve monumental breakthroughs in their life, but they might release that surge of serotonin and dopamine. The entire self-help industry sells the pursuit and promise of happiness, and if you want to stand out, you’ve got to deliver.Personal development is still important.Personal development is a $9.9 billion industry, and people pay thousands of dollars to attend seminars and conferences across the world. Among the most famous “happiness experts” are Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Louisa Hay, and Deepak Chopra. Dyer and Hay have passed away, but their books and audios continue to sell like crazy.There’s an undeniable element of addiction to the industry. It’s an expression of the compulsion to buy things that will make you instantly happy. Various people pin their future happiness on the possession of a new car, a new iPhone, a raise, a bigger house, or a new relationship … or a steady stream of all of them.Where is happiness?People instinctively know that happiness doesn’t come in a box, but that doesn’t stop us from buying things. Many people feel directionless and don’t know how to be happy, so they turn to material goods and food for comfort, though it never fills the void.You can’t sell happiness directly, but you can sell strategies designed to help individuals cultivate happiness from within. It’s ironic, but to sell someone on finding happiness within, you need to appeal to his or her compulsion to find happiness externally. Packaging is everything.Your marketing message needs to appeal to the person’s ego.Tips, tricks, processes, strategies, and tools sell. People want to be told what to do, and many of them desire a challenge. Even meditation -- a highly effective method for cultivating contentment and possibly happiness -- doesn’t get much attention unless it’s delivered as a guided exercise on CD, a month-long retreat, or a structured class.If people knew that sitting quietly under a tree in their backyard could be as effective as any packaged getaway, many would still attend retreats for the experience. Who can argue with a beachfront resort, or a secluded mountain getaway in the forest with all meals provided?Train clients to achieve one dream and they can achieve any dream.Your clients are looking for happiness through something. It could be a better job, a successful business, or a specific level of income. They’re convinced that achieving such an ideal will make them happy.You have to speak to them through whatever belief they hold, and coach them with that in mind. Will generating a six-figure salary provide your clients with long-lasting happiness? Probably not, but by coaching them to achieve one dream, you can train them in tactics they can use to achieve any goal.Steer people toward their deepest desires.Not everyone can become a millionaire by pursuing his or her dreams, but the process may lead to solid success. It’s your job to encourage everyone to pursue the activities that make them happy, rather than the superficial goals that probably won’t.The most successful firms in any industry are born out of deep passion. While engaging in their profession, people often see opportunities to do something better, and that’s how many entrepreneurs are born.Sari Mintz, for example, spent years as a passionate hostess but felt discouraged when her creative ideas extended beyond available resources. A master of her craft, she knew the value of personalized party accessories, so Mintz launched her own party supply company in 2004.You can thrive and be happy.She may not be a millionaire, but she’s thriving and happy, and her company is regularly featured in national publications, television, radio, and blogs. Success is when other people are aware of your product and want to get it.Success is when you’re in business doing what you love. Money is merely a by-product of the success.People want to go through a process.Despite claims of wanting instant gratification, most people enjoy going through a process to get what they want. It’s why some people pursue passions through the daily drudgery of incremental mastery, and others hunt deer when they could buy venison at the market.It’s also the reason people build a home on empty land when they could buy an existing house: They want to experience the journey. Your mission is to create the roadmap for that journey, and guide your clients through it.The journey.The journey makes people work for the results they want. You don’t to make too great a struggle, but don’t make it too easy, either.People looking for a purpose in life are vulnerable.Marketing happiness to a society in search of a purpose isn’t hard, but unless you empower people to do what they love, it’s not a sustainable strategy. If you sell dreams without substance, what little scraps of satisfaction people get will likely prove to be temporary.Sooner or later, the stream of new books, CDs, or techniques will lose its appeal, and the quest for external happiness will shift to another source. Coaching people to create happiness rather than find it requires getting personally involved in each client’s journey.You can’t deliver on the promise without personal interaction and committing to people’s long-term success.
    Peter Daisyme
  • HyperWHO? HyperWHAT? August 20, 2018 12:30 pm
    So, you’re probably thinking, what on earth is this guy going on about in the title of this paper that I am about to venture into.Well, when asked what I am most interested and rather enthusiastic about at this stage in my career and personal life, the headline presented at the uppermost part of the page is often the response I get from family, friends, work colleagues and even random strangers I have the pleasure of sitting next to in the rather minuscule seats of economy class when I travel.When conversation usually ensues, I often deliver a rather theatrical narration of what this ‘thing’ I am so fascinated by and believe is the future, which is, the ‘Hyperloop.’I currently work for a large global organization that deals with container shipping as well as transport and logistics. I have been tasked together with a group of young individuals to travel to, and subsequently present our idea of the Hyperloop to the top executives in Silicon Valley next month.In the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution that the world is currently experiencing, we effectively have to try convince these top executives, who may actually have worked in this industry longer than some of us have been alive, to start looking at the potential of the Hyperloop technology as new form of innovation in the transportation industry. The proposal forms around how our organisation can either be completely disrupted by or take full advantage of this massive opportunity that this technology presents. Honestly, I prefer the latter.If you don’t know what the Hyperloop is, it may very well be your ride to work in the not so distant future. The Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation, essentially the “5th Mode” that the world will see as labeled by the brainchild of the idea in his 2013 White Paper, Mr. Elon Musk.Attempting to explain what this technology is and how it will work is not the easiest of tasks, but I shall do so in its simplest form, here goes nothing.Try to envisage travelling uninterrupted at speeds of up to 600 mph, yeah you read right, ‘Miles -Per-Hour’, and for those of you that prefer using the metric system, it equates to 965 kph.Doesn’t seem realistic let alone feasible right? Let me describe how this may actually be possible.The Hyperloop simply put, a pod (capsule) moving in a tube that is either above or below the surface of the earth, where the pod will transport people seated inside, from one destination to another. The Hyperloop pod uses an electric motor, which can be broken up into two simple components, a Stator and a Rotor. The Stator is stationary and the Rotor rotates. However, unlike a normal electric motor that is circular, the Hyperloop motor is linear, where the Rotor is on the pod that will move along the Stator, which is attached to the tube. The pod is propelled magnetically as it moves over the Stator.The Hyperloop uses unique magnetic levitation technology to help lift and guide the pod off the track. What allows the pod to move at these incredible speeds is due to the removal of almost all the air in the tube by a series of vacuum pumps, reducing any drag our friction, essentially creating our own sky in the tube. By almost eliminating any drag Or friction in the tube, the pod will only require a small amount of electricity to achieve these astonishing speeds.The idea and concept of a system where items are placed in pods and subsequently transported at high speeds through a vacuum sealed tube has been around for decades.Remember ‘The Jetsons’ cartoon that portrayed how the future would look with flying cars and yes, vacuum sealed transportation tubes? Or, some of the older readers may remember the pneumatic air tubes that were developed in the 19th century, for the purpose of sending documents between different floors in a building, ring a bell?The Hyperloop basically is an amalgamation of the Concorde plane, a rail gun and an air hockey table. The Hyperloop is designed to be energy efficient using solar panels, cost effective, reliable and faster than any existing high-speed train or airline transportation.6 hours, this is the amount of time it would usually take you to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a vehicle due to heavy traffic congestion. 35 minutes, this is the proposed time it would take to travel between the same two cities in a Hyperlooop, saving you over 5 hours in travel time. If this does not excite you even the slightest bit, I don’t know what will.So, our message is, disrupt or be disrupted. The Hyperloop is not a far-fetched or exaggerated idea, there are already massive companies like Virgin that are investing in and helping to develop this amazing and futuristic technology.In Part 2 of this series I will go into greater detail of how the introduction of this technology can impact various industries as well as the society we live in. Hyperloop has the potential to change the world, so brace yourselves, The Future is Now!
    Michael Savvides
  • Tech Startups Are Changing Education For The Better August 19, 2018 4:00 pm
    In the last decade, we have been able to see an immense growth of technology involvement in education. We're not only talking about using computers in the classroom anymore. Technology, big data and the Internet have started revolutionizing every aspect of education in the recent years.Of course, students are benefiting the most from this technology boom, but they're not the only ones. Parents, teachers and school administrators are all experiencing this positive change that is modernizing, improving and facilitating education across the planet.This is all due to the innovative educational tech startups that have realized the need to fix the problems with the traditional education systems and transform the way we learn and teach.Startups that Are Changing the GameAs you can imagine, the most influential tech startups in education are those creating some sort of apps for fun and interactive learning. These include learning apps and games for kids and adults that are created for computers, tablets and mobile phones, which makes them incredibly convenient.Then, there are the startups that wanted to enhance the learning process through better file organization. Schools and universities around the world are using platforms and apps that allow both students and teachers to keep everything in one place, stay organized, share files and keep track of assignments.Aside from that, certain edutech startups have focused on facilitating the school administration process, engaging the parents through progress tracking, monitoring things like class attendance, test results, and even cheating and plagiarism.Finally, there are the programs that provide and facilitate video lectures and online courses for both students and future teachers. For example, more and more aspiring teachers are opting for online degrees like the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care and other popular training courses, to be able to keep up with the trends.The Revolution in EducationAll these startups and their technology solutions have caused quite a revolution in education, and it seems like the changes are only going to continue. Here's how tech startups are changing education for the better.Personalized LearningTechnology has started erasing the problematic all-for-one learning model and introduced a new personalized one. Thanks to the innovations, students can now get a custom-made learning experience that significantly increases their academic success.Learning on the goWith technology, students around the globe are now able to learn wherever they want, whenever they want. They can study at their own pace and keep track of news, files, assignments and grades with just a few clicks.Countless Learning/Teaching ResourcesThe Internet has given us access to boundless amounts of information. When it comes to education, that means countless learning resources. There are hundreds of tech startups as well as famous companies dedicated to enhancing the learning experience, which makes it easy to find learning and teaching resources in the form of eBooks, video lessons, online certificates and a lot more.The Greater ChangeEdutech startups are already shaking up education systems around the world and remodeling the modern classroom. Not only are these innovations shifting the learning process towards personalization but also changing the roles of everyone involved – from curriculum creators, across teachers to students and parents.But this change is a good one, and it's only just begun. We have yet to see all the ways tech startups will continue to alter and enhance education in the future.
    Muhammad Usman Siddiqui
  • 3 Top-Paying MBA Concentrations in 2018 August 18, 2018 4:00 pm
    Many Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs offer their students the opportunity to choose a concentration, which can also be called a "specialization" or a "track." In Australia, some educators may refer to this as a "major." While concentrating in any one aspect of business administration is not essential for career success, it can sometimes lead to higher paychecks and increased credibility in your area of specialization. Let's take a look at 3 of the concentrations that are currently resulting in some of the top-paying job opportunities for MBA graduates.1. General and Strategic ManagementIn the USA, managers are consistently some of the best-paid professionals in all industries; and management is one of the best paying MBA concentrations a student could choose. Top executives earn  US$183,270, on average. The highest paid top executives earn more than US$208,000 per year. Marketing managers in the USA earn US$129,380; and sales managers earn an average of US$121,060 per year.In Sydney, Australia, senior managers typically earn average yearly salaries of AU$150,000, according to Glassdoor.com.A management specialization can help you solve the conundrum of how to be hired as a business manager if you don't actually have any work experience supervising other employees. More importantly, this curriculum will give you the training necessary to manage others with confidence.2. Technology ManagementTechnological expertise is becoming more critical for executives in every industry, so a specialization in technology management or a similar concentration can help to further virtually anyone's career. Extremely similar specializations include information and knowledge management and IT management.With this degree in hand plus relevant work experience in the USA, you're likely to be able to land a job as an IT director; this role pays an average of US$147,000 per year, according to Monster.com. It's also possible to get hired as a vice president of IT, earning an impressive salary of US$177,000 per year. In Australia, Payscale.com reports that IT directors earn an average of AU$164,243.3. StrategyIn large part, strategy is such a financially rewarding focus of study in the United States because the most prestigious consulting firms are actively seeking candidates who have expertise in this specialization. So if consulting is a career path you'd be interested in pursuing, this might just be the right specialization for you. In the USA, management consultants earn average annual salaries of around US$123,000 per year, according to Monster.com. Glassdoor reports that management consultants in Sydney, Australia earn AU$122,000 per year. Career website indeed.com reports a much lower but still totally respectable figure of AU$96,044 per year for management consultants in Sydney. Their statistics suggest an average management consultant salary of AU$84,743 per year across all of Australia.If the financial rewards are a top motivator for you to seek out an MBA degree, these are 3 of the top specializations you'll want to consider. All of these concentrations have the potential to reward you handsomely after successful graduation from your chosen MBA degree program.
    Muhammad Usman Siddiqui
  • How International Founders Can Raise US Financing August 17, 2018 4:45 pm
    When I was a Y Combinator partner, I noticed that more and more of the batches were companies started by international founders. It's now at 35 percent, and because of this a common question I hear now is: How do you set yourself up to raise money in the U.S.?I’ve invested in several startups that started out as international companies and either moved to the U.S. or incorporated here to raise capital. Here are a few: Scotty, Automile, PayStack, Razorpay, Xendit and Sendbird.Over the years, I’ve seen what works and I’ve seen what doesn’t. Here I’ve broken down the process for international entrepreneurs looking for U.S. funding into 8 steps. If you’re a US-based entrepreneur, everything after step 2 can also be applied to you. Step 0: Ask Yourself Why?Why do you want to raise money from U.S. investors or come to the U.S. at all? The first step is asking yourself that question. International founders typically have some combination of these three reasons: a) Access to capitalThe number one answer is access to capital. One of the top complaints from international founders is, “There are no investors in my home country of X or my home market of X.” That’s changed a lot in certain markets, like China and Southeast Asia, but for most countries it is still true that there are more investors willing to invest a higher valuations in Silicon Valley than anywhere else in the world. I often see founders come here because they want access to those investors.b) Help building your companyA lot of international entrepreneurs want access to Silicon Valley’s collective knowledge of how to build a great technology company. Silicon Valley is home to many giant internet companies. The Facebooks and Googles of the Bay Area have created a massive secondary ecosystem of people who have scaled before. They've scaled the technical side. They've scaled the operations side. That knowledge isn't as readily available in the rest of the world.Coming here and talking to experts who have done it before, learning from them, and getting them on your side through an investment is a great way to accelerate your progress.c) Unicorn aspirationsAs mobile has grown in the rest of the world, there’s more and more international opportunity. There are more people buying goods and services online. As we’ve seen companies like Alibaba, JD, Didi, Careem, Go-jek, Grab, and many more become massive companies, the opportunity has shifted from people thinking the U.S. is “the entire world” in terms of market, to investors being interested in finding potential unicorns internationally. I joined the board of one of my international investments for the first time ever last year. To some degree it's a timing thing: Now is as good of time as ever to get the participation of U.S. investors and entrepreneurs in your international startup as more investors have realized there are real returns to be had in international technology markets.Step 1: Become a U.S.-Based Legal StructureIf you want to take this path, how do you do it? a) “Flip” your business to help it growA few years ago YC started requiring that every international company flip to a U.S. company. What's a flip? It's when you create a Delaware C corporation and exchange shares with your foreign entity. You effectively have a U.S. entity that's investible by investors in the U.S. and globally. A lot of funds and a lot of investors don't want to invest in an international company because there’s horrible tax reporting requirements. It’s often even written into their limited partner agreement. It sounds like a small thing, but flipping is really important if you want to get investment from U.S. investors. b) Consider tax, IP, commercial agreementsWe started this company, Atrium, almost exactly a year ago, to help make legal much easier for founders and entrepreneurs. We work with a lot of international founders and have a bunch of experts. The things to consider when flipping are:Tax implicationsWhich entity owns the IPHow you structure commercial agreements between the entitiesI’m not lawyer, so you should get legal advice. Our startup legal team here at Atrium handles this all the time. Feel free to reach out. c) Do it nowIf you ever want to flip your company, do it now. The complexity of flipping only grows as your organization and headcount grows. I recommend doing it as soon as possible. You’ll save yourself legal fees and a tremendous amount of pain. Step 2: Hit Your Metrics.a) Become a rocket shipAfter you’ve flipped, what do you need to do? The first step is becoming a rocket ship. Everyone always want to figure out what the hack is to raise money, but the real hack is to build something that has product-market fit and is actually growing really well. b) Product-market fitInstead of trying to figure out the hack to fundraising, spend 95% of your effort talking to your customers. Figure out what they want, how to make what they want, deliver it to them, and get feedback. If you do that, you will hopefully iterate into something that grows really well. That’s how you achieve product-market fit. That's how we created Twitch. We didn’t come up with a great idea around allowing people to stream video games to this massive market of over 100 million people every month. We started off with this really horrible idea, where I strapped a video camera to my head and created a live video show about myself, kind of like Big Brother (but we called it Justin.tv). We started broadcasting it to the internet. People came to it expecting entertainment, but they found four computer programmers sitting around their computers (which was incredibly boring!). Viewers eventually told us, "We want to create our own live stream" so we created this live streaming site that anyone could use to broadcast anything. We kept talking to our customers over the next couple years and discovered they wanted to stream their own video game play, so we started focusing on that. They told us they wanted to get paid, so we created the partner program for them to make money. We talked to our customers to figure out what they wanted. After eight years of iterating, we finally grew our random video startup to this pretty big website called Twitch. It's the number 13 largest site in the U.S., and we ended up selling it to Amazon for $970 million. You can achieve success by talking to your customers and iterating. That's what you should spend most of your time doing.c) Attack a huge marketIf investors don't perceive you to be attacking a huge market, it's extremely difficult to raise capital. It's also more difficult to build a big business. We ran into that problem at Twitch. People thought the market of watching people play video games was extremely small. It was a really big market, but it was difficult for us to raise capital because it wasn't perceived as one.For international founders, it's especially important that you attack a large market, and really think about how to present that market as large. U.S.-centric investors will be biased to believe that your opportunity is small. Consequently, when pitching your startup you need to present the biggest vision you can. That can mean aggregating an entire region or attacking verticals that people know will be big, such as transportation or food delivery. Step 3: Tell a Great Narrative.Once you’ve achieved product-market fit, your company’s growing, and you want to raise capital, the next step is figuring out a narrative. Every narrative in human history has three parts: The world is a certain way. Something happens. The world’s now a different way. How does it apply to fundraising? You always want to structure your narrative and your conversations with investors as going through these three acts: Tell them about the market: where the market is, what the problem is, why it’s a big problem. There’s some inflection point. Maybe now everybody has a mobile phone. Maybe now everyone has a credit card. Maybe now people buy things online. The world’s now a new way. Highlight your product, how it solves a problem, what your traction is, and the evidence that you’re going to reshape the world. You need a practiced and well-rehearsed narrative that walks people through a story arc, where they end up believing that you’re going to be something really big. I encourage people to practice a lot. Iterate. Try different things until you find the narrative that really resonates. You can practice on more than just investors. You can practice on your fellow entrepreneurs and other people in the industry. You’ll know the narrative is working when they’re getting excited about it. Step 4: Calculate Terms of the Round.Pre-revenue valuation: based on potential, not resultsPeople always ask, “How do we determine our valuation?” The answer: it’s completely made up. My cofounder Augie Rakow talked about that in another post. Valuation in early stage companies is tied to potential. It’s completely disconnected from revenue. Early stage companies should stop worrying about calculating valuation based on revenue and start figuring out how to pitch a giant narrative. How much to raise? 18-24 months, based on target milestones You’ll want to raise enough money to give yourself 18 to 24 months. That’s long enough to achieve some set of compelling milestones, as well as some buffer. There’s a lot of information on raising money, so I recommend reading up. A lot of companies get trapped in the thought that their valuation has to be dependent on some financial metrics. In early stage tech companies, that’s certainly not the case. Step 5: Get Introductions to the Right Investors.Identify who would be interestedOnce you have a plan and narrative, you want to figure out which investors you want to pitch. You can save your own time and potential investors’ time by isolating and zeroing in on the investors who are most likely to be interested. If you’re a biotech company, you want to raise money from biotech investors. If you’re an international company, find people who are even open to investing in international companies. Do your research. You can do research by looking at what people have invested in on CrunchBase or on AngelList, and figure out specifically who you want to talk to. Target the right people for intros and don’t cold emailI get half a dozen cold emails every day from people who want money. That’s too many people to give my money to. Instead of cold emailing, get a good intro. Luckily, it’s not that hard. There are lots of people who can help you: people who’ve raised money from these investors before, friends, other entrepreneurs, or your existing investors. Do it systematically: make a spreadsheet and find out who you want to target. Then, line them all up and ask for an intro. In that intro, you want to create a short, concise summary of why you’re a compelling investment. Run through those three narrative arcs in seven to eight sentences. Step 6: Go Into Meetings Prepared.Once you have the intros, be prepared for the meetings. Avoid assumptionsThe first part of preparing is avoiding all assumptions. You need to be able to explain your business and industry like you’re explaining to a reasonably smart person with no context. Make it concise and simple. Walk them through your pitch without any industry acronyms. Any chance that someone has to check out of a conversation, they’re going to do it. They’ll look at their phone or be distracted or think about problems in their own life. Your job is to keep them engaged. You do that by running them through a powerful narrative and keeping it simple. Know what the meeting isYou should plan for the meeting based on the type of investors.Angel investors may be ready to write a check immediately after. Venture investors will probably ask you to follow their process: If they’re interested, they’ll move you to a meeting with multiple partners, then maybe with other partners, then maybe a full partner meeting. Do your research first. Know who you’re talking to so you know what to expect. Be honestBeing authentic is a really powerful motivator for connecting with people. You want to be honest about the things that are compelling and good about your business. You also want to be upfront about what you don’t know. If they ask a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s really bad to just make up an answer. People can usually tell you’re bullshitting them. “I don’t know” is an okay answer. It’s better, though, if you really know the numbers and metrics, so you should take pains to know them. There’s also an added bonus, because if you do that you’re more likely to run your business better. Know your Unique Selling Point (USP)What makes you the best? You want to weave your USP through the thread of your narrative. Understand what’s most compelling about your business and make sure you hit on it. Step 7: Close the Investment.Let’s say you had a great conversation. They were engaged. They asked you questions. What’s next? Move the conversation along by putting hard deadlines on the process. Be direct in your askMove the conversation along to them actually investing. Be direct in your ask. Say something like, “Hey, we’re raising our seed round. Are you interested?” or “What’s your next step?” They’ll often respond, “Oh, well what are your terms?” You want to push the conversation along without being too pushy.  Have a time frameI find it valuable to have a timeframe in your fundraising. You can’t just choose a date, because if you don’t have any leverage, people will detect that trying to force a specific date to close is bullshit. It’s good to say something like, “I’m spending the next two weeks talking to investors, and then our goal is to close the seed round.” Observe the “handshake protocol” Silicon Valley is based on the trust that investors and entrepreneurs will do what they agree to. If you agree on terms, even just through email or a handshake, stick to them, even if you find out the next day that you can get a better deal. It’s crucial for your reputation. Final notes: Make Sure You Really do Want to Raise Money.Fundraising is a tool to build your business. Raising a lot of money sounds fun and attractive, but it’s not the end game. It’s just a tool for building your business. Don’t raise money when you don’t need it. If you’re not constrained by resources, you should just continue building your business. Startups are a pass/fail course. Success is getting IPO or M&A. A lot of companies get caught up in the fundraising beauty contest of trying to get the highest valuation or the most money. That’s not the thing that makes the difference at the end of the day. You should just focus on getting a passing grade.
    Justin Kan
  • The Best Ways to Write SEO Content That Will Convert August 17, 2018 2:00 pm
    If you are going to invest in SEO content is very important that you consider the idea of creating high-quality content that's going to convert many new visitors to your webpage. With the assistance of high-quality SEO content that is designed to improve your conversion rates, you can see a real difference in the content that you are publishing online. Here are some of the best ways that you can write content for search engines that will also convert new sales and visitors to your website:Hook them with a great pitch:​Introductions and a quality pitch that really resonates remains one of the most important aspects of any piece of content. Stuffing all of the keywords that you need in the first paragraph can just look unprofessional. Make an introduction that can be easy to scan and weaved with tactics that are perfect for converting a visitor actually to read through the rest of your content.Lay out the content first:You have your keywords; you have your objectives, don’t just start writing. Just as you would lay out content using an essay skeleton for a school assignment, it is a good idea to consider laying out your content first so that you can get to the heart of your objective. Laying out your content can help you really plan out the paragraphs that you need to tell the story, where you need to put your calls to action and how you can use images to break up the content as well.Get to the root:Stuffing content filled with keywords are writing for a specific word count isn't always a good idea from an SEO standpoint. Rather than a wall of text that is well optimized with keywords, trimming out the fat and targeting just a few while delivering a strong message can help you to reach your customers more readily. It can also really help with your page load times.Keyword variations:Constantly targeting the exact same keywords in all of your content is never going to make an impact with your customers. Adding some keyword variations so that you can promote while providing answers remains very important. There are hundreds of millions of users that could be looking for your content, and this could mean creating several different variations of keywords to draw them back.Adding value is an improvement:​Creating a user experience that also leads to better content will help your website visitors really flow in. Adding value to your on page experience and considering the way that users will access your page is important. Take time to write content it's going to be straightforward to read on mobile devices, in a web browser and more.Creating high-quality SEO content:Consider some of these top ideas when you're working to create high-quality SEO content that will continue converting. The process of learning how to create better SEO content is something that is constantly evolving. By working to do something unique, that's also compatible with the latest search engine algorithms remains an important step for any business.
    Asif Razzaq
  • How AI Will Shift Customer Experience to the Next Level August 17, 2018 12:30 pm
    One technology trend that has caught everyone’s attention in recent years is the way artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving. Its disrupting nature has given it an enormous potential with countless applications. Among the many possibilities that AI promises, customer experience (CX) seems to be completely overhauled.Businesses today are fully aware of the value of great customer experience for their success. This is the reason why they looking toward incorporating AI to provide an intelligent, convenient and informed CX at any point along the customer journey.As per a prediction made by IDC (International Data Corporation), by 2019, 40% of digital transformation initiatives will be supported by some sort of cognitive computing or AI effort. Another study by Gartner says by 2020, 85% of customer interaction will be managed without a human.This great potential of AI is because of the fact that AI has the power to analyze and process huge amounts of data from different sources, including human behaviors and emotions, thereby helping create more meaningful CX.We are already witnessing the inroads AI is making into various industries and fields. Tesla’s autonomous cars, Google’s personal digital assistant “Siri” and Amazon Alexa/Echo are examples showing how AI can disrupt every aspect of our modern lifestyle.Now, for the successful incorporation of AI in customer experience, businesses need three fundamental capabilities – data unification, real-time insights, and business interaction.Here is how AI can transform customer experience for better:Improved CX with chatbots and AI-powered virtual assistantsThe biggest impact AI can have on customer experience is by making it automated, fast and hassle-free. Chatbots, for example, are AI-based virtual conversation tools being used in various customer-engagement scenarios. They are specifically programmed to simulate human interactions and provide immediate, personalized responses. This will effectively eliminate unnecessary delays and errors in customer service, especially while handling customer complaints. By automating responses to customer queries, companies will be able to reduce training time for service representatives and save the revenue in handling highly repetitive service queries.Also with the help of AI-powered virtual assistants, businesses can distribute content more effectively in various channels in order to cater it to the right audience. For example, Facebook’s Messenger Bot helps shoppers find what they are looking for by engaging them in simple conversations. Coupled with machine learning, AI isn’t just about facilitating client chats but can also help incorporate lead generating marketing to increase profitability. It can point out positive leads to sales by making sure that potential customers are targeted for the correct platforms.Predictive personalizationPredictive personalization is the effort and ability to predict the actions of users, based on their previous behaviors. Today, AI is effectively using predictive personalization to improve CX by naturally integrating it with consumers’ everyday lives. This AI-powered personalization will make customers feel as if every product or brand experience was tailored just for them. Predictive personalization will particularly come handy for online shopping, where data collected from consumer behavior exhibited in online sessions is analyzed. It includes the amount of time spent on sites, pages, items, purchases, form filled, searches made etc. By observing and processing this data, businesses will be able to assess individual shopper needs, suggesting the right items and delivering them to their homes. Thus, AI-infused procedures will make customer experience interactions smoother and streamlined across various channels.AI-enabled analytics for crucial customer insightsAI can play a critical role in providing companies with actionable insights by feeding intelligence into CRM, marketing automation, and other key operational tools. They can incorporate proven insights to improve customer engagement and empower employees by helping them in making informed decisions. Tools such as facial recognition software, text analytics, and machine learning can be used by companies to know what their customers see, identify the right messaging and convey it in real time. AI-enabled customer journey analytics can sift through a much, much larger and more complex data space and thereby uncover many more business opportunities.Visual, voice and text engagementsVisual engagement along with voice and text sentiment analysis will help companies gauge emotions and sentiments in different types of communications. The AI-powered visual engagement technology analyzes facial expressions in face-to-face and video chat conversations. This augmented processing will use voice biometrics and nuances found in voice chords and modulations in phone calls in order to understand emotions. With the help of these AI-based algorithms, companies can determine how to route communications and identify satisfaction. This will help them deliver positive sentiments to increase lifetime values so that repeat business and more profitability could be achieved.Dramatic shift in decision making The success of AI will be measured in more practical ways like return on investment, new market opportunities, diseases cured, etc. These all achievements will be made through a paradigm shift in terms of decision making. The power of big data, AI and machine learning has paved way for a decision making metric. It is already being felt that decision cannot be made entirely on guts and intuition. Rather, decisions should be backed by data. So, whether is product review or customer service processes, AI enables businesses to make informed decisions. Health, financial services and automotive sectors are witnessing a sea change in their decision-making strategies.Recently, PwC, a renowned audit and tax consulting company, put together massive amounts of data from the US Census Bureau, US financial data, and other public licensed sources to create a large-scale model for financial decision making of 320 million US consumers. The automotive industry, on the other hand, has developed several AI applications, from vehicle design to marketing and sales decision-making support. The fact is AI modeling and simulation provide a good grasp of changing consumer behavior, which is crucial to making the best marketing decisions, in the short and long run. ​Final thoughtsArtificial Intelligence is here to stay as its future possibilities are insurmountable. Businesses have understood that AI-driven customer journey analytics will be their most fundamental requirement to deliver high-impact customer experience rapidly and effectively. 
    Birbahadur Singh Kathayat
  • Do You Need a Crowdfunding Campaign for Your Startup? August 16, 2018 3:16 pm
    Is your startup dying? Raising funds for startups is becoming more and more challenging. If you’re passionate enough about your startup, then you’ll have the courage to go through hardships and overcome all the challenges. The question is how to find investment and grow your business. The amount and the quality of investment can change the future of your startup, so you need to think twice before seeking traditional seed capital, applying for bank loans, or starting crowdfunding campaigns.Getting rejected by potential investors can be very disappointing, especially at the early stages. This is why you start considering the idea of creating a crowdfunding campaign. But, do you really need it? In this article, you will learn more about what crowdfunding is, how to start a crowdfunding campaign, and what you can expect from it.What is Crowdfunding?Crowdfunding gives you an opportunity to raise funds with the help of the general public, or ordinary people who like your idea or business and want to help you develop it. In other words, it’s like a large pool of individuals who are ready to invest small amounts of money in a startup or a business idea. Many campaigns are rewards-based, so the investors receive a gift or something in return for their participation.For example, Oculus VR raised more than $2 million in 30 days, after which it was bought by Facebook for $2.3 billion. Another successful example is Tile, a Bluetooth tracker which finds keys, wallets, and other everyday things in seconds. They raised $2.6 million, exceeding their target of $200k within 24 hours of launching the campaign.Crowdfunding seems to be a miracle for startups, an easy way to get investment. But, unfortunately, not all startups succeed. Many crowdfunding campaigns fail. In fact, 70% of campaigns don’t reach their goals. But, even if your campaign fails, you can still have some benefits.What Can You Get From a Crowdfunding Campaign?First of all, crowdfunding is an alternative opportunity to raise money for your startup.It’s a safe and low-risk solution. With pre-sales, you can reduce the financial risk of your business and generate revenue.With a smart crowdfunding campaign, you can significantly increase your brand awareness and get exposure.Build your audience and get feedback from them to improve your product.Collaboration opportunities and new partners.The Drawbacks of CrowdfundingThe creation of a crowdfunding campaign can be time-consuming and require extra financial resources.You can fail your campaign by not reaching your target and return all the invested money.The failure may damage the reputation of your startup.Someone can steal your idea/project if you’re not protected by a patent or a copyright.How to Get Started With a Crowdfunding Campaign?​After considering both the benefits and drawbacks of crowdfunding, you need to decide whether you want it or not. If you think that your startup needs a crowdfunding campaign, then pay close attention to the rest of the article, as you will learn how to create a successful crowdfunding campaign.Follow these 8 steps to launch your campaign:Define your goalThe success of your campaign depends on how clearly you define your goal. You have an idea or a business and you need to raise money to develop it. Turn your idea into a goal by defining why it is important, how is it different, who will benefit from it, and how much investment you need.Do a market research and find your target audienceTo define an achievable goal, you need to conduct a market research and learn more about your target audience. This will help you to understand the demand for your product and the needs of your potential consumers. If you know your audience, it will be easier for you to reach them and get their support.Choose a crowdfunding platformThere are several crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo or Kickstarter where you can launch your campaign. These platforms help you to manage your campaign, share your information, videos, reviews, and all the necessary information about your project. Depending on the provided services and the outcome, they will take up to 10-15% fees. Prepare a perfect video pitch What is the best way to present your idea or product? Of course, a unique and informative video. According to Kickstarter, projects with videos were funded at a much higher rate of 50%, compared with the 30% rate of the projects which didn’t have one.So, how to create a great video for your crowdfunding campaign?Keep it short, up to 2 minutes,Get the attention of your audience right at the beginning,Use visuals to keep them engaged,Tell your story,Choose the right music,Add a call-to-action.You can also create animated explainer videos, which can be very effective for presenting your product or idea. To save your time and resources, you can use video maker tools which offer ready-made video templates.Create a landing page to build your email listWhy exactly do you need an email list? Having a list of people interested in your product will make it easier for you to contact them and keep them updated. To collect those emails, you need to have a basic landing page with all the information about your project and what you offer.Your landing page should have clear headlines and descriptions, high-quality images, and a form. To make it more informative, you can add your video pitch and some customer reviews to it. Then, you need to promote your landing page to drive traffic to it. Once people fill in the form, they will appear in your email list, and you can directly contact them. When you launch your campaign, the first thing you need to do is to send emails to the people from your email list.Reach out to journalists and influencersAnother effective way to reach your target audience is gaining exposure through journalists and influencers. So, you need to create a list of media contacts who might be interested in sharing your project. Start by finding media outlets or blogs relevant to your business and add them to a list. Then, find the right contacts and influencers to connect with and send your request. Develop your outreach strategy, test it and keep your list up-to-date.Build your audience on Social Media and keep them engagedAfter defining your target audience, you need to develop content which will be interesting to them. Create your pages on different social channels and start sharing engaging content depending on the interests of your audience. Pick the channels where your audience is more active and don’t forget about adding call-to-actions. Plan your social media strategy beforehand, as it takes considerable time and efforts to build an active fan base and to keep them engaged.Launch your campaignAre you ready to launch your campaign? After making all the preparations, it’s time to launch your campaign and see the results of your hard work. While you’re waiting for the investments to flow, don’t forget to share the news and updates with your email list.What makes your audience buy on day 1 of your campaign? Simple. The feeling of urgency and excitement. Always keep your audience excited by creating special offers or rewards. It’s all up to you and your creativity.​ConclusionNo matter at what stage your startup is, an investment can help you boost it and keep you on track. But, before putting all your efforts on finding investors, stop and think about alternative financing methods. Crowdfunding can be a great solution for your startup. It has both benefits and drawbacks, so you need to decide whether you need it or not. And, in case you decided to start a crowdfunding campaign, follow the steps above to make sure that you do it right.
    Emma Bojukyan
  • How to Hire the Right Marketing Team for Your Startup August 16, 2018 12:30 pm
    One of the biggest challenges that the startup founders face during the initial stage is the lack of a well-proficient, professional marketing team. A well-rounded marketing team can make or break a startup and that’s why it is essential to hire the very best.“Choose the first 10 employees very carefully, as they determine the next 100.”- Yevgeniy Brikman, GruntworkHiring the right team for any startup is an art. Either you can outsource the task to recruiting firms as they have the best talent available or you can do it yourself. Of course, it will take time, but after a few years, you will become an expert yourself.But before choosing either of the two, it is important to understand how you can make the best possible choice.“A good idea without a great team is likely to negatively affect your start-up’s potential to attract investment" GrowthEnabler, Quora.Almost all businesses are digital and their marketing efforts are completely different from the way traditional marketers used to market. That’s why while crafting the job descriptions of your marketing hires, make sure you add digital elements that the recruits need to have, and on that basis, you can shortlist them for further process.In order to ease the process, here are a few guidelines that all startup founders need to understand before they start hiring a marketing team for startup.Identify Your Marketing Channels.This may sound obvious but it is actually the crux of the whole hiring process. Even in the online world, marketing is of many types: Content, Paid, Performance, Influencer, Social, Community, and Lead Management.Most recruits are specialized in any one form of these marketing channels. To identify which of these marketing channels you will use for marketing your startup, and then start hiring for that particular channel.For example, if your startup is an ecommerce store, you will require both performance marketers and content strategists. However, if you are a design agency, your time will be spent hiring business developers and performance marketers for the startup.Therefore, identify the right marketing channels before you start the hiring process.Key Points:Select channels that provide the most ROI and shortlist candidates well-versed in themPrepare effective job descriptions based on selected channels to target the right candidatesCreate Targets for Next Six Months.Six months is all it takes to go from zero level to medium level in anything you pursue: whether a broken relationship, a college course, a music class, or even a health or fitness regime. You will see a significant difference in muscle memory in the next six months if you start now.The same rule applies to hire the startup marketing team. Where your new hires will decide the future tone, your targets for the next six months will decide the future path. It is better to keep smart, attainable targets so you can easily track and change them when needed. The VP of Crowdriff, Amrita Gurney, focuses on monthly targets while hiring teams and deciding targets for them.She says, it seems lucrative to just jump to marketing but understanding the customers and finding the right channels to market is the best way to hire a marketing team. Because with this approach you will be able to hire teams that are already well versed with that marketing channel.And, when you keep monthly targets, you automatically know the progress of each new recruit. For early age startups, this is the best way to measure progress.Key points:Make smart, attainable, and measurable goalsBe flexible and praise for effortsEducate and empower your marketing team“When 10 percent to 20 percent of salespeople miss goals, the problem might be the salespeople. But when most salespeople miss, the problem is their goals.”The Harvard Business ReviewUnderstand the Structure of a Modern Marketing Team.Tons of guides are available on understanding the structure of a modern marketing team. But for a digital startup, we can bring it down to content creation and promotion, performance tracking and lead generation, and lead management and support.These are the three main sub-departments of a marketing section within a digital startup. So, hiring recruits specific to any one of these departments will be a good starting point.While recruiting for your startup, find out which type of marketing people have the skills that you require for your marketing.One thing to keep in mind is that a marketing structure is made of a combination of different structures. So, review your current team structure and look for departments that you can merge together.Key points:Aim for an integrated marketing teamKeep the team agile and flexible to target changes“Well-organized teams are better positioned to succeed than ones that aren't.” Ben Sailer, CoScheduleWhat to Look For in the Candidate.You must have heard of people who have no relevant background to a specific job landing high-level positions in startups just on the basis of their potential and grit.So, what exactly are startups looking for when hiring candidates?PassionThere are two ways to find out if a person is passionate about your company and the industry it relates to especially if you are looking for junior executives. Find out what type of projects they have worked on, on an individual level. Check if they have started a group, community, or even just a blog. It shows they are interested in working in your industry.DriveAre they growth-driven? The people you hire need to be interested in your project. They should have a desire to help the company grow while growing themselves. The best way to find this out is to provide the recruits with a problem.Founder of Staff.com says that once they were hiring a data analyst for their company. During the initial interview, the analyst told them that they had a problem with their analysis. He went home and worked on the analysis himself and provided the solution with a detailed report on the very next day. The founder of Staff hired that candidate on the spot.HumilityDoes he own his mistakes?The problem with all startups is that people will make mistakes. Now, there is no problem in making them, it is the part, where the person who made the mistake doesn’t accept it, becomes the problem. Startup recruits need to be humble and should accept if they are wrong because that is the only way the startup culture can thrive and grow.DedicatedStartups should also check whether the person is actually dedicated towards their organization or only interested in his own learning.One startup founder quotes the example of a candidate who was so eager to learn about the work that he continued to show up even after his internship had ended, and that no permanent position was available with the firm. But after a few months, the team was so impressed by his dedication and hard work that they were able to create a permanent position for him.Importance of Training and Development.Once you have hired the right people for your startup, train them on a regular basis so they can provide even more value. By training the employees you are upgrading their skill set. Training also increases their eagerness to stay at the company because they will understand that they are at least learning something new. At the same time, when you offer training to employees, more people are going to join your startup because the news spread with the word of mouth of your current employees.By training, you also help the employees overcome their weaknesses. This increases their satisfaction to stay at the firm.Key points:Consistent training ensures all employees are at the same levelIncreases learning the satisfaction of employees as they are learning something new every dayBuilds their confidence and provides them with the better understanding of the nature of workAll these points directly translate to more value for your startup.Keep a Long-term Plan in Mind.Finally, while hiring marketers for your startup, focus on your long-term marketing plan. You need to have a checklist of things you want to achieve before you start the hiring process so that the team can work accordingly. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad hire. In the end, the responsibility lies on your shoulders to take the team forward.Here are the key takeaways of this article:Sketch out job descriptions of each position you want to be filledAssess recruits through various job-related testsCreate SMART targetsProvide guidance and training
    Mehmood Hanif
  • VC Corner: Marlon Nichols, Cross Culture VC August 15, 2018 3:43 pm
    Introduction:Marlon Nichols is a founding managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures (CCV), where he leads CCV in identifying game-changing entrepreneurs who are creating next-generation companies.Marlon draws from his unique professional background to drive CCV’s focus on using global trends and shifts in consumer behavior to capture high-potential investments.Prior to co-founding CCV, Marlon was an investment director at Intel Capital where he completed his Kauffman Fellowship. He has worked with several startups, invested in companies like Mayvenn, Gimlet Media, Blavity, Airspace Technologies, Codeverse, and many othersPitch your startup for a chance to meet with Cross Culture VCQ&A:What is your / your fund's mission?At Cross Culture Ventures we take a thematic approach to investing that we have coined 'cultural investing' - the impact of the convergence of global popular culture and consumer behavior on technology and innovation. As such we observe consumer behavior and make investments in the types of products and services that fit with those emerging trends. As an example, we’ve noted that millennials value flexibility, experience over possession, transparency, and immediate gratification so an investment in a company that allows consumers to take possession of a specific vehicle by completing a short and 100% transparent procurement process via a mobile application and then have the ability to return/exchange that vehicle at any time without penalty, would be lucrative. Thus, we invested in Fair and our thesis has proven correct to this point.When did you start your current fund? We started to invest out of our inaugural fund, Cross Culture Ventures I in April 2015. We held a few closes prior to the final closed in February of 2017. To date, we’ve invested in about 30 companies out of this fund and will add 10 to 15 more.What is one thing you are excited about right now?The confluence of technology and healthcare is an area that I'm paying a lot of attention to right now. Healthcare in this country has been broken for a long time and is in desperate need of disruption. I'm attracted to solutions that serve the majority of the population, drive down cost and wait time, and remove inefficiencies. Three companies in our portfolio are addressing this from different angles. (Check out Ready Responders, Firefly Health, and Mahmee).  Who is one your founders you think we should watch?That’s a tough one because we have so many terrific founders in our portfolio. Successful repeat founders such as Scott Painter (Fair), Justin Dangel (Ready Responders), Gunnar Lovelace (Thrive Market) and Nick Balcoa (Airspace Technologies). Impressive first-time founders such as Matt Lieber (Gimlet Media), Morgan Debaun (Blavity), Travis Holoway (Solo Funds), Delane Parnell (PlayVS), Charles King (Macro), Leandrew Robinson (Hingeto) and so many more. I honestly believe that you should watch all of them and their companies. If I must highlight one, I’d say pay very close attention to Chris Bennett and his team at Wonderschool. Just last week they announced a $20M Series A that was led by Andreessen Horowitz and was oversubscribed only a year after their series seed, which we led alongside First Round Capital. In a very short time they’ve opened and filled 140+ preschools/daycares on the East and West coasts. Wonderschool is solving a significant problem in childcare/education and is doing it on both sides of the marketplace.What are 3 top qualities of every great leader?1. A balance of confidence and humility2. Empathy3. Courage and integrity to see your vision through.I’ll throw in a fourth, which is flexibility-having the ability to adjust and change course as necessary to achieve the end goal.What was your very first investment? and when?My first investment at Cross Culture came in April 2015 and was in a company named Mayvenn, a mobile based distribution platform for hairstylists. I was drawn to this company because it was solving a huge problem for diverse stylists - the inability to buy inventory or to earn product revenue. I am very familiar with the challenge because my mother has run her own salon in Mount Vernon, NY since I was a pre-teen. At Cross Culture, we place a great deal of emphasis on the founders of companies that we back. In this case Diishan Imira was the perfect founder based on lived experiences and skill set. He grew up around several hair stylists, which gave him a firsthand and in depth look at the problem. He lived in Asia, first teaching English and ultimately getting into the import/export business. Most hair products are sourced from Asia so this provided Diishan with an incredible advantage. He also knew his strengths and weaknesses and wasn’t afraid to bring on talented people to fill his gaps.  What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?Do I believe in this founder/team? Are they the right group to build a big business that addresses this challenge/opportunity and wins the market?What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?Are we the best team to solve for this challenge and is our approach truly novel and differentiated? In other words, why will we win?What do you think should be in a CEO's top 3 company priorities?1. Build a strong and good company culture2. Maniacal focus on unit economics and growth3. Maintain a solid understanding of consumer needs/ wants and the competitive landscapeFavorite business book or podcast? *The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho remains my favorite business book. It reminds me that the journey is often more important than the outcome because of what you learn along the way. It also highlights that goals change and that is also okay.What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working? *Watching movies, I’m a huge binge watcher. I also love to workout and play basketball. Those three activities relax me in different ways.Who is one leader you admire? *I admire Barack Obama, he led with grace and kept his composure throughout a very trying presidency. He never made excuses and always owned up to his short-comings. Such a tremendous role model and a successful president. I’m also very impressed with the work that Lebron James is doing off the court. The I Promise School is a tremendous initiative!What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder? BUILD and EXECUTE! Everyone has opinions, including investors, but traction/metrics/numbers are facts. Better to engage in a conversation centered in facts as opposed to opinions.Last words..To keep up with the exciting things that Cross Culture Ventures and our portfolio companies are up to, follow us on twitter @crossculturevc or follow myself @marloncnicholsPitch your startup for a chance to meet with Cross Culture VC
    Startup Grind Staff
  • When Is The Right Time For A Startup To Move Into A Physical Space August 15, 2018 2:00 pm
    These days, most businesses do not start in offices. Whether it’s an idea cooked up in a dorm room or a crowdfunding campaign conducted from the living room, many startups get their real beginning outside of an official office space. There are many reasons to run your business in a dispersed and primarily digital fashion for a long time; some companies have even been able to run at scale without any kind of centralized work location.Different executives have different thoughts on when companies need to move into physical spaces, and much of their differences may have to do with their industries. A retail company, for example, will need a physical space with physical offices right off the bat, while a company creating an SaaS product may not need a physical office until it’s approaching big corporations as clients.Even then, it may only need to have its key staff in the office; marketing, accounting, IT, and support staff can all be housed off premises or dispersed. If these positions remain freelance or contract rather than full employees, this also allows the company to save money on benefits payments.Companies relocate their entire production processes from state to state to take advantage of cost differentials, but when is the right time for a startup to move into a physical space? That time is going to vary, business to business. Let’s look at some of the factors and challenges.Local EmployeesAt first, many companies get by with contracted services. You can use SaaS accounting software, work with a freelancer for your marketing, contract your IT services, and connect with a graphic designer in another country to get your layouts done right. But as you start to look for local staff to hire, you are going to need somewhere for those people to work. An office becomes the right place to train new employees.Local CustomersRelocating to a new office already comes with its own challenges and the last thing you want is to lose your hard earned customers. If your business is primarily online, you don’t need a physical office to meet your customers. If your business starts to transition into a more local business with a higher number of face to face interactions, having somewhere to meet your customers other than the coffee shop is ideal. At this level, you may still be able to just rent a conference room in another company’s office space, but looking for your own office may be the right idea.Retail PossibilitiesIf your company is looking to expand into the retail sphere, having a physical location may become necessary, whether it’s public facing or not. You will usually need to pack and ship goods, keep your customers informed about your moving plans, work with staff – doing all of that out of your living room or even a home office will quickly become complicated.Ongoing, Continual CollaborationWhen your team members need to check in every so often with questions about assignments or how to pieces of a product will interact, working online with chats and video calls is perfect. But for many businesses, there’s comes a point where continuing, ongoing collaboration is key to success. For that to function, you will need to have more, if not most, of your employees at the same location.This can be a big transition point for a company, and it can force them to choose between their dispersed workforce and their scaling planes. After all, many people work from home because working in a physical location is either impractical or impossible. Their own health, or the health of loved ones, can make it necessary to work from home. If you move your entire company to a physical space, it’s possible to lose crucial employees. Make sure to talk to your workforce and know what the next steps will be before you move forward.You Can Afford ItThis should seem obvious, but one factor in whether or not you relocate your business into a physical space is whether or not you can afford to move your business into a physical space. After all, rent is expensive, and not all offices cover utilities and amenities. Plus, you will need to purchase office furniture, find the right location, and more. You will need to make sure your office space has room to expand, but isn’t more office than you can afford.Run a solid budget for your business (you should be doing this anyway!) and see if there’s enough left over to cover monthly rent and any utilities a landlord says you’ll be responsible for. Consider equipment rental and purchasing, and factor in maintenance costs. You can also consider potential increases to income, but remember to overestimate costs and underestimate incomes.If getting your office into a physical location is going to make your company cash tight, it may not be worth it yet. You Can’t Afford Not ToFor some businesses, there is a point where it becomes clear that they are losing money by not having a physical space. They don’t appear “serious” enough to key customers, or they’re losing out on retail opportunities, or they just can’t quite scale their business to the next level without that extra boost of business.For those companies, finding a physical location is key, and they often need to do it as quickly as they can without hurting their business.That said, it’s important to remember that the definition of a physical office has changed from what it was twenty years ago. You don’t necessarily need a desk for every employee. You could rent a certain number of desks in a local shared workspace with a conference room that you could book. Your local employees could work from home and from the office on a rotating schedule, and some portion of your workforce could be dispersed.When you choose to move your startup into a physical space is going to vary depending on your startup, your industry, and your finances. Carefully consider the pros and cons of the move before you make a decision.
    Margarita Hakobyan
  • 7 Data-Driven Email Marketing Best Practices for Startups August 15, 2018 12:30 pm
    Is email a core part of your marketing strategy? While some business owners still see email as a supplementary or "add-on" tactic, email should be as foundational to your marketing strategy as social media or SEO.Salesforce Marketing ReportFortunately, according to the Salesforce 2017 State of Marketing report, businesses are investing more in email marketing. B2C companies especially are favoring email marketing, with a two-year growth of 106 percent, making email marketing the second-fastest growing marketing channel in B2C, outcompeted only by video advertising.Top 5 Fastest Growing Marketing ChannelsOverall, email is still in the top five fastest growing marketing channels, representing 83 percent growth over the past 2 years. The survey collected responses from 3,500 full-time marketing professionals (and not just Salesforce customers) from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, U.K./Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, and Australia/New Zealand.The survey also found that “top performers”—the 12 percent of marketers seeing the highest ROI from their strategies—used the highest amount of “heavy coordination” between their channels.Basically, the best marketers across all industries relied on multiple interconnected channels, rather than zeroing in on any one specific strategy. About 90 percent of high performers used “heavy” coordination or “moderate” coordination, compared to only 61 percent of under-performers.Why Does Coordination Matter?Why does that coordination matter to email? Email marketing remains one of the most coordinated channels in the digital marketer’s arsenal, with 29 percent of messages dynamically evolving across channels based on customer actions.What Is Your Truth?Do these findings hold true for you? Are you approaching email as a core aspect of your marketing strategy? Are you increasing your investment in email marketing?This post will examine seven email marketing best practices you should be using, based in part on the most recently available data from Salesforce.1. Pay attention to the rise of non-traditional forms of email marketing.In 2017, we saw “email marketing,” a term that has traditionally referred to marketing campaigns sent en masse to opted-in recipients, evolve to include outreach emails sent by sales staff -- a tactic that’s becoming more and more popular due to its effectiveness.This evolution of email marketing, however, necessitates new metrics beyond the traditional ones (such as open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates) that need to be tracked in order to fully understand resource usage and ROI. Metrics such as average response times, words typed per email, and overall email volume (sent & received) over time are crucial to understanding effectiveness with this form of email marketing.New ToolsNew tools are becoming available to provide these insights, including EmailAnalytics – the only such tool that works for Gmail and Google Suite. If you initiate an email outreach campaign, be sure you have your analytics in place.2.  Entice visitors back to complete purchases.If you run an ecommerce site, it’s probably no surprise to you that shopping carts get abandoned more often than they actually result in a sale. In fact, according to the Baymard Institute, a whopping 68% of all online shopping carts get abandoned.While there are any many reasons why carts can be abandoned, remarketing can be an extremely effective strategy for bringing visitors back to complete their purchase. While only 24% of businesses report using this strategy, 72 percent believe it’s a “very effective/effective” one.Browse retargeting is another effective strategy to re-engage with website visitors. Through tracking which product pages subscribers have visited, businesses can offer incentives to entice them back.Some strategies to test out for abandoned carts include:Remind visitors what they left in their cartOffer an incentive to close the sale (discounts and free shipping work well)Give a link straight to the abandoned cart (not the homepage or product page)Show cart expiration (e.g. “Your cart will expire in 48 hours”)Send multiple email reminders: For instance, send a reminder 2 hours after abandonment, and a discount email 24 hours later.3. Run periodic reengagement campaigns.Reengagement campaigns allow subscribers to update their current email preferences to receive more relevant and timely emails. While these campaigns weren’t ranked highly in terms of use (only 34 percent of marketers use them), 89 percent of respondents believed they were at least somewhat effective.When sending reengagement emails, some things to keep in mind include:Determining who you’ll reengage: Subscribers who haven’t opened your recent emails? Those who haven’t converted? Those who haven’t clicked through to your site in a while?Consider a series of reengagement emails rather than just one. One may not be enough to win them back.Giveaways and contests can be a good strategy for increasing opens and clicks, but may not fix the underlying lack of engagement.Give subscribers the option to customize the emails they receive including email frequency, format and topics of interest.You’ve worked hard to get your subscribers to join your list, and periodic reengagement campaigns can help keep them connected and engaged.4. Responsive email design is a must.Based on the most recent data from 2015, 33 percent of marketers said their subscribers read emails on a mobile device at least 50 percent of the time (up from 24 percent in 2014). While this points to an increase in our awareness of the importance of responsive email design, are our actions keeping pace?According to the same 2015 survey, 48 percent of marketers reported “always” or “often” using responsive design for their emails; this was up from 35 percent in 2014. In addition, 46 percent reported “always” or “often” using responsive landing pages for their email; up from 40 percent in 2014. It seems that marketers are getting the message, and are realizing the important of mobile-friendly email campaigns.Any good email management services will provide responsive or mobile-friendly email templates. These templates will ensure that:Email width and font sizes adjust to a variety of device sizes.Users can read your emails without having to pinch or zoom.Links and buttons are spaced out so they can be easily tapped by mobile users.Emails are a single column design for easy reading (two-column at the absolute most).5. Test out sending emails on the weekend.  If you’re like most business owners, you likely send out your email newsletters and promotional content during peak business hours: on weekdays sometime between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.However, according to the Salesforce report, marketers should consider sending out emails on weekends when inboxes are emptier, and subscribers may have more time to read non-essential emails: “Recognize that your work schedule won’t always coincide with your subscribers’ email-reading habits. Explore sending campaigns over the weekend, when subscribers may have more leisure time to peruse their personal email accounts and non-urgent messages.”While no one can guarantee your open rates or click-throughs will be higher, in certain industries and niches, weekend emails may be just what’s needed to gain a competitive edge.6. Newsletters are great – but recognize that other types of emails will likely be more effective.We’ve already touched on two types of emails that tend to be most effective: abandoned cart emails and reengagement emails. While 66 percent of marketers find newsletters “very effective/effective,” the majority of other strategies marketers are using have proven to be even more effective:Mobile opt-in campaigns (76 percent).Birthday/Anniversary emails (75percent/74 percent).Transactional (74 percent).Welcome series (72 percent).Loyalty (72 percent).Promotional content (69 percent).Post-purchase emails (67 percent).Social opt-in (67 percent).Test out a variety of content types instead of garden-variety email newsletters. Offer coupons and discounts, and spend time perfecting and personalizing your welcome and post-purchase emails. And don’t forget to collect data on important dates like birthdays.7. Track negative metrics that may indicate suboptimal practices.We know that metrics like open rates, clicks and conversions are important for tracking the effectiveness of email campaigns. But are there metrics that can do a better job of indicating problems with your current email marketing practices?According to the most recently available report, while click-through rates, conversions and click-to-open rates are the three most commonly used indicators, there are other important, “negative” metrics that are being regularly tracked by marketers:Unsubscribe rates (23 percent or marketers track these).Bounce rates (17 percent).Inactive user rate (13 percent).While open rates and conversions are perhaps the most critical metrics you’ll be tracking, don’t neglect other indicators that can signal unhealthy or suboptimal marketing practices. While not mentioned in the report, tracking spam reports and complaints is also important for keeping your list healthy.Final ThoughtsMarketers can no longer get away with conducting their email marketing as an afterthought. Unlike other forms of marketing, email is a one-to-one communication with your customers - which gives you the ability to customize, personalize and segment based on almost limitless combinations of factors.If you truly believe that email is a foundational element of your marketing, make sure you’re “walking the walk” by incorporating responsive design, tracking key metrics and testing out a variety of email content with your audience.What best practices would you add to this list? What strategies are you finding most effective these days? Share in the comments below.
    Peter Daisyme
  • To Outsource or Not To Outsource: That Is The Question For These Startup Departments August 15, 2018 12:00 am
    The startup world is hectic with numerous decisions to make weekly that could impact the business immensely. One of these decisions that a founder has to make is what parts of the business will be outsourced and what will be kept in-house. Hiring certain departments can be done years later once the business is more established. Outsourcing can be a great way to reduce stress on current staff as well as can save money as hiring certain positions can be extremely expensive to do domestically.HROne thing that can kill cash flow as well as a startup’s reputation is that of a former employee suing for wrongful termination. Younger staff members could become enraged when let go whether for financial reasons or performance reasons. The right processes and documentation have to be filled out when a person is written up. Proof of lack of performance should also be available so the employee can sign a write up acknowledging that it was brought to their attention. Hiring a human resources firm to handle many of these issues can be a huge stress reliever. These firms also can help with hiring especially if they have worked in your niche. Being able to reduce blame for firing as well as increase the quality of talent in the office is a huge positive for any business.Digital MarketingDigital marketing could not be more important for all businesses in today’s world as it is the way brands get noticed in today’s digital age. Small things like social media marketing being done by a professional contractor or digital marketing firm can expand the reach of a company immensely. SEO is another term that is becoming more common in today’s business landscape. Search engine optimization or SEO factors in a variety of things like links back to your site from related sites as well as things like keywords in content on the site. Hiring a marketing team can be expensive but hiring a marketing firm can actually save money due to the fact that they work with a myriad of clients that could be related to you company.AccountingAccounting is not as difficult as it had been in the past as it is easy to sort expenses, payments, and projections in a variety of platforms. For those larger startups getting a professional accounting department might be further down the road. For the time being using an accounting firm allows a company to save money as hiring multiple accountants can be quite a drain on the cash flow. Corporate accountants can save a business thousands of dollars come tax time so this could not be more important for a business trying to consistently turn a profit. QuickBooks is the most well-known way to track finances and can be linked to payment platforms like PayPal which allows it to track whether online invoices have been paid.SalesThis is one area where a startup should not outsource for any reason. Hiring people to handle sales that do not have a good idea of the products or services being bought can lead to them misleading customers. Pushy salespeople also are not what a startup wants their brand to be associated with. Building personal relationships with a client from the sales process throughout the business lifecycle is important. These relationships can lead to long term contracts being signed which are the staples for long term profitability and success. Do not outsource things that will involve dealing directly with prospects or current clients as this is where you want your in-house staff to shine. As you can see outsourcing is the answer for many startups as it offers a fix to a problem that otherwise could require copious amounts of money.
    Tommy Wyher
  • Sales Team in a Slump: Ways To Boost Suffering Sales August 14, 2018 11:30 pm
    Sales are incredibly competitive regardless of what industry a company is involved in. In fact, sales jobs are so competitive that many companies will find the competition within the office to close the most sales quite intense. People tend to get more intense when they can control how much income they take home at the end of the month. Sales slumps are real and can impact an entire department as well as the company. The management of a company has to be proactive about giving the sales department all they need to be successful including market research and quality leads. Boosting sales can be done by doing the below things to help the sales team recuperate from a less than stellar month or quarter.Do The Proper ResearchMarket research can be one of the most tedious things that can be done but it is also one of the most important. Creating an entire marketing campaign which targets the wrong demographic can lead to a few things:Less leads coming in overall.Leads coming in that are not quality or a lead that simply cannot afford a product or service.Impacting the brand negatively as the target demographic feels alienate.Wasting marketing budget and killing the marketing team’s ROI.Research is not just for targeting the right type of consumers but it also has to do with the competitors of a company. Knowing what competitors are doing will allow a company and salesperson to differentiate the company from another very similar company. Being able to let a customer know what the company does better than their competitors can help close a sale on the spot.Sales and Marketing Need To Be On The Same PageSales and marketing often times have tension if sales numbers or lead numbers are done. Proper communication is important as the sales team can let the marketing team know about the quality of leads they are bringing in. Far too often the teams point fingers at each other when sales take a dip. The marketing team believes a lead is a lead while the sales team knows better. The marketing team is far more likely to blame the sales team’s tactics and lack of ability to close than their campaign missing the mark. Compromise between these departments needs to be done as sales is not the only goal of the marketing team as they have to maintain and build a brand as well.Add Extra IncentiveCommission is what drives sales as all of those who have been in sales for years know that an extra sale per week can lead to a nice boost in yearly income. A few extra percent commission on each deal can help incentivize the sales team and won’t impact the bottom line very much if profit margins are healthy. Capping commission is asking for trouble as well as there is lack of motivation for a sales professional if they have reached their limit for the month. Another thing that can happen is the person holding off deals until the next month to reduce their workload once they have reached the cap. These incentives do not always have to be monetary as things like allowing a work from home day or two per week for those salespeople hitting quotas is better than a raise for some employees.Empower The Salesperson With DiscountsAll of the sales team should understand what margins are on a specific product or service. Getting permission from the sales team manager to provide a specific discount to close a deal can empower the entire sales team. Discounts for long term contracts tend to be the most popular for prospects to sign. The sales professional will know if the only thing holding the prospect back is price, allow them to lower it to a point! Large corporations are not built by almost getting a prospect to sign a deal but rather working with prospects for a mutually beneficial business relationship.Sales Decks Increase ProductivityWhen going through a pitch questions in the middle of a slide can throw off the presenter. Emailing the sales deck before a meeting allows a customer to get all of their questions together. Once these questions are written down the customer can cross these out if the presenter answers their question. Allowing a customer to see the sales deck might just lead them to be interested in a certain service or product being offered. The customer can allow opt out of the meeting if they are not interested in anything mentioned in the deck. Efficiency helps increase productivity and this is exactly what a pitch deck does.Slumps happen to even the most proficient sales teams but the way they are reacted to will be most important. Proactive approaches to improving sales processes during the slow times of the year can help optimize sales once they pick back up. Don’t settle for mediocre sales during any time of the year and watch the company grow!
    Tommy Wyher
  • VC Corner: Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate August 13, 2018 4:52 pm
    Introduction:​Ann Miura-Ko has been called “the most powerful woman in startups” by Forbes and is a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Stanford. The child of a rocket scientist at NASA, Ann is a Palo Alto native and has been steeped in technology startups from when she was a teenager. Prior to co-founding Floodgate, she worked at Charles River Ventures and McKinsey and Company.Some of Ann’s investments include Lyft, Ayasdi, Xamarin, Refinery29, JoyRun, TaskRabbit, and Modcloth. Given the success of her investments she was on the 2017 Midas List of top 100 venture capitalists.Ann is known for her debate skills (she placed first in the National Tournament of Champions and second in the State of California in high school) and was part of a five-person team at Yale that competed in the Robocup Competition in Paris, France. She has a BSEE from Yale and a PhD from Stanford in math modeling of computer security. She lives with her husband, 3 kids ages 10, 8 and 6 and one spoiled dog.Pitch your startup for an opportunity to meet with Floodgate.Q&A:What is your / your fund's mission?Floodgate exists to invest in prime movers - entrepreneurs who build movements that become category defining companies - before the rest of the world believes in them.What is one thing you are excited about right now?I believe great companies emerge when gigantic themes collide. One such collision occurring today is the incentive to centralize data in order to train machine learning algorithms and the simultaneous societal push to decentralize data driven by privacy concerns and lack of trust in institutions. How, then, can we protect our data while having systems understand who we are and what we want to do? I think the answer is decentralized intelligence, new technology that decentralizes how intelligent algorithms are created while offering us intelligent control of our own data. While I have yet to find a company that truly addresses this theme, you can imagine a world in which each individual is able to control all of their personal data and only reveal what they want to who they want.Who is one of your founders you think we should watch?Nancy Lublin, CEO of Loris.ai, is definitely a founder to watch. Nancy is a natural creator of movements. She previously founded Dress for Success, a network that empowers women to thrive both professionally and personally, and Crisis Textline, a non-profit that provides crisis intervention support via text. Both organizations are incredibly successful at leveraging thousands of volunteers to address human problems that profoundly impact the daily lives women and teenagers across the nation. Nancy brings this vast experience into the world of enterprise software. She is leveraging the knowledge she has accumulated in developing technology to intelligently prioritize Crisis Text Line messages and train volunteers to most effectively communicate with people in crisis. She will translate this to enterprise corporations who seek to empower their organizations to have hard conversations with customers, between employees and with partners.What and when was your very first investment? What struck you about them?Taskrabbit; Nov 2009What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?Is this a founder I want to work with for ten years? And do I think they’re going to want to work with me for ten years?What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?Does this investor’s expectations match what I want for this company, and for my life?Who is one leader you admire?I really admire David Swensen, Chief Investment Officer at Yale. He’s changed the way that universities manage their endowments and nurtured incredible, diverse talent within his organization. Alumni from his office are now leaders in endowment offices all over the country, and part of why he’s able to develop great talent is because he’s working on a mission he loves.What are the top 3 qualities of every great leader?  1. They have strong beliefs, loosely held. Great leaders can listen to people who disagree with them, learn from the experience and even experiment with tactics, but they maintain their conviction.2. They hire up. Great leaders create spectacular teams by hiring people who are better at what they do than the leaders themselves.3.They take non-consensus bets, strategically. When evaluating opportunities, great leaders can articulate the risks of a given bet and the reasons why they can be overcome.Favorite business book, blog, podcast?Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney. It’s different, because rather than focusing on building a product or a business, they’re thinking about building a category. And they have the data to show how important that really is.What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?I love teaching. Whether teaching my kids at home or teaching my class on entrepreneurship at Stanford, it’s something I really love to do. And I love eating.What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder?You have to be all in -- this is your life’s work. It will take everything you have, and that takes sacrifices, but it’s worth it in the end.What do you think should be in a CEO's top 3 company priorities?1. Build every part of your company (product, business model, organization, category) like it’s your product. It deserves your focus, experimentation and attention to detail2. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate distractions.3. The strategy to minimize loss is not the strategy to win. Execute on the strategy to win.Anything else?Although we spend lots of time talking about numbers, metrics and frameworks, there’s an artistic component to entrepreneurship that’s really important. You have to imagine a world that doesn’t exist and find a way to bring it to life. That gives you license to think differently. And it’s fun!Pitch your startup for an opportunity to meet with Floodgate.Want to hear more? Ann spoke at our Global Conference earlier this year, check out her talk here.
    Startup Grind Staff
  • 8 Tips To Improve Your Healthy Living Strategy August 13, 2018 12:30 pm
    Healthy living is not a cup of tea that you can warm up and reuse. You need to chart a full diet plan to stay well and strong. But, most of our readers tend to think that this is something very difficult to be done or implemented. However, if you look at the extensive workout schedule and your working timetable - you might find it impossible. Healthy living strategy comes with a smart plan too, you just need to focus on your pain points. Thus, today, we’ll share what can change and shape your future. But, once again - healthy living strategy is something that we all should focus on. Here are your 8 amazing tips!Plan, Plan, And PlanNo matter how busy you’re or how tough your timetable is healthy living strategy should be your to-do list at least thrice a week. Think about how will you look ten years from now. Or how you’ll want to stay fit and strong to never be a burden on your kids or future offsprings. Thus, start making a plan. It doesn't have to go by the book. You can focus on small things that can help you stay fit. For example, start an early morning walking regime. Put along some strong water intake, make food that can be easily cooked and is high with important vitamins. Why Should Healthy Living Strategy Be Your Call To Action?This is most of you’ll wonder. If you haven't visited the hospital because you weren’t ill, then that's a plus. But, are you confident about the future? No, we can’t be so authentic, and take chances. But, if we implement a healthy living strategy, there will be a good possibility that you won’t fall ill. Thus, you have to invest a day or two to get all things into moving. This will be a better start then getting a medical bill that will not be covered through your salary at all.  So, let us browse through some healthy living strategy we all can afford. Say No To Sugar!Avoid sugary food, chocolates, and drinks. Start using sugar substitutes or minus it completely from your life. If you drink tea or coffee daily - start with lessening the sugar amount in it. Choose honey instead. Or better, completely rotate your intake policy.Like, avoid adding sugar at all. If you can’t, then cut down the number of cups per day. There are many ways, you just have to be consistent with what you do and how you do it. Divide Your Meal, Multiply The Time. Now, this is something we all can do. No hard-and-fast pick here either. Don't eat like there is no tomorrow. Make a nice portion of your food, divide it into 3 or 4 servings and eat with some gap. You can simply make a habit to divide the eating time from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Be creative with what you eat. 4 hours duration is great, while you’ll keep munching here and there, you’ll also not gain weight.Mix Vegetables And Fruits. Adding vegetables and fruits allow you to stay fit and also not gain extra weight. These are the best foods for a healthy living strategy. You can mix raw veggies into your fruits and have a salad every 4 hours. Energy, vitamins, minerals all will go hand-in-hand. Further, you’ll also not need extra time-off to cook something heavy. We know how the weather will kill the buzz for cooking something healthy. Too hot or too cold days can go with a serving of veggies and fruits. Try your own recipe, and enjoy a healthy living strategy without spending extra bucks. Don’t Sit Too Much. Now, this one is too obvious to be true. We all love to sit, sit and sit. This is the main cause of gaining lower abdominal fat, along with other health-related issues.Don’t sit too much, if it is what you do. Start having some interval. After every two hours take a ten-minute rotation in your cabin, cubicle or office floor. If that is too much of a task, visit the rest area, and walk ten rounds. Then come back and sit. But not before that. Too much sitting also causes diseases you haven't heard about. H20 Is Life - Drink Plenty.Water intake should be more than usual. At least 8 glass of water is better, but if you take more - then it is far better. You should be drinking plenty of water. Artificial juices are a NO ENTRY  kind of thing when it comes to liquid diet. Instead, make smoothies, fruit juices etc. The general rule of thumb is to stay hydrated. The more your intake is strong, the better you can fight-off harmful material within your body. Further, water intake will also keep you strong and fit. As it is a natural flush for flushing out toxic substances from your body. Your fresh and new healthy living strategy planned out.With all of the above, we are quite sure that you’ll have a fresh and new healthy living strategy planned out. If you’re still confused, write to us and we can discuss what is better for you. You don’t need to get carried away with a diet chart. Simple and small steps will do the trick. Just ensure to keep a tab on what you eat along with, how well you eat. After All, the healthy you’re, the better things will be for you. It is all about #ahealthychage.
    Rafi Chowdhury
  • Top Start-Up Investments That Are More Than Worth It August 10, 2018 12:30 pm
    Start-up owners are certainly familiar with the first few months of activity that seems like an uphill battle. Tight money and the lure of investing in unnecessary “money-holes” sometimes take over many out there. The burden.For many start-up owners, it may feel like every small investment, every new system, software product, or basically, any other type of investment, is a burden. However, this may not be the correct mindset -- in which many start-up owners are tempted to fall. Below is our top list of investments that are more than worth the dollar amount in many small start-ups’ case.Excellent design solutions.Like in many businesses’ case, design sells a lot when it comes to start-ups. All companies that tend to invest bigger figures in their design capabilities, regardless of the support (online or offline) seem to have higher profit margins than those who prefer old, out-of-fashion themes. Web design isn't the only design that is neededFrom web design services, to promotional products design, logo design, these are all worth more than entrepreneurs are inclined to believe. A clean web design will make your website more relevant. The correct design will give information in an easier to find way that will put your company in the best light. It’s futile to think that consumers don’t pay attention to such details when, in fact, their entire attention revolves initially around those. This is basic psychology.BI solutions.Business intelligence may be a frightening concept for many, especially if they are somehow clueless about its full potential. If you want to empower yourself and your company to grow in an intelligent fashion -- such solutions -- including Client onboarding solutions capabilities are more than necessary. Store, process and gather.A company’s ability to store, process and gather data is an immense help in its development. If you aim at higher horizons, where you can make informed decisions and work smart, not hard, this is the type of investment that you are searching for. While BI solutions are thought to be more suitable for companies with 100+ employees, recent data has shown that SMEs are more inclined to invest and take advantage of those, due to their incredible potential.Invest in a strong company culture.This may seem an odd suggestion for many, but a strong company culture will help your enterprise grow and become valued on the local community and industry. Yes, attract great talent -- but you need a loyal team.It’s important to attract great talents, but also to keep them loyal to your company and the jobs they have to perform. It’s important to blend in the local community, and while a strong company culture requires plenty of efforts, some investments are also necessary. Part-time to full-time.Turn part-time contracts into full-time contracts, to meet your employee’s financial needs. Building relationships is also a great step toward a stronger company culture. And this can only be accomplished by involving your staff in numerous team building activities.These are some of the investments every start-up owner should consider and plan for, as these have the great potential of turning their small enterprises into strong and profitable ones, even at the beginning of their journey. Money invested in your business is not money thrown out the window, and all business owners should acknowledge this.
    Stephen Marshal
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