Sunday, March 11, 2012

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Social Super Tuesday — How the 2012 Candidates Stacked Up On Facebook

Posted: 11 Mar 2012 09:55 AM PDT

obama facebook

Editor’s note: Roger Katz is CEO and co-founder of social media engagement company Friend2Friend. His career includes management and consulting roles at companies such as Photobucket, Agilent, Brocade, Quantum, Bell Labs and Pacific Community Ventures, as well as a number of startups. Follow Friend2Friend on Twitter @f2f_tweets.

Every vote counted on Super Tuesday with the results coming down to Mitt Romney narrowly beating Rick Santorum by only 0.8% in the Ohio primary. While some may argue that the issues elevated Mitt above the rest, as a social marketer I can't help to wonder if social savvy determined the winners and losers.

Are 2012 Politicians Social Leaders?

Both marketers and politicians alike know that inspiring and motivating fans/supporters to share your story is an incredibly powerful influence. Once someone has decided to support a candidate, does the candidate encourage them to share that choice with friends? Do they make it easy? Do they make fans break a sweat? I decided to take a quick look this week — focused for comparison's sake limited myself to Facebook — and summarized my observations below.

Barack Obama: 25.4M fans

Obama's 2012 "Are You In?" campaign (recently expired) simply asked fans to share their statement of support with their network, and invite their network to join. It included a leaderboard-style "gamification" mechanic that rewarded fans by telling them how many people were inspired to join the Obama campaign as a result of their wall post.

Obama's team chose a nice "man of the people" cover photo, fist bumping a blue-collar worker, and a "Pinned" post that when I looked had 75K likes, 21K shares (more than ¼ the likes, which is a very high number) and 25K comments (almost ⅓ of the likes!) since it was posted less than two weeks ago (February 26th).

The Obama team did an exemplary job telling his life story through milestones — from his infamous birth certificate printed on a mug to his first job at Baskin-Robbins, when he met Michelle, and more.

Key Learning: His "I'm In" campaign was simple. It did not request the fan to do much of anything other than what they already do on Facebook — typing, and clicking "Share." No friction, no fuss. The Obama Facebook experience is comprehensive, professional, and authentically irreverent, with lots of content that is easy to share with fans.

Mitt Romney: 1.4M fans

The cover photo includes a bold photo of Mitt Romney and his wife, surrounded by supporters. His Pinned post includes Super Tuesday photos, with engagement at 106 shares, 2.7K likes, and 1.5K comments when I last checked.

His main Facebook app, "Stand with Mitt," really puts fans to work and requires a significant time investment to complete the actions. Here, supporters are asked to download a PDF, print it (preferably in color), write on it, take a photo, upload the photo, enter their email address, and send the photo to the Romney team for possible inclusion in a photo gallery on Facebook.

The oddly named "What's your take?" app is slightly more socially savvy, asking followers to answer the question "Have you ever volunteered for a campaign?" While it's unlikely anyone would want to share any answer other than "Yes, Loved it," it is a good effort. Some of the options in the app don't appear to work, but the comments are interesting. And it's good to see the campaign managers have let negative comments stand.

Key Learning: The "ask" in the "Stand with Mitt" app has significant barriers to participation. Though the resulting photos are fun, engaging and provide an interesting look into the face of a Romney supporter, the Romney team should have made the whole process considerably easier and simpler. This campaign feels a lot like one that would have been popular in the early 2000s, and featured on a campaign microsite. It just doesn't feel like an activity tuned for Facebook users. You'd have to be a pretty fervent supporter to go to the trouble of doing this.

Ron Paul: 898K fans

Given that Ron Paul supporters are generally thought to be in the 18-39 age group, it's surprising that his Facebook presence isn't more sophisticated. The "Ron Paul Facebook Promoter" offers a confusing and poorly designed campaign that requests a name, email and phone number, and also asks fans to change their profile picture to show their support for the candidate. The campaign selects a photo for you, and provides instructions on how to download that photo, and then tells you how to change your profile to the Ron Paul sanctioned photo. Paul seems to have devoted more of his resources to his websites, which are complete and highly comprehensive. (His "Choose Your State" app on www.ronpaul2012.com has 608K shares, 62.5K tweets, and >750K shares by other means.)

Key Learning: While the effect of seeing Ron Paul's brand on every one of a fan's Facebook posts would be a good brand coup, most savvy Facebook fans would not only already be aware how to change their Facebook profile photo, but probably would also want to add their own personal "spin" to something as critical as that photo. But while Paul hasn't fully embraced Facebook, he does appear to have made more effort to embrace social sharing on his website.

Newt Gingrich: 293K fans

Newt Gingrich's Facebook page is focused less on putting his small number of fans to work, and more on soliciting money for his campaign. His "Donate" page, "Sign Newt's Energy Petition," and intriguingly named "Newt Live Cam," all send fans off Facebook to his www.newt.org site. There are various petitions to sign, and in the past week, the Gingrich team added a "States with Newt" app that lets fans visit pages such as "Delaware with Newt" to drive local community action. As this app indicates the number of fans in each state — in the case of Delaware 67, with the largest being Florida, with 2,584 fans — it points more to the lack of following, than a healthy grass roots movement.

Key Learning: Little effort is put into encouraging fans to share their support of Gingrich on Facebook with friends and family. Asking for name, email, and location before spinning the fan off to www.newt.org, indicates little understanding of the potential social power of Facebook. Gingrich would have been more authentic to himself by engaging fans in sharing his views on Facebook, rather than using the space to primarily ask for donations. Facebook users value authenticity, and conversational debate, and tend to avoid places where they don't see those traits.

Rick Santorum: 160K fans

Rick Santorum's Facebook page is full of things to do, though most are not on Facebook. The first link provided takes you to a "Fundly" page — conveniently pre-populated with your Facebook credentials. Other links take you to ricksantorum.com. The Santorum team has, however, provided a tempting "like-gate" where fans are rewarded with a free e-book of something called "Santorisms" — essential quotes and images of Rick Santorum in a PDF file.

Key Learning: The Santorum team did provide exclusive content behind a like-gate — a decent social marketing convention — but wasted the opportunity. They should have taken that PDF e-book content and made each and every quote and photo shareable by fans. That would have made a perfect, viral social content-sharing campaign and would play to the reasons that fans love their candidate, and gives them something to share that tells their friends why they love that candidate.

This November the Winning Candidate Will Keep it Simple, Yet Engaging

Successful social campaigns are actually quite simple. Make fans/supporters work, but don't make them work too hard. The most engaging campaigns have an interaction that's clean, simple, fun, and rewarding — with as little friction between click and share as possible.

Respect the social context and don't send the fans to your website. Keep the fan where they want to be — on the social network where they encountered the campaign — and give them something to share. Content speaks volumes, and political candidates do have a lot of, ahem, content to share.

Social media represents a huge potential to engage followers both locally and nationally. Social media lets fans volunteer without even leaving their seats. Politicians must learn how to put advocates to work on their campaigns and make it easy and fun. Chances are the candidate that masters engagement and grassroots community-building will find themselves in the White House after November's election.



Facebook Mobile Is Ditching 2-Click Like Button For A 1-Click Like Bar

Posted: 11 Mar 2012 09:47 AM PDT

New Like Bar Before Being Clicked Done

Facebook is slowly rolling out a mobile interface change that lets you Like or comment on posts with a single click, I discovered this week and the company has confirmed. By making it quicker to Like, Facebook will be able to gather more data to refine its feed sorting algorithm while making content consumption faster and arguably more enjoyable. Previously, you had to tap a ‘+’ button beside posts to reveal separate Like and comment buttons, but soon all users will click on different sides of a combined Like / comment bar to leave feedback.

Sure, this is a subtle change, but it will affect over 110 million iPhone and Android users every day, plus everyone who visits m.facebook.com. With its rich-media feed stories, streamlined feed reading will help Facebook compete with Twitter’s inherently less exhausting text-only mobile feed.

Honestly, I find the combined Like / comment bar kind of ugly, but it’s already getting me to Like more posts. I only have to pause my voracious feed scrolling for a split-second to Like a funny quip or pretty picture, rather than having to interrupt my flow to open the feedback controls. It makes me more likely to leave feedback on Facebook than on Path where I need to choose between emotions or Twitter where I have to click through or slide open a post to favorite, reply, or retweet. These Likes will trigger more notifications that inspire return visits.

Beyond the improved user experience, more Likes mean Facebook’s EdgeRank news feed sorting algorithm can more quickly learn what and who you want to see more of. The lack of this data prevents Google+ from properly promoting and hiding posts in its feed. Vic Gundotra yesterday said this was preventing G+ from opening an API to let third-party apps post, which is partly responsible for a lack of content on the search giant’s social network.

With the barrier lowered and no limit to how many Likes can be doled out, you can show gratitude far and wide.



Jetsetter Moves Beyond Flash Sales: Recommendations Now A Third Of Its Business

Posted: 11 Mar 2012 09:46 AM PDT

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Jetsetter, the exclusive travel community for globetrotters, seems to be on a roll. In recent days, the company has announced a dozen some new corporate partners, a handful of new sale formats to entice customers, and new distribution partnerships with high-profile sites like Kayak, The Economist and the vacation rental service HomeAway.

But while many think of Jetsetter as a flash sales for travel site, it’s been finding growth in other verticals: curated recommendations and personal service.

Launched back in September 2009, Jetsetter was the first flash sales site for travel, and has now outlasted much of its earlier competition. Unlike online travel bookings sites aimed at helping users find the cheapest flights and hotel rooms, Jetsetter’s angle is different. It targets not the everyday traveler, but the affluent one.

“Jetsetter customers tend to be six-figure incomes, college-educated professionals, and they tend to come from major urban markets – New York, San Francisco, L.A., Boston, Chicago,” explains Jetsetter CEO and founder Drew Patterson. “These are people for whom travel, and their experiences in travel, are an important part of their sense of self,” he says.

Targeting the elite customer has, so far, paid off. Jetsetter now has 2.2 million members, and has sold over half a million room nights worldwide. On the company’s website, members can take advantage of flash sales on travel, which offer savings of up to 50% off. The site runs anywhere from 20 to 40 of these sales per week. There’s also an online concierge service for bookings to help customers with travel planning.

The available inventory for travelers now includes over 650 hotels and resorts in Jetsetter 24/7, its full-price retail offering, which today accounts for over 30% of the company’s revenue. There are also nearly 300 homes in Jetsetter Homes, an increasingly popular vertical for the company, with 500 more in the process of being added.

“The non-hotel category of lodging has been exploding,” says Patterson, noting consumers’ interest in companies like Airbnb and Inspirato, for example. “Consumers are hungry for something other than hotels. It’s nice to have common space, a kitchen and living room versus bedroom,” he adds. But Patterson says that it’s still hard to book vacation homes online, not only because there aren’t many systems that support online booking, but also because of security issues.

“There are concerns and risks around financial settlement,” he says. “Typically you’re wiring funds with a homeowner, and you’ve never met this person before. You haven’t seen the product before. There’s a fair amount of risk and uncertainty involved in that.”

Jetsetter wants to step in to be the middleman for those transactions, taking on the financial risk, he says. They curate and vet the properties, even going onsite to visit them. That helps to establish trust with their users.

In addition to vacation rentals, Jetsetter’s personal travel planning offering executed 600 trips last year, despite having only launched in June. Today, there are approximately 400 trips in progress, which consumers booked thanks to the recommendations from Jetsetter’s network of over 200 correspondents – experienced travel experts and writers who visit the hotels and partners on Jetsetter’s behalf.

It’s this focus on curation, personalization and recommendation that’s proving to be a growing part of Jetsetter’s business. One third of the company’s revenue came from retail in January, as customers seem willing to pay full price when recommendations are involved.

Jetsetter is also going after customers through other verticals, specifically through new distribution partnerships like travel site Kayak.com which will see all 650 Jetsetter hotels made available for bookings, as well as with the vacation rental website HomeAway, which is testing Jetsetter integration with 150 homes. The company is also working with The Economist on an exclusive 6-week campaign of flash sales curated for the outlet’s readers, which includes distribution through The Economist’s homepage, newsletters, social media and mobile.

New sales formats have been recently introduced to provide a variety of experiences for Jetsetter customers. One, the “Mystery Monday” model, will provide deeper discounts to customers willing to book before learning the hotel’s name. It’s not all that unlike the blind bookings Priceline offers, but the hotels selected are of high quality, like The Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, and The Surrey, all of which made an appearance in January.

There are also two-to-three night getaways called Jetsetter Weekends, focused on a collection of inns and B&B’s outside of Jetsetter’s top seven markets (N.Y., Boston, D.C., Miami, L.A., San Francisco, and Seattle). Meanwhile, new “Style Steals” offer discounted rooms at hip, boutique hotels. Jetsetter also says it occasionally runs sales for properties that prefer the voucher format like the Trump Hotel Collection, The Peninsula Hotels, Marquis Jets, and Groundlink, for example.

With all these sales formats combined, it seems that you can no longer call Jetsetter just a “flash sales site” for travel, even though it has an association with sister site Gilt Groupe, known for its flash sale properties.

“We obviously have a flash sale part of the business. That’s hugely important because that was our roots,” says Patterson. “But we also found that customers would write us early on and say, ‘I missed the sale. You emailed me something last week and it seemed great, but it’s not up there anymore. Just tell me what it was. It looked great and I want to go buy it.’”

“We said, Huh?’” he laughs. “But we had enough of these that it seemed like consumers really seemed to trust our judgment. That judgment is an important part of our business and our brand.”

And flash sales?

“Flash sales can inspire consumers and give them ideas for where they should go,” he says.



Walmart Buys Facebook Birthday And Holiday Reminder App Social Calendar

Posted: 11 Mar 2012 04:50 AM PDT

Social Calendar

It looks like retail giant Walmart has made another acquisition. The e-commerce giant has bought Social Calendar, an app on Facebook that allows you to get birthday and holiday reminders by email and SMS, and to post personalized photo cards and other virtual greetings on friends’ Facebook Walls on their birthdays.

Here’s the message posted on Social Calendar’s site: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Walmart”) completed its purchase of Newput Corporation’s Social Calendar products, services and website. We remain committed to providing the highest level of service that you have come to expect with Social Calendar. Your service with Social Calendar will continue without any interruptions, and you will be notified in the future of any material updates or changes to your service.

As we’ve written in the past, SocialCalendar, which was founded by Raj Lalwani and David Gordon, lets you plan events among Facebook friends, get movie showtimes and integrate events into a public calendar. Users can also import and get email reminders about events, birthdays and anniversaries and lets users buy virtual good icons as presents for friends and to mark events on calendars.

In 2009, the company debuted a partnership with Hallmark cards (Hallmark also invested in Social Calendar), to allow users to send virtual cards and gifts as well. The app has 15 million installed users and around 400,000 monthly active users. Social Calendar cites 110 million+ birthdays, holidays, other special occasions added by users and sends 10 million email reminders each month.

It should be interesting to see what Walmart does with Social Calendar. The company recently launched Facebook app Shopycat, which suggests gifts based on social profile of a friend. We know that Shopycat will function as an online store itself on Facebook, allowing users to buy from Walmart without every having to leave the social network. Social Calendar’s technology could be integrated into this app.

Walmart has been on an e-commerce tear, acquiring technologies and companies that can help add personalization, mobile, social media and other functionality to the buying process. Over the past year, Walmart has acquired social media technology provider Kosmix, Small Society, and OneRiot. The company also recently invested in Yihaodian, a massive B2C eCommerce company based in China.



Nike To Open First-Ever API To Developers At Backplane’s SXSW Music Hackathon

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 09:11 PM PST

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at 9.08.54 PM

Last month, Jason wrote about the announcement that Backplane — the new interactive, visual platform that’s part Pinterest, part Tumblr and Ning — will be using its star power to stage an unusual event at SXSW: A music hackathon.

The startup, which is backed by Lady Gaga along with a host of Silicon Valley VCs, is hosting its so called “SXSW Managers Hack,” a unique event for SXSW and music tech. The hackathon will be judged by music industry veterans, like Scooter Braun (the guy who helped bring you The Bieber), President of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Jay Brown, and Lady Gaga’s manager (and Backplane Co-founder) Troy Carter, as well as reps from Spotify, Pandora, and SoundHound.

In addition, it seems that hackers will also be able to pair some fitness functionality to their music-related hacks during the event, as we’ve learned that Backplane has enlisted a somewhat unusual name when it comes to hacking: Nike.

Yes, we’ve learned that Nike will be joining the Managers Hack to open up a beta version of the NikeFuel API for the first time to developers interested in combining music with its FuelBand.

For a bit of background, Nike recently released its Jawbone and Fitbit competitor, the Nike FuelBand, which is a lightweight, LED-lit bracelet that uses so-called “NikeFuel” metrics to record biomedical data to your smartphone. In other words, it uses a three-axis accelerometer to measure all your sports-related exercises, syncing that data with an iPhone app so that you can set goals and track exercise while on the go.

This represents the first time that Nike has released an API of any kind, and naturally the first time it’s made its NikeFuel platform available to developers. So now, developers will be able to hack together apps, platforms, and technologies that can “advance the future of digital music distribution,” as Backplane puts it, while adding some cool Nike-backed fitness functionality to boot.

What’s more, this is exciting for developers, because they will be being judged by the people who have their fingers on the button that decide which apps and platforms artists actually use.

The event kicks off tomorrow, Sunday, March 11, and runs from 2-10 p.m., with winners to be chosen at the end of the event. The event will be livestreamed by R to Z Studios, Randi Zuckerberg's new social media firm. (Zuckerberg will be hosting the stream.) Readers can check it out here.

Backplane will also be broadcasting from Austin into Times Square via the NASDAQ screens.

For more on the event, check it out here. You can also learn more about Path’s new API and recent integration with Nike’s fitness platform here.



Paul Graham Wants You To Build A New Search Engine, Inbox, Or Be The Next Steve Jobs

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 06:44 PM PST

paulgraham

As a founding partner at Y Combinator, Paul Graham has seen countless startup pitches. In a new essay, called “Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas,” Graham makes the case that the ideas with the most disruptive potential also happen to be frightening due to the sheer ambition they would require from entrepreneurs to turn them into reality.

Yes, there is an amazing amount of talent in Silicon Valley; there has been for years, and there will be for many more to come. But, while the tech industry continues to produce world-changing hardware, software, and consumer web companies, there is a sense that the current landscape is lacking the kind of deep innovation that once defined the industry. Last September, at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, Max Levchin and Peter Thiel went so far as to say that innovation today is actually "between dire straits and dead."

In his essay, Graham attributes this to the fact that “the best ideas are just on the right side of impossible.” And being so close to impossible, they are naturally both frightening and repelling — even if those ideas inherently represent billion-dollar businesses.

In the everyday work of journalists, investors, entrepreneurs and advisors, good ideas seem obvious and attractive. They immediately get us thinking, tweeting, writing, or thumbing through our check books. But, in truth, the great businesses aren’t really appealing at all. They suck.

Case in point: Building a new search engine. As Graham says:

That does not by itself mean there’s room for a new search engine, but lately when using Google search I’ve found myself nostalgic for the old days, when Google was true to its own slightly aspy self. Google used to give me a page of the right answers, fast, with no clutter. Now the results seem inspired by the Scientologist principle that what’s true is what’s true for you. And the pages don’t have the clean, sparse feel they used to. Google search results used to look like the output of a Unix utility. Now if I accidentally put the cursor in the wrong place, anything might happen.

Like how Microsoft confused itself worrying too much about Google and getting into the search game itself (Bing), Google has arguably become obsessed with Facebook’s growing share of the Web. Google+ is its answer to Facebook, and when it started incorporating social initiatives into search (with the so-called “Search Plus Your World”), a lot of people balked, saying, essentially, “Uh, yeah, that’s not ‘my world’ at all.”

Some might say Google is betting the farm on Google+, while in the meantime, we are left looking for alternatives to what used to be an awesome search engine. Blekko, for one, is trying. Graham suggests, in a way that sounds almost Jobs-ian, that hackers should build a new search engine, one that they and other hackers want to use — not for us, but for themselves. If that plucky entrepreneur could get the best 10K coders in the country using it, they’d be 10 percent of the way to an IPO, he says.

Graham’s next suggestion is one that many power users can relate: For the love of God, someone fix email. (My words, not his. Also, see MG’s on this subject.) He floats the idea of a totally new “todo” protocol, that would give the recipient more power than the current one allows. He even references a line from The Dark Knight in so doing:

This is one of those ideas that’s like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. On one hand, entrenched protocols are impossible to replace. On the other, it seems unlikely that people in 100 years will still be living in the same email hell we do now. And if email is going to get replaced eventually, why not now?

If you do it right, you may be able to avoid the usual chicken and egg problem new protocols face, because some of the most powerful people in the world will be among the first to switch to it. They’re all at the mercy of email too.

Whatever you build, make it fast. GMail has become painfully slow. If you made something no better than GMail, but fast, that alone would let you start to pull users away from GMail.

The Y Combinator partner also touches on a big new trend in education tech — the flipping of the classroom, asking entrepreneurs to tackle the problem of universities — something Peter Thiel has been talking about for awhile now, and is attempting to address with his Thiel Fellowship.

There is a huge opportunity in making higher — or at least secondary — education remote. But the challenge is making that remote, digital experience high-quality, equivalent or better to that of an on-campus education.

He also touches on the need for new and better web TV, as well as the importance of finding a new Steve Jobs:

Now Steve is gone there’s a vacuum we can all feel. If a new company led boldly into the future of hardware, users would follow. The CEO of that company, the “next Steve Jobs,” might not measure up to Steve Jobs. But he wouldn’t have to. He’d just have to do a better job than Samsung and HP and Nokia, and that seems pretty doable.

Lastly, he says that we could all benefit from bringing back Moore’s Law, although with pieces of news like this, it seems there may be hope.

Although Paul may not have said it explicitly, let this be a challenge to startups and entrepreneurs. There are some big ideas here — enough to keep us all occupied for the next 20 years.

I think the way to use these big ideas is not to try to identify a precise point in the future and then ask yourself how to get from here to there, like the popular image of a visionary. You’ll be better off if you operate like Columbus and just head in a general westerly direction. Don’t try to construct the future like a building, because your current blueprint is almost certainly mistaken. Start with something you know works, and when you expand, expand westward.

I’ll leave off there, so that you can go read it yourself.



The Economics Of Emotion

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 04:00 PM PST

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Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Alan Zorfas, the co-founder and CMO of Motista, a VC-backed consumer intelligence service. Prior to co-founding Motista, Alan spent 25 years in senior roles at advertising agencies like Interpublic Group, DBB, and Earle Palmer Brown.

The most recent commercial for the BMW i3 and i8 concept cars is a great example of something enlightened marketers have known for years: emotion is the key driver behind purchasing decisions. Yet, today, most businesspeople still follow the old adage, "Emotions and business don't mix," relying on rational data to drive decisions instead.

Doesn't the advertisement make you want to buy a BMW? Don't you want to feel cool or look more successful, technology-forward and progressive? Well, that desire is emotion at work. Steve Jobs inherently knew the emotion of his consumers was critical currency in building the Apple phenomenon, and with over 1,700 CMOs admitting that building an enduring connection with consumers is a top priority in a recent IBM survey, leveraging emotion is fast becoming a top business imperative.

Marketing performance is sub-par across the board, with everything from ad recall to customer loyalty declining. Adding fuel to the fire, customer satisfaction, the traditional gold standard for engagement, is not driving results anymore; and while there's still great value in traditional market research, it's too slow and too costly in today's fast-paced world when marketers need actionable data now. The economics of emotion are so powerful in driving consumers to buy, pay more and spread the word that leading companies are already replacing customer satisfaction with "emotional connection" as a KPI.

New solutions that tap into and measure human emotion are spawning, and emotion has become a
trending topic in Silicon Valley with VCs like Vinod Khosla actively watching this space. Let's take a look at several solutions forming around emotion, making it more accessible and actionable:

Neuromarketing:

According to Wikipedia, "neuromarketing … studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli." Researchers essentially connect sensors to a person and monitor brain activity. It can help marketers deduce why a person found an ad to be interesting by mapping what areas of the brain were stimulated by the ad. For example, an increase in activity of the temporal lobe means that the brain was stimulated by sound or rhythm.

This type of research unearths what consumers find stimulating, but what exactly can be done with it? You can certainly learn that there is a response and the nature of it, helping marketers sift through and compare stimuli, e.g., commercials. If I understand consumers found the audio in my advertisement interesting, does that mean I should always use that music? If a Ke$ha song stimulates brain activity, then I should play Ke$ha all the time! Well, maybe not.

While neuromarketing is scientific and helps marketers replace a lot of guesswork, it doesn't tell marketers on the front-end of developing a new strategy or campaign what feeling or emotion needs to be evoked – what’s the impetus (back to the BMW making me feel cool and look successful) to get consumers to buy.

Social data:

You can't have a conversation about marketing these days without mentioning social media. It pervades everything, especially in Silicon Valley. In the brand planning rooms of Fortune 500 companies, social media findings are an interesting read on chatter and opinion, but fail to unearth the powerful insights that drive consumers and breakthrough marketing campaigns. Social data can reveal consumer preferences, feedback on products, and ratings, and, of course, social media response to a new product launch or campaign can boost performance. Thus, many more companies are measuring social sentiment with services such as Radian6, which was recently acquired by salesforce.com.

Although social information can tell marketers what the hot trends are in the moment, social media doesn’t reveal the true "why." I am unlikely to tweet "I want that new BMW because it's going to make me feel cool and hip and project that I am successful." Would you tweet that? Consider this beyond the Ultimate Driving Machine and try to figure out what really motivates someone to choose a bank, a new tablet or a retail store. Emotion is the strongest driver of choice, loyalty and advocacy. This is what marketers are really searching for.

Behavioral analytics:

Many companies are using behavioral analytics, also known as personalization, to better serve consumers. Netflix and Amazon popularized the concept of using previous buying history and profile information to recommend products to their customers and, in a lot of cases, it works! If I add a digital camera to my shopping cart, I will probably be interested in the camera case my online retailer suggests. This kind of intelligence can vastly improve online retailing, both for the consumer and the marketer.

Recently, personalization has shifted from just making product recommendations based on buying history to trying to predict a consumer's next action. Micro-behaviors on the web, such as mouse hovers, search terms and scrolls, are being used in an attempt to predict future engagement. Those behaviors certainly help marketers better merchandise selection to shoppers and capture their preferences.

What this intelligence can't tell you is the "why?" By understanding the real motivations of consumers — not just their on-screen behaviors—marketers can surprise and excite shoppers beyond their expectations. Empathizing with their deeper needs communicates to the consumer, "They get me." That's stickiness.

Connection intelligence:

Connection Intelligence is about understanding the emotions that motivate consumer behavior — the unstated "why."

A convertible makes me feel young. My bank makes me more confident. Johnson & Johnson make me feel like a better parent. Leveraging these emotional motivations helps brands better attract their target audiences and build long-lasting relationships that pay dividends over many years. And, the dividends are big.

Recent data from Motista illustrated the top emotional drivers behind retail purchases in 2011 Q4 were more motivated by "fun" and "comfort in life," reflecting an emotional need they want from their retailers. The data also compared satisfied consumers to emotionally connected consumers, and forty-six percent of emotionally connected shoppers indicated they always shop a particular retailer first compared to only 13 percent of "satisfied" shoppers. In other words, emotionally connected shoppers are four times more likely to shop a particular retailer first (see graph below)!

Emotional connection isn't restricted to the retail industry. Consider the red-hot tablet market, where emotionally connected users are twice as likely to buy another tablet from their brand, and five times more likely to pay a higher price.

Within this context, it's easy to understand why companies are so interested in operationalizing emotion, as understanding the underlying emotional motivations of consumers provides insights into what messages should be included in a company's next marketing campaign or delivered through the customer experience. In addition, knowing what tactics and touch points build emotional connection helps businesses make better spending decisions regarding different marketing channels.

Apple is the most valuable company in the world, in large part because Steve Jobs innately understood the importance of emotion ahead of the pack. Apple's shareholders know exactly what the value is of having raving fans and advocates. With intelligence that helps all marketers understand and "act" on emotion in-hand, even business-minded decision-makers can make a logical decision to deploy "emotion," now.

The economics of emotion are too large to ignore. With connection intelligence in marketers' hands, there are no excuses to sit on the sidelines and simply admire Apple, BMW, Nike and others. It's time to get in the game.

Image from Pietroformica/Techspage



Eric Chu Steps Away From Overseeing Android’s App Store, Jamie Rosenberg Expands Role

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 02:46 PM PST

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There was more than meets the eye with this week’s rebranding of Android Market as Google Play.

Accompanying the new name and look is a shift in how the store is being managed. Eric Chu, who has worked on the Android team for four-and-a-half years, is stepping away from overseeing Android’s app store and is exploring other options inside Google.

Jamie Rosenberg, who has been a director of digital content for Android and was the public face for the Google Music launch, gets increased oversight for apps and games inside the store. (His title isn’t changing though.)

Rosenberg came to Google two years ago from Microsoft. Before that, he was vice president of premium services for Danger, the company that Android chief Andy Rubin co-founded and that went on to make the T-Mobile Sidekick.

Paired with the Google Play rebranding, the move shows how Google is changing the way it thinks about distributing and selling digital content on Android and the broader web. Google wants to have an online storefront that encompasses much more than apps and that isn’t just limited to Android device owners.

The internal management structure for Android Market was problematic from the start, according to a source who has worked closely with the team. Eric Chu headed up developer relations and business development while David Conway handled product management. Because there were two heads with relatively equal power, it was difficult to understand who had final say and that led to unnecessary politics.

The team behind Android’s app store also needed more resources for years. Because Rubin judges the success of Android primarily through device activations and mobile search revenue, the app store has been a secondary priority inside the group. This is even though apps are a key reason consumers might choose one type of device over another.

interviewed Chu on-stage at the Inside Social Apps conference last year. We had talked about all the ways Google planned to improve the Android ecosystem over 2011. At the time, he said in-app billing would come out soon (which it did in March of last year) and that the store was going to find ways to give more exposure to apps (which it also did at Google’s developer conference I/O later in May).

While Android has definitely improved over the last year as a revenue source for developers (especially with the in-app billing system Chu rolled out publicly in March), it still causes frustration for some. This past week, indie developer Mika Mobile said it would stop supporting Android because the revenues didn’t make up for the complexity of developing for such a fragmented ecosystem with many devices and versions of the OS.



3 Predictions On The Future Of Enterprise Software

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 02:45 PM PST

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Editor’s Note: This guest post is written by Uzi Shmilovici, the founder and CEO and founder of Future Simple, the company behind Base CRM.

The first image that comes to my mind when I think about business computing is the dystopic scene from the 1984 Apple commercial: A swarm of employees wearing the same uniforms and marching in unison into their offices where they are forced to use certain devices and software.

They sit down in front of their PCs, open a business application their company paid millions of dollars to implement and, in a disciplined manner, fill out forms to populate the company's database so their managers will be happy.

The Anya Major in this dystopic scene is the consumerization of enterprise software. The term “consumerization” was first used, in the context of enterprise software, by Kevin Efrusy from Accel Partners back in 2008. You probably heard about it before. Heck, there's even a SXSW panel discussing this subject, which means it really went mainstream. What is missing from the conversation though is a good look at the root causes and more importantly, at the implications of this phenomenon.

Why is consumerization accelerating?

There are three key paradigm shifts that accelerate the consumerization of business software:

  • The devices we use — would you rather use a Dell desktop computer or an iPad? Well, many people carry their iPads to work. Others carry an iPhone or Android device, even if they also have to carry their company's Blackberry device. As a result, companies adapt and buy the devices their employees would use anyway. That's why SAP’s CIO purchased 40,000 iPads. It is a bottom-up decision made by the employees and not the CIO.
  • The way we work — Twitter turned out to be a fantastic collaboration tool that allowed a real-time flow of information between people. Yammer emerged to do that in the enterprise. Evernote is a fantastic tool for note taking. Why use anything else in your work environment? Dropbox is the best consumer online file sync solution. Sure, you can use that overly complex enterprise storage server with four levels of authentication. Or not.

    The consumerization of collaboration and productivity tools starts with small workgroups that adopt a specific tool. At some point, the CIO notices that different groups are using the same external product. This means that the company’s data is not centralized anymore which is not making the CIO happy. 

    Add to that the fact that these startups learned how to talk to the hearts of these CIOs and you get Sponsored Evernote Accounts, Dropbox For Teams and Yammer Enterprise Edition.

  • The way we interact with software — It is NOT fun to use Path 2.0 on your way to work and then open a traditional business application once you get there. We're seeing use cases in which people use consumer apps or new generation business apps for their daily needs and then dump data into bloated enterprise software on a monthly basis because they have to. This will continue until this new user experience paradigms make their way into current enterprise software, or more likely, new enterprise software makes its way into the enterprise.
What does this mean for business computing?

The "cloud" and the Software as a Service model were the last innovations in enterprise software. There were not a lot of changes in other aspects of the software though. For most, they remind dull applications running on regular PC computers and sold to CIOs. Consumerization is changing that and is doing it fast.

Here are three predictions on how consumerization will change the face of business computing forever:

  • A new class of enterprise software — With the cost of building and serving great software going down and the new user experience paradigms becoming more pervasive, a new generation of business software emerges. With a strong focus on user experience and on making the software useful for the users themselves and not only to their managers, this type of software accelerates adoption and provide 10X the value for a fraction of the cost.
  • Dramatic shift in discovery channels — CIO magazines are great but today people find new apps via social media, peer recommendations, search or, increasingly, through the various app stores. There's no need for a special committee to choose the right software when you can rely on credible ratings and recommendations. The employees bring their apps and collaboration tools from home and effectively make the decision for the enterprise.
  • Failure of traditional vendors to adopt — Don't want to name names but it is absolutely insane that most of the traditional vendors failed to put together good mobile apps. Truth is that it is not easy to do when you are sitting on top of a complex legacy code that barely runs in a modern browser, let alone on a new device.

It will take another 3-5 years but it is inevitable. The revolution is already here and like always it starts from the bottom, with new and smaller companies adopting new apps. It will then move quickly upstream to medium businesses and eventually to bigger enterprises. The devices and software that we will use in our work environments will be dramatically different.

True, this might not be as exciting as Unicorns boards on Pinterest and many people ask me why I’m in the business of enterprise software vs. being in the consumer internet. My answer is that I’m in the business of people. Happy, productive, empowered people that have the freedom to choose great software.

Image credit Moxiesoft.com



100Proof App Shows How Getting Drunk Is Killing (Or Saving) You

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 01:57 PM PST

100Proof

6 drinks for an 160-pound, 30-year-old male? That’ll take 2 days off your lifespan. Just in time for SXSW, 100Proof is a mobile web app from healthtech startup 100Plus that calculates how your drinking shortens or even lengthens your lifespan. Cute graphics shows you how much sex or time boxing a kangaroo you’d have to spend to work off those calories.

Founder Chris Hogg tells me 100Proof delivers the serious message of being mindful of your habits but with a fun tone, and that it previews some of the functionality the full 100Plus app will offer when it launches. He also shared with me some real-time data from the app like that 50-somethings are drunker than those in their 40s, and that Android users drink more than those on iPhones.

100Proof just takes a minute to try from a mobile browser or the web and could make you think twice the next time you reach for another drink. Punch in what you drank last night and some biographical information, and you’ll see how you stack up against Americans and SXSW-goers, as well as the impact on your lifespan. While it’s designed for those pounding free drinks at SXSW, anyone can use it.

The app was designed by Chris York and built in 3 weeks on HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery Mobile by the 100Plus team. The startup has brought in $1.25 million in funding from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Reid Hoffman, and other top-tier investors and is incubating at Practice Fusion. 100Proof was a break from work on their namesake app that will show how eating cheesecake, running 2 miles, and other factors make you live longer or shorter.

Hogg tells me he’s not afraid to preview the app because “any person that would steal the idea and was capable of it already has their own idea they’re working on.” Maybe he hasn’t heard of the Samwer brothers.

My favorite thing about 100Proof? It kind of validates my lifestyle. Based on CDC data and other studies, 100Proof shows that binge drinking is bad but 1 drink a night will boost your life by 2 hours and a sober night will actually make you die 35 hours sooner. Cheers to that.

Check out the 100Proof real-time infographic to see just how wasted people are at SXSW and other fun facts. 



Sexy IPOs Versus SaaS-y IPOs

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 01:12 PM PST

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Editor’s Note: This guest post is written by Doug Pepper, who is a General Partner at InterWest Partners where he invests in SaaS, mobile, consumer internet and digital media companies. He blogs at dougpepper.blogspot.com.

IPOs are hot again. Naturally, the press is focused on high-profile offerings like Facebook’s. But, I think there is a more important group of companies going public: Smaller, less sexy Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startups. Think of it as the Sexy IPOs versus the SaaS-y IPOs.

They aren’t household names, but the most recent SaaS IPOs (Cornerstone, Jive, Brightcove and Bazaarvoice) are doing better in the public markets, on average, than the Sexy IPOs of LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga.

But it isn’t just their performance that matters — the recent IPOs of those cloud-based software companies (plus earlier ones from Successfactors, Netsuite, and Concur) are harbingers of several important trends:

Healthy Valuations with sub-$100M in Revenue

The SaaS companies have gone public with annual revenue in the range of $50-$100M and are valued at anywhere from $500M to $1B at IPO. Several are now trading well above $1B. VCs have been waiting for 10 years for the public markets to consistently accept new issues with less than $100M in revenue. This is an important development as it means VCs can exit companies sooner in the investment cycle.

Strong Trading Performance since IPO

As a group, Cornerstone, Jive, Brightcove and Bazaarvoice are up 64% since their IPOs. Earlier SaaS IPOs like Concur and Netsuite are up 375% and 88%, respectively, since their debuts. Finally, don’t forget that Successfactors went public at $10/share and was recently acquired by SAP at $40/share!

Implications: The SaaS IPOs are training public market investors that they can generate strong returns when they invest in the IPOs of VC-backed companies with sub-$100M in revenue. And, these companies are being valued highly enough so that VCs who invested early can make excellent returns. In many cases, these IPOs are “fund-makers” for the early stage VCs. And when they trade up in the aftermarket, it is a win-win for both VC and public market investors.

Of course, Linkedin, Groupon, and Zynga are absolutely phenomenal for the VCs involved. I wish I had been an early stage investor in any or all of these. And, they have proved to LPs that VCs can, once again, generate serious returns for them. But, just like Google didn’t ignite a rush of IPOs starting after 2004, I don’t think the sexy IPOs will launch a huge wave of IPOs. Why not? First, there just aren’t enough companies at that scale to expect VCs to have a consistent inventory of them. Second, several of these companies have gone public too late in their growth cycles to generate good long-term returns for public investors (my opinion). So, public investors may not be clamoring for more of them.

So, why are SaaS companies so attractive to public market investors and trading up in the aftermarket? I asked that question of a friend at a hedge fund that invests in IPOs. Here is his response (I bolded what I believe are his key points):

  • SaaS companies are driven less by media hype and more by the investor appetite for attractive recurring revenue business models offered by the SaaS platform.
  • These companies are growing rapidly as a result of customers shifting functions away from in-house solutions to more flexible and enhanced platforms that help increase revenues, improve productivity and reduce costs.
  • Investors are not concerned by the lack of GAAP earnings, because there is a comfort driven by the 90-95% customer retention rates and an understanding that investing capital back in the business makes sense during the early phase of adoption.
  • These factors lead to more defensible businesses that make for attractive takeout candidates.

In a nutshell, he is reiterating what Bill Gurley noted in his excellent post about what constitutes high quality revenue. In this case, SaaS companies solve critical problems for enterprises and generate sustainable and predictable recurring revenue with rapid growth.

The good news for the VC industry is that we have significant inventory of companies that fit this profile ($50-100M revenue and rapid growth). For example, companies like Demandware, Box.net, Workday, Yammer, Badgeville, GetSatisfaction and Marketo should all reach critical mass in the next 12-24 months. And, there are many others.

I know from experience because my firm, InterWest, is an early investor in several companies in this category including Marketo, GetSatisfaction, Spredfast, Varolii, Cloud9, Aria Systems and Cubetree (acquired by Successfactors). These businesses take time to build and require experienced leaders to grow them. Not incidentally, we believe they also require patient VCs that are laser focused on this business model.

Image from GetApp.com



Harvest Co-Founder: “Solve A Real Pain Point, And Don’t Be Afraid To Charge For It” [TCTV]

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 12:00 PM PST

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Right now the enterprise software space is growing rapidly, but so are the number of users who need it, especially freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, and developers. That said, companies who provide services like time-tracking need to evolve in order to meet the growing demands of their users.

I sat down with Danny Wen, co-founder of time-tracking service Harvest, who knows all about this.

The service, which launched as a web app, has gone on to be available on both iOS and Android, and most recently, as a Mac desktop app. Wen told us about how 7 percent of the Harvest user base has already downloaded the app on a Mac.

Wen and I also chatted out what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur without any funding. Harvest was entirely self-funded, and has seemed to weather the storm for the past six years. So if anyone should be shelling out advice, Wen’s the one to do it.



Wikipedia Completes Transfer Of Sites Away From GoDaddy DNS

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 11:25 AM PST

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Part of the long-running (and far from over) SOPA/PIPA battle was the drawing of lines in the sand by Internet companies. While most recognized the danger of that irresponsible and short-sighted bill and took action against it, some companies supported it strongly and even testified to that effect in Congress.

GoDaddy was one of those companies, and while it later tried to undo the damage its position had done (the new CEO seems a little more in touch), the Internet isn’t so good at forgetting or forgiving. Among the many, many sites that pledged to leave GoDaddy’s DNS service was Wikipedia, and after three months of work, they’ve finally done so.

Their new DNS provider will be MarkMonitor, with whom they were working already for other reasons. MarkMonitor specializes in brand protection and prevention of fraud and piracy; their services include monitoring of peer-to-peer networks and redirection of users away from potentially fraudulent sites. It’s likely that the Wikimedia foundation was using the company’s services to monitor and prevent fake Wikipedia sites, illegal uses of Wikimedia assets or tools, and so on. They also do DNS for “well over half the Fortune 100.”

So, not perhaps the sunshine-and-flowers solution people might have wanted for Wikipedia as an antidote to GoDaddy, but it mustn’t be forgotten that the Wikimedia Foundation runs one of the most popular and widely-accessed sites on the Internet, and therefore necessarily one of the most vulnerable. Heavy-duty partners are necessary to deliver and maintain the integrity of their content.

Wikipedia’s migration, and that of hundreds of other sites, should act as a warning to Internet companies that fail to heed the opinions of their customers. Cyber-activism may not do much to depose African warlords, but it can certainly have a real effect on virtual tyrants.



StartupBus Day Four: San Antonio to Austin [TCTV]

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 11:16 AM PST

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The “buspreneurs” have arrived in Austin! The StartupBus, which began a four-day journey from San Francisco/Silicon Valley on Tuesday morning, completed the final leg of the voyage yesterday. The teams of entrepreneurs hoping to debut new products at South by Southwest Interactive arrived by way of San Antonio, where they received an enthusiastic welcome at Rackspace. “We live in a magic moment of innovation and entrepreneurship right now,” remarked Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier as the StartupBus teams took another break from the road.

Take a look at the video to see how apps like Expensieve have become reality. And as the entrepreneurs pull into rainy Austin, they share what they gained from this whirlwind experience and where they hope to go from here.

The entire TechCrunchTV team has landed in Austin as well, so stay tuned for more video coverage of SXSW plus updates on the StartupBus finals. If you missed the beginning of the road trip, make sure to take a look back at the first three days of the StartupBus journey:



The Spanx Woman Is Worth A Billion?! My Key Takeaways

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 11:00 AM PST

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Editor's note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest books are I Was Blind But Now I See and FAQ MEYou can follow him @jaltucher.

I’m a complete sexist. I want women to look as good as possible. And I’m not the only one. Women want to look as sexy as possible. That’s why they buy hundreds of millions worth of form-fitting Spanx every year. And now Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx is worth a billion according to Forbes. She took Justin Timberlake’s advice. A million is not cool. A billion is cool.

So what happened next? In the past 24 hours I’ve heard three different guys say something to the affect of, “She? She is worth a billion? Huh. I guess anyone can be worth a billion.” As soon as someone says that they are scratched off my list of people I want to spend time with. I only like to be around positive people who celebrate success.

I hold a Twitter Q&A session every Thursday EST from 3:30-4:30. I answer every question asked. Then I expand further into a blog post. Then I’ve taken all the blog posts, expanded further with original material plus added material from questions asked me via email and I compiled the results into a book I just self-published called “FAQ ME”.

(click on cover to go to book page)

One of the questions asked this Thursday was, “What are my key takeaways from the Spanx woman being worth a billion and how can one replicate her success?”

Here they are:

First off, I'm amazed by her and I have been ever since I saw on the Donnie Deutsch show on CNBC about 5 years ago. I spoke to the producer of that show shortly after it aired and he told me it was the most popular show they ever had. I never heard of her before then.

I had no idea she is now considered a billionaire. It's not as if she has a billion in cash, but the theory is that if she were to sell her company today it would sell for one billion.

My takeaways:

- Stay motivated. She was reading self-help books (specifically Wayne Dyer's earlier books) and motivational books since she was sixteen years old. What's a self-help book do? It tells you that part of the world around you exists because you "think" it to exist. Extreme example: if you are lying on the floor depressed all the time you won't seize opportunities. If ever day you wake up and say, "what adventure will happen to me today?" then adventures will happen to you. So from an early age she trained herself to look for the opportunities in life. She trained herself for 10 years thinking that way before the idea of Spanx hit her.

- She was amazingly good at sales. She had to sell fax machines for Danka as one of her first jobs. Within a few years, by the time she was 25, she was the national sales trainer. People shy away from the word "salesman". They think the process of selling is "dirty" in some way. But the only way to get anywhere is to come up with ideas and then have a strong ability to sell them. She had that ability. Here's my own suggestions on how to be a better salesperson: The 10 Keys to Selling Anything:

- She solved a huge problem for women. If you want to create $1 billion in value you need to find a problem that nobody solved. Right now, this second, there are about one million problems where if you solve it, someone else will say, "holy shit!  That’s so easy. Why didn't I think about that?” And yet, these problems right now remain unsolved.

So what was the problem she "solved"? Pantyhose that didn't have feet that also smoothed out a woman's body underneath the dress. What does that mean? "Smoothed out". 99% of woman complain about the "muffin top" that forms after the pantyhose ends and their stomach takes over. No problem said Sara. Here's pantyhose that solves it. And she did it. Now woman look sexier. Not only was this a huge problem for women, it solved a pretty big issue for men as well! We like looking at sexy women.

(BAM!)

- Prepare. How did she do it? She had never done anything in fashion before. So she spent every day at the library and the hosiery stores. She had a full time job but at night she researched every patent. She bought every type of pantyhose. She knew the entire industry. To succeed at something:

  • Know every product in the industry
  • Know every patent
  • Try out all the products
  • Understand how the products are made
  • Make a product that YOU would use every single day. You can’t sell it if you, personlly, don’t LOVE it.

- Cold Call. Someone asked me yesterday if I had any connections at a major children's company so she would be able to sell an excellent set of children's travel books to them. I think it's a great idea. Why? Because I see my kids buy every book from this children's company. It's a doll company but they put out books like, "How to be a child of divorce" as an example (which both my kids, being children of divorce, have read thoroughly). So why not travel books? And this woman has already made a dozen travel books for kids ages 8-12, the exact age group for this children's doll company. I know this woman is a good writer because my kid even did a book report on one of her books and loved it. So I know kids would love her travel books.

She wanted a connection in because she was afraid to cold call. But almost all sales are done through cold calling. If there's a need, people will love to meet you. Cold call right now!

When I was trying to get people to use Stockpickr.com, a site I built in 2006-2007, I cold-called AOL, Yahoo, Google, Reuters, Forbes. Guess what? Everyone responded because I knew it was something they all needed and I had at least 2-5 meetings with each group and did deals of some sort or other with all of them. If you have something that's worthwhile then you can't be afraid to cold-call. They need you more than you need them.

What does this have to do with the Spanx woman? She cold-called the number one place to sell her stuff – Neiman Marcus, and they loved her product and took it right away.

- It doesn't cost much to make a billion. She started with $5,000. That's it. She never took investors. She never borrowed money. Now her revenues are hundreds of millions a year. Facebook spent a few thousand to get to the point where they had a million users a day. Google hardly spent any money at first. Not that I'm in the billion dollar league but I can tell you that Stockpickr.com cost me less than $5,000 to build and was sold for $10mm a few months later. And the first company I sold cost less than $0 to build. We had profitable clients from day one.

(Sara Blakely)

If you have an idea: don't focus on the money. Don't focus on how you will make a living. Do this:

  • Build your product
  • Sell it to a customer
  • Start shipping
  • Then quit your job.

Sara, the founder of Spanx, didn't quit her job until she was already well on her way to selling her first million in orders. Most entrepreneurs write me before they have a product even built. They have “an idea” and they want to quit their job to pursue it so they need to raise money right now. Are you crazy? Anyone who would give you money might as well get really good with a plunger because they are going to need it after the money gets flushed down the toilet.

- Never ask Permission, Ask for Forgiveness Later. Sara didn't like how Spanx were being displayed at Neiman Marcus. So she bought samples at Target and displayed them right next to the cash register at Neiman Marcus. She knew, innately, that nobody would question her. Nobody questions anything if you have confidence, intelligence, and you are proud of your product. So she just did it. To hell with the ramifications. What else did she do? She sent Spanx to Oprah Winfrey's stylist. Who was more perfect to wear Spanx than Oprah Winfrey.

- Take advantage of all publicity.  I'm bad at this. I say "no" to almost everything. CNBC used to call me all the time and I wouldn't even return their calls. Finally Jim Cramer said to me, "Why are you embarrassing me like this. Return their calls." At this very moment I'm turning down an offer to speak at a TED conference. I just don't feel like preparing for it. I'd rather blog to you guys. But Cramer made the very good point to me, "if you don't promote yourself, nobody else will."

I first heard about Spanx when she was on that Donnie Deutsch show. But also millions heard about it through Oprah, an opportunity that Sara created for herself. And she also spent a season on Richard Branson's reality show, defying every fear she ever had. She promoted herself down every avenue. That's what you have to do to succeed. You can't have any shame.  I see in myself that I have a lot of shame in promoting myself that I have to get over. She had no shame.

- Looks. I'm not saying good looks or bad looks. But YOU are the best promoter of your product. So if your product is something in the fashion industry, you should make sure you are the best model for it. A good friend of mine is about to launch a skin cream for Latina women. The cream smooths out wrinkles and also smooths out the different shades of color on the face that many Latinas have. She's about 40 years old. I can tell you this: she doesn't have a single wrinkle and her skin glows. She will be the best model for her product.

Again, you don't have to be great looking. I'm a weird, geekish looking guy. Who better to sell a website? Or website services in the 90s like I used to. If I looked like a J. Crew model I might've failed. Instead I had the look of a dirty computer genius (even though I was thrown out of computer science grad school) and I can tell you – that look worked for me.

- Good for her. Don’t be a hater! 99% of people are haters.

If you want to be successful, you need to study success, not hate it or be envious of it. If you are envious, then you will distance yourself from success and make it that much harder to get there. Never be jealous. Never think someone is "lucky". Luck is created by the prepared. Never think that someone is undeserving of the money they have. That only puts you one more step removed from the freedom you aspire to. I can tell right away when someone is so envious and jealous that they will never get the freedom they want and will spend the rest of their life trying.

- It's not about the money. In the article I just read about her it tells a story of how she had to tell her fiancé a few weeks before their wedding that Spanx wasn't just selling a few million dollars worth a year but hundreds of millions of dollars worth a year.

That's a big difference, right? And it was only a few weeks before their wedding. Why didn't he already know? She probably never spoke about it. You know why? Because she probably didn't care about the money.

In the past fifteen years the only time I didn't look at my bank account every day was when I was doing something I was passionate about. She was clearly passionate about Spanx. The money quickly became an afterthought.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't think about money. But it does mean if YOU ARE thinking too much about money while building your business then either you are not very passionate about the business or you aren't helping people with your business. Those two thoughts alone will crowd at the thoughts of your own personal bank account.

What a pleasure that is when you experience it and it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter because you are not even thinking about the money.  You KNOW you are creating value. The money is just a side effect of passion.

My final takeaway. God bless her. She's worth a billion.



DiCaprio-Backed Mobli Pushes Major Revamp for SXSW

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 09:58 AM PST

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Not missing an opportunity to make an impression upon hipsters, Mobli is going to squeeze all the juice it can get out of SXSW with a major app revamp, and a party in Austin to boot.

Mobli, which counts Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its investors ($4M funding to date), is dubbing the new version, ‘Mobli 2.0′. Personally I feel they should have gone with ‘The New Mobli’ — zing!

Besides a Pinterest-inspired interface, the new version packs a major upgrade to the camera, along with a set of features to edit, touch-up and enhance photos, all bundled under a new section in the app called, ‘Darkroom’.

Rebuilt from the ground up, the new camera now includes real-time tilt-shift and even real-time video filters. Focus can now be locked and white balance set. This is on top of the 18 brand-new photo filters, superimposed gridlines and a self-timer.

The more significant part of this update is the Darkroom, which users can enter after they take a shot. Photos can be beautified with auto-correction for lighting and skin detail. A ‘Hawkeye’ button is an instant color and contrast enhancement feature, and there are now nine more frames.

One of my favorite things about Mobli is its context and location-based features. In drunken honor of SXSW, Mobli will feature one exclusively available for folks in Austin (see screenshot below).

And if photos don’t express enough words for you, Mobli also built in a new messaging system into the app version 2.0

All-in-all, Mobli 2.0 is like Instagram on crack. Some may hate it, others will get hooked.



At SXSW? Because Paul Carr Is, Launching His Book Today At Bookpeople In Austin

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 09:12 AM PST

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Jack McKenna here, checking in from South By Southwest to support my old buddy Paul Carr. He may have told me off not so long ago, despite my fine work here over the years. But, we’ve talked it out and patched things up. You know how things go with bloggers.

Anyway, Paul is also in Austin right now, launching the US edition of his book ‘The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations.‘ He’s doing a reading this afternoon at 5 pm at Bookpeople, (603 N. Lamar, Austin, Tx). I’ll be there, and apparently some ‘characters’ from the book are going to be in the audience too. Also, as Paul tweeted a few days ago… I’m going to spare you the embed, actually. Let’s just say the guy is shameless.

The book, for the uninitiated, tells the story of how he gave up his crappy life in London and decided to live as a permanent hotel-based nomad. I’ll let the back cover speak for itself:

Thanks to Paul’s ability to talk his way into increasingly ridiculous situations, what begins as a one-year experiment soon becomes a permanent lifestyle — a life lived in luxury hotels and mountain-top villas. A life of fast cars, Hollywood actresses and Icelandic rock stars. And, most bizarrely of all, a life that still costs less than his surviving on cold pizza in his old apartment. Yet, as word of Paul’s exploits starts to spread — first online, then through a national newspaper column and eventually a book deal — he finds himself forced constantly to up the stakes in order to keep things interesting. With his behavior spiraling to dangerous — and sometimes criminal — levels, he is forced to ask the question: is there such a thing as too much freedom?

The saga includes Paul’s first visit to TechCrunch 50, his meeting Sarah Lacy and Michael Arrington and subsequent adventures with both of them. It also includes the time he was mean about Le Web and a whole bunch of stuff about South By Southwest that he doesn’t like to talk about now. But maybe he will at the reading?

For those of you who can’t make it — which, to remind you, is today at 5pm at Bookpeople — Paul has shown his characteristic generosity in offering TechCrunch a staggering six copies of The Upgrade to give away to readers. To win a copy, simply tell him in the comments why you deserve one. He’ll pick the best six next week.

Ok, see you at Bookpeople.

Today.

5pm.

603 N. Lamar.

Austin, Texas.



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