It was a fun night. First and foremost Jim Flannery is doing a bang up job of building a startup community in Athens. It was interesting to see what is happening there and will be even more interesting to see how the community evolves.
While we were not technically road tripping, you put a few people in a car for three hours they are going to talk about stuff. Jacqui told me I had to write about my musings during the trip. Here they are.
Growth Hacking Is A Joke It is just another way to say customer acquisition marketing. And don't even get me started on viral marketing. The transmission of viruses does not typically happen through choice.
So Is Customer Discovery I love The Fours Steps to the Epiphany but I have to tell you that customer discovery is simply the first step in marketing. Marketing defined by the man who literally wrote the book on it:
"Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market."
The science and art of exploring. Exploring and discovery are such closely related words they are almost synonyms. Customer discovery is just another way to say market research that is a little less intimidating to geeks. The term customer discovery makes marketing research approachable by non-marketers and that does have significant value.
My personal definition of marketing is a bit more straight forward. Figure out what people want and create it. The figuring out what people want is pretty hard.
And a big by the way, the problem with marketing is that most marketers stray from the purpose of the discipline.
Do Things That Don't Scale Somehow or the other we got on the subject of the recent purchase of Jim Beam by Suntory.
A long time ago Jim Bean was one of my customers. So was Maker's Mark (which should be the preferred bourbon of the maker's movement). Maker's Mark in beautiful Loretto, Kentucky. Maker's Mark that sells over a million cases of bourbon a year. Maker's Mark with demand is so high they considered reducing the alcohol strength of the whiskey (it takes a long time to build supply) so that they could keep up with demand. Maker's Mark with the trademarked wax seal.
You know how they apply that wax seal? The bottles are hand dipped by people at the end of the production line. I am sure they could automate the wax application if they wanted to do so. But having those people hand dip is part of the heritage. Part of what makes Maker's special. Part of why I am talking about it now when I observed it more than half a life ago.
Delight does not scale. Sometimes it is better to do things that don't scale. While I have developed my own thinking on this over the years Paul Graham has an excellent essay on the subject.
Atlanta Has Management Talent Someone made the comment that Atlanta has no management talent. I called BS. I could name at least 20 people that are capable of scaling and running a technology business in Atlanta. What Atlanta lacks is viable startup concepts. The city needs better ideas.
Atlanta Has Money If you have a viable concept and a decent entrepreneur or two you can get funded here. I bet we talked about 20 companies that are in the process of raising funds. To be quite frank I seeing things funded here at a stage and valuation that were never seen five years ago. If you want to raise money in Atlanta and can not do so you have to look no further than the mirror to understand the reason why.
A couple of months ago the good folks at Hypepotamus asked if if I would participate in their "How I Work" series in which people share their daily routines. I was flattered and of course accepted. I am republishing the full text here with their permission. You can see the original article here.
Three highlights of your career (so far): 1) Well, the biggest career highlight so far has to be joining MindSpring when it was a startup, going through the IPO process, and growing it into a great company for a period of time. I scaled pretty well with the company and ended up running sales and marketing there. It was a special company at a special time and many people that I worked with there remain my closest friends today.
2) Another thing that I am proud of is to see people that I have helped along the way have some success. When I look around Atlanta I see people that I taught a little something to go on to bigger and better things. To know I played an important role in someone’s career development makes me very happy.
3) The third thing has not happened yet. I don’t know what it is but the best is yet to come.
What’s your current venture? nCrowd, Inc. We operate online local commerce marketplaces that connects merchants to consumers by offering goods and services at a discount.
What’s your current role? I am the COO. I have been with the company for about two and a half years. I came in as part of a $7 million venture capital round in 2011. During my time at nCrowd I have directly managed sales, marketing, product development, and technical operations. I joined to grow the business and in terms of sales we are about four times the size of when I started.
What time do you typically wake up? Depending on what is going on the product development front some time between 4:00 and 6:00am. Much of development is overseas and if we have something big going on I get up and help out with the development/deployment effort.
Describe your typical morning routine: I wake up before my family, grab some coffee and head straight to the computer. I work for a bit and then gather with the rest of the family to get ready for our day and the kids (I have a 15 and 13 year old) off to school. It is a special day when I get to take them to school and we get a treat. Then off to the office for a dev meeting and more work on that front. Around 11:00 am I start to shift my focus from development to sales and marketing activities.
Is lunch a time for solace or socializing? Why? A little of both. I try to stay connected with my network in Atlanta and lunch is a good time to do that. If I don’t have that type of meeting I typically spend lunch at my desk working.
How often do you check email? Too much. I make a habit not to let email take over my day. IM is even worse than that. Just because something beeps or bounces at you does not mean it deserves your attention.
How often do you check social media? These days about three times a day. Morning. Early afternoon.Night. And when I am waiting for someone/something.
Describe your typical afternoon routine: Afternoons are spent more with the sales team addressing their issues and meetings with outsiders.
What time do you go home?
Either before or after rush hour. If before I work at home for a period of time before returning my attention to family.
Describe your typical evening routine: A little exercise (I play a lot of tennis these days), dinner with the family, and some down time with them as well. More often than not I return to the computer before I go to bed. The last is a bad habit I want to break.
What daily habits fuel your success? Just showing up, putting in a good effort, and doing just a little more than the next guy is a big part of the battle. I try to stay up to speed on industry trends and opportunities to find the intersections of success.
What daily habits hinder your success? I love the Internet but it can sure send you down some rabbit holes.
What tools/tech are essential to you? iPhone, Macbook Air, and of course the Internet. That is everything you need. You have those three things you can do just about anything.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you could go back in time and give to your younger self? It is easy to say now but was hard to do then. Life is too short to spend time doing things that you don’t want to do with people that you don’t like. Do what you love with people that you like. I am very fortunate to be able to follow my own advice.
Yesterday afternoon Indiana University rallied from five points down in the final minute to win the Big Ten title, most likely securing a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. As a duel alumni household the Weatherby's are pretty fired up about basketball. Fourth ranked Louisville being favored to win the Big East tournament makes it doubly exciting for me. I am dreaming of these two making their way to Atlanta for the Final Four.
Before that happens the group over at the Hype has teamed up with the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee of the Final Four to create the Atlanta Hoops Hackathon. The aim is to create a real-time mobile-centric volunteer coordination system and drive attendance to the Division II & III Championship games which are also being held in Atlanta.
Atlanta Hoops Hack has over $1,500 in prizes to give away including VIP access to the Final Four weekend events. The fun takes place on Friday and Saturday. Register here to participate.
So about five years ago I heard about Startup Weekend and reached out to Andrew Hyde to bring the show to Atlanta. Andrew was willing and able and with the help of a lot of folks Atlanta Startup Weekend was born in the fall of 2007. I ran it for three years before passing the baton to Jason Ardell and company who morphed it into StartAtlanta in the Winter of 2011.
My startup sista Jen Bonnett made things happen in the Spring of 2012 cranking back up Atlanta Startup Weekend. This weekend the event is back where it belongs. In the Fall on the weekend of a Georgia Tech away football game.
Statup Weekend, it is an intense 54-hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application that could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The weekend brings together people with different skillsets – primarily software developers, graphics designers and business people – to build applications and develop a commercial case around them.
If you have any semi technical chops and want to get involved in the early stage Atlanta startup scene this is the place to be. I count the folks I met at the various Atlanta Startup Weekends as some of my most valued advisors/contacts/friends. Living through a weekend intensely focused on launching forms strong bonds.
There is still time to register for Atlanta Startup Weekend. This Fall I am skipping out on most of the fun as I am fully engaged in a growth stage company but intend to make it on Sunday night to judge the outcome.
When my kids were a bit younger and they brought home those straight A report cards we would always make a beeline for Jake's Ice Cream Midtown for a tasty treat. I would even indulge, which is quite the rarity.
Jake's closed their Midtown and some other locations during the recession. Jake, he is a real guy, is back with a new model. Home delivery. They are extending their delivery area today from their Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to all of Atlanta. And they have chosen Half Off Depot as their launch partner.
I got to test the offer. Did not get bite of what they delivered. Kids devoured the stuff. Great flavors like Chocolate Slap Yo Mama, Brown Shugah Vanilla, Sin-oh-Man, Red Velvet Cakescream, and Coffee & Donuts.
Six pints of yummy Jake's Ice Cream for $15. Half Price. Delivered for free. And for every order Jake's is going to donate a scoop of ice cream to a child at Scottish Rite Hospital.
So I became a Startup Riot ambassador. Mainly because I believe that it is one of the most important events on the South technology scene. Startup Riot is growing and branching out. They have started MAKE which is essentially a startup weekend like experience and it is good to see someone picking up the ball there. But the big gathering is Startup Riot SHOW.
SHOW is an all-day pitch event that highlights 25 startups giving three minute pitches. If you want to see the latest early stage stuff this is the place to be. The prices are low, ranging from $30 to $70 for the day and it is free to present.
This year SHOW takes place on February 22. Registration closes on February 8. The registration to pitch has passed but if you have it going on you still might be able to make the stage. Drop me a line.
The “Quiet Period” is the time right before a company “goes public,” during which it is legally prohibited from saying anything to the press that may make the company look “good,” “successful,” or “not currently on fire.”
Not that I get great joy pointing this out but Mr. Cat is wrong. During the quiet period a company is indeed not allowed to publicly say anything that might be considered as pumping the offering. However quiet periods are not restricted to the time before a company "goes public". They generally apply anytime a company issues a new public offering regardless of if that offering is the initial public offering or a subsequent offering.
In 2005 the Security and Exchange Commission modifed the quite period rules so that they did not fully apply to "well-known seasoned issuers". Well-known seasoned issuers must either have a publicly traded market capitalization of at least $700 million or have issued at least $1 billion in securites other than common equity over the past three years. These well-known issuers represent approximately 30% of listed issuers and accounted for about 95% of U.S. equity market capitalization.
So regardless if it is your first public offering or your tenth, if you are in your registration period you are required to be quiet. Even if you pretending to be a cat.
I have a social network management system that is somewhat well thought out and which I exercise diligently. You could call it discerning. On the big four it goes something like this:
Join the professional networks of people I have conducted business with on LinkedIn
Follow people on Twitter that I find interesting
Friend people on Facebook in which I have had a meaningful social encounter
Friend people on Foursquare where I would value a serendipitous encounter
This has led to what I consider to be a somewhat manageable social network structure for me. And for Lent I am going to throw it all out the window. During Lent I am going to take all comers and clean out the backlog on my social network invites. They currently look like this:
LinkedIn 892 contacts, 363 requests
Twitter 2,774 followers, 331 following
Facebook 386 friends, 83 requests
Foursquare 88 followers, 120 requests
During Lent I am giving up my social network follower discretion. Accepting outstanding requests and taking all comers. Not sure it it going to stick come Easter but it will be an interesting experiment.
Over 170 of the city's best best marketers and marketing technology companies came out last night for a glorious evening at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Roof Top Pavilion. With the sparkling city of Atlanta serving as a backdrop I had the honor of serving as the master of ceremonies at the first ever Tech Marketing Awards. I will have a bit more to say about the growing Atlanta marketing technology cluster in the future but for the moment want to recognize the winners.
Small Company Corporate Marketer of the Year: Rod Witmond, Cardlytics
Big Company Corporate Marketer of the Year: Lincoln Barrett, Intercontinental Hotels Group.
Email Marketer of the Year: Simms Jenkins, Brightwave Marketing.
Mobile Marketer of the Year: Michael Tavani, ScoutMob.
Search Engine Marketer of the Year: Rick Batchelor, Qiigo.
Social Media Marketer of the Year: Jamie Turner, BKV.
Small Company CMO of the Year: Michael Trader, M2SYS.
Large Company CMO of the Year: Chris Thornton, Definition 6.
Up and Coming Marketer of the Year: Mariya Babaskina, MealpayPlus.
The Life Time Achievement Award: Dave Williams, BLiNQ Media.
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The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone (with the exception of comments by others of course). They do not represent the opinion or position of any other person or entity. All postings adhere to my personal values.