Force of Good has been an active blog going on eight years. It started off using a standard Typepad template. In 2008 Paul Stamatiou moved the design from three to two columns and Blake Perdue created the custom design template that is currently being used. With the exception of the move to Disqus commenting in 2011 the look and feel has been pretty much unchanged in six years.
It's time for a facelift.
While I still love the relatively clean design of the blog I have managed to clutter it up over the years. Moreover the site is not optimized for mobile and visitors that are accessing FoG via mobile is growing rapidly. I intend to move to a single column design to address this change in audience behavior.
I can provide pretty good creative input and design direction. Wireframes even. I lack technical design skills and need some help with that work. Blake is a bit too busy at the moment to lend a hand. If you are a reader of FoG, have design skills, and are looking for a fun quick project I would love to hear from you.
Someone sent that to me in an email. I told them I was going to use that quote on my blog someday. Today is that day.
I don't know if I am a master of anything. I do know I have an even 600 invitations in my LinkedIn account. Every single one of them is from someone that I do not know. Every single one of them says this:
"Hi Lance, I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn."
The stock LinkedIn provided text. The reason why they are sitting there is that I don't know the person or what the person wants. I am sure I am not alone in this behavior.
If you are reaching out to someone you do not know on LinkedIn personalize the message and tell them the purpose for wanting the connection. It will result in a much higher response rate.
Somewhere along the line I ran into Alan Taetle. Pretty soon the conversation turned to dress.
"What is it with the Atlanta technology scene dress code. I just got back from Austin and everyone gave me grief about how I was dressed in khakis, a button down, and a sport coat. Everyone told me I was overdressed. What is it with Atlanta that makes everyone think they need to put on a suit? It's ridiculous!"
Standing there in my open collar grey suit I had to agree. Even more so as I wore jeans and a nice t to work and took a suit to change into to attend the SVB event. I felt pretty ridiculous at that point. It's because it's the South I said. It's because people call on other businesses and need to be dressed up. It's because entrepreneurs get coached to dress up. It's because investors wear suits.
Alan was not buying any of it and after a little debate either am I. No more hauling suits to the office for me. It's just a waste of energy to dress for the approval of others without any reason for doing so.
So I did something really bad today. I cancelled a meeting with a prominent entrepreneur/investor at the last minute.
For the second time.
Without going deep into the details my issue was legit. I had an urgent employee oriented operational task that I needed to complete. It was an non-optional business demand. And I had to do the same thing tomorrow morning with an aspiring entreprenuer that asked for 10 minutes of my time.
I hate not having control over my own schedule. If anyone has any tips on how they balance immediate business needs with the desire to be a part of building a great Atlanta tech cluster and pay it forward I would love to hear them. Currently I am trying to do all of the above and failing at the last two.
It's a much broader than your typical technology startup funding event. It will explore alternative and traditional lending options, angel investments, crowdfunding, private equity and more.
I have the honor of being on a panel, Startups Start Here, moderated by Daryn Kagan of CNN fame. I will be joined by a great group including Daryl Dollinger, Co-Founder of Raving Brands and President of Big Game Brands; Andrew Linder, Partner at Frontier Capital; Sig Mosley of Flashpoint Ventures/Imlay Investments/Mosely Ventures; David Rudolph, Founder and CEO at PlayOn! Sports; Michael Tavani, Co-Founder & Head of Product at Scoutmob; and Mark Wilson, President & CEO at e-Verifile.
Quite the panel.
you are seeking startup, working, or growth capital this will be a nice event to learn about various local sources of captial and find out which are right for your business. It is a bargin at $30 and friends of FoG can get a $10 discount (the discount code is ATCLW).
Last night I braved the weather and traffic to attend the GigaOm Mobility Meetup at Opera (partially owned by tech entreprenuer Dave Williams). Maybe about a third or so of the 600 registered attendees managed to make the event and those that decided to stay dry missed a good one.
While the show started late and I had to jet early for a rendezvous with my SO, there was some good networking and high quality discussion from the stage.
The thing about the event that stood out to me is that there were three tech startup accelerators supporting the event and in the crowd. ATDC, Atlanta Tech Village and Hypepotamus. That is about two more then you would have seen two years ago. Progress.
Atlanta has a strong mobile technology cluster and GigaOm a big focus on the sector. Despite the weather the event was a winner and I hope to see our friends from SF stay commited to the hosting a series of these events.
I was joined at the front of the room by VillageDefense which I regret to say I don't fully understand cause the demo had some technical issues; DudeRanch, a TripAdvisor for wannabe Cowboys and an interesting domainer story; Sidewalk District, which is going to need some serious UX work to to work; and Ionic Security, fresh off a $10 million Kleiner/Google Ventures round.
Mr. Cummings claims the meetup is the largest startup event in the South. Mr. Bird claims I am OG, which I think is a compliment. Regardless it is worth a trip if you want to see the new edge on the Atlanta startup scene.
So on Wednesday I wandered down to the big fish tank for Venture Atlanta. A fine event. One of the best of startup things a guy, or gal for that matter, can do. I was there as the non-paid entertainment, pitching Half Off Depot as we gear up for our Series B in 2013.
And I gotta tell you the truth it was a little surreal. I skipped Venture Atlanta in 2011 as I was running around the Southeast expanding our business. But before that from the year it was formed in 2007 through 2010 I attended the event for the lack of a better term, an observer. I was not pitching and I was not investing. I was coaching the companies that presented. It's a fun job if you can get it and it's always easy to be a critic.
And it started out the same way as it always had. At some point or another I had coached six of the first ten early stage companies to present. They did great.
But coaching and doing are two distinct things and I was slated as the second venture company to present right after my pal Braxton of Clearleap. I had not stage pitched my own company since 2005 and the last time I did something as big as this was when Venture Atlanta was known as ION and somehow I got elected to pitch CipherTrust. I got elected again.
I was a little like the President the first time back in the bright lights and a room full of people. Rusty. It really sucks when you can not see how the people that you are speaking to are reacting. Instead of a confidence monitor with the slides they need a confidence monitor with a camera shot of the audience. Regardless I think I got my main points across. We are building a platform that enables local merchants to market online, we have a lots of revenue, we are making money, and with a little more capital we can sell more and make more money. Overall I gave my performance a B. There were better and there were worse.
My friend Taryn of Synkup gets best of show (or at least best of Wednesday) from me. I don't know if she is going to raise any money but that girl can pitch.
The early stage folks seemed much better prepared than the venture companies. I ascribe this to them having more time on their hands.
Presenters wore jeans. We are learnin to relax a bit down here.
Venture Atlanta is a great forcing event. It forced me to create an executive summary. It forced me to create a pitch. It forced me to practice.
The networking time with the VCs was fantastic. Talking to them about our business was more practice. They asked great questions, some for which I had no answers (but I will get them), and I got an offer or two to help.
It was great to spend some time networking with folks that I had not seen in awhile.
Some of the folks that I had not seen in awhile (which is almost like two years) were in the exact same place with their startup as they were two years ago. If this is you stop.
There was one out of town investor that said "all the pitches sucked." Tool.
Sam Williams talks too much. He talks so much the mayor called him on it.
Not sure how many if any checks get written as a result of a conference like this.
If you get a chance to present at something like this do it. It's worth it. And if you do it take the time to do it well.
Update: I forgot one thing. The coach became the player. I benefited greatly from my coaching session. Great ideas for improvement from experienced entrepreneurs and investors that I tried to incorporate into my presentation and slides. You can always learn and should be willing to do so.
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.
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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.