Archive for March, 2012

Why an Accelerator?

Posted: March 25, 2012 by Micah Baldwin in Money, Startup, Technology

This a.m., I got an email from Nicole who runs Techstars Boulder reminding the mentors that Friday (March 16) is the last day to apply. “Cool,” I thought, “I’ll just tweet that out.” But right before hitting send, I got an email from an entrepreneur with the title “Why an accelerator?”So, I figured a-bloggin’ I would go.I get asked this question a lot. In the explosion of startup accelerators, it makes sense. Raising money is hard. Really hard. Doesn’t matter what the tech news blogs say, its hard.

Especially if you aren’t in New York or San Francisco.

As a young entrepreneur, applying to YC or Techstars or 500startups or looks like free money. If you can get it. Thats really hard too. Well for some of the accelerators. For others, its super easy.

Oh, and mentors, lots and lots of mentors. Some great; some not so good. Some are pains in the you know what; some are super cool.

Space to work, a group of other companies to work with, and the ability to join a network of founders that understand the difficulties that you face.

So why wouldn’t you join an accelerator?

The most common comment I hear is age. Yes, there is a belief that accelerators are for the young. And, more so, for the inexperienced.

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Did you remember to “Spring Forward” this past weekend?  As we set our clocks ahead one hour, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes attributed to humorist Art Buchwald, “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.”  Very insightful on a number of fronts, but especially for nascent entrepreneurs, who are always time challenged whether it is daylight savings time or not.  When combined with management guru Peter Drucker’s sage counsel, “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else,” it raises two questions, “What can entrepreneurs do to optimize the ever increasing demands on their time, especially when getting a new venture off the ground?” and “What can we do to manage time to preclude it managing us?”

 “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future…” Steve Miller

With so many distractions, interruptions, and options, sometimes staying focused is next to impossible.  For a nascent entrepreneur, however, time management is critical.  Resources are often scarce and time is one of the most precious resources entrepreneurs possess.  Getting a new venture off the ground, often while working full- or part-time and/or going to school full- or part-time, balancing family and personal time, requires good time management skills to facilitate moving from ideation, to conceptualization, to formalization, to implementation.

Investing in time vs. saving time

There are three aspects of time management that are critical for starting a new venture.  These include 1) establishing a timeline; 2) setting objectives and goals (preferably quantifiable, measurable, and attainable); and 3) integrating milestones in the timeline with budgets, evaluation, review, and feedback process.  Having this tied to a complete business plan can greatly facilitate keeping progress moving forward.  Taking a little time up front to plan out the timeline, milestones, and metrics can actually save time in the long run as you grow and build a new venture.  I once had a professor tell me not to think of it as saving time, but rather investing in time.  The busier we get, the more tempting it is to avoid taking time to plan, but the general rule of thumb is that for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.  That is not a bad return on your investment.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.  Albert Einstein

The old adage goes, “work always expands to fill the time available.”  The trade-off for the entrepreneur is it is better to manage your time, or it will manage you.  Three techniques have served me well regarding time management both in business and in other pursuits: 1) stay organized/set schedules; 2) make lists; and 3) prioritize.  There will always be times when it seems there are never enough hours in the day and despite Einstein’s insight, everything is happening at once.  Having a plan of attack will give you an advantage both when things are smooth and when things get hectic.  Of course, making time to write and having a business plan for your new venture can be one of the most helpful aspects of managing one of the most precious resources we have – our time.  You can find more on our web site at https://cincyentre.wordpress.com.  Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

Is one of your primary goals as a new business owner to “satisfy” your targeted customers?  Well, if it is you are probably headed for disaster because as it turns out merely “satisfied customers” generally don’t come back to make repeat purchases.  According to a Harvard Graduate School study “62% of supposedly “satisfied customers” do not repurchase from the same source” (Kick-Ass Business and Marketing Secrets: How to Blitz Competition, Bob Pritchard).  So after all the hard work and funding you invested to acquire a group of targeted customers there is a high probability that over half of them will seek other sources of supply on future purchases.  So, what are the primary reasons that “satisfied customers” seek other sources and what can you do about it?

As is the case with many situations within the business environment there is usually an 80 / 20 cause and effect relationship to consider.  According to a Rockefeller Institute study the following are the primary reasons that customers switch sources of supply: 9% are attracted by competitors; 14% leave because they are dissatisfied; a whopping 68% of customers switch because they think the company they buy from doesn’t care about them.  So, the most significant problem isn’t that companies supply poor products and services, it’s that they are at best indifferent about customer service.  Think about it for a minute.  If approximately 62 out of 100 customers switch sources of supply and 68% of those that switch do so because they think you don’t care about them, then that means 42 (62 x 68% = 42) out of 100 customers that you acquire might purchase from someone else next time.  Can you afford to let that happen?  Once you do the math of how much profitable growth the 42 out of 100 customers represent you might want to re-consider the type of relationship you have with your customers.  Just think if you could retain even half of the 42 that might leave you.

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The Messages Our Cell Phones Are Sending Us

Posted: March 5, 2012 by Carolyn Pione-Micheli in Innovation, Startup, Technology
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Consider your cell phone.

It’s probably sitting within earshot right now, if not within arm’s reach. Perhaps you are even reading this story on it.

What does your phone say about you? Is it an iPhone? Surveys say iPhone buyers are more image conscious and make more money. Android? Maybe you’re a bit contrarian. Blackberry? You are resistant to change. Or you type a lot on your phone.

Still dialing on a phone that only sends calls and texts? You’re not alone – six in 10 U.S. adults don’t have smartphones. But their use is growing exponentially, and soon you may find one indispensable too.

We have intimate relationships with our cell phones. They stay close to our bodies in a purse or a pocket. They hold the keys to keeping up with our friends — through Facebook and our contacts lists. They store our special photos and our favorite songs. They help us find the nearest Starbucks or Chik-Fil-A. Losing our phones can be disorienting, if not a disaster.

A recent study by CNET found that two in three adults suffer anxiety about being outside the reach of their cell phones.

If there is a 5-year-old in your life, you know this relationship with our smartphones is not just intimate but intuitive. He or she has probably commandeered it and taught you a few tricks. Steve Jobs, in the new biography by Walter Isaacson, says he designed Apple’s screens so we could navigate them instinctively with our touch. This physical connection reinforces our close relationship.

The great 20th century media analyst Marshall McLuhan defined media as a technical extension of our bodies – an idea that was not lost on Steve Jobs and Apple as they put the “personal” in “personal electronics” by mass marketing the touch screen. Perhaps McLuhan’s most well-known idea was that the medium is the message: The type of medium we use to consume our “message” affects how we interpret it. The medium doesn’t get much closer than our tiny personal digital assistants.

This intimate relationship with our smartphones is becoming central to the strategies of those trying to sell us things. They understand our emotional connection. They know it goes with us everywhere, and they can track our locations with it. What better place to send us marketing messages?

You may have noticed by now that the sophistication of their sales effort goes way beyond tiny text-banner ads. The iPhone and Android app markets hold dozens of shopping tools, from Groupon to shopkick, Amazon Mobile and many retailer-specific apps. Location-based apps find you and craft their messages to your location.

Of the four in 10 U.S. adults who do have a smartphone now, according to Forrester Research, 29 percent use the phone for shopping.

Cincinnati, as a national hub of consumer marketing, is seeing tremendous mobile activity at its local ad agencies, most of which are largely focused these days on helping companies reach their customers on their desktops and through their smart phones.

At CincyTech, which invests in technology-based start-up companies in Cincinnati, at least 14 of our companies have some kind of mobile technology that helps advertisers reach people. Some of them, such as Samplesaint and Zipscene, have designed tools that help retailers track buying behavior among their customers. Others help people buy products or find attractions and services.

This is a rich area for future entrepreneurship as well, and we’d love to see new partnerships with local agencies and pillar companies such as Procter, Macy’s and Kroger to develop the next big ideas in mobile marketing.

It was with this context in mind – and Cincinnati’s great marketing talent at hand – that the idea came about for a conference focused totally on mobile technology. The Greater Cincinnati Venture Association and its partners have worked with MobileX in Lexington to organize a six-track conference that ranges from entrepreneurs and investors to technical, workshops, social media and marketing and corporate enterprise.

More than 200 people had registered to attend as of early last week. If you have a need to understand our relationships with our cell phones – or just an interest in it – we hope you will join us.

Carolyn Pione Micheli is communications director for CincyTech.