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Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

entrepreneurs-can-hit-the-ground-running-joshua-earle-234343

How Entrepreneurs Can Hit the Ground Running

Are you bouncing around some big ideas for your business this year? Regardless of whether your resolution for your business is to launch a new idea, grow your business, or finally land that dream client, here’s how you can hit the ground running for maximum success in a year like 2017 and beyond…

Before we start, I’d like to thank Julie Morris for her thoughts and reaching out to co-author this article!

1. Set SMART Goals to Hit the Ground Running

You have a big idea. You’ve taken time to plan your next big project. Now, you just need to set some goals. If this sounds familiar – and it should – take time to make sure you’re setting the right type of goals for your continued success. S.M.A.R.T. goals are: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-based. Instead of resolving to increase your sales this year, come up with the specific amount of profit you’d like to make and calculate the number of new clients you’d need to gain in order to hit your sales goal. Define exactly what you want to achieve, the specific steps you can take to achieve those goals, and how you will measure your success. Consider numbers that sound realistic for a certain length of time. Can you boost revenue by $1,000 this month? How long will it take, realistically speaking, to get 10 new clients? With SMART goals, you’ll find it much easier to measure your success when you look back at your accomplishments at the end of this year.

This is where you should apply the 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s law, and ask yourself: “What 20% of activities/customers/products are producing 80% of the profit?”. What it will show you is that 80% of your outcomes are the result of 20% of your actions. Find out which 20% of your tasks produce 80% of the desired results.

2. Talk About Your Business

You know how the first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club? Well, Entrepreneur Club is exactly the opposite of that. By putting the word out there about your business, you’ll instantly have accountability. This is especially true if you publish blogs, articles, or social media posts on the Internet. Sure, it can be scary discussing your vision with other people those first few times – but if you push through the fear of vulnerability, you’ll find that most people will be cheering you on. When you have the support of others, including clients and prospects, you’ll feel encouraged, confident, and be more likely to follow through on your plans. So go ahead, craft your perfect elevator pitch, and start talking up your business this year!

3. Automate Social Media

Social media is a wonderful business tool, but if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, it’s good to explore your options. Instead of giving up on social media, you can use one of many social media automation tools to share your message across multiple sites at the same time. There are several of these tools out there. Pick your favorite one, connect it to your desired social networks, and – boom! Social media is no longer tedious or frustrating, and now your time and energy can go towards other tasks.

It shouldn’t be about the tool, but rather the outcome you are looking for. A rule of thumb to be applied is always testing something manually. Find out the flaws, make it better, and only then search for the right tools or software and automate it. Nonetheless, it doesn’t need to be black and white. You could semi-automate it.

For example, an automation freak friend of mine created a newsletter subscribe automation, where the new subscriber is A) added to the Mailchimp newsletter group, but also, B) a draft email is created in my friends Gmail, so he can personally reach out to the new subscriber.

4. Get Some Help

Entrepreneurs are not lonely wolf. It is just a myth. Although being a “solopreneur” gives you the freedom to do a lot of things on your own when it comes to your business, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. Take a look at how you’re spending your time each day. Are there areas where it might be beneficial to have some help? A business coach? A web developer? A virtual assistant? If money is tight, maybe a talented intern could help you in exchange for college credit. Whatever the case may be, consider whether it might be time to collaborate with other people in your journey to success.

Dare to ask! Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength!

5. Make Time for YOU

Even the busiest business owners need to take time to reset, unwind and unplug. Running your own business can be a lot of work – and it can also bring a lot of rewards. It’s all worth the stress when we take time for ourselves to enjoy the freedom that it brings. If work-life balance feels like a struggle and you’re not used to taking time for self care, try to start small. Even if it’s just five minutes per day, find a realistic and doable amount of time that you can commit to unplugging from your business needs and just living your life. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you work from a home office, you can also reduce stress by optimizing your workspace to do so (which can free up more “you time” in the long run).

If you look at my calendar, you’ll find entries like ‘Me Time’ or ‘Maker Time’ – marked as busy. Sometimes close business partners ask me why can’ I make it to X and Y? The question seems obvious, taking the fact that they see my calendar and it says ‘Me Time’. One could assume that I’m not busy, but actually I am. I’m busy having a meeting with myself or completing a task that only needs my presence. First things first, so respect your own time!

Regardless of what your business goals might be for the new year, your continued success as a business owner ultimately depends upon your ability to plan your next move.

If you want to dig deep, but want some first hand inspiration, check out how I suffered to create time for myself!

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The Crazy Idea of Sharing

Here is a crazy idea – sharing while spending time with people! Imagine a photo that depicts people genuinely sharing something – food, coffee or just each other’s time. It’s so rare today that people spend quality time together. Technology constantly connects us, but interferes with the personal time we spend together.

Building relationships isn’t just for personal life. Simon Sinek says “Companies don’t do business with companies. People do business with people.” And that’s true. The best businesses are the ones in which producers have a relationship with their consumers. This makes the customers feel valued (talk about repeat business) and gives the producer more insight into the clients need so a product that fits the market can be aptly created.

When I was fifteen, I hated coffee. Well, I kind of still do, but I often find myself at coffee houses with friends or business colleagues because it’s an easy way we can spend meaningful time together. It’s people sharing a moment together and not needing anything in return.

These casual “business meetings” serve as a foundation to a strong relationship. Clients don’t feel they’re being sold to when you meet in an informal setting and spend time together as two people – not as a business and a client. This meaningful time spent together lays the foundations for trust, which is essential for a client to have with a business. While it takes time and may not be an immediate payoff, these meeting are worth it because a client that trusts you will give you repeat business, recommend your products to their friends and give you honest feedback on how you can improve your product.

Now with this other visual in mind – of people sitting at a coffee shop or café spending time together without expecting anything in return, look at our consumer society where we have two actors: brands and consumers. Usually brands/producers try to pull one over on the consumers – they try to make money as quickly and cheaply as possible, regardless of how it impacts the consumer. Money is the motive and relationships fall by the wayside. This trend is so pervasive that customers are now weary of brands, but imagine if companies put more emphasis on clients and relationships. That would be groundbreaking and create an infinitely better shopping experience.

Companies blame this impersonal experience on the fact that they are flooded with too much information and have too much to do so they have no time to focus on building these relationships.

The world sometimes seems to be moving too fast and we just need to

STOP!

So let’s revamp the company-customer relationship. How about this? Try to share that one coffee with your customers and see how it impacts your business. Use the inundation of technology and information to bring you closer to those who are interested in your product and what you’re doing.

We, at SpringTab, build relationships. We help brands reconnect with their customers on a personal level and do this by asking nothing from them in return; we try to understand them on a deeper level, so they get the best experience. We help our clients do the same through social data mining and auto-personalization.

Imagine a world, where a big corporation, like Amazon or Apple, could talk to each of their customers over that coffee. The way things are now, this obviously isn’t possible, but we believe there will be at time where companies and customers connect on that personal level. This is our dream, our goal and what we strive to make a reality.

So the question arises. What do we need to do today to make this dream a reality?

The next step is to create an automated personalized experience all around. Currently only advertisements are auto-personalized. We need to find a way to be so personal with clients that loyal buyers recommend the product to their friends – and right now, that’s missing.

To get to this point, we need to make a good first impression to take the time to get that first coffee so we can begin to form a personal relationship.

Mark Zuckerberg described this by using Facebook as an example. He said the profile is like a basic introduction, who we are when we introduce ourselves to each other. It shows our basic characteristics and interests. The timeline helps us get to know each other on a deeper level by showcasing the current events in our lives.

We often feel that there’s no time to meet everyone or spend meaningful time together – we’re too busy rushing here and there, which is true. But we need to make time. These personal relationships should be one of the most important things in our lives because it can greatly impact business. Even Mark Zuckerberg, as busy as he is, has made a resolution to meet people in all 50 states. While these meetings may not all be business related, he’ll be building an even bigger personal network and who knows what could happen from those connection. If one of the most successful and busiest men in America feel that this is an important task, we should all take a second look and re-evaluate.

SpringTab is the Facebook timeline for companies – we help you get to know clients based on their life’s current events. We give you insight to their real Facebook so you can break the ice and find a relatable way to reach out for the first time. And in case you want to go for a real coffee, we’ve set the groundwork for you to start building that personal relationship.

 

The article was co-authored with Paige Tyrrell.

Peter Szanto with Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly’s 2×3 steps to find your unique strength and become great at them

So I have this ongoing thing with Tim’s book and I try to meet w people featured in it and ask them to sign it. Turns out Kevin Kelly was with Tim in Uzbekistan just before he came to Budapest. As he describes, they went to crazy places there.

It all starts with ego. I asked Kevin Kelly about how we should go beyond our ego. It has many aspects and I knew he tried LSD once. But also other practices can be applied, but what I really loved in Kevin’s answer was that he admitted he cannot give that much advice on it. Being open about what you know and don’t and not trying to know everything.

This just connects to another thought Kevin highlighted: getting feedback is very important. As well as asking for help. In order to be good at this, you have to leave your ego out of it.

I had to ask him about the 1,000 true fans. Based on his thoughts I could draw similarities between going beyond your ego and focusing down to the 1,000 true fans. Kevin says that real success is finding and doing what you love. Find your own nieche, finding what you are good at and love. And find connecting skills to it. Find what you are better at than other people.

The simple 3 step process of Kevin Kelly

  • Create a world where you can try as many new things as you can and figure out what you are good at. It can be more things!
  • Figure out which one(s) you love the most.
    • Once you already have bunch of things you are good at, pay attention to the parts that are easy to do and the ones you are trying to avoid.
  • Choose the one(s) where there is not much competition and create your own category
    • Is there anybody else in the world doing this. If there are, why would people want to do that?
    • Also, if everybody thinks it’s a good idea, then that’s probably not a good idea for me.
    • This last phase requires the longest time

So if you can say that I could do this really well and I would probably enjoy doing this and you cannot say no to it and there is no one else doing it, than you found it.

There is an important side note to step 1: don’t do premature optimization. Don’t settle too soon. Meaning people drift from one thing to another before they could really tell how good they are.

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So once you have an idea, how to get started? We dig deeper and use another 3 step process

  • Try to give things away first, try to give these ideas away
    • Say something like, ‘Hey, it’s a great idea. You should do it.
  • Then try to kill everything
  • It’s the ones that keep coming back that I can’t kill and I can’t give away, that make me think, ‘Hmmm, maybe that’s the one I’m supposed to do.

To me it all comes down to the law of category. Kevin Kelly haven’t heard the term, but he actually applies it. The way he puts it is that you have to create your own slot. “The great temptation that people have is they want to be someone else, they want to be in someone else’s movie. They want to be the best rock star, and there are so many of those already that you can only wind up imitating somebody in that slot. To me, success is you make your own slot. You have a new slot that didn’t exist before. That’s, of course, what Jesus and many others were doing. That’s really hard to do, but I think that’s what I chalk up as success. You shouldn’t be afraid to be niche. Actually it has a lot of similarities w the 1000 true fans and what it says is that — you don’t necessarily need to be the best in one thing like be Michael Jordan but trying to be like in the top 20-25% in several things, 2-3 stuff, figure it out and then combine it and then you are creating your own category.

I recommended Kevin to write a follow up article on the 1,000 True Fans, where he explains the distribution part. Meaning how to reach them. He gave the best answer: he doesn’t know. Because the formula for finding and funnelling the fans in hasn’t been discovered, actually you have an advantage over the large companies. Because if there were a formula to gradually steer them in, then large corporations would use it and people like you and me wouldn’t have a chance. This way, it is up to us to figure it out – with the phenomenon of Youtube for example – and it is an open race. One thing for sure is that they won’t come if you are passive. You have to be proactive and just be out there trying.

So no new special secret here, but a good food for thought to know that we live in a time where we have a real shot achieving greatness in our own slot.

If you enjoyed this article and vlog, it would mean the world to me if you subscribed to my VLOG!

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How a video with 25 views made me $1,000

How did a video with 25 views make me 1000 bucks? When it happened, I had to ask myself, how did I get here? Mostly by connecting dots – not in a literal sense, but from making opportunities out of other opportunities.

Watch my new VLOG and an episode about connecting the dots:

I’ve been doing speaking engagements for 5+ years now and lightning talks seem to be the most difficult. These talks are fast paced, like TED talks, but you don’t control your slides. Prior to the presentation, you send your slide deck to the event organizers and they automatically advance your slides every 15-30 seconds. Even though these are the most difficult, I was invited to the Business of Software Europe conference in 2016 to give a lightning talk and that was the beginning of this journey.
It didn’t go viral or anything

If you check it out online at the time of this post (March 2017) it only has 25 views, but it happened to reach the right person. One of those viewers found the video some way or another and happened to work at an agency that was looking for an inspirational speaker for their client’s annual conference. She recommended me and I guess I fit the bill because I was hired!

I only needed one person who vouched for me and it led to on well-paid speaking gig. One that I wasn’t even trying to get.

As Steve Jobs said in his Stanford commencement speech, you can only connect the dots backwards. When you begin a task, you usually can’t see what the outcome is or where the journey will take you. You take one step at a time and only when you look back at what you’ve done can you connect the dots that make up the path that got you to where you are.

So often people have a plan in mind. An end goal for their lives. This is great, but it’s easy to get so stuck in the plan that we ignore other opportunities as they present themselves because they don’t immediately seem to fit our end goals. We pass by unique and enriching experiences because it doesn’t look like it will tie in with our plan or fit neatly on our resume, but chasing these opportunities and experiences are some of the most rewarding things we can do in life. These spur of the moment chances, push us further and force us to grow and learn about ourselves and that’s what life is about. The lessons we take from these experiences are invaluable; they provide us with new skills, insight and knowledge that can be applied to every aspect of life. And sometimes, the things we learn when we stray from the path can help us get farther than we ever could have had we adhered to our strict plan.

Life is about being flexible and open.

It’s so easy to get stuck in familiarity and routine that when something new comes along we’re averse to jumping into something new. This fear only ends up limiting us. Imagine what would happen if Steve Jobs never took crazy chances. Or Bill Gates. Or really anyone in the tech space. It’s full of innovators who didn’t get so stuck in a plan they didn’t go out on a limb. They knew that even though there wasn’t an immediate reward, the experience would be worth it. And while they were out chasing one dream after the next, jumping from one opportunity to another without a clear idea of where they were going, look where they got. They only achieved this greatness because they were risk takers. And they could only realize how one experience led seamlessly into the next after the fact. They were only able to connect the dots backward.

Another similar story was of Scott Adams’ that was recounted in Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans (I highly recommend the book by the way). You might know Adam by his works:
How to Fail at almost Everything and Still Win Big

  • The Dilbert Principle
  • God’s Debris

If not, here’s a synopsis of his most notable approach to life: he creates systems instead of making goals. These systems work for him, even though he doesn’t know the exact outcome. He works at tasks without an end goal in mind and these systems are so effective that they end up making him successful in ways he wasn’t aiming for.

Take this for example. Adams used blogging to find his voice. He did it often because he enjoyed it and this made him good at it. His blog’s success landed him a job writing for the Wall Street Journal, which led to a book deal that spiraled into receiving speaking requests, which made him a lot of money. This success started because one day he decided to blog. His goal wasn’t to have a career as a speaker, he just wanted an outlet for his thoughts. He never could’ve planned this, but after the face, he was able to look back and connect the dots – back to the Steve Jobs quote: he could only connect the dots backwards.

So without planning to, I had my first ignite talk. It stemmed from my desire to establish an international presence. I was networking and pitching myself to everyone I could and someone finally saw the potential and gave me my first speaking gig. And I loved it! When I started down this path I had no idea where I would end up, but now I hope that there are even more similar opportunities to come.

If you’re interested in trying lightning talks, I would highly recommend it! It’s such a unique experience that challenges you and pushes you from your comfort zone that it’s an incredibly rewarding feeling once you’re through. If you’re interested in productivity hacks or want to see an example of a lightning talk, you can find mine here:

Have you ever experienced one of these “connect the dots backward” moments? If so, I’d love to hear about it and learn from it! It would be a cool concept for a follow-up post.

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The article was co-authored with Paige Tyrrell.

Garyvee and Peter Szanto

I met with Garyvee and asked him about the Law of Category

My friends, I MET GARYVEEE and was on Dailyvee :)!!!!! Watch it!

This is a guest post that first appeared on thenextweb.com. Here are my written thoughts on it. (Summary at the end)

What’s the name of the third person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo?

Do you know it? I didn’t. The real question is that how hard is to figure out what our strength are. This is what Gary Vaynerchuck adviced me: it doesn’t matter how many things you are good at. What matters is that you figure that out and use your strength.

In other words, finding your differentiators can help you stand out of the crowed. Think about it, if you are doing what everyone else is doing, you are approaching it in a completely wrong way – Casey Neistat . “You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. … A true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. Always work harder than the next guy.”

Amelia Earhart. You might have heard this name before. Now, the real question is the context. Is Amelia known as the third person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo? Of course not, but as the first woman to do so.

The phrase “law of category” comes from the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

If you are good at one or two things, all you need to do is finding an unique angle, thus creating your own category.

The good news is, that finding this new category where you will be first in is not at all as difficult as you might think. How, you ask? If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in. When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this new product different or better than the competition?” To put it In other words, what category is your product first in?

With my company, SpringTab, we found that SpringTab is the first promotion tool by a digital consulting firm that is easy-to-use thanks to its data gathering to provide converting personalized experience in onsite and retargeting.

Most companies focus on why their brand is better. But people are interested in what’s new. After all, who is interested in what’s better? So find it and then #educate the market.

  1. It doesn’t take much planning, if you aim for average with pleasant success in life. All you have to do is stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something greater, something extraordinary, your options come down to two:
    Become the best in the world at one specific thing
    Find your strength and become pretty good – like top 25% – at two or more things

Take Scott Adams’ case. He was the funny kid in the school, but wouldn’t make it as a standup comedist. His drawing skills are better than most people’s, but is not an artist or a graphic designer. The magic happens in the intersection of these two skills. Plus Scot having a business background helped him connect the dots and play on his strength of being among the few people who can draw well and write jokes.

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Same analogy I can apply to myself and why vlogging came easy for me, is thanks to my background in photography and story telling. I’m not at all the best at capturing something visually, and definitely not the best storyteller. But I believe that being in the top 25% supports me to create outstanding audiovisual narratives by combining the two skills.

Here is another example. You can become a good public speaker (top 25%) and add that talent to any other skill, and bamm you overtake people focusing on only one skill.

Here is the secret hack.It is way easier to reach the top 25% and it requires way less energy.

The man himself, Marc Andreessen said that even the secret formula to becoming a CEO is this. All successful CEOs are like this. Just look at it from an educational standpoint. The unusual is getting usual of having combinations of degrees: engineering + MBA, or law degree + MBA.

“Everything is a remix, but what is your version of the remix?” – Chase Jarvis

Let me inspire you with the help of these stories.

Miller Lite.Heineken was already a big success. So instead of competing with a high-priced imported beer, by being a high-priced domestic beer, they positioned themselves as thefirst domestic light. There was a twist to the story, when Amstel Light became the first imported light beer. There is always a next twist where you can be first at.

IBM and DEC. IBM was first in computers. DEC was first in minicomputers. Instead of selling its products, DEC was education on why the market needs minicomputers.They told propects, they have to bugy a minicomputer, not a DEC product. Needless to say, when the decision was made, DEC was the goto option.

In the early days, Hertz sold rent-a-car service. Coca-Cola sold refreshment.

Tim Ferriss created the phrase “lifestyle design”: “The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan [save and retire after 20–40 years] and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility. This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design (LD). . . . $1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. The question is then, How can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000?” (Excerpt From: Timothy Ferriss. “Tools of Titans.”)

He owned the mindshare, the mental “category,” not the trademark.

Success is you make your own slot.

The great temptation that people have is they want to be someone else, they want to be in someone else’s movie. But, “How do you zig when everyone else is zagging?” A cool example is Chase Jarvis, who was transparent before it was “cool”.


  • Meeting with Gary was just like watching his videos, but 100x. There was nothing new under the sun, but the way he put it and tailored it to me one-on-one, that made a huge difference for me. Keywords:
    Numbers game
    Patience
    Emphaty
    Document the authentic
    Follow your target group on Instagram, find out what they are interested in and create content around it. Jab jab jab hook!

What this means to me that since I made a decision in terms of where my life should lead and be in the next few years, all I need is do the hard work, play the numbers game, so with patience I’ll find the right fits. I should and started to feel emphaty for the ones who don’t stay in my life. They must have their own reason, it is not my job to analyze it. May it be, NEXT. I started to document my journey throughout a weekly vlog, because I wish to show my ups and downs with all the inspiration I found relevant.
I created 3 parts of the experience, below you find the one where I actually met him. If you are hard core and have cca 12 minutes, whatch the three:

Click on this for the playlist!


Thanks for reading so far. Do you have any other cool inspirations like the ones above? I’d like to create a collection so if you have a good story or your own example, please share it in the comments or at peter@szanto.co.

#sharingiscaring

Entrepreneurial skills are nearly impossible to obtain without diving into the scary world of starting your own company. The risks seem to nearly outweigh the rewards, but once you dive in, you’ll have the best story of your life.

Entrepreneurship Skill of Starting Your Own Business: The Best Story You’ll Ever Have

How do you get entrepreneurship skills? Sometimes you think to yourself, was there a class I missed in university? There are so many successful entrepreneurs out there, they must know something I don’t. The good news is that nearly everyone starting out is in the same boat. The idea of starting your own company is thrilling and tempting to many, but the challenge of getting going seems so daunting, most people give up before they begin. But the best way to learn is by doing. So, jump right in.

You might be thinking to yourself, “That’s ridiculous, I don’t know the first thing about starting a company” and you’re probably right, but there are people out there who have a wealth of knowledge and often, many of them failed before they got it right. As humans, we learn best when we find out how not to do something. Talking to someone who’s been there; beaten this beast before is your best bet to prepare yourself, but once you’ve done that: stop making excuses and just do it! The worst thing you could do is wait. It could either be day one or one day – you decide! Having the courage to take risks and form relationships with strangers who will then turn to mentors are some of the most important entrepreneurial skills because they help you develop a strong sense of self-trust, something you’ll need to make it as a business owner.

Failure is scary. For everyone. Every time. No one wants to put their all into something and have it fall apart, but if you can learn from your mistakes you’ll be so much better off in the future. Trying something new is a huge success in and of itself and if it leads to failure, then you know how not to do it and can try again. This optimism and persistence will take your farther than anything else. Besides, if you don’t have enough failures, you haven’t tried hard enough!

Starting Anywhere Is Better Than Never Starting

If you begin this journey, be ready to fail. A lot. But be ready to analyze your decisions, what went wrong and why so you can improve on them in the future. Nothing is a failure if you can take something positive out of it. Steve Jobs didn’t get it right on the first time, neither did Walt Disney or Oprah Winfrey – or nearly any of the major names you know in business. Each of these remarkable entrepreneurs jumped in, learned from their mistakes and refused to give up on their dream – and look at what incredible stories they have to tell now.

What good story have you ever heard of that went according to plan? We are a composite sum of all our experiences, good and bad; and most people, when they look back on their life want to have a story to tell. Often, the best stories are those unplanned situations, when circumstances are completely out of our control because those imperfect scenarios are the most relatable. The quirky moments and the failed mishaps are often people’s most cherished stories. Sure, in the moment it feels like the world is falling apart, but afterward you’ll look back on it and laugh… usually. If you try, fail and don’t decide to move forward – at least you got a story out of it. More important than that, you built relationships, reached out to new people or maybe old friends, asked for help and built your network. In essence you fostered relationships that will enhance the rest of your life and maybe along the way, you even impacted some of these people for the better. Regardless of success or failure, those meaningful connections are the most important part of your journey, something to be proud of – as an entrepreneur and as a person.

The Bad Times Make the Best Stories

By jumping into the task with an open mind and having the willingness to fail and learn, you’ll experience some of the best and most rewarding moments in life. If you keep pushing off diving in head first because “it’s not the right time”, you’ll end up letting yourself down because there will never be a perfect time.

When looking at it from a third party perspective, there’s no way in hell you could ever be completely prepared with everything you need before actually testing out starting a company of your own. Of course there are varying degrees of preparedness, and by no means am I saying you should wake up tomorrow and invest half of your time and fortune into a hair-brained idea. But what I’m saying is that no matter how many books you read, how many successful people you interview, you will never be able to completely anticipate the challenge that lies ahead, so don’t let the fear scare you out of trying.

We have one life to live and people most often regret the things they didn’t do much more than the things they did. If this truly is a dream of yours, do it! We are an amalgamation of our experiences so, do it for the experience, the chance to learn, to be successful. Do it for the story. This is the only life you have and you’re here, fill it with experiences that will become stories you’ll be proud of – whether or not they play out how you expect. Even if things seem to take a turn for the worse, or in a direction you never expected, be flexible and stay on your grind, remain positive and who knows, the universe could take you on a journey bigger than your wildest dreams.

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Use these 4 entrepreneurship skills and you’ll be just fine:

    • Dare to ask for help – look for people in the local community who’ve done it before. Reach out to them for advice and learn all the things they wished they knew before starting. Develop a relationship that will benefit both of you. In other words, get a mentor!
    • Don’t be afraid to fail. The best ideas usually come with a bit of risk – don’t let the idea of it not working out prevent you from starting! Being the first to do something comes with a lot of uncertainty. If you feel nervous, chances are, you’ve got a good idea!
    • Be critical. That being said, of yourself, your ideas and goals. Before you start, promise to be honest with yourself about everything. If your lifelong dream isn’t working out you have to be realistic and come up with a new plan. Look at your business objectively – you want it to be successful and if your emotions are too tied in, you won’t be able to move forward.
    • Learn everything you can! About everything. If you’re to be the boss, you need to be able to help and advise employees on all matters – the overarching strategy comes from you, so be ready to have a game plan!
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An Interview with Social Media Expert Esteban Contreras: ‘People are Nicer on Twitter Than They are in the Real World’

Esteban Contreras is the VP of product at HYP3R, an engagement platform for venues. Previously he was the director of experience design at Sprinklr, an SaaS company that helps large brands create, manage, and optimize social experiences. He also worked as a marketing manager at Samsung where he oversaw the social media activity of the brand in North America.

He is the author of Social State, a well-received book on social media, and also an adviser to early stage startups.

Contreras has been a speaker at several conferences, including SXSW, the Gamification Summit, CES, and the Corporate Social Media Summit.

I asked him about creating professional networks, ways to leverage Twitter, and his reasons for leaving Samsung at the LeWeb conference in Paris.

 

You previously worked for large corporations. Why did you decide to join a startup?

I think I always had an entrepreneurial heart.

Most people in my family are entrepreneurs, they started newspapers, retail stores, and various other businesses. As I grew up in that environment, I’m used to being accountable and responsible for any work I do.

I was the first one in my family who finished college and pursued a normal career.

I went to work at large brands to understand how they think, and learn as much as I can about a global approach to things, but working at a startup seemed like what I always wanted to do.

I didn’t go to a startup early on, because, in my opinion, I didn’t really have the experience to do that. So I spent the first few years in my career learning about the convergence of technology and marketing, and really going deep into what is possible, and how human beings interact with organizations.

And Sprinklr, which is a startup where I’m working, seemed to understand that world better than anyone else. They saw the vision of how you and I will potentially interact with brands 15, 20, or 30 years from now. And I wanted to be a part of something like that early on, as opposed to waiting until they become a more mature organization.

I was always attracted by the startup world, and I’ve always spent time getting to know people in startups, and it seemed like the right time to do that when I did.

 

Actually, this is the next thing I wanted to ask you about. How did you build up your professional network? How did you reach out to people and find innovative new and companies?

There’s this idea of personal branding, and I’m not a fan of that term. I feel like if you’re a human being, you don’t need to do that.

It seems weird to want to brand ourselves, and yet everything I’ve ever done in my career in terms of who I am in the public has followed some of the rules of personal branding. Having a blog, having a Twitter account, being very transparent and open online was natural for me.

I went to college in the United States after growing up in Guatemala. And being in the U.S., I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t grow up with anybody. I was new to a different culture and a different world.

But I had the internet, and to me, it was very common to interact with people online. I was introduced to the internet, and I had learned about how to connect with people before I was a teenager. For our generation, or people in my generation and beyond, it’s very natural to connect with people online. It’s not strange.

I think that if you’re in an organization you’ve got to be careful about not doing that too much, because ultimately you work for a company, so you have a certain responsibility. But I if you are interested in the startup world and would like to find something that you’re passionate about, then being open and constantly always on could help a lot.

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Did you land a job this way at Samsung as well? Is this the way that you found each other with Sprinklr?

Yes. I’ve tried the normal approach of getting the job, and it never worked. I never had anybody respond to my resume.

I actually interviewed the person that became my boss at Samsung. I had a podcast in 2008, 2009, and I invited the leads of digital for Samsung North America to my program. I asked them a bunch of questions, and as soon as we ended the recording, I said, hey, you know, I’d love to join, here’s my resume.

And two months later I was moving from Texas to New Jersey.

So like I said, being really transparent and open, and also connecting with the right people genuinely, could help. I wanted to get to know these guys because I thought they were interesting. I had done that with other companies too.

 

How did you contact them?

Twitter. To me, Twitter is the first place to go.

 

What’s your golden rule for Twitter? How do you leverage it? Do you have any special tips for that social media site?

Try to review who you follow. I used to follow everybody that I knew, and then I realized that it leads to a lot of noise. Make sure you’re following the people you want to follow for real, instead of being nice.

I also do a bit of automation. Sprinklr has a rules engine, and if a message comes in, with a certain meta data related to that message, it can filter it to a certain group.

But the most important thing is knowing who you want to listen to when you’re just browsing.

 

Do people tend to reply to you when you mention them on Twitter?

Yes, and I would recommend to anybody who’s looking to get a job at a large brand, or looking to join a startup, to just not be afraid of knocking on doors. And I think most people are nicer on Twitter than they are in the real world. They might respond to you on Twitter, but not in the real world…so why not use Twitter?

 

Besides discussing Twitter and creating professional networks, I also asked Esteban Contreras about the opportunities provided by social data and personalization. I posted this part of the interview on SpringTab’s blog. Click here if you’d like to read it.

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My worst self

Our self-knowledge and personality develops over time, but not in every aspect.

Most people sooner or later understand what they are good at. They know which skills and abilities moved their career forward and how they got to where they are.

But facing our weaknesses is a much more difficult task. One of the reasons for this is simple. We recall our success stories and occasions more easily, and we triggered positive reactions more often than our failures. Just think about how much time you spend remembering people who turned you down. How easily you answered the questions about your weaknesses at job interviews.

I bet you had a much easier time talking about your achievements, which is okay. Especially if things are going well, there’s no reason to mull over past failures.

But if we feel like our career is moving in the wrong direction, or we’re making the same mistakes again and again and want to understand the reasons, studying our darker side could help. At these times, if instead of avoiding the uncomfortable questions, we try to understand what our worst self is, or what makes our worst self come out, we can learn a lot about ourselves. And improving self-knowledge in the long run will help us to overcome things that are holding us back.

Even though currently I’m not in any kind of crisis, and in many aspects, I’m closer to reaching my goals than I used to be a few years ago, there are still many things in my life that I’m not satisfied with. And reading about the advantages of studying our worst self got me thinking.

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I’ve created a list of the things that I believe I should try to change in the near future. I was aware of these problems before writing them down, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve discovered an entirely new perspective, but thinking about them deeply did help.

This is why I decided to share my results with you. This is what I believe constitutes my worst self, and these are the things that can bring it out:

– I’m a goal-oriented person, and I don’t think it is a bad thing. But there are some downsides of this mentality, and I have a few personality traits that could put me at a disadvantage in certain situations.

– I’m impatient and a bit selfish.

– Sometimes I’m also stressed out and inattentive. This happens most often when I know that I’m right but others don’t see it that way.

– I could also get very tense when people can’t understand why I ask them for certain things, and as a result they don’t complete their tasks.

– Things that are out of my control can also bring out the worst of me. When what should be done is obvious, but for some irrational human factor operations don’t work effectively and I feel like I can’t impact things, I try to solve problems with force. Which is probably not the best solution.

Looking through this list I concluded that paying more attention to the details, being more patient with certain projects, and trying new approaches when things don’t work out would help me in many ways, and I will have to pay attention to these things in the future.

So what do you think? Could studying your worst self help you as well?

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Tony Conrad: ‘If You’re Going to Be An Entrepreneur, Treat it Like a Vocation’

Tony Conrad is the co-founder and CEO of about.me, a platform for representing personal identity online. He is also a partner at True Ventures and a personal investor in WordPress, Slack, and Lowercase Capital.

At the LeWeb conference in Paris, I asked him about his entrepreneurial journey and the advice he would give to startups.

What do you recommend for startups and how to try to find their first customers?

I think often people, and entrepreneurs, in particular, are looking for what I call a silver bullet. They are looking for a lightning in a bottle. It’s just gonna happen.

And that hasn’t been my experience. With about.me a little bit, but with my first company, Sphere, it took us a year and a half to really figure it out and to evolve the product and service in such a way that it made sense for our customers to adopt it.

But I think we were very patient. And I think the thing we did well and where I feel like I learned a lot of entrepreneurial skills and credibility was when I was building that first company, I was constantly interactive with the blog.

I was constantly talking with our audience about what we were building and how it could work with their blogs. And eventually, we nailed it when we started contextually matching their content to mainstream content and connected these things.

But it took us a very long time to get there, and during that period we were in a continuous dialogue with our users. And I think a lot of founders aren’t patient enough, but that is also a tricky question. When are you being too patient versus not being patient enough?

Because it may just be a bad idea. So if it’s a bad idea you just want to cut quickly and move on to the next idea. But I think a lot of people make those decisions without enough consumer input, or customer input. So they are kind of following their instincts a little bit, and they are actually not letting the data and the input drive the decision-making.

I know it’s weird that I never actually got the way we were doing it, but I knew we were close. I was hearing how our product was starting to help the bloggers, and we had to fine-tune it. Once we got that tuning correct, it became a very large platform.

What is that small line that can tell you that either you are doing it right or you just have to drop it?

I guess being a good listener, being observant, and being smart could help.

Am I correct if I say that the network you’ve created with your customers and peers is one of the most important reasons for the success of your products?

Absolutely. Even when I started about.me, even though I had been an accomplished entrepreneur and founder, the first thing I did was I brought on a very large advisory group. So, in the end, we had 26 advisers for a four-person team. Think about that.

We did it purposefully because these people knew how to build identity online, they understood the issues that we were trying to address, and they were absolutely amazing in giving us product input early on.

They also set up the original profiles, and their endorsement helped us to scale very quickly and get a very wide group of users, early users and adopters of our product.

So getting people involved and listening, listening, listening is really important.

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And how about the press part of it? How did you get the word out to the public?

As an entrepreneur, you want to be building your relationships over time not just when you need them. So my relationships with the media have historically been real, really important to me, they’ve been very good. But it’s because I’ve taken the time to get to know the journalist, I’ve read their stuff and I offered them input occasionally.

I try to be an asset. If they call me because they are interested in things that are not connected to my business directly, I try to be helpful to them.

So as an entrepreneur, you have to believe in a longer-term approach.

I always say that if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, treat it like a vocation, treat it like being a doctor, or an accountant, or a school teacher.

Think of it as something that you are going to be doing for 35 to 40 years, and if you think like that, then you’ll start to make decisions very differently. You will play a very long-term game. You’ll educate yourself correctly, and you’ll be very patient in the way you build up your relationships and networks. You’ll take a much longer view and approach to it all.

Versus you know, when you feel like you’ve got to do it all in the first day or the first year. That’s not realistic. It’s not the way it works.

Besides his entrepreneurial journey, I also asked Tony Conrad about the opportunities provided by social data and personalization. I posted this part of the interview on SpringTab’s blog. Click here if you’d like to read it.

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Chris Valentine on health technology, VR and Big Data: ‘At some point, you’ve got to be the first one under the knife’

South by Southwest or SXSW is a Conferences held in Austin in mid-March. The live performances, screenings and interactive projects of the event bring more than a hundred thousand visitors to the capital of Texas every year.   

Startup Village debuted at South by Southwest in 2012. The conference consists of start-up competitions, networking events and panel sessions covering topics like funding and entrepreneurial best practices. It also features pitches from some of the most forward-thinking startups from around the world.

This important startup conference is organized by Chris Valentine who produces SXSW Startup Village. We sat down with Chris during the 2016 festival to talk about upcoming trends, and the possibilities provided by virtual reality and big data.

The first part of our interview focuses on VR and augmented reality, while the second part, which will be published next week, is about business intelligence and personalization.

– Why did you decide to work on organizing the SXSW Startup Village?

I love the startup ecosystem and the startup world, and with SXSW, it was an incredible opportunity to find the way to bring the highest level of influencers and the highest level of startups into one place in Austin, Texas. By doing these kinds of programs I get a chance to be around smart people, smarter than me…

– What are the fascinating trends in this year’s event?

The big trends coming out right now I think would be health-related technologies and virtual reality. People are probably going to talk the most about VR and AR.

It’s already kind of happening, but here you can see it from the best retrospective, all over the country. SXSW can show how AR and VR are going to be used in ways that are not related to just gaming. For example, it could be used as an educational tool or as a training tool for companies and it could be used by doctors too.

There are all these different ways that it can be used, and I think that’s what started to creep into the public consciousness on a higher level. Because if it’s just gaming, at some point you’re going to be like, “I’m not a gamer so I’m not interested,” but if you’re telling me I can use it for this or for that, it’s a whole new different level…

– It’s very exciting to see VR and where it’s going and we don’t know yet where it will end up…

I completely agree with you and I think there are so many possibilities. Just think about like you have a fear of heights and you have the ability to work with a professional, who can actually stop your fear of heights with a VR experience in 3-4 months.

Or think about surgeons. They have to go to conferences and do certain types of classes to keep up their certifications. But what if they could have real-life experiences?  

We had a company at SXSW Accelerator called NeuroDigital Technologies and they developed a haptic glove. With that, you could actually feel. If I touch this with my hand, or if I touch the grass I know how it actually feels, but that’s a real experience. If you had this glove, you could actually touch this and have the almost same experience. Now, if you’re a surgeon and you could practice a cut with this glove in VR…

Or think about from this perspective.

So I love European soccer, that’s my sports choice. I specifically like the English Premier League.

If you’re a goalie, at some point you’re not going to be able to practice because of physical exhaustion. But with the headset and the glove you could just go into the room, sit there and do that.

What you always hear from the coaches is that nothing can simulate a real game experience. Younger players who are new to the system always say that it’s much stronger, must faster and much quicker than they ever thought.

But if you’re 18 years old and you play your first game after spending six months with this VR simulation you’re going to have a sense of speed. You’re still going to have a learning curve, but it will be much quicker to potential success.

And there’s another part. The VR practice could also tell the club if a player is struggling and he can’t seem to advance fast enough, so they need to move him somewhere else, you know, off the club or down the bench. They could make a decision quicker in a fully different way.

But forget the games, just think about it… You have clubs making million dollar decisions; you have surgeons, they cut you open because you injured your knee. It’s a new procedure but they’ve already done it 20 times through VR, how much more confidence do you feel when they’re doing surgery on your knee open, as opposed to, “Oh, I’ve been reading about it for six months, and I’ve been to a handful  of seminars”? And at some point, you’ve got to be the first one under the knife.
This article continues on the next page. Click here to keep on reading.

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Why larger corporations are afraid to innovate?

Many startups struggle with convincing larger companies about the values of innovative, new ideas. To some extent, we also face similar problems.

My company, SpringTab, helps website owners collect information about the preferences of their visitors and personalize their content according to the gathered data. Although personalization is not an entirely new concept and it is quite popular among professional marketers, it could still get very difficult to persuade decision-makers at larger, hierarchical organizations about the benefits of our methods.

I believe that this is at least partly due to the fact that innovation is not necessarily in their best interest. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why managers at huge corporations are not more open to experimenting even though they have the budget to try new approaches.

These are the main reasons that I’ve come up with:

Organizational structure

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At hierarchical organizations, communication flows from the top to the bottom. This traditional company structure discourages innovation and makes effective collaboration among co-workers almost impossible.

I believe Aaron Ross’s Predictable Revenue is a great concept that can help generate quality leads for your business. To a certain level, we apply these sales principles. But with hierarchical organizations, they don’t always work.

We always try to reach out to C-level people who could give us a referral to the right person at the company. And if it’s a larger corporation, more often than not what happens next is that the person we were directed to either delegates the tasks further down or doesn’t have the authority to make a decision.

I’ve talked with at least a dozen potential customers who saw the value in our product, but couldn’t help us make a sale due to an outdated organizational structure.

Fear

Innovation is risky, and mid-level managers wouldn’t want to risk their comfortable 9-to-5 jobs, especially if they could get by without trying anything new.

There’s no danger if you don’t make decisions

No one wants to take responsibility for business plans that have uncertain outcomes, and at larger corporations it’s easier to avoid making decisions.

Skill deficit

In rapidly evolving fields, such as online marketing, new techniques turn up at a much faster rate than in more traditional industries. But you have to be up to date to appreciate the advantages they could bring, and the need to educate your prospect could slow down any sales process.

Insufficient experimentation

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It could take a lot of testing to figure out how a new approach could affect your bottom line and find which is the most effective way to implement the changes. Many companies are willing to finish their testing if the early results are not entirely positive, even though a more thorough process would bring a different outcome.

Lack of trust in outside consultants

Many companies, because of security reasons, avoid discussing company matters with outside consultants. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, and this practice of distrust could be extremely damaging if a company faces a problem it can’t handle well on its own.

Centralization

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Even when managers are open to new approaches, an overly centralized decision-making process could make it impossible for them to implement changes.

For example, if you need approval from the center to develop new features for a local website, and decision-makers are unreachable or not willing to pay attention to cultural differences, not much is going to happen.

Mission statement is not based on reality

What companies do and say are two different things. Managers at seemingly innovative firms might also face structural problems that could block innovation. And a great mission statement is not going to change anything if it doesn’t affect the day-to-day operation.

Focusing only on efficiency

As the Harvard Business Review points out, once a business figures out how to solve its customers’ problems, organizational structures and processes emerge to guide the company toward efficient operation.

This means that the company is going to focus on doing what it already does a bit cheaper and faster, instead of experimenting with transformational growth products.

Short-term thinking

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I’ve heard many times that the company needs to overcome some difficulties before it could experiment with something new. The problem is that the house will always be on fire. And if an organization is only focusing on its current affairs and delays experimentation because of them, it will miss the chance to find something that could turn things around. Sooner or later the company will have a very serious problem: an outdated product.

Larger corporations can make great clients, but for the reasons I’ve listed, they are very hard to obtain. Some of the dedicated managers working at these firms are well aware of the dangers in short-term thinking and other structural problems I’ve written about. Finding them might give you a chance to convince a larger corporation about trying out a new approach, against all odds.

So, what do you think? Did you face similar problems? How do you try to convince managers working at hierarchical organizations about the advantages of your product?

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How to build habit-forming products

Almost every enterprise tries to build long-lasting relationships with its clients.

As it could be four to 10 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, business owners have every reason to make their old clients happy. With that said, some internet companies rely on return visits and an active user base more than others.

An e-commerce site that sells products that people replace once a decade can get by without constant communication with its customers. On the other hand, an SAAS company or a social media start-up will fail without regular users.

We use the services of the most successful internet companies several times a day. When we’d like to know more about a topic, we Google it. When we’re bored, we pick up our phone and scroll down our Facebook wall. When in the morning we wonder what’s going on with the world, we launch Twitter or navigate to our favorite news site.

We use these services more than we should and not because we don’t realize that in many cases it’s a waste of time and we won’t remember anything from the most trending stories of the day five seconds after we’ve read them.

We use these services constantly because up to a certain level, we’re addicted to them. We have to find the answers instantly and we need to be continually connected to what others are doing.

Facebook and Google became what they are now because they were able to convince users to form new habits. In certain situations, some of their features come to our mind and we launch them without thinking.

 

Hooked

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Nir Eyal spent most of his career in the gaming and advertising industries. He applied, and in some cases rejected, techniques that are used to motivate and manipulate users. He believes that designers can create habit-forming products that will help people live healthier, happier, and more connected lives.

After studying the deeper psychology behind habits and how online services change our behavior, he decided to write a book. He wanted to show the designers how to build such products and help consumers break away from the hooks that don’t serve their life.

In his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, he describes the habit-forming mechanism of online services in four steps:

– The initial step is the trigger. At first, the trigger is external, we see a post on Facebook, or arrive at a landing page and click on a link that will allow us to use the service.

– It is followed by the action. Starting to use habit-forming products is simple, and they are able to motivate us to perform the action that their designer planned.

– The third step is the reward. The user is rewarded for the action. For example, the user feels a bit of relief after opening Facebook’s app and would like to use it some more.

– The final step is the investment. The user has to invest time and energy into the product, as it increases the chances of returning.

If these steps are repeated frequently enough, the user will form a habit around the product. The triggers will become internal and the user will associate the service with a problem or a certain situation.

 

Simplify the way!

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I’m the founder of a SAAS company and reading about the Hooked model was extremely useful for me. My company, SpringTab, helps business owners find out more about the personal and professional interests of those visitors who use social log-ins on their sites. We also help them in personalizing the experience of their users according to the collected information.

Of course, we are trying to hook our subscribers and convince them to use our service regularly. Consciously or not, we apply many of the steps Nir Eyal described.

We try to make onboarding as simple as possible for newcomers. The hook is our social analytics tool. It can help website owners understand what type of people use their sites, what kind of traits their most loyal customers have, or what could motivate people who choose certain products. It is a rewarding experience.

Once they see the value of our software, it is much easier to convince them to use more complex features and create different versions of their website for the various groups of their users.

I completely agree with Nir Eyal in that online services need to be able to form new habits in order to become truly successful. Now at SpringTab, we are working on automatic notifications for our users that will regularly remind them to visit their dashboard.

So, what do you think? Do you find the Hooked model useful as well? Does your product have features or do you plan to develop ones that can form user habits?

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An interview with Tiffany Pham of Mogul: ‘If I could just teach myself how to code, I could make this a reality’

Mogul is an online publishing platform that helps millions of women around the world share ideas, stories and career advice with each other. I sat down with Tiffany Pham, the founder of Mogul, at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna to talk about her entrepreneurial journey and how she became one of the most influential young CEOs in the new media in just a few years.

 

We’re from Hungary and the director of operations at Mogul is also Hungarian. Can you tell her story?

 

Our head of operations, Juli, is an amazing woman who earlier was one of our super users on the mobile platform. She had done such an impressionable job, and the insight she offered to the young women around the word was incredible.

So she was just this amazing super user to us when all of a sudden it made sense to bring her on board as part of the team. She started working as a consultant and she helped in different aspects of the business. And then over time it made sense to promote her to head of operations.

So that’s the way I assured our team has grown organically through such mechanisms, and by onboarding super users around the world in different ways onto our team.

 

I love this story. When she was a consultant was she a full-time employee? Did she move to New York at that time?

 

Initially, she was working remotely, and then she came to our offices and began working full time as a consultant before becoming a full-time employee.

You have a remote team, as well as an internal team. How do you manage them? What are your managerial secrets?

 

With my internal team, I work hand in hand to create a culture of full transparency and real-time feedback. So that every single day there’s no hesitation on providing ideas and suggestions that can help us improve all together. At the same time, each of the internal members of our team manages some respects of the external teams, as well.

For example, our head of operations oversees our ambassador program, and we have thousands of global ambassadors. We reach 18 million women each week, and our head of content community oversees 15 hundred influencers on the platform. We also manage a team of salespeople out in the field.

 

Let’s talk about your journey, Tiffany. I tried to research it and maybe it was my lack of eye for details, but I couldn’t figure out your tipping point, if you will. How did you get started, and what did you need in order to succeed?

 

It’s a really good question. I think it was rooted in my family history because my family had been in the media and the service of providing information for many generations. I was inspired initially by my grandmother because she had written for newspapers in Asia to provide information access to those around her.

When I moved here, I did not know how to speak English. I learned it through the media, and started to understand how powerful it could be for learning. And then eventually, when I was fourteen, my grandmother passed away. The day that she passed away I made a promise to her that I was going to do everything I could to carry forward her legacy: Provide information access to the world like she had. So it became my sole motivation to carry out that goal for the rest of my life and dedicate everything I could towards that goal.

Thereafter I worked in the media industry across different facets, to learn every single new one. So one day I found myself in three jobs at once. I was working at CBS, the television network, and simultaneously I was working with the Beijing government to launch a new venture in the U.S. area bridging cultural gaps between U.S. and China, and then I had a third job. I was producing feature films and documentaries with Gérard Miller all around the different social issues that needed more global awareness.

As I worked in the news story growth, one day I woke up, and by chance, I’ve been listed on Forbes 30 under 30. And all of a sudden, young girls around the word started to write me letters asking me for advice, asking me what articles am I reading, what videos am I watching, is there a chance that I could share the resources I was accessing for these opportunities.

That’s when I started to realize as I answered back every single letter one on one, what if we had a platform whereby millions of us could share our ideas, our carriers, and our lives, and our journeys. And from that exchange of information, we begin accessing more knowledge from each other, and become that much better and that much stronger together.

At that time, I’d written a book on how to better align the IT infrastructure with business strategies, and I realized that maybe if I could just teach myself how to code, I could make this a reality for younger women around the world like myself. So every single day I worked on the three jobs I had, and then at night at 3 a.m. sat down at the kitchen table and taught myself Ruby on Rails. After a couple of weeks, I built the first iteration of Mogul.

So to answer your question, the tipping point was when I finally had developed the first iteration. And then because all those young girls were continuing to contact me organically desiring this, as I launched it, it launched to million users within the first week, becoming one of the fastest growing concept platforms for woman ever. And subsequently, today we reach 18 million per week. So that’s where we’re right now.

 

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Amazing story. How did you feel? Did you ever think about becoming an entrepreneur?

 

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My father was an entrepreneurial man. I grew up in an environment whereby we used to recite the phrase that it’s OK to fall forward. And to fall forward was something that I realized I needed to do.

What I mean by that is to move past the nos and get to the yeses, to be resilient to realize that there’s actually no failing because as long as we’re moving forward, everything is OK. And as you’re learning, in the end, you’re winning.

Then what is a failure?

 

That’s what I’m saying. There’s no such thing as failure. As long as you’re learning and moving ahead, then you’re going to get to the yeses and in the end, you will learn everything you need to do to accomplish the next. So just keep moving ahead.

 

Let me rephrase it. Failing is when you stop. And you don’t move forward. That’s failure.

 

In that case, in the end, true failure is not doing. Not trying.

 

Can you talk a little bit about your years at CBS? Did the experience and the connections you made there help you become an entrepreneur?

 

Yes, absolutely. Being at CBS enabled me to see all the amazing ways in which the company had risen to the top and had created wonderful programming and amazing business partnerships to continue to sustain its profitability and growth. It was an amazing opportunity to see a world-class team in place in order to carry all those things out. It was the perfect place to develop insights into what Mogul could become one day.

 

You worked at a large corporation, and now you are managing an important website with millions of users. How can innovative companies work together with large corporations and companies like yours?

 

Ultimately it’s all going to rely on your friendships. Relationships can help you enter each of the companies no matter what size in the right way.

So if you want to talk to an amazing start-up, you still have to figure out who internally is the decision maker and who can connect to that decision maker in a way that it will set you on the right path and the right foot in the door. So find your correct connection and find out that warm path to get there, and then ultimately on the corporation side it’s the same thing.

Find who is the correct decision maker internally. Figure it out whether through various platforms like LinkedIn or through just discussing it in online groups. And then with that person, figure out who you know mutually, who can make a recommendation that will help you to rise up above the noise.

How did you build your friendships in the industry?

 

I’m glad you’re asking this question, because what I’m about to say next is very key. It’s about then developing true friendship and relationships through collaboration. So, in the end, it’s not about networking per se and just creating this very superficial one-time relationship.

It’s about creating a true friendship whether through initial teas or coffees, or by finding ways in which you collaborate together through small projects or tasks.

Maybe you help them on their site, or maybe you find a way to support them in their initiatives in a way that they don’t have to put much investment in at the beginning. But as you prove yourself out in that very first initial moment, then all of a sudden that pilot task that they did with you will become so much more of a bigger deal!

 

 

During our meeting, I also asked Tiffany Pham about the development of the platform and her future plans for website personalization. I posted this part of the interview on Springtab’s blog. If you’d like to know more about the Mogul platform, click here to read it.

Conrad-egusa

Conrad Egusa on PR for Startups: ‘The Biggest Thing is to Amplify the Message’

Conrad Egusa is the CEO of Publicize, an innovative public relations company specialized in start-ups, and a guest contributor to TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and The Next Web. Earlier he co-founded Espacio, an incubator located in the heart of Medellin.

He is also a global mentor at 500 start-ups, The Founder Institute, ANDI (Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia), and the Spanish accelerator Zarpamos.

I had a chance to talk to him at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna about his unique approach to PR, and the advice he gives to start-ups trying to get featured in tech publications.

What do you advise to start-ups looking for guest blogging opportunities? How can they get the attention of major publications?

A mistake I see people make is that they write to TechCrunch and ask if they could write a guest article. It will not work, because the editors are busy, they don’t have time to respond, and they don’t know whether you’re a good writer or not. They receive hundreds of similar emails every day.

What I recommend is when you first contact them, introduce yourself and have the article written already. So when you send to them, you could say something like, I have an article below, it’s not self-promotional, it hasn’t been published elsewhere, could it be considered?

And if you send three or four good articles to a publication, in many cases they will ask you to write as a guest contributor.

 

I also believe it’s important to never use self-promotion and to give value in your articles, or at conferences…

Yes, you should absolutely avoid promoting yourself that way. If you send an article to editors about what your company does, they wouldn’t accept that.

Let’s say you have a start-up with great software for accounting. What you could say is, here is like three or four pieces of advice about how you as a start-up founder can be better at accounting. Or what we think the accounting and finance industry is going to be heading in the next two to three years.

So by doing that, you’re not directly self-promoting yourself, but at the same time, you’re positioning yourself as a thought leader for accounting. You could do that as well for SpringTab,* and actually any company could do that for their own industry.

And I think increasingly you are going to see more publications like TechCrunch or Forbes say, hey, like if you author an article like that, that adds value like you mentioned, and it’s in your space, we’re happy to publish it. I’ve done this myself I’ve seen friends and companies do this, and it is a very high returning investment

 

How did you get started? How did you do get your foot in the door? 

So, my path came really from start-ups. I raised funding in Northern California for my first company. Then I remember, I was in New York and I met this person named Matt Marshall, who is the founder of VentureBeat, and he said he was looking for writers, and it kind of got me on my path.

I think the biggest thing, the key to writing that I learned is rewriting. So I think a mistake a lot of people make is that they have the first draft, and they expect it to be perfect. But the reality is the first draft usually is just not. So if you like mentally go in your head like, well, you’re going to need five to 10 drafts to perfect an article, it just really helps.

Each publication has its own kind of style of writing as well that people should follow, but I think it can even help as modeling. So even if you just take an exact article and try to do a similar one based on that template on a different subject, it will help.

There’s a lot of strong writers who, like for example, submit an article to TechCrunch, and they are not going to accept it just because it doesn’t fit their style. So it’s important to try to match the style as well.

 

A lot of great start-ups get good local feedback and make some money, but at the same time, they struggle with reaching the next level. If a company like this had an office hour with Publicize, what would you recommend to them? What should they ask themselves? What is the most important thing to focus on?

I think the biggest thing is to amplify the message. For example, one of the companies that I’ve co-founded is a co-working space start-up.

Co-working spaces are really boring businesses. They rent an office in a building and charge slightly higher prices based on the square footage. There are hundreds around the world, so no one cares about them, right?

With this company, we got into TechCrunch, BBC, Financial Times, and all these others. And the reason why was that the mission that we pushed for wasn’t a co-working space. The mission was to turn our city into the Silicon Valley of South America.

An early-stage start-up usually isn’t that interesting because it probably doesn’t have that many features. But where you want to take it in three to five years could be interesting.

So when you are about to go to sleep, or you’re going to the gym and you’re daydreaming, you’re like, in four years SpringTab is going to have 500 employees and it is going to be taking the world, right? And whatever vision you see there, that’s what you should highlight to these big media publications.

Like, say hey, this is where we are today, but what’s really important is the steps you planned. You need to ask yourself, how is your venture going to change the world, how it’s going to look like when it’s a 100-million-dollar company.

Where you are today is less relevant for big publications, but where you want to head is something that they might want to cover.

 

Let’s talk about Hungary. We have three or four larger companies that lead by example, and we have like 40 or 50 other start-ups which are doing OK. It’s somewhat similar to Austria. If you had to write about an ecosystem like this, how would you put it to be interesting?  OK

I think what’s important to keep in mind is that every disadvantage is a potential advantage. It’s literally really like chess. The question is, how do you want to play it?

Hungary’s ecosystem isn’t like the Silicon Valley’s. On one hand that’s a disadvantage, but on the other hand, the fact that it’s small and growing shows that it has a lot more room to grow and a lot more potential. The reality is people don’t really want to write about Silicon Valley because everyone’s already written about it.

But a new ecosystem like Hungary, that’s exciting. That doesn’t exist yet. So by framing it a different way, you can create a story. Also, there are a couple of events that trigger interest. So as an example, the Netherlands, when I wrote about their ecosystem just got appointed someone from the government who is responsible for integration with start-ups.

That recently happened in Austria as well. There is a moment when you can see more news around an ecosystem because something has happened and maybe even more stuff will happen. So I think for Hungary, they can think about that as well. I would just look at all these storylines you can include.

 

* SpringTab is a start-up that I founded. It helps companies understand their audience on a deeper level and personalize their content according to the personal preferences of their visitors.

During our meeting, I also asked Conrad Egusa about website personalization and the importance of social data. I posted this part of the interview on SpringTab’s blog. Click here if you’d like to read it.

entrepreneurship-journey-pursuit-of-success

Entrepreneurship Journey: Pursuit of Success

Today more and more graduates are seeking opportunities at companies where there are possibilities to contribute, grow, and being responsible for actions every day. Recent grads struggle with finding work that suits their needs in the labor market, therefore young people – even juveniles – show a tendency to begin with building ventures. Lots of people think that only entrepreneurship is solely the key to professional freedom and self-realization, which obviously has many benefits compared to being an employee. But are young people ready to take a job that comes with being a business professional, especially if you only have few work experiences? Is entrepreneurship the only way to be financially successful?

What to do after graduation?

There is lot of crap out there on the internet about entrepreneurship… Many people talk, make videos, do podcasts or webcasts, write blogs on the topic that triggers youngsters to choose the same path, to build the next big hit, and be on the cover of every business magazine. The question is, are people really capable of doing such a thing especially straight outta college?

Gary Vaynerchuk described pretty well the miscommunication of today’s success among younger generations. The idealization of entrepreneurship (building the next Uber and Airbnb) made everybody believe that being a company owner is the only way. The thing is, not everybody is born an entrepreneur. Period. Not everybody can be Steve Jobs. Period. There is just a fraction of people in this world capable of building Facebook, Google and Pied Piper. Most of us would make an exceptional second, third or fourth member of a developing organization, but we don’t want that because it is not sexy enough.

Think about the $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn that happened a few months back. Even latecomers, those who had 0.1 percent stake at the company are multimillionaires and have nothing to worry about financially for the rest of their lives. Do we know their names? Hell no. Are they rich? Huh… Instead of self-hopings and self-projections, we need to practice self-auditing to identify what is the right path for us.

Entrepreneurship Journey-1

 

Is entrepreneurship the right path for success-driven people?

Many people try the other way and join a company with high potential. Once I had a pretty engaging conversation about entrepreneurship with a fellow here in Hungary. He is the director of sales and business Development at a software company that does pretty well in Europe. Before coming to Budapest, he was building start-ups and small ventures in Romania, and had two successful exits by age 22. So I was wondering why he did not proceed with building his next thing and being his own boss.

The response was quite revealing to me. As he said, there is always going to be a boss, the form is just different whether it is your investor, customer, or partner. He embarks on a journey with a promising organization and helps the company achieve success than struggling with building something out of thin air. As he said, he is an intrapreneur. Intra what? A person who helps building things WITHIN a company, and exchanging his special skillset usually for a lot of money. He was making $5,000 per month, when the average salary in the country is $700. Most entrepreneur wannabes earn half or less of that.

Intrapreneurship might be one choice for self-starters

One of the biggest differences between entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship is the company culture you are working in. As a business owner, you have the privilege to shape your own company culture, design it the way you want, hire the people you would love to work with. Also, you have the chance to decide where you prefer to work from, which is a big advantage compared to the life of employees. As an intrapreneur you join a pre-existing work culture in which personally you do not have that much of an influence; there is only possibility to adapt to that specific environment.

For reshaping existing organizational cultures, you have to spend a long time at a certain place to gain trust before you can carry out changes. No matter which path you pursue, you need to feel comfortable with the environment you work in. It can be a restaurant, a retail store, a loft office, or a corporate office, think about what place suits you best. If it is hard to find something you want, you might have to think about creating a culture on your own, and shape it the way you want it to. Here is a hint how to do that.

entrepreneurship journey-2

 

 

But which path is right for me?

 

Perks and benefits of both:

  • Responsibilities

Being a business owner can be super frustrating because it puts a hell of a lot of burden on your shoulders. Hiring people, hustling your way up, and talking to other serious business owners might sound appealing, but on the other hand you need to buy the toner for the printer, and the last pen for your office to make it operate. At least in the very beginning, and only if you want it to function properly. Though as an intrapreneur, because you are a specialist, you only focus on your special task and make that work at best. It does not mean specialists do not have other responsibilities than their field, but relatively much less than entrepreneurs. You need to analyze how much responsibility you are willing/can take within an organization and if you are experienced enough to multitask with myriads of different responsibilities. Can you fulfill your duties, manage your employees, delegate tasks properly to your team members at the same time? Or do you just want to stick to the sexy things? If the latter, you better be an intrapreneur.

  • Risks and Benefits

Both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs face special kinds of risks, but what comes with the risks essentially differ. Business owners need to accept the financial hazard and uncertainty, however the potential growth and revenue projections can help fade that. While an entrepreneur earns more money (in case of a profitable business) and struggles with all difficulties of running a company, an intrapreneur has a pretty stable life with a healthy paycheck and other benefits. Intrapreneurs, however, need to deliver results by the time agreed upon, otherwise they are very likely having an unstable professional life as well.

  • Incentives

Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are equally motivated by leaving a mark in the history of the company. If you are looking to create something big, achieving a lifelong dream and earning millions of dollars, entrepreneurship might be a fit for you. Whereas if you prefer stable paychecks, work-life balance and trying out yourself at different places intrapreneurship is worth considering.

entrepreneurship journey-3

Entrepreneurship Journey: The right path

On one hand, making up your mind to become a business owner can be super rewarding with lots of perks and publicity, where you can have a firm control over most things and form your own organizational culture. Though, as an intrapreneur you can challenge yourself at different places for stable paychecks and utilize company resources for innovation. Many world-changing products were born as a result of intrapreneurial efforts such as the Mac, iPod, Gmail, Google Maps, PlayStation, etc.

Despite these intrapreneurial people, the mentioned products would have never been invented if it had not been for entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Sergey Brin and Larry Page. All talented people were required for that success. Whatever choice you make when you begin pursuing your professional career, keep the things mentioned above in mind, and think what you as a person are capable of.