My Life Distilled Down to Technology and The Dead Milkmen

February 27, 2014

DeadMilkmen

 

Fun interview covering two big interests Technology and Music and I can thank The Dead Milkmen for it.

Excerpt:

Michael: We’ve talked about how some of the trends in modern business–lean innovation, content marketing–share a lot of principles with the punk rock movement you were involved with a few decades ago. Will you tell our readers your thoughts on that?

Wesley: For those not familiar with Lean, the basic concept is to throw away traditional product marketing and market research techniques and instead just launch and let customers tell you what is working or not. I love that. There is even a concept that if you aren’t embarrassed by your first release then you launched too late.

For indie artists, there isn’t the marketing budget to force anything down anyone’s throat nor even much in the way of a recording budget. So, pardon the slang, but it has to be real. Our punk acts would record albums for a few thousand dollars, just a few takes, and it would be raw, powerful and (to me) great. it was such a great contrast to the over-produced, market-research driven radio drivel at the time. Still is in my opinion.

Enjoy.

Optimizing Email Open Rates — Subject Lines

February 11, 2014

E-mailLike everyone, I get quite a few promotional emails but only read a small percentage of them. Obviously the subject line is a critical component of what I decide to open. Besides my own biases, I poked around the net and came up with a few guidelines for writing effective subject lines:

  • Short (50 characters or preferably less)
  • DON’T SOUND SALESY! (AVOID ALL CAPS, TYPOS, AND !!!!)
  • Avoid these words: Help, Percent off, and Reminder
  • State what the email is about, don’t try and sell, and use benefits of the product / service.
  • Asking questions where the answer is “yes” can be effective
  • A/B test to create your own rules for your own audience

More information here.

Useful Guide to Startup Marketing

January 8, 2014

Creating a Strategic Plan

December 8, 2013

Virtually every company I’ve been at or consulted has been in desperate need of a formal strategic plan. Since I’m generally involved with start-ups, so much time goes into creating the product and raising money, having a formal plan can appear as a luxury and/or a wasted effort until “more important” things are taken care of — like finishing the product and raising money. I don’t disagree but if there are more than a few people involved with starting the company, it can be very easy for people to get off track and a somewhat formalized planning process has its place even in the earliest stages. 

A recent Forbes article covered the key steps to which I will apply my own spin.

Define the company’s vision

To me this is art not science. It is driven by passion not data or research. Stated simply, what do you want your company to be when you grow up. There are so many biases affecting even the most neutral founder at this stage (confirmation bias being just one) that believing at this stage is anything more than “vision” is disengenous and a bit naive. By calling it what it is, the founder’s or management’s vision, you are freed up of all of the time that goes into justifying why your vision is based on solid reasoning leaving more resources for figuring out how you will accomplish your vision.

Depending on how mature your company is, you can determine how detailed your vision needs to be. The Forbes article included these questions:

Who do you want to be in three years from now?  What does the organization look like?  What products/services are you offering?  How many customers do you have?  What problems will you be solving?  What will your financial performance look like?

If you are early, early stage, some of these go beyond “vision” and these answers will come later in the process.

 Plan a two-day offsite with your team

The offsite is incredibly important, and it should be noted that this is not a long brainstorming session. Each team member should be given the company vision and then assigned specific aspects to be responsible for. The problems with brainstorming have been well documented and better (and more creative) work is done by individuals tackling a problem than a group with a white board. But refining and improving ideas (and getting buy in) is appropriate for a group (and a white board). I suggest having team members (including yourself) bring short presentations on their areas. The first presentation should be the goals of the weekend and the “rules”. For example,

• Attack the argument, not the person

• Criticism is a part of the process; anything less is a waste of our time

• There are many ways to get to the same place

• Everyone here is a key player spending their valuable time to help the Company and work together, so respect for everyone

The Forbes article, which was aimed at an established company, had this possible agenda:

Day 1

  • CEO/Leader presents high-level review of 2012
  • Each executive/dept. head/group leader presents his/her review of 2012
  • Break
  • CEO/Leader presents Three Year North Star followed by the proposed top initiatives for 2013.  Connect the dots on how the 2013 initiatives will help the organization reach it’s goals in three years.
  • Each executive/department head/group leader presents his/her proposed top initiatives for 2013.
  • Break.  Go do something fun (movie?).
  • Prioritize top initiatives.  The company will not be able to accomplish all of the proposed initiatives.  Take this time to have a group discussion and figure out which of the proposed initiatives are the top three to five most important for 2013.
  • Sleep on it.  Once you’ve narrowed it down to the top three to five, call it a night.

Day 2

  • Review the top three to five initiatives and make sure that everyone feels good about what was decided.  Make sure that each item is achievable during 2013.
  • Start adding high-level goals that will help the organization to achieve the top three to five initiatives.
  • Break
  • Discuss other important items that will help your organization improve during 2013.  Ideas might include:  culture improvement, employee enhancement, funding strategies, etc.
  • Fun team-building Activity:  go-karts, rock-climbing, bungee jumping, etc.

Communication to stakeholders:

This step is about transparency and buy-in. There is nothing worse for a culture of a company than for management to go off to some pleasant locale and then return with all of the “answers” without input from those who will be implementing it. This is a piece that is often missed and is the beginning of the gulf that will grow between the hopes of the planners and the results of the actual implementation. Key stakeholders should have the opportunity to provide feedback and insure that the goals are realistic and achievable.  Depending on the situation, board presentation and approval is warranted, and finally hold an all-hands meeting to present what everyone should have already been sold on. A good lawyer will tell you to never ask a question in court which you don’t already know the answer. Similarly, never present a company plan for which you haven’t already addressed everyone’s concerns.

Execute and Follow-up

The plan, objectives and metrics all need to be written down with regular meetings to track and adjust. The expression “It’s not what you expect but what you inspect…” is sound. And if what you decided wasn’t important enough to be written down and referred to, then the team will (correctly) assume it wasn’t important enough to put effort into following.

 

Nice Explanation of Pre and Post Money Valuation and the Effect of Option Pools

July 18, 2009

I often find myself explaining the relationship between pre- and post money valuations and how options pools play into the calculation. Today I came across a very good blog post that explains it better than I’ve ever done. From now on, I’ll just point them to it.

What the author didn’t cover however is that entrepreneurs spend far too much time thinking about pre-money and far too little finding the right investment partner. In my opinion, it makes far more sense to take a lesser deal from a better partner. Having a great pre-money means nothing if the VC’s first move is to throw your ass out for one of their cronies (search “foundercide” to see what I mean) or if their advice is so bad as to insure your ultimate failure.

iPhoto Faces: Hits and Misses

February 3, 2009

Just starting to play with the new iPhoto 09 and in particular the facial recognition feature. I tested the feature on a few hundred sample images and iPhoto was right more than it was wrong. But the ones that it was wrong made me wonder do I really look like my mother or my friend Sanjay? “Separated at Birth” we are not.

 

iPhoto's Facial Recognition Has Some Kinks

iPhoto's Facial Recognition Has Some Kinks

That said I am very happy with this feature. When I first started adding photos to iPhoto many years ago I dutifully tagged each one. I’ve done that less and less. I had always hoped tools would come along that automated at least some of the process. Two or three years ago there was a far-too-hyped start-up called Riya that promised to do this. But they had no business model and their technology appears to not have been strong enough to make it into tools like this. I hope this isn’t one of those things I play with for a bit, think is incredibly cool, and then never use again. Google Earth, anyone?

Baseball Cards!

December 30, 2008

I have been spending the last few months updating the Sportsbuy.com website. One of the features we’ve really been focusing on are product pages. Check out the baseball card page that we put up.

This was a test to see what the SEO and user response would be to a dedicated page on this one aspect of our site. We then focused on internal linking, a dedicated URL with the right keyword and then populating it with everything relevant to visitors of that page to insure a low bounce rate. These included things like links to rookie cardswax boxes, and so forth. The baseball card page is particularly important to us since it is probably our most important keyword but one of the worst preforming. On other keywords like Basketball Card, Hockey Card, Tennis Card, etc. we are top 3 and often the #1 result. I’ll let you know what happens.

Shocking: AOL Kills Off Buggy AOL Video

December 19, 2008

Dear AOL Video Uploads User,

As we’ve written to you previously, the AOL Video Uploads site has now been shut down and videos stored on the site are no longer available for watching, editing, deleting or transfer. 

Our records show that you had uploaded videos to the site. While the AOL Video Uploads site is no longer available, we have made your videos available to be transferred to Motionbox.com for a limited time. Learn more at Motionbox

Motionbox is a free service that makes it easy to upload, store and share personal videos.Motionbox supports all of the features you’ve come to expect from AOL Video, and offers some additional benefits we think you’ll enjoy. 

We appreciate you being an AOL Video Uploads user, and we hope this transition hasn’t caused you an inconvenience.

Flip Video users: If you own a Flip Video camcorder, you will be able to continue to share videos using AOL Video for a limited time. To ensure the continuation of your video sharing experience, we recommend you download new software for your Flip Video camcorder.Download latest software (free update).

Sincerely,

AOL Video Uploads Team 

 

********

I can’t say I’m surprised.

Having Fun with the new Mac Video Tools

October 4, 2008

I was always a fan of Adobe Premiere and then stopped editing video before iMovie even came out. With the purchase of a new Mac Laptop I’ve started playing with the latest iMovie (08). Unfortunately iMovie 08 involved a major UI departure from the timeline/film strip metaphor that every other editor I’ve ever seen uses. That said, after a short time of playing around with it I was able to create a few promos for my company. 

I made USA Today!

July 24, 2008

Okay, not the greatest quote of all time but at least it was picked up:

“All Steve has to do is show up, prove he is in fact the real Steve Bartman — not some earphone-wearing imposter — and he’ll move to the top of the autograph value list,” said Wesley Hein, CEO of SportsBuy.com.

Remember there is no such thing as bad press.

Here’s the back story.


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