We are living in the age of the entrepreneur — more people are starting up, and it's ever important to stand out in the crowd. When pitching investors, then, it's crucial that entrepreneurs do their research, understand what's expected of them and pitch accordingly.
We spoke to a handful of venture capitalists and startup entrepreneurs to get their top tips on how to put together the ideal startup pitch. Here are the best five tips we heard.
"Having a great startup pitch has more to do with setting up and running a great company than optimizing some type of sales process to investors," says Ken Howery, co-founder of Founders Fund and PayPal. "Great investors can see through most tactics that you will use in the pitch process, so the best fundraising strategy is to build a great company." Read more...More about Startup, Features, Business, Pitch, and Startups
Ideating, pattern-making, finding materials, ordering samples, tooling and producing — these are the six once-mystical steps of manufacturing that are becoming easier to understand and take part in, thanks to New York-based startup Maker's Row.
Founded by Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez, Maker's Row is an online directory of America's top manufacturers. The site makes an industry traditionally based on old-school communications align with today's expectations of transparency.
After graduating from Pratt Institute with a focus in industrial design, Burnett began taking on watch design work with large brands, including Marc Jacobs and DKNY. Before long, though, he launched his own watch brand, Steel Cake, and was off on a entrepreneurial journey, which he says was a transformative experience that enabled him to create and see his own designs through to fruition.
Twitter launched its video-looping service Vine in January, and the app has quickly gained steam, with users posting more than 100,000 Vine videos in a weekend just three weeks after the app's debut.
Startups and small businesses of all kinds are already starting to experiment with the new mobile service, creating and sharing six-second videos with their social media fans and growing Vine followers.
The startup-produced Vine videos that have surfaced so far run the gamut, from showcasing products to offering sneak-peeks of the daily office grind.
What if you had just three days to conceive, build and launch a startup?
The teams had just a few minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges. So, who stood out and why? We caught up with Robert Scoble, panel judge and prominent tech blogger, to get his thoughts on what makes the perfect startup pitch
Do you remember the epic closet system owned by main character Cher Horowitz, as played by Alicia Silverstone, in the 1990s cult classic Clueless?
Not only was Cher's closet painstakingly organized by color, season and type of clothing, but it was also accompanied with a fancy computer program that helped her choose outfits.
This deadly combo of fashion technologies is just one of the tools in Cher's purse that helps catapult her to the highest ranks of high school popularity.
For all of the Clueless closet fans out there, note that we now have just about got every technology at our disposal for you to have your very own digital closet. In fact, there's something out there for fash…
With smartphone adoption rates on the rise, it seems like it's possible to do almost anything from the comfort of your cellphone -- why should applying for a job be any different? For applicants, it wouldn't be such a hassle, really, if job recruiters would get on board with the idea.
Although a growing number of job seekers use their mobile devices to seek out career opportunities, employers are still behind on implementing mobile recruitment strategies to cater to applicant needs, according to a study published by online recruiting research lab Potentialpark.
For the study, Potentialpark surveyed more than 25,000 job seekers worldwide and analyzed the mobile career presence of nearly…
Only a decade ago, a family trip wasn’t complete without a camera and video recorder, and if you were an über nerd, you might have even brought a laptop. Oh, and you couldn’t forget the extra SD cards and perhaps a card reader, just in case you decided to take a few thousands photos and ran low on storage. And, shucks, individual chargers for each device were a must. Honey, we’re gonna need a bigger bag!
In 2012, though, travelers are increasingly choosing to cut the cutter while they’re on-the-go by simply bringing their smartphone…
Done., a marketplace for hiring talented people to help you get things done, is giving away the first wedding powered by collaborative consumption. The prize includes $4,000 of Done. credit, which can be used to hire everyone needed for the big day – photographers, caterers, musicians, bakers, bartenders, a seamstress. The site even boasts an ordained minister, just in case!
The winning couple will also receive a $1,000 Airbnb credit to cover accommodations during the big event or an exciting New York City honeymoon afterward – or both, if they shop wisely, of course.
Set in the South Garden in Central Park, which is also romantically called “The Secret Garden,” the ceremony location can accommodate up to 75 guests. The ceremony will last for one hour, and the couple will have 30 minutes of access to the private lawn afterward for photography. The big day can be planned for any time before September 15 of this year.
To enter, hopeful couples must submit their love stories along with a picture on the contest website. The Done. team encourages entrants to be themselves and be creative – and it doesn’t hurt to link off to a video that captures that cute couple chemistry.
The contest winners will be decided by popular vote – so, a social media strategy or campaign of sorts could be a nice way to get the word out. The winning couple will be announced on June 1, with just enough time to pull everything together.
The contest is open to all U.S. citizens over the age of 18, and the typical terms apply. Though, Done. Director of Community Rachel Amondson told us with a hearty laugh that the team would like to avoid “bridezillas” if at all possible.
Amondson, previously a set costumer for TV shows Modern Family and The Office, came up with the idea for the wedding contest in an effort to showcase the talents and abilities of the Done. community, a group that she believes in so much that she’d “let them help plan her wedding.” And so the idea was born.
Amondson says that the winning couple should be able to find unique doers on the site to take care of all of those little details that make a wedding personal. “Not only do we have bartenders, but we have bartenders experienced with designing specialty cocktails according to your personality,” she says. “And we have a graphic designer who makes wedding invitations, but can also paint Converse shoes with all the details of your wedding,” she says. The site even showcases a yoga instructor that also designs cakes based on personalities on the side. “Not only are [the doers] talented; they have such unique skills and are kind people that you just want to be around,” says Amondson. “It’s a great opportunity for a couple to get to feel like they have a community helping them.”
“I’m just sad that I can’t win the contest and don’t have a groom yet,” jokes Amondson. But for everyone else, there’s always HowAboutWe, she says.
Image courtesy of Done.
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The Social Brands Series is supported by Spredfast, a social media management platform provider helping organizations unlock social business potential. Discover best practices & proven tactics for using social in the enterprise with the 7 Whiteboard Sessions for every Social Strategist.
Credit card company American Express seemed to come out of nowhere in the past year, offering one social media program after another.
While American Express has seemed to pump a lot of life into its social strategy as of late, it has actually been on the scene since 2009, helping cardholders solve problems one tweet and wall post at a time.
American Express joined the social media scene in 2009 with presences on Twitter and Facebook, aimed at providing customer service for cardholders.
American Express first made its appearance on Twitter with the @AskAmex handle, focused on servicing Cardmember and merchant questions and needs. Berland says that @AmericanExpress and the official American Express Facebook Page came soon after.
“Our mission is to be everywhere our Cardmembers and merchants are,” says Berland. “To engage with them, service them, deliver unique value that’s shareable and create seamless digital experiences that surprise and delight.”
Since the beginning, American Express has built its social strategy on service, and it continues to improve its implementation by taking in user feedback. “We spent a great deal of time listening to the community. The community interests and feedback defined our strategy,” says Berland.
AmEx has come a long way — with nearly 2.4 million Facebook fans and more than 348,000 followers on Twitter for the American Express U.S. pages alone. Its presences have also expanded internationally, and the brand now supports efforts on LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube and Google+, as well.
American Express is the master of the couponless deal in the social media space.
With AmEx Sync, cardholders can enjoy exclusive merchant deals by syncing their cards with their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. No coupon is necessary, just the linkage and a qualifying purchase.
AmEx first launched Sync with Foursquare in June 2011. In July, it added Facebook in on the fun, launching its “Link, Like, Love” app — after linking an AmEx card, a user can then access deals based on brands that he or she “likes” on Facebook.
At SXSW 2012, AmEx stole the show, launching Sync for Twitter and offering up Jay-Z tickets for SXSWers that completed the sync. Partnering with the likes of Whole Foods, McDonald’s and Best Buy, AmEx announced that after linking an AmEx card to their Twitter accounts, cardholders can tweet strategic hashtags to load deals onto their cards. With the hashtag #AmexWholeFoods, for example, a cardholder receives a $20 statement credit when he or she purchases $75 or more at Whole Foods using his or her synced card.
Now with a full suite of couponless deals to offer up to consumers, American Express is flexing its social media muscles in all the right ways.
Social media has a way of changing corporations — shaking them up, making them cautious or loosening their buttons. Every company is different — some embrace it, some battle it. AmEx is doing all it can to run with the opportunities that social media presents, and it’s going big.
“The digital transformation occurring at American Express cuts across many business units, and it has to because of the breadth and depth of our business,” Berland explains. “From customer service to merchant services to our entertainment and travel business units, to corporate affairs, as well as our newly formed digital partnerships and development team, social media is a company-wide initiative.”
“We are continuously evolving and, as a 162-year-old company, have done that over the course of our history,” says Berland. “That evolution will continue as the digital space matures, and social media platforms are the digital manifestations of community and membership –- which are at the core of American Express.”
The Social Brands Series is supported by Spredfast, which provides an enterprise-class social media management platform helping organizations unlock their social business potential. The Spredfast platform provides a unified system for managing, monitoring and measuring social media programs for better business results. Discover best practices & proven tactics for using social in the enterprise with the 7 Whiteboard Sessions for every Social Strategist.
Image courtesy of Flickr, The.Comedian
Peer-to-peer marketplaces, of which Airbnb is the beloved poster child, have been popping up for the past few years, but 2011 was an explosive year for the sector. Whether you wanted to borrow or rent someone’s apartment, bike, car, parking spot or random household good, you could find a marketplace to do it.
This is only the beginning, though; 2012 looks to be a promising year for those involved with the sharing economy. Super angel Ron Conway recently identified it as 2012′s hot area for angel investment in The Economist. And Fast Company deemed 2012 the “year of peer-to-peer accommodations,” thanks to the emergence of Airbnb clones that hinged off of the company’s outstanding growth.
Collaborative consumption services are getting a lot of attention, yes, but I couldn’t help but notice that only a small percentage of my contacts — even my super techie friends — have tried any of them. So, what gives?
On a mission to understand what motivates users to participate in the sharing economy, and eager to learn how we can take this idea mainstream, I interviewed a number of users and founders behind some of the most buzzed about peer-to-peer marketplaces. Read on to see what they had to say about the current state and future potential of the space.
The common theme across every interview I held is that collaborative consumption is, for the most part, about value. While there are a number of non-financial reasons for participating in the sharing economy, most of the people I spoke with agreed that the number one driver is cost savings.
Real estate expert Roberto Gonzalez says Airbnb is a “better and much more profitable way” to rent out his extra bedroom than the old Craigslist go-to. Citing Airbnb as his favorite website ever, Gonzalez uses it as a pillar of his popular Skillshare class on “How To Live Rent-Free in NYC.” He’s definitely on to something — Airbnb hosts in New York City make an average of $21,000 annually through the system, according to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.
Knodes and SnapGoods founder Ron J. Williams advises other startup founders to focus on value when marketing peer-to-peer marketplaces, something he says he would prioritize more if he were to launch SnapGoods again. “[Peer-to-peer marketplaces] are not driven by the ethos of sharing, but by the fact that people are making real money,” he says, cautioning startup founders from pushing the hippy-dippy movement message. “Most people are talking about this as a movement, but most people don’t care about movements. They care about convenience — people use ZipCar because it’s convenient.”
For those renting out their cars on WhipCar, “it’s less about needing the money and more about being smart with what you own,” says marketing director Jonathan Clark. “Collaborative consumption is common sense. A car can cost almost £7,000 a year to run, and the majority of car owners don’t drive their car every day. WhipCar enables them to earn money during this idletime — it’s even possible to totally offset the cost of owning a car by renting it to neighbors when it’s not being used.”
While it’s called the “sharing economy,” not everything is free. Some peer-to-peer marketplaces are transaction-based, while others only encourage sharing free-of-charge. It seems the exchange of money has an effect on the culture that forms around a site.
Photographer and videographer Adrian Manzano is a power user of a number of peer-to-peer marketplaces, including SnapGoods, Couchsurfing, Airbnb and Craigslist. He offered his thoughts about the differences in cultures between Couchsurfing and Airbnb: “People on Couchsurfing tend to be very open-minded, hippy, free, Burning Man type of people. With Airbnb, you get more ‘regular’ people, just looking to make a buck or save a buck. So, ‘normal,’ whatever normal means.”
The collaborative consumption space is young, though, so we’ll have to wait and see whether the cultural differences between transaction-based and borrowing-based marketplaces survive.
Will Dennis, founder of peer-to-peer bike rental marketplace Spinlister, says that he sees “collaborative consumption in the long term as the most efficient way to get what you want when you want it.” It is a shift in consumer behavior brought about by the emergence of social networks and real identity online. “The social web results in trust, access to what you need quickly, and in the long run, a more authentic and interesting experience,” he says.
While all of these peer-to-peer marketplaces offer a more convenient way to share goods and services, the problem is that they don’t currently communicate with each other.
If you want to book a trip on Orbitz, you can browse hotels, flights, car rentals and activities all in one place. With the current peer-to-peer markets, though, the experience between one type of good and another is fragmented. If you want to rent a car, you go to GetAround or RelayRides; for apartments you have Airbnb and Wimdu; for others’ goods, you can try SnapGoods or NeighborGoods. Wow, that’s a lot of work, right?
Launching this week, Uniiverse is a new collaborative consumption platform attempting to solve the fragmentation problem. Calling itself “the world’s marketplace for collaborative living,” it aims to be the place you go for any of your peer-to-peer needs. In Uniiverse’s words, “Users can share their interests, resources, time, space, skills and knowledge in real life – for free, or to make a little bit of money.”
McGill University student and Uniiverse user Stéphanie Domagalski says Uniiverse helps her live on a tight budget and has improved her life. “I can make money, doing things I enjoy. I’ve met awesome people. I can borrow things instead of buying them,” she says. “I’m connecting to my community, enjoying what my city has to offer, sharing my passions, and I feel like I’m making a difference.”
One of the difficulties of kickstarting some of these peer-to-peer marketplaces is the fact that, in some cases, you need an entire community to be on board for the idea to work.
Park Circa, for example, is a private network of micro-shared parking spaces. Co-founder Chadwick Meyer says that for its relaunch, the Park Circa will target neighborhoods one by one to get entire localities signed up. “As we build up enough inventory, we’ll then have a launch party in that neighborhood to release it,” he says.
Entrepreneurs looking to enter the collaborative consumption space, take note — if you don’t have users living nearby each other, it’s simply not going to work. Plan accordingly.
For those building peer-to-peer marketplaces, one of the biggest pain points is figuring out how to communicate trust between users — Airbnb experienced a number of PR setbacks in that area last year, and therefore launched a Trust & Safety Center, which included a $50,000 host insurance guarantee.
Sites like Airbnb and homeswapping site Love Home Swap have focused on integrating a user’s social graph in order to better confirm identity and convey trust to users. Through Airbnb’s Social Connection feature or Love Home Swap’s Social Circle feature, users can rent or swap homes with people from their personal networks. This same functionality is also available through both company’s Facebook apps.
Startup TrustCloud aims to empower the social economy by developing a portable reputation system for the Internet. The company calculates a user’s reliability, consistency and responsiveness by measuring his social presence across other sites, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Love Home Swap founder Debbie Wosskow says that her startup will be taking peer-to-peer marketplace trust to the next level soon. Love Home Swap has teamed up with British insurance market Lloyd’s to develop bespoke home and travel insurance for site users. A product that covers the full costs of a host’s home, as well as a traveler’s flight, does not currently exist. However, Wosskow believes that the entire industry will head in this direction.
“If you own something, it owns you,” Manzano says.
Whether collaborative consumption is truly a shift in consumer behavior or just a glitch on the radar, at the very least, it has shifted the mindsets of a small subset of our population. People have a new space in which to reallocate resources and lessen waste. Don’t get me wrong — people have been sharing for ages now, but online peer-to-peer marketplaces are making it dead simple.
“Society is simply better when we pool our resources and skills together,” says Domagalski. “There is no need for the pursuit of more when everything we need is all around us.”
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