Followups are key for success

6 Nov

As  always I’ll start with the soundtrack to this post. You can read about why I add soundtrack to every post I write. This is this post’s soundtrack:

A few days ago I followed up with a friend of mine (Eran Gilad, CEO of Tracx, a great tool for social media management). Just an arbitrary catching up. In his response he wrote something that hung in my head for a few days. He said “followups are key for success”. And as much as it’s an obvious thing to say I think that people are underestimating followups. Here I’ll give a few tips on how to remind yourself to followup, after every meeting. Even if the meeting is not that important for you. You can never know. Always remember that you have to be nice to people and appreciate the time they spent to meet you. Exactly the way you expect people to treat you. People are busy and they are not sitting around waiting for you to have a meeting with them. And after a meeting you have to followup again and again to make sure that shit gets done the way you discussed in the meeting.

I won’t go over on how to followup. There are tons of posts out there that tackle exactly that. I’ll just share how do I remind myself to followup and catch up with people:

  1. Don’t mark the reminder for the meeting as read

    If you’re used to remind yourself about meetings with an email then don’t mark this email as read until you send a followup email. Other reminders people use are SMSs or notifications on their Smartphone. The same can be applied to these reminders. Don’t clear the reminder until you followed up  to every meeting you attend!

  2. Put the business card you got on your screen

    Silly, but it works. Sometimes, after a day full of back-to-back meetings, half of my screen is covered with business cards.
    It reminds me of how my parents browser looks like because they somehow installed too many toolbars and now they have a thin strip that actually shows the website content…

    Too mant toolbars

  3. Use a CRM

    Use a tool that will manage for you all your sales leads, investors, advisors and  generally all your contacts. While SalesForce is the leading CRM software out there I prefer something much simpler. I use Streak. Streak turns your Gmail into a CRM and it’s doing it great. You can put your contacts in boxes such as Sales or BizDev and add reminders so you’ll not forget to catch up with people. If you’re using other CRM you can use Ecquire to capture contacts in your Gmail and send them to your CRM.

  4. Find out if people are reading your followup emails

    A great tool I love to use from time to time is Bananatag. Bananatag lets you know if people are opening your emails and if they clicked on links. This tool lets you know that your message arrived and was read by the people you send emails to. Sometimes email gets into people’s spam folder and not a lot of people will check there for your email so a lot of times you’ll have to make sure that people got your email. It also lets you know if people are interested in what you’re offering. A lot of times it helped me figure out if I need to send another email or just get the message that the person is not interested.

  5. Every meeting should have action items

    Every meeting you make should have action items after it. For all the parties at the meeting. Without action items the meeting is a waste of time. And action items are the best way to remind you to followup. This is your motivator. You want the people in the meeting to execute on their action items because they’re probably things that will help you. That’s got to make you want to followup, summarize the meeting and let everybody know what their action items are. Add a reminder with Streak to followup again after a few days.

I’ll be happy to hear if you have any other tips for following up and recommendations on tools that might help.

Some good music I heard lately

11 Oct

For sometime now I’ve been in a constant battle with myself whether to turn this blog to entirely about my entrepreneurial experiences or leave some music nuance to it. Finally I decided  that the both can co-exist. Shocking, I know. I’ll have just music posts and in non music posts I’ll add soundtrack. Let’s see what will be the feedback :).

Well, this post is only music. I just wanted to share some really good stuff that I heard recently. Not a lot of text. Just music. No worries. I got it all on a playlist here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NF4H3e_q2k&list=PLWGFwoBp4qX7vi8bjZiX1wUmy8Vg-SEr4&feature=plpp_play_all

The Lumineers – Scotland

A band I got to know in the hardly strictly bluegrass festival that went down in SF. Great band and this is one of their best songs.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Man On Fire

Check out the video as well. Brilliant. And of course a great song.

Odawas – Alleluia

This one is a bit weird but amazing nonetheless.

Arcade Fire – Suburban War

The Middle East – Blood

A band I came across lately. I really recommend on listening to more songs from them.

Bon Iver – Holocene

Just went to their concert. It was really good. This song always makes me want to travel. Check out the video. You’ll feel like that as well.

Thanks for listening. Let me know if you liked it and if not go hear Lady Gaga. I’m just kidding. If you didn’t like it I’ll love to hear about it. F**k the Accolades. Seek the Criticism.

Being in an accelerator program

6 Aug

I started this blog as a blog for music but since then it basically became a blog where I write about entrepreneurship and things related to the company I co-founded. But I want the things to connect somehow so I decided that from now on I’ll add a soundtrack to the posts I write so that people can enjoy the music I love while reading. The soundtrack for today will be 2 songs of Pearl Jam which I recently saw live 2 nights in a row :).


We just crossed the mid-line in the accelerator program we’re part of – IDC Elevator. I talked with a lot of people lately that asked me why should I go into an accelerator program. I’ll try to answer some of the questions people ask me and some of the attitudes people come with, and answer them from my experience so far.

“Should I give up equity just for space?”

This means you don’t understand what an accelerator can give you. Accelerator is much more than space. To keep this post short I won’t count all the benefits other than space. For that you can probably use the accelerator’s website and talk with graduates. I’ll just say that I strongly believe that it will get your company funded much faster and more importantly (remember that funding is never your goal), it will get you to the market with your product much faster.
Another small thing about the space. This is not just a regular space. It’s a space full with brilliant people that can help your startup at any stage.

“I don’t need an accelerator because I know everything”

This is the I know everything approach. With this approach, you’re right. You don’t need an accelerator. Accelerator is a place where you need to come to open minded and learn from other people’s experiences and failures. If you don’t want to learn then this is not the place for you. You know what, entrepreneurship is not for you.

“I can raise money by myself”

I bet you can. The only problem is that most of the times funding is a long process and through that process one of the team members should be fully dedicated to raising money. In case you didn’t get that, one of your team members, won’t do almost anything other than dealing with the funding process. And think about it. You’re starting a startup. Your team is probably 2-4 people. Can you allow yourself to lose 25%-50% of your work force? When you’re in an accelerator money comes to you. And if you’re good you’ll get enough money to get you rolling. Always remember that when you’re part of an accelerator your potential investors due diligence is almost done.

“I can reach any mentor I wish”

Like the money part, I bet you can. But how much time will it get you to reach the right people? When you’re in an accelerator the right people come to you. It’s just up to you to pick a few that can really help your business and maintain the relationship. Another thing to consider when you’re sure you can reach everyone. These mentors are usually successful people and their time for help is very limited. Put yourself in their shoes. When they get a request for help from an accelerator, where they can help a few companies in almost the same time, or from you, who do you think they’ll choose?

“My company is too far along”

If you raised $10M in a $100M evaluation you’re probably right. But if you’re an early/seed stage company or if you just have a prototype, an accelerator program can really help you get to the market fast. There’s a huge difference between 2 guys working from home in their boxers (each one in his house, not together :)) to 2 guys working in a space with a lot of other great companies. In a space where experts come and go at a rate that you can’t even track. And the most important thing in my opinion is that it makes your company real. Other people, usually really strong people, have an interest in your company. You have a network of people who know a thing or two about the entrepreneurial world that will do anything for your company to succeed. And believe me, this is a lot.

 

What’s the bottom line then? I guess I’m biased but I’m in favour of entering such programs but I recommend to pick the suitable program for your company carefully. Not all the programs out there are equal and not all of them will get you accelerated. If you decided to go for an accelerator program (and get accepted) I suggest you read this great post from Tal Raviv.
And another suggestion is to hear a different opinion so go read this post.

I’ll love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment. Thanks for reading.

Software piracy – are we all thieves?

20 Feb

I’ll start by saying yes. Most of us. But it’s not really our fault.

First of all, for all you bleeding hearts out there, do you really want to tell me you never used a pirated copy of a software because paying 50$ for a single use seemed way too much? You never downloaded an MP3 of a song you really liked because you didn’t want to pay for the whole CD? Downloaded the episode you missed of your favorite series? Or maybe just jail braked your iPhone/iPad/PS/Wii…? You probably see where I’m going with it. We’ve all been there. And yeah, this makes us thieves. While we’re paying for anything that we can feel, somehow it looks OK for us to steal something that’s virtual but maybe took much more time and effort to produce than the tangible goods we’re used to buy.

I say it’s not our fault. If you don’t mind I’ll focus on the software industry but it’s the same in the music industry, movies industry, mobile apps, etc.

For years now software publishers have made everything they can to keep us away from paying them. Long registration forms, giving away our payment credentials to yet another publisher,  serial numbers, selecting the right version and it goes on and on. And, on top of that, the irrational price that has no proportion to how we’re going to use the software. Why should I pay a backup utility 50$ when I’ll probably use it once in a few months? It’s not like I’m sitting all day long backing things up and then restoring them…

So, publishers saw that we just don’t pay for their software however we do use it. This fact made them come to the amazing conclusion that we use illegal copies. And what did they do next? Started spending tones of money on the best copy protection, bullet proof, can’t be pirated licensing. But guess what? That didn’t work. So they started looking for other places to bring money from. From affiliate programs to toolbars to ads and what not. Making money from everything they can install on the user’s machine except of their own software. The installed software became a channel for the user’s machine.

Even though we’re at the 21st century and SaaS is becoming really popular we still barely see software publishers that understood that to get users buying your products you need to be nice to them. We, at Licensario, offer a different approach. We think that software publishers should stop wasting resources to find new ways to say NO to users. Instead, we say, go ahead and say YES to your users. What do I mean by that? I started this post by saying that publishers made it really hard for us to pay. It’s time to ease the process. Make it dead simple to pay. Be nice to your users. Offer them flexible payment plans. Offer subscriptions. Offer payments for usage (pay-per-use). Don’t let your users go wandering in a website for the suitable version, do it in-app. License your features or at least make it simple for the user to understand what she’s paying for. Use micro payments. And don’t ask them for their credit card. Users should have one account for all software content – across platforms.

This model works. Guaranteed. Apple already proved it with their app store. SaaS has proven it.

We will not stop piracy. Neither do SOPA and PIPA. I wonder if anyone can. But it’s definitely possible to raise the buy rate. If buy rates are higher in the gaming world where people are willing to pay for virtual goods such as swords or the best sheep in town why can’t it be with software? Software publishers should treat their features as virtual goods and people will pay for them when they need them the most. Just give them the option and be kind. You’ll be surprised on users’ willingness to pay:

Public opinion strongly favors intellectual property (IP) rights: seven PC users in 10 support paying innovators for their creations to promote more technology advances.

I added a poll at the end. Maybe it will shed some more light of what makes it easier for people to pay for software, apps or any digital content. I’ll appreciate if you’ll answer it.

If you like this post I’ll appreciate if you’ll like or follow Licensario.

Startup life. The bad days. (*)

11 Feb

Entrepreneurs are dreamers. Of course there is money involved but mostly they dream about how they’ll change the world. But sometimes reality strikes. And many times it strikes bad.

A few weeks ago we (at Licensario) had a crappy week.

Before that things were going really good for us. We felt like we were going in the right direction. We were dreamers. And then, one morning, you wake up into a storm. Reality strikes.

I wanted to write this post on that week but I’m glad I didn’t. Things got back on track since then. We’re starting our beta and there’s a lot of interest from companies we haven’t dream of talking with at this stage. I guess I wanted to write this blog to focus for a minute on the down side of things. I think that most of the stories we hear are of companies that succeeded which is great but there are more who didn’t. And even those who succeeded had bad days.

So, how do you get past the bad days? The best thing in my opinion is to remember that failure is the path to success (I’m sure that an old smart man said it sometime… If not, I’m taking the copyrights on this one for myself :)). I don’t have the statistics but I bet most of successful people failed a few times before they got to where they are. If you believe in what you’re doing and you’re sure your idea is a game changing one then give yourself a minute to be down and then get back on the horse. The market is not waiting for you to get over some bad news. I know that some people will read it and say that it’s easier said than done. Well, bullshit I say. Sure, when you’re down it seems like everyone around you is having fun, making a lot of money and on their way to success. Always remember, that’s a load of crap. It’s just like that when we have a girlfriend we’re sure that all the women out there wants us. Yeah right. The fact you’ve got a girl beside you doesn’t mean that you’re not the same ugly dude. It’s just a matter of perception. Remember, we’re all human beings. We share the same fears.

You need to keep in mind that things change fast. Especially when you’re running a startup company. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and it goes fast. It’s not a ride where you just sit back and relax. It’s not a 9 to 5 ride. And it’s definitely not a ride for people with a low breaking threshold. But, with that said, I’ll recommend it to everyone who’s thinking about taking the risk. Unless you’re a big shoot in a company there’s no other way for you to take critical decisions. A life changing decisions for your company. And that’s the exciting part of the rollercoaster ride. You learn in a day more than you learn in a month in an office job. You learn about how to run a company, how to take an idea from the grounds up but the most important thing is that you learn about yourself.

You don’t get used to bad news but you can definitely learn how to handle them better.

(*) The credit for the title goes to my partner, Igor Shapiro

Millions of users without making a buck – Should it really be that way?

24 Jan

Disclaimer: I’m the CEO of Licensario, a company who targets to build the ultimate solution for monetizing your application. The following cases are examples to where there is a need of finding a source of revenue. I wrote this post after attending a great meetup in order to start a discussion which companies in the same situation could learn from. This is not by any chance an attempt to market Licensario.

A few days ago I heard the CEOs of Viber and Soluto – 2 of the most promising Israeli startups – speak about their companies and how they got from 0 to millions of users. I put millions of users in bold in purpose. Not because it’s surprising that such products are used by millions. That’s not surprising at all. I think they got excellent products and great people are working on those products. It gets just one glance at Soluto’s UX to understand that you want their creative department to work for you. The thing that amazes me the most is what these 2 companies share. Them and many other companies. Millions of users and no income. Zero. None. How can it be? How can such successful companies with brilliant people, millions of users (active users), VCs backing them are not making any money? Can we even call them successful if they’re not making any money? Can a company with no clear notion on how it’s going to make money should even exist? Should a company exist if the only revenue they can see in the future is an exit?

I know that some readers might raise an eyebrow at this point. They will definitely start quoting all the experts they read that said that in the beginning you shouldn’t worry too much about how your product will make money. I partially agree. I won’t get into why I don’t totally agree. This deserves a whole post. I’ll just say that businesses purpose is making money. More raised eyebrows here for sure. Let’s just say I’m in the entrepreneurship business in order to change the world like any other entrepreneur but a business, as an entity, should make money. Anyway, I’m not talking about starting companies. I’m talking about established companies. With millions of users.

When these companies were asked the difficult question “how on earth are you going to make money?” the audience got answers like “sell extra features, charge enterprises for our service etc.”. What can I say, I wasn’t too pleased with the answers. I don’t know if I could give better answers but I do have some suggestions.

Let’s take Viber for a second. Viber offers free calls and text messaging. From what their CEO Talmon Marco told the audience they have 45M active users. Amazing number. I think that Viber exists 2 years. So, 45M active users after 2 years. Clearly a number every entrepreneur will love to see after 2 years of operation. It means they have a great product. A lot of people love it and remember to use it every month. I’ve got a revolutionary suggestion. Start taking money for your app. I know it’s a big risk but let’s imagine for a second. Let’s say Viber will charge 10 cents for their app. Even for their existing users. No doubt, some people will stop using their app. Let’s say they’ll lose half of their users. this leaves them with 22.5M users which turns out to be $2.5M coming into the company. It sounds better than $0 but there is still a problem with that model. Viber wants a monthly revenue stream. What if Viber charged their users 10 cents per month? The immediate conclusion one makes out of this kind of decision is that they will lose a lot of users. How many? 80% of their users? 90% of their users? All of them? Viber was able to engage millions of users to use the app every month so it’s reasonable to assume  they will stay with at least 10% of their users. This means 4.5M active users, $450K per month, $5.4M per year. I think that’s better than not making money at all. Another thing that might be reasonable to consider is that for a user to use Viber depends on if her friends are using it. So, if most of her friends were willing to give it a try the first month (it’s only 10 cents per month!) she will also give it a try. And if her friends are using it, their friends’ friends are using it and so on.

Surprisingly, my suggestion for Soluto is the same. Charge for your service. Why charge only enterprises? Soluto got a great product with an amazing user experience. With Soluto it’s easy for you to be the only geek around (or virtually around) that knows about computers and how to fix them. Soluto’s CEO Tomer Dvir’s answer to how are they going to make money is that if you have up to 5 computers you help to in your network it’s free because it means you are a personal user. If you have more than 5 then it’s a company and they will charge for it. Why not charge personal users as well? What if Soluto decided that if someone wants remote access to her computer for fixing purposes she needs to pay 1$? I bet that most of the people will pay. Why not, it’s much cheaper than calling a technician. They can even start a network of Soluto technicians that people will give access in order to fix their computers. Some of the money that the ones getting the help payed will go to the Soluto technician that helped and some to Soluto (30%, 70% is popular these days…).

Why do companies are so afraid charging for their products? Is it technological difficulties with dealing with charging users and offering them flexible pricing? Is it because people got used to free stuff when it comes to software? Is it piracy that became easier to people than paying? Are they afraid all their users will stop using their product? Maybe it’s because the paying process really pisses users off (Apple did a great job easing this issue)?
I don’t have a clear answer for this question yet and I’ll be happy to hear what you think. Maybe the poll below will help…

Update (October 13th, 2013): I closed the poll. Following are the results. You can also view them in the following link as a chart:  https://app.slik.io/charts/chart_ee004e2d518b36bc1cfaSoon I’ll write a blog post about the results and about the funny answers I got as ‘other’…

The music that made my week – January 18th

17 Jan

Yo yo, how are you people?  It’s been a stormy week out here and thus this week playlist will be adjusted accordingly.

Here’s this week’s playlist for a rainy day link – music for a rainy day

Pearl Jam – Just Breath

Just finished watching the movie Pearl Jam Twenty. As you already guessed I’m a big Pearl Jam fan. You can hate their music, tell they gone too mainstream or you can go Kurt Cobain on them but there is one thing that I think most people will agree on. Pearl Jam is one of the most respectable bands ever. Their pursuit after their fans benefit, the way they always stood up for what they believed in and the way they survived the shitty times they’ve been through overwhelms me. In the era of instant, where stars are made out of crappy reality TV shows, the era of the Coldplays and Britney Spearses, Pearl Jam is truly a pearl and one can just hope that they will be celebrating 40 so our kids will know how it was in the old world – where music was art.

Sun Kil Moon – Blue Orchids

Sun Kil Moon is another project of the great Mark Kozelek. I just love the harmony of Mark’s voice and his guitar playing. Perfect for stormy weather. You can find a great cover of this song here.

Mojave 3 – Bluebird of Happiness

I think I’ll start a new section in the posts of the music that made my week. The section will be called: “Put your earphones on, turn the volume to max and float away”. It will probably last a week :). Anyway, this is this week’s float away song. I’ve been to a concert of Mojave 3 about a year go and for some reason they performed strange versions for most of the songs. I didn’t like it. I like they’re album versions much more.

Sigur Ros – Untitled 4

This is taken from the Vanilla Sky soundtrack. Great movie in my opinion.

every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.

David Bowie – Wild Is The Wind

King David celebrated 65 last week. Where are you David???

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and like always, let me know what music made your week.