Archive for the ‘startup’ tag
Just like its print counterpart, the Web incarnation of Inc hopes to provide the startup world with useful advice. “It’s a resource for business owners, fast-growing companies, entrepreneurs and people with an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Nicole Richardson, the site’s executive editor of special projects. Despite their similar missions, however, Inc.com’s content is decidedly more Web-friendly with short, service pieces.
Anyone with expertise related to entrepreneurism or business management may be able to land a gig as an Inc.com columnist. Get more details, plus contact info for editors accepting pitches in How To Pitch: Inc.com.
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New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
As a lawyer who advises startups, I’m increasingly asked by clients how to make the company more appealing to venture capitalists.
This doesn’t surprise me, given the industry’s navel gazing over the so-called “Series A Crunch.” And it’s true that the growth in the number of new startups has outpaced growth in venture capital outlays, creating a more competitive funding environment.
So what do I tell startup founders who ask this question? I often respond by asking, how killer is your idea? That’s still what matters most to VCs.
But the conception of what constitutes a good idea has evolved in the last several business cycles. Like most of us in today’s economy, VCs are under pressure to do more with less. Venture asset classes have lost value in recent years, so limited partners are favoring startups that aren’t capital intensive, and that can demonstrate a strong likelihood of generating real revenues in the first few years.
The upshot is that VCs are favoring ideas that solve big but practical problems. Often these ideas respond to large-scale needs of businesses, rather than consumers. The ideas also don’t require the imagination of a futurist to understand their potential market value. They are a product or service that is clearly needed now and is likely to be adopted with relative alacrity and limited risk.
If a VC is sold on an idea, he or she will then consider other factors that influence a startup’s success, such as talent, experience and technical resources. Unfortunately for first-time entrepreneurs, those who have already started a successful company will have an advantage in this area.
VCs also prefer companies that don’t require big capital expenditures for expensive assets like manufacturing equipment or telecommunications infrastructure. Doing more with less is a watchword that continues to carry weight in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York.
It’s also important to demonstrate a keen understanding of the micro and macroeconomic trends and dynamics that affect the broader economy and your market niche. Show that you know your sector well enough to adapt to changing circumstances. It can take months, or years, in some cases, to bring a new product to market. During that time conditions can change — are you prepared to make the quick decisions needed to remain a viable force for growth?
The last thing I often tell startup founders anxious about first round funding is to remember that many companies have been successful without it. Today’s technology is relatively affordable and accessible, often allowing entrepreneurs to create valuable companies with very little overhead. Part of being an entrepreneur is finding a path to realize a vision regardless of the barriers. In the end, vision and commitment of this kind are the most important assets of any emerging company.
Mick Bain is the partner in charge of WilmerHale’s Waltham, Massachusetts office and co-chair of the firm’s Emerging Company and Venture Capital practices.
Top image of a consulting lawyer via Shutterstock
Filed under: Business
The Ontario ministry of economic development has invited VentureBeat to check out the center of the universe, AKA, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And I’m the lucky guinea pig.
We’ll be in Toronto from Monday to Friday this week, checking out startups like Hubba, WattPad, and Fixmo, and talking to local venture capitalists as well as angel investors. In addition, we’ll be getting an intro to quantum computing at the University of Waterloo and taking a tour of Google’s Waterloo facility, where Googlers work on Android and Chrome technology.
I’ll also be at Extreme Startups, an accelerator in Toronto that has a cohort of startups just in the middle of their program.
In between, however, it’d be great to meet a few other founders for coffee, dinner, or drinks. Or just to say hello and put a face to an email address.
Best place to get in touch with me is Twitter: @johnkoetsier.
Naveen Tewari is the CEO and founder of mobile advertising company InMobi.
When I co-founded InMobi in 2007, we took a novel “east-to-west” approach to our growth, starting in India before moving into other developing markets, then finally into more traditional “Western” markets as well.
Because this method of expansion didn’t have any precursors, and mobile advertising was at the time still a very new field, we had to chart our own course and set our own example. And as a corollary, we would have to deal with a number of challenges as we discovered that the mobile landscape was different in each geography we entered, and learn to quickly recover from mistakes.
I’d like to talk about some of the challenges we faced and how we dealt with them, as I believe it will be of relevance to other businesses that are trying to build a global footprint:
Learning while doing
Because we were experimenting with a new business model, we often had to rely on intuition as we calculated our next moves. When you are trying to expand across multiple geographies at a rapid pace, you are bound to slip, and we were no exception. For example, our first forays out of India into other geographies, starting with Indonesia and South Africa, did not yield initial success, and we could not gain a strong foothold in the market. Our lack of understanding of the ways in which brands, advertisers, and consumers communicated and interacted in these markets, and incorrect hypotheses about the overall advertising ecosystem, led to delayed revenue streams. But we learned how the ecosystem worked and began expanding our reach in these emerging markets.
Likewise, when we had to extend the capabilities of our platform to serve multiple regions/countries, we almost ran the risk of jeopardizing existing business in India by shifting focus away from it.
We learned quickly from such wrong moves, and this helped us templatize our forays into new countries, and that is the key takeaway:
An experiential learning approach works well if you can recover from your mistakes quickly and identify patterns and models from within a few iterations.
Recalibrating world view frequently
Working with an evolving technology and business model, and one that had numerous dependencies on the moves of key players in the mobile device and platform platform markets, brought with it another set of challenges: frequently making informed decisions on the roadmap of our technology platform, which was the pivot of our business.
In addition, our geographic expansion plan also compelled us to be agile and flexible. Once we had tasted initial success, we laid out a plan to simultaneously expand in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore), Western Europe and Japan. Each of these markets had its own characteristics and was very different from one another. Western Europe was developed, and so was Japan, but the latter is a contained market with little in common with the European market. The emerging markets, on the other hand, were evolving and needed a totally different approach.
Clearly, we had to tailor our approach to suit each market, and this meant that we literally had to revisit our assumptions and plans every quarter.
In all of the above, our overall commitment to speed — in thinking and in action — helped, and our approach of trying out and making course corrections, rather than waiting and watching, stood out. To me, the key takeaway from this experience is staying committed to a strategy for the future, while adapting the tactics to the present.
Shaping Management Mindset
While the first two sets of challenges emanated from the market, the third was more internal and had to do with adopting the right mindset.
As a startup with global ambitions, we had several mental hurdles to cross. Learning to think big while being small was one of them. Some of us had a tendency to want to do one thing very well as opposed to developing broader competencies and skills, which is a prerequisite to build scale. Another issue was balancing our short-term needs with our long-term goals. Nowhere was it a bigger challenge than when we opened offices in new geographies and set out to hire the regional anchors. How much to pay, how long to wait for the right candidate, what profile should we opt for? These were real questions we had to find answers for. We made a few errors of judgment here as well, like hiring candidates about whom we were not completely convinced, before we made the tough call to wait for the right candidates and pay them the right compensation.
The last thing we had to do, of course, was to transform our thinking, speaking and actions to reflect those of a truly global organization, and make the transition from being part of an “Indian” team to a cross-cultural one. This entailed creating a consistent corporate culture with frequent interactions between teams based in India and those in the other markets. By encouraging two-way travel, we ensured that teams from India understood market and cross-cultural nuances early on.
In sum, we learned to be open, introspective and aware of the consequences of your behavior and actions.
Thinking back, what allowed us to surmount the challenges we faced and mold our thinking and actions to suit the purpose was our total commitment to our vision and the excitement of creating an innovative and valuable business model.
That is the overarching message I’d like to leave you with: clarity of vision and purpose is the glue that binds a team together and acts as a lubricant to mitigate the friction caused by obstacles along the way.
For more information on InMobi’s East-to-West strategy, see Naveen Tewari’s first post, here.
Naveen Tewari is InMobi’s CEO and founder. He graduated from Harvard Business School and worked at Charles River Ventures and McKinsey & Company before starting InMobi. InMobi, based in Bangalore with offices in Singapore and San Francisco, currently employs more than 900 people and has taken $216 million to date in venture funding.
FounderFuel, Seedcamp, and Startmate hosting a combined international demo day in San Francisco next week
The largest accelerator in Canada, the biggest seed investor in Europe, and one of the top seed funds in Australia are joining forced to put on one major demo day for 15 of their top startups next Wednesday in San Francisco.
“I think it’s a first … I’m not sure anyone has ever done this before,” FounderFuel’s Ian Jeffery told me yesterday when we chatted about the big demo day.
The three organizers include FounderFuel, an accelerator based in Montréal Quebec whose last demo day had a massive 800-strong audience, Seedcamp, which runs Europe’s most prolific seed funding program out of Google’s London campus, and Startmate, which helps startups grow in Sydney, Australia. Together, they’re doing something a little unprecedented: showcasing their best 15 startups on one day at one time, right in the heart of global startup central: San Francisco.
“The best startups, while sometimes ending up in Silicon Valley, are increasingly formed outside of the Bay Area and FounderFuel, Seedcamp and Startmate each play pivotal roles at the epicenters of startup communities outside of the US.,” the group said in a statement.
Here are the participating startups, with brief bios provided by the accelerators:
Epilogger: The Center of Attention http://epilogger.com
Find photos, videos, blogs, & conversations from any event. Epilogger is the entire event collected from everyone automatically into one place. We are THE web platform and app to experience the event before, during, and after. Epilogger is a growing community and the central destination for all content from any event big or small in your city and around the globe. Whether it’s that great conference, that inspiring movement or humankind’s next giant leap, we’ll be there. We are the event.
InfoActive: Bring life to data http://infoactive.co
InfoActive makes it easy to create mobile-friendly, interactive infographics with live data. Drop live data streams into interactive infographics that scale to any device, and double your engagement metrics with interactive, data-driven content. Won “Best Bootstrap Company” at SXSW 2013.
MyCustomizer: Empowering the Customization Revolution http://mycustomizer.com
MyCustomizer empowers brands and retailers to offer outstanding product customization experiences with a ready-to-use SaaS platform. Market leading brands sparked the customization revolution by investing massively in “design-your-own” online experiences. Whether they offer sports equipment, shoes, suits & ties, chocolate, or even cars, MyCustomizer empowers businesses to join the revolution by seamlessly connecting brands, retailers, and consumers through a unique customization SaaS platform.
OOHLALA: Energize your Campus experience! http://gotoohlala.com
The Mobile platform that connects post-secondary students with their campus.
Maily: Your kids first email http://maily.com
Maily is e-mail re-invented for kids. Kids create emails using five tools adapted to their needs: pencils, brushes, photos, backgrounds, stamps and their own words. Maily accounts are created and supervised by you, the parents. You decide who your children can communicate with. More than 50,000 kids are using Maily, and more than 600,000 Mailys have been sent so far.
Crowdprocess: Web-based Supercomputing http://crowdprocess.com
CrowdProcess is an online market for supercomputing. It allows developers to process data on the web browsers of people who are visiting websites. CrowdProcess sells this processing power as a service, and pays the websites’ owners. In summary, CrowdProcess does distributed computing, on web browsers, via websites.
QAMINE: Code analysis platform for the cloud http://qamine.com
QAMINE is an Automated Software Testing as a Service platform that analyzes developers’ commits without disruption to their workflow and with a one-click installation solution. With over 12,000 registered repositories (acquired in less than 2 weeks) and a concrete/revolutionary roadmap and vision for the future, we want to become the world’s best code analysis tool for the cloud.
Blossom: Lean Product Management http://blossom.io
Blossom is a project management tool for building modern web & mobile applications. Unlike other project management tools that focus on managing vast amounts of tickets in the backlog – Blossom helps you to focus on the current iteration, who’s doing what and what can be shipped next. It introduces just-in-time production concepts from lean manufacturing to the world of software development. The ideal project management tool for agile companies that ship early & often.
Campalyst: Cutting edge Social Media ROI analytics suite http://campalyst.com/
Campalyst’s enterprise level Social Media Management Suite empowers brands with the unique ability to connect monetary ROI to their Social Media efforts and fully understand how and why social media contributes to their bottom line revenue. No more buzzwords, no more guesswork, we provide actionable financial performance analytics built for the age of social media marketing.
BugCrowd: Crowdsourced security vulnerability testing http://bugcrowd.com
Bugcrowd is crowdsourced security for web and mobile apps. We run managed bug bounties as a service for our customers. A bug bounty is where a group of friendly security researchers are invited to compete to find security flaws. If they’re the first to report a new bug they are rewarded with cash and Bugcrowd Kudos points.
Edrolo: Great education = Great Teachers http://edrolo.com
Edrolo delivers high school students great grades when it counts. We have more than 2,000 paying customers in the US and Australia and have left our jobs at Google, Goldman Sachs and a successful startup because we believe great teachers should impact hundreds of thousands of students not hundreds. We find the rockstar educator for each subject, curriculum & exam and partner with them to build on-demand video, quizzes, study notes & more.
Goodcall.io: Convert and retail customers with a phone call http://goodcall.io
Good Call helps online businesses convert and retain customers with outbound phone calls. It’s an long proven practice that we have redesigned for web applications. Our customers create events in their web app that trigger outbound calls. An agent is notified and an outbound call is made through our platform. Customers can use their own internal agents, or choose from our marketplace of outbound professionals. All calls and metrics are recorded and presented to our customers.
Kinderloop: Bringing the simplicity of Instagram to the lives of child carers http://kinderloop.com
A web, and mobile application that brings the simplicity of instagram to the lives of child carers worldwide. Carers use the app to quickly and securely post video, photos and news.Parents are updated immediately.
Shiftr: Simply swap work shifts http://shiftrapp.com
Shiftr is an employee-facing mobile app for hospitality and retail enterprises. Our mobile app gives employees flexibility & involvement in the scheduling process, whilst giving managers the information to make the right decisions quickly. Shiftr has traction in fast-food franchises and retail enterprises.
Sarah Hanson, the 19-year-old teen who auctioned 10% of her income for a $125K startup investment, may not exist
Last week I published the story of Sarah Hanson, the 19-year-old developer who auctioned off 10 percent of her future income in exchange for a $125,000 investment into her startup, Senior Living Map. Subsequently, many other news sites picked up on Hanson’s amazing story.
Today, I’m wondering if Sarah Hanson really exists.
When I originally contacted Hanson to chat about the auction, her startup, and why she’s skipping college to go straight into the tech startup world, she didn’t want to talk on the phone. Instead, she asked me to conduct the interview via email. That happens from time to time, so I said OK.
But then a TV network reporter called VentureBeat, telling us that Hanson asked to be interviewed via email for a segment she was planning to do. Not only that, the reporter said, Hanson absolutely refused to do a phone interview. A VentureBeat reader contacted me and questioned whether Hanson was too good to be true. And when a journalist at another publication asked me if she was real or existed, I had to dig a little deeper.
My story began when Sarah Hanson, or someone purporting to be a 19-year-old girl named Sarah Hanson, contacted VentureBeat via email about how she funded her startup:
Hi, I wanted to follow up and let you know the auction ended at $125,000
It’s the result I hoped for but I’m still a bit stunned.
A couple week ago, I was sitting at my desk trying to come up with an idea that would enable me to work on Senior Living Map full-time.
Today, I have someone willing to invest $125,000 in me. The beauty and power of the internet. It’s amazing.
An email conversation ensued, and after she asked to be interviewed via email, I sent her a list of questions. I also checked for a LinkedIn account or a Twitter account, but didn’t find one, and put that down to her age. At that point, perhaps I should have been more suspicious.
Her answers, as you can see in the story, are superb and reveal a precocious teen (or someone) with insightful answers such as “my definition of being an underserved market is the lack of a solution that provides the maximum amount of value with the minimum amount of complexity,” which she credited to Aaron Levie, the founder and CEO of Box. But there’s also a lack of specificity to her answers that some people find suspicious: no mention of which college she’s attending, no city or location, and no name for the angel investor who won the auction by bidding $125,000.
The website itself, Senior Living Map, is light on details about the company, organization, or people behind it. It lists no address, no location, and no phone number. There is an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, but no other contact information. One clue, however, can be found in the sites terms of service, the legal framework under which it can be accessed:
Any claim relating to Senior Living Map’s website shall be governed by the laws of the State of Washington without regard to its conflict of law provisions.
A search of the Washington State corporation records turns up no company called Senior Living Map. Neither does a search of Nevada or Delaware corporations, other tax and investor-friendly places where many companies incorporate.
But pair that with the fact that I can’t find a Twitter account for a Sarah Hanson who is running a startup, or a LinkedIn account, or a Facebook account for a Sarah Hanson who seems to match the profile, and there’s a massive lack of corroborating evidence. In short, I have no idea whether the Sarah Hanson I thought I was dealing with actually exists, is who she says she is, built Senior Living Map, or even took a $125,000 investment.
I contacted Madison, Wis.-based 32 Auctions to see if I could learn more. The answers I got were less than satisfactory, mostly due to the auction sites’ design:
I’m including a general response which we are providing to reporters in regards to this particular auction. This should answer most of your questions.
We built 32auctions in a way that makes it very easy for anyone to host a silent auction online without needing to work directly with us.
In regards to this particular auction…
We have had no contact with the auction administrator. We first saw mention of this auction on April 14th through Twitter. From what we’ve seen, the auction looks legitimate. However, only the parties involved will really know.
The majority of auctions hosted on 32auctions are fundraisers for non-profits, schools, churches, friends/family with a significant life event, and businesses looking to help their communities. This is the first time we’ve seen someone auctioning off their future earnings to fund a start-up.
In response to further requests to speak on the phone, the 32 Auctions contact apologized and said that “we only offer support through email.” I hate to say that this is starting to sound familiar, but frankly, it is.
I have also attempted to contact Sarah Hanson multiple times via email. I told her I would like to give her a chance to set the record straight and prove that she is who she says she is.
I have received no response yet.
So here we are. I can’t guarantee that the woman I wrote a story about exists. And I can’t disprove it at the moment, either. All I can do is lay out what I have learned so far, and keep digging to learn more. If I have written about a fake, constructed persona, and have been the victim of an elaborate hoax, either for publicity or kicks or some as-yet-unknown reason, I apologize to VentureBeat readers.
One additional note: My original Sarah Hanson story has been picked up by a massive number of publications, with Huffington Post, CBC, Yahoo, GeekWire, and AOL writing about Sarah Hanson and Senior Living Map.
If this was an attempt to gain publicity, it was massively successful: There are no less than 242,000 Google results for “sarah hanson senior living map,” many of them stories about how she crowdsourced her startup funding.
So if the original story is accurate, I ask Sarah Hanson to please stand up … and take off the mask. As you said in your first email to me, the beauty and power of the Internet is amazing.
Just not always the way we hope it would be.
He’s the guy who, while working in a quiet office with you, on some tedious but essential deliverable, late at night, will start humming out loud the majestic Jurassic Park theme song because, he says, it “makes everything more meaningful” (it does—try it).
He’s that person who is so naturally great at dealing with people—clients and peers—that you can’t understand how does it seems so effortless. And he’s that colleague who’s way more mature than his years, and who can come up and execute great ideas because he understands what makes people tick. This interview will help you get to know him a little better. Take the time to read it— you’ll be richer for it. —Constantin Basturea, Manager at Accenture
Katie Sheppet interview Paull Young, director of digital at charity: water
Katie Sheppet (KS): Paull, in 2007 you became “Internet famous” when you left Australia and travelled/blogged your way through several countries and two continents. Along the way you met PR practitioners and academics and eventually ended up in New York City, where you were hired by a social media-oriented agency. How did you get from your birthplace (in regional Australia) to developing this “global mindset?”
Paull Young (PY): I think it started with a family vacation to Europe when I was nine. That trip, coupled with extensive backpacking after high school, meant that travelling across the world wasn’t scary, but extremely exciting.
It’s a distinctly Australian characteristic that our young people are so well travelled. I’ve found our approach to travel is one of the bigger differences with American society.
Personally, I place a really high value in life on connections and experience—and travel is one of the best ways to do both. I thrive on learning, and travelling to new cultures translates to a constant learning experience.
What made me up and move my life, though, was work. I’ve long been passionate about the opportunities the Internet provides for relationship building and communication, and for the last six years I’ve had the good luck to be living and working at the forefront of digital innovation.
My current travel goal is to visit 30 countries and 30 American states by the time I turn 30 in September, and I’m well on track!
KS: The NGO you currently work for, charity: water, is a global charity based in the USA. Does heritage play a role in working there?
PY: There are actually three Australians amongst our full-time staff—we’re taking over the office (through bribes of Tim Tams and Bundaberg Rum)! There are 50 staff members of which 46 are American and based in NYC with us Australians, and there’s one Kenyan staff members who works as a water programs officer in Kenya.
We’re a global organisation, and while our main donor base to date has been American, we think globally and know we’ll need to expand around the world to hit our aggressive goals as we scale. I’ve been very happy to see Australia be one of our larger international audiences already, and I’m excited to see our Aussie audience continue to grow.
KS: As director of digital, how would you characterise your primary role: is it strategic or more focused on tactical deployment through social platforms and digital storytelling?
PY: The nature of a startup is that you wear multiple hats and need to be able to plan for the future while also rolling up your sleeves and getting stuff done.
Strategic thinking is a strength of mine though and an important part of my role as a member of the executive leadership team of the organisation.
Typically for our web campaigns, my role is to define the strategy to achieve our goals. Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, acts as our visionary on product, creative and marketing ideas, and then our talented creative team (led by Scott’s wife, Viktoria) makes amazing content that we share with the world.
I try to be the balance point between our freewheeling creative strength and the need for a strategic approach to communication. And not to forget, advocating the benefits of rigorous measurement.
One of the ideas I had at charity: water I was most proud to see executed was our thank-you videos to mark our fifth anniversary. We made 250 personal thank-you videos for donors of all stripes and engaged our entire staff. In producing the videos we had no direct-fundraising objectives—it was all about relationship building and showing how much our brand cares about our donors.
I still regularly see that mini-creative campaign referenced, and every time I do I smile.
KS: Speaking of relationship building, are the village elders/politicians and citizens, primarily the beneficiaries of this largesse of providing cleaner, safe drinking water or are they playing a role in the decisions being made? How do you balance the voice of the organisation itself and that of its recipients?
PY: Our model involves deep integration with local cultures and people. This is a big part of the reason we partner with, and fund, local implementing groups who lead the work on the ground. In the 21 countries we work in, there’s a network of local partners who understand the culture they operate in and work with the communities to bring clean water.
An example of this is a partner I will visit for the first time in April 2013, the Relief Society of Tigray in northern Ethiopia. I’ve heard remarkable things about the organisation, in particular the leadership of Teklewoini, who played a leadership role in protecting people in his region during the Ethiopian civil war. Since time he has devoted his life to 100 per cent water coverage for the region.
At the village level, collaboration is even more important. The typical model we see with partners involves the formation of a water committee where villagers are appointed and trained to collect funds from the community, lead training and assist with maintenance. It’s incredibly important that the community takes on ownership of the water project as their own—not as a handout from an aid agency.
As far as storytelling goes, we’re very mindful of respect for the people we serve. We are conscious of the stories we present as a brand and will typically pour dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into creating one of our stories. As such, it’s important that our creative team in NYC lead the story creation—but we only get a great story by becoming deeply embedded with local communities and citizens.
KS: It is clear that charity: water is a game changer in many ways and lauded for its values, goals and successes, as well as ingenuity about using social media rather than conventional fundraising techniques. That having been said, I’m curious whether there have been any PR reputation or issues management hiccups along the way to overcome?
PY: The nature of international development work is that it is immensely challenging. Our partners work in some of the most isolated and difficult regions on the planet, and because of these challenges it’s rare things go precisely as planned.
Charity: water’s approach is to embrace this uncertainty. We place strong value on transparency, so much so that we’ll present the truth to supporters even if it’s not the glowing story for which we’d hoped. The best example I’ve seen of this was the 2010 live drill from Moale, Central African Republic.
Every year on our September 7th “founding” birthday we post a video from the field of the work being done. It’s an eagerly awaited moment for our supporters, and typically sees us posting a joyous video, filmed that day of a new water project being created and people celebrating their lives being changed.
But in 2010, it didn’t play out that way. The village we drilled in (which we knew was a risky location) sat atop what we later learned was 30-40 stories of sand. So instead of posting a celebratory video to our supporters, we shared a more authentic story of failure. We even titled the video, “Failure on our birthday.”
I was in our New York office executing the launch of this video, and must admit I was very nervous how our audience would respond. We were overjoyed (and relieved) to see an overwhelmingly positive response to this video, with our supporters using words like “authentic” and “transparent” to describe it.
KS: In the excellent October 2012 profile in Australia’s Marketing Magazine (prior to your appearance at the Global Alliance’s World PR Forum, proudly hosted by the Public Relations Institute of Australia), you said working for a “startup” NGO isn’t done for financial compensation. What motivated you to leave the more-flush agency world and move into non-profit work?
PY: I’ve always been a cause-driven person—my mum loves to tell a story about me as a seven year old, when I very seriously told her I wanted to be Australia’s Prime Minister one day to help solve the world’s problems.
When I started my program at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, I was asked what I’d like to do with my career in public relations. My answer was sports or cause marketing; seven years into my career and I’ve done both.
I loved the charity: water brand before I started working here. I first heard about it in 2008 when I “gave up” my September birthday to help fund water projects in Ethiopia. Over the years I got more connected to the organisation, and when a job came up I had to explore it. I feel honoured to work with a brand that does world-changing work, while also reinventing how people give, including pushing the edges of digital innovation.
If I didn’t work at charity: water, I don’t think I’d be at another non-profit, but I do know that whatever position, I’d be trying to make a positive impact on the world.
KS: It’s clear you’re driven to help others. I noticed your collaboration with friends on the #EatDownTipUp campaign, where you helped your local community by encouraging New Yorkers to eat at downtown restaurants and tip double after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Could you tell me a little more about how this came about?
PY: #EatDownTipUp was a rewarding experience; yet another proof point that people are good and want to make a positive impact on others.
My neighbourhood in NYC had a blackout throughout Hurricane Sandy, and many of the local businesses I frequent lost a lot of business and had severe water damage. Immediately—once the power was back—it felt like the right thing to try to support those businesses. While having my first meal back in the neighbourhood, I saw an Anthony Bourdain tweet about supporting local businesses by eating downtown and tipping heavily.
I immediately felt this could be a way to easily allow people to do good, while at the same time most volunteering options in the city were over subscribed. So that night (over dinner) three friends and I came up with the hashtag; the next morning we hosted a brunch for 20 people who wanted to help out, and suddenly people were jumping on it all over the city.
The next day I was in Boston for business meetings and when I came out of them learned Anthony Bourdain covered the campaign for CNN and the idea was going viral.
Salesforce Radian6 later did an analysis and found more than 3,500 #EatDownTipUp tweets in the week after the storm. All in all, while we knew this wasn’t as impactful as a lot of the other work being done to help people affected, we do think we provided a simple way to have New Yorkers help New Yorkers. At a minimum, we provided some positivity for hundreds of small business owners and workers hit by the storm.
KS: I was very pleased to meet you at the World PR Forum in Melbourne last November. Your presentation on charity: water and video story was incredibly emotional, in fact it moved other audience members and myself to tears. You have very powerful stories to tell.
What does it take to bring these stories to life?
PY: The powerful content that charity: water produces shows the value of working with a great team. Small and with miniscule budgets, we’re able to do remarkable work because of in-house talent that focuses on brand excellence. From our end, we put in blood, sweat and tears to make that happen. In my opinion our creative team is one of the best in the world.
My favourite story: I was a part of was a live drill we did in Moale, Central African Republic. We made this video with one videographer/editor, Scott and Viktoria’s storytelling prowess, and some input from donors on the trip and me. We shot and edited it in two days while travelling in Africa, and then the same day we finished the piece I uploaded it from very slow hotel Internet in Paris, so these donors could see the impact in real time. In 2011 it was a finalist in the DoGooder Awards for best cause content.
Fun fact: you might spot me dancing in the last shot of the film!
KS: What lies ahead for you, Paull? Can we expect a return Down Under at some point or have you forever become a citizen of the world?
PY: Right now I’m very focused on helping to lead charity: water to our goal of raising $100 million in 2015. As we travel towards that goal I know I’ll be blessed to be able to travel and meet amazing people who want to help change the world. Because I continue to value connections and experience, this is important to me.
I love Australia deeply and will definitely return home at some point. My ideal life would be split time between Sydney and New York, though I’m not sure I can make that happen. For as far as I plan forward, life revolves around New York and charity: water, and I have a very clear picture of owning a bookshop near a beach in Australia when I’m an old man….
Otherwise, I’ve got no idea what’s in store for me between those earlier and closing chapters of the rest of my working life!
* * *
Katie Sheppet is an account executive at Edelman Melbourne where she has experience across marketing, digital and organisational communications. Katie is also contributing articles to the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management (GA) monthly e-newsletter on a volunteer basis.
On behalf of Edelman, long recognized for its sponsorship of PR education, Katie volunteered digital support to the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), the GA member/national PR association host of the 2012 World Public Relations Forum (WPRF), which took place in Melbourne from 18-20 November 2012. Her efforts include initiating this earlier interview with John Paluszek from Ketchum PR, and formulating the questions for first-publication on PR Conversations. She also contributed an article about putting theory into practice for PR Conversations. Contact Katie by email, follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Paull Young is director of digital at charity: water, a non-profit devoted to bringing clean and safe drinking water to the 800 million people without. Recognised as a leading digital non-profit, charity: water was the first to have one million Twitter followers, with 75 per cent of its fundraising through digital channels. In the NGO’s six years of existence, it has brought clean and safe drinking water to more than three million people (and raised more than $90 million). Paull’s leadership in digital strategy for charity: water was lauded by the Australian Trade Commission as one of the “Global 50″ influential Australian expatriates and by the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation as an industry “Rising Star.”
Prior to this position Paull was senior account director with social media agency Converseon, leading award-winning campaigns for Fortune 500 clients such as Graco, Kohler, Telstra, the New York Times and Cisco.
Paull moved to New York from Sydney in 2007 as a well-known PR and marketing blogger and commentator. His has been featured on FOX News and CNN, in the Wall St Journal, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review. Read his blog or follow Paull on Twitter.
See earlier NGO communicator profiles on PR Conversations:
Apple acquired a company last week. It’s something to pay attention to.
There is still one slightly unchartered territory that will – without question – be the last mile in marketing. It is the ability for a brand to deliver contextual and highly targeted marketing at the local retail level. We may be inching ever-closer to this reality. On March 23rd, 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple acquired a company called WiFiSLAM for an estimated $20 million (not bad for a two year old company with just a handful of employees that includes some ex-Googlers). WiFiSLAM is billed, according to AngelList, as a technology that, "allow(s) your smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of your friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings. We are building the next generation of location-based mobile apps that, for the first time, engage with users at the scale that personal interaction actually takes place. Applications range from step-by-step indoor navigation, to product-level retail customer engagement, to proximity-based social networking." If you can get beyond the marketing jargon, WiFiSLAM is, essentially, GPS for the indoors. It is able to triangulate the location of consumers, track their every move and deliver contextual marketing messages to them while capturing a tremendous amount of consumer data.
Does that creep you out?
It turns out that consumers are looking forward to more technologies at the physical retail level. In December of 2012, Internet Retailer ran the news item, Smartphone owners want more mobile information in stores, that reported: "80% of smartphone owners want more mobile-optimized product information while they’re shopping in stores, finds ‘The Shopping Experience in a Smartphone World,’ a study conducted by ad agency Moosylvania. The agency surveyed 1,874 U.S. adult Smartphone owners. 97% of respondents have access to a personal computer and 43% have access to a tablet." While it’s not a massive sample and the research was done by a digital marketing agency with a vested interest in these types of technologies creeping their way into the physical stores that ran the research, there is a high temperature to capture both the mapping of these physical retail spaces and connecting the consumers who are in them. In short, retailers want to capture this new, connected and highly untethered consumer.
This is more than a defensive move for Apple.
Pundits have a hard time grasping why Apple would make a move like this in a world where Google has made several dominating moves in the mapping space (hint: Apple stores!). Many see this as a defensive move for Apple to grab the mapping of the inside spaces while Google continues to map the oceans and the arctic. The truth is that Google is just as busy trying to capitalize on this idea of mapping the inside of spaces as well. But it’s not just a game for Apple and Google. Amazon has been hard at work capturing tons of consumer information at the retail level. Look no further than their Price Check for iPhone app that enables consumers to scan a barcode, snap a picture of a product or use text/speech search to find out how much the product is on Amazon. This business of showrooming has become a contentious talking point in the retail sector, as more and more consumers are using their smartphones and tablets to find a better price at the physical location. These consumers are using the stores as a showroom, but completing their purchases on their mobile devices and having the products shipped to their homes. What we don’t hear much about is the data and information that Amazon is capturing about consumers, how they walk through stores, what they’re price checking, the price variances from store to store, trends in merchandising and more. All of this (and more) is being captured, each and every time a consumer uses the app to find a better price. While it’s not real-time information like WiFiSLAM is offering, Amazon still has tremendous information about consumers and how they make their way through many different retail environments.
This is exciting times. This is just the beginning.
Having GPS capabilities inside businesses is still in its nascent stage. Whether it’s WiFiSLAM or another startup with similar technology (look no further than Nomi as a close contender) that is going to partner with retailers to provide contextual marketing services within a physical location, this ability to understand the consumer in a aisle to aisle manner is going to change the retail landscape as we have seen it to date. This aisle by aisle, real-time ability to flip offers, while getting a better understanding of how foot traffic flows, where consumers stop and engage is going to impact everything from pricing to shelf space to how end-cap placements are sold. It looks like stores are going to become as dynamic and intelligent as their e-commerce counterparts. So long as retailers seeks permission from their consumers and use this technology to drive more value to the consumers, these types of technologies could well be the linchpin that secures the future of retail. So long as it doesn’t get creepy.
What’s your take? Is this marketing at its finest or another privacy concern for consumers?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Harvard Business Review. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:
Well, maybe that’s not ALL you need. You need to be able to execute on that idea. And, you need a network of resources and supporters to help you along the way.
But, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, it starts with a great idea. A way to meet an unaddressed need. A product nobody’s produced yet. A role as a new intermediary.
And you don’t have to be a fountain of dozens of business ideas. You just need one.
An idea + courage + a great network is a wonderful formula for success.
What’s your idea?
Een nieuwe startup lijkt de concurrentie met Twitter te willen aangaan. App.net moet een advertentievrije microbloggingsdienst gaan worden. Het idee is ontstaan uit onvrede met het nieuwe beleid…