The Entrepreneur Society at the McCombs School of Business.
A great day of speakers and panel sessions, well-planned and executed by MBA students interested in entrepreneurship.
Highlights of sessions I attended:
Robert Reeves, Chief Architect, Application Release Automation, Office of the CTO – BMC Software
Reeves serves as Chief Architect for BMC’s Application Release products. He was formerly the CTO and one of the original founders of Phurnace Software (acquired by BMC). Reeves was the Chief Architect of the Phurnace engine and the company’s first products. He has a B.A. in Economics with a mathematics minor from the University of Texas at Austin.
- “I was asked early on in our market validation process, ‘If this idea is so great, why hasn’t IBM done it?’”
- “Timing has a lot to do with this stuff, but you can do some things to increase your luck. Be ready to take advantage when that little blue bird lands on your window sill.”
- “We talked to our prospects and asked them, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ We found out that they didn’t want exactly what we had in mind. That saved us a tremendous amount of time and money.”
- “Rob Adams says to talk to 100 people about your idea as part of your market validation. He says, ‘If you can’t find 100 people now you’ll never be able to, and that is true.’”
- “If you want to make a lot of money, don’t start a company. Get a finance degree and head to NYC. If you want to change the world, start a company.”
- “If you want to make money in Q4, you’ve got to be selling to people in Q2. You’ve got to be flying around and meeting with customers, and where does the money come from for airline tickets?”
- “In a technology startup the engineers get treated better than Japanese cattle.”
- “When the economy went to crap we had to cut our workforce by 10%. We protested to the board, ‘But we’re only 10 people!’ But they insisted. So, it was last in first out, that was the only way to do it, because we only hired people we absolutely needed.”
- “When we made sales calls, I only wanted to talk to people who were really going to use our software. We could talk to decision-makers later. First we had to convince the user.”
Marketing on a Bootstrap Budget – The Interweb:
Ian Greenleigh – Bazaarvoice, Social Media Manager – Moderator
- Bazaarvoice will be hiring 70 people in next few months.
- Key to social media success is being generous and not focused on selling. When you share more content from others, the clicks to your content will actually increase.
- Don’t worry about reaching the C-suite with social media. They aren’t there. Instead, focus on the next level down, because they are there. Create content that is highly shareable, that will “move up the ladder.”
- For every page of your site you have to ask, “What do I want the visitor to do next?” If you don’t know the answer, you don’t need that page.
Jeremy Bencken – Camino Real Ventures, Owner
- Spend a couple of thousand dollars to test key words up front, and you will save lots of money later. Determine your cost of acquisition.
- Set up your blog strategy around the key words most important to your audience.
- When you see what your buyers are searching for through key word research, it is amazing what ideas you will get for new marketing and product innovations.
Paul Kirchoff – SaleAmp, Founder & CEO
- Listen carefully, because we will be sharing money making opportunities today.
- If you have little or no budget, first ask, “Is it little or no?” And the first thing is to understand your market, so you can make every dollar count.
- The problem startups have with SEO is that the search engines look at growth of influence over time, and you can’t fake time.
- Look at the “long tail” of SEO search, where the search terms are more unique and there are fewer hits. If you can focus your keywords there, they are cheaper and more targeted to real buyers.
- Do your key word searches and find those combinations that your real buyers are actually using.
- You are looking for ways to motivate people to pass along your product or message for their own selfish reasons.
- In looking at digital versus traditional marketing we have seen an interesting phenomenon. When a traditional marketing campaign hits, say a catalog is mailed by a competitor, or a big promotion is being run, about 30-40 percent of people will not call the number or go direct to the website, but will instead do an SEO search. So, we will create specialized web sites that use the same key words, and Google will help push those people to our site instead. Use the traditional marketers advertising to push consumers to YOUR site.
- The search engines are making efforts to more fully integrate different media types into search results. So it is important that you deploy a variety of message types, from videos, photos, maps and web pages to blog postings, reviews and press releases. The search engines will pick up on all of that.
- If your site has been up for a while, but SEO can’t figure out what is going on there, you’ve got a problem. That is wasted potential, and just a few changes can increase your traffic by multiples.
- Traffic isn’t your first priority, it is conversion. Build engagement. Part of that is using social media, but don’t spread it all over the place. Focus on those SM channels that most directly impact your audience. It might be LinkedIn rather than Facebook.
- We look at what “affiliate marketers” are doing. It isn’t always legal or ethical, but it shows you the possibilities, and some of those you can modify for your own use. They are motivated to innovate, because their profit is directly tied to traffic and conversion.
- Mashable is a good blog that covers what is going on in social media.
- Four out of five web searches have a local modifier, as in “sewing machine repair in Austin.” So location is an important element to include on your web pages.
- We are finally beginning to see monetization of marketing through mobile phones.
- Your web page has a single job, to “sell the click” for conversion.
Self Defense for Self Starters:
Christopher Meakin — McCombs School (Moderator)
- Rookie mistakes: Trying to set the terms of your initial funding. You can’t set the terms.
- Trademarks are more important than a patent. You have a brand name and that is worth something, but your technology is likely a commodity.
Cotter Cunningham – WhaleShark Media, CEO
- You realize that you started the company, but as soon as you take someone else’s money they can fire you.
- Rookie mistakes: The 50-page business plan. We pitched using a 10-slide deck.
- Rookie mistakes: Not raising enough money.
- Entrepreneur Lifestyle: I’ve made three of our last five vacations–and I always have my laptop. My wife has gotten used to it, and my kids don’t know any different. Don’t tell them!
- Entrepreneur Lifestyle: When your web site goes down it will always be at midnight on Sunday. You never work regular hours.
- Enterpreneur Lifestyle: We are very open and transparent. If you don’t want to work in a cube, don’t work for me.
Ted Gilman – Andrews Kurth, Partner
- The best protection against poaching of your employees by other firms isn’t legal channels, but to create an environment where it is a great place to work.
- Many problems encountered by entrepreneurs are caused by legal issues not covered early on.
- Be clear about who owns what, and handle that BEFORE the company is worth anything.
Kenneth Cho — Spredfast, Cofounder
- In hindsight, I should have spent more time with my attorney talking about the exit provisions in my funding contract. But every time I talk with my attorney it is big money! (laughs)
- The board can say, “It’s time to go for a B-round of funding,” and you are out the door. There is nothing you can do.
- Rookie Mistakes: Not realizing that the funders wouldn’t be happy with the same return on investment I would be happy with. I was thinking we would all be happy if we sold for $15 million, but they were thinking $150 million.
- Entrepreneur Lifestyle: I’m more stressed on vacation than I am in the office.
- Entrepreneur Lifestyle: You do everything you can to protect your employees. I even take out the recycling bin, because I don’t want my staff to have to do that.
- If an entrepreneur says “We have a great culture,” then I know they have a terrible culture.