Lessons From Launching New Products

We started toying around with the idea of Relaborate a little more than a year ago, in late 2011. In the beginning, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen with it, but everybody we talked to seemed to think it was a really cool idea.

These last months have been a great education in learning the differences between a “really cool idea” and “something that I immediately want to invest money in.”

There are a lot of hurdles to jump through to raise money. It’s not about the idea. It’s about being able to quantify an addressable market, convincing people your team is solid from top to bottom, and showing enough of the product that they can see the potential without criticizing the present MVP version.

It’s been a long and funny road, and I’m sure like any entrepreneurial organization, we’ve made some missteps along the way. But here we are in April 2013, with a brand new release of the product that we really think is starting to live up to the expectations we had when we first conceived it. And other people are saying nice things too.

So I guess my moral for this personal blog post is that it’s never just about the idea. Ideas are easy. People invest in execution. So if you have something that you’re sure will be a success, keep plugging away at it. Don’t expect to be rewarded for simply having an idea. The real effort is in taking that idea and making it something somebody else will understand and use.

They say there’s a very thin line between being an entrepreneur and simply being insane, and we probably straddled that line a few times in the recent months. After all, to start a new company you have to build something that no one else thinks is worth building, or they’d be doing it themselves. There’s something a little inherently nuts in that.

So if your reader of this blog, I expect you to run over to Relaborate.com and sign up for the trial of our new product. Read this blog and if you know me, I’m sure you’ll end up getting a discount (if you ask). Let your marketing people test it out, and if you end up bringing it in your organization, you know I’ll be the first one by you a round of drinks.

Relaborate Photo Search

Speaking Today at Market Mix 2013

I hope to see some of you today at MarketMix 2013. I’ll be speaking in one of the Breakout Sessions, talking about how to add Storytelling to your Content Marketing Plan. If that’s not enough incentive, I also brought along Rebecca Lovell of Vittana and Billy Pettit of Pillar Properties.

If you want to cheat, here’s the presentation I’ll be giving.

How to Make the Front Page of Mashable

I’m going to take a wild uneducated guess, than somewhere between 50-500 start-up tech companies sent press releases, emails, tweets and carrier pigeons to Mashable in the last 2 days, trying to get someone to cover them. Some of them were full of fluff I’m sure, but some of them likely had real news, about doing real things, and expanding into real markets with real customers.  You know, real stuff.

Somewhere between 50-500 of those companies were ignored.

But fear not, because in the same 24 hour period, Mashable showed us how to make the front page – have a famous relative and do something outlandish on Twitter.

Item 1: The Zuckerberg Family Vacation Scandal

I’m sure Randi Zuckerberg is a great and smart person.  I’ve never met her, but I have no reason to believe that if she wasn’t a Zuckerberg, she still would have been a successful marketing person at some other social media company.  She’s probably witty, funny, smart, a great business person and a joy to be around.

But so are several thousand other women in the Bay Area.  It wasn’t “Randi” that was covered here.

Instead, it was Mark’s sister who got press in Mashable for a Twitter dust-up over a holiday photo (and a boring photo at that).  Let’s not pretend that the Executive producer of the Real Housewives of San Francisco would be covered for a Twitter spat.  But when you are related to Mark, anything you say gets picked up, and probably more sadly, it gets shared.

Item 2: The Avery Johnson Jr. Tantrum

It’s not enough that professional athletes and coaches need to monitor their own social presences, now they have to worry about their kids’ social media accounts.  Who knew Avery Johnson had a son? None of us, until he got mad about his dad getting fired.  Amusing perhaps, but that’s it. Not much else incriminating on his feed, so that’s that. Except… Mashable’s journalists rush to the rescue, discovering he is a high school junior. Thankfully, we have a full account now on Mashable.com about this breaking social media and technology news – ‘Kid upset that Dad gets fired.”

The Moral of the story:

We read tech pubs and like to think we’re reading things that are more substantive than Perez Hilton.  But when it comes down to it, the folks we’re reading aren’t much different than Perez’s correspondents.  They have their fingers on the pulse of the families of the newsmakers.  And we’re choosing these non-news articles. So lesson to be learned – get someone’s relative on your team.  Doesn;t matter if they are a cousin or sister or son or mother.  Get them a consultant position.  Have them erupt on Twitter.  You’ll get instant awareness for them and your company.  Hmm, maybe there’s a business model here.  Representing the relatives of famous people to get them social media gigs…..

President Obama Hits Reddit

I’ve blasted the Obama 2012 team in the past for their relentless email spamming. So, I have to give credit to a little piece of brilliance that should go down in the campaign Hall of Fame.

While the Republicans are rallying their base in a conference center in Tampa, President Obama was holding court in the virtual world, hosting an AMA on Reddit. As of 3:00pm PDT the post had 17,378 points (62% like it), with 43,822 up votes 26,444 down votes. There were more than 12,000 comments.

It’s hard not to come away impressed that while the Republicans are involved in the “old way” of engaging people, Obama is leveraging the “new way” of reaching out to his base (and stealing eyeballs from them). The Republicans are kind of left without a way to fight back. If they put Romney on Reddit during the DNC, they’ll look like copy cats. If they don’t have Romney do a AMA, they look scared, like they don’t trust what he would say. That’s check and mate Democrats.

Meanwhile in Tampa, Google is reporting that they have received the most searches ever for the term “Reddit” from a single geographic area. (No, not really.)

The Reach of a Tweet

So I work in social media.  I teach some social media.  I play around in some social media channels.  I own a blog with my own name as its url simply so I show up in Google searches.  Through all these years playing around in social media as a profession, I’ve never really made it a huge focus of my personal life.  Maybe I’ll make a connection here or there.  But nothing substantial.

And yet today, a simple tweet seemed to strike a chord with people.

All day long Occupy Seattle mayhem shut down streets downtown.  People couldn’t get home from work.  Rogue anarchists broke windows.  Children couldn’t be picked up from school.  Store clerks feared for their safety.  Middle class parents – and their bosses – had to figure out what was best for their kids, their businesses and their co-workers.

I was unaffected by the chaos despite being right around the corner from it.  I took my wife home from her surgery but thought to myself, “Thank God this mayhem didn’t affect us getting to the hospital, or home from it.” I tried to rid my mind of thoughts of how angry I would be if I was stuck in traffic due to a protest, while my wife sat groggily in pain in the passenger seat of our car.

I scanned the Twitter stream and noticed that people who supported OWS had lost patience with OccupySeattle.  OccupySeattle wasn’t about a revolution anymore.  What started with good intentions but no real purpose, had transformed into an incubator for people with negative intentions and directed purpose. The movement had created a dark side, or at least allowed the dark side to breed.

And so I said:

Dear #OccupySeattle. The 99% has gotten together & decided we need better representation. Thx for the effort.  Good luck w/ future endeavors.”

It was exactly 140 characters.  My point was pretty clear.  Whatever goodwill the original Occupy movement had generated had been pretty much decimated here in Seattle.  The most liberal town in America was saying, “WTF are you guys doing? You are totally destroying this.”

Meanwhile,  my most nagging thought as I hit “Tweet this” was whether I should be using “has” or “have” for the verb.  I was out of characters, so I went with the former. It was a quick line, and after I sent it, I had all but forgotten about it.

A few hours later, it’s become the most retweeted thing I’ve ever sent out. For the first time ever, I started trending in Seattle.  People we retweeting this because they agreed with the sentiment.  And yet two tweets back at me stand out:

To the 1st repsonse I counter, “I agree. To the normal everyday 99%, the rogue hooligans have nothing to do with OWS.  However, Occupy Seattle has little to do with OWS as well.  Somehow OccupySeattle has developed an identity of its own, and not in a good way.”

The 2nd response made me realize I had struck a nerve with some folks.  I run a small business, invest in a startup and teach at a University.  I enjoy creating commerce and inspiring others to do the same.  More commerce means more transactions.  More transactions means more jobs.  More jobs means more wealth for everyone.  But to this person, I was simply “snarky.”  Trying to build small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship isn’t enough. I’m evil because I don’t want to join or represent a revolution with no goal or purpose.

It will be interesting to see if this tweet fades away into the night as May Day passes.  Maybe more and more people will agree with the sentiment and retweet it.  Or, will we see more of the negative side of #OccupySeattle come out tomorrow.   Either way, it’s a great social media lesson in progress.

Looking at the Opposite Side of Statistics

Digital Buzz Blog is one of my favorite reads.  And they recently posted some stats which I believe came from Media Bistro.  Now, after you read the stats below, I’m going to give them to you in the exact opposite way.  Tell me if any of the story seems any different.

Version 1:

It was a huge year for Social Media and here is a great infographic that rounds up the key Social Media Statistics to kickoff 2012. It’s pretty impressive to see that Facebook has grown to more than 800 million active users, adding more than 200 million in a single year. Twitter now has 100 million active users and LinkedIn has over 64 million users in North America alone.

A few interesting take outs for social media statistics in 2012:

Facebook Statistics 2012:

  • An average Facebook user has 130 friends and likes 80 pages
  • 56% of consumer say that they are more likely recommend a brand after becoming a fan
  • Each week on Facebook more than 3.5 billion pieces of content are shared

Twitter Statistics 2012:

  • 34% of marketers have generated leads using Twitter
  • 55% of Twitter users access the platform via their mobile

General Social Media Statistics 2012:

  • 30% of B2B marketers are spending million of dollars each year on social media marketing
  • Nearly 30% of these users are not tracking the impact of this marketing
  • 20% of Google searches each day have never been searched for before
  • Out of the 6 billion people on the planet 4.8 billion have a mobile and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush
Version 2: Just for a Devil’s Argument Sake

Facebook Statistics 2012:

  • An average Facebook user is only connected to 130 of the people in their rolodex, address book, company phone tree and email database, and are only fans of 80 of the brands which they purchase or evaluate
  • 44% of consumers say that they are NOT more likely recommend a brand after becoming a Facebook fan
  • There are roughly 800 Million Facebook users, and each week on Facebook more than 3.5 billion pieces of content are shared, meaning the average person shares just 4 pieces of content per week.  With 1 out of every 7 online minutes spent on Facebook, lots of people are lurking but not sharing. 

Twitter Statistics 2012:

  • 66% of marketers have NOT generated leads using Twitter
  • Almost half  (45%) of Twitter users cannot access the platform via their mobile, and are limited to using it on their personal computer.

General Social Media Statistics 2012:

  • 70% of B2B marketers are spending LESS THAN a million dollars each year on social media marketing
  • 80% of Google searches each day are repeat searches

Guest Post: GoDaddy Domains Threatened Because of SOPA Support

Michael Neu posted this article on our company blog.  I think it’s a good summary and am re-posting it here.


Techcrunch posted an article today called “Cheezburger’s Ben Huh: If GoDaddy Supports SOPA, We’re Taking Our 1000+ Domains Elsewhere”. The story is in reference to GoDaddy’s support of SOPA the (Stop-Online-Piracy-Act). Although the bill sounds like a good thing many people are worried that the bill goes WAY too far. If SOPA passes it would makes it really easy for copyright holders to censor content and shut sites down that they think are offensive. The censorship issues go far beyond that as well.

Ben Huh, The CEO of The Cheezburger Network, has decided to pull his names from GoDaddy because of their support of the bill. Many other big media companies support the passing of the bill as well.

This is very hot topic right now #SOPA and many sites have spoken out against the bill including Google, Yahoo and others.

I completely agree with Ben’s stance and think he is giving GoDaddy a chance to make it right before he moves his domains. However, as the article stated it GoDaddy is used to taking some heat, and it will probably take a lot more for them to change. There seems to be a push to transfer domains away from GoDaddy because of their support of this bill so we will how GoDaddy reacts if that trends gains any more momentum.

People need to familiarize themselves with what is happening with the SOPA bill, and how poorly it was written. It truly is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and needs to be stopped before it passes by a completely technologically uneducated group of political representatives.

I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with what is going on and take action like Ben did.

What are you doing to stop this bill from passing?

Looking Forward to NWEN’s First Look Forum

I’ve been a fan of the Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s First Look Forum for a few years now – and not just because I’m on the NWEN Board. The Seattle entrepreneur community has a lot to offer, and while you probably aren’t going to see the next Google or Amazon pop out of it, First Look Forum could be a spot to watch for your next Gist or Tippr.

Now, I’ve been in and around a number of startups over the years, including partner roles (Spring Creek Group, Social3i) and marketing consulting roles (Imagekind, GotVoice, Savester, Movaya, Golazo, Lilipip). I’ve also worked on wild and fun side projects with no revenue model to speak of (MyElectionChoices) and non-profit philanthropic efforts with even less of a revenue model (EvigSeattle). On every company, there’s a little something to learn.

But this is the first year I worked on a team taking a startup through the First Look Forum process. For the last 6 months at Social3i, we’ve been building and testing a number of social media related products, and are now in the alpha stage of two separate ones. One of them will make it’s debut to the NWEN investment community on Oct. 18, thanks to FLF. (The other you’ll have to keep an eye out for – it’s coming soon.)

So what’s the point of this post? Well, First Look Forum has been a great experience for us, serving as a forcing function to hit deadlines and milestones. Plus, throughout the process, we’ve been able to meet with investors and entrepreneurs who’ve provided excellent feedback on a wide array of topics relevant to launching a new product. Being on one side of the First Look Forum process for a few years had given me one perspective. But now being on the receiving end of the help, I really think FLF should be on the top of the list for anyone thinking about launching a new venture.

Anyway, if you’re an investor or angel, go beg Daniel and Caitlin to let you have a ticket to the event in October. If you’re a would-be entrepreneur in corporate clothing, get your team together and make a run at FLF in Spring 2012. It’s definitely worth the time you’ll put into it.

My Tumblr Page

If you know me at all, you probably think that I have too many ideas.  Thus, you might think blogging would be the perfect platform for me.  However, even blogging is too difficult for me to build a process or publishing plan in which I can execute upon every week. I start a post and then get distracted into something else.

Thankfully, Tumblr exists.  I’ve been playing with Tumblr for a while, and am now finally ready to admit it into my inner circle of publishing platforms, joining Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and this blog.  Tumblr lets me be on my phone or computer, and in 30 seconds upload a thought, photo or link.  You’ll probably have to figure out yourself why I think these particular moments are worth posting, but at least I’m able to get them live.

Anyway, feel free to follow my Tumblr account, cleverly and creatively named: http://andyboyer.tumblr.com