Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Now Listening to..

After a number of failed attempts to sit in front of the computer and read the 4 Hour Work Week  by Timothy Ferriss, I have finally bought the Audio book and I have to say, I am having so much fun listening to it.

[highlight]Update August 2013! I actually got to read the reviewed edition of the book in .epub – I would suggest you add this book on your to read list if you haven’t[/highlight]

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich is a self-help book by Timothy Ferriss, an American writer, educational activist, and entrepreneur. Wikipedia

Published: April 2007
Author: Timothy Ferriss
Original language: English
Followed by: The 4-Hour Body
Genres: Self-help, Non-fiction

To Get Featured in Media, DO NOT PITCH YOUR PRODUCT

 

This is another one of the many articles that I stumble upon and find very interesting and worth keeping that I repost on my site

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”3″]E[/dropcap]ntrepreneurs that are looking to get attention from bloggers and journalists will often pitch their businesses themselves or though a PR agency.

It’s sad that most of those pitches fall flat and are likely to be completely ignored. A waste of time and money for everyone.

For example, here’s a pitch from a PR professional. I’ve changed it slightly to avoid embarrassing anyone:

“I’m working with a wonderful new business… The owners grew up together and decided to go into business… it’s a story I’m sure your readers will care a lot about!”

Uh, no. It’s unlikely that people are going to care about this story.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the entrepreneurs are great people, but many entrepreneurs can tell a tale of struggle and euphoria and heartbreak and someday, against all odds, turning their dreams into reality and making their business a success. While occasionally readers might be inspired or motivated, for the most part we’re just not that interested in other people’s stories. Unless those stories are particularly remarkable we’re more apt to just keep living our own dreams and writing our own stories. So, the things we’re interested in is not other people’s stories, but information that helps us write our own.

So what should you do if you’re trying to spread the word about new products and services, landing new customers, bringing investors onboard… all the stuff you hire PR agencies to do for you or, more likely, try to do on your own?

If you’re looking for press, forget the formulaic, cookbook approach to crafting a winning media pitch. That approach may result in coverage in a few outlets… but not the ones you really want.

Quick rule of thumb: Any media outlet that will do a story based on a crappy pitch is a media outlet that will get you crappy exposure.

Let’s pretend you’re thinking about pitching me an article idea for OnStartups.com (which has a modestly sized, but awesome audience).  You can apply the following to any media outlet or blog, though.

Here’s what to do and not to do:

Don’t tell me your story is unique.

No offense, but it really isn’t. There are thousands of Ramen noodle stories. There are thousands of 3 am “Eureka!” stories. There are thousands of maxed-out credit cards, relatives won’t return your calls, last-minute financing savior stories.

Your story is deservedly fascinating to you because you lived it (just as my story is fascinating to me), but to the average reader your story sounds a lot like every other entrepreneur’s story. Claiming your story is unique creates an expectation that, if not met, negatively impacts the rest of your pitch.

And if your story truly is unique, I’ll know. You won’t have to tell me.

Don’t tell me how much a little publicity will help you.

Never waste time by explaining how this could be a win-win relationship or, worse, by claiming you want to share your wisdom because you simply want to help others.

I know you want publicity, and I know why. I get it. I’ve been there. We’re cool.

Know what I’ve done recently.

It’s easy to think, “Hey, he recently wrote about choosing a co-founder, so I should pitch a story about how I help people find co-founders”

Um, probably not. If just wrote about co-founders. I’m probably good for a little bit on that topic. Never assume one article indicates an abiding fascination with a particular topic.

But do feel free to pitch if you aren’t a member of the choir I just preached to. Different points of view catch my attention; same thing, different day does not.

Know my interests.

You certainly don’t need to know I enjoy late-night walks on the beach. (Hey, who doesn’t?) But skim a few posts and you’ll know I have a soft spot for company culturestartup funding and startup marketing

So if you really want to get my attention, don’t use the tried-but-in-no-way-true “mention you really enjoyed something recent the writer wrote” approach.

Instead put your effort into finding an angle that may appeal to my interests. If you can’t be bothered to do that you’ll never get the publicity you want.

Forget a profile piece.

Straight profile pieces that tell the story of a business are boring. (At least I think so, which is why I don’t post those)

The best articles let readers learn from your experience, your mistakes, and your knowledge. Always focus on benefiting readers: When you do, your company gets to bask in the reflected PR glow.

So,readers don’t want to know what you do; they want to know what you know. If you started a company, share five things you learned about landing financing. If you developed a product, share four mistakes you made early on. If you entered a new market, share three strategies you used to steal market share from competitors.

And while you may think the “5 steps to” or “4 ways to” approach is overdone, keep in mind readers love them… and even if I decide not to frame the story that way, developing mental bullet points ahead of time is a great way to organize your information (which helps me) and ensure you have great talking points (which definitely helps you.)

Realize that the more you feel you need to say… the less you really have to say.

Some people think bloggers are lazy and look for stories that write themselves. I can’t argue with the lazy part, but I really don’t want to read a 1,000-word pitch with a comprehensive overview of the topic and a list of semi-relevant statistics. The best products can be described in a few sentences, and so can the best pitches:

So now let’s get specific. Pretend you’re crafting your pitch:

Remember: forget what you want.

Many people think, “Wow, it would be awesome if OnStartups.com ran a story about our new product—think of the exposure! So many VCs would read it! We’re looking for funding!”

Maybe so, but unless you focus on how readers can benefit from the story (learning about your new product isn’t a benefit to readers), that’s not going to happen.

Then, think about what I want.

I want to inform and occasionally – hopefully – entertain readers; the more you can help me accomplish that goal, the more interested I am in what you have to say.

Then craft your pitch with publicity as a secondary goal.

In the example above, the PR pro didn’t offer readers anything. His only focus was on getting publicity to benefit his clients.

Flip it around and focus solely on how you can benefit readers. When you do, your company will benefit by extension.

For example, if you want to spread the word about:

· New products or services: Share four lessons learned during the product development process; describe three ways you listened to customers and determined how to better meet their needs; explain the steps involved in manufacturing products overseas, especially including what you did wrong.

· Landing a major customer: Describe how you changed your sales process to allow you to compete with heavy hitters in your industry; share three stories about major sales that got away and what you learned from failing to reel them in; detail the steps you took to quickly ramp up capacity while ensuring current customers needs were still met.

· Bringing in key investors: Explain how you helped investors embrace your vision for the company; describe four key provisions that create the foundation for a solid partnership agreement; share the stories of three pitches to VCs that went horribly wrong and how those experiences helped you shape a winning pitch.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but it’s worth it. When you offer to help people solve problems and learn from your mistakes, bloggers and writers will be a lot more interested.

More importantly, readers will be more interested in the news you want to share because first you helped them—and that gives them a great reason to be interested in your business.

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Posted by Dharmesh Shah on onStartups.com[/note]

 

Startup Lessons from Ordinary day Situations

This is a post written by Sean Percival an entrepreneur from Los Angeles. I totally loved the way he derived startup lessons from what  a majority of people in India live through everyday.

What is more interesting is that the traffic in Uganda, Kampala is equally bad, the roads are pretty much the same – well, apart from the painted work trucks. Go on take a read – and DON’T leave with no lesson learned!

 

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”3″]I[/dropcap] recently returned from a trip to India as part of Geeks on a Plane, an event put on by 500 Startups. Should you have a chance to join one of these trips, I highly recommend it. If you need a new perspective or want to expand your business internationally, this is definitely the way to do so. You’ll gain invaluable insights and connections—and, oh, you might even have some fun along the way.

Our trip was pretty packed, meeting with local startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. So we didn’t venture too far from the cities and major hubs. In other words, I didn’t do much of the touristy/inspirational stuff. However, in India, inspiration can often be found right in front of you. In my case, I found some right along the many packed streets as we made our way through the dense traffic each day. These jammed streets reminded me a great deal of the journey we take with startups. Here’s why:

Driving without Lanes

Most of the roads in India don’t really have lanes. Where one lane ends and another begins is, well, up for interpretation. Drivers are forced instead to flow around each other haphazardly resulting in a strange but beautiful ballet of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and yes cows.

Startup Lesson Learned: Make your own lane or when needed push your way into someone else’s. Don’t wait for infrastructure to catch up when you need to reach a new destination.

No Time to TXT

Drivers on busy Indian streets never text while driving. To do so would not only be dangerous, it could also prove deadly. Traffic is so heavy and unpredictable that you absolutely must give the road your full and undivided attention. This is essentially the complete opposite experience one has while driving in Los Angeles, where many drivers continue to send text messages from behind the wheel despite it being illegal. As such, I found India’s lack of drivers’ texting simply glorious.

Startup Lesson Learned: Don’t get distracted. Keep your eyes on where you’re headed, and save the distractions for later. Your TXT message can wait. You’re not missing anything important on Twitter/Facebook. Just remain focused on where you’re going and what you’re building.

When in Doubt, Honk

Every major street in India is flooded with the cacophony of car horns. It’s both intoxicating and overwhelming. If you’ve been to Manhattan, you’ve experienced something similar, but it’s far more intense in India. A cab driver in Mumbai joked with me that his horn provided “lane control” as he honked three times and smiled. Drivers are so tightly packed (literally inches apart) into the streets, the horn essentially signals, “Hey, I’m right here! Don’t hit me!”

Startup Lesson Learned: Make some fucking noise as you move around. And sometimes your team members could probably use a little honk so they know you’re there.

Painted Work Trucks

I couldn’t help but notice most of the work trucks of India were elaborately painted, and some were even adorned with flowers. I’m talking about the trucks that haul cargo, move livestock, and pick up trash. These tasks aren’t the most glamorous, but the trucks were painted as if they were competing in a beauty pageant. As it turns out, these are well-loved trucks because they typically provide the means for the family’s entire livelihood. Their appearance is a matter of pride and deep appreciation for the vehicle.

Startup Lesson Learned: Take some pride in your vehicle, office, desk, startup, appearance and your own livelihood. Even if your startup is not terribly sexy, make it great and something others admire, even if that admiration is coming from their rearview mirror.

Just Believe You Won’t Crash

Through all the twists and turns and while surviving the overflowing intersections and intense traffic, I didn’t witness one single accident. That was the most remarkable thing about the busy streets of India. There are thousands of drivers packed into tight spaces, inches apart, and yet fender benders seem uncommon. The streets, as imperfect as they were, gave no driver a reason to think he or she might crash. Drivers had an unbreakable sense of confidence they would make it through any tight situation.

Startup Lesson Learned: Sometimes you just have to believe you’re going to make it—that your crazy ideas and maneuvers might just actually get you there. Simply believe you’ll escape unscathed, and you might do exactly that.

[note color=”#f1e8b1″]You can check out and follow Sean Percival from his personal blog for more interesting, startup related posts and more here[/note]

List of 15 venture capital firms

Guest article by Mike Lebus, co-founder of Angel Investment Network. Part of The NextWomen Africa Theme.

Here is a list of 15 venture capital firms (some home-grown and some foreign) looking to take advantage of the opportunities Africa has to offer.

1. Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm EchoVC (http://www.echovc.com/), which has invested in companies such as LinkedIn, Betaworks, Facebook, Pandora and Bit.ly, has apparently committed around US$30 million to tech start-ups in Sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on Consumer Internet & Services, Mobile, Digital Media, Content & Advertising, Software, Services & Infrastructure.

2, San Francisco-based I/O Ventures(http://www.ventures.io/) has launched a US$10 million fund in Africa.  The Savannah Fund is a seed capital fund specializing in US$25,000 – US$500,000 investments in early stage high growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Initially focused on East Africa, the fund aims to bridge the early stage/angel and venture capital investment gap that currently exists in Africa.

3. Invenfin (http://www.invenfin.co.za/) is a South African seed and early stage venture capital fund. They are interested in all types of innovation in all sectors, so their funding requirements are flexible, but all investments must have unique intellectual property.

4. Sawari Ventures (http://www.sawariventures.com/) is a global venture capital firm focused on the Middle East & North Africa region. It is focused on early and growth-stage investing within tech media, telecoms, eCommerce and financial services.

5. Fanisi Venture Capital Fund (http://www.fanisi.com/) is a venture capital fund established in Luxembourg to work with competitive and sustainable businesses across East Africa. Fanisi makes equity investments in high growth businesses across diverse industry sectors, focusing principally on companies with an established record but also reaching out to start ups and early stage companies. Fanisi has a preference for investing in agribusiness, ICT, retail, financial services, education,  and health.

6. Adlevo Capital (http://www.adlevocapital.com/) is a Mauritius-based private equity fund established to capitalize on the growing demand for infrastructure and services in sub-Saharan Africa.  They target investments into technology-enabled infrastructure and services companies in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on the Nigerian and South African markets.

7. 88pmh (http://www.88mph.ac/) makes investments in early stage mobile-web companies targeting the African market; focusing purely on ideas with potential to scale across Africa.  They invest up to US$100k per startup and make investments simultaneously in 10-12 startups.

8. East Africa Capital Partners(http://www.eacp.co.ke) is a technology, media and telecommunications sector-focused Venture Capital Fund Manager, investing in the greater Eastern Africa region. It specializes in carefully selected investments in technology, media & telecoms growth equities. EACP is currently actively investing funds from the $100m ATMT Fund 1, in the East African region.

9. eVentures Africa Fund (http://www.eva-fund.com/) is the first venture capital firm investing in African SME’s active in digital media. Their focus is on internet and/or mobile applications, platforms, e-commerce and solution-providers.

10. Intel Capital (http://www.intelcapital.com/) has also entered the sub-Saharan Africa market. Marcin Hejka, managing director, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa for Intel Capital explained “Intel Capital is investing in the broad spectrum of technology opportunities including content, software and applications, consumer internet, e-commerce, data center and services; we are able to invest in technology companies at all stages of development, though majority of our investments happens at expansion stage”.

11. Africa Media Venture Fund (http://www.amvf.nl/) mobilizes capital and experience in the Netherlands to invest in entrepreneurs in the media sector and small and medium sized African media companies.

12. KnifeCap (formerly PoweredbyVC) (http://www.knifecap.com/) is a Southern African growth equity fund manager focusing on technology-enabled ventures  It investment focus is on high growth, high impact technology-enabled businesses from South Africa and other frontier economies across Sub-Saharan Africa.

13. Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa (http://www.hp-ventures.co.za/) is an investment company based in South Africa. They invest in innovative technology companies with a proven track record of growth and a business model that is substantiated by the generation of historical revenue.

14. 4Di Capital (http://www.4dicapital.com/) is an independent early-stage technology venture capital firm based in South Africa’s “Silicon Cape”. They target startup investment opportunities with high growth potential at the seed- and early-stages in the mobile, enterprise software and web sectors.

15. Jacana Partners (http://www.jacanapartners.com/) is a pan-African private equity company that invests in entrepreneurs, builds successful small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and delivers sustainable financial and social returns. Their investment teams currently cover three countries in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and three countries in West Africa (Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone). They invest in many different sectors but are particularly interested in markets like financial services, property, healthcare, technology, business services, insurance, education, manufacturing and agro-processing.

This is only a snapshot of some of the venture funds focusing on Africa.  Which other VC’s do you know that are offering funding to African companies?

This guest article was written by Mike Lebus, co-founder of Angel Investment Network, which has a network in South Africa (http://www.investmentnetwork.co.za/).

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.