Friday, September 17, 2010

Taking the plunge into Austin Startup Weekend

The concept of Startup Weekend is simple.  Participants pay money to be put in a big room tasked to build out a company and working prototype in 54 hours with a team of strangers over the course of a weekend.  Sound awesome?

It did to me and for around 50 other people.  In fact on Sept 10-12, 2010, Austin Startup Weekend saw participants fly in from Boston, drive from Dallas and even cross country boarders from Mexico.  

Friday "Pitch Night AKA Controlled Chaos": I arrived rather early (a rarity if you know my style) and watched @cospace fill up with a very eclectic group of individuals.  I met entrepreneurs, marketers, MBAs & students, developers, and designers. Startup Weekend kicked off with a presentation from Ryan, a startup lawyer and then we went straight into pitches. A Pitch is a 60-90 second explanation of your business idea, the problem that you are solving, and what type of skills/resources you need.  After about 30 pitches, everyone starts to informally gather in groups and ask more questions to the team leaders. Personally, I wanted to join 50% of the pitches made.  Maybe I'm just one of those people at the ice-cream store that wants all flavors, but there were so many interesting ideas.  I ended up joining a team that at the time was WTF ATX which we later re-branded to Instavents.

Our team consisted of 4 people: Chris (student), Lisa (team leader), Alvin (developer) and myself (social media/mktg).  It was a simple concept to create a new way to discover local events and we spent the rest of the evening laying out the site design and how we would create the site.

Saturday "Work Day AKA Just do it": Groups continued to work on their businesses while sipping coffee and chowing down on pizza/bagels/never ending food table.  We talked a lot about how people would use the site, did a bit of market research, had logos created by my friend Aaron, set up social media presence, sifted through potential ideas and Alvin hammered away on our prototype.  We also enjoyed an early even speech from Gary Hoovers (yeah - you may have heard of one of his first startups) which was not only entertaining but very educational.

Sunday: "Investor Presentations AKA Oh Shit..we aren't done": Teams had until 5pm to have their final presentations completed as well as any demo prototype/design.  Our team worked down to the last wire - literally seconds before our presentation.  We has a brilliant design come in 2 hours before time was called from Sebastian, a hour before realized we didn't add a slide about how the site would make money, 6 hours before decided to lose WTF ATX all together and just go with Instavents, and the code was generating a PHP error seconds before our turn.  It was nail biting, blurry and awesome all at the same time.

So then you pitch to a handful of entrepreneurs, startup incubators, and angels. I tweeted through the night although looking back lack of sleep + rapid tweeting do not go hand in hand.  Regardless, at the end of the night not only did we make top 3, but we actually went on to win.

I came home exhausted but renewed at the same time.

My pocket was packed with business cards of people I'd actually like to keep in touch with.

My mind was full of new ways to look at my startup and I was already buzzing about getting Instavents mainstream.

My twitter account (basically the heartbeat for a SM person) is now following some of Austin's rock stars.

And I really felt for the first time some entrepreneurial soul. People who are truly interested in using the collective of their skills set to create new innovative products.

So in closing...thanks to all the sponsors such as @cospace@infochimps@capitalfactory@ideafoundry@conjunctured@ghgroup@texasventures, and @piry.

If you are considering going to a startup weekend - do it, and to the people who I met over the weekend - see you next year!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Social Media times have changed

I've been actively engrossed in the business side of social media for over 1.5 years now and it's amazing how things have changed. Words like Klout and 'likes' common on our community have replaced huge follower counts and fully customized myspace profiles. Social media integration has become the priority of companies with website and complicated CMS tools left by the wayside. The difference between social media and social networking is clear.
The new shinny objects are still popping up but the dust (at least for me) has settled. I'm comfortable with my set of tools and move through new beta sites at the speed of light. Sure, the tools will change. They always do but I'm good with my strategic and tactical approaches. I have a few successes under my belt and preparing to unleash even more thought leadership around it (through social media of course!).
So where are my interests these days? Better penetration in the bigger sites (twitter, facebook, youtube), how social media can impact search, globalization of social media and of course the occasional shinny object. My mind envisions a world where email doesn't exist anymore and real-time, aggregation, and on-demand are commonplace. Where there will need to be classes on how to select your communication channel because we will have so many options and information overload will be addressed in formal education.
I'll coin the Notorious BIG's phrase "Mo Money Mo Problems" and say our future outlook seems "Mo Info Mo Problems" -- then again who wouldn't want more money. =)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Social Media over Superbowl Ad - Pepsi makes their position clear

Pepsi Refresh Project, Pepsi's new social media project, is taking center stage offering millions in grants to individuals, businesses and non-profits who have ideas in the areas of health, arts & culture, food & shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, and education.

What makes this especially intriguing for social media marketers is that Pepsi chose not to run ads in this years Superbowl but rather focus efforts on their Refresh Project.  Each month Pepsi will receive up to 1,000 submissions in the previously mentioned categories and anyone throughout the month can vote for up to 10 favorite submissions which are grouped by requested grant funding.  At the end of each month 10 submissions are awarded in the $5,000, $25,000k and $50,000k groups and up to 2 awardees in Pepsi's $250,000 group.     

Potentially, Pepsi will award funds to 32 different individuals, and organizations each month.  Pepsi also transfers over the top 100 runners-up from each category to the next month.  Applicants not only describe how they will use the funds, but also applicant videos and pictures.  People are encouraged to share through the social media tools like Facebook and Twitter and Pepsi's channel is also receiving quite the traffic!

It's great to see other companies besides Chase, Livestrong just to name a few utilizing social media for a great cause!

Great article about Pepsi's shift of advertising dollars...

Friday, February 5, 2010

It's Cool to Use Coupons - $100,000 Dollars Cool!

From my grandmother who got excited when the dollar store had a sale to my penny-pinching dad who spends endless hours on slickdeals and fatwallet, being cheap runs in my family. So when the concept of collective buying started gaining popularity due to Groupon's 30 million dollar backing, I became highly intrigued.

The concept of Groupon's collective buying is shear genius - both for the businesses and the consumers. First consumers receive incredible deals as discounts of 50% and higher from retailers who normally don't even offer coupons. From teeth whitening, skydiving, restaurants, massage therapists and more, Groupon offers one coupon a day by city as well as a daily side deal. The main coupon must receive so many purchases to "be activated" which means now everyone who buys the coupon will receive it. If the coupon doesn't receive the required minimum number of purchases (this is highly unlikely with their 2.2 million subscribers across 30+ cities), then no one gets the deal. Most of the Groupon coupons tip within the hour of their release.  Also, consumers pay for the coupon upfront, so businesses not only know how many people downloaded the coupons but also make instant revenue.

From a financial standpoint Groupon only takes a cut of the earnings, so there is no upfront risk for the business and with daily purchases in cities of 300-1500, we can see why almost 97% of Groupon businesses want to have repeat coupons.  The way these companies are willing to offers such discounts is the overnight exposure and income Groupon can offer through its large user base.  Especially in our current economy, discounting is big business!

I hope you are sitting down because it gets even better. Now Groupon is running a promotion "Live Off Groupon" where one lucky winner will attempt to live off Groupons for an entire year. If the person selected is successful, he/she will win $100,000! If you haven't heard about this already, I'm sure you will because these types of promos go viral like gossip through a sorority house.

Now companies you may hear less about with a similar concept to Groupon are sprouting up.  The old adage that great ideas spawn copies definitely holds true in collective buying.  Now not all of these are exact replicates to Groupon but share very similar styles of deals:,,,,,,,,, and a non location based daily coupons at and

So where does Groupon go from here?  Future plans for Groupon include rolling out to a total of 80 cities by the end of 2010 and we will see how large this industry will grow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Twitter users - Twitterriffic or Twitterrible

My twitter feed is a bit lackluster these days. I only have a few account focusing on my passions and my time spent reading updates, filtering direct messages, and retweeting seems to have few peaks and many valleys. Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, I'm still at the top of the twitter user engagement stats as a member of the 17% of registered Twitter accounts who sent a tweet in December of 2009. Now, 17% may seem like a small number but with over 75 million user accounts, that still a whopping 12.7 million people.

Now the question is - what are people tweeting about? Twitter since inception has received its share of criticism especially with the baby-boomers questioning the value of social media. As the new generations (Gen X and later) desire to post their life events on social media becomes even more popular, Webinars, articles, white papers and semaniars are giving almost daily attempting to answer the ever so daunting question of how social media will add value. Value to your buesinss, yoru customers, and your employees.

Where will we be in a year, two years, even 6 months from now? Social media within its own industry has evolved. In fact, the one true variable that I feel will remain constant is the continued change and modification of how we interact with and benefit from social media. Take for example, Twitter's use of lists and regional related feeds or Facebook's ever so popular fan pages covering products to non-profits. Similar to FM going to XM or VHS going to blue ray, social media will surely take on a new form in the near future.

Twitter Stats
Twitter ended 2009 with just over 75 million user accounts.

The monthly rate of new user accounts peaked in July 2009 and is currently around 6.2 million new accounts per month (or 2-3 per second). This is about 20% below July’s peak rate.

A large percentage of Twitter accounts are inactive, with about 25% of accounts having no followers and about 40% of accounts having never sent a single Tweet.

About 80% of all Twitter users have tweeted fewer than ten times.

Only about 17% of registered Twitter accounts sent a Tweet in December 2009, an all-time-low.
Despite these facts, Twitter users are becoming more engaged over time when we control for sample age.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tweets from Space - Now that's out of this world!

When I initially heard that last Friday astronaut TJ Creamer made history, my mind raced with images of new moons, precious minerals, even E.T. Wrong! In Texas, a sprinkle of snow is considered an arctic freeze and on some media stations, an astronauts tweeting from space is considered a history event.

I will admit that it is pretty cool. Especially for the marketing team who is probably beaming from ear to ear about the publicity.

So is Twitter still a fad? Is it still nothing but spam and porn? Do people waste their time retweets, replying, and direct messaging other members?

Regardless of where you stand on the Twitter-love Scale, one tweet brought Twitter into the spotlight:

"Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station -- the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turn your iPhone into a credit card reader

WOW. A new app is on the block and this one got some innovation behind it.

Still being Alpha tested in NYC, Square is a new iPhone payment processing system that allows pretty much anyone to start accepting credit cards through their iPhone. The apparently simple to use interface and easy to plug in adapter transforms a standard iPhone or iTouch into a credit card reader. It's all paperless so receipts are emails out including a map of purchasing location (, a penny is donated to your charity of choice per transaction, picture verification is available for security and frequent purchase rewards are also available without punch cards (you know much you love keeping 10th one free cards in your wallet)!

So my first instinct was where can I try it and I want one for my business!

Then I started wondering if everyone is walking around with credit card machines how this would impact credit card theft and misuse. I think I need to investigate this more with some primary research and o'darn, guess I have to go all the way to NYC to test it out!

More information: