The Ryan Gosling Story That Will Change The Way You Talk About Your Business@@

This is one of my favorite stories.

I used to think Ryan Gosling was just okay. Sure, he seemed like a good actor. And yeah, there was a bizarre amount of Internet meme activity around him. But, you know, whatever. He was okay.

But then I learned his backstory.

It learned it one day when I was sitting at a boring event of some sort, browsing the Wikipedia worm hole on my phone. I don’t remember the exact occasion, other than I was wearing a tie. After clicking through several random topics, at some point, I ended up on the entry for Ryan Gosling. Here’s the gist:

Ryan Gosling grew up in Canada. His dad was a traveling salesman, so they moved a lot. The family fell apart when Ryan was young, and he ended up being raised by a working mom and his sister. The family trouble affected him. He didn’t learn to read until far later than most kids. He brought knives to primary school and threw them at other kids, because for some reason his mom let him watch Rambo, and it was one of his favorite movies. (Imagine a skinny six-year-old sitting cross-legged in front of a 15-inch TV day after day, watching Sly shoot explosive arrows at helicopters, while Mom works late.) He had ADHD. He loved Marlin Brando. Kids picked on him; he had no friends.

At age 12, Ryan decided to go to a Mickey Mouse Club audition in Montreal. He was a cute kid, and they let him in. He then moved to Orlando, where he was adopted by none other than Justin Timberlake’s mom! (She became his legal guardian, so pseudo-adopted.) He learned to perform. He learned to read. He learned to focus. He grew up.

…and then he became Ryan Gosling.

And now, I watch every one of his movies when they come out. In the theater.

Ten minutes on Wikipedia turned me from apathetic to advocate. I’m on Team Gosling, and I’m on it simply because I learned his story. He still makes the movies he would have otherwise, but now I see them, because I feel like I have a relationship with him.

Think about that. The relationship-building power of story. We’re all trying to win people to our causes, to get them to believe in our companies or products or missions. Fact is, all other things being equal, we choose the products and movies and stores and people we deal with because of their stories. This is why story-driven companies like Whole Foods exceed financial expectations over competitors. It’s why a lot of us bought Apple products after reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. It’s why people who hate sports watch the Olympics, and root for people they’ve never heard of. Once we know the underlying stories, we’re driven to support.

Of course, stories can be fabricated. They can be used for evil—as many a corrupt politician has proved. But in the same way that technology can power homes or power nukes, storytelling has the potential energy to fuel incredible good for business. And the more personal a story we share, the closer it can bring people to us. We all love a good insider’s story, especially when it’s not dressed up in PR trappings.

Ask yourself this: if your company (or you, yourself) could win complete strangers’ loyalty like Gosling won mine by telling your story—knives and ADD and all—would you?

We all can. So why don’t we?

Pinterest, #HigherEd’s Secret Weapon@@

Ever since Pinterest launched in 2010, I’ve been obsessed. The visual nature of this discovery tool has always been my go-to for collecting ideas. People create wish lists, plan designs for their apartments, make travel plans, get new recipes, or my personal favorite…pick our their dream closets.

Pinterest has been a goldmine for retail and fashion brands, home and gardens, restaurants, and even CPG, yet universities are spending less time on this channel (which drives more traffic than Twitter, Linkedin and Reddit combined), and more time (and dollars) on Facebook, which continues to see major drops in engagement

 

The University of Michigan pins an average of 45 times per week. Other universities post an average of 5 times, if at all.

I’ve always seen Pinterest as a great place for brands, but many can’t see past its demographics — 80% women. When I first started at the University, I knew we had an opportunity to use Pinterest and connect with not only that demographic, but others, and share visual content with our fans in an innovative way.

Clearly, I was onto something. By renaming several boards, reordering and recovering our existing boards, and creating new boards that appealed to popular topics on Pinterest (Future Wolverines, Michigan Weddings, and Wolverines Around The World), we successfully increased our Pinterest following by over 2300% in one year. Pinterest has not only been a valuable asset to our social presence, it has helped solidify the University of Michigan’s position as a top school in social media, and captured the attention of higher ed and social media publications all over the web.

 

What We Can All Learn from Matthew McConaughey@@

On March 2nd, 2014 Matthew McConnaughey won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Motion Picture: Dallas Buyers Club.

What I most liked about the Oscars was actually his speech. It was powerful and resonated with me.

In his acceptance speech, he mentioned: There are three things that I need each day. One, I need something to look up to, another to look forward to, and another is someone to chase.

Something to Look Up to

He mentioned God as a person he looks up to. God has shown him that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. So, whatever you believe in – a higher power, the law of attraction or just karma, if you have someone greater to look up to – they become your guiding force toward success. As well as, humble you during your good and bad days. Symbolically, they also provide the hope we need to continue and fight for what we believe in.

Look forward to

He mentioned his family. I’m a big believer that authenticity is hard to find. But, when you do find it, hold on to it. As someone once said, “Fame is vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, but only character endures.” When it comes to family and if you’re lucky – you can’t get any more authentic than that. They allow us to become the best possible version of ourselves and remind us what’s worth fighting for. They are also our biggest fans during our ups and supporters during our down moments. And, God had his reasons for picking them – so don’t disappoint him.

Someone to Chase

He mentioned he was always chasing the 10-year-older version of himself – even today. I find that quite humbling. Because, it shows us that the biggest role models we can actually have is ourselves. As we get older, we get wiser, we learn from our mistakes and we prosper as human beings. Never read the headlines, be your own headline. Perfection is hard to chase, but if you’re chasing the future you – you’ll know the power you have is actually limitless.

These are three great rules and principles to live by each morning. And, if we are determined to live by them – there isn’t a single thing we can’t do, including winning an Oscar.

How To Develop A Local Marketing StRat@@

For many small businesses, salvation has come in the form of local Internet marketing efforts. Never before has it been easier for a local business to get their name out to customers, giving them a much-needed edge over nationally marketed competitors. But local marketing isn’t something that happens by accident; to make the most of it, local businesses need to go on the offensive and push their brand harder than ever. Here are a few tips to help maximize your local marketing campaign.

Marketing in the past used to mean buying space in the Yellow Pages and ads in the local newspaper. But today more and more people are looking to the Internet to find new businesses. Over the next 3 years, businesses that have and maintain web presences are expected to grow 40% more than sites that do not have websites.
A common excuse for not having a website is the costs associated with creating it, but even that is becoming less of a hurdle. In 2011, Google launched a promotion to build websites for small businesses for free as a way to bring them into the 21st century. Even without this promotion, the costs of building a website can cost as little as $1,200 dollars which will quickly pay for itself.

Once you have a site, the most important step is to connect your business with your region using the correct keywords. For example, focusing on the keywords “hardware store” is almost useless; “hardware store Albany, NY” can help draw people who are looking for a local hardware store nearby (assuming you own a hardware store in Albany, NY). The advantage that local stores have over large businesses is that the local site can focus on a particular area. Programs like WordTracker or Google AdWords will show you the level of competition for each keyword and suggest variations that may offer you more success.
Once you have the keywords decided, the next step is to implement those across your site. Add them to your site’s title tags, meta description, images, and header tags; anywhere search engines are looking.

Use sites like Google+ and Bing Places for Business to their full potential. These sites often are favored by search engines and require very little technical know-how. Your business will then show up on sites like Google Maps and Bing Maps. All that’s required of you is fill out the pages with as much information as possible about your business. Creating a profile on sites like Yelp! is also an important step. Because Yelp! pages are constantly updated with reviews, they show up at the top of search results pages and can drive significant amounts of traffic.

In SEO, links are a great way to boost your site’s reputation. Getting reputable, published sources to link to your webpage boosts your search rating significantly because they are, in essence, vouching for your site. One of the most common methods of link-building is to have a local blogger link to your site; keep in mind, the bigger the blog, the more it will affect your SEO. With that in mind, when link building focus on quality over quantity. There are plenty of services that promise to link to hundreds of sites across the web, but search engines aren’t that blind anymore. As a result, these packages are usually just a waste of time and money.

Mobile Marketing is the quickly becoming one of the most important methods of marketing for local businesses. 97% of mobile users have used their device to search for local stores and services and over half are not targeted to a specific business. Also, the majority of customers who search for local businesses act upon the search results within the hour, which means the returns on a well-made mobile site can be seen very quickly. While mobile is an emerging market trend, many sites have failed to capitalize on it which means having a well-designed mobile-friendly site could put you miles ahead of the competition.

While it may seem archaic, word-of-mouth marketing is still an extremely effective way to increase awareness of your business locally. Connect with other local business owners and ask to hang flyers or put business cards in their shops. In the same way that link building from reputable sites will boost your SEO, getting a word-of-mouth recommendation from local shop owners that are trusted in the community can boost business, and referral bonuses can increase loyalty among customers.

There isn’t one end-all-be-all fix to local marketing. Successfully spreading the name and reputation of your business takes time and effort, but will pay off in the end.

Ask Your self do i need Web Hosting to My Business,Small or Pro@@

The ROI Of Great Web DesignThe ROI Of Great Web Design via HostGatorIt’s fairly important to determine the ROI (return on investment) for all aspects of your business. The reason being that if you aren’t making money as a result of a certain thing, then you are likely losing money as a result of it. It’s possible you haven’t considered the implications of how this applies to your overall website design. The following infographic addresses that very circumstance:

When The Pope is the Chairman of the Board@@

Something big happened with the Vatican and the Catholic Church in February. The Pope made a revolutionary move by opening up the Vatican’s finances to scrutiny and instituting several changes that could go a far way in bringing more transparency and integrity. These changes include the creation of a Secretariat for the Economy which will report directly to the Pope and having the group made up of not only members of the Church, but also lay members “with strong professional financial experience”.

When an institution such as the Catholic Church takes a step like this, and says that they care about who they do business with and how they conduct their business, this can have a real ripple effect.

This is a big step as it brings the conversation about financial scrutiny, audit, corporate governance, and also corruption, even further into the mainstream. To have an open conversation about this could be a real game changer, not just for the Church, but also in countries where the Church has a great deal of influence and in countries where corruption is a major problem.

Many wonder if this will work. Certainly in the past year Pope Francis has demonstrated a real commitment to change, and this is a big step in that. As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we’ll be watching carefully over the next several months to see if the new steps that are being taken will actually bear fruit.

I talk about the changes and their wider impact in this “In the Boardroom with Lucy Marcus”Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Foods Stuff@@

Foods Stuff@@

Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism and assimilated by the organism’s cells in an effort to produce energy, maintain life, or stimulate growth.

Historically, people secured food through two methods: hunting and gathering, and agriculture. Today, most of the food energy consumed by the world population is supplied by the food industry.

Food safety and food security are monitored by agencies like the International Association for Food Protection, World Resources Institute, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Food Information Council. They address issues such as sustainability, biological diversity, climate change, nutritional economics, population growth, water supply, and access to food.

The right to food is a human right derived from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), recognizing the “right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food,” as well as the “fundamental right to be free from hunger

Why I Don’t Ask “Is This a Billion Dollar Business” Before I Invest@@

Unicorn hunting is hard! As Aileen Lee’s recent blog post suggested, there are only a few dozen billion dollar+ companies created each decade. If you’re a large venture fund, you need to be invested in several of them in order to show returns considered upper-echelon. For early stage funds like ours (Homebrew is a $35 million seed fund), backing a unicorn can result in overall ROI of 10x or higher. Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital invested in both Twitter and Uber early. Steve Anderson’s Baseline was in Instagram. Both of their funds have performed extremely well.

Given these realities wouldn’t you expect us to ask ourselves “is this a billion dollar company?” before making an investment? Well, we don’t. Not because we don’t want to invest in high growth unicorns or that we’re serious about maintaining a disciplined approach to our strategy. ~6 months into Homebrew I’m still evolving my filters but my inclination is it’s the wrong question for a seed fund like ours to pose. One which might actually cause us to miss out on big returns.

Why?

It’s Not About the Market Size, It’s About the Size of the Problem the Startup is Solving.Billion dollars startups don’t always start out as billion dollar markets. Yes sometimes they are clearly going after a marketspace that’s already defined: CRM 2.0 replacing CRM 1.0 but there are other paths to riches. Billion dollar companies often create new markets by tapping into unmet demand. Billion dollar companies can start out looking like toys. It can be about levels of zoom – like on a Google Map. If you thought airbnb was just the size of the hostel market and not the hospitality market, you missed out. If you thought Uber was just the size of the black car market and not the transportation market, you missed out. At Homebrew we try to understand the problem, the customer mindset and business model (current and/or potential).

The “Why” Will Show You The Way. In addition to understanding the Who, What & How of a Startup, we spend a lot of time on the Why? Why are the founders dedicating minimally several years of their lives to this effort? By understanding the motivations of the entrepreneurs – what’s driving them, what does success look like to them – you can try to determine whether they’re in for a potentially long journey or is this nearterm opportunism. A big evergreen problem to solve and a superior team that wants to make sure they’re the ones to solve it = recipe for a billion dollar company.

So there is one question with a dollar sign that we do ask ourselves: How Can This Investment Return the Fund Once Over (ie $35 million)? This is a factor of the company’s ultimate value and the percentage of it that we own. Let’s say we’re going to own 10% in return for our seed investment. Assuming we continue to invest our pro rata, the company would eventually have to exit for $350 million to return $35m to Homebrew. We ask ourselves this question because different companies have different paths to this outcome based on their business – for example, an agency that primarily relies upon billing customers for project work will be valued at a much smaller multiple of revenue than a SaaS company with a reoccurring revenue stream and margin leverage. While we don’t make investments solely based on this question, if we have a difficult time answering it might mean the opportunity isn’t a good fit for our model. It also helps determine our thinking on ownership percentage – whether we think we need to investment more or less to get to a comfortable point. Note that this has nothing to do with probability of achieving said outcome – that’s a totally different calculation. This is more about understanding some of the possible paths to an outcome which starts to make a difference to our investors.

If a venture capitalist asks a founder “will this be a billion dollar company?” there’s only one right answer: “yes.” Unfortunately that question – and its answer – really doesn’t tell you much. Nor is always trying to place the company into a well-understood bucket. But if you ask a different set of questions, perhaps you’ll end up with a few unicorns of your own.Image

Should Startups Get “Patent Troll” Insurance?@@

A patent lawsuit can be a deathblow to a startup – whether a patent troll or legitimate issue to be adjudicated, the cost is not only crippling but the uncertainty of outcome makes their business nearly unfundable to outside investors. Ditto finds themselves subject to two lawsuits – one is clearly a patent troll, the other more complex – but whether they’re in the right or not, it puts them in a very tough position. That’s why they’ve taken to Indiegogo to crowdfund help.

IANAL but I did participate in several lawsuits during my time at Google, including the 2012 notable ruling against Eolas for an “interactive web.” It was such a bullshit patent but many companies – even large ones – just chose to pay the shakedown fee, err license, instead of fight because of the cost and risk in pursuing litigation. Google went to the mat and put lots of time and resources into fighting. Thank goodness they did. One less parasite. But startups can’t afford to do this and are left often with no choice other than close up shop or settle out of court.
 
What are some ways that startups can deal with this risk while we as an industry work for patent reform? Could you purchase insurance against IP lawsuits? Should large VC firms signal they will protect their startups by helping to chip in money to fight frivolous lawsuits? First Round Capitalbacked a lawsuit to prove a point. I don’t know if there’s an easy or obvious answer but feels like an industry solution would be better than leaving companies to one-off fight on their own.Image

For Startups, Your Culture Starts With Your First Hire@@

Culture. Some startup CEOs prioritize it and build theirs with the same attention they give to product. Others think it’s shorthand for “snacks and massages” or dismiss it as “mission statements and other bullshit we’re too busy to worry about now. Just kick ass – that’s our culture.”

At Homebrew we believe culture matters and starts forming right away – whether you want it to or not! In getting to know founders during their fundraising process we push to understandThe Why because their motivation will be the first strands of the company’s DNA. Even when putting together our Entrepreneur Advisory Board we looked for folks who built not just amazing businesses but strong cores. People such as Jeff Lawson, Twilio CEO, of “Draw the Owl” fame.

Once we’ve invested in a company, I find it easiest to talk about culture in terms of hiring because it’s (a) often the most important post-financing activity and (b) it’s an immediate use case with real tangible decisions. Example conversation, which works whether the CEO is really interested in defining culture proactively or comes to the discussion with skepticism:

Me: So you want to hire two engineers and a designer, right?

CEO: Yeah, it’s my top priority right now. We’ve got a bunch of great candidates. Ton of interviews scheduled for next week.

Me: Cool. What skills are you focused on.

CEO: Well for the engineer we want someone who has several years of Ruby experience and…… [fill in technical specs]

Me: Got it. What about personal attributes? What matters to you there?

CEO: Works well in a team – we tend to be really collaborative. Not thin-skinned – we like to give direct but constructive feedback. Likes being a user of the product they’re building. Believes in the ultimate vision of this company and why we’re here, not just the potential lottery ticket of stock options.

Me: Awesome. What questions are you going to ask that will help you understand whether the candidate has those qualities? And what if you had a candidate who nailed the skills part but was a real mismatch compared to those attributes?

Spoiler Alert: The answer is incredibly important when it comes to culture. Which do you think will build a stronger company over time? A technically competent team of people who share no collective set of motivations, styles or goals – or – a technically competent team of people who are united by a clearly articulated set of values and expectations the CEO has both described to them and tested for during the interview process? It’s not a trick question.

In a startup’s earliest days your hiring decisions are the most important ones in setting your culture. I don’t care about what you write on a motivational poster. The people you invite into your company to extend and expand its capabilities ARE YOUR CULTURE. If you can interview for these qualities and show the discipline to not hire people who lack or are in opposition to these attributes, then you have a foundation that will solidify over time. One which will make the successive hires and functioning of the team easier. If you don’t, if you build a foundation with shoddy materials, it gets harder. Don’t compromise on this. Document these qualities. Work with your other team members, and your recruiter if applicable, to assess the candidate against them. Note the questions you’re going to ask them and their references. And debrief together.

This isn’t just about keeping assholes out. It’s about being thoughtful about who you bring in. And that’s the first step towards building a culture.Image