30 results for month: 01/2013


Starter League UX Design: How to Define Your User Base & Position Your Product

It’s Week #3 of the UX Design class I’m taking at The Starter League. After covering top visual design techniques and research methods last week, we dove right into affinity diagramming, user modeling, and product vision. It's not as complicated as it sounds, I promise. Affinity Diagramming We left off last week's recap with some field and survey research tips. Research is critical in the field of UX because, well, the most important thing is people and how they interact with the world, and thus, whatever it is you're trying to build. Once you conduct the research, though, you have to somehow parse through all of the data you collect. That's ...

Why Almost Every Startup Needs a Business Plan (Lean Startups, Too)

With the ascendance of the lean startup model, with its emphasis on early and constant customer feedback and startup pivots reflecting the same, more and more entrepreneurs are asking themselves, “Why bother with a business plan? It won’t survive long enough to be worth the effort to create it.”  Count me as a contrarian here.  In my view, even lean startups should start with a business plan, even if the expected life of the same can be measured in months or even weeks. I think the key to understanding why you need a business plan, even if pivoting early and often is part of the plan, is in understanding what a business plan for a startup ...

“Failure Was Not an Option.” Harper Reed Talks About the Obama 2012 Re-election Campaign

Last night, we kicked off the first Technori Pitch of 2013. With a packed house of over 550 attendees, we kicked the evening off with a keynote presentation from Harper Reed, the CTO of Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Prior to that gig, he served as the CTO of Chicago-based clothing company Threadless—one of the first successful crowdsourcing companies. While he was at the company between 2005-2009, he helped increase revenue by about tenfold. Reed began his presentation by talking about the extensive process of building Obama's re-election team. He hired 40 engineers in total, rounding out a technology staff of 120 people. The ...

Starter Law School: Three Common Contractual Terms You Need to Understand

Like any other DIY project, at-home lawyering can sometimes have “interesting” (read: disastrous) results.  But, until Wal-Mart opens a law firm or IBM’s Watson hangs a shingle; all starters will end up reviewing important contracts on their own. Here are three common contractual terms, what they mean, and what to do with them. “Complete Agreement” or “Merger” Clauses Here’s a basic example: "This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement of the parties and supersedes all prior communications, understandings and agreements relating to the subject matter hereof, whether oral or written." The purpose of a provision like this ...

5 Critical Ways to Make Your Startup Blog Stand Out

Starting a business from scratch is no cakewalk, and neither is attracting people to your startup's blog. There are a few key steps to creating a blog that not only entices your audience, but makes them want to run and tell their friends about it. 1. Write Amazing Content There is nothing more important to your blog than having awesome content. This is what will keep people coming back for more. Creating amazing content means writing information that will help people solve a problem, answer questions, and provide new information. This also means you need to offer a fresh perspective and/or share original ideas. In addition to writing great ...

Technori is Hiring a Sponsorship Sales Rockstar

  Join The Awesome Technori Team! Technori is building the best starter community in the world and you can be a part of our growth in 2013. (more…)

Teach Me How To Dabble: What I Learned About Pitching To Angel Investors

I'm a big fan of learning new things from new people. Well, let me correct myself. I like to learn new things from people that know what they are talking about. Sometimes I learn things from people that don't know what they are talking about, but that's a very different type of learning. When I saw that Jeff Carter was teaching a class on how to pitch to angel investors on Dabble, I couldn't resist. Jeff is a co-founder of Hyde Park Angels and an avid blogger, so I'm pretty sure he knows the topic intimately. I signed up on the site, paid my dues, and was ready to learn. I sent the link to another friend who registered and met me at the class. ...

Startup PR: How to Create a Kick-Ass Media Plan

If you've already read the Technori article on PR basics written by my friend and colleague Rebekah Iliff, you understand the value of PR and know you need it for your brand. If you haven’t yet read it, go ahead and take a minute to do so now before we get started. ...Okay, let’s begin! More and more entrepreneurs are choosing to handle their own public relations for many reasons. Obviously, there is a cost savings, but what is more important than any financially-driven motive is that you should do your own PR (until you have outgrown the DIY model or have the budget to bring in the pros). Why? No one is more passionate about your brand, ...

An Entrepreneur’s Letter to President Obama: Give Americans a Great Challenge to Pursue

Dear Mr. President, Like so many of my fellow Americans, I was raised to believe that Americans are capable of anything we put our minds to. This has been proven time and time again through our history. From defeating the most powerful army in the world in 1777 to putting a man on the moon to building a powerful computer that fits in our pockets. Americans have accomplished great feats in politics, business, humanity, and engineering for almost 250 years. But today, something is missing. Something important that you are in a unique position to give us. We are missing a specific cause to unite behind and pursue. Instead, we are wandering in the ...

The Starter League UX Design: Top Visual Design Techniques and Research Methods

It's Week #2 of the UX Design class I'm taking at The Starter League. After covering UX design heuristics last week, we dove right into these three topics: Visual Design Principles Conducting Surveys Conducting Field Research Visual Design Principles Visual design principles are essentially the aesthetic rules you should be mindful of whenever you create something (like any website). There are four major categories of design principles we talked about: 1.) Unity Unity is the extent to which all of the elements in your design are clearly associated with one another. Unity can be demonstrated in various ways: color schemes, shape of ...

StartupBus and a Battle Royale for Chicago’s Top Talent

Word on the street is that Chicago is becoming one of the best places to conceive, build, and launch an incredible startup. But with the announcement of StartupBus Chicago, we now have an opportunity to prove it, by competing head to head with cities better known for nurturing great startups. StartupBus is an annual, premier and exclusive competition that invites only the nation's top entrepreneurial cities to compete against one another. A team of Hackers (Developers), Hipsters (Designers), and Hustlers (Product, Marketing, PR) are challenged to create a viable company in 72 hours while traveling 60mph on a bus. The destination: SXSW Interactive in ...

The Big Marketing Mistakes You Need to Quit Making

Building your marketing strategy and using it to shape your digital identity means making an endless amount of decisions. Trying to lay the foundation of a bulletproof plan can be daunting, to say the least. While it’s a blessing that technology lets you carve out your niche and tell a unique story to your customers and audience, this means you must thread the needle with your decisions if you’re going to achieve your goals. Using social media foolishly. There isn’t a “right” way to use social media, but there sure are a lot of wrong ways. Launching a Facebook page and then not maintaining it, or filling it with unoriginal content, ...

Don’t Know How to Market Your Startup? Here is a 7-Step Plan to Get You Started

It’s not just large companies that need marketing plans; your startup needs one, too. Like a business plan, a marketing plan will help you focus and decide where and how to spend your resources. A marketing plan won’t guarantee success, but what it will do is give you a guide that details how, when, and why you’ll carry out certain efforts. This is extremely important because it increases your chance for success. Not only that, the work you put into developing such a plan will help you better understand your business and industry. Here’s how to get started: 1.) Brainstorm Before writing a marketing plan, consult your business plan. ...

5 Tips for Bootstrapping Your Startup’s Promotional Video

It’s not easy for a young company to show off its personality. Founders typically don’t have a lot of visibility (most people aren’t huge dorks like me who have amassed thousands of twitter followers), and the company’s culture can’t always be expressed through the product itself. Of all the channels a startup can use to share the narrative of their mission and people, video has consistently emerged as a top contender for commanding interest. People prefer downloading information through video, not reading it (the ironic length of this blog post is noted). There are plenty of reasons why video works so well, and we’ve seen several ...

Why Working at a Startup is Better Than Getting an MBA

What kind of "degree" are you working on ? At a certain point in my career, I spent nine months working in an undercapitalized tech startup business trying to build a widget and acquire paying customers.  I had to forego a lot of immediate financial rewards (such as a monthly salary) for deferred gratification: to go do something I enjoyed, and build something that would make a difference. It didn’t work and I decided to move on. So was it all a waste of time—a lost year that I will never get back? The answer is clearly a NO. What I gave up in earnings through a steady salary, I more than made up for it given the experience I had: ...

How Do You Deal With Obstacles While Building A Business?

When last week started, I had a pretty good idea where my company was headed. My co-founder and I were confident that we could find an appropriate tablet device, develop a basic prototype, and begin testing by April. We had done several days of market research, a few days of programming, and a couple days of messaging. We strongly believed we were on the right track. But, by the end of the week, we had scrapped our 3 month plan, gone back to basic brainstorming, and were even willing to entertain a completely different domain for our company. What happened in between was a perfect lesson in startup strategy, teamwork, and knowing when to change ...

The Starter League: An Intro to UX Design

"Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works." - Steve Jobs I just took my first Starter League class: User Experience (UX) Design. If you aren't already familiar with it, Starter League is a rad school currently based out of Chicago that teaches: HTML, CSS, Ruby on Rails, visual design, and UX design. People from all over the world come to Starter League—which is hosted at the popular community and co-working space, 1871—to learn how to code, design, and develop web apps. The in-person classes are quite intensive, ranging from 1-3 meeting days per week, for ...

Put Down That Ramen! Top 10 Reasons Entrepreneurs Need to Stay Healthy

With a busy work schedule, "I don't have time" is a tempting response to the things we know we should be doing: more exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and engaging in stress reducing activities.  However, taking the time to take good care of your health has plenty of advantages, including: Staving off sickness.  Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are helpful for preventing illness.  Good nutrition, exercise, and sleep may require a little bit more time during your day, but it could save you days of recovering from illness throughout the year. Even more energy.  Studies show that ...

Love it or Hate it, Tech Buzz Words Are Here to Stay

Big Data, Growth Hacker, The Cloud & Lean Startup - these are the four most overused tech buzz words used in the starter community. Every time a new trend emerges, someone tries to explain it, which usually ends up in a buzz word that everyone can understand at a high level. Leena Rao wrote a piece on why we need to kill the term "big data", Chris Dotson wrote about why he hates the term "cloud", "Growth Hacker" is just a BS term for "Marketer who understands analytics," and isn't every startup a lean startup now? I can even combine the words. Big Data in the Cloud. Growth Hacking is Lean Marketing for Startups. Let me see if I can use ...

Be Wary of Seductive Productivity Blogs

If I asked you what kinds of blogs dominate your RSS feed or Twitter lists, I imagine there’s a good chance that a number of them are productivity blogs. I’m a recovering addict myself. If it’s out there, I've probably read it. I have  spent an unhealthy amount of time digesting the likes of Lifehacker, Ben Casnocha, Ramit Sethi, Zen Habits, Brazen Careerist, Tim Ferriss, and more. I realized at one point that I had become an productiv-a-holic. Sifting through productivity blogs like a junkie in an alley desperate for a fix to make my life somehow more efficient. After one of my countless free afternoons spent in a spectacularly unproductive ...

Three Ways Your First Employees Can Kill Your Startup

There may be no greater objective credibility for a startup than hiring employees.  Putting new people on the payroll not only makes the Friday foosball tournaments more enjoyable, but exudes economic patriotism in this post-Great Recession world. Employees can help a startup scale and gain real traction, but they also present real risks.  When your startup begins hiring, keep these three risks in mind: 1. Hell Hath No Fury Like an Employee Scorned Most of us have experienced a bad break-up, typically involving some manner of public humiliation or property damage.  The same dynamics exist with employee relationships.  When early hires are ...

What Goes Around Comes Around—Finding Gold in the Golden Rule

Growing up, my parents always taught me to "treat people the way I would like to be treated."  Maybe your parents taught you a similar lesson.  Of course, as an elementary school-aged kid, treating people how we wanted to be treated mostly involved choosing whether to name call, share, tease, or go to birthday parties.  The intent of the rule doesn't change with age, but the specific actions do evolve.  For instance, treating someone how we'd like to be treated today is more likely to mean we respond to an email quickly or give someone a raise.  Still, we make decisions related to sharing, teasing, or going to birthday (or other types of) ...

Who Should You Get In Bed With? Ask These 4 Questions Before Starting Any Business Partnership

Last time I wrote about finding (and being) a good co-founder. But, not every partnership is between two or more individuals. Sometimes, building a business means building relationships with other organizations. I discovered this recently as I continue to build my learning technologies business. A few weeks ago, I began a partnership with Mobile Makers Academy. I decided to form this partnership using the following questions as a guiding framework. In case you find yourself facing a similar opportunity as you develop your own business, I offer these thoughts. After you've had a chance to pick through my process, tell us your own. Question #1: ...

Technori & BigMarker: We’re Covering CES for You This Week!

Technori and BigMarker are headed to Las Vegas this week from January 8-10 to cover the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for you! CES, a major technology trade show that takes place in Vegas every January, is expected to welcome 3,000 exhibitors and over 150,000 attendees this year. We'll be live streaming 50+ interviews with tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs this week, and we want you to be part of the conversation. Anyone can join in and watch the interviews here: https://www.bigmarker.com/ces The interviews load right in your browser—just make sure you've downloaded the latest version of Adobe Flash. Inside the ...

Rejection vs. Failure: Which is Worse?

Fail fast and fail often is the new mantra in the starter community. I agree 100%, but I think there is a difference between failure and rejection. Most of the time, what happens is actually rejection and not failure. Let's look at the definition of rejected vs. failure: Definition of rejected: Definition of failure: Rejection could mean many things. Not getting an email reply from someone you want to do business with Getting rejected for a job or startup that you wanted to work for Getting rejected for a date with someone you like Not making the final shot at a basketball game. Failure: Getting fired from a job or ...