Stories about a future worth creating

Updated: Adding Tobias van Schneider’s The Agency is Dead, Long Live the Agency and Ben Cline’s Design Studios are Not Going Away to list of 

The conversation around the shutting down of TeehanLax has been very interesting and insightful. For me, it has really shown the dominance of the venture fundable, highly scalable startup narrative in relation to technology, design and the human condition.

I have been focused on this narrative. We can call it venture fundable, we can call it scalable businesses, it doesn’t matter what we call it. Being able to build a company with 32 engineers that can surpass an entire industry is seductive. It is the American dream. Anyone can build a company with the scale, wealth and impact of The Social Network. It has dominated the conversation.

But is it the narrative that will allow us to tell stories about “a future worth creating“?

I remember the moment in 1995 where my role models changed. My role models had always been designers and commentators. People like Bill Moggridge, Don Norman, David Kelley, Brenda Laurel, Bill Buxton, John Seeley BrownNathan Shredoff,Lucy SuchmanHerb Simon, Stu Card, Abigail Sellen, Paul Dourish and others. (BTW this list is by no means complete). Designers of experiences and the explainers of behaviour. The moment was the Netscape IPO. It started to shift to David Liddle, Kelly Johnson, Ben Rich and the people that started the research labs and product development groups as companies. Then I was introduced to C. Gordon Bell’s High-tech Ventures: The Guide For Entrepreneurial Success. This was the first time I had read about venture capital and the types of company that can be built. It was eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work about Benchmark that solidified it. I wanted to be a venture capitalist. It was the thoughtfulness, the wealth, the prestige and impact of this group of investors. It was Jim Breyer, Vinod Khosla, Mike Moritz and others. Because the story about new technology, new wealth creation and the ability to change the human condition were compelling. These were companies that affected my own behaviour. And it is still true today, I find myself reading David Skok, Mark Suster, Bill Gurley, Marc Andreessen, Mike Maples, Boris Wertz, Tomasz Tunguz, Reid Hoffman, John Lilly and others.

But is it the narrative that will allow us to tell stories about “a future worth creating“.

The Future of Design Agencies

“The future of design agencies lies not in their ability to become more like their in-house counterparts, but their ability to become more unique. They need to see, speak, and act differently. Their value lies in their ability to describe the changes they see in the world with new language. This, in turn, makes it possible for people to imagine the future differently from the present.” – Matthew Milan

I have not worked agency side in a long time. My only thoughts have been about the economics of scaling a linear business, and this is probably an artifact from a venture fundable view of the world (also see Jon Lax’s talk Let’s Kill the Billable Hour). It is time to start thinking about different narratives. It is  time to look to a new group building new models for inspiration.

I’m looking forward to spending more time listening and learning about different models for impactful businesses. What are the businesses and business models that inspire and intrigue you?

Feature Image – Photo credit Guigui-Lille

SMASH Summit in NYC

SMASH Summit East 2011Dave McClure and the 500 Startups folks are producing a great looking conference focused on “hack-tics” of customer acquistion. They ran a similar event in April 2010 in SF. – check out tthe presentations on SlideShare and the feedback. At the event speakers provided examples based on real usage and data. David Cowling provided a list of the social media statistics by different speakers (stats current as of May 2010 — so you hope they are crazier 14 months later), they reinforce the power of mass media platform and while fragmented the web/mobile is a great way to reach people (customers, prospects, leads, fans, haters, almost everyone).

  • Twitter has 105,779,710 users. 300K new users per day. 600 million search queries per day. 175 employees.
  • Salesforce thinks that their Youtube channel has the ROI equivalent of 35 super efficient sales reps
  • Facebook says sites that have added Like button have seen triple growth of fans
  • Stumbleupon 2010: 10 Million users, 115,000 Facebook fans, 600 Million stumbles/month, 1 Billion ratings, 45 Million URLs, 50,000 discovers/day
  • Top 5 countries after the US for Facebook usage/traffic: UK, Indonesia, Canada, France, Turkey
  • 70% of Facebook traffic comes from outside the US, 10% increase in the last year alone
  • 37% of tweets originate from mobile devices
  • Most of YouTube’s views are from videos older than 6 months old, invest in a content strategy.

I am hoping that Michael McDerment might apply to tell the FreshBooks metric story at the SMASH Summit. He first gave this talk at DemoCamp back in 2007 but he continues to evolve it based on the FreshBooks business. It’s one of my favs. And given the updated focus on both acquisition and retention it makes it a perfect opportunity for FreshBooks.

SMASH Summit will feature presentations and case studies on strategies, tactics, and “hack-tics” used in successful internet campaigns across multiple platforms—from search to social to mobile. Led by both tech geeks and savvy marketers, you will walk way with new tips and tricks for pumping up your customer acquisition and retention. In 2010, SMASH Summit debuted to a sold-out audience including speakers and attendees from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Apple, Google, Virgin America, National Geographic, Mint, Twilio, Sony, Slideshare, and many others.

I am hoping to attend because I want to see some of the approaches used to acquire customers for $0 dollars. Why? I spent part of Monday, in my role as EiR at VeloCity, asking students and entrepreneurs how they could get to 10,000 (or 100,000 or 1,000,000) users in 30 days with a $0 budget. I’m curious to see both the tactics and the tools that other high traction startups are using to attract and retain customers. Apparently I’ve been spending time understanding marketing and sales automation (again).

Great list of speakers including the infamous Dave McClure (@davemclure), Charlie O’Donnell (@CEONYC), Victoria Ransom (@wildfireapp) and others.


The Science of Word of Mouth

Demand Generation

Photo by </arpy>
Photo by </arpy>

Brydon asked me about my tips for DemoCamp presenters. The advice is very simple, it’s all about understanding the audience, your possible outcomes/next steps, and maximizing the audience engagement with the goal of achieving your outcome. It doesn’t sound very complicated. The other advice I can give to presenters is to watch other presenters with a critical eye. You can see a pitch fest or a demo almost anywhere. Need help finding one to watch: check out Demo, TechCrunch50, or even some of the previous DemoCamps.

What to expect?

Demos are 5 minutes + 5 minutes of Q&A (more if the crowd is engaged and asking good questions).

How to get the most out of my demo slot?

  1. Set realistic expectations.
    This audience is a great place to find talent, to connect with potential early adopters, or get feedback from a very savvy crowd. Decide what you want to accomplish, i.e., we want to see potential early adopter reactions, we want to get potential hires engaged, we just want to be cool. This crowd will be blogging, tweeting, talking to each other, thinking about beer, etc. It’s kind of like a TechCrunch50 or Demo light (just one calorie – tastes great and less filling).
  2. Do the coolest thing first!
    I’ve got the greatest bread slicer. Then show me the freaking sharks with lasers attached to their heads slicing the bread. Once you’ve done that, then talk about the boring stuff. You want the audience engaged. So the audience the reason that you will win (and please don’t let it be a log in box
  3. Don’t use slides unless absolutely necessary.
    This is called “Demo” Camp. People want to see functioning software. There are certain things that are hard to convey in a demo, i.e., funders, strategic relationships, etc. But if you start with the big WOW! then a few slides to convey the other details won’t get as many heckles.

This is all about demand generation. I’m happy to help you understand the audience and how to succeed. We want great demos. Demos where people go “holy shit, that was built in Canada, I want to _____” work there/buy it/make my company more like those guys.

Demo Resources

LearnHub – Account Manager

Toronto, ON

LearnHub is a young, energetic start-up located in downtown Toronto. Our site, LearnHub.com, is a social learning platform, with a global mandate to change the way people teach and learn online.

We are looking for a dynamic and customer-oriented individual to manage our partner accounts.

This job is perfect for you because:

  • You are detail-oriented and very organized
  • You enjoy working with people and have strong communication skills
  • Customer is "king" attitude when dealing with clients and client matters
  • You are self-motivated, ambitious, and actively seek out challenges
  • You have strong analytic and project management skills
  • You understand and are willing to meet the demands of a start-up work environment
  • You have an ability to push through obstacles standing in the way of project completion.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Managing the setup of clients on our platform
  • Tracking client performance and creating accurate reports
  • Working with clients to resolve any problems that may arise
  • Interfacing with our development team to implement new features to help clients succeed
  • Working with our India-based team on client related issues
  • Identifying current challenges and obstacles to appropriate people and working with them to find solutions.

Requirements

  • Education: undergraduate degree (any specialization)
  • Experience: minimum project and/or account management (2+ years), sales experience would be a plus.

We offer a casual, fun and respectful work environment, competitive compensation, and an opportunity to be part of something meaningful. Our office is located in the hip Queen & Spadina neighborhood.

This position reports to the VP of Business Development.

If this sounds interesting, please email jobs@savvica.com

BeSocial.com – BizDev/Sales Representative

Mid-town Toronto, ON

Summary

Develop new – and maintain current – partnerships with restaurants using a client-focused approach.

About us

Interested in working for a startup technology company with lots of energy and excitement? BeSocial.com is looking for the brightest and most talented candidates to join our team. We’re a small company based in Toronto with a great opportunity for anyone who joins to make a big impact.

At BeSocial, we value efficiency, working smart, and exceeding the status quo. We place great emphasis on maintaining a transparent and autonomous environment where everyone’s opinion is respected and where people’s contributions are acknowledged and rewarded. BeSocial is also proud to be an equal opportunity employer; we’re not influenced by race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or any other factor irrelevant to doing a great job.

If you feel you’re up to the task, we’d love to meet you. If this is not a fit for you, please feel free to forward this message along to others who may be interested in learning about this opportunity.

The ideal profile

You’re a confident, disciplined, self-motivated hunter AND farmer (if you think that means shooting moose and harvesting corn, don’t read any further) who’s hungry for a challenge and loves to win. As a consultative salesperson, you view selling as an opportunity to create value for clients by discovering their needs before offering a solution. Your independence is more important than your interdependence; you’d rather be out meeting new people every day instead of hanging out by the water cooler (you don’t have a choice… we don’t have a water cooler).

Responsibilities

  • Manage sales pipeline and territory, as well as organize travel schedule, meetings, and sales calls.
  • Meet with potential clients to identify and discuss their needs/requirements.
  • Conduct focused demonstrations/presentations.
  • Present proposals based on client needs.
  • Achieve sales goals and revenue targets within a set time frame.
  • Maintain positive client relationships.

Qualifications

  • 2+ years sales experience with a proven record of success and distinction.
  • Must be ambitious, hard working, and well organized.
  • Ability to work both individually and in a team environment.
  • Strong communicator with excellent problem solving, relationship building, and objection handling skills.
  • Intermediate computer knowledge; proficient in all Microsoft Office applications.
  • Experience with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce.com.
  • Know how to work and create a territory.
  • Flexibility and willingness to travel.

Assets (not required)

  • Experience in online media/marketing/advertising or the hospitality industry.
  • Business-to-business (B2B) sales experience.
  • Business degree, diploma or equivalent experience in a related field.
  • Knowledge of local Toronto (and GTA) restaurants.
  • You love food and dining out, otherwise known as a Foodie.

Availability

Full-time (40+ hrs/week). This is a long-term career position with opportunities for growth.

Location

Headquartered at Yonge and St. Clair, you’ll have access to protected territory in Toronto and may be required to travel to surrounding areas within the GTA.

Compensation & Benefits

  • Full commission + bonuses. High performance is rewarded.
  • Comprehensive health and dental.
  • New laptop provided.
  • Training program.
  • Career advancement opportunities, including Sales Management.
  • Award/recognition program.

Join Us…Apply Today!

Want to join us? Please send your resume and a cover letter with the subject "Your Name – Business Development – via BeSocial.com" to jobs@besocial.com. All communication and correspondence is held in the strictest confidence to ensure that you can connect and learn more without exposure.

Only those candidates who are considered for an interview will be contacted