9 days until Founders & Funders

It’s only 9 days until Founders & Funders Toronto. The challenge is to find a group of companies, in Toronto in the software and media spaces that are high growth, and high potential to raise venture capital. We have an excellent group of attendees. Think you should be attending? Nominate your company, we’re looking to bring together the people that start high-potential-growth companies and the people that fund them.

What set’s these companies apart? Their ability to explain their business in 140 characters. Maybe. Are they connected to the power players in this industry? Calling Jevon and I power players is flattering, but untrue. The Founders & Funders event is not a training event, it is not a sales event, t is not a recruiting event. It is not for service providers looking to sell services to these ventures.

Lots of folks didn’t really understand the venture capitalist are in the business of making money and that means investing into an idea that will turn itself into a pile of money with a 5-7 year timeframe; sooner would be better.  Lots of questions about how to buy us out causes me to make the point here  I made in meetings: If you aren’t into taking an idea, giving up some equity and getting to a liquidity event, we shouldn’t be an option for your funding.” – Rick Segal

It is a networking event focused on the people that start high-potential-growth companies and those people that fund them.

VC’s and entrepreneurs need to talk early.  I made the case that the early you speak with me the better which apparently was counter to everything others are saying.

Founders & Funders is designed to provide a social forum to help the money and the talent talk. As I used to say to Sutha at Ambient Vector, “it’s not that I don’t think there will be a YouTube for mobile, just convince me why you’re going to win”. Don’t tell me that your exit strategies are one of the following:

  • IPO
  • Acquisition
  • Diversification
  • Failure (please don’t let it be failure)

Help me understand why you’d be a candidate for IPO or acquisition. Is a would be acquirer buying your team? Your technology? Your customers? What business development are you doing to get acquired? Have you talked to the M&A folks at RIM? Or Yahoo? Your job is to get people excited about your company and your product offering(s). These aren’t questions that I ask because I like to hear myself talk, I want to know that you’re building a high-potential-growth business. I want to understand your business, market, product, business model, customers, strategic relationships, competition, barriers to entry, etc.

Nominate your company to attend Founders & Funders.

10 Reasons Gen Xers are Unhappy at Work

Corporations really need folks in their 30s to early 40s, but there is a tentative relationship at best between that cohort and Corporate America – 10 Reasons Gen Xers are Unhappy at Work

This list, all but #8, feel strangely familiar. I hadn’t realized the impact of being part of Generation X and  Rae Days, Roger and Me, Reaganomics and Black Monday had on the underlying psyche of a generation. Tammy Erickson has a great article in Business Week. This coupled with the DIY ethic and punk rock nature of the first generation of web startups, it make sense that GenXers have issues with corporate america. Where was Johnny Bunko 15 years ago?

  1. X’ers’ corporate careers got off to a slow start and many are still feeling the pain.
  2. When you were teens, X’ers witnessed adults in your lives being laid off from large corporations, as re-engineering swept through the business lexicon.
  3. Most corporate career paths “narrow” at the top —the perceived range of options diminishes as individuals become increasingly specialized in specific functions or roles.
  4. Just your luck—the economy was slow when you entered the workforce and now its slowing once again—just as you are standing at the threshold of senior management.
  5. And then there are those pesky Gen Y’s.
  6. X’ers are, in fact, surrounded by a love fest—and not feeling the love.
  7. X’ers are the most conservative cohort in today’s workforce—and you’re surrounded by “shake ‘em up” types on both sides.
  8. Many X’ers’ are guarding a closely held secret: you’re not all as comfortable with the technology that is changing the way things are done as everyone seems to think you are.
  9. And if Boomer colleagues are annoying, the Boomer parents of your Y reports are down-right over-the-top.
  10. Finally, your own parenting pressures are at a peak.

Status is better than cash

The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt

Scientific American is reporting a study that shows “that money and social values are processed in the same brain region, providing insight into how we make choices”. Whuffie might be significantly more important factor in how people make decisions than cash rewards.

“Although we intuitively know that a good reputation makes us feel good, the idea that a good reputation is a ‘reward’ had long been just an assumption without scientific proof,” says Norihiro Sadato

The research performed an fMRI of participants brains while performing 2 different tasks. The first task was a card game where volunteers choose one of three kids with the chance of winning a cash reward. The second task included a computer game where they were given a chance to earn both monetary rewards and social status. The same sections of their brains became “just as animated” when given a chance to improve social standing as an opportunity to win money.

“It’s hugely influential even [when we’re not] in direct competition with someone else.” – Caroline Zink

It’s looking more and more that social status, and therefore social capital is a real motivator for people. We’re still a long way from having a social capital based currency like whuffie as described in Doctorow’s excellent Down and Out in the Magic Kindom. But social capital is a major motivational reward, and the work of Kathy Sierra and Tara Hunt about reputation and reward in communities is being supported by neuroscience.

The Adoption Funnel & Evangelism Marketing

Cross posted on CommunityNorth.ca

Evangelism is…

It was used more in the evangelistic sense of preaching, pounding on the pavement, getting the job done, taking the battle to the customer – all that stuff. And that’s the sense. It was kind of a good way of saying that this is a real intellectual sales and marketing kind of hype job (laughs). – Guy Kawasaki

Evangelism is a sales and marketing kind of hype job. It really says it all. It’s all very simple, it’s about instilling a strong sense of loyalty amongst employees and/or customers such that they want to talk about your products. You get people to believe and they in turn get more people to believe. The difference is between sales and evangelism is between who is doing the preaching.

Sales is rooted in what’s good for me. Evangelism is rooted in what’s good for you. – Guy Kawasaki

Ulimately, evangelism is about “bringing good news” based on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Associations Ambassadors program. Fortunately, this has been digested and broken down into a marketing program. Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell have a great blog and 2 great books:

Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force
by Ben McConnell, Jackie Huba

Read more about this book…

Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message
by Ben McConnell, Jackie Huba

Read more about this book…

Jackie and Ben present a framework where “the ultimate goal is to create communities of influencers who drive sales or membership for your company or organization”.

  1. Customer plus-delta: Continuously gather customer feedback.
  2. Napsterize knowledge: Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
  3. Build the buzz: Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
  4. Create community: Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  5. Make bite-size chunks: Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
  6. Create a cause: Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.

We’re talking about using evangelism techniques to build community and drive revenue. This is very different than the altruistic ideals behind my involvement with BarCamp, DemoCamp and other.

Is there a difference between evangelism marketing and community evangelism?

CaseCampToronto7 + StartupCampToronto2

Eli has announced CaseCampToronto7 (or check out the Facebook event). It’s happening the same day as StartupCampToronto2, so you’ll just have to self segment, Social Media Mavens versus Entrepreneurs. Though, it looks like both events are going to be homeruns!

What: CaseCampToronto7
CaseCamp is a free social media participant-driven conference. Fantastic networking in the bar followed by four 15 minute case-studies. At this camp the case studies will be: 1. The TD Canada Trust Facebook Story Sue McVey, VP Marketing Planning, TD Canada Trust 2. Canada’s Boxing Day Hub, 2007 at RedFlagDeals.com Derek Szeto, Founder of RFD.com 3. Story2Oh!, Evolving TV Storytelling to Social Networks Jill Golick, Executive Producer 4. Radiothon Diaries, Harnessing YouTube for the Hospital for Sick Children
When: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM
Where: CiRCA

126 John Street
Toronto, Ontario M4V 2E3   Canada

StartupCampToronto2 is happening at The Canadian Innovation Exchange conference. Jevon summarizes my feelings nicely about the role of conferences the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX). Whether this is a beauty contest (or not), it’s been an interesting conversation about the perceived value to both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists about having companies pay to present. There has been a lot of changes made by the team at CIX in response to feedback on blogs and Twitter.

What: StartupCampToronto2
StartupCamp Toronto is an evening focused on helping Toronto’s early stage startups move to the next stage by putting them in the spotlight, and then by giving them pragmatic and un-filtered feedback on their business.
When: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where: The Carlu

444 Yonge Street (College Park & Yonge Street) www thecarlu com
Toronto, Ontario M5B 2H4

The list of 20 presenting companies at CIX includes:

Community lifecycle

Gordon makes reference to the customer lifecycle to as a method for thinking about the participants in community activities. Bruce Clay and Janet Ryan elaborate on the buying continuum:buying-model

  • Reach – Claim someone’s attention
  • Acquisition – Bring that person into your sphere of influence 
  • Conversion – Turn that person into a paying customer
  • Retention – Keep that person as a customer
  • Loyalty – Turn that person into an advocate

This model is tied very tightly to customer purchasing behaviour and presents a model for marketing to customers. It applies to community, but a lot of metrics are different. Most of the metrics are tied to purchasing behaviour. 

Reach

Early in the launch of TorCamp and DemoCamp, reach was a primary goal. By identifying key people who I wanted to participate, i.e., in social marketing speak the influencers, you just create vanity links to them. The other big challenge early in starting DemoCamp was fairly nerd-oriented using only RSS and a wiki for the initial planning and organizing of events and activities. This probably reduced the understanding of what the community was about and the ability for non-techies to join in the conversation.

Tactics

  • Advertising
  • Blogging in particular vanity linking for key influencers
  • Commenting on other blogs
  • Participation on other sites
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Flickr
    • Slideshare
  • Common Tagging
  • Podcasting

Acquisition

This is making the content accessible and understandable to a large audience.

The efforts here

Tactics and Tools

  • Low cost and low effort event registration
    • Free for new attendees, pay what you can
  • Open participation format

Conversion

In the TorCamp and DemoCamp world, conversion is less about creating paying customers but about getting people to an event. This has included a very simple mantra of “build it an they will come”. By drawing a line in the sand, i.e., finding a venue and hosting an event the idea was this was an actionable item that people could begin their participation.

Tactics and Tools

  • Low cost and low effort event registration
    • Free for new attendees, pay what you can
  • Open participation architecture
  • Mailing list signup
  • RSS subscription
  • Shared event calendar
    • Make it easy to find out when events are happening

Retention

In the case of DemoCamp is pretty simple, get people to return to a future event.

Tactics and Tools

  • High quality content and invited presenters
  • Personal connections to existing community members
    • Community ambassadors
  • Shared event calendar
    • Make it easy to find out when events are happening

Loyalty

Loyalty is a challenging activity. As part of the DemoCamp activities this has been embraced by 2 primary activities, “tell someone that you think should attend the next DemoCamp” and it’s “the derivatives that matter most”. We focused on the early DemoCampToronto events by making sure people were encouraged to invite others. Also embracing events and groups that are separate from the original vision including CaseCamp, MoMoCamp, FacebookCamp, DrupalCampToronto and others.

Loyalty is what drives reach.

Tactics and Tools

  • Create advocates and evangelists that invite others to the event
  • Blogging, photos, podcasts, etc. using common tagging by attendees
  • Create new events using similar format and DNA

Measuring community success

How do you know if a community is succeeding? Is the Toronto community a success?

My Toronto community wrangling efforts have not had a corporate master. It has allowed the community to evolve without the tooling or reporting that is often present in corporate activities. The meme used to seed the community has evolved but has always been about the altruistic value of having a strong community. It was built on the premise of participation, i.e., participation equates to citizenship.

The premise is that everyone attending must present something. This is great, it ensures participation.   2005/9/30 – BarCampToronto

It’s funny, because we then immediately broke with participation for DemoCampToronto2.

Do I have to have a demo?

Nope! You are welcome to come along and give feedback to the people who do (or just watch and absorb if you don’t feel like talking).

But we had a very clear mission:

we want to continue to develop an active startup community in Toronto.

The idea being that for startups in Toronto we need a common meeting place. DemoCamp is about bringing together a community. “The community is the framework” is the underlying mantra. By brining people together who have shared interests new things can develop. New relationships. New companies. New ideas. New employees. It has been about meeting people, making connections, learning, sharing, finding inspiration and generally getting excited about all of the cool things going on in Toronto.

In the process the number of people attending the events has grown. From 26 attendees at DemoCampToronto1, to over 400 at DemoCampToronto17. We’ve had corporate sponsors. We have pitches. We’ve had a lot of really cool demos, presentations and discussions. DemoCamp has happened in spite of a corporate mission. The costs were low enough that it could fly under the radar, there weren’t metrics associated with the $400 sponsorships. As the event grew, we just grew the number of sponsors. It was pretty straight forward. As the event has grown the costs have changed. The venues have changed. The presentation format has changed. But because it’s been about having an event where people in the Toronto community can show what they’ve been working on; meet others doing interesting things; and knowing the event was for the community.

Measuring Success

For everyone that thought this was going to be about the future of DemoCamp, sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve started to think about DemoCamp as a microcosm for community and why companies get involved.

It’s best when the events are directly aligned with the marketing efforts of the organizations involved. FacebookCampToronto is hosted by Refresh Partners and Trapeze Media and sponsored by Facebook. Refresh Partners is a social media marketing firm. Hosting events like FacebookCamp Toronto enable them to demonstrate their expertise and influence in the market place. It helps establish thought leadership and market expertise. And hopefully it should be pretty obvious why Facebook, would sponsor events like FacebookCamp or Facebook Developers Garage. The idea is the value of Facebook as a platform increases as the number of developers, the number of applications and the number of users increase – similar to Metcalfe’s Law describing the value of the a telecommunications network. One of the reasons for focusing on growing the number of attendees at DemoCamp and embracing outside groups (“it’s the derivatives that matter most”), has been Reed’s Law, being technology agnositic has allowed the group to grow and while it enables the formation of smaller subgroups, the overall utility of being a DemoCamp or TorCamp participant increases with the number of people.

Measuring success for the events and the tools is pretty straight forward.

  • Unique Attendees or Visitors
  • Registrations or New Memberships
  • Presentation/Demo Submissions
  • Attendee Loyalty (aka Turnover)

These are very similar metrics to the ROI dimensions reported in OCRN’s Online Community ROI [PDF – 1.28Mb] report and Online Community Metrics [PDF – 455kb].

OCRN Online Community Metrics – Question 12: Which community metrics do you track?

  Very Important Moderately Important Not Important No Collected
Unique Visitors 62% 26% 12% 10%
New Member Registrations 62% 21% 17% 12%
Page Views 57% 26% 17% 12%
Retention / Attrition 50% 22% 5% 22%
Member Loyalty 46% 12% 0% 41%
Member Satisfaction 44% 12% 2% 41%
Most Active Members 43% 40% 5% 14%
Top Searches 40% 30% 2% 30%
Message Posts 38% 48% 14% 12%
Conversion 38% 18% 5% 40%
Advertising Performance 32% 20% 0% 49%
Influencer/Evangelist Identification 32% 29% 2% 37%
Member Lifecycle 28% 22% 2% 50%
First Time Contributors 24% 27% 10% 39%
Content Rating 22% 22% 2% 52%
Ratio: Unregistered to Registered Visitors 17% 34% 12% 37%
Ratio: Page Views Per Post 15% 39% 12% 34%
Reputation Changes 13% 28% 5% 54%
Ratio: Posts Per Thread 12% 28% 22% 38%
Content Tagging 12% 24% 2% 62%
Comments per Blog Post 11% 26% 13% 50%
Ratio: Searches Per Post 10% 12% 20% 58%
Podcasts & Video (linked to Uploaded) 8% 33% 0% 59%
Member Blog Posts 5% 31% 8% 56%
Size of Networks/Buddy lists 2% 22% 5% 70%
         

These metrics apply to online communities, but can be modified and interpreted for real world communities. Bill Johnston provides an update with data of 150 survey respondents from February 2008.

Top ranking metrics

  • Traffic patterns & statistics
  • Community member engagement
  • Unique number of visitors
  • New Member registrations
  • Member Satisfaction
  • Product feedback and/or ideation for R&D

We haven’t collected these statistics. However, since we started using EventBrite to collect registrations it should be a lot easier to begin to apply them to the community. We could look at message traffic in the Google Group and on the Skype Chat. Alvin Chin has reported that the sense of membership and emotional connection with a community is strongly correlated to the number of acquaintances. Perhaps it’s the number of member replies on Twitter. Or the number of shared friends on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Plaxo, MSN or other.

Tara and I talked about the health of communities and community metrics at FooCamp. Tara has done a great job setting up a wiki to track Community Metrics. Here are the metrics Tara has used in the past to measure community health:

  • the rate of attrition, especially with new members (I think it is really telling when you drive traffic that doesn’t stick around – you will have to really examine whether you are offering something of need)
  • the average length of time it takes for a newbie to become a regular contributor
  • number of referrals (strength of positive word of mouth)
  • multiple community crossover – if your members are part of many communities, how do they interact with your site? Flickr photos? Twittering? Etc.?
  • the number giving as well as the receiving actions – eg. readers receive, posters are giving (advice, knowledge, etc.). PopSugar has a neat reward system built in for this with their gifting for contributions in the community
  • community participation in gardening, policing and keeping the community a nicer place (eg. people who click on the ‘report this as spam’, people who edit the wiki for better layout, etc.)
  • number of apps built off of your API (if you have one) – a good ‘number’ measure as the number of apps usually correlate with your social capital

What would be the metric you’d like to see DemoCamp success measured against?

Community Platforms

Apparently I’m not alone in thinking about community platforms. Chris Prillo is talking about the tools available for community owners, operators, moderators and members. Adam Kalsey talks about the work on IMified, SacStarts and ActivityStream. Both are building on top of Drupal, which has generated support from Boris Mann of Raincity Studios. I haven’t done a lot of work on Drupal in recent years, I last evaluated it for a project in 2005. But the superb work of the Raincity Studios and Lullabot continues to blow me away.

But I started to wonder what other software platforms were available for building communities. Here is the list that I was able to come up with:

There are other tools like the Community Platform that powers http://expression.microsoft.com/ and TechNet and MSDN, that are not commercially available.

I’m starting to think about the tools that we’re missing to enable the Toronto community. The discussion has focused around the technical details of the platform:

  • OpenSocial
  • OpenID
  • OAuth

But it’s when Chris talks about the functionality and participation and discovery that I start to think about the potential and needs.

I don’t want a social network, I want a socially *RELEVANT* network (both on-site and beyond). I don’t want a community platform, I want a participation platform where members are rewarded and ranked appropriately. I don’t want a place where people can just blog, because I’m going well beyond the blog. It’s not just about hosting videos, audio files, or any piece of random media – it’s the discovery mechanisms between them that make them more relevant.

It’s discovery – no matter the community, no matter the type of content. Imagine coming to a site and not just reading about what other people are interested in, but what interests they SHARE with you! Imagine coming to a site and seeing how someone ranks in answers pertaining to your own questions! Oh, I’m confident you may have seen these features elsewhere – but what about for your own site, what about for your own community, what about for your own ideas?

It’s about the connections, the participation, and the discovery of relevant details. Time to think about this a little more.

Groundswell: Application to Gauge Social Networks Attitudes

Thank you Beet.TV.

There is a lot of interest in tap into the wealth of behavioural data that is unlocked by social media applications. There has not been a lot of tools that really go beyond traditional demographic or web analytic measures.

Groundswell is Forrester Research’s new tool for understanding the social media ecosystem of: Creators; Critics; Collectors; Joiners; Spectators and Inactives. Groundswell provides some initial breakdowns using basic demographic data (Age; Country; Sex) to identify the composition of the social group according to their Social Technographics® and compared to the general population.

Interesting stuff. Unfortunately there is no data about Canada.

It’s tied to the release of Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff‘s book of the same name, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. I’m really curious at how much data they collected, it’s probably better than most anecdotal evidence but the quote from book site is a little nebulous:

"hard consumer data and experience with dozens of companies"

Apparently it’s based on "65 corporate examples including 25 full case studies". But it’s interesting to begin to build a profile of the audience and the general archetypes. This basic level of research is designed to get you to purchase additional research from Forrester. And it’s a very good start. I wonder how many media startups are not able to provide similar basic demographic details about their audience. What happens when we move beyond CPMs and CPCs? At Nakama, the behaviour analysis tools were very immature, probably a contributing factor to our failure, but we understood to build a "mobile social community" we needed to understand who was using our site, from where and what they were doing on the site. In our case, it turned out that it was to upload pictures of their wangs (yep, not their Wangs). It would have been very interesting to have build our strategies and tactics on the understanding of the social media ecosystem provided by Groundswell.

CIX Survey says…

Ali asked for the survey results from the Exchanging Innovations Canadian-style post.

There were 23 respondents. No details were collected about relevancy to the Canadian Innovation Exchange market. Just looking for plain and simple opinion about what people would pay to attend CIX and what else would be valuable. Rick and Alec have provided commentary on the issue. I think the model is upside down, i.e., I’m not sure why as a entrepreneur I should pay to attend for a dog-and-pony show for VCs, I do pay to attend conferences. It really puts the onus on the CIX organizers to provide valuable content and a meaningful conference experience.

Robert and Sean have been listening and have adjusted their pricing for early-stage and later-stage companies.

The registration fee for seed stage companies is now $595, and later stage companies is $995 – this includes your delegate fee, and all presenting costs.

And have provided interesting keynote speakers:

The survey comments, included verbatim below, indicate the need for better conference experiences. I keep thinking about how we can improve the experiences of attendees and participants for DemoCamp and other participant-driven events.

 

Q.1 What is the maximum you would pay as an entrepreneur to attend and present at the Canadian Innovation Exchange?

Answer Count
$0 – Free 2 (9%)
$25 0 (0%)
$50 2 (9%)
$100 5 (22%)
$200 2 (9%)
$250 2 (9%)
$400 1 (4%)
$500 5 (22%)
$600 2 (9%)
More than $600 2 (9%)

Q.2 What do you expect in return?

Answer Count
10 minutes on stage 17 (29%)
Media coverage – press, blog, other 12 (20%)
3 Private Venture Meetings 10 (17%)
Free advice 9 (15%)
Private meetings with service providers 5 (8%)
$10,000 Best-in-Show prize 3 (5%)
Discounts 2 (3%)
Free software 1 (2%)

Q.3 What else would be valuable?

  • Having some ‘connectors’ who will help introduce people with like interests.
  • All of the above is great but what really matters is meetings with the right people. Otherwise it’s blind dating.
  • Just meeting the right people when we are ready for VC funding and learning the whole process of funding and when it’s a good time to go for funding. We are not ready now for funding now but would like to attend the conference to start meeting ‘qualified’ investors and not people who will drag the process. We are hiring someone to help with the development but hiring a dev is equally important as meeting the right people which I think CIX brings, unfortunately with hiring a dev, cash becomes tight when you are self funding 🙁
  • Critical advice from seasoned entrepreneurs with no vested interest
  • Simple Exposure
  • Allow co-founders to attend for their company presentation! A start-up is a team activity…team work makes the dream work as they say. So limiting the price structure to one founder there is just not the best way to go – even if it involves giving a discount for attending co-founders.
  • Not expected but media coverage would be valuable if my project was deemed worthy.
  • workshops/tutorials – organized collaboratively through the conference producers and the registered delegates.
  • lisitng on CIX website.
  • Social aspects
  • Proof of value. A proxy is knowing who is participating. Otherwise I’d write it off as a go nowhere boondoggle.