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Month: June 2013

6/25/13

6/25/13

Good morning, All,

In our industry, pivoting is not only perceived as a positive: it’s often seen as a necessity, if the plan is to innovate and grow. Boxee started out as a software company and pivoted into a set-top box developer (Boxee Box) that would allow anyone to stream media from their television or computer, and which would play practically any format. It was non-techie friendly – very important : you could watch a friend’s ripped DVD’s via a USB drive, or watch the streaming services, like Netflix, Spotify, et al. Then they pivoted again into Boxee TV / Cloud DVR storage service, and basically followed in the footsteps of all of the major cable providers. In other words, they stopped innovating and started copying off their neighbor’s papers. Never a good idea: they lost a lot of their audience – and their mojo. Consequently, they couldn’t raise their next round, and since they had put themselves squarely into competition with a number of companies for whom they might have been a potential acquisition, well, those doors were pretty much closed to them, too. Someone did acquire Boxee. At the time of this writing, buyer unknown; details undisclosed. Moral of the story: If you’re going to pivot, innovate: develop something that a potential buyer might want, not what they already have. Pivot if you must, but be careful not to paint yourself into a boxee. Onward and forward.

Housekeeping: Read More...

6/18/13

6/18/13

Good morning, All,

We’ve mentioned the importance of mentors before. FastCo just came out with an excellent piece on the subject. We recently attended an event where we were asked to critique a handful of startups that were pitching. They were early stage. Most had co-founders; a few did not, and there was a distinct difference between the two, so without further ado, our list of reasons why it’s important to have a co-founder:

Having a sounding board – You don’t know everything, and not everything you think is right for the company/product, is. Good to have feedback and another opinion - from a partner. Employees are not the same. They’re getting their marching orders (and paycheck) from the top – you – so it’s just not the same as a bouncing ideas off from someone with as much skin in the game as you. Read More...

6/11/13

6/11/13

Good morning, All,

Last week, our friend Murat Aktihanaglu was watching television, trying to find news about the protests in his native Turkey. It was nowhere to be found on the major news outlets. He found it on a grassroots station. And on twitter. CNN Turkey was airing a documentary on penguins. Seriously? Unable to sit by passively and despite the fact that he’s anything but political, he was motivated to act because people were getting hurt: They were being gassed and hit by water cannons. He crowdsourced advice (via twitter and facebook) and within an hour of finding that grassroots station, he’d launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to take out a full page ad in The New York Times. Donations started pouring in from at least 50 countries, across six continents at the rate of $2,561 an hour. It was one of the fastest-growing campaigns in the platform’s history. By 11 the next morning, enough money was raised to pay for the ad – and then some. That’s when the press started paying attention: not because of the cause, but because of the virality of his campaign. Murat shifted the spotlight back to where it belonged: on the events transpiring in Turkey. We covered the story in AlleyWatch. The media wanted to make it about Arab Spring. Despite the fact that the Turkish population is heavily Muslim, it isn't about Arab Spring: Turkey is a democracy and has been for a very long time. It’s about a government out of control and a free people fighting for their rights because they are only too aware of the fact that once you lose those rights, they’re very, very difficult to get back.

Attention must also be paid to what is happening closer to home: Namely, abuse of power on a massive scale: U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program Justice Department Fights Release of Secret Court Opinion Finding Unconstitutional Surveillance There’s a coup taking place. Our privacy is being decimated. We are seeing the erosion of our civil liberties in the name of safety, by the same government that ignored intelligence that might have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings. The talking points are doublespeak, and coming from both sides of the aisle. We have a government that’s gone rogue, enabled by technology and their abuse of power, and operating outside of the system and the laws that they swore to uphold. In the words of Baudelaire: The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist. Onward and forward, but with both eyes open. Read More...

6/4/13

6/4/13

Good morning, All,

Since taking on the position as Editor in Chief at AlleyWatch, we’ve gotten any number of press releases in any given week. Same when we were in the music business. Press releases are fairly boilerplate. Which means that they becomes white noise. Which is why most press releases, especially from new/unknowns are routine and summarily ignored.

How many versions of your deck/executive summary/talking points have you written? The point is to capture the attention of the investor, hopefully in the first sentence and essentially in the first slide or two. Essentially, for you, or you’ve pretty much lost them. Newsflash: the same holds true for your press release. Don’t tell us how excited you are to have INSERT NAME HERE on as WHO CARES? Tell me a story. In other words, pretty much write the press release as if you are writing the article itself. Not that reporters are lazy: just that if you tell a good story, and a compelling one, you are much more like to get their attention/intrigue them to follow up with you and maybe even give you a bit of press. We realize that press releases have been written a certain way since time in memoriam. That doesn’t mean that it works and if you’re going that route, you’d better have a great PR firm behind you, in which case, they’d have written the press release themselves and that doesn’t mean you have to accept the status quo and sign off on it: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. You need an angle. If you don’t have an angle – that thing that differentiates you as having something besides just another company launch announcement – you don’t have a story. Not one that’s likely to be readily picked up, anyway. Read More...

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