CoFoundersLab helps match start up entrepreneurs

Linda Marshall-SmithEvery start up entrepreneur has probably heard this a thousand times.  Finding the right co-founder is like dating. It’s match making.  It’s meeting people, getting to know them, building relationshps, working with them on small projects to see just how well  you work together.  It doesn’t happen over night.

Some founders are lucky…

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple)

Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google)

In the case of Jobs and Woz, they knew each other as kids!  They went way back.  Brin and Page met in college, formed their bond there.  Needless to say, both teams were kinda successful.  To say the least, right?

But for most founders, getting the core co-founding team can take a lot of time, trial and error.

That’s why CoFoundersLab decided to help solve the problem.  Founded in Washington, D.C. and now with installations in a number of cities across the country, CoFoundersLab is attempting to facilitate the process of founder match making.  In a recent article from BuiltInLA, Michael Hughes, one of the co-founders of CoFoundersLab, explains a bit about the service and how its helping start up entrepreneurs find the perfect cofounders in Los Angeles.

New way to cut the clutter? Old school snail mail.


Sample direct mail postcard. No such company. No such phone.


I receive over 1000 email a day.  Yup.  You heard correctly.   It’s an onslaught.  Even if there is a compelling marketing message among all the spam and important corporate, friends, or family correspondence, I don’t see it.  Most likely it ends up, un-read, in a spam purge to the trash bin.

However, with all the “evoicing,” electronic banking, Paypal and other electronic ways to pay, and companies promoting non-paper alternatives to communication, my snail mail box is fairly empty day to day.

This could be the perfect opportunity for clever marketers to revisit the old standby — direct mail — to cut the clutter of electronic correspondence. These days, I am more apt to read and act upon something that is delivered by the postman than by my computer or smartphone.  Especially if it is unsolicited.

The tangible and tactile sensation of feeling and reading a colorful flyer or postcard promoting a service, product or event, will grab my attention a lot better than some pictures and text in an email.  Not to say email marketing is dead, I am just saying that it is currently where all the clutter is.

Yes, email marketing is affordable, but with the USPS “Every Door Direct Mail” product, you can also reach your valued customers for relatively affordable costs.  Give it a try.

From a Founder Institute Graduate

Graduating the Founder Institute in Los Angeles (Spring 2012 session) was a major accomplishment.  The program was at once amazing, grueling, challenging, competitive, inspiring, informative, rewarding, enlightening and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I am honored to not only have been accepted into this prestigious accelerator, but to have graduated with Chirppet, Inc. along with 13 other companies.  I learned of the Founder Institute via a business advisor in Santa Monica. He had gone through the first Los Angeles session a few years ago, and felt the program would be beneficial.  What an understatement. From clarifying your vision to financial modeling and pitching investors, Founder Institute takes you from idea to company.  I began the program wanting to pivot one company, and graduated with an entirely new company.  The assignments were tough, but on point.  The mentors were amazing. Not only did they share insights, they assisted one-on-one helping to make our pitches and business models top notch.  I’ve learned more about starting a technology company in these four months than I did in Graduate Business School.  If you are considering starting up a tech company, run don’t walk to the nearest installation of the Founder Institute and apply.  It’s not easy to get in, but should you get accepted, you will come away with a wealth of knowledge, an actionable plan, and ongoing support to get your business not only started, but funded.   Visit the Founder Institute for more information.

Should a startup run with an ad revenue or audience business model?

Linda Marshall-Smith, CEO, Chirppet, Inc.

Linda Marshall-Smith, CEO, Chirppet, Inc.

What really is the point of founding a start up?  To disrupt current practice? To fulfill a need to create?  To solve a problem?

Sure, all of the above.  But the real reason to work 48 hours a day, 8 days a week on launching a new technology product or service is to make money.

Question is — do you make money all along, or do you make money at exit, when someone either buys you or you go public?  This is an especially diabolical question when it comes to online revenue models.

There are two schools of thought on this for online platforms.

1) The more conventional old school opinion, that you make hay when the sun shines.  If you can.

2)  You don’t distract users with annoying banner and video ads, you make their user experience as clean and simple as possible so that they enjoy participating at your site without distractions and because they enjoy it so much, they invite others to join them and audience grows exponentially.  You then become very marketable to someone wanting to acquire you because you have so many users.  The name Instagram ring any bells?  They never earned one red cent, yet they were bought by Facebook for $1 Billion!

Or, was Instagram an anomaly?

The trouble with option #2 is that it is far more risky a proposition.  You suck investors dry running the business in the hope that users will flock to you and you’ll make your investors money (with a little for you, too) at exit. Plus, the more users you get, the more money you need to accommodate the traffic.

What if the investor pool dries up?   You are then forced to introduce some revenue model and if it’s ad revenue, you run the risk of alienating your users who, up until this point, have enjoyed your site ad free.  All those users who were loyal will ditch at the drop of a hat if they feel you’ve duped them into seeing ads anyway.

Which equates to another major conundrum for today’s brand marketers.  Generation Y (males and females between 18-34 and the largest market since baby boomers at 80 billion strong) and their younger counter parts (10-17) all known as Millennials don’t watch that much broadcast television. According to Dawn C. Chmielewski and Meg James, Los Angeles Times, television is almost an afterthought for this market.

“Millennials still watch television shows, but not always the old-fashioned way: lounging on a couch, remote control in hand, surfing through the channels. Increasingly, they’re streaming episodes on their computers, or fetching shows delivered to the TV set via game consoles or other Internet-connected devices, according to a survey by youth research firm Ypulse. This disrupts the decades-old methods advertisers have relied on to reach consumers.”

So, if advertisers can’t reach consumers the old fashioned way, they are turning to online and mobile device distribution to get their brand message to the demographic.

Which means that internet start ups who can integrate a seamless brand experience for site users, can capitalize on the market’s need to have a place to distribute its advertisements.

Online advertising is not going away any time soon. In fact, eMarketer predicts that by 2015 the online ad spend (including search, display and video) will top $49.5 billion.

But there is room for improvement.  Where are ads most effective?  According to an article by Zoe Fox on Mashable, there was “a recent eye-tracking study of banner ads. Using a technology called Real CPM, EyeTrackShop aims to increase the efficacy of such display ads, which are known for abysmal click-through rates.”  The study proved that ads placed on the left of the page, above the fold, got the best eye views at 84%.

All well and good.  But I take exception to the fact that rarely does anyone discuss a banner ad’s branding quotient, and for most marketers, a click is not the ultimate objective. It’s building the brand.

Why this matters for a start up:

Carefully weigh options when it comes to launching with an ad model or not. Going for the audience play is risky, and may be too risky for some entrepreneurs and investors.  Advertisers are clamoring for distribution to reach Millennials.  Why not grab that low hanging fruit, be creative with how you present the ads and show your investors your business model can make money while growing an audience that’s comfortable with brand interaction from the get go.

Disrupting Search: Artificial intelligence, recommendation engines and reputation capital

Linda Marshall-Smith, Founder & CEO, Chirppet, Inc.

Linda Marshall-Smith, Founder & CEO, Chirppet, Inc.

The business of search is ever evolving.  I remember the days, not that long ago, when I’d look for something online and get delivered up a myriad of old and out-dated sites … that were meaningless as the content was not current.

What am I saying?  This happens even now.  There is so much data available, but much of it is out of date, and I’d hesitate to quote from it, as technology changes so quickly.

My husband was using Google this morning. He was searching for information on cars. He was interested in color selections for the Toyota Prius.  He typed in “Toyota Prius exterior colors.”  Pretty specific. What Google delivered back to him was a mishmash of everything but.  He was not happy.

Chirppet is on tap to disrupt the way our users search for advice. Not only on Chirppet, but internet wide.  And we will deliver it all up with a nice little pink bow in real time.

In an article on artificial intelligence on Forbes online, author Karsten Strauss talks with Lars Hard, a pioneer in AI.  “Within the next 10 years,” Hard predicts, “the web will shift from just serving static images and a lot of unstructured text. In search, social and other categories of information, we’re seeing an information overload which will be replaced by a more computational nature and ‘reasoning’ that can help users sift through a massive ocean of information.”

Recommendation engines are also coming into their own.  Take child prodigy, Hayden Metsky, co-founder of Tipflare, who personally helped me get my account set up on his site.  According to an article in TechCrunch on TipFlare, author Rip Empson shares that Metsky and his co-founders “want Tipflare to be able to handle anything, any topic one could imagine, and beat the rest by not focusing on page views or targeting ads — just on offering a service that’s more intuitive and easier to use than the rest. And the founders have the benefit of being young and still being in school — meaning that this is a side project, not a business.”  (Metsky is about 21. He founded his first start up at age 15).

In another article by Mashable co-founder Adam Ostrow, reputation capital will also come into play.  A new book by author Rachel Botsman called What’s Mine is Yours was unveiled at Ted in Edinburgh, Scotland a few weeks ago.

“I believe we are at the start of a collaborative revolution that will be as significant as the industrial revolution,” she declared.

If these predictors are any indication, not only will our search analyze and recommend things for us based on our interests, but our online reputation will “reinvent the way we think about wealth, power, and personal identity in the 21st century.”


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