Our blog | Blogads

Archive for March, 2010

10 years ago

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

If I’d been blogging today ten years ago, I’d have some mental snapshot of the day the dotcom bubble popped.

Bubble graph

Throughout February and early March, we’d been busy with due diligence on a $5 million deal with Advent International to fund a radical expansion of Pressflex.com to rent affordable websites to newspapers across Europe. We already had customers everywhere from Eu, France to Bolton, Scotland.

A couple of weeks after the bubble burst, Advent got cold feet and pulled the plug on all their potential deals. Worse — at least for portfolio companies — a few months after that they stopped funding all their dotcoms, at least in Europe.

We quickly slashed salaries, laid some good people off and scaled back our plans to simple survival and trying to nurse our money in the bank and gradually rising revenues to break-even. (That day didn’t come until early 2004.)

In retrospect, the dotcom crash saved us.

19 ideas for start-ups

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Got a brilliant product idea? Thinking about starting a company? Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur over the last 12 years:

  1. Your plans are already history…



    Don’t worry about your product. Five years from now, there’s only a 1 in 20 chance you’ll be selling that wonderful product you’re sketching today on napkins.

  2. Hire for tomorrow’s products…



    iPad and Google and Twitter are an effect of great companies, not the cause. Focus on people before products.

  3. Dream…



    At the heart of every start-up is a dream, a hallucination, a vision nobody else sees. Bandages for invisible wounds. Shampoo for bald men. A hot air balloon, not a pile of cloth. Every start-up needs a dreamer, someone who is, by conventional standards, a little crazy.

  4. Partner well…



    It takes (at least) two to tango. The dreamer needs partners — spouses, colleagues, investors, family, customers — sane, practical people willing to make a leap of faith and dance even when sometimes they don’t hear the music.

  5. Ignore the champagne…



    Start-ups require patience and humility. Don’t break out the champagne when you sign your first contract, or get featured in the Wall Street Journal. These events are bubbles, quick to burst, meaningless side-effects of your real, if tiny, daily achievements.

  6. Stay late…



    A start-up’s water boils only because of thousands of small actions: sending an e-mail at 7.45 AM before your competitors have gotten into the office, grabbing the thesaurus one more time to find the perfect verb, staying at your conference booth until everyone has left the hall.

  7. Network…



    Avoid being either too insular or too networked. Maintain a healthy mix of links to people near and far, but not so many that you’re overwhelmed. A study of Broadway producers found that shows by producers with a mixed social network did better than shows by producers who always work together or producers who’ve never worked together.

  8. Reboot…



    Amid the dreaming and screaming and scheming, take a vacation. Go away for a full week with no phone or computer. At least once every three to six months, you HAVE to unplug completely for at least a week to reboot your brain and reconnect with your family.

  9. Hire happy people…



    This rule seems obvious, but is easy to overlook amid piles of resumes and criteria. Happy teachers are 43% more effective than average teachers, and the same rule applies to small companies.

  10. Meet the mate…



    If you’re hiring someone with a significant other, you’ve got to meet that person. He or she shows a lot about your potential hire. Plus you’re all going on a long ride together and its a lot more fun if you all get along.

  11. Don’t ignore warts…



    When hiring, avoid wishful thinking. We all like to think the best of people, particularly when that person might make a great contribution to your cause. But once you’ve hired someone, their bad habits can quickly becomes horror shows.

  12. Interview by e-mail…




    Most extra-corporate interactions are now virtual — 94% e-mail, 4% IM, 2% phone? — so try to get to know job candidates the way your customers will. Before meeting in person, interview by e-mail, IM, then phone.

  13. Climb two ways…



    Some people are great at building ladders, some people excel at climbing them. Early in a start-up’s life, you need people who can build a ladder out of thin air. Then you hire great climbers.

  14. Hire people who tolerate failure…



    A good baseball player misses roughly 90% of all pitches. Your staff need to keep swinging and missing as eagerly as any Major League slugger.

  15. Hire people who enjoy each other…


    This is a photo I took of a Blogads cookout. A company is more than a crowd of people — put the right people together and some special fire kindles among them and great things happen. Get it wrong, and your company is cold and dark.

  16. Hold on to great staff…



    Over time, your colleagues amass volumes of knowledge about your products, markets and customers. Increase retention of great staff by just 10% and you can double profits.

  17. Beware your first sale…



    No matter how absurd the product, there’s always at least one buyer out there. Maybe your mom, maybe your college roommate. Never extrapolate from your first sale… or you may end up with a pile of purple eggs.

  18. Court networked customers…



    It’s much better to sign three customers who know each other than ten who have no connection. Connected customers imitate, educate and evangelize each other. They’re the nucleus of growth.

  19. Embrace smart customers and don’t let go…



    Smart customers demand smart products. And long-time customers value your service more. If you’ve tailored your products to their needs, you’ve helped make them happier or more profitable. Improving customer retention by 10% can boost profits by 30%.

The bottom line: a start-up needs to focus more on people than products. Only persistent, loyal, smart staff and customers can make a dream soar into the clouds.

(These are all lessons I’ve learned over 30 years of working for small, privately held companies, including 12 years running my own company with great partners. Some are tactics I’ve only recently articulated, some are ideals I’ve failed to live up to. Throughout, I’ve relied on invaluable books like The Innovator’s Dilemma, Crossing the Chasm, The Psychology of Persuasion, Connected, Linked, and The Loyalty Effect.)

Other blog posts of interest: Reid Hoffman’s 10 rules for entrepreneurs.

Looking forward to nothing

by henrycopeland
Monday, March 8th, 2010

Busy forecasting the demise of professional media, AdAge columnist Bob Garfield had the best line in Wells Dunbar’s preview of SXSW panels on the (un)future of media. “I make a living criticizing TV commercials at a print publication. How fucked am I?” I was also happy my succinct summary of the situation — “The amount of content is expanding exponentially and the ad dollars aren’t” — made it into the story.

Search Twitter bios and you’ll find some fun data to analyze

by henrycopeland
Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Ever wonder if there are more conservatives or progressives on Twitter?

If you use Twiangulate’s new bio search, you’ll discover there are 6,240 self-described “liberal” tweeps , 11,259 “conservative” tweeps, 4,234 “progressive” tweeps. 1,269 mention TCOT.

AZ news site shutters for lack of ads

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Started in Feb ’06, The Zonie Report is closing. Creator Adam Klawonn writes:

First, the Internet audience is incredibly fickle, so the expectant Zonie Report masses weren’t there. (It turns out there were only about 8,000 of them in a state of 6 million-plus residents.)

Second, the way we consume media online does not lend itself to a deep-reading format, so short stories and truncated video (from car accidents to Britney Spears sightings to bar fights in Scottsdale) proliferate. This says something about the format, about us and about news outlets in general.

Third, it’s tough to sell ads using today’s metrics (i.e., impressions, etc.). Online advertising prices continue to head toward the floor and may never recover.

Finally, people are generally more interested in what everybody around them is doing than what’s really going on in the world. There are some exceptions, but this is perhaps the harshest and saddest lesson of all. Who knows if/when this will change.

Our Tweets