Thursday, January 30, 2014

How and Where to Find a Co-Founder for Your Startup

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/30/2014

Often times, a startup entrepreneur has a good business idea, but doesn’t know how to build the product or service. Or, the entrepreneur has...

Often times, a startup entrepreneur has a good business idea, but doesn’t know how to build the product or service. Or, the entrepreneur has deep technology skills, but is lacking in business skills. In many cases, these entrepreneurs are on the hunt for co-founders to help them build their businesses. The problem? They often don’t know how to start the process or where best to look.

Read the rest of this post in The Next Web, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's More Important--Your Product or Proof-of-Concept?

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/29/2014

I have had the luxury of meeting over 500 startups at Red Rocket over the last three years.  And, typically, most of them approach me at the...

I have had the luxury of meeting over 500 startups at Red Rocket over the last three years.  And, typically, most of them approach me at the same point in their startup development.  They have just finished building their new product, whether it be a website or mobile app or whatever, and they are seeking venture capital to assist them with sales and marketing to bring in new users.  It is typically then, when I ask them “do you have any current users and how quickly are you growing” to point to a proof-of-concept around your startup.  Which is typically followed by, “I don’t have a material user base yet, that is why I need the venture capital”.  Then I shrug, and have to be the “bad guy” of telling them they are not ready to raise professional venture capital.  A sad and familiar story, as without this round of capital, the startup will most likely go out of business, as they lack other sources.

But, why is this the same old story?  In my opinion, it is because entrepreneurs are so focused on their product, with their heads down coding away on some cool technology feature or functionality, that they don’t think far enough ahead to what will keep their business funded.  Yes, many product-driven disciples will say, “if you build a great product, users will come”.  And, they are right.  But, the question is: by when?

Read the rest of the this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

Monday, January 27, 2014

[VIDEO] George Deeb Presents @RedRocketVC & @EnsembleHQ to @MeetAdvisors

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/27/2014

Last week, George Deeb had the pleasure of sitting down with Vlad Moldavskiy at MeetAdvisors, a business networking site between startups an...

Last week, George Deeb had the pleasure of sitting down with Vlad Moldavskiy at MeetAdvisors, a business networking site between startups and advisors.  Check out the video portion of the interview, where George presents Red Rocket and Ensemble, and offers up startup advice to the MeetAdvisors community (courtesy of MeetAdvisors):




Read the textual part of this article on MeetAdvisors.

For future posts, please follow us at:  www.twitter.com/RedRocketVC.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Should Cash-Strapped Startups Offer Benefits?

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/24/2014

In years past, companies of all shapes and sizes needed to offer a good employee-benefits program in order to attract the best candidates. T...

In years past, companies of all shapes and sizes needed to offer a good employee-benefits program in order to attract the best candidates. This was even true for early-stage startups since many found that such benefits could help them get people to leave jobs at big companies to join their small teams.

But a lot of things have changed over the years, and my feeling today is that early stage startups should not worry about offering employee benefits. If you can afford them, great, offer them. But honestly, how many startups really have the financial means to treat their work forces to catered lunches every day or on-site massages?

Read the rest of this post in Wall Street Journal, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When Should a Startup Drive Profits vs. Growth?

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/22/2014

This really is not a simple question to answer.  There are so many nuances that go into assessing the right answer.  What is going on with t...

This really is not a simple question to answer.  There are so many nuances that go into assessing the right answer.  What is going on with the economy?  How liquid is the fundraising climate?  Are you B2B or B2C?  Are you the first mover?  How defensible is your business, with patents, product complexity or otherwise?  What are your competitors doing?  How big is the market opportunity?  How quickly is it emerging?  Are you trying to dominate the world, or build a nice lifestyle business?  Are you venture backed, or privately owned?  So, in light of all these moving pieces, I will do my best to layout some high level guidance.

Read the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lesson #162: The Benefits of Contributing Content to Other Sites (vs. Your Own Blog)

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/21/2014

As most of you know, I not only write for the Red Rocket Blog, but I also contribute entrepreneurial blog posts to Forbes, Wall Street Journ...

As most of you know, I not only write for the Red Rocket Blog, but I also contribute entrepreneurial blog posts to Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, The Next Web, Founder Institute, Alley Watch and others.  And, writing a quality blog post can be a very time consuming exercise, which means you really want to prioritize your efforts here.

One of the things I have debated over the years, is whether or not it is better to solely write for the Red Rocket Blog, and hence get 100% of the search traffic from Google around those posts.  Or, whether it is better to put those same articles up on the higher trafficked sites--at the benefit of near term reads and exposure, and the potential detriment of long term search traffic directly to my own Red Rocket website.

Several things have happened in the recent months, which has made this debate come out clearly in favor of contributing to the big sites, over my own blog.  Here is why:

1. The Red Rocket Blog just can't compete with the huge audiences of the bigger sites. The Red Rocket posts get traffic in the hundreds, and the big third party posts, get traffic in the thousands. Think 10x the readership on the same amount of work.

2. My social media following in the thousands, is a small fraction of the social media following of the big third party sites, in the millions. So, the virality and free exposure of those articles are materially higher than what I could do on my own.

3. The benefit for my personal brand and the Red Rocket brand, of partnering with big brand names like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Wall Street Journal, adds a level of credibility to our offering, which helps drive leads and conversion rates from new users visiting our site.

4.  With the launch of Google Authorship, it is clear Google wants to help their users find the best content from the best authors.  Since, Google allows an author to identify which sites they contribute content, they help the best authors get found regardless of which site they are posting to.  So, my name and face is tied to all my third party posts within the Google search results, allowing me to get my desired promotion, while at the same time, piggy-back on the higher Google rank positions of my third party partners.

5.  All of my contributed author posts to third party sites, include clear author biography sections, with my photo, Twitter handle and links to my website.  So, if someone likes what I have to say, they can easily contact or follow me with one click from that third party website, just as they could from my own website.

6.  The more content I post on large-trafficked, well-ranked websites, the more important Google thinks Red Rocket and I are, helping us to grow our organic search traffic over time.


It used to bother me, that the Red Rocket content pages where getting outranked in Google by my big third party website posts on similar topics.  But, given all of the above, if you holistically consider all the advantages the big third party sites are bringing me, it is well worth it.

So, the key lesson here: which big third party websites are you going to start contributing blog posts to, to cement your position as a thought leader in your space?  As it is most likely going to result in materially more traffic and exposure for you and your brand, than you could drive on your own.  This is truly a good case study on the power of inbound content marketing.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why Learn Entrepreneurship Starting in Kindergarten

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/17/2014

I recently had the honor of presenting to my son’s kindergarten class. His teacher invited me to come tell the kids what I did for a living....

I recently had the honor of presenting to my son’s kindergarten class. His teacher invited me to come tell the kids what I did for a living. When I showed up, 16 eager students quietly listened to my story of starting and running businesses, and helping other entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

It was then that I decided to test a long-running theory I have had: that our kids are much smarter than given credit for, and if given the right education and tutelage, they could easily grasp complicated business topics, even at the young age of six years old.

Read the rest of this post in The Next Web, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is Your Product a "Vitamin" or a "Painkiller"?

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/15/2014

Is your startup building a "painkiller" or a "vitamin" for your clients? In order to get their attention and build a siz...

Is your startup building a "painkiller" or a "vitamin" for your clients? In order to get their attention and build a sizable business of scale, "painkillers" are a must. 

We all need to take a critical look at our businesses from the perspectives of our clients. Would your product or service be something they really need today and help them solve big pain points with established budgets? If so, proceed full steam ahead. If not, you could end up with a low revenue business and most likely need to pivot into a bigger market opportunity. 

So what are the differences between "vitamins" and "painkillers"?

Read the rest of this post on Entrepreneur.com, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

How to Screen a VC Before Taking Their Money

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/15/2014

Previously, I shared my definitive checklist for startup success , which included the things a startup needed to accomplish before approachi...

Previously, I shared my definitive checklist for startup success, which included the things a startup needed to accomplish before approaching venture investors, to increase their odds of funding success. Below, I am going to provide the inverse: a definitive list of things a venture investor should offer you, before taking their money.

Read the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.


Monday, January 13, 2014

[NEWS] @EnsembleHQ Launches One-Day "Presto" Program for DIY Enterpreneurs

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/13/2014

In addition to Ensemble's normal multi-month “startup excubator” program for do-it-for-me entrepreneurs, Ensemble now offers a one-day ...

In addition to Ensemble's normal multi-month “startup excubator” program for do-it-for-me entrepreneurs, Ensemble now offers a one-day crash course for do-it-yourself entrepreneurs.  The new program is called Ensemble Presto!!

If you prefer to develop and market your business with your own inhouse resources, instead of an outsourced team at Ensemble, but feel you could benefit from digital experts who can help you sanity check and fine tune your high level strategy and go-to-market playbook, then this is the product for you.

For the one-time cost of $5,000, you will spend one day with the five members of Ensemble, who includes Red Rocket, Ora Interactive, Social Katy, Loud Interactive and Walker Sands.  The first part of the day will be the members learning more about your business, industry, competition, team, budgets and current direction.  And, the second part of the day, will be Ensemble helping you fine tune your overall business, development and marketing strategies, with a customized and actionable blueprint to follow.  You will walk out of this one-day crash course with the best techniques for business modeling, attracting capital, technology design/development, search engine marketing, social media marketing and public relations, tailored for your exact business by the award-winning digital experts at Ensemble.

To learn more about this exciting new offering, please contact Ensemble using the form at the bottom of their website.

For future posts, please follow Ensemble at:  www.twitter.com/EnsembleHQ.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

[NEWS] Freebie Chooses Ensemble's "Startup Excubator" to Accelerate Growth

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/08/2014

ENSEMBLE’S FIRST PORTFOLIO COMPANY IS CHICAGO BASED SOCIAL INFLUENCER MARKETING PLATFORM CHICAGO – Jan. 8, 2014 – Ensemble announced...

ENSEMBLE’S FIRST PORTFOLIO COMPANY IS
CHICAGO BASED SOCIAL INFLUENCER MARKETING PLATFORM
CHICAGO – Jan. 8, 2014 Ensemble announced today that Freebie has become the first portfolio company of Ensemble’s recently launched digital services suite and “startup excubator” model. Freebie is a next-generation social influencer marketing platform that allows companies to get a tractable ROI by offering free products and experiences to socially influential consumers.
Launched in August 2013, Ensemble’s business model is designed to materially increase an entrepreneur’s stand-alone odds of success. Powered by a team of digital experts, Ensemble’s “excubator” model aggregates the required skillsets needed for the rapid growth of digitally-focused, early-stage technology companies. Ensemble’s “digital lab-in-a-box” services include capital raising, business consulting, technology development and marketing services from Chicago’s best-in-class service providers.

“Freebie is everything we were looking for in supporting a game-changing startup, including a large market opportunity powered by a great management team,” said George Deeb, managing partner of Red Rocket Ventures, a founding member of Ensemble. “We have been impressed with Freebie’s traction and success in driving a social marketing ROI for big-name clients to date. Supported by Ensemble, Freebie will revolutionize the way consumer brands market through social media, via peer-to-peer endorsements instead of paid advertisements.”

Freebie rewards socially influential consumers with free products or exclusive experiences in exchange for sending one automated post with their social networks. Consumers are personally rewarded for the value of their social influence, and the engagement potential of their social followers for the offering brands. The higher a user’s social influence score on Freebie, the higher the value of free products and exclusive experiences he or she will qualify for.

Ben Rosenfield, founder and CEO of Freebie, said, “We came to Ensemble because we wanted to work closely with a core group of digital experts who understood how to quickly and affordably scale a startup. I am confident that Ensemble’s all-star team will help us to accelerate our efforts in a coordinated way from proven industry playbooks.”

The Freebie app is currently available for iOS on iTunes, with a web and Android version due out this quarter. For more information on Ensemble services, visit www.EnsembleHQ.com.

ABOUT ENSEMBLE

Founded in 2013, Ensemble is a cooperative cross-marketing alliance of award-winning digital service providers in Chicago, each with specific and unique expertise. The current members include Red Rocket Ventures (business consulting & capital raising), Ora Interactive(technology development & design), Loud Interactive (search engine optimization), SocialKaty (social media marketing) and Walker Sands (public relations). This alliance structure better serves clients, as compared to generalist agencies, allowing member companies to stay deeply focused in their respective skill sets. At the same time, this model offers clients materially higher odds for success, given the deep domain expertise and 20-40 percent cash discounts available to clients that engage the collective services of Ensemble members. Ensemble’s digital services suite is a next-generation alternative for entrepreneurs looking for do-it-for-me solutions from a team of digital experts.

ABOUT FREEBIE

Freebie is a next-generation social influencer marketing platform that allows companies to offer exclusive access and free products/remarkable experiences to socially-influential consumers who serve as brand ambassadors to their social followers on social networks. Freebie leverages peer-to-peer endorsement to bring companies increased awareness/traffic/sales, valuable analytics at the social influencer level and a clearly measurable ROI on the company’s social marketing spend – all by letting the product sell itself through organic word-of-mouth marketing via social influencer communications. With Freebie, users are personally rewarded for the value of their social influence. To learn what free products and amazing experiences may be waiting for you, check out http://www.freebieapp.com or download the free iOS application.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sarah Dietze
Walker Sands Communications
sarah.dietze@walkersands.com
312-241-1471

The 5 Reasons Big Companies Struggle With Innovation

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/08/2014

As I have been doing startup consulting at Red Rocket, I have also had many executive conversations with several big companies. These comp...

As I have been doing startup consulting at Red Rocket, I have also had many executive conversations with several big companies. These companies were anywhere from $150MM to $25BN in revenues in size, so definitely well-established businesses in their respective industries. But, one thing had become perfectly clear in all cases: once a company gets to a certain size, it starts to lose its appetite for risk, across many facets of its business. And, the bigger the company gets, the more risk averse it gets, regardless of whether or not the company had innovation wired into its original DNA as a high-flying startup from years before. I think there are five reasons for this.

Read the rest of this post on Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Customer Service Case Study: Had Your Identity Stolen? Hope Thief Didn't Buy Verizon!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 1/06/2014

We had an identity theft issue in our family back in September 2013.  We were obviously upset by the situation.  But, how we learned about i...

We had an identity theft issue in our family back in September 2013.  We were obviously upset by the situation.  But, how we learned about it, and how it was resolved, was worthy of a blog post on how important customer service is in setting your brand image, especially around resolving problematic situations.  This is a story of how three different wireless phone services (T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon) handled this situation, when they learned about a fraudulent account being set up on their service.

T-MOBILE (Customer Service Score:  A+)

We had no idea there had been an identity theft issue until we got a random phone call from a representative at T-Mobile, asking if we had recently set up new service with them.  The call came in one day after the account was set up.  We said, no, we had not set up new service.  They said that was what they thought, and immediately closed the new account at no financial cost to us.  They also said they beleived we were a victim of identity theft and to pull a credit report and check our credit cards to see if any other erroneously activity had been identified.

Thank goodness T-Mobile called!!  Had they not called the next day, we would have never known there was a problem, and the fraudulent billings could have been going on for a month, until we got our monthly credit card statement.  Kudos to T-Mobile for setting up internal controls and procedures to know that something was wrong.  I am guessing the fact someone walked into an Akron, OH store to set up a new account with a Chicago, IL address was be the trigger?

AT&T (Customer Service Score:  B)

Once we pulled our credit reports, we learned that new accounts were set up on AT&T and Verizon, as well as T-Mobile.  We immediately called AT&T to let them know.  Once they learned it was a fraudelent account, they immediately closed it with no hassle and no financial cost to us.

You would think that was great service, unless I told you we were long time customers of AT&T.  If anyone should have called us to warn us about potential fraud, it should have been AT&T, not T-Mobile.  There should have been triggers in their system that told them new lines were being set up out-of-state at the exact same address of existing account holders.  So, I am grateful they resolved it quickly, but wished they had learned about it on their own.

VERIZON (Customer Service Score:  F)

And, now for Verizon--the Darth Vader of fraud resolution!!  When we called Verizon to let them know about the situation, instead of getting the nice, pleasant representatives that immediately resolved our problem, no questions asked.  We got a more combative position that almost made us feel like we were being treated like the criminal.  They would not close our account or stop billing, until we filed a police report and shared it with them within one week.  So, we already felt bad from the identify theft to start with, to now have to be kicked in the head by Verizon.

So, we follow their instruction, go thru the cumbersome process of dealing with the local police department, to learn their process takes weeks, not days to get police reports, which I am sure Verizon knows (so why create the sense of urgency).  But, the police detective says he'll call Verizon and let them know about the fraud to resolve issue, which he does.  Verizon doesn't close the account until over two weeks after we first called them, but the fraud department forgets to make the required updates in their billing system.

The Verizon bills kept coming in each of October, November and December.  We keep calling them in each month, wasting our time on hold for 30 minutes each time, saying you agreed that is fraudelent issue has been resolved and that billing would stop.  Each time, their agents agreed and said don't expect to see any more bills.  And, then in January, we get a letter from their collection agency, now starting to impact our credit with their mistakes.  After today's call, I am hoping we are finally done with this mess:  after four months of being jerked around, wasting time, and being reminded of this bad identify theft situation.  Only time will tell.

IN CLOSING

Take learnings from this case study for each of your businesses.  What processes and procedures do you have in place for consumer dispute resolution?  How customer friendly are they?  How do they compare to your competitors?  What controls do you have in place to identify potential consumer problems as they happen, to nip them in the bud?  Because the last thing you want to be dealing with, is an irate customer blogging about your poor actions on their widely read blog and sharing it with their large base of social followers!!

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.

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