Life of FBi | Non-Tech Start-up Founder

Looks like a Chinaman, Sounds like an Aussie, Utterly Confusing

Posts Tagged ‘social media

5 things i learnt from futurefoward conference #ff2009

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so there weren’t exactly and only 5 things that i learnt from the futureforward conference i attended on thursday, but one of things i did learn from @chrisbrogan (seated right in the photo); ‘for whatever reason, when you put a number in front of your blog title, it has a higher chance of getting read. if you want to write an article, ‘i hate lebron james’, you should in fact title it, ‘5 reasons why i hate lebron james’. so i guess that’s one. credit were credit was due, he was as awesome in person speaking as he is online blogging. a couple of other side tips, he recommends caused based marketing (marketing yourself or your company related to a specific cause) and promote others (either on twitter or your blog, almost like a malcolm gladwell-esq ‘connector’). Social Media

staying with social media, lesson two comes from @edwardboches, chief creative officer of mullens (seated left in the photo, the guy in the middle is brian @bhalligan, @hubspot ceo), and that was how to balance the strengths of experienced content creators with digital natives to have maximum impact on consumers. the point was that, sure, young people have been brought up on the internet, we don’t use books and print, we were on facebook first, we know about social networking, we use social media for news, not traditional mass media, but that doesn’t mean we know about strategy. in fact, in many cases we don’t know the meaning of the word. you ask many young, first-time founders, and we’ll tell you about our crazy ideas, and we’re often okay with the short-term tactics, but breaking them down into strategic, high-level thinking is a different challenge. that’s what we have our advisors for at blank label. i don’t have any expertise in anything, but it’d be just down-right stupid of me to think that i know how to think 12 month, 3 year and 5 year strategy for technology, online marketing or fulfillment. again, that’s why we have three advisors in those verticals to help us with that.

Angel Investinglesson three came from one my favorite people in boston, @billwarner; ‘angel investing is a really bad way to make money, but i do it really because i see it as an honor’. now the lesson to me was that if i could ever find an angel investor like that, i’d be pretty stoked. with angel investing moving ‘so professional’, it was just really nice to hear that there are still people like bill, even if he is the exception and not the rule.

Ben Rubinbeing a narcoleptic, my lesson number four was fairly interesting, and it comes from ben rubin, co-founder and cto of zeo. ben calls it a personal sleep coach which tracks your daily sleep patterns, and educates on how to get better sleep. his story was fascinating to me because i haven’t met any young entrepreneurs with his kind of patience. zeo got to market 3 months ago, after six years, starting from junior year at brown. i said one of the most ignorant things of my life over the summer. to one of our advisors, i frustratingly asked, ‘i’ve been working on this for a whole year, why aren’t i successful yet!’. ha! HA! ben’s story of belief, passion, and vision was pretty inspiring, and i wish him the best of luck.

so i go to a lot of events, and sometimes i worry that i go too many. at the conclusion of the day’s events, i was chatting with john landry, angel investor and founder of lead dog ventures, and joe caruso, angel investor and founder of bantam group, comes over, interjects, and says to john, ‘i don’t know if this guy’s a good entrepreneur, but he’s a damn good networker’. now the point of mentioning this was 30% self promotion and 70% passing on a lesson, lesson five, that you really want it to be other way around. i will continue to network because i think it’s fundamentally important to me. i) it’s motivating to meet smart, successful people. ii) you get interesting feedback and perspective. iii) you receive encouragement and validation. but those things only work if you have a startup that is making useful progress.

Written by Fan Bi

November 8, 2009 at 2:00 am

Networking On- and Offline

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Helping out some Babson Freshmen through my involvement with E-Tower, the Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Open Gate Initiative, the questions of i) should I be investing time into networking, and ii) how to I develop a personal brand and meet interesting people, have come up very frequently. Given I’ve only been in the country for just over half a year, settling into a new startup world, quite a few have found my advice, or at least thoughts on the topic, useful so as always I thought I might share it here.

To address the first point, Network, Network, Network. And then Network. The three most profound values I’ve benefited from were completely unexpected. I thought networking was for getting jobs or in my case helping my startup. Now this is definitely true, however I really see other great advantages as well.  I meet people outside the Babson bubble, and I get perspective. I meet engineers from MIT and BU, passionate thinkers from BC and Brandeis, I speak with industry professionals from tangential but related industries, I engage with investors on what they think about my space, I get inspired by serial entrepreneurs who genuinely love their life. So to those three reasons why I network; first, it gives me perspective, second, it keeps me motivated and on task, and third, meeting really passionate people is just something everyone should do once in a while.

As how to go about doing it? Many students appreciate the notion of networking as being important, they’ll nod to the statement, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. First of all, I disagree with that statement. I much prefer Susan RoAne‘s ‘It’s not what you know OR who knows you, BUT WHO KNOWS YOU.’ When peers start name dropping, ‘oh I know CEO of X, and Founder of Y’, I’m like great, but do they know you or are you just one of 100 people they met that one night out of 100 nights of networking events they go to every year. Therefore my first point about networking is not to go for as many ‘big shots’ as possible, rather try and deeply engage with a handful of people every event you make it out to. If you’re able to have genuinely stimulating conversations with seven people, exchange cards, and follow up with five of them via LinkedIn and Twitter, and even a couple by email, you’ve done fairly well. For a list of events, there are still left on this list I wrote up a little while back, Scott Kirsner recently wrote up the Five Best Monthly Networking Events, and Eventbrite and Meetup searches are always interesting.

Now not everyone can always make it to physical networking events, or at least at the regularity that they are online, so I actually think it’s really important to maintain relationships and further develop personal branding online. Complementary with interacting in person, engage and speak with people on the blogosphere and Twitter. For blogging, you don’t have to actually blog, but rather be aware of what’s going on in your ecosystems (if that’s mobile, cloud, social networking) and giving back to your respective communities by providing your opinions. You’d be surprised at how few people regularly comment on blogs, and how much bloggers recognize the return visitors. So when you regularly comment on OnStartup.com and you see Dharmesh Shah at an event, it’s a much more interesting conversation when you can speak about your favorite post, and he remembers your perceptive comments.

The important thing is to get out there, get out to Waltham or Cambridge for that event, get on that blog post and give your $0.02, and Network!

Written by Fan Bi

September 25, 2009 at 6:07 pm

What I Learnt about Startups in NYC

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Meant to be a week of part work, part leisure, in New York, my one week off for the summer, before getting into a very busy Fall semester leading Blank Label into a new frontier, kicking off Open Gate Intiative, trying to get the most out of four interesting and well-recommended classes, empowering a new batch of Freshmen at E-Tower, it’s actually been chaotically busy and hasn’t yet been the mental break that I was hoping for and perhaps needed. I guess it was unrealistic to expect that I might go part-time on Blank Label, but Blank Label wasn’t going part-time on me. What I’ve been doing for ‘leisure’ which has kept me running up and down Manhatten has been meeting young upstart entrepreneurs, the people I get super passionate about meeting at the litany of startup events in Boston.

There were a couple of events that were of particular interest that I’ll drop a line for. Entrepreneurs Roundtable was a small audience of mostly first time entrepreneurs either just having started their venture or looking for opportunities. The framework was a networking event of around 30 people, with the meat being five pitches of five minutes in front of a VC, in this instance, Mark Mackenzie from Alliance Bernstein, who has a small 200 million fund (relative to their 500 billion assets under management) that invests mostly around later stage, i.e. Round C and D and later. It was interesting that only one of the five companies pitching was a scaleable, high-potential startup. That’s not to say they weren’t all pitched by great, passionate entrepreneurs. But the business model just wasn’t a venture investment, e.g. service/ consulting company, small market size, nonprofit.

The next evening I went to Sprout Up NYC, where I probably spoke to a dozen passionate startup entrepreneurs, heard Gary Vaynerchuk, give a really passionate and energetic talk on Social Media and Entrepreneurship, but throughout the whole three hours I was at the event, the notion of raising venture money never came up a single time.  Mostly people were passionate about new media, the possibilities that came with it. They wanted to create sticky unique content. They loved the ability to attack a super niche vertical, with no interest of going into a broader platform down the track, or at least pitching it as such. Is it perhaps that NYC is so corporate in so many large areas, Advertising, Fashion, Old Media, Financial Services, that for startup entrepreneurs who are trying to stick it to ‘the Man’, the idea of raising money, growing a company, and natural bureaucracy, just goes straight back to the dilemmas of ‘the Man’, and instead the preference is to stay small and love what they do with no compromise for growth.

A couple of observations, don’t know what they mean, but definitely interested in exploring more of the startup scene in New York, and will keep you posted accordingly.

Was in super-chilled mood when writing this post, listening to Andrea Bocelli duets including Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman and Christina Augilera. I’m not usually that guy, but I am tonight.

Written by Fan Bi

August 28, 2009 at 7:04 am

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