November 06, 2010
What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Irish Entrepreneurs
Meet a new emerging market for technology, entrepreneurship and innovation, which was realized from experiencing Web 2.0 the Irish way at the most recent Dublin Web Summit and F.ounders event that spread over three days.
Says Butcher in his Techcrunch post, "F.ounders event did exactly what it said on the tin: almost 95% founders, few investors and an extremely well oiled organisation of events to network everyone together.
Almost no investors meant the entrepreneurs could compare notes, swap war stories and generally relax.....heaven for entrepreneurs who can get pretty sick of having to feel like they are under pressure to perform all the time."
But it doesn't end there and it's only part of the story. What the two simultaneous but related events did was combine the best-of-the-best in one city from Europe and the states, during non-stop rain, to connect in a meaningful way.....and this my friends, involves the exchange of human stories not technology ones.
What made it so special? Unlike so many events in Silicon Valley, we didn't talk business models 24/7 or money 24/7 or tools, deals, plug-ins and traffic strategies 24/7.
I had an opportunity to meet with a number of entrepreneurs in the context of dinners, coffees, pints of guinness, walks in the rain, lunches and before and after Irish fiddling late in the evening. (which btw is 4 or 5 am, not 10 pm which is the time most of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs either go home or are online connecting rather than over pints and bottles of brew, whiskey and port).
I'm not trying to beat up on the Valley, because frankly despite having had a reputation of being an "energizer bunny" (you know, the battery commercial), I'm not sure I could keep up with a wee morning pub culture year round. What I am trying to do is point out cultural differences which is what was instrumental in making this event 'magical.' Multiple cultures brought their own curiosity and their unique ways of pitching, engaging and exchanging with them to Dublin.
There's other magic I discovered too and it has to do with BEING IRISH: the Irish know how to tell a bloody good story.....all the time. As one Irish entrepreneur said to me, "we live for telling a story - we'll talk at ya all day long if you'll let us." The downside he said, was that "we might be more focused on the story than the business model and making money."
Fair enough, yet my initial thought was this: HIRE someone who knows how to get your business to cash-flow positive, whether that's bringing in the right biz dev guy or finding some seed money. Any idea how hard it is to instill storytelling in someone who doesn't 'get' storytelling?
A lot of CEOs over-complicate their pitch, get bogged down with the details, the technical features and what they think is important. If you have a good storyteller on board, no one will leave your campfire gathering, when if presented correctly, can be the most powerful 'magic sauce' in your corporate recipe book. The Irish are naturals at this. And, they also know how to add humor to their story in a way that keeps you engaged for longer.
And we all know what longer engagement can lead to....it's all anyone talks about in social media circles. (modern translation of campfire gathering: your website, blog, presentation, facebook fan page, twitter page and so on).
While this discovery meant that it took a little longer to get entrepreneurs to talk about their company and products, I got to know their personalities, backgrounds and the things they cared about OFFLINE. It's amazing what you can learn about a company and their direction when an entrepreneur is more focused on their story and your story combined than their iPad, iPhone or Blackberry in front of them. No one checked in to anything, tweeted or sent an email in the middle of any of our conversations.
What a joy to have a "human" focus dominate over a "digital" one during a meeting......Imagine truly being present for the journey, participating in that journey and focusing on the laughing, breathing, singing, talking and eating around you rather than the Hootsuite stream in the palm of your digital hand.
"Storytellers, the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning."-Chris Cavanaugh
November 05, 2010
Want ta Know What Irish Web 2.0 Looks Like? Taake a Jeurney Widt Me Dten!
If you haven't heard all the buzz in the last week or so about Dublin's F.ounders event, then you're not reading the right blogs or sites. It's a must-attend says Butcher of Techcrunch and hear what other major bloggers and writers in Europe have to say. (scroll to the bottom for the links). My kick-off blog post can be found here.
Thanks to Enterprise Ireland who made sure I was on a plane for this not-to-be missed event and hats off to Paddy Cosgrave and his team for pulling together an experience that didn't disappoint. The conference combined engagement, intellectual debate, networking, food, culture, pub crawls, founder stories and illuminaries under one roof for 2.5 days. (the one roof btw was the Dublin sky.......might I add that a vivid memory was of multi-colored and checkered umbrellas, block after block, as we made our way from one event to the next). Below is the event unveiled in images. Enjoy!
What's so uncanny about this photo of Paddy Cosgrave and Michael Birch chatting at one of the hosted dinners? Except for the slight variation on angles of their glasses, do they not look a helluva lot alike? Can't recall Birch's shoes that evening tho now the yank who came all the way to Dublin and pays attention to fashion (including geek fashion) is dying to know.
Is that THE Michael Birch behind the counter serving pints of Guinness? How much did they pay you for the hour Mike? Inquiring minds want to know.
Did I mention that we took over the Guinness Storehouse?
You're probably wondering whose feet these are? They belong to THE Paddy Cosgrave of course, for those who attended but never looked down. These feet are attached to a man who gets things done.....from walking, dialing, connecting, tweeting, emailing and everything under the sun to ensure F.ounders Dublin was a huge success.
Dr. Dorian Selz with Memonic and Maurice Collins with Ticket Truck
Chad Hurley during his fireside chat with Robin Wauters (sans the fire)
Mathys van Abbe of Moby Picture, Vannesa Fox, Paul Rush, Renee Blodgett
Matt Mullenweg (aka @photomatt - his blog header rocks btw)
Laurent Feras Pierssens
Some nights were blurrier than others, like the jet-legged first night at Saba Restaurant.
Andy Young of GroupSpaces (and oh btw, this man can DANCE - anyone have photos of him from the happening Krystal night club on the last night?)
Musician/storyteller Niall Toner at the Iveagh House dinner.
Yeah, our very own Dave McClure (Silicon Valley Dave McClure that is), showed up and added a little humor with his advice. (for those who missed the memo: he called the Irish community pussies if they did NOT invest in their own, since if they don't, someone else will....like the damn yankees perhaps).
At the final night dinner (held at very cool Guinness Showroom), Paddy Cosgrave gets kudos from the community and other founders, while he thanks those who helped make the event a success! And yup, that is Tariq Krim, SimpleGeo's Matt Galligan and Jeff Clavier stage right.
Kick-off Dinner (before we got any sleep)
Vanessa Fox proudly displays her PERFECT PINT certificate (of Guinness that is, what else?)
Is that TechCrunch's Robin Wauters and Mike Butcher? (Butcher, you're a genius. Thx to you, my Kodak is working again! Note to self and anyone else who wants to know: the man has hidden talents)
Crikey and golly-gee, it IS Nick Halstead? Does that mean the English actually showed up? Yes, and then some peeps; it was well worth the trek from all pockets of the continent.
Paul Hayes and his adorable and energetic son (after too many brown sugar cubes) at Dublin's Westbury Hotel.
Matt Galligan and Tariq Krim
Product briefings Dublin style? (under an umbrella). Owen Cooney with Tunepresto.
BTW, pub crawls are VERY different on the other side of the pond. Think ambience, storytelling, dogs and drapes on decadent windows to die for. The fabrics and carpet are also incredibly rich even if they don't always match....(details, details, details...)
Had I brought a different lens with me, this shot could have been incredible!
Did I mention pub crawls were part of the agenda? Just remember that while some damn good conversations happen on golf courses, they also happen in pubs, under wet umbrellas and in cafes where they serve dark chocolate, dark coffee and dark beer.
John Fitzsimons with Camara and Ray Smith from DataHug (who won an award at Dublin's Web Summit - check out the details on www.datahug.com).
Eddy Carroll of Amulet Devices
While we're on the topic of hosted dinners, the food was fabulous -- everywhere.
A view from the front of Bono's house late at night. (yes in the rain. Did I mention that it didn't stop raining? I know I certainly tweeted about it).
While we're on the topic of Bono, there's an alley that runs alongside his house and on the stone walls and entry way gates and doors are messages that combine asks, pleas, thanks, and love to this renown superstar.
Meet Tommy the Lipp and no, he's not part of the conference but he's very much part of Dublin. I thought I'd end with a photo that could only be taken in Ireland. Many lads tdought I had an 'Irishness' abooute me and now tdat I'm back, I'm finding that my th's are disappearin' on mei and otder letters are getting a taad confuused too.
Not just the F.ounders and Dublin Web Summit rocked, but Ireland did too even in the pouring and drizzly rain. Thanks for the memories Dublin!
November 02, 2010
Social Collective: Sharing Is Caring
I attended the Social Collective conference in London earlier this month. In an apparently very exclusive presentation, CNN shared some recent results from global research (called ‘Pownar’, for ‘power of news and recommendation’) they have done looking at the sharing behaviour of digital users. Fascinatingly in-depth look at the web of sharing each user can create online.
In an age of viral and content marketing gone wild (thanks, social media!), understanding what makes certain content ‘share-able’ is a necessary asset to any strategic campaign. Sharing, as highlighted by the CNN research, is typically driven by one of two basic motivating factors: altruistic (“I’ll share this because it is similar to my friend’s interest”) or broadcasting (“I’ll share this to increase my status in this subject”).
While the study explored a broad scope of content, it did of course focus specifically on CNN content. It found, interestingly enough, that every ‘sharer’ typically brings an average of 5 new visitors to the CNN site. Specifically within their business content, research determined that over half of their readership was as a result of sharing and that almost half of the ‘frequent sharers’ (6+ shares in a week) were from the C-suite.
So business customers (and decision-makers) are online, actively consuming – and sharing – content.
If you don’t have already have a content strategy in place, perhaps it’s time?
[NOTE: You can read more on the research from CNN here]
October 30, 2010
F.ounders: Davos for Geeks Side-by-Side with Dublin Web Summit
Founders, funders, entrepreneurs, investors, and men who can all tell a damn good story are gathering in Dublin Ireland this weekend for two technology conferences, demonstrating that it's not just the yanks and most certainly not just Silicon Valley geeks who can come up with successsful start-up ideas.
Skype founder and now Atomico Niklas Zennstrom sponsored the kick off F.ounders dinner last night, the invite-only event co-organized by Paddy Cosgrave. The event, dubbed 'Davos for Geeks' in Dublin, is spread over a 2.5 day period.
It runs along side with the Dublin Web Summit, which has managed to pull 600 attendees, all registered for a series of 'sessions' that ranged from developer tools and social media best practices to digital marketing and advertising today and successful company case studies.
Both events are extremely well organized and have a number of high-touch elements to them, including a private whiskey tasting, sit down dinners, book signings (@vanessafox has a new one out called Marketing in the Age of Google), pub crawls and walking tours.
American and European technology visionaries flew in for the event as well, giving talks at both events while holding media interviews with the local press. Jack Dorsey of Twitter (and Square) was on local TV and Jack, together with Directi founder Divyank Turakhia, Niklas Zennstrom, YouTube's Chad Hurley and Bebo founder Michael Birch were photographed for the Irish Independent and the Irish Times.
What's with the visionary GLASSES guys? No doubt, it must have been a fun one to shoot I'd imagine. Love the lighting in the hard copy newspaper that people still read in Ireland.
READING was a notable difference here - very few entrepreneurs had their Twitter handle on their business cards and I discovered countless people reading books, magazines and newspapers in Dublin's St. Stephens Green (which dates back to 1663 btw) NOT on an iPad, iPhone or a Blackberry, even in the drizzly rain.
Dublin's mayor who apparently is one of the few in office who use Twitter regularly, gave a talk at the opening dinner as well. Niklas followed before we all did a 'ching ching' (with an Argentinian Malbec) before, during and after salad, soup, a main course of chicken, potatoes, string beans and squash. Dessert? Berry tart with powdered sugar and ice cream of course, what else?
Immediately before dinner TechCrunch Europe's Robin Wauters interviewed Chad Hurley in a small but crowded standing-room only room. Funnily enough, they had English quartered sandwiches and American beer by the bottle (I guess that's what the after event pub crawls are for since there have been plenty of yummy Guiness, stouts and ciders for the taking on every corner).
Three out of four panelists in the "Life as an angel: Seeding Innovation, Culture, Clashes & Funding" panel were yanks: TechStarts Tom Keller, Dave McClure and Jeff Clavier (okay, so he's French, but he lives in the Valley which impacts perspective), and Reshma Sohoni from Seedcamp (based in London).
Everyone else outside the states has an inferior complex someone threw out there and "doesn't need to." Says Jeff regarding lack of capital, "you don't need that much. You just have to be really smart about getting $50K, then you can bring on sales, then you build a real business, then build cash flow, but just start somewhere.....raise $50K and take off from there. The whole premise of having to raise a ton of capital to build a real business is not necessary. Build a business that produces cash flow."
Others agreed and McClure told Irish investors and entrepreneurs that they better invest here at home because if they don't, developers and creators will go to the states or get funding from somewhere else. He says, "if any of you own a car that is worth more than $25K, you have money to invest."
There is increasingly more activity in the angel investment sector than there is with traditional VCs and it's continuing to grow, particularly in the states. Companies simply don't need the kind of capital they did, even five years ago, to build a company that is sustainable and profitable.
Take a look at a few fabulous overviews: Mike Butcher's TechCrunch post , David Rowan's Wired UK article (what Dublin can teach Downing Street could learn from Dublin), Matt Mullenweg's photo gallery and Ben Rooney's recap in Wall Street Journal Europe.
October 24, 2010
Learn More About The Dublin Web Summit: #DWS4
Kicking off on October 28, 2010 in Dublin Ireland, The Dublin Summit promises to deliver incredible content, networking and insights on the technology industry and it's core growing sectors: mobile, search, geo-location, VoIP, SEO, sales, gaming, social media, and more.
The event isn't just focused on Irish start-ups but the entire tech eco-system in Ireland. And, it attracts visionaries from around the world, including Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and leaders.
From late 2009 when the Summit first launched, they've grown from a few dozen people to well over 1,000 people who attended their February and June events. Speakers have included the founders of Bebo, Wikipedia, Craigslist, InCase, DFJ, and WordPress, to name a few.The speaker line-up next week includes the following cast of characters:
Chad Hurley - Founder of YouTube
Jack Dorsey - Founder of Twitter
Niklas Zennstrom - Founder of Skype
Dave McClure - Founding Partner at 500 Start Ups
Jeff Clavier - Founding Partner at SoftTech VC
Josh Williams - Founder of Gowalla
Guru Banaver - CTO & VP at IBM
Leila Janah - Founder of Samasource.com
Vanessa Fox - Creator of Google's Webmaster Central
Mike Kerns - Founder of Citizen Sports
Paul Hayes - Founder of BeachHut PR
David Sowerby - CCO of Straker Software
October 18, 2010
Ai Weiwei Covers London's Tate Modern With 100m Sunflower Seeds
For an art exhibit at the Tate Modern in London, artist Ai Weiwei covered the Turbine Hall with 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds. Each of the seeds were made by 1,600 Chinese artisans.
October 15, 2010
A Rose By Any Other Name
Thank goodness for Shakespeare.
He knew how to coin a phrase which you can use and abuse to your heart’s content. In this instance it’s to make a point that was well expressed at a recent B2B-centric dinner hosted by Sir Paul Judge on behalf of The Marketing Society, in the UK.
‘People respect the techniques (of marketing) and use them. But they don’t call them marketing.’
This sentiment was echoed round the table. Marketing was thought of by senior executives, partners and board directors as ‘brochures and balloons’. The activities which marketers themselves would described as marketing were variously referred to by senior management as ‘revenue generation’, ‘business development’, ‘key account management’, ‘contract management’, ‘growth drivers’, ‘relationship development’ and ‘business networking’.
In common with other marketing discussions, how best to measure ROI was a major theme. What was definitely new in a B2B context was the open acknowledgement of the role of emotion in contributing to the actual purchase decision. Hence perhaps the difficulties in producing a clear ROI, not only because of the recurrent problem with linking broader activities directly to sales, but because they are actually part of the business process, not a separate function.
So B2B marketing is alive and well in large corporates. Just don’t call it marketing.
This post was originally posted on The Marketing Society Blog.
October 01, 2010
Noise Kills 200,000 People a Year in Europe: Sound Design is the FutureJulian Treasure has an interesting talk to get to sound health in 8 steps. He says our increasingly noisy world is gnawing away at our mental health -- even costing lives. His 8-step plan includes advice on softening sonic assault (starting with those cheap earbuds) to restore our relationship with sound.
He notes that women listen expansively compared to men and jokes that if men could take one thing away from his talk, it's to listen more expansively and you'll transform your relationship.
Noise is killing 200,000 people a year in Europe. He says that there's a price we pay from music compression; we have to work harder to get the sound and using bad headsets are part of the problem or using them incorrectly. 61% of students have hearing issues related to poor headphones. Quality 'listening' means you don't have to turn the music up so loud.
The last two things I took from his talk and my favorites: Silence is beautiful. He says the Elizabethans described language as Decorated Silence - how great is that? And secondly: Sound Design is the Future. Julian encourages us to design everything around us with sound in mind.
September 22, 2010
B2B Brands ‘Like’ Social Media
Communicate Magazine asked us to name a few of the best brands in social media right now. While only one ran, there are so many shining examples of great social media use in B2B so it’s more than worth sharing them.
Here are our top picks at the moment:
Deloitte on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/deloitte
Deloitte has an excellent branded Facebook page. The customised page is engaging and content rich, drawing a global audience and earning over 29,000 fans. The landing site to the page samples the content on offer from Deloitte across social spaces, including YouTube, Twitter and the Deloitte corporate blog. It’s a brilliant integration of social content to create a cohesive digital presence.
Intel on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/channelintel
Intel’s YouTube channel is a great example of a solid branded channel. The page is all about brand interaction. With a customised background and playlists, smartly highlighted by categorical buttons in the header, the channel actively encourages users to engage with a clear call to a set of actions including subscribing to weekly updates, sharing videos across an exhaustive list of social bookmarking sites and visiting Intel’s other social spaces (Twitter, Facebook).
The Economist on Twitter, http://twitter.com/TheEconomist
A great example of Twitter done well is The Economist. It has a clearly defined strategy as a news source rather than a conversational brand. Across its thirteen different feeds, page backgrounds remain consistent and clearly highlight not only the other ‘Econ’ feeds, separated by region and interest (including the Twitter feeds of their bloggers and special features, such as The Economist Debates) but The Economist presence across other social networks (Facebook, YouTube).
What brands do you think use social media brilliantly?
September 20, 2010
Strategies For Trust In The Financial Sector
For the latest issue of their journal, Argent, The Financial Services Forum asked us to share our thoughts on the challenges surrounding the financial services struggle to regain customer trust. Project Manager Catherine, comes from a strong background in the financial services so she jumped at the chance to talk to this shop.
She identified 3 key issues (and although one ran in the issue, the others have made for some LinkedIn discussions in the FS Forum group):
Customer service. Although the market has settled somewhat since the financial crisis, customers remain critical of the main financial providers. It isn’t just about how safe your money is – it takes all in areas of customer service that have continued to put off previously loyal customers; excessive bank charges, foreign call centres, closing of local branches. Providers now have to fight to win back their customers – even those who never actually left, but who have lost trust in their brand.
The emergence in the market of foreign and private banks. Some are as a result of direct takeovers, such as Santander, but others are less well know providers who, over the last two years, have entered the savings markets with top rates – enticing disgruntled customers of the UK banks. Whilst customers may have previously looked on a foreign bank as a risk, that risk perception became less so as UK banks started to struggle – and awareness of the deposit guarantee increased. In 2010, further providers will continue to enter the market, with good products and a promise to right the wrongs of established providers. This will add significantly to the pressure of UK marketing teams.
‘The internet has changed everything we do’. For many customers, and in particular gen y, the internet is a highly effective and low cost way of marketing financial products. In particular, the use of social media as a tool for good customer service is widely underused in this industry, but is an important growth area. Providers must not forget though, there are a significant amount of people for whom online security remains a worry when dealing with financial products – meaning traditional methods must also be incorporated. Banks should be looking at how they can educate their customers on the merits of online, as an added value service.
It’s a matter of working on the relationship with the customer to bring back the trust; build a relationship with the customer that gives them value which, ideally, they could only get from that relationship.
What do you think – how does a brand build trust?