9 Must-Read Marketing Ebooks for Every Startup Founder

If you want to build a sustainable, successful business, you have to put the right amount of time and money into implementing marketing strategies that can help you get the word out about your business and products.

Unfortunately, when you’re a new business owner and busy wearing a lot of different hats and spinning a lot of plates at once, that’s often easier said than done. For many new and aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s not always easy to know what to focus on or where to start when it comes to marketing. In my experience, I’ve found that the best thing you can do during times when you feel lost or intimidated is learn from others.

If you know you want to do more with marketing, but you’re not sure where to start, spend some time reading through these nine must-read marketing ebooks:

1. The Ultimate PR Machine

To successfully launch and grow your startup, you have to be able to get the word out about your company, products, team and yourself. The Ultimate PR Machine can teach you how to get more press for your business. In it, you’ll learn things such as how to think like a journalist, build a pitch toolkit, build rapport and connect with people who can help you get the word out about your business, and how to establish yourself as a go-to resource.

2. The Ultimate Lifecycle Email Marketing Guide

These days, if you want to connect with, nurture and ultimately convert prospective customers, you have to invest in email marketing. The Ultimate Lifecycle Email Marketing Guide can teach you how to do email marketing better than any of your competitors. In it, you’ll learn how to write strategic emails that increase engagement, sell more products, onboard new customers, bring back inactive ones and, most importantly, earn trust.

3. 100 Days of Growth

If you want to grow your startup fast, you have to hit the ground running by launching the right marketing campaigns and making the right decisions for your business from day one. Unfortunately with so much information available online about marketing and growth, it’s not always easy to know which tactics are best, or even where to start.

100 Days of Growth makes it a lot easier by focusing on 100 actionable and proven tactics that successful startups use to build brand awareness and boost growth. In it, readers get access to real-world examples for each tactic, recommended tools and the steps needed to get started.

4. The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Despite what some may tell you, SEO is still a valid, effective and essential way to bring more traffic and leads to your website. In The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you’ll get everything you need to make your startup website search-engine friendly. Specifically, you’ll learn how search engines operate, the basics of keyword research and optimization, various SEO tools you can use, and how to track and measure success over time.

5. The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing

Implementing SEO tactics can help bring more traffic to your website, but higher traffic means nothing unless you can ultimately get people to convert. To boost conversions on your website, you need to get into the minds of your website visitors and prospective customers.

One great way to do that is by A/B testing. In The Ultimate Guide To A/B Testing, you’ll learn the basics of A/B testing, why it’s important, how it can impact conversions, what you should be testing and how to get started.

6. The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing

Online marketing is another must when it comes to building brand awareness, connecting with prospective customers and convincing them to buy your new products or services. Most startup founders know this, but not everyone knows where to start or what to focus on. If you fall in that group, The Beginner’s Guide To Online Marketing is a great resource to go through.

The book provides an extensive and comprehensive introduction to online marketing, focusing on topics such as how to craft your brand story, develop your marketing framework, find and engage with your online audience and implement various social, email and content marketing strategies.

7. The Essential Guide to Social Media Advertising

To get the most return on investment from participating on social-media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a business, you have to be willing to spend money on advertising. In The Essential Guide to Social Media Advertising, you’ll learn how to set up and launch advertising campaigns that can help you reach more people who fall within your target audience. The guide focuses on topics such as how to create your campaigns, target specific audiences, optimize your ads and measure your success.

8. AdWords Step by Step

When you’re growing a startup, it’s also necessary to invest in Google AdWords as a way to drive more targeted traffic to your website. With Google Adwords, you have a much better chance of being seen by customers when they’re searching on Google for the products or services you offer.

In Adwords Step By Step, you’ll learn how to build successful advertising campaigns for your business. Specifically, the book focuses on topics such as how to set goals, build the right keyword lists and target specific audiences and where to go when you need more help.

9. The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing

Content marketing is another area you can’t afford to ignore when it comes to successfully building and growing a startup. It’s one of the best ways to build buzz about your brand and products, boost website traffic and connect with more qualified leads.

The Advanced Guide To Content Marketing is a great guide to go through if you’ve already been implementing a handful of basic content-marketing strategies that have resulted in more traffic, leads or conversions. This guide offers a number of advanced technique, tactics and best practices that can be used to take your content-marketing efforts to the next level.

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Predictions for Tech Hiring in 2015

Technology-driven changes are transforming employee-employer relationships. Are you ready?

Right now, there are companies across the U.S. and the world undergoing a digital transformation, as the digital world and all it entails will continue to alter the business landscape.

Today, I want to share with you my predictions for companies going through digital transformation in 2015.

1. Employer brands will become as important and, sometimes more important, than product brands.

Digital transformation will drive increasing pressure to hire and develop technical talent, but demand will continue to greatly outstrip supply.

Technical talent will have a lot of choice in where they decide to work and this dynamic will force companies to invest more than ever in becoming an employer of choice. Employer brand will become a hot button issue for companies that want to win the race to achieve digital transformation.

2. The relationship between corporations and employees will change more in 2015 than it ever has.

With today’s extreme transparency, employees expect to understand why decisions are made and who is making them. Also, employees today have a stronger voice and the ability to tell the world what they think of their employer–through tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and many online professional and social networks, such as Glass Door.

The reality is that the power in the employer-employee relationship is shifting to the employee, creating a new dynamic that will change a great deal this year, forcing employers to relate to, communicate with and manage their talent in a way that is more influence than control.

3. Managing employee data and information flow inside a company will change in 2015.

By its nature, digital transformation means more shared information throughout the organization. This will force companies to find new, better ways to glean the richest data from the entire workforce, not just leaders and senior management.

The competitive edge in 2015 will go to organizations that can swiftly optimize data intelligence throughout the organization. Only those employers who learn how to communicate swiftly, effectively, across and through every organizational level will emerge as winners.

4. A corporation’s ability to adapt to constant change will equal the ability to build or execute a business plan in 2015.

I believe that digital transformation will put more pressure on organizations to increase their ability to adapt and move quickly. The competitive reality of the future is more intense and dynamic than ever before, such that this ability will be as important, or even more so, than having a future plan.

5. The biggest threat for companies undergoing a digital transformation in 2015 is all about devices.

Companies undergoing digital transformation this year require the ability to balance cultivating strong internal relationships and bonds against the expanded use of digital tools such as tablets, smart phones and laptops as the main source of communication.

Effective working relationships result from real human contact more than they do through digital devices, yet digital devices allow a real-time advantage of speed and detail. This year will highlight how hard it is to successfully manage this balancing act. It also will force companies to innovate new, unique ways to build community and relationships, as well as create a “new rhythm” of how people work together and win.

Finally, the same challenge exists in 2015 for the relationship between companies and their customers. I believe the biggest threat for organizations in 2015 is that employees will increasingly lose touch with colleagues by spending more time looking at a device than cultivating relationships with co-workers, colleagues or managers. Solving this issue should be a top priority for all companies.

The bottom line is that companies need to effectively manage digital transformation in 2015, or it will manage them, leading to negative consequences.

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Get People to Do What You Want

How to Get People to Do What You Want

LinkedIn Influencer, Colin Shaw, published this post originally on LinkedIn.

My mum always told me, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can vinegar.” In other words, people respond better to rewards than punishments. As a leader or a marketer if you want an employee or a customer to change behavior, research says the best thing to do is give them positive reinforcement when they do what you want.

Several studies conclude that positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage better behavior. Two new studies examine these concepts more and give us better insight into why this works well.

Study 1: Punitive Consequences Encourage Deception

A new study by the McGill researchers indicates that kids lie to their parents when they face punishment. When encouraged to tell the truth about misbehavior without punishment, however, kids tell the truth. Victoria Talway, a Child Psychology Professor, studied four- to eight-year-olds, where participants were told not to peek at a concealed toy when the adult left the room. If the kids were told there would be a punishment, kids who peeked would lie about it. If they were told not to peek but if they did telling the truth would help the situation, they confessed to peeking. Talway’s conclusion was that kids lie to appease adults.

If you threaten your employees or Customers with punitive action when they do something you don’t want, you are potentially encouraging them to lie to you. While you certainly aren’t their mom or dad, they might want to appease you anyway. Unfortunately, you have two problems here. First, they are still doing what you don’t want. Second, they are lying to you, destroying the relationship of trust you need to have a good experience with them.

Study 2: Rewards Work Better Than Fines

Daniel Pink is a host of Crowd Control and wrote several books on human behavior. He examined what is the best way to discourage minor law breaking. He defined minor law breaking as speeding, jaywalking and parking in handicap spaces. Each of these offenses traditionally is enforced with a fine sentence. What Pink discovered on his show was offering incentives to comply with the laws was far more effective than the threat of fines at getting these wayward souls to change their lawbreaking ways.

What he discovered was that by rewarding those not speeding, he reduced speeding on the roadway by one-third. He had similar results of improvement for other experiments in jaywalking and handicapped parking places.

Your Customers have behaviors that cost your organization money. An excellent example is those Customers that still want a paper statement. The costs associated with sending a paper statement are enormous for an organization, while electronic statements are much less. When Customers get charged for a paper statement, it’s annoying and generates negative feelings toward the company, and rarely encourages them to do what you want. If you reward Customers for making the switch to eStatements, however, they are far more likely to make the switch and have positive feelings for doing so.

Positive reinforcement is the key here. Human behavior is driven by many factors, not the least of which is emotional rewards and positive feelings. Play this tendency to your advantage is the way to harness the power of human behavior and use it to get the results you want—and have them thank you for it afterward.

What ways have you used positive reinforcement over punitive consequence to get the behavior you want from employees and Customers?

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disruption Down on the Farm

Software company FarmLogs operates in a booming industry that’s trying to reinvent the future of agriculture.

Editor’s note: This article is part of Inc.‘s 2015 Best Industries report.

Jesse Vollmar is not your typical tech entrepreneur.

The 26-year-old Michigan native grew up working in the fields of his family’s fifth-generation farm, growing traditional row crops such as corn and wheat. In high school, Vollmar taught himself how to build custom software for the Web, a hobby he later he turned into a business by forming an IT consulting company.

After graduating from college in 2011, Vollmar discovered a problem plaguing virtually every farmer he knew.

“All these farmers around us were talking about how the software they used was no good,” he says. “It just became really obvious that there was this widening gap between what tech was capable of doing and what farms were taking advantage of.”

In 2012, Vollmar wound down his consulting business and launched Ann Arbor, Michigan-based FarmLogs, a data science company that builds farm management software. The company’s mission is simple: help farmers make their fields more profitable.

Because it’s current industry standard for farm machinery to come with built-in sensors that track everything from precipitation to soil composition, FarmLogs does not have to make hardware. Instead, the company builds software that aggregates crop-field data and analyzes it.

“We can do a lot of at-the-field analysis through remote sensing without having to deploy physical sensors,” Vollmar says.

While farmers traditionally plant the same amount of seeds and put the same amount of water and fertilizer on entire plots of land, there is enormous variability within crop fields.

“There are a ton of different types of soil inside that field that can make nutrients available in different ways to the plant,” Vollmar says. “What we can do is measure that, understand that variability, and then help people divert resources into the right areas to maximize the profitability.”

The official name of what FarmLogs is helping farmers do is “precision agriculture.” Increasingly, farmers are turning to software to help increase their profitability. Precision agriculture revenue has risen an estimated 5.3 percent per year during the past five years, to $1.5 billion in 2014. And that growth is expected to continue at 6.6 percent a year for the next four years, according to research firm IBISWorld.

The venture capital community has also helped put a shine on agriculture, as Silicon Valley only recently identified the opportunity to bring significant innovation to the industry. Here’s a look at what it takes to launch in agriculture and how FarmLogs firmly established itself as a frontrunner.

Digging up funding.

FarmLogs received early backing from tech accelerator Y Combinator, but shortly after arriving in Mountain View, California, Vollmar came face to face with venture capitalists’ lack of enthusiasm for agricultural technology.

“Investors in Silicon Valley didn’t want anything to do with AgTech at the time,” Vollmar says. “In 2012, we were the ugly duckling.”

During the past two years, however, VC firms have woken up to the fact that the agricultural industry is a giant market ripe for a technological revolution. In the U.S., farmers grow more than $135 billion worth of row crops every year.

“Agriculture is large enough and inefficient enough that there is opportunity for people to come in and improve it,” says Todd Dagres, founder of San Francisco-based venture capital firm Spark Capital. “People have seen that for a while, but I don’t think investors necessarily appreciated it.”

In January 2014, roughly 5 percent of the row-crop farms in the U.S. were using FarmLogs’ software. That month, the company raised $4 million of Series A funding from firms including Drive Capital, Huron River Ventures, and Hyde Park Venture Partners.

Six months later, FarmLogs’ market share had grown to 15 percent of U.S. row-crop farms. In January 2015, the company raised an additional $10 million in VC funding, bringing on new investors including SV Angel and Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. Today, more than 50,000 U.S. farms across all 50 states use FarmLogs’ software, according to the company.

While FarmLogs reports that it has $12 billion in “crops under management,” the company has yet to generate revenue, as its proprietary software is still free. This spring, however, the company will to switch to a freemium model, offering a new set of paid services built on top of the data it has analyzed during the past three years.

“We’re going to be able to do some real-time assessment and monitoring of crop health, and we’ll charge a per-acre fee for that,” Vollmar says.

Making the leap to a freemium model is never a sure thing, but Vollmar is convinced of FarmLogs’ ability to convert farmers to paying customers.

“We have an easy to use, high-quality, grower-aligned offering,” he says. “That gives us the confidence we need to operate, knowing we will be able to build strong partnerships with farmers that allow both sides to be profitable.”

The OS for farms.

Despite FarmLogs’ growing position in its market, the business has a major competitor: Climate Corp., the weather data-mining company acquired by agricultural biotech giant Monsanto for $930 million in 2013. And given investors’ increasing interest in this sector, it’s only a matter of time before still more competitors emerge.

As Lance Donny, chief executive of farm data company OnFarm Systems, told Inc. last June, “Monsanto’s acquisition [of Climate Corp.] opened investors’ eyes about the value of data in agriculture. AgTech is like the next Facebook. It’s the a-ha moment when you realize that data in agriculture is worth so much.”

Three months after being purchased by Monsanto, Climate Corp. made an acquisition of its own, buying agricultural hardware and software company Solum. The transaction produced a new startup in the AgTech space when Solum’s software division spun off from the company and rebranded as Granular Inc.

Despite the rise of agricultural tech startups, Vollmar views Climate Corp. as FarmLogs’ only competitor, and says he’s not concerned about other companies piling into the industry. Climate Corp.’s product combines free software that analyzes weather data and paid insurance plans to help farms manage risk.

Rajiv Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, agrees that FarmLogs has a strong position in the largely unpenetrated AgTech sector.

“FarmLogs is the classic example of a company that’s translating data that already exists in the public domain to help farmers make better decisions,” he says. “Do we need more outfits to enable that? Yes, because the agricultural space is huge.”

Vollmar says that FarmLogs benefits from the growth of companies in related sectors, such as startups using the latest technology to monitor the health of farms.

“There are a bunch of businesses being created that are launching new satellites that image the earth every single day, and you can gain a lot of intelligence about the performance of fields and crops and help optimize crop production.”

So what is Vollmar’s outlook for FarmLogs’ growth in 2015 and beyond?

“We have an opportunity to build what becomes the operating system for the farm of the future.”

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Global Trends That Will Transform Your Business

Futurist Erica Orange dishes on what’s coming next, and how entrepreneurs can prepare for it.

It’s easy to get so absorbed in the details of your business that you completely lose track of the big picture. The big picture, in this case, consists of the global trends that will affect every entrepreneur–no matter how far removed from them, or how ‘safe,’ your company seems to be.

Erica Orange, vice president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, gave a crash course in just those trends at New York University’s Women Entrepreneurs Festival last month. In a short speech, Orange detailed the 10 big themes–which she and her firm refer to as “spaces”–that she thinks will make the biggest impact on enterprise and culture in the coming years. Below, those 10 big ideas, along with the businesses that Orange thinks will be most affected.

1. Innerspace

Innerspace is all about understanding what makes us tick. Innerspace encompasses wearables and the quantified life, but it’s so much more sophisticated: It includes brain research and, as Orange put it, the neuro-fication of everything, giving rise to fields such as neurofinance. One consequence of the rise of the innerspace is that marketers will be reexamining what we are learning about how people interact with products, right down to labeling strategy and where items are placed on shelves.

2. Designspace

Design, Orange says, is fast becoming one of the most important differentiators in the marketplace, and one need only consider Apple’s success to believe her. Further, design is rapidly evolving from “good” or “bad” design to design that is (or is not) considered age-friendly, female-friendly, cultural, or sustainable, with countless more variations yet to be come. Orange said that design thinking will soon be considered one of the most important managerial competencies.

3. Playspace

There are two main facets of the playspace. One is gamification, which Orange said is only going to become more pervasive. Companies will be using it not just to attract consumers, but also to keep employees engaged. She also said we’re going to see more respect for adult play, inspired by evolving research showing the effects of play on the brain. The beginning: Tech companies are designing their offices to inspire play.

 4. Microspace

The microspace is being driven by 3-D printing, which Orange admitted is not new, but is becoming rapidly democratized as prices fall. The next exciting development will be 4-D printing, or printed items that are able to replicate themselves. As an early-stage example, Orange mentioned a necklace that has the ability to create other necklaces. But she said the big implications are military in nature.

5. Green-to-Bluespace

The green-to-bluespace is the evolution of corporate eco-consciousness. Eco-friendly good deeds, or “doing green,” are now expected, said Orange, and no longer provide a competitive advantage. Being green is the next step, and where a lot of companies are striving to move. That means authentically and holistically leveraging the value proposition of being eco-conscious, taking into account all aspects of a product, from where it is produced, how it is sourced, who builds it, how it is shipped, and how it is disposed of, among others. Philosophically, the bluespace is the logical evolution of this: putting more into the environment than you take out. She cited vertical and urban agriculture in Brooklyn as examples, as well as the reuse of dilapidated buildings.

6. Interspace

The interspace consists of all the different networks that use the architecture of the internet as their inspirations. The best-known is probably the internet of things, but there will be many other networks composed of smart devices talking to one another without human intervention.

7. Storagespace

The storagespace is exactly what it sounds like. We are running out of room to put everything, said Orange. That’s why personal storage is one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., and why we’re struggling with storing the ridiculous amount of data we collect, from overflowing inboxes to the biggest of big data. The storagespace also encompasses housing. About 54 percent of the world’s population currently lives in cities, Orange said. She and her firm see that going to 85 percent, and she said we’ve got no clear idea of how to house everyone.

8. Outerspace

Outerspace includes space exploration but also quantum physics. The implications are completely down-to-earth, such as the increasing accuracy and applications for GPS and geographic information system technology.

9. Timespace

Orange opened her discussion of timespace by asking the audience to define luxury: What is it you want that is in short supply? The audience unanimously answered, “time,” and Orange nodded. (She said when she puts that question to a group with more men in it, some guy at the back invariably pipes up, “sex.”) Orange points out that we used to order time in a linear, sequential way. Now we see ourselves jumping forward and back, with creative career trajectories, new definitions of retirement, and greatly compressed strategic planning cycles. The new-ish sharing economy is also a part of timespace, she says, as we shift from wanting ownership to wanting access: “People want what they want immediately,” she said.

10. Cyberspace

Soon, says Orange, we will have completely blurred the lines between the real world and the virtual. “We thought virtual reality was something gimmicky, but we’re getting into tricking the brain into believing it is somewhere else, doing something else, in real time,” she says. This will affect how we learn, how we work, and how we meet our spouses. And she says success in the future will depend partly on how well, and how seamlessly, an individual is able to move between the virtual and the real.

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Timeless Strategies to Drive Entrepreneurship Success

In today’s ever changing business climate, an entrepreneur can easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital, though, to stay focused on your goals for the company.

Even with a firm strategy in place, every entrepreneur should do these six things to clear a path to success:

1. Study the competition.

As an entrepreneur, you need to know who your competitors are. You also should understand the rival product or service that is being offering.

This knowledge will help you better market your product or service to stand out, perhaps even using your competition’s weaknesses to your advantage.

2. Conserve cash no matter how good business is.

Frankly put, live as cheaply as possible.

Entrepreneurs should be as conservative with their money as possible to be able to deal with any rough patch that arises. Conserving several months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank will help you survive most unforeseen circumstances.

3. Research new products and services.

Understand emerging products or services on the horizon that could improve your company’s operations.

Do your homework. Are you taking advantage of all technology has to offer? Is there an app that could help you manage your time more efficiently or a service that lets  you delegate ordinary tasks to free up more time for priority projects?

4. Don’t tackle huge markets at first.

Avoid expanding into large markets in the initial stages. Thinking “if we can capture just 1 percent of China” could turn into a mistake. Niche marketing can be extremely cost effective if you keep three things in mind:

Meet the market’s unique needs by offering something new and compelling.

Speak the market’s language and understand its hot buttons.

Your language should be in synch with that niche even for the minor aspects of a marketing campaign like the company’s slogan.

Related: Treat Loyal Customers as Well as You Do New Ones

5. Listen to customer feedback and adapt.

Salespeople know the adage “always be closing,” referred to by the acronym ABC. Entrepreneurs have an acronym, too: Always be adapting, or ABA.

But entrepreneurs can evolve their business only when they’re listening to customer feedback. It may not mean much if one customer doesn’t like your product but if this is true for many of them and they’re requesting another feature, listen and be ready to adapt.

Whether you’re adapting your marketing plan, simplifying a product or responding to new trends, pay attention to customer feedback. Be all ears.

6. Respond to change.

In business change is inevitable and those capable of responding are flexible and versatile.

An entrepreneur must be prepared to accept change and adapt business operations accordingly. Be flexible. If a shift in your product or service is warranted, don’t be left behind. Realize from the start that where you are is likely not to be where you’ll end up.

A lack of adaptability can result in loss in customers, profits and even business failure.

As an entrepreneur, understand that the world is evolving rapidly. Even a company founded a year ago could change the world today.

Yes, the world customarily commends big players like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Yet there’s room for everyone in the game. Entrepreneurship in emerging markets could very well be a major factor in the return of a hearty global economy. Why couldn’t you be a part of that change?

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

20 Inspiring Quotes on How to Build a Successful Startup

Startups have always been hard. Even when you think you are putting in your best, it may not be enough to pull it off. Truthfully, most people fail. But don’t give up on your dream just yet. If you really believe that you have something amazing to share with the world (and there is a market for it), go for it. Don’t be discouraged by the number of times you have tried and failed, but be inspired by the number of people who have failed and bounced back as successful entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the most important insights from amazing founders on building a great startup.

1.”User experience is everything. It always has been, but it’s still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don’t know user-centered design, study it. Hire people who know it. Obsess over it. Live and breathe it. Get your whole company on board.”
–Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter

Related: 10 Quotes From Entrepreneurial Icons That Will Inspire You to Crush 2015

2. “No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long-term if you don’t have a sufficiently good product.”
–Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator and co-founder of Loopt

3. “The product that wins is the one that bridges customers to the future, not the one that requires a giant leap.”
–Aaron Levie, co-founder of Box

4. “The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.”
–Rob Kalin, co-founder of Etsy

5. “Mistakes will not end your business. If you are nimble and willing to listen to constructive criticism you can excel by learning and evolving.”
–Meridith Valiando Rojas, co-founder and CEO of DigiTour Media

6. “Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission.”
–Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora

7. “Make something people want” includes making a company that people want to work for.” Sahil Lavingia, founder of Gumroad.

8. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be OK with failure. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough.”
–Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest

9. “Unless you are a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy.”
–Jason Fried, founder of 37signals

Related: 10 Quotes From Entrepreneurial Icons That Will Inspire You to Crush 2015

10. “The strategy is to first know what you don’t know, the tactic is to grind, and the value is to remember: there are plenty of places to innovate.”
–David Friedberg, founder of Weatherbill

11. “Even if you don’t have the perfect idea to begin with, you can likely adapt.”
–Victoria Ransom, co-founder of Wildfire Interactive

12. “Micromanage the process, not the people.”
–Joe Apfelbaum, co-founder of Ajax Union

13. “The secret to successful hiring is this: look for the people who want to change the world.”
–Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce

14. “Bad shit is coming. It always is in a startup. The odds of getting from launch to liquidity without some kind of disaster happening are one in a thousand. So don’t get demoralized.”
–Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator

15. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.”
–Anthony Volodkin, founder, Hype Maching

16. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
–Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors

17. “I think not focusing on money makes you sane, because in the long run it can probably drive you crazy.”
–Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram

18. “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
–Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup

19. “Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.”
–Mark Cuban, serial entrepreneur and investor

20. “Sustaining a successful business is a hell of a lot of work, and staying hungry is half the battle.”
–Wendy Tan White, co-founder and CEO of MoonFruit

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Top 6 Tech Skills You Need in 2015

To stay relevant, you must master the skills behind this year’s hottest technology trends.

We’re not big on setting resolutions only in January at Pluralsight. We believe it’s important to strive for excellence year-round, rather than just once a year. That said, there’s value in using the year’s starter months to reassess your current skill sets and identify areas for improvement, growth, and learning.

Technology is one area that no one in any industry can afford to grow complacent about–tech is changing so quickly that skills you mastered last year may already be outdated. In such a quickly evolving industry, information decays at a rate of 30 percent a year, according to Research in Labor Economics, rendering nearly a third of last year’s tech-related knowledge irrelevant.

But don’t panic–there’s a solution. Staying up-to-date with emergent technologies and trends–as well as the skills needed to master them–will help you offset the lightning-fast pace of skills disruption and keep you ahead of the curve. Continuous learning is the key to maintaining an ongoing competitive advantage, both for individuals and organizations.

On that note, here are the top six tech skills that Pluralsight has identified as not just “nice-to-know,” but “need to know,” in 2015:

1. Coding.

As I’ve written recently, coding is the number-one skill in demand today worldwide. Although coding and computer science are still marginalized in the K-12 education system, it’s clear that the ability to code has become as important as other basic forms of literacy like reading and math. Fortunately, no matter what your age or current comfort level with technology, there are ways to pick up intro coding skills–and many of them are free. Start with Code School, which provides interactive learn-to-code challenges along with entertaining video instruction, or Hour of Code, which offers a free one-hour coding tutorial that’s available in over 30 languages.

2. Big data.

According to Forbes, big data will continue to grow in 2015, due in part to the rise of the Internet of Things, which has the power to embed technology in practically anything. As ever-larger volumes of data are created, it’s vital to know how to collect and analyze that data–particularly when it’s related to customer preferences and business processes. No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll miss out on key marketing and decision-making opportunities by ignoring big data. You can brush up on big data concepts, technologies, and vendors with these courses.

3. Cloud computing.

TechRadar reported this month that 2015 will be the year that the cloud becomes the “new normal.” The reason, writes Mark Barrenechea, CEO of OpenText, is that costs can be slashed as much as 90 percent through digitization of information-intensive processes. Barrenechea predicts that by year-end, we’ll see “a world of hybrid deployments in which some information and applications reside in the cloud and the remainder resides on-premise.” Learning to utilize the cloud’s flexible power can improve everything from your data security to your collaboration ability. Learn cloud-computing basics with this hour-long online course, which you can view in full with afree trial from Pluralsight, or try this free intro course on the topic from ALISON.

4. Mobile.

As Six Dimensions states, “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a future strategy.” This has never been truer than in 2015, the year in which The Guardianpredicts an increasing number of companies will learn how to mobilize their revenue-generating processes, like making purchases and depositing checks. This is also the year that we’ll hit critical mass with the fusion of mobile and cloud computing, according to Forbes. That means many more centrally coordinated apps will be usable on multiple devices. Here’s a list of beginner-level courses related to mobile technology from Pluralsight, as well as options for mobile apps courses from Lynda.com.

5. Data visualization.

Data keeps multiplying, which means whatever message you hope to communicate online must find increasingly creative ways to break through the noise. That’s where data visualization comes in, which involves using a visual representation of the data to discover new information and breakthroughs. Creative Bloq notes that this technique can reveal details that poring through dry data can’t. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a web designer or developer to create compelling infographics. Here’s a list of 10 free tools you can use to visually enhance your data.

6. UX design skills.

User experience (UX) designers consider the end user’s ease of use, efficiency, and general experience of interfacing with a system (such as a website or application).Smashing Magazine notes that while user experience has long been important, it has become more so recently in relation to the diverse ways that users can now access websites, including mobile and apps. “The more complex the system, the more involved will the planning and architecture have to be for it,” writes Jacob Gube. But it’s not just professional designers who can benefit from understanding UX design–anyone can. Check out this animated video from UXmastery on “How to Get Started in UX Design.”

These six tech trends are reshaping the way businesses in every industry function internally and connect with their customers. Get smart in these areas, and you won’t have to worry about being left behind–at least not this year.

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google Fiber Is Officially Coming to Four New Cities

If this brand of high-speed Internet inspires anything close to the startup activity it spawned Kansas City, this is great news for local entrepreneurs.

Google announced Tuesday that it will bring its super-fast Internet service to 18 cities in four metropolitan areas. Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham will be the next locations to receive Google Fiber, which enables speeds up to 100 times faster than normal broadband.

Considering what the installation did for Kansas City, now home to a thriving startup community, this is good news for entrepreneurs in and around these southern cities.

Just after Google announced that Spring Valley and Hanover Heights, Kansas, would receive a fiber-optic broadband network in September of 2012, companies flocked to a six-block radius in the area, according to The Wall Street Journal. Today the region, which is now larger and straddles the Kansas/ Missouri border, is known as Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV) and is home to dozens of new tech companies.

The entrepreneurs who have moved there say they benefit from a being in close proximity to one another so they can collaborate on a regular basis.

Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina, located in the Greater Raleigh Metropolitan Area, has long been known as a innovation region, but stakeholders there have expressed concern over the fact that its sprawling setup doesn’t allow for the kind of interactions that dense modern innovation hubs like KCSV enable.

But the area might now be getting there. In 2012, RTP released a 50-year plan that calls for a greater concentration of buildings and amenities, according to the Brookings Institution. Also, because the area is home to four startup accelerators, Raleigh is already recognized as an up-and-coming startup hub, Inc.‘s Oscar Raymundo reported. The region would no doubt welcome the Kansas City-ification of their community that Google Fiber aims to catalyze.

Google Fiber Vice President Dennis Kish says that the hard part comes next. Google must work with cities to map out its placement of thousands of miles of fiber without interfering with existing infrastructure.

“Then a team of surveyors and engineers will hit the streets to fill in missing details. Once we’re done designing the network (which we expect to wrap up in a few months), we’ll start construction,” he wrote in a blog post.

That gives entrepreneurs now eying these cities plenty of time to plan their moves.

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Due Diligence on Accelerators — What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

An accelerator, the latest buzzword used at economic-development agencies and universities, is a short-term, high-intensity program led by mentors. It may provide seed capital for participating enterpreneurs to test a business model.

On the surface the growth in accelerator programs may seem to benefit entrepreneurs — and in many cases it does. But this also means entrepreneurs need to be more selective and diligent than ever.

The following are some of the issues entrepreneurs need to consider about these programs before applying:

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Applying to a Startup Accelerator 

“Make sure the mentors who are assigned to you are experienced in your particular field, and not just general advisors,” advises EndoVantage CEO Robert Green, who serves as a mentor for Arizona State University’s Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator (which I manage).

Adds Green: “Mentors have a large say in the direction of these companies and you want to make sure somebody with a lot of experience is guiding you in the right direction.”

Now more than ever, entrepreneurs can find a mentor who is a really good fit for their company and who may have super niche expertise in a specific sector.

If you need someone knowledgeable about aerospace and defense issues, say, you can probably find someone with expertise in that sector and perhaps entrepreneurial experience as well.

The downside is that some service providers are positioning themselves as mentors but may simply seeking to provide services. Accelerators should have a moratorium on startup owners’ paying for any mentor-provided services while they participate in the program.

Background check a potential mentor. It will offer peace of mind and only cost you about $30.

Related: MBA or Accelerator: What’s Right for an Aspiring Entrepreneur?

With accelerators comes investment — both what the entrepreneur puts into and gets out of the program.

Startup founders should inquire about the time commitment expected for anyone participating in a program. Being married, having kids and maybe even a job to pay the rent shouldn’t be disqualify someone from participating in an accelerator program.

And founders should also ask about the amount of time the accelerator will invest in their company. Is the rock-star-entrepreneur-turned-accelerator-founder really going to be there every day to be hands-on with participants. Or is he or she just making a couple token appearances for orientation and demo day?

Keep in mind, someone’s joining an accelerator doesn’t mean anything to investors unless it has a reputation for turning out good companies. You want to be tied to the right reputation.

Before applying for an accelerator, entrepreneurs should ask questions like these:

How much equity is at stake? If it’s more than 6 percent or 8 percent, ask a lot of questions.

What value is the program providing for that equity?

What are the accelerator’s success metrics?

Who’s running it? Interview these players. Don’t ask about their startups. Ask about the success of the entrepreneurs who have exited the program.

Who is on the accelerator’s advisory board?

Who are the accelerator’s mentors and what are some examples of successful entrepreneurs they’ve advised through the program?

Are there hidden fees?

What’s the curriculum? There should be a balance between time spent in the classroom and hours devoted to talking to customers.

What deliverables does the accelerator want at the end of the program?

Who is investing in the accelerator’s companies when entrepreneurs exit from the program? The amount may not be as important as who the investors are and what types of companies they’re investing in.

Do any of the investors, more specifically the angel investors, serve as mentors? This gives the angel investor an opportunity to get to know a company owner prior to demo day.

“Entrepreneurs need to know what resources are made available to them to help them build a company,” says Duncan Hoffman, NextPotential’s director of technology and operations and also a member of the Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator.

“How are you going to connect me to people who know things that perhaps I don’t know?” asks Hoffman, as a hypothetical question. “You often enter into the program with the big picture in mind, but then little things come up all along the way that you may not have even realized would be issues, and that’s where the accelerator can really help you.”

Even if an accelerator is affiliated with a university, nonprofit or government entity, drill down with your questions to be sure that it would be the right fit. Figure out if this program will help your startup grow or if it’s just in your town and convenient? Don’t be afraid to make a move to a new area, if that’s what you need to be successful.

Posted in Software Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment