Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quick Link: Catalyzing Cross Border Peace Through Business

From Scratch has a fascinating interview with Daniel Lubetzky, founder of New York-based Kind which makes healthy food bars out of whole nuts, spices and fruits. He is also the founder of PeaceWorks which seeks to promote peace in the Middle East through profit - i.e. by bringing together vendors in Israel and Palestine under the same umbrella. Hope someone tries something similar between (obviously) India-Pakistan, but also India-China and Tamilnadu-Sri Lanka!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Economist interviews a Venture Capitalist and Vice versa - featuring Marc Andreessen and a "Freakonomist"

An audio/podcast interview of Entrepreneur-turned-investor Marc Andreessen (by Stanford economist Russ Roberts) and of Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner (by angel investor & author Tim Ferriss) went up this week.

I especially liked Andreessen's analysis of why most VCs - by using the usual check boxes - would have missed out on investing in Google and how, if Google had not discovered its revenue model (via Adwords), could have indeed fallen by the wayside (as yet another dotcom without a business model) and the founders ended up as "mid level engineers" at Yahoo (by selling the company for a few millions).

In the Stephen Dubner interview, I liked the discussion relating to the writing process and how lot of even smart folks end up wasting time in winning arguments (vs actually influencing and winning over the audience) and the nice analogy of using a "lead box" to prevent one's "moral compass" from leading one off-course. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How many times should you follow up on a sales lead before giving up?

According to Steli Efti, CEO of sales software firm,, this Mixergy interview, it's forever - or, at least, until the prospect tells you to stop following up!
My follow up strategy is binary so I follow up until I get a reply. And it doesn’t matter how many times I have to follow up...So when someone doesn’t reply to me I just assume people are busy. Assume people have their own lives, their own struggles their own challenges, it’s not all about me...I just wait for them to reply. Anybody can tell me, “Stop sending me frigging emails” and I’ll stop but as long as I don’t hear back, I’ll follow up. cannot be whiny, needy or apologetic about it., I stay very clean cut, professional in those emails. I don’t go back and say, “Well I know I already sent you 48 emails and you might not have seen them. No I just go, “Hey, I hope this is a great start off to your week, when is a good time for you to talk with me this week, either Tuesday or Wednesday.” And back a week or two later, I’ll follow up I’ll say, “Hey did you see this great new [??] we wrote or this new development in our software, what would be a great time next week to chat? What about this or that date?” I’ll just continue following up and I’m not going to reference back to why I’ve not heard back from you.
Other Highlights:

  • Hiring sales people 
...we’re looking for young people that are very entrepreneurial, very smart, have very (good) values and have kind of the personality of a sales person. Somebody that likes people, somebody that likes to communicate, somebody that can deal emotionally with rejection, someone that has high emotional stability.
  • Go out on a "founders' date" each week
Once you actually hire more and more people, you grow the team, eventually founders are on different departments and you don’t get as much time quality time together. So once a week we go on a dinner and in that dinner we don’t talk about technical things but the question really is like how do you feel? How is everyone feeling? Is there anything I did that pissed you off? Anything tiny that happened in the last few days?
  • Great parting question for the initial sales call - "what is it going to take for you to become a customer?" (from the follow up Mixergy Master Class on Enterprise Sales by Elli)
During your first meeting, ask about their sales process. Who needs to get the buy-in and how does it work? “Even if you are progressing well, your deal might get lost in the middle of a reorganization or somebody leaving,” says Steli. But if you understand their sales process and the timeline, you can make an informed decision about whether you’re willing and able to devote your resources to closing the deal. “Ask, ‘What will it take for you guys to actually become a customer?’” Steli says. “Then have them guide you through the entire process. Keep asking until they say, ‘Yes, and then we will pay you money for your product.’ Then you actually have the roadmap.” 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The amazing story of how "Baby Einstein" was conceived and why it was sold!

And the projects that the founder is involved in now. 

A must watch / listen and amazingly charming Mixergy interview with Julie Clark, co-founder of The Baby Einstein Company, the pioneering creator of musical video DVDs for kids (which was sold to Disney after building it to a $20 million size in five years with just 5 employees.)

  • Impact that passionate teachers tend to have on their students future careers and life
  • The interview emphasizes - yet again - why some of the best businesses - which includes Google in the US and redBus in India - are launched by the founder(s) "scratching their own itch". As Julie puts it, both baby Einstein and her newer ventures were founded because she thought "someone ought to create a product for ---" and when she realized there was nothing like that out there, she went ahead and create it. She is clearly not someone who will only take the plunge after validating through the "focus group" kind of stuff.
  • Benefits of participating in trade-shows
  • How making the product remarkable helps in generating both PR (Julie talks about how she got featured on both CNN and the Oprah show) and word of mouth.
  • Story of why Baby Einstein was sold to Disney. (The business, though scaling rapidly, was taking over the founders' lives and also the category that the company had created was attracting competition from the big media companies. Julie poignantly describes how she comes from a humble background and how she was proud to have found a home in Disner for "her baby". The viewer/listener is however left with a felling that Disney - credit it to its brand - got Baby Einstein quite cheap.)
  • Julie also talks about her new ventures including Happy Appy - which serves up one Youtube video, as per their tagline is "Never Rude, Crude or Nude". A typically Julie app!
Lest the almost fairy tale like story of Julie Clark makes us think entrepreneurship for women in the US is a piece of cake, here are links to two other podcasts that focus more on the challenges and hardships involved. 

  • EO Fire interview with "geeky woman" entrepreneur Katherine Matsudaira, founder of Popforms.
  • Mixergy interview with New York-based I-banker turned Entrepreneur Yunha Kim, founder of Locket.
  • Mixergy Interview with Spain-based Pilar Manchon founder of INDiSYS (acquired by Intel)