Concertio Raises $4.2M for its AI-Powered Solution That Optimizes Server Performance

What if servers would be able to tune themselves, without any human intervention? In a world with tens of millions of servers, such a technology would have a very big impact. This startup makes it a reality.
AlleyWatch

Startups Pioneer Tech Protection for Kids

The online world is rife with danger. From identity theft to bullying, viruses, porn, and unmonitored social interactions, the list of threats grows longer each and every day — and that’s when you just consider adults. When it comes to children trying to find their way online, the potential for danger skyrockets.

Fortunately, in the crowdsourced startup world we live in, it doesn’t take a company the size of Amazon or Google to come up with an accessible, affordable solution. Here are six startups that are devoted to developing tools with a laser focus on child safety:

1. Gabb

One of the most ambitious child-safety tech startups at the moment is Gabb Wireless, a company pioneering the first mobile phone network that’s dedicated to the safety of children. Gabb’s CEO and founder, Stephen Dalby, has gone on record explaining that its phones are tailored to what kids need and what parents want (i.e., text messaging, a camera, a calendar, the radio), but the company provides these features in a phone that’s designed for children. 

The goal is to provide a device that, while usable, is less addicting or dangerous than a full-blown smartphone. And based on the company’s early success, it appears the product is striking a chord with parents and children alike.

2. Super Awesome

Another startup that’s gotten in on kid-friendly tech development is Super Awesome. The tech company specializes in providing parent-approved tech of all shapes and sizes. Its products focus on providing parental controls, kid-friendly advertising, and a kid-safe social media environment.

The company has found enormous success in its brief lifespan. It’s already partnered with companies like Hasbro, Cartoon Network, and Nintendo and even passed the almighty bar of profitability in just half a decade.

3. SafeToNet

One of the greatest concerns of parents is the need for protection from fraudulent or inappropriate online encounters. Enter SafeToNet. The startup has been developing a cyber safety system since 2016 that’s particularly focused on policing the exchange of inappropriate messages and sexting. 

The tools provided by SafeToNet aim to protect a child’s privacy when it comes to the individual messages he or she sends. At the same time, the product provides parents with general reports that outline the emotional condition of a child based on the messages being monitored.

4. uKnow

UKnow is another startup that’s working to help monitor children’s behavior online. The company’s flagship product, uKnowKids, aims to provide a secure level of protection on children’s smartphones and social media to bring a more traditional level of involvement to parents when it comes to their children’s online behavior.

UKnowKids enables parents to closely monitor their children’s interactions and even creates a firewall of sorts that acts as a screening service for their children’s devices. This requires parental approval before anyone engages with the child. The goal is to provide the online equivalent of “knocking on the door” to ask if a child can come out to play.

5. KidGuard

Backed by entrepreneur Lawrence Ng, child-safety startup KidGuard takes monitoring to the next level. While the privacy element of the child goes by the wayside, KidGuard does provide an unparalleled level of comprehensive observation over a child’s device.

Parents who install KidGuard on their child’s smartphones are able to see everything from text messages and chats to social media, browser history, installed apps, contacts, and even GPS location.

6. MamaBear

Finally, we have MamaBear. Most of the tech on this list has focused on either providing hardware exclusively made for children or installing monitoring apps to observe a child’s behavior on regular applications and social media platforms. MamaBear looks to compartmentalize the entire monitoring experience into a single application.

The MamaBear app is designed to serve as an all-in-one app that parents can use to create a virtual private communication hub for their family. The app allows family members to stay in contact with each other and see each other’s current locations. It even comes with a social media monitoring feature and reputation management tools. 

These six companies are just a sampling of the numerous startups working toward building a safer online world for our children. All are aiming to create both strong companies and products that will make the world a better place. 

The post Startups Pioneer Tech Protection for Kids appeared first on KillerStartups.

KillerStartups

The Best Telemarketing Services

Contrary to popular belief, telemarketing is still a viable marketing strategy for businesses.

The best telemarketing services offer more than just cold calling random numbers to sell something. They assist with lead generation, campaign management, and other essential services to make sure you’re generating a high ROI.

Some telemarketing services even have complete call center solutions, from answering services to call forwarding and more.

If you’re looking for the best telemarketing service for your business, I’ll help you find one that fits your needs.

The 10 Best Telemarketing Services of 2020

There are hundreds of different telemarketing companies on the market today. Finding the best option for you can be tough if you don’t know where to start.

After conducting extensive research, I’ve narrowed down the top ten telemarketing companies:

This guide contains an in-depth review of each service. We’ll cover the features, benefits, and other factors to consider during your search.

Best Telemarketing Services Reviews

DialAmerica

• In business for 60+ years
• Located in the United States
• Full-service sales & marketing
• Wide range of services
Get a Free Quote

DialAmerica has been around for 60+ years. They have 19 call centers that are all located within the United States. Each year, DialAmerica makes 100 million calls.

With DialAmerica, you get more than just telemarketing. It’s a full-service sales and marketing organization.

The call center agents at DialAmerica are not taught script reading. Instead, they learn active listening skills for establishing rapport with customers. These sales skills help them use personalized and persuasive techniques.

By adding a human touch to these calls, customers are much more engaged than they would be from listening to a script.

The marketing campaigns from DialAmerica are based on data and advanced reporting. These are highly customizable and always accessible. The analytics used by the DialAmerica representatives make it possible for them to adjust and improve campaigns on the fly.

Common industries that use DialAmerica’s telemarketing services include:

  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Ecommerce
  • Education
  • B2B sales and service
  • Communications
  • Financial services
  • Government
  • Nonprofit
  • Publishing

DialAmerica has call center services for lead generation, appointment setting, customer acquisition, customer retention, and customer service. They even offer direct mail fulfillment.

Flatworld Solutions

• Wide range of services
• Cold calling
• Affordable pricing
• Telemarketing services that scale
Get a Free Quote

Flatworld Solutions offers a wide range of outsourcing services. In addition to call centers, this company provides photo editing, software development, design, data entry, transcription services, and more.

They have a global reach with offices and delivery centers in the US, India, and the Philippines.

Flatworld Solutions has the infrastructure and everything you need for telemarketing at scale. Here’s a quick overview of the telemarketing services that they offer:

  • Cold calling
  • B2B cold calling
  • Real estate cold calling
  • B2C cold calling
  • Inbound telemarketing
  • Outbound telemarketing
  • Telemarketing consulting services
  • List marketing services

Flatworld Solutions uses some of the best call center software on the market today. They use Zendesk, HubSpot, Five9, LiveAgent, Salesforce, and more.

Let’s take a look at the affordable pricing rates for the call center services offered by Flatworld Solutions:

  • Telemarketing and non-technical support — Starting at $ 8 per hour
  • Technical support — Starting at $ 10 per hour
  • Advanced technical support — Starting at $ 15 per hour

Rates vary based on factors like volume, call complexity, and other contract terms. But with telemarketing services as low as $ 8 per hour, it’s a great way to get a high ROI.

Squeeze Media

• Full-service BPO firm
• Inbound & outbound calling
• Specialty services
• In business since 2009
Get a Free Quote

Squeeze Media is a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm based in Utah.

Launching back in 2009, Squeeze Media is a bit newer and smaller compared to some of the other companies on our list. But that’s definitely an advantage for those of you who want a more personal relationship with your telemarketing service provider.

B2C telemarketing is one of the many specialty services offered at Squeeze Media. With a mix of inbound and outbound calling, the Squeeze Media agents can sell your products and services.

Squeeze Media offers other services, including call center solutions such as:

  • Lead generation
  • Live transfers
  • Lead development
  • Consultative sales
  • B2B pipeline development
  • Marketing automation
  • Inbound customer service
  • Outbound customer retention

For those of you who want to work with a smaller US-based telemarketing service, Squeeze Media will be a top option for you to consider. As a full-service BPO firm, they have the resources and tools you need for success.

Callbox

• Specialize in lead generation
• Target high-value prospects
• Focused on B2B telemarketing
• Used by 7,000+ businesses
Get a Free Quote

Callbox is a bit unique compared to some of the other telemarketing services in this guide. That’s because they specialize in lead generation and appointment setting for B2B organizations.

The agents at Callbox know how to target high-value prospects.

But rather than closing leads themselves, like a low-ticket value B2C telemarketing campaign, Callbox will qualify those leads and set appointments for you. So your sales team will still need to make the sale, but Callbox makes it easier for them by providing qualified leads with confirmed appointments.

Big companies like HP, Forbes, ADT, Motorola, and DHL all trust Callbox with their B2B telemarketing needs.

Callbox also provides services for things like account-based marketing, customer profiling databases, and event marketing.

More than 7,000 businesses have used Callbox for B2B lead generation. This service provider has set up 520,000+ appointments for its clients.

Quality Contact Solutions

• PCI Level 1 service provider
• B2C outsourced telemarketing
• B2B outbound marketing services
• Wide range of solutions
Get a Free Quote

Quality Contact Solutions is a PCI Level 1 service provider. Businesses that process $ 1 to $ 6 million in credit cards per year need to use a Level 1 PCI call center to remain PCI compliant.

This ensures that any credit card information captured over the phone is completely secure.

Quality Contact Solutions provides B2C outsourced telemarketing and B2B outbound marketing services. They also have solutions for consulting and outsourced telemarketing quality assurance.

The majority of the B2C telemarketing services from Quality Contact Solutions is geared toward existing customers.

  • Cross-sell to existing customers
  • Up-sell to existing customers
  • Information blitz to new and existing customers

The list of B2B telemarketing services is a bit more extensive. Common solutions include:

  • Lead generation and qualification
  • Appointment setting
  • Inbound customer service
  • Existing customer cross-sell and upsell
  • Technical support center
  • Inbound customer service

Pricing for Quality Contact Solutions telemarketing services typically falls into three separate categories—hourly, performance-based, or hourly plus performance.

The majority of these fees fall somewhere between $ 2,500 and $ 10,000. You can request a quote based on the needs of your business.

Go4customer

• Dozens of service options
• Strategic consulting
• Telemarketing services
• Inbound call center services
Get a Free Quote

Go4customer has one of the most extensive product and service offerings on our list. In addition to call center and telemarketing services, they provide things like strategic consulting, data management, debt collection, online reputation management, app marketplace promotion, HR outsourcing, and more.

These are just a handful of the dozens of services that Go4customer handles.

Telemarketing is one aspect of Go4customer’s outbound call center services. They also offer appointment scheduling, lead generation, customer surveys, and verification services.

Go4customer has been in business for roughly 20 years. Consistency is something that they promise and strive for every day.

If you’re using Go4customer for telemarketing, you might also want to consider taking advantage of the inbound call center services. They provide customer support, help desk solutions, tech support, product information requests, inquiries, and toll-free services.

Here’s an overview of the industries that Go4customer commonly works with:

  • Automotive
  • Healthcare
  • Travel
  • Luxury
  • Ecommerce
  • Real estate
  • Information technology
  • Banking
  • Energy
  • Telecom
  • Agriculture
  • Public services

If you fall into one of these categories and you’re interested in other services beyond telemarketing, Go4customer will be a top choice for you.

Strategic Calls

• Strategic telemarketing services
• Targets CEO’s & decision-makers
• Cold calling services
• Simple pricing
Get a Free Quote

Strategic Calls offers telemarketing services that target C-suite and executive-level decision-makers. If you’re a B2B organization that wants to target CEOs, CTOs, CFO, CMOs, and other executives, Strategic Calls will be the best option for you.

You can also run campaigns to target mid-level management or cold calling services direct to customers.

Campaigns from Strategic Calls take place over a five-day period. Here’s a quick overview of what happens each day.

  • Day 1 — Prepare a prospect list, identify call purpose, develop script and workflow.
  • Day 2 — First attempt of outbound calls.
  • Day 3 — Second attempt of outbound calls.
  • Day 4 — Third attempt of outbound calls.
  • Day 5 — Analyze results and plan the next steps.

Strategic Calls charges $ 1,000 for three rounds of calls (over five days) to 50 C-level prospects. The rate for three rounds of calls to mid-level management is $ 750.

For those of you interested in telemarketing to individual customers, Strategic Calls charges $ 250 for one round of calls attempts to 500 prospects.

Worldwide Call Center

• Call centers across the globe
• Wide range of services
• Low costs & rates
• In business 20+ years
Get a Free Quote

As the name implies, Worldwide Call Centers has, yes, you guessed it—call centers across the world. With locations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Africa, this provider has the biggest global presence on our list.

The benefit of using a telemarketing service in one of these countries is the cost. Using call center services outside of the US and Canada will give you access to the cheapest rates.

If you’re comfortable using a traditional scripted approach to telemarketing to save some money, Worldwide Call Centers is perfect for things like:

  • Market research
  • Tech support
  • Lead generation
  • Surveys
  • Appointment taking
  • Back office processing
  • Sales
  • Help desk
  • Customer support
  • Direct response

For 20+ years, Worldwide Call Centers has been an industry leader in outsourced telemarketing services. Contact them today for a custom quote. You can choose your call center and get a rate based on your monthly call volume.

SAS

• Specializes in answering services
• Native English speakers
• Focus on lead generation
• Pay based on usage
Get a Free Quote

SAS specializes in call center answering services. In fact, that’s where the acronym SAS comes from (Specialty Answering Services).

While this might be their primary service, SAS also has exceptional telemarketing solutions.

SAS is 100% US-based. All of the reps are native English speakers that live and work in the United States. SAS puts a strong emphasis on quality control, with QA teams screening 2,000+ calls per month.

The telemarketing services at SAS primarily focus on lead generation.

In addition to traditional outbound telemarketing, SAS has a few specialty lead generation categories that include appointment making, insurance appointment setting, and janitorial appointment setting.

With SAS, you’ll pay based on usage (per minute). Rates start as low as $ 31 per month + $ 1.19 per minute, which is ideal for low volume telemarketing. These rates go as high as $ 7,749 per month for 10,000 minutes.

It’s safe to say that SAS has a plan for everyone. You can try their services for free with a 14-day trial.

Superhuman Prospecting

• Inbound & outbound services
• Cold calling & lead generation
• Appointment setting
• Focused on B2B
Get a Free Quote

Superhuman Prospecting is a division of Pereus Marketing. This Pennsylvania-based agency is an outsourced sales team.

All of the call center representatives have a background in sales at the B2B level. This makes them perfect candidates for selling to your prospective clients.

Superhuman Prospecting takes the time to understand your business and its needs. As experienced sales men and women, they have been thoroughly trained in the art of pitching to yield higher conversions.

The services offered by Superhuman Prospecting can be segmented into three main categories:

  • Cold calling
  • Lead generation
  • Appointment setting

They also offer inbound call center services, in addition to the telemarketing options listed above.

Superhuman Prospecting has experience working with industries like small business, law firms, property management, construction, real estate, tech, security, education, automotive, food service, consulting, and more. Contact them today for a free quote on telemarketing rates.

How to Choose the Best Telemarketing Service For Your Business

Not every telemarketing service will be the best option for your business. There are certain factors that you must take into consideration when you’re evaluating prospective choices.

This is the methodology that we use and recommend. I’ll give you a brief overview of each element below.

Call Center Location

The location of call centers is important for a couple of different reasons.

For starters, this has a significant impact on the rate you’ll pay. If you outsource telemarketing overseas to countries like India or the Philippines, you’ll pay much less than you would if you’re using a US-based call center.

With that said, some companies would rather pay a premium to use call centers with native English speakers. But if you’re on a tight budget, outsourcing to a global telemarketing center would be better for your business.

Business Type and Industry

Some telemarketing services specialize in certain industries, whether it’s law firms, retail, financial services, or something else. One firm might excel in sales, while another is better for something like appointment setting.

Your target market will impact the decision on which service you choose as well. For example, there are telemarketing services that target CEOs and other C-level executives, whereas other services are better for cold calling general consumers at scale.

Additional Services

In most cases, telemarketing won’t be the only service offered by the provider you’re considering. The majority of the options on our list also provide a wide range of additional services.

From inbound call center solutions to full-service BPO providers, you can benefit from packages that go beyond the phone. Check out those other offerings. It’s easier to get these all under one roof instead of outsourcing to multiple agencies.

Reputation

Telemarketing can be a tough business. Somewhat unfairly, it’s developed a negative reputation over the years. But that’s largely due to service providers cutting corners when it comes to quality.

Take the time to conduct due diligence before you sign a contract. Some of the service providers on our list have been in the industry for 60+ years. I typically lean towards working with well-established companies boasting a credible reputation.

Conclusion

What’s the best telemarketing service for your business? Here’s a recap of the top ten telemarketing services that we reviewed in this guide:

  • DialAmericaUS-based call centers with 60+ years of telemarketing experience.
  • Flatworld Solutions — Cold calling telemarketing starting at $ 8 per hour.
  • Squeeze Media — Small BPO (business process outsourcing) provider based in Utah.
  • Callbox — Best telemarketing service for B2B lead generation and appointment setting.
  • Quality Contact Solutions — Telemarketing services with several pricing models.
  • Go4customer — Extensive list of other services beyond call centers and telemarketing.
  • Strategic Calls — Best telemarketing service for targeting executives and managers.
  • Worldwide Call Centers — Best cheap telemarketing service with global call centers.
  • SAS — Answering service with telemarketing rates based on usage.
  • Superhuman Prospecting — Telemarketing agents with a background in sales.

Whether you’re a small business targeting general consumers or a B2B company targeting executive-level decision-makers, there’s a telemarketing service for your organization on this list. For all budgets and call center needs, use this guide to help you make a decision.

Quick Sprout

In Crisis, What Should Entrepreneurs Make Free(mium)?

Lots of organizations, particularly subscription businesses, are changing their rules about what is free and what is paid, in response to the coronavirus.

The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business are a few of the many major publishers that have removed the paywall in front of coronavirus-related content. In other words, now non-subscribers have access to articles relating to the pandemic and impending financial meltdown.


StartupNation exclusive discounts and savings on Dell products and accessories: Learn more here

News isn’t the only industry that is giving away more than usual during this time of crisis:

Fitness organizations, like Orange Theory, are live streaming classes that were formerly in-person, for members only. Hello Core is offering free meditation classes to the public three times a day through Instagram Live. Zoom’s CEO, Eric S. Yuan, is expanding the features available on free accounts for K through 12 educators.

Many of my clients are asking what they should be giving away–a difficult choice in a time when many businesses are desperate for short-term revenue to avoid mass layoffs and simply “keep the lights on.”

But for those of us who are entrepreneurs running small businesses, times are tough. Many of us are struggling to make payroll and keep our doors open.

So, the question is, what should entrepreneurs and small business owners be giving away during these times?

The role of free in subscription models (in normal times)

In normal times, I advise membership economy companies of all sizes to make sure to consider the role of “free” in their business model, in a deliberate way. They should ask themselves what the ROI of free might be.

free trial can be useful if one of your big challenges is that prospects either don’t understand your value proposition or don’t believe your promise.

For example, if I say I have a software that makes video production easy, you might be confused about what features it has, what products it works best with and what level of sophistication is required for it to truly be easy.

At first, you might not understand the value of the product, but if I give you an opportunity to play with the software, suddenly, lightbulbs will go off as you start to understand what I meant.

Or maybe you just don’t believe my promise that my subscription box contains the most delicious steak in the whole wide world. So, I give you a tiny taste, on me, so you believe that what I’m putting in the boxes is really special.

With a free trial, you don’t want to provide too much, or fully solve your customer’s problem. You don’t want to give such a big taste of steak that the prospect isn’t hungry anymore. Many free trials do exactly that–and report the problem of “failure to launch” in which someone signs up for a trial, uses the trial very heavily and then cancels just before the first payment is due. With the free trial, you just want to allay the concerns and confusion, giving away as little as possible.

In contrast, freemium is an ongoing membership which provides real value for free.


Related: WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: Subscription Box Economy

You might use freemium for one of three reasons:

  1. To change behaviorIf a news organization wants to move print readers to digital, it might make 10 articles a month available for free. If the freemium subscriber keeps bumping up against the paywall, eventually they will recognize that they actually use digital news more than they thought, and probably would benefit from a paid, unlimited subscription.
  2. Because the free members ARE the product. This could be true in a case like LinkedIn, which has what is known as a “network effect.” Each new free subscriber makes the paid membership more valuable for the recruiters, job seekers and salespeople who are looking to find the right person. Or it could be an ad supported model, where the business is trying to attract enough of the right kind of “eyeballs.” In all these cases, the free benefits are given to seed the bigger opportunities.
  3. Because the free subscribers are an acquisition for paying subscribers. Put another way, some freemium models have a viral component in that just by using the product, freemium members are marketing the service to their community. Hotmail was one of the first “viral” product: I sign up for free mail, and send you an email with the Hotmail link, so you sign up. The same thing works for any product where part of the on boarding process is for you to connect with all of your contacts.

In normal times, these are the only reasons to justify giving something away (other than philanthropy, which is not necessarily a business decision, but rather a personal one).

But in times of extraordinary events, these rules can be adjusted. This is true certainly of times like now, when people face dire and unexpected challenges. But it can also be true in cases of great time-limited or unexpected opportunity.


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The role of free in subscription models (in extraordinary times)

In extraordinary times, there are additional reasons to give away free stuff:

  1. To take care of one’s members. My neighborhood yoga studio had to scramble to figure out how to offer remote classes. With no real digital footprint beyond a basic website, the owner worked quickly to figure out how to use video conferencing to support her community. Our local drugstore is offering delivery of prescriptions so at-risk patients don’t need to come into the stores. These thoughtful extensions of services to existing members at no additional cost make sense, because they are guided by maintaining and deepening the long term relationships.
  2. To take care of the communityThis goes beyond discretionary philanthropy and is what happens when organizations recognize that their entire community is at risk and that their organization has resources to be a source of relief. For example, the public performance collective known as “This is Not a Theatre Company” is offering a free app with their Subway Plays to help people immerse themselves in artistic experience during tough times.
  3. To build brand awareness. The more cynical among us can point out that these public and temporary acts of generosity are not altruistic. And in many cases, this is true…or at least altruism isn’t the full reason for the generosity. Even my 83-year-old neighbor is using video conferencing tools to continue tutoring. Never have so many people tried video conferencing–so there may be a little “land grab” behavior to win these newcomers. We are all looking for new habits on everything from how to work from home to how to get our groceries, and businesses are scrambling to gain trial as well as to gain media attention as “one of the good guys.”

Not every business should give something away though, even in these crazy times. I would encourage you to be deliberate about what you give away and what the rationale is. If you’re trying to help out people who have been laid off, then only make your offer to those who have been laid off. If you’re trying to help the elderly, be specific. The biggest risk is that you give away too indiscriminately. This can result in both a reduced perception of the value you provide and a lack of revenue that drives you out of business.

Actually, that’s not true: the biggest risk is that you are so focused on short term revenue that you risk losing your humanity and forgetting the mission that got you into business in the first place.

Now is the perfect time to take a quick step back, refocus on your forever promise, and launch a strategy that will carry you through these tough times. And maybe even strengthen your relationships along the way. Hang in there.

Robbie Kellman Baxter is the author of “The Forever Transaction: How to Build a Subscription Model So Compelling, Your Customers Will Never Want to Leave” (McGraw-Hill Education), available now wherever books are sold and for purchase via StartupNation.com.

The post In Crisis, What Should Entrepreneurs Make Free(mium)? appeared first on StartupNation.

StartupNation

Who Ever Thought? The Lean Educators Summit

It’s been almost a decade since we first started teaching the Lean Methodology. It’s remade entrepreneurship education, startup practice and innovation in companies and the government. But in all that time, we haven’t gotten a large group of educators together to talk about what it’s been like to teach Lean or the impact it’s had in their classrooms and beyond. It dawned on us that with 10 years of Lessons Learned to explore, now would be a good time.

So, for the first time ever, we’re getting all educators from all these groups together for a “share best practices” summit at my ranch – December 4th – 5th.


100,000 students, one class at a time
A few months ago with the folks at VentureWell, the non-profit that puts on the Lean LaunchPad Educator classes  mentioned, “You know we’ve trained over 800 educators at hundreds of colleges and universities around the world to teach your class…” Say what???

It still seems like yesterday that Ann Miura-Ko and I were creating a new class – the Lean LaunchPad at Stanford to teach students an alternative to how to write a business plan.

If you can’t see the video click here

I quickly did the math. 800 educators – times 15 or so students per year – times almost ten years. Wow. It’s possible that 100,000 students have gone through some form of the class.

Add that to the 5,000 or more of our nation’s best science researchers who’ve gotten out the building (in this case their labs) who’ve gone through the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, (designed to help turn our country’s best academic research into companies), or the I-Corps @ the National Institute of Health or I-Corps @ the Department of Energy. And then add another 5,000 more who’ve gone through a version of I-Corps inside the Department of Defense.

It made me think about the variants of the class we’ve created. We started Hacking for Defense and Diplomacy almost four years ago. Hacking for Defense is now supported by the National Security Innovation Network and has put hundreds of students in 24 universities through the program. Hacking for Cities and Hacking for Non-profits have followed at U.C. Berkeley. Hacking for Oceans is coming next.

Yet none of these instructors across these disciplines have met. Or shared what they’ve learned.

So lets’ do it.

Educators Sharing Best Practices
On December 4th-5th, Jerry Engel, Pete Newell and I are hosting an event at the ranch for a select group of educators that have lead the Lean Innovation movement.

We’re going to cover:

  • The effectiveness of our programs [including I-Corps and Hacking for Defense]: What we have learned so far from the data and how to make it better
  • Customer Discovery and Lean Innovation in Academic Settings vs Non-Academic Settings such as incubators and accelerators
  • Tech Commercialization: innovators vs. entrepreneurs –  motivating scientists and engineers
  • Lean Innovation in the Enterprise, Not-for-Profit and Government – what’s different
  • International: Success and Challenges of Lean Innovation and Customer Discovery in  Europe and Asia [and South America? Australia?]
  • What’s next for Lean and entrepreneurial education
  • and much more…

Lessons Learned:

  • I’m hosting the Summit of Lean Innovation Educators at my ranch in December.
  • We’re bringing together a group to capture best practices and define a vision for what lies ahead.
  • Stay tuned for what we learn
  • And if you think you should be here, click here and let us know why


Steve Blank

7 Key Culture Elements That Drive Value In A Startup

office-business-drive-valueAs an entrepreneur, it’s never too early to set the culture you need for a thriving business, as well as thriving employees, customers, partners, and vendors. In fact, in my experience, cultures are very hard to change, so if you don’t get it right the first time, the road ahead will forever be difficult. “The Art of War” culture as an analogy for business doesn’t always work anymore.

I’m seeing more and more business success stories like the one in the classic book “Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives” by Kip Tindell. He is the Founder of the very successful Container Store, while still making Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for seventeen consecutive years.

He offers a set of seven principles and values for his ultimate win-win philosophy and harmonic balance among all stakeholders, as a roadmap for any company to develop a profitable, sustainable, and fun way of doing business. I recommend that every aspiring entrepreneur and serious business professional take each one of these to heart from day-one of their startup:

  1. Talent is the whole ball game. When you surround yourself with hugely talented, passionate, dedicated, and genuinely kind people, you will succeed in whatever you do. Tindell’s mantra is that one great person is equal to three good people. Start with only the very best people, demand excellence, and train them to stay ahead of the pack.
  1. Craft mutually beneficial relationships. This requires spending the extra time needed to really get to know your employees, vendors, and customers, and letting them get to know you. Know the issues they face, and search for ways to help them, make them happier, more productive, and more profitable. The result is more win-win than win-lose.
  1. Reframe selling as an activity that improves customer’s lives. If you get to know your customers well enough, you can provide solutions that make selling and service the same thing. It’s a win-win deal that keeps customers coming back, helps your company, and incents customers to bring in their friends through word-of-mouth and social media.

  1. Great communication is the best leadership. How can people trust their leaders if they’re not being fully informed about what’s at stake? The objective is to communicate everything to every person. It starts with daily ongoing communication between team members, and extends to the top with executive updates and informal listening sessions.
  1. Simultaneously deliver the best selection, service, and price. Stick with what you know and do it better than anyone else. Keep is simple, and think solution rather than item-based, for the proper perspective. The best relationships with vendors give you price and selection leverage, and the best service relationships bring customers back.
  1. Team members must act intuitively, based on training and motivation. Intuition is nothing more than the outcome of previous training and experience. More training on your solutions and customer needs means better intuition and anticipation of how to help customers. Happy and motivated employees won’t be afraid to use their intuition.
  1. Build and maintain an air of excitement in your company. Faithfully following the first six principles will build that sense of excitement where everyone wants to be there and feels the sense of energy, customers and employees alike. You can’t force that feeling of warmth and caring, it has to be authentic and come from the hearts of talented people.

The great management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Today company culture is more important than ever in driving strategy and value, not the other way around. A great culture in an entire business infrastructure of executives, employees, vendors, and customers working together to achieve a common goal of everyone thriving.

No leader can “create culture,” but they must create the environment where the desired culture can emerge and flourish. Leaders do this by driving values, values drive behavior, behavior drives culture, and culture drives performance. High performance makes new leaders. This is the self-reinforcing circle of excellence every business needs to succeed. Are you driving the right values in your business?

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings

College student who worked her ass off and worried she’ll get nothing

I’m graduating this spring and worked the past few years on a beauty product startup. We are attracting angels and beginning to scale, so it looks like we are getting to the good stuff. I am the LLC’s 1st C-suite executive and have been working without comp b/c I’m passionate about beauty products and my friend started it.

I have never asked about equity or comp, and I am graduating into a full-time job (fingers crossed) and won’t be retaining my executive position. But I’m seeing investors say it might be big one day, and I can’t help but feel I deserve something. My friend, the founder, has said on numerous occasions to me that she views me as a founding member and that I’ve been instrumental to getting us to where we are. She also said verbally she wants to grant me equity if it becomes big. And yet she legally retains 100% equity (was the sole owner when I joined), and when I hinted at being involved after graduation in an advisory role, she brushed even that idea off. It should be noted she has never put any of her own money into the company yet (all donation money and debt from family and alumni so far).

I’ve learned many lessons for the next time I attempt entrepreneurship. I know I misplayed my cards. But I’ve also been misled, important for our growth, and was never given the opportunity to get stake or comp. Anyway, given the current reality, how can I attempt a dialogue so that I don’t leave with literally nothing (not even title recognition)? This person is my good friend (even if her actions sometimes make me feel otherwise), so I have hope that if I bring a good argument I can get something. Please don’t be too mean, I already feel awful

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Startups, VCs in India request ‘relief package’ from the government to fight coronavirus disruption

More than six dozen startup founders, venture capitalists and lobby groups in India have requested the government to grant them a “robust relief package” to help combat severe disruptions their businesses face due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint letter to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, startups requested the government to bankroll 50% of their workforce’s salaries for six months, provide interest-free loans from banks, waive rent for three months and offer tax benefits among other things.

“Unfortunately, our startup companies across the nation are inherently young, less resilient and most vulnerable. Many of them face likely devastation during this extraordinary economic downturn. At this dire moment, Indian startups need a robust relief package from the government, lest all our collective efforts of the past few years are in vain,” they wrote.

Among those who have signed the letter include Mohit Bhatnagar, a managing director at Sequoia Capital, which is in advanced stages to close a fresh $ 1.3 billion fund for India and Southeast Asia, Gaurav Agarwal of online medicine store 1mg, Debjani Ghosh of industry body Nasscom, Karthik Reddy of Blume Ventures, Anand Lunia of India Quotient, Deepinder Goyal of Zomato, and Sriharsha Majety of Swiggy.

Some prominent startup founders and VCs including Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm, and Ritesh Agarwal of Oyo, have also held a meeting with Piyush Goyal, the commerce minister in India, for a similar relief.

“We seek your urgent intervention to help ensure India’s startup ecosystem survives this crisis to emerge as a pillar of growth, employment and innovation to help drive India’s recovery. We need the startup ecosystem to survive in order to help the economy bounce back. We have enclosed herewith our submission for your kind consideration and we look forward to your support in this regard,” the joint letter reads.

The request for bailout comes amid a national lockdown in India that has disrupted countless businesses. New Delhi ordered a 21-day lockdown last month in a bid to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

Earlier this month, ten prominent VC and PE funds in India cautioned startups to brace for the “worst” months ahead.

“Assumptions from bull market financings or even from a few weeks ago do not apply. Many investors will move away from thinking about ‘growth at all costs’ to ‘reasonable growth with a path to profitability.’ Adjust your business plan and messaging accordingly,” they said.

As India, where the economy growth has been slowing for several quarters, scrambles to provide for its 1.3 billion citizens, the letter has drawn some criticism from industry figures.

“I can’t fathom how such a list gets made in a country of more than a billion people who are facing a crisis unlike any they’ve seen before. A significant majority of them daily wage earners who have no financial cushion or any idea where their next meal is going to come from. Let’s not even stray into health and the need for medical emergencies; just putting three square meals on the table a day is proving to be impossible for so many,” wrote Ashish K. Mishra in a column on The Morning Context.

“At this very moment, it is they who need the government’s support. Not fat cats with bloated, middling business models and venture capital funds whose begging bowls are now seemingly larger than their risk appetite,” he added.

Companies asking for a bailout is not limited to India. Oil giants have sought similar help from the U.S. President Donald Trump — and VCs and startups are beginning to explore their option. Brent Hoberman, chairman and co-founder of Founders Factory and Firstminute Capital, urged the UK government to provide some relief to startups last month. But the government has yet to do much about it, just ask Deliveroo, Graphcore and other big UK startups.

Startups – TechCrunch