Authors Posts by Avishai Sam Bitton

Avishai Sam Bitton

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Hi, my name is Avishai. I am the Founder of Oribi. I love Internet Startups, PC gaming, Star Wars, Blogging, Photography, LinkedIn and Chess. Feel free to drop me a message and connect with me on all the socials, you will be surprised by the amount of free advice I giveaway.

If you are a startup founder you probably know by know that building a startup comes with a very challenging lifestyle. Working on your idea in a startup accelerator is a whole different challenge squeezed into a fixed time-frame.

Startup Accelerator

Before we dive into the in’s and out’s of startup accelerators, we should remind ourselves that there are many things to think about before any startup founder can turn his idea into a reality. What kind of business model is best? How much will the business cost at the first stage? Where will the business be placed? Who will be the clientele, will it be B2B market or the crowded B2C arena? Are the co-founders the right ones for you? Can the business be successful in times of financial depression? These are just some of the questions that need to be thought about thoroughly before starting any startup business.

A competitive startup founder or co-founder must possess competence in decision making, self-discipline, and determination, as well as have excellent personal connections to people in the business world. Although it is a challenge for anyone to start a startup business, it is also a challenge for business employees to be part of a rising company.

In the past years, there were institutionalized environments that helped and assisted aspiring business women and men in making their business ideas grow. These institutions were called incubators. The first business incubator was founded in 1959. In 1999, several business incubators were born. These are the 100X and TechSpace, and the HotBank. These incubators boomed along with other tech companies. These incubators offered office spaces for starting companies in exchange for equity. After some time, these organizations changed their models and then offered business and office space for a monthly fee instead of taking equity.

 

The Startup Accelerator

Work Room

In 2005, a new version of business incubator was born. It is no longer called an incubator but a Start Up accelerator. It is built with the purpose of cultivating the growth of its portfolio companies. The distinctive characteristics of startup accelerators from incubators are the five phases that a startup will have to undergo in an accelerator. These phases are awareness, application, program, demo day, and the post demo day.

A startup accelerator is a program composed of mentorship, access to technology, innovative community, and office spaces. The goal of the accelerator is to twist the art of starting a business into a program that can be repeated over and over again.

Unlike the incubator programs, startup accelerators have programs that enable the individuals to avail mentorship, office spaces, funding, and technological advancement in exchange for the companies’ stocks. The program is open to anyone but is highly competitive. Applications were thoroughly screened. The accelerators focused on teams instead of individuals. This is because of their belief that starting a business is not an individual job but is a job for a team. After three months, a start-up is expected to “graduate”. After graduation, they are subject to intensive training and mentoring. By then, they are expected to learn rapidly. During the “Demo Day” the startups will present to investors.

 

Y Combinator

Y Combinator is the first seed accelerator founded in March 2005. It is an American seed accelerator that provides seed money, connections, and mentorship. The program lasts for three months and is conducted twice a year. In return for the program, the startups will have to give an average of 6% of the company’s equity. Seed money is also known as seed funding, in which part of the business was purchased by the investors. It is called seed money to suggest that the fund is a form of an early investment to support the company until it can generate the money and fund for its own.

Y Combinator was founded by Paul Graham together with his co-founders Robert Morris, Trevor Blackwell and Jessica Livingston.

Some famous startups that came out from Y Combinator are Dropbox, Weebly, Wepay, Airbnb, and others. Dropbox is a software program that has proven to have several benefits in businesses. Some of the services that the Dropbox offers are protecting works and files on tablets and computers. Wepay is one of the prominent and reliable payment services. This company supports protection of clients from fraud and scams. Airbnb is another famous startup product. It was founded in 2008 and is based in San Francisco, California. It is a trusted marketplace for people to discover and list different accommodations around the world through online or mobile.

Parts of the programs were weekly dinners which give a chance for the guests to talk with the founders. Over the years, Y Combinator has funded more than 500 different companies from over 30 different markets. In fact, the Y combinatory was named by Forbes as the top startup accelerator in 2012.

 


500 Startups

In 2010, 500 Startups was founded by an entrepreneur and prominent angel investor Dave McClure.  It is a seed accelerator with the incubator office located in Mountain View, California. In 2013, the program has invested to over 500 companies including Safe Shepherd. The Safe Shepherd is a technology company whose job is to help consumers identify and remove some information from the internet. Some of the famous startups from 500 Startups are ApprGrooves, Bug Herd, Cardinal Blue, Culuture Kitchen, and many others. AppGrooves is an iOS application that fills the gap between Apple’s App Store by recommending other apps such as Amazon and Netflix. Bug Herd is known as the simplest bug tracker for designers and developers of the web. Cardinal Blue is a company helping people to build a better way of working together using photos and chat. The Culture Kitchen is helpful and skilled women who are cooking authentic, ethnic cuisines. This program connects these women to those food lovers who want to learn the skill and the story behind different kinds of food.

Over the years, 500 Startups has proven its worth to aspiring companies. The Startup founded has been successful in it purpose of helping the new businesses as well as earning a good profit out of the program.

 

TechStars

TechStars is another seed accelerator. It is a very meticulous accelerator in terms of selecting a company to invest with. There are seven TechStar programs in top startup locations like Boulder, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, London, Austin, and New York City. TechStars invest as much as $118K in each company as long as the company has passed the screening of TechStars.

 

AngelPad

AngelPad was founded by Thomas Korte, an ex-Googler. It is a mentorship program for startup businesses. The program aims to help mobile and web tech startups to create a better product. It is also programmed to help new businesses attract funding and grow successful businesses.

The program provides a twice a year extensive mentorship to selected startups. The whole course covers 10 weeks. The offices of AngelPad are located in San Francisco and New York. The course offered by AngelPad to startups covers all aspects of launching a company.

The distinctive characteristics of AngelPad from other seed accelerators are the more personalized mentorship due to the smaller group, and the participation of mentors in fundraising.

 

SeedCamp

SeedCamp is the leading mentoring program and micro-seed investment in Europe. It is the most connected seed investor in the world. SeedCamp was launched in 2007 and now includes more than 100 promising startups in Europe. SeedCamp invests in about 20 startups every year all around the world.

 

OpenFund

OpenFund is a startup accelerator who invests in companies operating in Greece. It is associated with companies dealing with software, mobile platforms and the web. It provides mentoring and financial support for startup companies. It is aimed to fund startup businesses located anywhere in Europe.

 

The Pros, Cons, and Opportunities

In the early years of your startup company, every decision made is a major decision. One of these decisions is applying for a startup accelerator. There are several things to consider before deciding to apply in an accelerator program. The following are the pros, cons, and opportunities associated with the programs.

 

Pros

1. Connections

One of the important factors in the success of a company is connections. In joining a startup accelerator program, the company can be connected to potential investors and clients. The credibility of the startup accelerator can help a lot in advertising the name of the company. Experienced companies such as Microsoft know what works on specific demographics and what does not. Therefore when one chooses an established accelerator, he or she will most likely gain successful connections with their target audience. This will enable them to reach those people who are most likely to be interested in their startup.

2. Team

When you join a startup accelerator, your and your teammates have a chance to really bond. What usually happens in startup accelerators is that everyone works hard. The environment can make them feel like they are with someone to rely on.

3. Reputation

Since joining the accelerator programs undergoes a meticulous screening, passing the application process is a good stepping stone in molding a good business reputation for the company. Being in the accelerator program help the company attracts potential investors and clients faster.

4. Real Solutions

Accelerators handle real problems all the time. While most start ups find it hard to penetrate to their target market, accelerators can anticipate possible problems. Likewise, they know these problems too well that the can offer real solutions that will majorly contribute to the startup’s success. This is done as the accelerators help startups build something that the customers want just the way they want it. There are some accelerators that conduct workshops that enable startups to have extensive communication sessions with some chosen customers. This may end the process of startups chasing customers to the other way around.

5. Network

Accelerators provide startups with strong networks. Start ups will get the necessary guidance that they need from experts in their specifically chosen field. Accelerators usually have more than a hundred of mentors who have been there and have done a lot of things where they gained their expertise. These experts can become the startups’ friends, consultants, guides, advisers, and philosophers.

6. Speed

Aside from the quality, the speed is just as important. In business and startups, time is of the essence. Time is money. Therefore, accelerators create strong road maps to startup success with more focus on building the ideal company. In the process, unnecessary activities are minimized or eliminated. Accelerators are action-centered so more accomplishments are attained in shorter periods of time.

 

Cons

1. Extra Expenses

Although the accelerator programs offer financial support it is not for free. The accelerator is helping the company not only for the benefit of the company but as a form of investment for the accelerator. The company will grow but some of the profit might go to the accelerator.

2. Equity

Most accelerators demand about 5% to 10% equity for their services and benefits. This may sound low or small for newbies but people who are experienced with startups know that this is a big amount. Therefore, it is very important to conduct a thorough research about what the startup will get from the accelerator so they can make a sound decision about whether it is worth it or not.

3. Not A Good Fit

Some accelerators are perfect for a specific kind of startup only. Therefore, startups should be very careful in choosing their accelerator. They should make sure that it is the best for the type of their startup.

 

Opportunities

The accelerator provides a good opportunity for startups. Especially for those who are starting from scratch which means they don’t have enough capital and experience in business. Thus, opening a business can be lighter because of startup accelerators.

Do you have any experience with accelerators? Share with us in the comment section bellow.

Small business grants can get startup owners what they need in finance to start their ventures.

There are different ways to gain that, including saving up beforehand or opting for a business loan. However, both of these can be problematic and have their own downsides. Small business grants are available, and there are different types available. But how do you find them? Where do you even start looking for them?

Staying together

Start With the Government

One of the best places to start looking for a small business grant is with the government. There is a range of grants available for startup founders or growing businesses. However, you will need to do your research. Some of these business grants are only available for specific types of businesses, while others are only available for specific needs, in Israel for example it is usually custom to give startups with R&D business grants, many times the condition to receive a grant is that the intellectual property must stay in Israel.

You will usually need to be a citizen of a country to apply for the government grants, so always check with your own government first. The good thing about these types of grants is they don’t usually need paying back. But there may be constraints on the money or regular checks to make sure you’re using the money as intended.

 

Private Agency Grants

The next place to look is the various private agencies in your area. Many of these offer grants to growing businesses that work within certain areas. It could be grants for scientific research that helps their needs, or it could be grants for a specific service that will somehow benefit them.

Like the government grants, these types do have certain requirements and expectations. The agencies are not just going to give out money for free. They want to see results and see that you’re doing everything as intended. That doesn’t mean if you do fail that you will need to repay the money, but you need to prove that you tried everything to avoid failing.

 

Raising Funds Through Events and Fundraising

Events FundraisingIf you country doesn’t support businesses with small business grants it may be hard to think of ways to raise funding, lucky for you all is not lost. Another creative option is to raise the money through fundraising events. These could be dinners with a guest speaker, car washes or even yard sales. You can use a mixture of everything to get you on the track for your financial needs. But this does require some work on your part. You will need to put the effort into raising the funds that you require.

There are other ways to raise the funds, including through NGOs. These involve a small number of donors who are looking to invest in projects. Many of these donors prefer to invest in the larger, more well-known projects, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth the effort.

 

Search for Specific Types of Grants

What type of grant are you looking for? As the startup founders, you need to determine why you want the money, where it’s going to be spent and how you’re going to raise funds back if you need to. This gives you an idea of the specific type of grant you need. For example, a startup research firm will really benefit from research grants, while a growing store may need the training and development grants to help them.

Once you know the type of grants you need, you can do an internet search for these. There are also governmental bodies within areas that offer advice to business owners. Your accountant may even be able to help. Doing an internet search online for a specific grant will narrow down your options and make it easier to start apply.

Don’t struggle on where to start searching for those small business grants. There are many out there and you could benefit from them. The trick is to knowing what you want the money for and searching in the right places for them. The government grants are often the best place to start when it comes to grants for your startup.

Here is a video that FedEx did earlier this year, a great example for a business grant that business owners can apply for.

 

 

Do you have any tips about where to search for business grants? Was this post helpful? Share in the comment section bellow.

Great ideas and a bright future – these are what most startup founders present to potential investors.

How hard is it to find investors for a startup, really? Most founders believe in the greatness of their genius and end up disappointed when they do not get the “yes” that they were hoping for. The thing is that investors need a lot more than great ideas. They need plans. They need promise. They need a startup that is already creating income even before its founders approach investors. They need a clear vision of how they can get their investment back, and then some more. Provide these, and a positive response is more certain.

Increase RevenueA lot of founders who have tried finding investors before right away usually had a hard time getting a positive response. As startups are risky business ventures, not a lot of people are convinced by a great idea. They would all attest on how it is much easier to find interested investors once there is a high probability of getting an income.

 

Growth Attracts Investors

Nowadays, startups sprout from just about anywhere. This is why a lot of investors are initially skeptical about making investments in such companies. However, they get interested when they see the startup company’s potential growth. This growth is measured by considering the expected value of the company from future cash flows. This is measured against the current value of a dollar. This is why it is very important for a startup to establish possible income as this will help secure investor funding.

 

Possible Income is an Integral Part of the startup’s Valuation

One of the biggest questions that potential investors ask is about the startup’s valuation. It includes different things such as assets, value of intellectual properties, principals and employees, early customers, ongoing contracts, discounted cash flows on projection or DCF, discretionary earnings multiple, key assets’ replacement costs, market comparables, and the growth projection from potential sources of income measured with the market size. This is why creating income is very important. It is one of the major ways to increase a startup’s valuation and improve your chances to gain funding.

 

Lower Risk for Investors

Startups are naturally high risk business ventures. This is one of the main reasons why investors are hard to find for such businesses. Not a lot of investors are big on taking risks. Most investors got funds to invest because they take necessary precautions and were very careful about where they put their money.

IncomeThere are also some investors who just cannot afford to lose money so they take a lot of time thinking whether to invest on a startup or not. People cannot really blame why potential investors would be skeptical about risking their resources. Although startups make it really big once they make it, a lot more startups fail which means that a lot more investors lose. What usually happens is that their money vanishes with the company.

One way to help them decide favorably for the startups is to present potential income. This will help founders convince investors that there is less risk of losing money and more potential of success for the startup. Most investors would look for something tangible aside from bright ideas. They usually look for prototypes, plans, and possible sources of income.

More investors will be convinces if there is a specific estimated timeframe of the financial activities and when they should expect to get some or all of their investments back. Although no one knows for sure, a small assurance as this one will go a long way in convincing investors. It is best to keep in mind that investors do not just put their money in every startup that asks for their help. They need to see its potential so that they will be motivated to help out. They have to have something to hold on to that would make them believe that a venture will make it big just like Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook.

One good thing to remember is to find potential investors who wouldn’t need their investment back in five to seven years.

 

Tips for Startup Beginners

Money is very important with startups. Therefore, it is important to save money on operations as much as the company can. Savings is equivalent to money and the bigger the savings is, the bigger the money for more important endeavors is.

  • Timing is key: Some startups can be very costly and in some startups it is almost impossible to earn money through it in the early stages. Therefore, founders need to have a steady flow of income so they can pay for the overhead expenses as they wait for the venture to make it big time. During these times, it is logical that they hold on to their regular jobs. Their salaries from these jobs will help them have funds for their expenses. They can work part time on the startup for the meantime. Once the business makes enough, then that is the time to let go of the regular job and focus on it full time.Plastic Card
  • Work at home: It is always beneficial to start a startup inside one’s home. This helps a business cut expenses on office space rent and utilities. Although most people would think that it would make a business look unprofessional, it is advantageous for those who are just starting up. A lot of successful startups started this way and even had holiday parties in someone’s living room. Offices are usually held in the founder’s bedroom or the house’s basement.
  • Frugal living: It is important to save as much money as one can and have these savings invested to the startup funds. Every way of saving money by cutting on different overhead expenses counts. Small savings from different sources amount to a significant amount of money when put together. Potential opportunities for savings are coffee, meals, heater and air conditioner thermostat, and a lot more. This is another great way to add value to the business venture aside from creating income.
  • Plastic is still important: Use credit card if possible. This is perfect for people with great credit standings. This will ensure that the business venture has everything that it could possibly need to make people work efficiently. Through credit card, this is done without large amount of cash outs.
  • Don’t be tempted: If you don’t need funding, don’t go looking for it. People give up on large chunks of equity and later regret it, try to avoid this feeling of regret.

 

Do All Startups Need Income In Order To Raise Funding?

No, some startups build up their valuation by building up user numbers, I am not a fan of thinking how to monetize later, in my opinion you have to be very lucky to develop something and you only begin monetizing it 5-6 years after you started. Not everyone is the next Facebook, WhatsApp or Pinterest. Choose your path wisely, and let your gut feeling lead you, some investors will push you to monetize as soon as possible, some will back you with whatever path you choose.

Did you find this article helpful? Do have some tips of your own to share? Please feel free to drop us a line in the comment section bellow.

Organizational Development Is Becoming A Popular Term With Mature Startups.

organizational development

As an Organizational Consulting masters student I learned that startup businesses need to focus on efforts that will help them build a sustainable base as quickly as possible. From there, they can grow and succeed. All the best companies have started from this low base, even the multi-billion corporations of today. Organizational development is just one highly effective method to help startups succeed.

 

What Is Organizational Development?

In short, this is a deliberate plan put in place for the whole organization to follow. It will improve the effectiveness and efficiency within the company, which is the best way to garner success. However, there is much more to the concept than just planning when it comes to startup development. It requires time, research and a lot of hard work to get a suitable plan together that will work for the specific organization.

Organizational development relies on the psychologists, cultural anthropologists and sociologist, among other behavioral scientists to create an application that will work. Together they create a plan that helps the company grow while focusing on the development of the humans within the company. It uses training and development, systems thinking, employee feedback and action research throughout the process to help. Once you read more about organizational development, you learn the difference between organizational development and strategic consulting.

 

The Growth of Organizational Development

Like many other methods of startup development, this process has gone through various changes over time. It has had to evolve to meet the current technological standards and follow the preferences of people of the day. There are different ways that organizational development has evolved, including:

  • Looking into learning within the organization
  • Using positive psychology
  • Considering motivation
  • Understanding the unpredictability of change
  • Looking into different leadership styles
  • Using the new sciences to help understand different systems of living

 

Making Organizational Development Work for You

A business cannot just jump straight into this process. It requires someone with the knowledge and experience to help, which means searching for organizational consulting firms. A consultant will then be able to look into the goals for the organization, and create a plan that will not only help you reach those goals but will help you understand more about your own company and the way your people work. You will gain new skills in problem solving, which helps you in the future.Corporate Life Cycle

In fact, it is these skills that have helped organizational development become so popular with business owners. In a short space of time, the owners develop all these skills that can continually be used. When they choose to let go of the consultant, the owner will still take something valuable from it that he or she can still use effectively.

Any type of business, organization or institution will be able to benefit from this form of growth. Education facilities, non-profit organizations and profitable companies all find that there are techniques they can put in place to help them with their own specific goals. This is another thing that makes this so popular with the masses. Training is customized to the specific business, the managers within the organizations will find out more about their own particular talents and the consultants can work with a group as a whole or specific departments to help ensure the success.

 

Why You Need Organizational Development

As a startup business, you need to consider organizational consulting. It may require some hard work, but it has proven to be successful to help all types of businesses grow and succeed. The most important aspect is that it uses research and scientific approaches, which help to narrow the risks and increase the chances of success.

When you hire a consultant, he will talk to you about your own personal goals. He’ll want to know more about your organization and where you want to see it go in the future. Then, he can talk to your managers, your employees and departments on a while to create a plan that will really work for everyone. You will need to get the whole organization involve, but this is much easier than trying to do it yourself. Some business owners worry about getting the whole team involved, but it helps everyone feel like they matter and contribute something. They are more likely to help your business grow and succeed.

It is worth considering different startup development methods, but organizational development is one that you want at the top of your list. With a scientific approach, it offers more chance of success and will help build your business quicker. Not only do you get the tools to get you to your goals, you learn new techniques to help you in the future.

I will write more in detail about the benefits of organizational development in the future, if you have any comments about the subject please feel free to share in the comment section bellow.

Taking a Look at the Lean Startup Methodology and it’s Benefits.

Though our economy appears to be slowly recovering from the recession that hit the business sector particularly hard, many entrepreneurs are still looking for easy and efficient ways to get their businesses off the ground, without investing exorbitant amounts of time, energy, or funds into the project. Of course, the ultimate goal is success, but can that success be found without the months of product development and testing that most startups have to go through before they can present and market their product?The Lean Startup Methodology

The lean startup methodology that was first proposed by Eric Ries may have an answer to this question. The creator of this method believes that there is a way for new companies to “trim the fat,” so to speak, both in business practices and product development, which will lead not only to less time and money invested into starting the business, but also end up with a better product and more success down the line. The lean startup method rests on a few principles that can be applied across all industries, in many different ways, molded to fit the needs of the individual business. Unlike other business plans and startup methods, the lean method is designed to apply to most, if not all, businesses—even if yours is a service-based company, rather than a product-based one.

 

Simplicity in Business

For some reason, many startups believe they cannot begin product testing until they have both an elaborate and detailed business plan, as well as a perfect product. The lean startup method would claim that this is categorically untrue. In fact, this new method states that the simpler the business plan is, the better. Instead of waiting for investors and devoting money to outside help for writing business plans, developing product packaging (or design, for products like apps and other tech-based products), or paying for product testing, the lean method suggests starting with a baseline produce and initiating customer testing from the earliest stages of development. By cutting out many of the other costs, businesses will be able to remain solvent, without having to rely on the kindness of investors for money for business “necessities” that the company really does not need, until the product is actually ready to hit the shelves (or proverbial shelves, if it is not a physical product).

Eric Ries
He Introduced It All – Eric Ries

 

Customer Input

The lean startup method particularly fights against the idea that a product has to be conceptually perfect before it can be presented to the public. Some companies will keep their product under wraps until it is exactly how they want it, and then start testing it with focus groups. This leads to a bloated product, that the company has spent plenty of time and money developing, that may contain many features than no actual customer wants. Instead of developing a product for an imagined customer, lean startups will develop products for actual customers, but starting customer testing as soon as they begin developing the product. This way, the startup will know exactly what the customer actually wants, and what is just extra or fluff. Not only does this significantly truncate the development to testing period, it creates a better product. Customers will give honest feedback about what the product needs, what it does not, and even whether or not it is worth the proposed price.

 

Split Testing

Split testing allows the company to accurately gauge which features of the product consumers like best, and which should be nixed from the program all together. Often called, A/B testing, this kind of testing gives two separate but similar groups of customers different versions of the product. Reactions are then recorded, to see which version of the product plays out better. These statistics are then gathered and analyzed, so that the company can see where improvements need to be made. If both groups appeared to like their features equally, then the company can combine the two versions, and test the product again. Because all of this testing is done during the development phase, there is far little risk in the revelation that customers do not like a certain feature. The testing will continue to help develop a product that has only the features customers like. Instead of starting out with a product that the company believes is perfect—though the customer base may disagree—the lean startup methodology, with early-stage customer input and split testing—enables the company to end up with a product they know is perfect.

Want to know more? Read the ultimate guide to A/B testing.

 

Minimum Viable Product

The minimum viable product concept operates on a “leap of faith” on the part of the company owners. Instead of conducting massive testing or launching the company in full force, minimum viable product allows entrepreneurs to test the “hypothesis” of their company, with very little risk. This means that in order to test the waters, company owners should make a very small number of products available (the number that will still engender interest without draining the business’s funds), and see what kind of interest consumers have in the product. Take the example of Nick Swinmurn, the founder of Zappos. In order to test if consumers would actually want to buy shoes online, he went to shoe stores, bought pairs at full price, and then posted them on his website. When he began selling those pairs, he knew that consumers did have an interest in his product.

How to know if your are doing your MVP wrong? Read the following article from the Harvard Business Review.

 

How You Can Implement It

Whether you are offering a product or a service, consider how you can trim the fat from your startup plan, and how you can involve customer input as early as possible in your development stages. If you are creating an app or a physical product, make sure to put it in front of customers as soon as the first version is ready, not once you believe it is perfect. Listen to what you customers have to say, and never discount an opinion simply because you disagree with it. Your customers are your lifeblood, so listen to what they want in your product and cut out what they do not need or want.

If you are looking for the full book

 

My Take On Lean

My personal lean experience is something I unfortunately can’t disclose much about, but I will share my favorite aspect of the lean startup methodology. I think that only a few can claim like Steve Jobs that people don’t know yet what they want, yes there are still innovations that come out of nowhere that before you can even understand the product it goes viral, still you count those products and services with your both hands without any need of a spreadsheet. My point is that if you don’t choose the lean startup way then you are pretty much saying to your potential clients “I already know what you want and therefore there is no need to ask you”, this in my opinion is a very risky strategy that won’t help you improve yourself or your product.

I strongly recommend visiting the official website theleanstartup.com, and if you are already surfing in that direction check out the tools that Steve Blank recommends using.

Does the Lean Startup Methodology sound right for you and your startup business? Share with us what you feel in the comments section bellow.

CRM and Social Media are just Buzz Words if you don’t use them properly for innovating customer service.


At one of my earlier jobs at a bank call center I was chosen employee of the month because of one good idea, an innovative idea.

Customer Service InnovationI continued being the most praised employee month after month for the next half a year, and the reason was simple, I contributed to customer service innovation on a daily basis.

The customer service department is the hardest place to innovate in any organization. If a CEO comes up to me and says “I need innovation” answering him “Let’s take a look at your customer service” is considered by many of my peers in the consulting arena, as shooting myself in the leg.

The New Innovations in Customer Service

As the importance of technology and social media continues to grow, consumers have increased access to companies and their products, as well as other customers like themselves. There are a variety of innovations that customer service providers can use in order to service, maintain, and engage tech savvy customers.

 

Data Management and Real-Time Solutions

When a call center operates like a switchboard for the company, the metric for success is too often measured by the completion of connecting a call to another representative, sometimes it the measurement is how long did the call take, and that is even worse. Companies should view their customer service units as centers for solutions by giving their representatives access to data and specialized training in resolving issues. Issues resolved need to be measured by satisfaction, and you will be surprised to know about the amount of company’s not measuring satisfaction.

Great Service

In 2014 customers have grown accustomed to accessing data on their own and no longer need to start at the beginning of the issue when they contact customer service representatives. Innovative customer service solutions account for this. Connecting representatives to customers at the same data point at which the customer needs assistance saves time and builds confidence in the resolution process. I short: I and everyone I know hate companies that make you explain your problem from the beginning over and over again. Eliminating the division of resolution departments provides real-time service. Companies may operate vertically when keeping a hierarchy of responsibility but horizontally, every agent can be given access to the data management system and resolve issues at the initial point of customer contact.

 

Replace Scripting with Pattern-Based Modeling

With a pattern-based modeling structure in place, innovative customer service departments are seeking solutions to maintaining customers rather than just simply resolving their issues. The old model featured a script that encouraged the customer service agent to read new offers and up-sell products during all customer calls and interactions. While this can be an effective method for retaining customers, the pattern-based model views this as predictable.  Statistics show that scripting does not provide a return on the time and effort invested in the modern era of fast pace decision making. New systems analyze the outcomes of all customer service functions and assist agents in knowing which offer will be best received. Tracking the patterns of communications to know which solutions will work best for each customer, based on the current conversation, create a much more positive interaction with less frustration. These servicing systems operate in real time and take the guess work out of agents’ hands.

 

Social Media and 24-Hour Engagement

Customers have to be viewed beyond their interactions with the product and as consumers of information, media, and technology. Social media, smart phones and tablets, and internet access prepare customers to be smarter shoppers and raise their expectations regarding support and service. It also is an outlet for sharing consumer responses to customer service interactions. Social media, mobile applications, and website developments require public relations departments and customer service units to merge and provide 24-hour engagement. This innovation provides for proactive customer service patterns and better issue resolution. Customers can receive spontaneous interaction with a person or a pattern-based response system and can do so with the device of their choice in a setting that is most comfortable to them. I personally think that Social Media is one of the friendliest customer service platforms available currently, I tweet for customer service attention a lot, and honestly, the companies that tweet me back are the ones I consider excellent and amazing. For example I tweeted to AtContent this week twice with a support question, they answered twice, now isn’t that wonderful?

Social Media

Customer Service Innovation Improves Outcome and Interactions

By staying current with technological improvements and meeting customers at their level of access and comfort, customer service providers can increase responsiveness, manage data faster, and resolve issues more readily than ever before.

 

Why Startups Should Invest in Customer Intelligence

The business environment has become very competitive these days. Technology and ever changing corporate strategies have greatly influenced how business procedures are managed. If you are starting a new company, it is very important to factor in customer intelligence and employ strategies that will make your business get noticed. The market has become flooded, and it is good for business owners to employ sound policies that will quickly jump-start startups and endear them to profitability.

Customer intelligence involves carefully studying the market to understand customer behavior and trends in order to have a better understanding of their needs. This is an important procedure that helps to boost the chances of new business competing effectively on the market. In case you are wondering how this is done, there are several technology platforms and applications that can help a startup to obtain useful customer information that can be used to improve Customer Service Experience.

If you are planning to succeed in the marketplace, you need to study the market and offer something new and unique that customers will identify with. At the same time, a startup should use facts obtained from customer intelligence surveys to solve problems that current market players have not been able to address.The best approach to have all these facts is to use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which is a powerful tool for analyzing customer information for purposes of strategizing and planning various business activities.

The ultimate aim for any business should be to Improve Customer Service to achieve faster levels of growth. It is important for business owners to ensure that their startups receive enough publicity and put into place powerful competitive strategies to remain relevant on the market. Customer intelligence should begin months before a new business finally rolls into operation. The secret to business success is to come up with new and innovative customer relationship policies that other industry players have not exhausted. Startups that pay attention to improving their Customer Service Experience always find themselves fitting easily into the system as new market entrants. Since there are different types of CRM applications, businesses should carry out conclusive market studies in order to find the most appropriate system.

There are several advantages a startup can obtain from investing in sound customer intelligence systems. Marketing strategies have become more advanced, and it is, therefore, good for business to keep up with the trends to gain more market penetration. The only way to improve Customer Service Experience is to deploy the use of CRM applications to obtain the best results. Investing in customer intelligence systems is the wisest thing for any entrepreneur with a brilliant startup idea to launch.

Do you have ideas for the future of customer service? We would love to hear from you in the comment section bellow.

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Comparing Wix and Weebly to find out who fits your startup better

When you don’t have time to deal with the technical aspects of building your own site, linking to your host, handling security updates, making creative designs, and more, you may want to consider using a website building service in order to help speed things along for you and your business. If you’ve never built a website before or you don’t have the time or money to hire a professional, using a website builder can help you realize your dream of having an online presence, branded just for you, with little to no effort. Two of the most popular website builders currently available are Wix and Weebly. While both have multiple benefits and some restrictions, each one Is worth a look. This post will break down a few key components of each website builder in order to help you pick one to start with. Which one seems right for you and your startup business?

Wix Vs. Weebly

Template Designs

When choosing a website builder, one of the most important aspects is the template design you choose. When it comes to Wix and Weebly, both sites offer a large number of templates for use, the majority of which are free.

With Wix, the templates are already finished for you. They’re not only stunning, but fully functional so that you can place your information and content within the pages without having to sit around for hours trying to make something ‘creative’. The only downside of the Wix template selection is that once you pick one, you can’t change it, so if you plan to use Wix to create your own website, be sure you select a template that will be able to satisfy the needs of your business when it grows. Website Tool Tester did a video that will help you get a bit of a better feeling on how Wix looks like.

Templates for Weebly are currently satisfying, but could be improved. While they are currently releasing more and more designs, the templates available are not nearly as stunning as the Wix versions, however, you do have the flexibility with Weebly to change your template whenever you want. That means that if you want to change your website, you don’t have to start all over again. No information will be lost, which makes the Weebly platform, very convenient. Another great short review by the good people of Website Tool Tester.

Another  upside to using Weebly is that it allows you to create your website design through code, using a HTML/CSS Editor. This can be an extremely important feature of the Weebly site, since using code enables the user to customize the website in practically any way they want. Sadly, Wix does not offer this option, and operates on a ‘drag and drop’ platform, meaning you are at the mercy of their (albeit beautiful) template designs. This can be a limiting factor for some of you so keep that in mind when you choose Weebly.

The easiest way to create and host a website. Create your site at Weebly.com!

Drag and Drop/Interface

When it comes to flexibility and ease of use, Wix and Weebly both offer different options for drag and drop functionality.

The Wix website is purely a drag and drop website builder. You can include just about any website component you like into your website. These components are commonly referred to as ‘elements.’ You can include multiple elements in your design, including the ability to insert the elements into the header area.

Weebly is similar to Wix in that it provides users the ability to insert drag and drop elements, but currently you may only place them in certain areas of the template. While this seems like a limiting factor, Weebly only does this so that they can give some kind of consistency to their websites. With a similar structure for most templates, you can switch between them easily without having to move your information.

 

Tools

Website ToolsThe majority of the websites on both of these platforms are built with basic elements. Even though both Wix and Weebly offer users the ability to place simple things like titles, paragraphs/texts, pictures or even slideshows. The flexibility of each varies.

Wix has many advanced controls within their element options, giving the designers multiple different options for styling. Keep in mind that even if you can’t change the template, you do have more control over how each element is styled and placed. With Weebly, you may end up with a plainer looking website, but the benefit to the simpler design is that your web page will load effortlessly, making sure that visitors to your page stay there.  While the functionality of Wix, you must be careful not to overwhelm each element of your page with too many customizations, for this reason.

 

Support

One of the best features of the Wix site is their fantastic community support and their help features. For every element that you use within your page, there is a small “help” question mark. When you click on the questions mark, it will tell you about the item, and any specific questions that may be directly related to whichever element you chose.

Website Builder SupportWith this feature you don’t need to spend time searching and googling for answers or digging into their support center if you need help.

Weebly uses a simpler setup for their support, requiring users to go to the support center and search for what they need on the portal there. While this seems like it may be a feature that’s lacking, the Weebly site is simple to use, and the template structure is set up in a way that can have you ready to build in just a few minutes. With all of the extra options that come with Wix templates for customization, there are more avenues for a user to require assistance, explaining the larger support system. Working with Weebly, surprisingly, almost never requires the use of the support center.

 

Exporting Your Site

One of the things that sets Weebly apart from Wix is it’s ability to allow its users to export your website information, so if anything happens to the Weebly site, or you choose to go with a different hose, you won’t have to start building your site all over again.

Unfortunately, Wix doesn’t have this option. Many lf the functions of the Wix site are unique and only work within their hosting environment. You may want to have a solid back up plan just in case no matter which of the two platforms you choose to use.

 

Pricing

Pricing for Weebly may seem complicated at first, but here is how it’s all laid out. If you want to use the basic features of Weebly and you don’t want to pay a fee, you can use the free version to build your website, however, it will include a small Weebly ad in the website’s footer.

Weebly PricesIf you’re looking for something a little more detailed, there are two plans you can choose from. The starter plan is only $4.00, and gives you the ability to fully customize your websites footer in order to remove the Weebly logo. This plan also lets you use the premium support option. The Pro plan is $8.00 per month, including more slick features like the site search, header slideshows and audio/video players.

Keep in mind that you will also need to pay for your own domain name, which can be about $29.95 per year for a .com. There are some discounts available for those who choose to purchase their domain with longer terms.

Wix is also available for you to try for free. This gives you enough time to try out all the customization features before you buy. There is no time limited for the trial, so you don’t ever feel pressured to upgrade your account if you don’t want too.Wix Prices

When you are ready to get more from Wix, they have 5 different levels for their premium plans. As you move up within the packages, you will have access to more features on the website and the tools you can use to build yours. If you decide to sign up for a yearly plan you can save up to 41% depending on the package you pick.

While some users have expressed opinions that the Wix services are to pricey, consider that with 4 of the 5 premium plans, Wix gives you a domain name for free. This is something to consider when pricing out the website you intend to build. When you take into consideration all of the customization options within Wix, it’s easy to see how the pricing structure is more similar to a small investment.

 

So Which Platform is Right for You?

As you can see, both Weebly and Wix provide amazing options for users to be able to begin branding themselves in order to get their names and businesses recognized. If you are ready to build a website for your own business, or maybe you’d just like a blog to share your ideas and creativity with the world, both Weebly and Wix have pricing options that will fit any button. The ability to export your site with Weebly makes it a great choice for those who like the flexibility of hosting with whomever they like, however, in the same turn Wix has a slew of extra customization features that make choosing just ONE template seem a little bit easier when you can detail it to your specifications and fall in love with it even more.

However, as always, you can also hire a web designer to start a new project or web developer for assistance with a pre-existing site. Professional assistance is always a good idea if you are new to the web developing world, or you’re interested in integrating many complicated features into your site, such as checkouts.

Do you have any experience with Wix or Weebly? If so please share with me your story in the comment section bellow.

Click here to get Wix at a great price

Should You Get An Entrepreneurship Degree Online?

Getting an online entrepreneurship degree can be beneficial for you as a startup founder. I myself am a student entrepreneur studying for a Masters in Organizational Consulting, and I feel that Business School has given me many opportunities to improve myself as a business owner.

Online Entrepreneurship Degree

Experience and Skills are Key, School Fills in The Blanks

Let me be clear upfront, my opinion is that entrepreneurs should learn the majority of skills and knowledge on the job, and not in classrooms or online seminars. Even if practical experience matters more than education, I still strongly believe that the importance of studying cannot be overlooked, especially when we are talking about entrepreneurship.

Although I didn’t get my bachelor’s online, I wanted to take the opportunity and talk about the benefits of an online entrepreneurship degree. Now more than ever, in many countries there is a growing demand for online education, an online bachelor’s degree in a business related program such as entrepreneurship, can be very useful for those of you that are running a startup full-time. Many startup CEO’s are busy, and if you can’t find the time to psychically attend classes every week, a flexible online degree might be the right choice for you.

 

Online Education

Online EducationOver the past 15 years, the internet has made many things easy for all of us. We can reach a whole world of knowledge from the screen of our laptop, tablet or phone. After many notable entrepreneurs used the internet to create amazing products and build successful companies, it is now the turn of business schools to shine, by offering high level education online, which has become very accessible to all parts of the world.

By giving us the option to study for a real degree online, business schools are educating a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and managers. Now you may have heard of endless stories, about how people without any bachelor’s degree have become successful overnight with their online businesses. Please note that chances are slim that you can repeat their history to become a fortune 500 CEO by mistake. The fact is that in today’s world, without proper theoretical business knowledge, your chances to fail increase dramatically.

Therefore, if you are thinking about starting your very own business and managing it full-time, but you feel that school is still something important that you don’t want to give up on, then you need to enroll yourself into an online entrepreneurship degree that can help you develop the knowledge, skills, and ability to run the business more effectively and efficiently.

 

Why Get an Online Entrepreneurship Degree?

A lot of people would ask why one should opt to study online. It is rather cheaper and convenient to have online classes and assessments, as this gives you the opportunity to get a degree from a reputable university of your choice while managing and running your business at the same time. Starting up a business requires a lot of skills ranging from the communication, leadership, to the knowledge of management. These are just but a few skills that getting an online entrepreneurship degree will impart you with. Therefore, as you think of joining the world of entrepreneurship, then you should also start thinking of enrolling into a program as well. Once you get this, then you can be assured that you will be in a better position to understand the market together with your customers and how to interact with them effectively.

 

What Will You Get From An Online Entrepreneurship Degree?

1. Preparing a business plan – As you start your business, it begins with an idea, but for this idea to be transformed into a business, you need to put all the plans into writing hence this knowledge is relevant and important. An online entrepreneurship degree will not only give you the necessary knowledge of preparing one but it will also impart you with the use of the business plan to get a startup capital, an important factor for the success of your business.

Online School

2. Winning investors – If you are to compare a person who approaches an investor with an entrepreneurship degree, and another individual who has a business idea with no theoretical knowledge, there’s a high likelihood of the former winning an investor (assuming that they are equal on all other traits). This is because he or she will have the relevant expertise and the business etiquette together with the convincing communication to professionally convince and address the investor.

3. Building a network – A lot of entrepreneurs owe their success to associating with other entrepreneurs who are fully developed and are successful. To create this network, then you need skills and proper knowledge to maneuver your way around among other entrepreneurs not only by being eloquent in business ideas but also by having an extra qualification. You can easily meet other entrepreneurs with your online entrepreneurship degree than when you don’t have. Moreover, to be successful in any field, you need to possess knowledge, have dedication, and be in control – a virtue that entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship advocate for.

 

The Downsides

1. Networking isn’t the same – You won’t be really able to network like a pro studying online, if there is one thing I learned in the schools I attended, it is that nothing beats face to face networking.

2. You will find it hard to study – Did you ever try to do something with friends and then again alone, sometimes the reason you enjoy something is the social interaction, online the social interaction suffers in terms of quality.

3. Investors might not even care if you have any education, and those who will care might ask why you didn’t do a “regular” degree, in some extreme scenarios you might be categorized as socially awkward before you even get the chance to start your pitch.

 

Choose What Fits You Best

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that with an online entrepreneurship degree, you can maneuver your way out in the world of business from the point of building start up to the point of running and managing your business. And always remember that the best school is the one that you visit every day while you are running your business, a degree is important and beneficial for many things, but it alone cannot be the fuel to your success. At the end of the day, you need to choose what fits you best, an online entrepreneurship degree is a new concept, and it will take time before you hear about a famous startup founder that did one.

Bonus: If you already have a undergraduate degree and you are interested in an online MBA, you can take a look at this online MBA ranking list to get an idea about who is the best of the best.

Do you have story to share about online education or entrepreneurship studies? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section bellow.

Viral Marketing, can you plan it?

Most businesses, even long-time, established ones, are fascinated by the meteoric rise of companies like Instagram and Snapchat, both of whom went from cash-strapped to billion dollar mogul is less than two years. We see companies like these, who have relatively little startup cash and wonder how they could have so quickly and so easily built incredibly profitable businesses in an age where everyone seems to have a startup in the works. I insist that you can plan viral marketing, the problem for marketers is that their isn’t a one size fits all formula, which leads many marketing managers and startup CEO’s to give up on the idea that their business can go viral.

Viral Marketing

Groupon and Instagram

With so many companies in the startup phase, it can seem difficult to break away from the pack and actually find not only profits, but the kind of name recognition that breeds long-term success. Companies like Groupon and Instagram (and most recently, DollarShaveClub) have benefited from the phenomenon known as viral marketing. Called “viral” or “buzz marketing” because it spreads not unlike the common cold during flu season (quickly, from person to person), many experts in the marketing industry say that it is a fluke, a stroke of luck.

Instagram

Not Luck

The facts, however, disagree. Take Instagram for example. In order for having an Instagram to make any sense, you needed to know other people who had an Instagram. While it may be useful for following celebrities, the main use of the picture sharing app is to share the filtered pics with your friends. This incentivizes sharing the app and encouraging your friends to sign up for the service. As more and more people sign up, more and more people are encouraged to sign up, spreading like wildfire. The concept is the same for Snapchat, who allows you only to Snapchat with other people who have the app, again, incentivizing you to encourage your friends to download and install it.

 

Sharing Is Caring

Groupon takes a similar, but slightly different tactic. When you sign up for a specific Groupon, you are only allowed to access it after a certain number of people have pledge to purchase that same Groupon. This means that you are more likely to share it with your friends, asking them to make that same purchase. And while incentivized sharing (either by only allowing users to interact with other people who use your product or by limiting access to your product until a certain number of people have purchased it) is effective and can be effective if your startup is a company that lends itself towards those kinds of tactics, there is a riskier form of viral marketing that, if done correctly, can greatly benefit your company, not only in profits, but also in image.

 

Low Budget Videos Can Do The Trick

DollarShaveClub has achieved success by creating and releasing what looks to be a low-budget, but very well scripted and performed advertisement video. It hits the sweet spot between informative and funny, and helped DollarShaveClub rake in over ten thousand orders the first weekend the video was available. This kind of funny, quality content can be very useful if you can create it and if you can find tastemakers who will watch and share it. This content becomes buzz marketing as more and more people watch it, are entertained, and want to share it with their friends. While this kind of viral marketing may be more difficult to achieve, it is just as effective and can work for any company that has a sense of humor.

 

My Story

My personal story of Viral Marketing happened when I was looking for a job some years back. I planned to grab the attention of many HR managers in Israel by running AdWords campaigns, based on their names. The ads were with the names of all the big heads of HR and recruiting, in all the big Israeli corporations. The end result was that I got many job offers from startups, an invitation to Google HQ in Israel and lately I heard that professors in the Academic College of Tel-Aviv Yaffo are giving their students A case-study about my job search.

Do you have another Viral Marketing example to share with us? Have any questions? Please leave your comment in the section bellow.

When it comes to Business Process Management, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Finding the processes that cater to the wants and needs of the clients is a grueling task that not many people look forward to. However, if deployed successfully, the return on interest would be invaluable. Business processes can also be improved in order to increase efficiency, reduce overhead costs, and create a better overall image of the company. But how can this be achieved?

Here are a few tips that can help you to improve success rates and meet the unique needs of your business without it costing a fortune.

 

Don’t Focus on Perceived Problems

It can be easy to deploy a piece of management software in order to take care of some perceived problem that you believe exists. However, this can end up being more detrimental than you believe. Any Business Process Management project should be used based only on the facts that are presented to you. If issues do arise, it is important that you verify these issues before the project begins. By examining the problem first instead of jumping headfirst into creating a solution, then you can objectively see what needs to be taken care of. Is the problem related to customer complaints, or operational costs? Don’t make a bad situation worse, and strictly stick to the facts.

 

The Business Process Management Life Cycle

Business process management

Focus on Change, Not Technology

Management software is always being developed to help businesses take care of their issues, but that shouldn’t be the focus of developing a management strategy. The point of Business Process Management is to improve the way people work. Despite all of the convenience that technology brings to the workplace, it shouldn’t be seen as a crutch to take care of every issue that may crop up. Automating a process does not amount to improving it. It should be about changing the mindset of those who are working on projects rather than simply making their work easier or more convenient for that. After all, automating a bad process still makes it a bad process.

 

Improve, Not Map

Mapping your business management processes on a continuous basis can actually harm the growth of your company. It creates what is called “Paralysis by Analysis”: over analysis of a situation can result in getting nothing accomplished, as the ability to make the right decision becomes too crippling to fathom, resulting in no action being taken. Losing yourself in the mapping process can be easy to do, as you want to ensure that every contingency is covered, but it’s not an effective strategy. Instead, your Business Process Management exercises should be used to improve upon the situation to create a constant state of growth.

Enhance, Not Replace

Your Business Process Management should be used to build upon what you already have. If it’s not broken, there’s no need to fix it. Performing a complete overhaul can result in confusion and having to adapt to an entirely new method, which takes a lot of time and patience. These practices are much more effective if they are used to tweak what you already have and go from there. The only time the process would need to be replaced is if it is entirely useless to begin with or if the business structure is being developed from the ground up. On the other hand, if there only needs to be a reduction in complexity or the minimization of unnecessary delays, then making alterations here and there is a better process in the long run.

 

End-to-End Examination

Processes should be examined from the beginning to end in order to determine how best it should be improved upon. Mapping each stage will show you where the weak points are, and what can be altered to refine its results. Improving only one stage of the process without examining how it affects the rest will hinder the Business Process Management operation and make it more difficult to implement in the future.

Putting Business Process Management into effect takes time and patience and should never be done as a rush job. Starting small can help to minimize the problems that may arise during the process, and help your business to fully develop into the enterprise it was meant to be.

Do you have any tips regarding Business Process Management? If so, please share with us in the comments bellow.