Displaying articles for: June 2011
At Verizon Ventures, my colleague and I are exposed to literally 100s of businesses a year. The question we are most often asked - what sort of companies does Verizon invest in? The short answer: we look for companies that can lead to a compelling commercial relationship between the startup and a Verizon business unit. Now compelling is a suitably vague answer that means it should be important to both companies; we’re not looking for a specific measurable threshold, nor are we interested in one-sided transactions. If it’s important to both companies, it will cause both to commit to making the relationship work.
We typically invest between $1-5 million in an opportunity, so we’ll need to know how much money the opportunity needs. A good business plan is the starting point that will at least ball park the capital requirements. Each opportunity must provide us with a detailed business plan. Now we don’t necessarily track progress against that plan, but it helps us understand how much cash is needed in the short term and gives us some view on where the business might grow.
Unsolicited proposals usually go nowhere. At Verizon we route them to the appropriate experts for a quick analysis and then typically decline them because these proposals don’t fit our business needs. If you can’t spend the time to figure out the appropriate contact within an organization, then that’s usually a sign you don’t understand how to sell to the industry. And if you don’t know how to sell to the industry, then you probably don’t have a sophisticated enough understanding of how the solution will fit and who other competitors might be. A credible introduction to us or for that matter, to any potential investor is a must.
The last question is whether you want to go with a strategic investor, a traditional VC or an angel investor. This requires both a little bit of research by the entrepreneur and some introspection. An entrepreneur needs to understand what he wants for the company and the sort of partner he wants as investor. Every class of investor will bring something a little different to the table besides money. The value add that Verizon Ventures brings is help navigate the Verizon organization in support of the business development goals of the company. That means the companies we invest in are fairly well baked. If you have just a business plan or a patent or even less, then you’re better off turning elsewhere. If you still think your business will be the right fit for us, go to our website and submit your proposal – good luck to you!
To evaluate alternative investors, start close to home, nearly all VCs and angels prefer to invest in nearby companies that they can meet with regularly. Find out what sort of companies the investor typically looks for. While there are pay-for databases to research ventures and investors, there are a number of websites for evaluating Venture investors for free or for a nominal fee. CrunchBase (http://www.crunchbase.com/) and DealPedia (http://www.dealipedia.com/) are both good resources for deal activity. TheFunded (http://www.thefunded.com/funds/discuss) is excellent on review venture investors. I’m sure a search can turn up other resources on how to get funding for your business.
Feel free to post any questions for me below or share how you’ve found funding for your business.
Happy Friday! Below you will find some interesting articles I found online this week that you may find helpful.
Tips to increase your Twitter influence. Is your business on Twitter? If yes, tell us how you are engaging with your customers.
Have a great weekend!
The Verizon Author Series was designed to bring experts to small businesses. This month we gave away featured author, Phil Simon’s book “The New Small.” We will give away more of Phil’s book the rest of this week and next.
This Wednesday, June 22nd, at 2 p.m. ET Phil will host a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center and then be available for a whole hour on Twitter on Thursday, June 23rd at 12 p.m. ET to answer questions and offer advice.
I urge all businesses to seize these two opportunities to get insights from Phil Simon directly. Consider these as free consultations with a business expert; so, why not participate?
During this Wednesday’s webinar Phil will discuss what most forget: a small business now has access to many kinds of technology that used to be reserved for major corporations with budgets and infrastructures to make them deliver. And this all starts with website design. Learn why you no longer need to spend a great deal of money to great a professional web presence.
To register for the free live webinar click here (or go to http://bit.ly/lJlndU). Towards the end of the webinar feel free to ask Phil your questions or save your questions and ask him on Twitter. For more information about the Twitter chat click here (or go to http://bit.ly/edjtQT) just be sure to include hashtag – #bizbooks – and follow @VzSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz).
Of course, feel free to post your questions – get tips/advice for your business – in the comments section below and we’ll make sure Phil answers it during the webinar or on Twitter.
The first 25 to ask a question or a comment below will get a copy of Phil’s book.
It’s Father’s Day Weekend! I bet some businesses like restaurants probably get a nice boost in traffic during these celebrated days. Let us know if your business gets a boost at certain times throughout the year.
The big news in my book this week is the Verizon Hardest Working Small Biz Dad contest. There is still time for Verizon’s customers who are dads and run their own business to enter for the chance to win $5,000. All that is required of the entrant is the completion of the entry form and either uploading a video sharing how you manage running a business and a family or a link to a blog post describing it.
Check out these articles I found of interest this week:
Read this New York Times article about how some businesses are turning to new technology to connect with their clients. If you missed our last blog post we highlight real Verizon Wireless small business customers and how they are using technology to run their business more productively and efficiently.
This blog post doesn’t give you any tips to do anything, but it does highlight the results of a recent study with small business owners and their view on whether they are prepared for retirement. I just thought it was an interesting read and wanted to share.
Here’s a quick read (slideshow) offering six reasons why you need a mobile strategy for your business.
As online videos are on the rise learn how to create them which may help lead to more sales. P.S. I did see that Jennifer Aniston “sex tape.”
Lastly, small businesses in the LA, Orange, Ventura, San Bernandino, and Riverside counties in CA can enter the 2011 Fan’s Choice Awards for the chance to win $5,000 if your website gets the most votes. Although many small businesses have a website, there are others – like nearly 40% of small businesses – do not have a website for their business. Verizon hopes to help with this contest and to remind small businesses that there are many easy do-it-yourself website building software like Verizon Websites powered by Intuit that can help get your site up in no time.
Until next time, have a great weekend!
Guest blog post from Amy Grant, Verizon Wireless small business marketing manager.
As a business owner, I bet you are always on, a problem solver, constantly doing… and very, committed? I’m sure these traits sound familiar. It’s probably because you are the engine that makes your business go. You have a passion to succeed and will overcome any obstacle to make your dreams come true. When it comes to any business, it is important you have the best and the right technology to keep up with your pace and help make your vision a reality.
More and more small business owners like you are realizing the importance of technology. According to the Executive Council on Small Business, smartphone usage has experienced double digit growth over the last three years, and tablet usage is expected to increase rapidly over the next couple of years among small businesses. Whether you’re downloading apps, checking emails, sending invoices, browsing the web, accessing files, or managing employees in the field, small businesses are using the latest technology to drive growth and increase productivity.
Check out this video below to see Jeffrey Beecroft of White Bay Company who built two sets for a Victoria’s Secret shoot. Jeff discussed how Blackberry is his smartphone of choice which allows him to synch up with his partners scattered across the country. He uses his Blackberry to send pictures for real-time input from his partners in an effort to meet set building time schedules. Watch their story.
The partners, Jim and Ian, at Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures also shared their story of how they are using technology to run their business. The two run a 10-person fly fishing travel agency specializing in remote vacations to exotic destinations so they have to be sure their wireless network gives them global coverage. Watch their story.
To see how other small businesses across the country use wireless technology every day to improve their business visit www.verizonwireless.com/smallbusiness. These videos prove the small businesses with the best technology rules.
Which technology is your business using? If you need help selecting the right technology for your business, let me know in the comments section… my team and I will be happy to help.
One of the first things to catch my eye preparing the roundup was a U.S. Open-inspired news brief on the $80 billion a year golf services industry heavily populated by small businesses. Like every business it’s seen some lean times the last two years, but the corner is turning.
Entrepreneurs are a creative lot and their startup experiences are similar worldwide. Take the example of CoolJunk inIndia where a disgruntled college graduated created kits from scrap parts for physics teaching. It’s messy bringing the product to market and capital is always a challenge!
If you’re thinking about a new business or changing businesses, look at Entrepreneur’s annual list of best franchise startups under $50,000. Home-based businesses are another option and one of the best ways to get aSOHO (single office/home office) going is to network. Social media is the natural tool to get that under way.
Don’t forget that our ‘Hardest Working Small Biz Dad’ contest is underway thru June 19th. You could win $5,000 cash by posting a blog or a video describing a day in your life on the Verizon Smallbiz Facebook page. Chances of winning are better than the lottery and you gotta play to win! Check out this video for details.
And, if you’d like a free copy of the Verizon Authors Series' June book, read the post below on “The New Small” by Phil Simon and email us.
Guest blog post by Phil Simon, author of “The New Small”. Phil is a recognized technology expert, he consults with companies on how to optimize their use of technology. His contributions have been featured on The Globe and Mail, the American Express Open Forum, ComputerWorld, ZDNet, abcnews.com, forbes.com, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites.
Customer Service: Learning from Amazon
Back in the mid-1990s, customer service was very different than it is today. I should know because I was there. You see, I used to work in customer service for a large consumer products company. Angry folks called 1-800 numbers, told friend, and wrote letters. If the mid-1990s seem like a much simpler time, you're right. You could build a call center and hire people to read letters.
Well, that time isn't returning anytime soon. Welcome to 2011. Those simple days seem quaint in comparison to the bevy of tools at customers' disposal today. Today, in additional to old standbys, customers can share their grievances on myriad forums: Facebook; Yelp; Blogs; Phone; Email; Twitter; and many other emerging websites and platforms.
This begs the question: Where should small businesses be monitoring conversations about their companies?
The answer: Everywhere.
Consider Twitter http://www.Twitter.com, for example. Now, no one is claiming that Twitter ought to be the primary means for a company to deal with its customers for a bunch of reasons. First, not everyone is on Twitter. Second, that aside for a moment, a direct message of no more than 140 characters is probably too restrictive to resolve an even moderately complex customer issue. Finally, it’s so easy to retweet that companies would (probably justifiably) fear making certain responses public–at least so easily.
On the other hand, why not have that club in the bag? Use it when needed. This would be like my rarely-used three iron on the golf course. I don’t use it often, but when I need it, I’m sure glad that I have it. (Yes, I am an avid--if relatively poor--golfer.)
Effective Customer Service: A Matter of Priorities, Not Technology
I don’t buy into the notion that small businesses cannot provide state-of-the-art customer service. That's bunk. It all begins with small businesses recognizing the cardinal importance of customer service. That is, it is a matter of priorities and will. There’s no business or technology limitation to being able to take care of the people who take care of you.
Once you've done that. Get serious. Consider sites like FiveAnHour (http://www.FiveAnHour.com) that provide an inexpensive means for companies to outsource parts of their customer service. Use Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). Follow mentions of your company on Twitter.
On one of my favorite episodes of the Charlie Rose Show (www.charlierose.com), features Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who talked about the company’s relentless focus on the customer from day one. During the dot-com boom, many Amazon detractors derided it as a “cute little company.” Experts believed that, once heavyweights like Wal-Mart embraced e-commerce, they would crush the Amazons of the world. Bezos laughs now about the “Amazon.toast” (http://www.internet-story.com/amazon.htm) references from the mid-1990s.
Who's laughing now?
Reports of Amazon’s demise were premature. Today, to say that the company merely pleases its customers is a vast understatement. Companies of all sizes can learn a great deal from Amazon.
Look, when a company of any size makes a customer service error, the aggrieved customer is going to tell people about it. Lots of people. No company can control everything that its customers say or do after that point. This is a far cry, though, from claiming that businesses are helpless against constant streams of negative feedback via tweets, emails, blog posts, discussion boards, and the like. Embrace technology.
What say you?
To learn how embracing technology can help your business, read my book. The first 50 to send an email to email@example.com will get a copy of The New Small, which will showcase a handful of small businesses and how they are harnessing the power of emerging technology for their business.
Today's guest blog post is from John Jantsch of Ducttape Marketing. He joins the Verizon Small Business
Webinar Series tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET with his presentation, "A Marketing Driven Culture." Below is a brief synopsis of what he'll cover in more detail.
Any good marketing strategy requires people to pull it off and in the case of a deeply embedded and purpose filled approach, strategy becomes culture. The marketing strategy is delivered to and through the staff to the ultimate delight and inspiration of the customer.
In fact, I've said it many times; your staff is likely delivering the same experience to your customers as they are receiving from you. You can make all the grand plans you like about delivering an entertaining, inspiring, simple, surprising or mission filled marketing strategy, but you won't make it happen unless it comes from within - at the hands of fun, inspired, motivated, surprised and connected employees.
To that end, it starts with a culture filled marketing strategy.
I'm going to talk about this idea if great detail as part of the Verizon Small Business Series Wednesday June 8th at 2pm ET - you can Register here
I believe there is an intentional path to installing a culture that breeds a stronger marketing strategy and, while I don't believe it's as simple as saying it's so, it starts with series of purposeful practices explored and expanded in ways that serve.
For now, you'll have to join me for the free online seminar to hear more about this topic, but below are the points we'll explore.
- The epic story
- Hire for fit
- Staff as customer
- Value creation
- Fail in favor
- Results review
- Touch point maps
- Cross function
- Marketing classroom
- Strategy scorecard
The first week of the month always brings news about jobs created and unemployment levels. It appears that May was a weak month for both and the NFIB says that small business hiring stalled. Perhaps the good news is that only 8% of small businesses plan to reduce their workforce.
We talk about small business financing and loans here on the Small Biz Blog and there is, potentially, a silver lining. According to the Thomson Reuters/Paynet small business lending index, small business borrowing surged in April.
But it isn’t always sweetness and light when it comes to borrowing. A 110-year-old bike shop in Princeton, N.J. is probably not atypical of what any small business faces when getting a loan for operating capital. Small business entrepreneurs are realists and keeping their doors open is a good sign for the economy.
Staying in the game and moving forward requires small business owners to keep asking themselves many of the same questions they would when starting up – What kind of business do I want to be in? Where can I get capital? How do I put social media to use? What do I need to do to incorporate (or take my business to another organizational level)?
Keep asking those questions and stay focused on your customer – success is a series of small steps that can turn into a giant leap forward!
Let us know what your successes are.
Phil is a recognized technology expert and he consults companies on how to optimize their use of technology. His contributions have been featured on The Globe and Mail, the American Express Open Forum, ComputerWorld, ZDNet, abcnews.com, forbes.com, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites.
He also authored Why New Systems Fail (Cengage, 2010) and The Next Wave of Technologies (John Wiley &Sons, 2010).
To get insights from Phil all this month, be sure to check back as he will share a couple of guest blog posts. Also, be sure to join a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center which Phil will host on Wednesday, June 22nd at 2 p.m. ET. Lastly, join the live Twitter chat with Phil on Thursday, June 23rd to directly ask him your questions.
The best part of the Verizon Author Series is that we’ll be giving away Phil’s book The New Small all this month.
To win your copy of The New Small, be one of the first 50 to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us you’d like a copy of Phil’s book. Of course, in the email, do share with us the technology you are using that has really helped your business or the technology you’d like to use, but aren’t sure which. We’ll do our best to get Phil to answer any questions/concerns you may have.