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Entrepreneurs, investors agree: great talent always gets money

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

By Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

Two weeks ago, I moderated a panel on Internet Entrepreneurship at Raleigh’s Internet Summit. It was an intimidating experience as, although I’ve been on panels of all kinds, this was my first time moderating.

My panel was comprised of two founders – CEO Andy Beal from Trackur, a social media monitoring solution company in Raleigh, and COO Alexandre Douzet from The Ladders, the well-known online job matching service.

There were also two investors – Co-Founder/General Partner Brian Rich from New York-based Calatyst Investors and Co-Founder/General Partner Jason Caplain from Raleigh’s Southern Capitol Ventures.

Not to say that entrepreneurs and investors disagree all the time, but this panel agreed on quite a lot. Now, if you’ve ever seen a conference panel where all the panelists agree on everything, you know that can be the dead boring. But in this case it was actually helpful, because some really smart advice came out of it.

Regardless, I know what you want. Here’s where they disagreed

VC investment is down. Is this a hiccup or a trend?

Jason Caplain

Jason Caplain

The disagreement here was over the underlying causes of the downturn. Rich pointed to the ever-declining return on venture capital. Douzet noted the emergence of super angels, entrepreneurs who successfully exit their startup and use the proceeds to begin investing, have begun to replace early-stage, first-round VC money. Caplain offered that his firm has always made two new investments every year and is still doing that.

“Regardless of the overall trends,” Caplain said, “Great entrepreneurs always get capital.”

Everyone agreed with that. Aggressively.

Bootstrap or raise money?

Mostly there was agreement on why a startup should raise venture investment. Big, game-changing ideas in capital-intensive markets are obviously better candidates for VC money. Also, everyone agreed that an entrepreneur shouldn’t seek outside investment until they’ve determined that it’s absolutely necessary.

Andy Beal

Andy Beal, a successful serial entrepreneur.

Andy Beal has built several companies without funding. He’s a big fan of keeping equity and control in his pocket, and noted that without investor backing, he’s been able to take on big ideas, work with new sciences and technologies, and make quicker decisions that he would have been able to otherwise.

Douzet stated that The Ladders raised its only outside money early on, and has been running on revenues for eight years. He didn’t see any negatives to using that initial funding as a launch pad.

Everyone agreed that it all depends on the investor. Choose wisely.

What sectors are hot in entrepreneurship?

Different investors have different theses – methodologies they use to determine which markets and which types of companies to invest in. Overall however, Rich noted that any company that can automate manual processes and compete on price was going to get attention.

Douzet spoke to his interest lying not so much in new sectors, but in applying new technologies to The Ladders, namely by making a big push into mobile.

Caplain and Beal felt that the sector didn’t matter much if the product and the company were solid. Talented entrepreneurs with great ideas who can execute on those ideas were the most important aspects of determining a successful company.

Everyone agreed with that. Including me.

Joe Procopio (@jproco) is a serial entrepreneur who currently heads up product engineering for startup Automated Insights. He also founded and runs startup network ExitEvent. You can read him at http://joeprocopio.com.

 

Beal’s social media advice: listen to the web and be proactive

Monday, October 4th, 2010
Andy Beal

Andy Beal, Founder, Marketing Pilgrim

By Allan Maurer

RESEARCH TRIANGLE, NC – Andy Beal, founder of Marketing Pilgrim and creator of online reputation monitoring tool, Trackur, wanted to be one of the first to get his hands on an Apple iPhone 4, but Apple let him know it might arrive earlier than it at first said. Beal went to the FedEx tracking site on the web. It said the phone wouldn’t arrive until the following day.

“So now I’ve got conflicting messages,” Beal says. “I checked around and found out the FedEx tracking tool was under strain from so many people checking to see when their iPhone 4 would arrive.” Now he was mad at FedEx.

“I decided to turn to Twitter to see if their was any glimmer of hope,” Beal wrote in a blog post about the problem. There he found @FedExLina. “Aha,” he wrote, “A FedEx employee who may be able to help.”

A look at the accounts Tweets made him suspect it might be an automated account just looking for mentions of FedEx, but he tried asked for help anyway. “Low and behold, FedExLina was not only real, she was willing to help!” And help him she did. His blog post includes a three-point takeaway.

The Takeaway

Be aware of issues and brief social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) users accordingly.

Empower employees to actually help your customers during a crisis. “What’s the point of being on Twitter if you can’t help your customers?” he asks.

And finally, the piece of advice we hear from social media experts far and wide, “Listen for the conversation. “Be proactive in assisting your customers.”

That, Beal tells us, is an example of a company using social media in a proactive and effective way. “Some companies are doing a great job,” he says.

Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim blog is rated as one of the top 10 in media and marketing by Advertising Age and has appeared on major media, from the Wall Street Journal and Business Week to ABC news, CNBC and NPR on Internet marketing and reputation managment. He is the co-author of the reputation management book, Radically Transparent. Beal has worked with Motorola, GlaxoSmithKline, SAS, Lowes, and NBC.

Beal is one of dozens of Internet executives, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and technology experts participating in the upcoming Internet Summit Nov. 17-18 in Raleigh, NC.

Find the influencers

Beal always has good advice for companies or individuals dealing with their online reputations. “The most important thing for a lot of businesses is to identify centers of influence,” he tells us.

“Where are your customers or employees likely to be hanging out and talking about your brand?”

Too often, Beal says, he sees companies “Act like kids in a candy store” when it comes to social media. It’s new and they start off gung-ho, but then get burnt out and don’t update in months.

Pick one channel

One way to avoid that is to “Pick one channel and do it right.” Do Twitter or do Facebook or LinkedIn, whichever is your center of influence.

Also, he says, “The idea is to provide value. For the most part, don’t spend the majority of your time trying to sell. People are sick and tired of being sold to. Fix problems, have conversations.”

He warns, “If you decide to get into a social media channel, get in 100 percent. The worst thing is to start a Twitter account, answer a few questions then abandon it. It’s worse than never starting to begin with if you’re there and ignoring them.”

You can even let users in on special deals, offer coupons or upcoming sales. “That provides value.” But you should always keep in mind that unless you’re Apple Computers or Lexus, or another fantastic brand people want to be associated with, you need to give them a reason to join your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter.

Beal says individuals as well as companies need to monitor the web for anything that might affect their reputation. “Be proactive,” he says. “Create a LinkedIn profile. Type your name into Google once a month and make sure nothing negative is showing up.” He also noted that the free version of Trackur “Will keep an eye on the web for you. If we come across your name on a blog or a web site, we’ll let you know.”


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