November 28, 2007

Big Ben for Little Ben

One of the few advantages of having a 4-year-old TV-addict is the fact that they become well versed in the world. That is, if they’re watching the “right” programs.

  • Take Dora the Explorer for example. English as a second (or third) language has never been easier (despite some of the character's accents in translated Hebrew version). Plus, the feminist Latina in me cannot object to the protagonist’s ethnicity and gender.
  • And Little Einsteins. He learns about music, composers, cities and art. It’s a bit too artificially put together for my taste, but hey, Ben’s buying it. Here’s proof:

I’m flying with ResearchTrail to the Online Conference in London next week. When I asked Ben if he wants me to bring him “algo chiquito de Londres” he said,

Mama, bring me back a picture of Big Ben...For little Ben.”

What more could I ask for?

November 27, 2007

Yedda founder shares his knowledge - Part 2

(Part 2 of notes from the TIIC / The Coils event Nov 26)

Yedda's Avichai Nissenbaum spent a full hour going over the story of Yedda, from the team's point of view, from idea to concept to angel to alpha to beta to Round A to launch and finally, AOL exit.

10 takeaways from his talk (and a curious tidbit):

1. Leave ego at home. That's true for five guys trying to work together in crowded basements and unbeliavable pressure, and judging from his demeanor, still true for someone who's just made an (undisclosed sum) exit to AOL.

2. You're in it together. Regardless of the outcome, most co-founders end up hating each other. (He stressed it wasn't the case with Yedda, plus Yaniv Golan's nods and smiles from the audience - see pic - sorta proved this)

3. Do you really want to work on this idea for the next five years (or more)?

4. Are you scared? (being scared is okay) But are you more excited than scared?

5. Can you survive (bootstrapped) for at least 6 months? (Consensus was at least 12 months)

6. Quoting Stephen Covey, the main thing is that you keep the main thing the main thing.

7. Ask around. A lot. Anyone you know, trust. Even your "competitors." And...

8. Listen. It will always be hard to have your ideas lambasted, but it's VERY important. A good meeting with a VC/angel/potential partner/guy from the street was not just one in which they expressed interest, but one from which they learned something.

9. Technology is important. But marketing is what makes it happen. "I can't stress this enough," he said.

10. Put together a winning team, who complement each other. Preferably people you know well, and have worked with before. But if something's not working out, cut from the root before it spoils the bunch.

What I will remember about Avichai - he's got five kids. When asked how he does it, he just pointed that his wife was the real hero here.

And for some reason, I believed him.

November 26, 2007

Yedda founder shares his knowledge, part 1: Investors

Avichai Nissenbaum, co-founder and CEO of the recently acquired Yedda, seems to know a thing or two about creating and running a startup. At today's TIIC/The Coils event, he shared with an audience of some 200 startupers a little of his experience in the Yedda rollercoaster.
Questions to ask yourself before meeting/chosing an investor:

1. What do you want in return?
2. Will the provide value? (actually, they won't have too much time for you anyway)
3. Do you need their help? (investors are looking for an entrepreneur who can run a business, and not someone looking for an angel/investor to run it for them)
4. Do they understand you biz?
5. Will they support the long-term objectives of your company?
6. Full transparency + frequent updates = trust. And relationships are built on trust.
7. Should you take money from friends and family? (Somebody then added a third "f": fools)
8. Can you create a sense of urgency?
9. Traction! Can you prove that you mean what you say?

November 25, 2007

Long-distance Zeides

Ben and Yael have long-distance grandparents. This is nothing new in my family - my sisters and I had a long-distance grandma until we each turned 18 (and them made up for these "lost years" by going to live with her for college). And though I'm almost convinced we came out of this experience unscathed (yet additional proof that kids get used to anything), I'm not so sure about the parents: No babysitting. No potential sleepovers. No sleep.

But the real losers in the equation are the grandparents.
They missed the kindergarten Chanuka parties. They missed the visits to the doctor. They missed the ballerina chocolate birthday cakes, the love triangles in a four-year-old's world, and the new haircuts.

They missed Ben's face when we brought home the keyboard, the bike, even the little siter. They missed Yael's first words in Hebrew and Spanish, and now miss the bilingual conversations peppered by an ocassional English word (yes-yes, blue, noooou, piiiink).

Skype helps. Email and Shutterfly do too. VoIP is a blessing. But still, to have some sort of real-time interaction with them, these long-distance grandparents can't really be spontaneous. They must coordinate between time zones (8 or 9 hours behind Modiin standard time) and weekdays (Sundays are a workday in Israel), dodge key obstacles (no response during Mickey's Playhouse or Little Einsteins), and pray that the little ones will in the mood & willing to talk.

So kol ha kavod to the long disance-grandparents. My next challenge, besides finding more backup babysitters and surrogate uncles, will be preventing Ben and Yael from one day doing the same to grandmother me.

November 21, 2007

Startup Me?

A recent post by Guy Kawasaki (continuing the thread of a guest column in TechCrunch by Glenn Kelman) talks about the differences and similarities between the Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 entrepreneurs. Often, he says, it's the same entrepreneur, but much richer, less driven, less suited for the CEO role he/she wants to take on.
Paraphrasing Sequoia's Mike Moritz, he quotes his definiton of the ideal entrepreneur:

“Guys under thirty who are building a product that they themselves want to use.”

Three observations:

  • I'm not a guy. Actually, two-thirds of ResearchTrail are women.
  • I'm 31 (and actually, the youngest of the co-founders)
  • But yes, we're building ResearchTrail the way each of us, with his/her different background and experience, would give anything to use.

Guess we just expanded the definition.

November 20, 2007

The Journalists view - on one foot

Now for the journalist's point of view:
Fern's talk on Promoting your Startup during last week's MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel meeting was followed by a presentation by Guy Grimland of The Marker.
Guy is a tech journalist. Well connected. Can cut through all the words that ever made it to the better known version of Buzzword bingo. And though he didn't explicitly say it, he's probably sick and tired of the gung ho attitude of us Israelis who think we deserve his coverage because...well... because.

A sobering (yet humble, funny and to-the-point) presentation.

If you don't read Hebrew/don't want to go over the full presentation above/want to learn The Publicity Bible while standing on one foot, here's my summary of the two main takeaways (plus fine print)

i) Publicity does not happen overnight. A peak is just a peak; real promotion of a business/concept/person is done step by step.
ii) You have to play the game. And part of the game means giving up (at least partial) control.

i) HOW? email is fine. phoning fine too (but not between 11 and 2 pm, when most journalists -at least in Israel- are fighting their deadlines). And cultivate those relationships.
ii) the WHAT will come from the journalists point of view. Think about what makes you different, and share changes in your company (funding, new management team, big release, etc)
iii) WHO: bring your CEO. That's the person the journalists and the public really want to see.
iv) WHEN: meetings take some 1 to 1.5 hours. Zehu. That isn't really a long time, so be ready. Think about what makes you different.
v) WHY not give up: if a journalist does not return your emails, it's his problem, not yours. Maybe he's working on a huge headline and must remain mum, or turn down otherwise interesting stories temporarily. This does not mean your business will go bust.

November 18, 2007

Twenty tips to promote your startup (your business, or youself)

Last week, I attended Fern Reiss' talk at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel on "Expertizing and Maximizing Media Attention." I did a short course on self-publishing with Fern several months ago, and had also heard her introduce Expertizing in a different forum last year . But now that I'm donning the new "entrepreneur" hat, these tips take on a whole new meaning.

My summary of the talk in twenty tips:

1) Position yourself as the expert in a subject (it gives you instant credibility for the media to find you). Best way according to Fern? Write a book on the topic.
2) Syndicate: your column online, ezines, magazines. Doesn't pay but it's wonderful visibility. Where to submit? Google the following: submit article:[and the subject here]
3) Link to someone's big name (including big competitor if relevant) by giving them a positive mention on your website. Example: Bill Gates wealth calculator.
4. Blog & use social networks (what else is there to be said?)
5. Create the "International association of [fill in your cause here]"
6. Create the "International [theme] Day" and add it to Chase's Calendar of Events
7. Contests
8. Branding. It's really easy to forget this - but keep your brand visible at all times: brand your cocencept, reinforce it (everything from your branded name tags at conferences to tote bags)
9. If you do a flyer, put something useful on the other side so that people will keep it (same goes for givaways). In other words, what do you want people to have taped to their computer monitor?
10. Connet with journalists: press kits are no good (piled up in the back of the room). Same as "mass PR. Consider, the system where journalists ask to find experts on everything. The catch? It's about $7 K annually.
11. Make a PR that's newsworthy - what is the spin that will really interest the press (not "I've got a new manager"
12. Keep track of journalists and cultivate those relationships. Know what interests them, feed them tidbits thoughout, become a (trusted) source
13.Carve out a unique niche and position yourself in differnt directions
14. Enjoy public speaking? Do it!
15. Email newsletters - easy way to cultivate thousands of readers
16. Brand yourself according to either popularity or exclusivity -both work, but not together
17. Offer diversified products: books, audio, consulting, gift baskets, lectures, small groups
18. Sweeten the offer: "if you sign up now, save $500"
19. Remember: you're not selling a product or service, you're selling the DREAM associated with it. This is ultimately what people buy
20. Think in soundbytes. Think of catchy, descriptive phrases you can use and people (and the media) can remember.
More on Fern Reiss here:

November 15, 2007

Two Lessons from Gogel (ehem - Gogol & Google)

1. I recently attended a short conference where an entrepreneur shared his experience creating and promoting internet companies. ( This is somebody who's been around, knows the industry knows the technology, and uses it all the time.)
He obviously had something to say - but I stopped listening. I was too busy counting the times he said Gogel instead of Gugl, goooogel, gugel or google, whichever way would have made it less obvious that he didn't care to pronounce it correctly. I even started making sketchmarks in my notebook after each time I heard "Gogel."
32 times.
Part of what the speaker had said earlier interested me; other parts (including some of the tactics), I stronly disagree with. But all this takes second stage to that faux pas.
My takeaway? As speaker, it's terrifying to think which "little" things can make you flunk in front of an audience. And sadly, nobody in the audience (including myself), corrected him.

(NOTE: "Gogle" image above is from Ferran's Com blog - in Spanish)

2. Another "Gogel" (actually, it's Gogol, as in the famous 19th century Russian writer) that made an impact on me is one of the main characters in The Namesake. Obviously, there's much more to a name than a string of consonants and vowels (for kids or web 2.0 ventures alike). In names, there are definitely no "coincidences." (And yes, Jewish tradition also emphasizes this.)
Anyway, if you haven't seen that movie yet (originally a novella in The New Yorker, then a book), it's highly recommended.

November 13, 2007

Gracias! Thank you! Toda! (and now Merci!)

I'm elated!
Just heard I'm the recepient of the free ticket to Le Web3 next month in Paris. On behalf of ResearchTrail and myself, a big THANK YOU, iDrink!
And to the iDrinkers to whom I pledged my help if selected - feel free to leave a message, email, twitter,
poke me, befriend me, or otherwise find a way to let me know what I can do for you while I'm there.

Looking forward, and thanks again.

November 12, 2007

Before signing that contract - check out the restroom!

Forget location. Don't care about fancy foyers or top-notch meeting facilities. After the basic conditions are in place (people, people, people and decent compensation) I've come to judge workplace by the importance given to bathrooms. So far, my experiences leave much to be desired...

1) Privacy: One of the companies I consult for is located in what they lovingly describe as "a building with a long history." (Actually, it's only ~40 years old but looks like it was built during the Ottoman era.) It's clearly not suited to the cubicle-like partitions or insufficient elevators or even sunlight in some of the offices, but what bothers me the most are its restrooms.

- In the side of the floor where I spend most of my time there are only 2 bathrooms, so there's almos invariably a line.
- Due to their strategic location, Daphne from Travel can literally take a tally of when and how long each person in the floor "has to go."
- Worse, they're coed (a-la-Ally McBeal, only that the individual doors to the toilets actually face the hallway!) This means you're in perennial panic that you forgot to lock properly and somebody else will catch you with your pants down, since the toilet is perfectly visible from the door. (And yes, they tell me it's happened before).

2) Image: This same company has an executive floor with a spacious boardroom and state-of-the-art teleconference room... right next to some very amusing bathrooms. For starters, they doors open to the hallway (yes, even here). And somebody seems to think they actually need instructions: next to the lever to flush the toilet, a half-curled P-Touch printed label reads (in English, because they obviously get lots of important visitors from abroad) "push here." So you try to push it and nothing happens. (Actually, one needs to pull the lever in those archaic toilets). VIPs must really be amused.

3) Discrimination: Speaking of executive floors, the builders of another hight-tech company in Raanana I know well seem to have forgotten that women can be executives too. The seventh-floor of their relatively new HQ houses the C-level suites, while the other half hast the company's dining room/cafeteria, which was busy for many hours of the day. I remember the days when everyone would notice when the (female) Legal consel or the (female) CFO "had to go" because they had to use the ones inside the communal dining room. This is because, well, the only toilet inside the exec suites had been claimed by the guys. And yes, there were at least 3 (female) secretaries last time I checked (guess which toilets they also used?) BTW, the same General Counsel and the CFO have left the company since then, so I sincerely hope things have improved for their current (female) CFO.

4) Attention: It seems like some companies realize this is the space that gets the most attention from employees. My CI Guru says in conferences that it's often the one place you'll get get those *&%%@! Executives to actually read your work. (Haven't tried... yet) But seems he's onto something - just recently, someone at my husband's company decided to add little vinyl pockets next to the toilets in their (thankfully not coed) restrooms. What do they contain? The company's official internal newsletter. Never waste a minute away from work.

November 10, 2007

We're officially out there. Well, almost.

Okay. So you've known that I have a *new venture* called But as of last Thursday, we're officially out there on the radar screen by having published an article on Freepint, and by having made our blog public.
(BTW, "we" also includes my biz partners David and Judy).
So if you're interested in collaborative search, or just need info and are unsatisfied with current options to find it online, join the conversation.

November 07, 2007

Tectonic Plates of Information

A recent article on The New Yorker talks about the discontents of digitization of content (specifically books on the attempt to create a "universal library") What caught my eye is its eloquent description of the real challenge ahead [parts in bold are my emphasis]

"...The supposed universal library, then, will be not a seamless mass of books, easily linked and studied together, but a patchwork of interfaces and databases, some open to anyone with a computer and WiFi, others closed to those without access or money. The real challenge now is how to chart the tectonic plates of information that are crashing into one another and then to learn to navigate the new landscapes they are creating...... "

This goes waaaay beyond books; it applies to all information (online or off, free or for-fee, old and new). I can just hear my favorite info pro saying "But of course, every person worth spending two minutes with knows that not everything they need/want to know is reachable by googling ve zehu."

Nope. Guess we all need a reminder here and there, before we continue wasting time and effort on fruitless search. (Just don't tell me you found this entry through Google)