Tag Archives: startups

2014 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

Ten years ago I setup a golf game for founders of technology companies in New York.  We played at a semi-public course in Westchester County.  There were four of us.  The next year, we each invited another founder; there were eight of us.  And since, it’s grown.  Founders and executives of digital media startups, venture capitalists, marketers, agencies, all coming together to network + play golf.   No agenda, no nothing.  Just good times.   As seen in WSJ, Business Insider, Betabeat, and more.

I call this event the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  And it’s back for 2014.  Our ten year anniversary.  June 9 in Westchester County, NY.

If you are interested in playing, sponsoring, or inquiring for press, please use this form.

For those who have played in the past, you’ll receive a formal invitation over the next 3 weeks as we get together the sponsors and logistics.   For those who have never played in the tournament before, please inquire at the link above (or here).

A huge shoutout to previous sponsors Slyce, Spongecell, Buzzfeed, 33 Across, MediaOcean, PulsePoint, Varick Media Management, MDC Partners, kbs+, and Solve Media.

Time to dust those clubs off and hit the driving range!

 

Put the Service Back in Technology

I meet with plenty of technology companies who sell to marketers and agencies and  I also meet with many marketing and advertising technology startups who are pitching for venture funding.  Sometimes they are one and the same.

I’ve been witnessing companies coming thru the door and telling me that they are a pure technology platform, not a service business.  Most of the time, their motivation to say this is to achieve a technology multiple (on sale) versus a service business multiple.

I think this is faulty and a mistake.

There is nothing wrong with wrapping services around a technology, especially in the early days of your company.

If your idea is new and unique, then most marketers or their agencies will have no idea how to build the assets necessary to deploy on your technology platform; thus a service business is needed.

If your idea isn’t overly unique, marketers and agencies still generally want help to get assets created or implemented.  A services group can help enable this to happen.

At the end of the day, as a startup or technology company, you want marketers or their agencies to have the best possible experience when using your platform.  I define experience by performance and service.  This will have a higher chance of keeping them back (and the dollars flowing).    By creating an organization that can enable this to happen (creating the right assets, trafficking properly, building KPI’s and metrics), you are at least starting off the relationship on the right foot.

Put the service back in technology.  It’s not such a bad thing.

 

5 Marketing Trends & TASC

It was a big press week today with back to back articles in AdAge and AdWeek, two periodicals I highly respect in the advertising industry.

Meet the Five Big Trends Changing Marketing:  This was an article I wrote for AdAge which is based off of The Media Kitchen‘s Menu (2011, 2012 version), a document we release each year that talks about five trends and associated companies that are poised to grow with this trend.

Below are the five trends I highlight and if you want to read the whole article, click here.

  1. Communication across many social platforms will be seamless
  2. Location will play an increasingly important role for targeting
  3. Cross platform plans will be driven by data
  4. Content is marketing and marketing is certainly content
  5. Experiences will be linked across many devices

Technology, Advertising and Startup Council (#TASCNYC):  On Monday, David Berkowitz, Ian Schafer, Mark Silva and I will be hosting the inaugural event for TASC at the Soho House here in New York City.  The goal of the event is for create more of a bond between Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley/Alley through spending time with different startups to help them accelerate themselves.  It’s not a pitch for media budget but rather a business building exercise where we can help these companies position themselves better to work with Madison Avenue.  I’m super excited to be working alongside David, Mark and Ian and look forward to what future events might bring.  You can read much more about #tascnyc here.

 

2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational Right Around the Corner

It’s that time of year again when we’re just weeks away from the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  Or SAGI as I commonly refer to it as.  This event started ~7 or so years ago but only in the past 3 years have I used the fancy name.  It all started with myself and 3 founders of tech companies in 2004.  We played golf and chatted.  It was that simple.  The next year, each of us brought an additional founder.  And each year after, it grew.  The common theme each year was to keep it to either founders of Silicon Alley based startups or venture capitalists funding the innovation.

Fast forward to 2012, we’ve got an absolutely full event of 72+ golfers (can only fit 72 on the course at any given time) and about 30 non-golfers coming for the luncheon and awards ceremony.  We have amazing sponsors who enable the day to happen.  We even have a guest keynote speaker who will be announced much closer to the date…

A lot of planning goes into this event, especially because it’s a labor of love and not a business and I have very limited staff to pull this off.  I personally handpick everything for the event – the invitational list, the swag, the event location, the foursomes, etc.  It’s a lot of work but in the end, it pays off because of all the great conversations and camaraderie that’s had at the event.

Unfortunately, the event does not scale well.  It cannot accompany 1,000 people.  Or even 250 people.  With just one day and 18 holes, you can only accompany so many people on the course.  It’s a fact of life for the event but a good one at the same time – we do not always need to be able to scale in order to have a great event.  In this case, it’s quality over quantity.  This year in aggregate, we have founders representing over $1.2BLN in exits in the past 1,000 days.  Quality is important.  We’ll leave “scale” for the companies we’re building.

I’m super excited for August 6 and look forward to participating with everyone.  Here’s a link to the official video from last year’s event.

If you have any questions about the event, feel free to reach out through my contact form.

We (and they) are hiring!

At my last startup, we used our investors not just for business guidance, but also as talent scouts.  They were constantly meeting interesting people who were looking to join or build the next big idea and they helped us place some great talent within our organization.

Now, as an investor at kbs+p Ventures (and still an entrepreneur), our portfolio companies are asking us for hiring help.  Taylor and I are working on an internal & external talent management tool but I didn’t want to wait to publish these until it’s polished and released as it could be another month or so.

Here are some awesome opportunities from our portfolio (and friends of ours) who have asked us for candidates:

Crowdtwist:  A New York based startup who drives customer engagement through next generation loyalty software. CrowdTwist’s activity engine intelligently tracks consumer interactions with your brand (i.e. consuming, creating, sharing, purchasing, etc.) within your own site and across other destinations online. They are currently looking for:  Director of Engineering, Project Manager.

Adapt.ly:  A New York based startup who has made it extremely easy to buy media and audiences across the social web.  I personally call these guys the first social DSP.  They are currently looking to hire:  Ruby Developers, Data Scientists, Account Managers, and Summer Interns

The Media Kitchen:  New York based communications planning and buying agency (part of kbs+p) is hiring an Associate Director of Media Technology.  This position will be reporting into myself and will be an awesome role for someone who understands the infamous GCA/Luma Partners slide and reads AdExchanger daily.  Job description is located here.

If I missed any opportunities, I’ll post again in a few weeks.  If you are interested in applying for an opportunity, please contact the company directly (follow instructions on the opportunity page).

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Day 4: Advertising Revenue for Startups

This post is part of a 5 day series where we lay the groundwork for a startup to generate advertising dollars from agencies or brands.  Note:  while this is focused on startups, it could apply to any company of any size.  The first post that sets up the series is located here, second post is located here, third post is here, and it’s based on this presentation.

If you are a publisher and you are looking to generate revenue from advertising, then read this series.

Today’s topic is on the evolution of the paid online advertising ecosystem.   Essentially, where do you (as publisher) plug in to generate revenue from myriad of sources.  Lets tackle them one by one.

On slide 11 of the presentation, it highlights 5 different areas:  Sell Side Optimizers/Platforms, Ad Networks, Google, Ad Exchanges, and DSP Integrations.

  1. Ad Networks:  As a publisher, you could contact any ad network and try and have them represent your website.  Depending on how large you are or how much publicity you have around your brand, you could potentially negotiate for better revenue spits, monthly guarantees, and potentially advance payments.   Ad Networks sometimes want exclusivity but as a publisher, make sure you get better deal terms if you agree to it.  Ad Networks are a quick way to make a few bucks with your inventory, though as an agency person, I don’t love ad networks.
  2. Google:  Technically, Google is a network and exchange, but I pull them out to their own line item because they are such a beast.  Many publishers love Google because of the simplicity around Ad Sense/Ad Words.   You could be up and running accepting Google ads within 24 hours.  Google if not already, is going to mix their search and exchange inventory to yield the highest amount to a publisher (and thus, net a high yield themselves).
  3. Ad Exchanges:  As a publisher, you can allocate all or a portion of your inventory to ad exchanges such as Ad Meld (MeldX), Right Media, Google AdX, AppNexus, ContextWeb, and a host of other platforms.  By doing so, you are opening up your inventory to be bid on by the demand side.  It’s similar to an eBay auction – where in real-time (or near real time), impressions are transacted and ads are run.  It’s rather simple to participate in this, but it’s not as simple to master it without any knowledge of the space.  Luckily, there are people like PubGears who can help you navigate it (disclosure:  I’m an advisor).
  4. Demand Side Platforms:  If you want to try and be as close as possible to the big agency dollars, then integrating with a DSP directly might be the best way to go.  While hard to get on their radar screen if you are extremely early stage and without much inventory, DSP’s are aligning themselves as close to the client dollar as possible and 2011/12 is going to be the year of direct integrations for publishers with DSP’s, bypassing intermediaries such as Exchanges.
  5. Supply Side Optimizer:  Not all above is mutually exclusive.  As a publisher, you can implement a SSO/P and plug into all of the above and have it maximize your yield.   There are a few players in this space such as Rubicon, Pubmatic, Admeld, YieldX, that all plug in and allow for yield optimization across your creative units.

All of the above opportunities are for standardized units.  These include the IAB and OPA standardizated creative.  Slide 12 & 13 talk about how you need to add data to your impressions to make them of real value to advertisers.  There are billions of impressions so how do you make them stand out… that’s by adding as much data around them as possible for advertisers to understand and buy.  This is key… otherwise, you’ll be selling your impressions for <$1.00

Stay tuned for the next Advertising Revenue for Startups post on my overall thoughts on the business and where I would start.  It’ll be the last writeup in this series.  I hope it’s been helpful.

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Advertising For Startups: Does Size Matter for an Online Publisher?

This post is part of a 5 day series where we lay the groundwork for a startup to generate advertising dollars from agencies or brands.  Note:  while this is focused on startups, it could apply to any company of any size.  The first post that sets up the series is located here, second post is located here, and it’s based on this presentation.

Today’s topic is Does Size Matter?

If you are a startup or a publisher, you generally often wonder at what point can you go out selling advertising against your userbase.  Does the size of your userbase matter?

Historically, size mattered.  You needed significant size because you generally couldn’t target specific audiences so you had to sell the entire media vehicle and account for wastage.   With digital targeting, specifically audience driven media, you can now target with serious granularity.  While significant targeting delivers your audience segment, the numbers are typically much smaller than a large site-direct or ad network buy, because you are just reaching a specific user base.  For publishers who are still early in development but have a vertical or niche site, then you can begin selling ASAP because even 50,000 people who are into Ferrari’s and have $5,000,000 disposable net worth are seriously worth something to someone.  If you have a way to package your audience segments, then start selling.  You don’t need to wait until you reach 100,000,000 users to generate advertising dollars.  Implement an Audience Management Platform and you’ll be on your way.

If you have a general site (i.e. portal, aggregator, etc) and can’t really segment your users, then it might be hard to sell against until you have substantial visits.

The question comes up often about what types of creative units you should accept…   Start with the IAB Standard units because they are the most common.  Any major agency is going to create using the IAB standard package and then add custom units on top of it.  If you start here with implementing the 300X250, 160X600, etc – then you can fill those units.  Just last week, the IAB released some Rising Star units which are pretty interesting as well.

If you have unique/custom units, then these are harder to sell because agencies have to create custom creative for it (production fee implications).  Unless you have substantial size and buzz, it’s hard to sell custom units (not impossible).

On Monday, we’ll discuss the evolution of the pad online ecosystem consisting of Ad Networks, Exchanges, Site Direct, Private Exchanges, etc.  It’s a topic I love and am excited to write about it.

Advertising for Startups: Day 2

This post is part of a 5 day series where we lay the groundwork for a startup to generate advertising dollars from agencies or brands.  Note:  while this is focused on startups, it could apply to any company of any size.  The first post that sets up the series is located here and it’s based on this presentationDay 1 post is here.

Today’s topic:  Where do I start?

As a startup looking to generate advertising revenue, you have a few options on how to ramp up your initial revenue.  Keeping it simple, you can hire your own internal sales staff, outsource to a rep firm, or integrate with ad networks and exchanges.  Depending on which you choose, you will end up keeping a larger percentage of the dollars (your own sales team being the ultimate).

Based on slide 5 of the presentation, hiring your own sales staff generally proves to allow the start-up to keep the highest amount of gross revenue but isn’t the simplest to setup.  Hiring your initial sales person is one of the most important jobs you can fill at your organization.  All too often, I see startups using their first “sales” hire as a Chief Revenue Officer or SVP, Sales.  I generally am against those initial hires and would rather put someone inside of the startup who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and has 3-5 years of experience within a competitive or tangentially related organization.  This way, you leave open a very senior role to fill after you’ve gotten your feet wet with your initial sales… which should impact what your senior sales job descriptions are.

Outsourcing your sales to a rep firm is an interesting option as well.  I’m generally not for this as no one knows your product better than you do, but this has worked for certain companies.  I’ve heard that Living Social is working with AppSavvy in this type of setup.  As agency person, I’m not a big fan of this because an outsourced sales rep or firm is generally working with a few different companies and when they come in and meet us, they are basically trying to sell us on everything and not everything is relevant.  It can work however.  Depending on how you structure your deal, you might pay an outsourced representative a monthly fee + commission or straight commission only.  What’s worked well for me in the past is to hire an outsourced rep in an area of the country that I didn’t have a direct sales force in.  There are quite a few reps in Detroit – as much of the automotive budgets are siloed up there because of the auto industry and these reps have great relationships.

Lastly, you can work with ad networks and ad exchanges if you have standardized units.  This is probably the easiest way to turn on the revenue spigot since it’s passive selling and there are other companies out there purchasing your inventory without any work on your part.  You can get fancy with how you optimize your networks and exchanges with SSP’s (or supply side platforms such as Rubicon, Admeld, Pubmatic, and PubGears, amongst others).  Sometimes, ad networks will guarantee you a floor in which they will sell against and potentially provide you a guarantee payment depending on how popular your startup is.  As a startup, you can use this to your benefit by shopping around to multiple ad networks or SSP’s and seeing which want your business the most by the amount of guarantee they give.  Overall, I’m not bullish on ad networks, but as a startup, they can generate some dollars for publishers generally off of the bat.

Note:  the easiest ad units to sell that have scale behind them are IAB standardized units.  While not the most unique or custom, billions of dollars are transacted in them each year and their performance is going up based on all the targeting data.  More on the data side later in the week.

Friction

Anytime there is a middleman in the middle of the advertising dollar and ultimate publisher, there is friction in the ecosystem.  The friction represents a rep, network, exchange, or some other intermediary.  To most, friction is bad, but to startups, I think most can put up with some in the short to medium term.  The rationale for this is because friction allows startups to focus… having someone else handle non-core work allows the core team to focus on what they do best:  build a product, vision, etc.  When the revenue becomes significant or it’s time in the startups life to build a larger team (Series A funding, etc), then one can remove friction.

To recap, friction is a tradeoff to focus.

To recap, we covered slides 5-8 of the presentation.

I hope you found this insightful.  We’ll focus on on “size” tomorrow.

Clams, Benjamins, Beans, Dollars. Your Startup Sells Ad Space, Read On…

I created a presentation about 6 months ago for a talk at the Founders Institute.  The talk was about 5 things to do/know when looking at generating advertising revenue from your startup.  I’ve personally been in a unique position to talk about this as I’ve run startups that take ad dollars from brands and I’m now on the agency side divvying up ad dollars to all different partners, including startups.  I can talk credibly from both sides of the table.

I was asked to give a presentation to the New York class of Techstars entrepreneurs and revisited the presentation I gave to Founders Institute and made some tweaks.  The presentation is divided up into 5 sections, each of which I will spend the next 5 days discussing each section in depth.  Hopefully you all find this interesting and if there are additional questions, do not hesitate to follow up with me or leave comments.

The presentation is linked to here and this will be what I’ll be going off of as I go deep into each section.  Please view it before continuing as my posts will make a lot more sense.  Note:  the presentation is a “speaking” presentation in the sense that I do much of it justice with voice overs… but you’ll get the idea as you go thru it.

Ad Revenue for Startups

Tomorrow morning’s topic:  advertising ecosystem overview & the two ways to talk to agencies (slides 1-4 including title slide)

If there is anything you specifically want to hear about, please do not hesitate to ask.

Advertising Ecosystem Presentation for Startups

I was asked by my friend Gabe to present at the Founders Institute on ways that startups can utilize an ad-supported model as this is right in my wheelhouse.

While the presentation is not until Wednesday, November 10, I wanted to make available the actual slides for any feedback – both positive & negative so that I can make any tweaks.  If you happen to be coming to the Founders Institute and happen to find this preso, certainly read it ahead of time so our conversation can be much more involved.

Note:  This is a “talking” deck so there is little text on the slides.

Please leave comments below and I’ll be sure to follow them up.

Thanks in advance!

The Ad Supported Ecosystem for Startups (5 Thoughts, 15 Slides)

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