Tag Archives: Interest

How Do You Survive a Maelström? Seven Strategies

Situation: Edgar Allen Poe’s “Surviving the Maelström,” is a tale is of three brothers whose fishing boat is caught in a monstrous whirlpool, and how the reaction of each brother determines his fate. Similarly, in times of uncertainty, our ability to react with either panic or a rational, reasoned response determines our fate. How do you survive a maelström?

Advice of the CEOs:

  • Based on Poe’s story, you need to replace fear with assurance, uncertainty with boldness, and doubt with conviction.
  • There are several potential financial bubbles forming including student loans and negative interest rate loans to sovereign governments. Both, in their own way, pose a threat to the international and domestic financial systems and could rapidly impact borrowing costs for companies. The solutions are to stay in ongoing contact with customers, and to stay light and flexible as companies so that you can adapt to market changes.
  • For Internet companies, the shift to Freemium offerings (a base product for free with pay as you go functional add-ons) makes it more difficult to design viable business models, and means new competition for established companies in low capital cost businesses. Again, a solution is to stay in ongoing contact with customers, constantly reinforcing your value proposition and the reality of switching costs.
  • Creative Destruction – particularly the emergence of new companies that threaten large customers and can change the value perception of suppliers’ core competencies. Solutions include ongoing communication with customers seeing what they see as “the next big thing,” focusing on continually improving our own core competencies, and possibly teaming with the more promising emerging companies.
  • The illusion that advertising will pay for everything – in reality, advertising dollars are a scarce resource like all other resources. Solutions include testing our own value-adds as an ongoing process, and creating fast-fail models to cost-effectively test our own promotions.
  • Definitions of value and productivity are no longer stable; all depends on the method of measurement. A solution is to remain aware of the innovator’s dilemma and to continually renew our value propositions.
  • A workforce in flux where young people don’t want to work for what they perceive as “old line” companies, as well as early-retiring baby boomers who may learn in 3-5 years that they can’t afford retirement. Solutions include focusing on employee engagement, building more flexible and “liberating” business models, and teaming younger with more experienced workers to cross-train each other.

How Do You Focus Your Sales and Marketing? Eight Thoughts

Situation: A company has a technology road map and a flexible set of technical capabilities. To date they have elicited broad interest from a variety of different markets. They currently don’t have the resources to pursue a large number of different markets, and will likely need their next round of funding within the next year to year and a half. How do you focus your sales and marketing?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • A race to generate interest from a number of markets is a valid strategy at this stage of your development; provided that you raise or generate the cash to survive. This caveat describes your critical challenge – determining how long you can afford to maintain and fund a broad strategy.
  • Look at your burn rate and timeline. Pursue options that will generate cash before your next round of funding. Your top objective is to validate your ability to generate revenue prior to your next round.
  • You haven’t yet found the fish. You are fishing and have nibbles but no bites. Look at what your people are doing and start to eliminate options that are less likely to pay off both short and long-term.
  • To preserve development cash, create a new rule. Any project that you accept must come with development dollars. This will eliminate some smaller prospects and targets but will help you to focus on others which are more immediately promising.
  • When one company was in this position, their rule was that the first PO gets the engineers. No PO, no commitment of resources.
  • Another’s company’s policy is that they don’t work for free.
    • A softer version is to give the prospective client 30 days to produce an LOI for the proposed project or you will go elsewhere.
    • Even better is an LOI and $50K up front.
  • A third company’s strategy from the beginning was always to hunt for elephants – even when they had no money. This has worked well both short and long-term. It represented the level of faith that they had in their technology and capabilities.
  • The team needs to hear this message from you.

How Do You Raise Capital for an Expansion? Five Guidelines

Situation: A company needs to expand to meet growing demand and has opportunities to expand in several locales. They can finance this expansion through bank loans, or by selling either a minority or majority interest in the company. How do you raise capital for an expansion?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Minority shareholders have appeal. Just be aware that they have rights. If they own interest above a certain percentage, they gain legal rights such as the ability to force liquidation. Research this percentage, and figure out a percentage of minority ownership that will work for you. Based on this, look for a minority partner who will give you the capital to expand for ownership below this threshold.
  • Consider a hybrid solution combining a smaller loan with sale of a limited percent of the company.
  • This is a risk equation.
    • The loan option is risk / reward for long term profit. You may have to secure the loan with personal assets.
    • On the other hand, selling a minority interest could set you up for life.
    • Look at both options, plus your personal goals and decide which combination of risk, reward and personal security fits you best.
  • One sale option is a phased buy out.
    • Example: sell 30% now, with options under conditions that you accept, to buy a larger share of your company later.
    • Continue to involve the key stakeholders in these discussions.
  • Assure that you secure your own future, and then secure the future of other family members.

How Can You Use Web and Mobile Tech to Bridge Different Worlds?

Interview with Jason Langheier, MD, MPH, Founder and CEO, Zipongo

Situation: The Internet and social media provide opportunities to bridge seemingly distinct worlds through common interests. For example, grocery chains that sell healthy foods and health insurance companies might be brought together through a common interest in healthy eating habits. How can you use web and mobile technology to bridge these two worlds?

Advice from Jason Langheier:

  • Interests and industries which are at first glance distinct can be brought together using the power of the Internet and social media. For example, Let’s Move and the Partnership for a Healthy America have nudged national food retailers and grocers to improve the health of their offerings in an effort to fight childhood obesity. Success here can benefit health insurers because obesity leads to increased healthcare costs through its link to diabetes and other complications. The potential of subsidies from health insurers to promote and generate healthy food choices is interesting to food retailers, but requires new incentive and recommendation systems.
  • We want to help people harness their motivation to build lasting new eating and activity routines. We do this through rewards based commerce, supported by social networks and gamification to help reach one’s health goals. We focus on choices that people make in daily living like grocery and restaurant choices and physical activities. We highlight alternatives, create simple recommendations, and make it easy to act on those recommendations. We encourage repetition of positive choices through a feedback loop which is tailored to the individual.
  • Commitments made within a social network are more likely to stick than promises to self. We leverage existing social media networks and offer incentives for referring friends. Friends help friends make better choices by encouraging them to read labels and buy healthier foods at the moment of purchase.
  • It is important to keep the user interface simple, especially at first. Many of the most successful applications initially present simple yes-no choices. From a tracking standpoint, this also minimizes variables and improves data measurement. Featuring high contrast action buttons on our site also helps prompt decisions.  There is a sweet spot on a commerce site between presenting an overwhelming array of options, and too few choices – which we assess through A-B testing.  By starting simply and building complexity slowly we build a baseline control scenario, then vary choices simply off the baseline to improve results.
  • The entrepreneur seeking to truly achieve a social mission must plan for both the short and long-term. In the short-term, it is critical to build milestones which will demonstrate financial feasibility and sustainability for potential investors. However a long-term perspective is also essential, particularly when one is interested in long term behavioral and economic impact.

You can contact Jason Langheier at j@zipongo.com

Key Words: Internet, Social Media, Food, Insurance, Health, Common, Interest, Software, Bridge, Entrepreneur, Partnership for a Healthy America, Incentive, Tracking, Reward, Commitment, Behavior, Change, Friend, Simple