Monthly Archives: October 2013

Group updates on customer segments and value propositions

Last week, we worked on customer segments and value propositions. This week, we got started on our customer discovery plans and started working on channels and customer relationships.

In a comment on this post, at least one member of each group should update the class by briefly noting 1)the name of your startup 2)your key customer segments 3)your value propositions.

Also, briefly note what your plans are going forward for your customer discovery.

Doing this on the blog will allow you to articulate your current thoughts in writing and allow the rest of the class to weigh in if they have feedback and ideas. 

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Rupa Biography

I am a graduate student in the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program within the University College at the University of Memphis. I became interested in Creative Writing and Journalism due to my penchant for writing on various topics. My interest in this field grew exponentially while participating in the many internships that I found at collegemagazine.com. Although originated in northeastern states of the United States, all of my internships were virtually based and could be completed through Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. One of the most productive internships that I held was with Limerence Magazine, an online publication including new and up-coming Indie music artists, through which I was able to write interesting blog posts (Taylor Swift), personally interview and review the EP of a rising music artist (Natalie Gelman), land a magazine publication entry (Limerence Magazine: Spring 2013 Issue – see attached), and receive editing and copy editing exposure of other people’s work. In another internship with vicepresidents.com (VEEPS Blog) I was introduced to the political journalism world for the first time and also got a chance to dabble in political humor, which until now I was unaware of its existence. In another internship with Voyage for Health, a wellness tour booking agency, I was exposed to social media marketing, PR activities, and blog postings. The last majorly productive internship that I held was with Abuja Star, an online publication similar to NY Times based on current events in Nigeria and also its influence on the rest of the world. Here, I was exposed to more of the hard-core news journalism that I had hoped for and began to appreciate the idea of photo-graphics through Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram to better elucidate the central message of the particular story at hand.  Currently, I am now working on writing my first novella and novel and am working hard to have it published. After research on affordable publishers and having found that traditional publishing houses are extremely expensive for a college student, I have found that publishing the novel as an e-book through CreateSpace on Amazon.com is a better way to curb costs and save time. A synopsis of my romance novel is here:

American-born Safa-Ali Khan lives the high life in Beverly Hills, California without a care in the world. Daughter of a prominent physician, an influential member in society – here and back home in Dubai, a place she has never visited but one that often grips her imagination with wonder and enigma thanks to the plethora of fascinating folklore — the sole heiress to the family fortune, Sara has it made with everything exactly in place. Everything would remain this way without the slightest hint of what is to happen of her in the future. If only Sara had known what was to happen during her first trip to her homeland in Dubai she probably would have never agreed to go. Although she could sense the ominous changes in her life while reaching the Arabian Sea shore, Sara decided to forge ahead and make the best of a tumultuous situation with the help of her new-found friend, Rehan – a descendant of an opposing tribal clan, much to the chagrin of the rest of the family on either side. When a simple friendship evolved into a deeper emotion was something that neither of them could have anticipated or understand. Except for the desire of being together nothing seemed to matter anymore for the young lovers; not even the earnest protests of opposition would make any difference on them. What follows is an account of the family, society, and religious discord that ensues before finally all factions agree to take an action in favor of the young lovers.

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CUNY’s MA and certificate in entrepreneurial journalism

Folks – have you seen the curriculum for CUNY’s entrepreneurial journalism degree? And their advanced certificate in media entrepreneurship program? I was looking at some of the courses they were offering and I wish it was possible to just move to New York this coming winter and spring! Look here for an application. A description of the program is here. My daughter would LOVE to spend a few months in the Big Apple. Downside: Out-of-state tuition for the certificate is $9,085. And that is not counting living expenses (rent in NYC is $3,000/month and up) or travel. But it would take what we’re learning here and times it by five. Just a thought for those of you who might want to go deeper into the entrepreneurial thing and get that certificate.

One word of caution, however.  I’ve spent much of my life freelancing, even while employed full time with various newspapers and it’s rough out there. The money that news organizations are willing to shell out for you to write something for them is getting lower by the week, it seems. Not long ago, I pitched an idea to CNN.com’s religion blog and they liked it but…the pay was only $100. If it only took me 1-3 hours to write it, maybe that’d be good money but it takes a lot longer to write a lengthy blog with multiple links and sources. CNN.com had paid me $400 for a blog post the year before (it got 6,500 responses I might add), so the price dropped by quite a bit from 2012 to 2013. What I’m saying in all this is that you can work your heart out doing this stuff, but the pay is abysmal unless you strike it rich somehow. Which most start-ups don’t.

Also, since we are talking about monetizing sites, can you all take a look at this discussion of Patch and other hyper-local sites and what they need to do to succeed? The link is here and I will try to cut and paste.

Memo to Patch editors: If you’re going to work that hard, why not start your own hyperlocal site?

Howard Owens
Howard Owens writes that the duties described by a Patch editor, while vast, are pretty standard for anyone running an independent news site. “But here’s the thing about the work load for Patch editors: They’re not owners. They are expected to do all of the things they would have to do if they owned their own web sites, but merely in service of building wealth for AOL shareholders. … Patch editors should know that what they’re being asked to do on salary they could do for themselves far more successfully and with some chance of building a valuable business for themselves and their families.” Owens has owned and operated The Batavian, a local news site in upstate New York near Buffalo, since 2009.

8 comments

  • Avatar
    Guest

    Most people I know who’ve gone to work for Patch did so for the money. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s true that Patch does pay slightly more than other local newspapers (at least in my area). Most of these people aren’t true believers in hyperlocal news, or have any interest in starting their own businesses. They’re just journalists that want to be employed. Is that so wrong? People gotta eat.

    Howard’s dismissal of those who prefer “the good old corporatism days of journalism with secure 9-5 jobs, two weeks paid vacation and dental coverage” is ridiculous. What’s wrong with a 40-day work week? Why shouldn’t journalists expect the same hours and benefits of every other working person?

    Speaking for myself, I’d love to run and own my own hyperlocal website, but I can’t afford not to have an income for a week, let alone however many months and years it takes to make a site profitable. Let’s not forget Howard was a high-ranking newspaper company executive before he took over the Batavian. I’d guess that his income and savings were probably in much better shape than the average Patch editor.

    • Howard Owens Guest

      I’ve never approved of the “what’s wrong with the 40-day (sic, but a funny one) work week?” attitude in journalism.  There’s no place for it when your industry is dying, and the question is very symptomatic of why it’s dying (far more than anything the Internet has done to disrupt newspapers).    Why shouldn’t journalists get the same working standards as everybody else?  Easy answer: They’re journalists.  You shouldn’t be in this game if you’re not dedicated to the profession.

      And we had ZERO savings when we started running The Batavian ourselves.  We had to claw and scratch to the point where our take home is what I made in 2001 (before I became an executive).   Hyperlocal isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, as some seem to think, it’s a way to do what you love, be compensated for it, not have to answer to “the man” and serve your community.

      Yes, not everybody is going to be cut out for that, but many of these Patch editors could do it if they gave it a try and be much more successful doing it.

  • df1898

    Howard talks of 100-hour work weeks. There’s only 168 hours in a week, so if sleeping, eating and bathing take up roughly seven hours a day, that leaves about five hours per week to do whatever you want. Great business model. Covering or writing about water board meetings is not fun, for goodness sake. Neither is meeting a content quota. Go back to school and study to become a nurse. That occupation ought to be around for awhile. — D. Farrell

  • Mary Lewis

    As long as health insurance is so expensive to buy independently, Patch seems like a great option. Especially if you’re single and don’t have the option of getting insurance through your spouse. Also, many self-employed people say they spend more hours working than when they worked for someone else. Howard’s argument looks great on paper, but there are a lot of practicalities to consider.

  • DaveBrooks

    “some chance of building a valuable business” … true, but no chance at having health care, and no chance of a living salary unless you’re realy top-notch (like Howard Owens, which most of us aren’t)

  • Reykjavik

    It would seem that the economics of the web require at least 100K uniques per month to even hope eking out a living (and at that level, AdWords and ad networks still don’t pay that much). That sort of traffic doesn’t happen overnight, if ever. So in addition to not making money, these entrepreneurial editors need to fund the start-up that may never pay off. My guess is that a lot of content creation will ultimately migrate to pro-am journalists, passionate citizens with writing skills. We may have seen the zenith of for-pay journalism, which (remember) wasn’t until recently a white-collar, college-educated sort of thing. And really, is that so bad? At most newspapers, the folks doing this trench-level work tend to be recent college graduates anyhow, who have a tenuous claim on having better skills than the average citizen and are mostly unknowledgeable about their local market.

    • howardowens Reykjavik

      We don’t do 100 uniques per month.  Where do you get such a bull shit number?  Our best month is about 70K in a month, but we were making a living at 30 or 40K.  And if you’re putting AdWords on your local news site, you’re not doing local online publishing right.

      • Reykjavik howardowens

        Once you crest over a certain traffic size, it does become easier to monetize things. But in the realm of small sites (and 100K monthly uniques is pretty small), it’s difficult to get the RPMs to make a real living. My data comes from a decade in the business running sites from 10K monthly uniques to brand name sites with more than 10 million. And if you aren’t doing AdWords or networks, then you need some sellers, who typically like to get paid (and that adds even more to your costs).

        At 30K uniques, would be interesting to know what your traffic looks like. Most news sites don’t have the level of repeat visitation among their broader audience to turn that level of users into major, revenue-generating pageviews. Even the best news premium sites like WSJ are only getting RPMs in the mid-30s. At 50 pages per monthly unique (a generous ratio), that’s about a half million a year at these unheard of RPMs — more likely, it’s less than a third of that. Guess you’re just different from many others.

        I’m happy that some folks are able to make a go of it, but display ads are a race to the bottom. And advertisers ultimately tie sponsorships back to some business metric (acquired audience, impressions, etc.) Flat rates only mask it for a little while. Look at some of the leaked data on Patch — only a fool would buy at their rates and traffic levels (hence their deep, deep problems). Frankly, the future of online media will be to find higher value monetization methods than advertising — lead gen and commerce come to mind, as well as all these paid content experiments.

        • Howard Owens Reykjavik

          Pretty much everything you say is wrong.  You’re telling me advertising doesn’t work is like telling like telling Orville “this thing will never fly.”  You’re just wrong, and every day I prove it to you by continuing to fly.

    • Perry Gaskill Reykjavik

      Sorry, Not-a-puffin but I don’t agree because of the implied assumption that ad networks and AdWords are the only revenue streams available. Indications coming from Aol, for example, are that Patch is not using CPM-based pricing, but instead a flat-fee model based on exclusive or shared page placement. If memory serves, Howard is doing something similar at The Batavian.

      It’s also probably not correct to assume that 100 thousand eyeball pairs is in all cases a profitability threshold. There are much more complicated variables. For example, the town of Batavia, New York currently has a population of around 16,000, yet The Batavian is able to generate an something like 6,000 UVs per day. If anything, that indicates not only how well The Batavian has been able to engage its local community, but also the extent to which Batavia has been willing to be engaged.

  • Patrick Thornton

    I agree with some of the commenters that working for Patch is a salary and benefits now, which some people really need. However, I don’t think Patch is long for this world, and if you spend a year or two trying to build a local Patch, you might end up with nothing.

  • Bean1010

    Maybe some people need a salary and health benefits.  And there is nothing wrong with working hard for those.  That’s what most people do.

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A Co-Op for Startups in Jacksonville

A Co-Op for Startups

in Jacksonville

Image

3:45 pm 10/7/13

By Ken Thomas

                Unlike other large metropolitan cities across the country, Jacksonville, Florida has never been known for its entrepreneurial startup scene.  But that might be changing.  What started about five years ago as a co-operative effort in an open workspace downtown, has slowly begun to blossom into a relaxed atmosphere for folks, with lots of ideas about starting their own businesses in the First Coast area of the sunshine state.

                 There’s a deliberate and consorted effort of collaboration among many of the entrepreneurs, business leaders, city officials and the startup accelerator company’s who are assisting with the process.  That approach could be the key to the successful entrepreneurship for many innovators who want to become entrepreneurs.

                Ignite (www.ignitewithus.com) has been a stellar example of such co-operation.  A small staff has led the small division of the Adecco group into the forefront of the startup scene in the city.  Their leadership philosophy, based upon the basic principle that a cooperative effort can help develop and sustain a competitive effort in the entrepreneurial world, has laid the foundation for success in Jacksonville.

                 Charlotte Cudd, Seed Marketer at Insight, described the scene in Jacksonville as one very different from other large cities, which may be valued as leaders in the startup game.

                 “We have some members who came from larger cities such as, San Francisco and Denver, they said they enjoy the collaborative efforts of Jacksonville where their ideas get noticed, whereas they might not have the same opportunity in those larger cities,” Cudd said.

                 Most of those ideas are presented to a group of Adecco executives and other entrepreneurs in monthly meet-ups that Cudd and her company organize.  The meetings are designed to allow unknown entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas in a 30-minute presentation.  Afterwards, the entire group discusses the ideas and helps foster each other through the startup process.

                 “We really try to make it a team education process on what you need to know to succeed…and that’s why we don’t have such a competitive environment like other cities, it’s really collaborative,” Cudd said.

                 In addition to the Ingite meet-ups, the city of Jacksonville hosted its first creator festival for entrepreneurs earlier this year.  The five day event brought together multi-cultural entrepreneurs for a chance to win $250,000 in startup prizes and brought national attention to the city.

                 “One Spark” (www.beonespark.com), helped create an atmosphere in downtown which fostered the entrepreneurship environment Cudd and her associates have been helping create for a number of years.  However, she cautioned that the Jacksonville startup scene had been present for quite some time before One Spark, but she credited the event and Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shad Kahn with jump starting an increased interest in startups.

                 “Shad Kahn used the ‘One Spark’ event to award startup funds to several entrepreneurs and collectively handed out more than a million dollars to innovators at the event,” Cudd said.

                 With a little help from business leaders and city officials, “One Spark 2014” is expected to broaden the city’s startup potential even more than the first event did. Needless to say, there continues to be a true excitement with start-up innovators on the banks of the St. Johns River.  With the collaborative efforts of the city, local business and accelerators, like Ignite and other organizations, innovation in the river city has only just begun to sparkle.

Jackson finally goes entre

Linda Gerrard being interviewed about Jackson's new Entrepreneur Center.

Linda Gerrard being interviewed about Jackson’s new Entrepreneur Center.

It had not been much more than about two weeks since I stated how dead Jackson was when I read a small blurb in the local newspaper announcing the opening ceremony for an “Entrepreneur Development Center” at the heart of downtown. Well, I thought, this I have to see. I got ahold of a magazine called VIP Jackson and learned that a Linda Garrard, who has worked with various start-ups in health care and business, was heading up the whole thing and that she had taught MBA entrepreneurship classes, apparently at the University of Memphis. Or she had gotten her MBA at UM; the article wasn’t clear. Moreover, Jackson was one of nine regional accelerators established by the governor, which means these are physical places where people can connect with mentors, knowledge, training and so on. She put forth an interesting statistic in the interview; that three-fourths of all new jobs are created by companies less than five years old. Not sure where she got that. She also added that entrepreneurs created 3 million new jobs in 2011. This place has “pre-accelerator classes” where would-be entrepreneurs give a 10-minute pitch to a judging panel. This panel decides whether or not the idea behind the pitch is viable and whether it can make money.
And so last Tuesday, I picked up my daughter from school and drove to the New Southern Hotel building, located across the street from the Madison County courthouse and next to the Green Frog, the most popular restaurant downtown. Good choice. The reception was on the second floor; a large green-carpeted office space with large windows and a kitchen and conference room on the west side of the building and an airy room full of desks and Dell laptops on the east side. Also in the east room was a white board in front of several rows of chairs. I nabbed Linda Garrard, who was easy to spot in a red suit and asked her how this was supposed to work.

Office space at the enterpreneurial center.

Office space at the entrepreneurial center.

“So many young businesses need a place,” she told me. “We connect them with mentors, classes, angel and venture capital.” She wouldn’t reveal all those who’d signed up but did say an incubator building for cooking (that is, businesses trying to prepare and offer food) was in the works. Being that Jackson is the site of a few successful and multiple failed cupcake businesses, that makes sense. The locals like to cook. As I wandered about, I noticed some spiffy business cards belonging to four staff the center has on staff and brochures belonging to some of the start-ups. One was called Ladder Wdge, a device that helps stabilize a ladder set at odd angles. Another was called Medical Rehab Wear, which are T-shirts with openings placed so that people who’ve had dialysis, chemo, is breast feeding, has had arm surgery or other upper-body work; also spinal injuries and wear for people who are paralyzed. Having had a quadriplegic housemate many years ago and having been one of the people who struggled to get regular clothing on and off her supine body, I thought this sort of clothing sounds like a neat invention. I also saw a brochure for a set of fitness DVDs. The center has a host of local business leaders on its board, so I guess there is hope for Jackson after all. Speaking of interesting ideas, I read a USA Today piece about another interesting start-up called Collegefeed.com, assembled by a 44-year-old MIT graduate, Sanjeev Agrawal, who’s helping to connect college students with companies looking for specific talent sets. He missed an opportunity to get connected with Cisco Systems in his 20s, he said in the article, because he didn’t know they existed and they didn’t know who he was, but had the two connected, he’d be rich by now. He’s hoping his site will help students avoid the mistakes he fell into by getting students – some as early as their freshmen year – get connected with a range of employers.  Wish this sort of thing had been available when I was an undergrad many eons ago.