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New Post on Focus.com: The 3 Biggest Challenges Mobile Creates for CIOs

I recently responded on Focus.com to the question:

“What do you think the top 3 challenges are facing CIO’s and their IT staff because of mobile?”

Read my response, as well as the responses of others by clicking on this link.

Paydiant Raises $7.6M – Congrats Chris, Joe, and Kevin

Congratulations to Kevin Laracey, Chris Gardner and Joe Paratore – the founders of Paydiant and three of the really “good guys” in the tech startup world.  They announced today their Series A financing with Northbridge and General Catalyst.  I had a ton of fun working with Chris and Joe at VeriSign (after VRSN acquired M-Qube).  Expect to see great things from Paydiant.

Welcome Baby Mac Richards

A big welcome to the newest member of the Richards family, baby Mac Richards.  Mom and baby are doing great, and his three older sisters are super excited to invite him to his first tea party.  And yes, he’s already a big Pandora fan!

Appirio Crowdsources the Cloud with CloudSpokes

Psyched to see Appirio launch CloudSpokes today.  Sort of like TopCoder but solely focused on the public cloud, and Appirio is putting up $1M to get the ball rolling.  Sample press coverage on ZDNET and PCWorld.

VC Tips: Managing the Venture Capital Meeting

My good friend Will Price and I share two things in common – we both love to fly-fish and we both have been a startup CEO and a venture capitalist on Sand Hill Rd.  When I was with Will the other day, he said “you should write a few blog posts with tips for entrepreneurs raising money, now that you’re on the other side of the table.”  While I believe there are hundreds if not thousands of blog posts from VC’s on these subjects, I’ll do it anyhow, with my own personal touch.  I’m not suggesting if you follow these tips you’ll automatically get funded, but you will greatly increase your chances of having the meeting go well, which is a good start.  I’m also not suggesting that this will guarantee the VC on the other side of the table won’t be an @$$ (which does happen).  So…here goes.

Managing the Meeting

This topic is particularly important to me, because I see so many entrepreneurs miss their chance to shine – not because of their own skills as an entrepreneur or CEO, and not because of their business plan or market opportunity – but because they simply don’t take charge and run the meeting they’ve worked so hard to set with a potential investor.  A few basics:

1) Show up 5-10 minutes early.  Assume the person you are meeting with has back to back meetings throughout the day (pretty common).  Thus, if you’ve got an hour, you’ve got an hour.  Most EA’s are vigilant about keeping the schedule tight, so they’ll interrupt when time is up.

2) Take your watch off and put it next to your laptop, iPad, etc. – or put a clock visibly on the screen so you can manage the time.  I recently met with the CFO of a company raising $150M at a billion dollar valuation, and the first thing he did when he sat down was position his watch next to his laptop and confirm with our team “We’ve got an hour, correct?”

3) Do some homework on the people you are meeting with.  Read their bios on the firm’s web site, see if they have a blog, Twitter feed, etc.  Always good to have some informal dialogue to start the meeting, and every human being likes to talk about things they are passionate about (which can usually be found in a bio / Twitter feed / blog, etc.).  This is especially helpful if there are companies the firm has invested in that are relevant to what you are doing, people who have been executives at those companies who might know you/be an informal reference, etc.

4) As you do introductions, ask a few questions about the firm (ideally based a bit on some of the research you’ve done).  This will help you learn a bit about what the VC team thinks are its strengths, things that are topical/of interest at that moment, etc.  It also shows you care about who you raise money from and the quality of the people/team around your board room (veteran entrepreneurs and CEOs do).

5) Take charge of the meeting.  If you’ve got 8 slides (I’ll do a more complete post on the topic of presentations, but I recommend keeping it under 10 slides), make sure you allocate time to get through them.  Ironically, the better the meeting goes, the less likely you are to get to all of your slides (you’re excited and passionate about the subject, the VC is engaged and asking questions, etc.) – which is fine!  I personally believe PowerPoint has too much of a role in these conversations (which is what it should be – “conversation” vs “presentation”), so don’t worry about reading line for line or skipping slides that may be redundant to your audience.  Read your audience, read the conversation.  Focus on the slides that are most important.  If you have a demo, allocate plenty of time for the demo.  In many ways, this is a showcase for how you run your business – your staff meetings, your board meetings, etc.  Be flexible, but be in charge of the meeting.

6) Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions of your own along the way – try to make it a two-way dialogue.  For example, “How does this compare to what you saw with <> at a similar stage?”  If the firm has an investment in a company that could be a strategic partner to your company, perhaps “We thought this might line up well for a partnership with <> – would love to hear your thoughts.”

7) Leave time at the end of the discussion to talk about next steps.  Typically, if you’ve hit it out of the park and the VC is interested, you’ll know.  Regardless, ask what the firm’s process looks like, then confirm a timeframe for follow-up.  It’s typical for a VC to want to take a few days to digest the meeting, discuss it with his/her partners, etc.  We try to make decisions quickly – having been a CEO I appreciate clarity – and let an entrepreneur/CEO know quickly whether we want to try to move it forward.  If there were introductions or help offered in the meeting, take the VC up on it.  Again, in my experience, if it’s a good fit, you’ll know.

Again, these tips won’t guarantee you funding.  They will, however, help you run a solid first meeting with a VC.  As you can see, a lot of these are intangibles tied to basic human behavior – not rocket science.  But – I wouldn’t have written the post if I didn’t see a high percentage of entrepreneurs & CEOs making pitches without incorporating some of these basic concepts 🙂

Appirio CIO Blog: What CIOs Want

Good post yesterday from Ryan Nichols on the Appirio CIO blog entitled “What CIOs Want (and why startups don’t give it to them).” Some really good points / lessons learned for early stage companies selling into the CIO.  Not sure I think of Mel Gibson (photo at end of post) when I think of happy CIOs, but hey – Ryan was focused on the content, not the look 🙂

Two of the Biggest Internet Trends for 2011

A month into 2011, I’ll point to two massive trends really take hold:

1) Curation.   Examples: Gilt for luxury.  Hipmunk for travel.  Totsy for moms/baby gear.  People don’t want to spend their days searching through a myriad of search results or shopping bot returns to find what they want.  They’ll increasingly trust sites and services that deliver curated results, designed around personal preferences.  And they’ll buy like crazy when recommended products are a great fit for what they want/need (if the FedEx packages on our doorstep are any indication).

2) Design.  We have seen some killer iPhone/iPad app designs in the last 6 months, and that design innovation is making its way back to the mainstream web.  Companies have discovered that high resolution photos and the “Apple look” moves product.  Check out any cool consumer app launched in the last few months, and my bet is the most popular ones will have a serious design element to them.  Examples include AirBnB and Trumpet Eats.  The bar is rising – fast.  We’re also seeing a ton of companies that are building turnkey platforms to create and publish on the web and mobile (flash and HTML5) environments – including ads, sites, etc.  Examples include Widgetbox and Sprout.  Christina Warren put up a cool post on Mashable titled “7 Hot Trends in Mobile App Design” – check it out.

I love both of these trends.  Life on the Internet gets better.  Design becomes critical.  It’s like shopping at an Apple store vs RadioShack (nothing against RadioShack…).


Tech Ads at the Super Bowl

If yesterday’s Super Bowl told you anything, it should be that tech companies are feeling flush again.  At $3M per, Super Bowl ads weren’t cheap.  Some appear to have hit their mark, others not so much.  TechCrunch has a nice roundup here.  The group I watched the game with liked the Groupon ads, the Faith Hill Teleflora.com ad, and the Doritos ad with the pug hitting the screen door (not tech, but funny).  The ETRADE ads are always a hit – something about a talking baby just works.  Most of the people I was with don’t know what Chatter is, and thus the Salesforce.com ads were lost on them (I happened to like them).

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