Google Now Is The Killer App For Android Wear

Google’s I/O keynote may have been a bit of a jumble of different product announcements — many of which won’t be available until later this year — but Android Wear was what most people in the audience wanted to hear about. While there is plenty of Android in Google’s smartwatch operating system and while developers will be able to develop apps specifically for it, Wear in its current form is fundamentally about bringing Google Now notifications to your wrist.

While I’ve had Google Now on my phone for a long time now, the more I use Wear, the more I feel like it was custom-made for Google Now. Indeed, this is the first time I really feel Now is living up to its promise. It’s also the first time I find myself paying full attention to Now, despite its prominence on Android before.

CaptureAndroid Wear, of course, also shows you all of your notifications from your phone (and when they are interactive, Wear will automatically mimic those, too). You could push all of your phone notifications to your watch, but that would be overkill. Thankfully, Google lets you choose which applications can push to Wear. But its most useful feature — and maybe its killer feature overall — is definitely easy access to Google Now.

At this point, everybody is pretty much familiar with Google Now, but there is something fundamentally different between using it on your phone and on your wrist. Sure, the mission is the same on both platforms: Google wants to give you the right information at the right time. When you’re at work, it shows you the drive time to home. Got an appointment somewhere else? It’ll show you when to leave. At the airport? It’ll show you the barcode for your boarding pass. It’s one thing for that information to be available on your phone, but on your wrist, it suddenly becomes so much more accessible.

now_wearThat is, of course, only when Google Now gets it right — and most of the time, it does. The company has been working hard on bringing more information to Now and that has made it quite a bit more useful by regularly adding more information and new cards to it. Some cards that Google shows on the phone don’t make sense on Wear (links for topics you recently search for, for example) and those thankfully never make it to the watch.

 

Wear doesn’t always get it right, though. If you end up swiping the weather card away by mistake, for example, you can’t easily get it back. That’s a fundamental problem with Wear — and maybe the only one that really annoys me. For Google Now, at least, it’d be nice to have an easy way to flip through all of your cards at all times.

Just like Google Now brings together a number of Google’s services into one product, Wear has a similar feel to it. It’s a mix of what it has learned from Android and its ecosystem, its advances in voice recognition and its newly found design chops.

All of that comes together to bring Google Now to your wrist, and while that may sound like a minor thing, it’s actually a very useful experience. Whether that’s worth $200 to you is a different question, but after using Wear for a bit more than a week now, I can actually see myself wearing one of these watches going forward — and before this I hadn’t worn a watch for at least a decade.

In the next few months, Google will get some competition from Microsoft, Apple and a few startups in this space. For better or worse, none of them know as much about you as Google does, so it’ll be hard for them to replicate the Google Now experience. That should give Google a bit of an edge against the competition — unless the iWatch turns out to be so amazing that people will buy it even if it just shows the time and phone notifications.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

What a CEO Learned Coaching His Daughter’s Basketball Team

Several years ago I took on the challenge of coaching my daughter’s middle school basketball team. I wanted to spend more time with her, and the team was without a coach. The problem was I had never even touched a basketball.

I did, and do, know how to run a business, however. I was pleasantly surprised, as were the girls, to find what helped me succeed in business worked to the basketball court, and vice versa.

David vs. Goliath. This was not your conventional winning team. The girls didn’t come from athletic families. They weren’t tall or well coordinated. They couldn’t shoot. They were underdogs but we turned that to our advantage.

Underdogs have to think outside the box. They can’t rely on size and strength. We had to think more strategically and find unorthodox approaches to the game. We analyzed our opponents’ weaknesses and found most teams, immediately after scoring, retreat to defend their basket, giving their opponent the opportunity to inbound the ball to their teammate without pressure and execute a well-practiced play with precision.

Lacking much skill, but we had to disrupt that flow. We had to play in real time. We had to play a full-court press, the entire game. By taking the unconventional approach, we were able to catch our opponents off-guard, which gave us the advantage. And we won, a lot.

Enterprises should be doing the same. There’s a growing competition in every industry. The companies that win are finding new, innovative ways of providing for their customers and turning them into fans. Conventions are made to be challenged. The companies that take the unorthodox approach can break through and succeed. Notice if there are any unique trends in how your competitors are operating. Why they are working?

Speed Wins. To execute a real, full-court press, my girls had to be fitter, faster and more aggressive than the competition. Through conditioning, we were a low-latency team. We played the game at a much higher and inexhaustible speed than anyone else, giving us a huge advantage over our bigger, stronger and more skilled competition.

Just as there’s no reason our team should wait until the other team gets to our end of the court to start defending, there’s no value in receiving data that could increase a company’s sales a month after the event. Enterprises should be taking an offensive stance and act on events in real time.

As a coach, I looked at the data on the court – the shot clock, the number of inbound passes, spatial geometry, shots made, the speed of our team vs. the others, etc. – and realized speed was our advantage. This is the case in business, as well. It’s not enough for companies to justcollect data. To actually see positive outcomes, businesses need to continuously process and analyze fast data in real time and take instant action. Be a low-latency business. When it comes to winning, speed is everything.

Work like a jazz band. Even on a ragtag team, everyone has a role to play and every one is vital to its success. We had two experienced players, but the rest of the team, like me, had never played the game. The challenge was how to leverage all the players in a way that would lead to victory.

These were girls who spent their time solving math problems and dreaming of becoming marine biologists, not playing sports. Rather than tell them how I thought the game should be played, I had to appeal to reason. Basketball was a math problem, and that was something the girls could understand. We developed a math equation that would ensure we would win every time. They learned the roles they each needed to play in this equation.

It all came together as a symphony but it wasn’t the structured music of a marching band like the other teams. Rather than read off sheet music and march to the same beat, our team created its own sound, its own game. The typical rhythm of a basketball game goes like this: after a player scores, the other team has five seconds to inbound the ball. Typically, this goes uncontested. That I saw to be a missed opportunity. My girls contested the inbounder, disrupting the rhythm of the game. We played more like an improvisational jazz band, agile, quick and adaptable to changes, resulting in a beautifully orchestrated force.

In the 20th-century business world, corporations were structured and predictable like a Sousa marching band. Over the last century, however, enterprises have evolved a more jazz band-like environment, embracing ambiguity, risk and adventure. Jazz musicians are often more courageous than other musicians. They have faith in their ability to choose, create and dream. That makes them great. That also makes a great company.

Hire smart people, give them the freedom to improvise and innovate, take advantage of their unique strengths. The result is beautiful music.

Attitude is everything. But a coach can’t just force players to buy into such a system. I had to take a number of morale-improving steps to show them that I believed in them and our strategy. For starters, I never raised my voice at the girls. These were 12-year-old girls with enough emotional growing pain in their lives. I wanted to create a fun environment where the girls were motivated to work harder and smarter by the prospect of success, not by the threat of negativity. I let them name our plays. “Muskrat” and “Bubbles” were two of our favorites. We had a cheer that was all about the attitude, with a little humor – “1,2,3, attitude, ha!”

This is true at my company, as well. Exhibit an unshakable belief in people and they don’t want to let you down. They actually perform better. Good employees will do good work for you, regardless. Motivated and appreciated employees will do truly great work.

Turn customers into fans. Our team parents were our biggest fans who supported us at every game. They didn’t need convincing to become fans. Businesses, however, don’t have fans from the start and can no longer get away with purely a transactional relationship, not these days with so much competition from all directions.

Companies can turn customers into fans by finding better and more personal ways to engage with them. With Big Data, the amount ofinformation companies can glean from their customers is huge. Take advantage of that data to figure out what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and act on that in real time. It is no longer a struggle, if you have the right tools. Companies that do this well, andfast, have a leg-up on their competitors. They will connect with customers much more intimately. It’s these companies that are more likely to turn customers into longtime, loyal fans that drive future revenue.

Overtime. Whether you’re a CEO or a coach, there are a number of principles that apply to winning. Speed, working together, the right attitude and thinking outside the box all can yield positive results no matter what business you’re in. You don’t have to look to business gurus or books for the Holy Grail. Sometimes, the inspiration to improve your business can be found no further away than your local basketball gym.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

 

5 Traits That Make an Entrepreneur Attractive to Investors

Boris Wertz, the founder of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Version One Ventures, meets 25 startup founders a week, but only invests in about 10 the whole year. Wertz, whose portfolio includes mobile analytics firm Flurry, online clothing startup Frank & Oak, and crowdfundingsite Indiegogo, says he knows exactly the type of entrepreneur he is looking for: a great leader who knows how to make something out of nothing and grow it without killing its original essence.

“You need two types of leadership while starting a startup: In the beginning, you need the amazing entrepreneur who can get it off the ground and start building the company,” Wertz tellsInc. “But that same leader needs to be able to bring it to scale without losing the culture.”

Below, find out the five traits Wertz looks for in entrepreneurs when deciding whether to invest. “When we see all these traits in one entrepreneur or company, we get excited,” he says. “You rarely see all five, but you can work on a few.”

1. The big idea, explained

The first sign of a great entrepreneur, Wertz says, is someone who has a big idea and the ability to impart it to others. “They need to have an ambitious vision, and everybody from an employee to a partner to an investor gets it right away,” Wertz says. “It sounds so simple, but it’s actually not. A lot of people lose themselves in too many details, or don’t have a big vision.”

2. Dedication 

The second trait is single-minded dedication. Wertz says his firm looks for people who cannot be talked out of their vision and who cannot stop working on it until it’s up and running. They look for doers, not just good orators. “They live for the startup. We love the people who can’t stop talking about their startup, even if it gets nerdy–we look for that incredible drive and passion and hard work,” he says. “They can’t imagine anything else other than building that startup.”

3. Focus 

Launching a startup is intense and takes a tremendous amount of focus and prioritization. If a CEO is worried about PR, marketing, and partnerships before the product or service is airtight, then there’s a problem. Wertz says the entrepreneurs he invests in only care about a few things, but execute them perfectly. “The best entrepreneurs know the one to three things that matter and only focus on nailing those one, two, or three things. The more focused an entrepreneur is on an opportunity the more excited we get, because they are only worried about the most important things, and that’s what will make the startup successful,” he says. 

4. The ability to attract talent 

“The fourth point for us is how good are they at attracting other people to work for them,” he says. If the entrepreneur thinks he or she can do it all alone, then Wertz will not invest. Once that hurdle is overcome, the question is if they can persuade people to join their startup. “In a competitive marketplace, especially for developers and engineers, do you tell a compelling enough story for why they should work for your startup instead of moving to Google, Facebook, or Amazon?” Wertz says. “It’s what we call “developer heat,” if people are good at attracting good people to their startup.”

5. Attention to unique details 

“Great entrepreneurs need to care so deeply about important details–details that matter for the culture, details that make the customer experience. Whatever it is that makes your startup great, you can’t be too high-level to care about these details,” Wertz says. “You see that in [entrepreneurs like] Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. They care about little product details that define their company.”

-Courtesy: Inc.com

Who is the Right Investor for You? That Depends on Where You Are Now.

Who is the Right Investor for You? That Depends on Where You Are Now.

The key is understanding how potential investors see you, and especially how they view the maturity stage of your startup. For example, if you have a proven product, real revenue, a big potential market, and are ready to scale up the business, every investor will be interested. On the other hand, if you are a new entrepreneur, still in the idea stage, professional investors will only tell you to come back later when you have traction (customers and revenue).

Thus your startup maturity and growth stage is the primary key to success with potential funding sources. Different types of investors tend to specialize in capitalizing on businesses at different stages.  Venture capital firms look for the most mature companies they can find, Angel investors typically deal a tier lower, while friends and family are most likely to help you get started.

It never hurts to start networking personally with all levels of investors, but sending out teasers and business plans to every name you can find on the Internet is a waste of your time and theirs. It will be much more productive to categorize your startup in one of the following five stages, and limit your investor focus accordingly:

1. “I have a great idea and I need money to turn it into a business.” For investors, this is the idea stage, where you may have a great idea, but no plan, product or customers, and probably no success record in this business domain. No professional investor will be interested at this point, so count only on yourself, friends, family and fools for money.

2. “My invention and prototype works, but I need funding to continue.” Investors call this the seed stage, where money is required to build a market and a real product. Government grants and industry partners are your best bet here, but Angel investors might give you $250,000 to $1 million, if you have the right business case and credentials.

3. “The final product works great, and all the early users love it.” You are now entering the rollout stage, with money required for marketing, hiring a full-time team and a production process. At this point, most Angel investors and a few early-stage VCs will be happy to talk, assuming you have the business model validated and a large opportunity.

4. “It’s time to scale up and I need money to keep up with demand.” Congratulations! Every investor wants to be part of yourgrowth stage, after your first $1 million in revenue. They call first investments at this stage the “A-round,” and often follow with a B-round through G-round. Growth-stage investments from VCs are usually $5 million and up.

5. “The ride has been fun, but I need money to start the next big thing.” This is the exit stage for the entrepreneur, and for all earlier investors. The new investors you need at this stage are investment bankers, private equity or competitors, to buy you out via merger or acquisition (M&A), or to go public with an initial public offering (IPO).

Obviously, maturity and growth are a continuum, so the rules are never absolute. Your startup will attract a different class of investors as it passes through each stage, just as it has to supplement and tune the team, process and product to keep up with the needs of a growing company and customer base. Tune your investor pitch and funding expectations accordingly.

Another good indicator of your real stage is the valuation you can set for your company at any given moment, to determine what portion of your equity an investor will expect of their money. Prior to the growth stage, your company valuation is limited to goodwill based on intellectual property and team experience, since you have no revenue. Future opportunity size doesn’t count in the early stages.

Contrary to popular opinion, all investor money is not the same. Friends and family believe in you, and only want to see you achieve success. Angel investors probably will know your business, and want to be mentors along the way. VCs normally come with the highest expectations of board seats, controlling votes and milestones to meet.

Don’t sign up for one expecting the other. If you want to avoid all these stage and investment considerations, you can always bootstrap the business (fund it yourself and grow organically). Otherwise, be sensitive to potential first impressions you leave on every investor, and the efficiency of your time spent on funding. You will enjoy the lifestyle a lot more when you find the right investor.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

Etsy Buys French Startup A Little Market In Its Largest Acquisition So Far

Etsy announced today that it has acquired a French company called A Little Market, a Paris-based online marketplace for handmade items. Though terms of the deal were undisclosed, Etsy says that this is its “sixth and largest acquisition to date.” A Little Market will continue to operate independently.

Previous acquisitions by Etsy, which has received $97.3 million in funding so far from Accel Partners, Union Square Ventures, and other investors, have included Trunkt, which specializes in selling artisanal goods wholesale; digital advertising company Adtuitive; and Etsy Lovers.

One of Etsy’s previous founding rounds, in which it raised $40 million led by Index Ventures in May 2012, was earmarked specifically for international expansion. In its A Little Market announcement, Etsy, which currently claims more than 40 million members, said at least 25% of its orders are shipped internationally.

“As we’ve focused on international growth, capitalizing on the strongest economies in the world has been a top priority. France is the fifth largest economy and seventh largest e-commerce market globally, and it is Etsy’s strongest non-English market,” the company said in a statement.

It added that its business in France is more than 90% import/export and that Little Market, where most goods are sold domestically, will complement its existing business.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

6 Selling Secrets That Will Help You Hire Stronger People

Just as for any sales process, there’s a funnel for recruiting: moving prospects and candidates from first contact, through the recruiting and assessment process, and ultimately into great hires.

The big steps are summarized in the graphic below. And, just as in sales, the more complex the process, the more steps in the process.

The “recruiting funnel,” as shown in this graphic from The Adler Group.

In recruiting, when the demand for talent is greater than the supply, all of the steps shown in the funnel are required. When the supply of strong talent is greater than the demand, shortcuts can be taken. This talent-surplus process is shown by the active-candidate path on the left of the funnel. The problem for most companies is that they use a surplus process even in a scarcity situation.

For most companies, the entire recruiting and hiring process is too transactional. It starts by filtering people on the basis of their skills and experiences, weeding out the weak, using the interview to minimize mistakes, and having candidates agree early on to a price range (compensation) before they even know the job. While demeaning, the process might actually work if there is an excess of top people available. If not, it will backfire: Companies will wind up working way too hard to hire people just like whom they’ve always hired.

In a talent-scarcity situation, recruiters and hiring managers actually need to talk with people and convince them that what’s being offered is better than what they have now. This process is represented by the extra two steps at the top of the funnel: getting high-quality leads and referrals, and converting these people into prospects. A prospect is someone who is fully qualified but needs more information before agreeing to become an official candidate. These extra steps are comparable to the discovery process in more complex sales: spending time to uncover the buyer’s needs and offering a custom solution. Done properly, this procedure can actually raise the quality of people hired.

Here’s how this is done:

1. Differentiate the job.

A job isn’t a list of skills, experiences, and generic responsibilities. A job is what a person does with these skills and experiences, whom he or she does it with, and the importance of the work. A career is what the person can learn and become if the work is done well. If the recruiter and hiring manager can’t describe the work this way, they’ll lose every top passive candidate they see.

Our hiring troubleshooting guide shows a number of ways to prepare these types of performance-based job descriptions. Just as in sales: The best sales reps know what they’re selling.

2. Obtain prequalified referrals.

Because most of the best people in any field find their jobs through some referral or trusted source, recruiters need to spend most of their time getting prequalified warm referrals. This is typically how the best salespeople find their best clients, and the same is true in recruiting.

3. Slow down. Sell the discussion, not the job.

People who aren’t looking aren’t impressed with recruiters who filter on skills, don’t know much about the job, negotiate the price during the first call, and rush to close. The recruiting discovery process is more like a slow dance with the recruiter always leading.

4. Conduct a gap analysis.

The objective of the discovery process is to determine if the difference in what the company is offering and what the candidate has done represents a career move. This Job-seeker’s Decision Grid will allow you to quickly determine what it would take to position your job as a career move. The big idea: Don’t let the prospect make long-term career decisions using short-term information such as compensation, location, company name, and job title.

5. Engage the hiring manager early and often.

Truly passive prospects are unlikely to become serious candidates without first having anexploratory call with the hiring manager. Though it takes some finesse on the part of the recruiter to pull this off, the call allows the passive candidate to gain more insight about the career potential of the job without too much of a commitment. The role of the hiring manager is to entice the person to seriously consider the job.

6. Close on career growth, not compensation maximization.

When a passive candidate is first contacted, a significant compensation increase is often the primary criteria for considering a move. This becomes less important if the new job represents a true career move. Unfortunately, too many recruiters and candidates filter each other out before they ever get to this level of full disclosure. That’s why some type of formal, multistep discovery process like the one described needs to be implemented.

The customer is king, except, it seems, when it comes to hiring. In order to hire the best people possible, every step of a company’s hiring process needs to be based on how the best people find jobs and why they select one opportunity over another. Few companies have designed their hiring programs from this perspective. Most are built on the false assumption that there is a surplus of great talent and all that’s necessary is to weed out the weak. In a talent scarcity situation, this will not only fail, but it will also be counterproductive, demeaning, and costly. Hiring the best and raising the talent level of a company is not a cost; it’s a strategic investment. It’s one most companies want to make, but few know how. It starts by making the candidate the king.

 

-Courtesy: Inc.com

You Have Good Ideas — Don’t Let Them Disappear

You Have Good Ideas -- Don't Let Them Disappear
Good ideas come and go every second, but what doesn’t happen very often is the capturing of those thoughts. You can have the brightest and sharpest ideas that could take your life and business to a whole new level, but they mean absolutely nothing if they’re pushed aside and forgotten.

It doesn’t matter what our education levels are or where we come from, we all have great and wonderful ideas. The only problem is that most people let the hustle and bustle of life get in the way and interrupt their ability to capture their golden ideas.

Now, you might not come up with the world’s next greatest invention (or maybe you will). But everything we use in our day-to-day lives was once just an idea. Not every idea will be worth a billion dollars, but perhaps one or two of them can change the trajectory of your business and life for the better.

We all have 24 hours in a day, no more or no less than the next person. Think about how many times where an idea or thought comes to mind but you do nothing about it. There really is no value for us if we don’t take the initiative. The other reason why it is so imperative that we capture our ideas is because coincidence or not, some of our best ideas don’t come to us in the office.

Here are three steps to take every day:

Have a system. The best way I have found to capture ideas on a regular basis is to take a systematic approach to it. We all prefer different ways of doing things. Some of us prefer electronic devices while some of us stick to the trusted pen-and-paper route.

Either way, pick what works for you and stick with it. I prefer to log all of my ideas and thoughts into evernote and then at the end of the day analyze each idea. After I dig a little deeper, I transfer the ideas that I may want to act on immediately or in the near future into my moleskin journal.

Pick the good ones. Just because you start capturing your thoughts and ideas doesn’t mean everything that comes to mind is going to be something that you will act on. Finding time alone where you can analyze what you logged for the day helps tremendously. This is where you can determine whether a specific idea is worthy of your time. Throw out what’s useless.

Make it a habit. Just like with any new habit that we try to adopt into our everyday lives, it takes time. I truly believe that if you make a determined effort on a regular basis to capture your ideas, it will greatly benefit your personal and professional life.

Of all the great men and women I have had the fortune to work with, they all knew the importance of keeping track of their thoughts and ideas. Stick with it.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

20 Reasons to Start Your Own Business

1. Spare time. This one can take some time.  Initially you’ll work longer hours for less pay.  But if you do it right, you could start to master your schedule and the freedom that being an entrepreneur provides is awesome. 

2. A story to tell. Whenever I tell someone I run my own business, they always want to know what I do, how I do it and how it’s going. I always am able to provide a tale or two, and the best part is that I get to determine the story’s chapters. (When working for a corporation, people most likely have less input.)

3. Tax benefits. For entrepreneurs (freelancers included), they have the opportunity to take advantage of some nice tax perks. Many can write off expenses like travel, food, phone bills, portions of car payments, and the list goes on. Also, certain startups qualify for government incentives. Make sure to ask your accountant about what tax benefits you may be eligible for.

4. Pride. When you build something successful, it’s a great feeling. You had a vision, were able to execute it and not can reap the benefits of saying “I did this.” On the other hand, it’s tough to be proud of the zillionth request for proposal request you fill out for your employer.

5. Your posterity. If you’re a doctor, plumber or bus driver it’s hard to imagine you passing your career on to your loved ones. But if you ownyour own business, that’s something you can pass on to the next generation. And be proud of it, because you created it.

6. Job security. Have you ever been laid off, downsized, or fired?  If you have, you get this. With entrepreneurship the security lies in the fact you are your own boss. You run the show and don’t have to worry about getting let go.

7. Networking. Entrepreneurs are communal creatures.  We love to meet each other, swap stories, and learn from each other’s experiences. Your circle of friends and acquaintances always grows when you become an entrepreneur, as many founders need others to lean on to survive and talk about the challenges only known to them.

8. Doing good. While this isn’t exclusive to entrepreneurs, it’s definitely a perk. You control where your company profits go and if you choose, you can give allocate your financial gains to others. You can sponsor a charity, a non-profit or just personally give back to the community.  This is quite honestly one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur.

9. Novelty. We, as humans, love new experiences but rarely can you experience a host of new things from inside your cubicle. This all changes when you are running the show. Starting your own business will ensure you’ll always be facing new challenge and experiencing something new.

10. Mentorship. Having had mentors and getting to be a mentor have been some of the best experiences of my life.  Learning from the masters and getting to help those less experienced than you gives you such a sense of satisfaction. From my experience (and other’s stories) the entrepreneurial community is very willing to give back and lend a helping hand.

11. Becoming an expert. This point goes along with mentorship.  Regardless of what you do as an entrepreneur, if you stick with it, you’ll probably become very good at it. And this gives you a sort of soapbox, so use it. You’ll have the chance to be interviewed for your expertise, write about it and get to spread your message.

12. Skills. People ask me how I learned about SEO, social media, pay-per-click, PR and all the other marketing techniques I utilize. I tell them that I was forced to learn them, otherwise I wouldn’t survive.  The same way I was forced to learn how to build a spreadsheet, how to balance a budget, how to negotiate leases and countless other skills I picked up because I was the only resource I had. While developing new skills can be tough and takes times, it can pay off in spades.  These skills will be invaluable throughout your life.

13. Determination. Everything I’ve done as an entrepreneur has affected me in my personal life.  I used to be poor at committing to changes. But having been an entrepreneur for over a decade has forced me to become dedicated and determined to causes. (Now I can stick to an exercise plan much easier.)  I’m also better at being a father and husband because of that determination I learned.

14. Recognition. There are literally thousands of local, regional and national awards that recognize entrepreneurs in every field and industry. This shouldn’t be your only reason to start your business, but it certainly is a great feeling when you receive this recognition.

15. Financial independence. Let’s be honest, this is probably the biggest reason people get into business for themselves.  And that’s a good thing!  You should want financial independence.  However you define financial independence – retirement stockpile, unlimited cash potential or having the money to buy what you want —  entrepreneurship can allow you to achieve it. Trust me, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does make finding happiness much easier.

16. Reinvention. I’ve started and sold several companies over my career.  And every time I sell a company, I’m presented with an opportunity to reinvent myself all over again. On the flip side, if I had received my law degree, I’d be a lawyer (not a lot of room to recreate myself). But as an entrepreneur, I get to be whatever I want to be.

17. Change the world. Everyone jokes that every entrepreneur says they’re going to change the world. It’s difficult to imagine how a cell phone accessory kiosk in the mall is going to change the world.  But there are those that do succeed.  Take a look at Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, and the countless other entrepreneurs who really have changed the world in some small (or major) way.

18. Create jobs. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you’re responsible for the success of your employees.  Your ideas provided them the opportunity to earn a living, provide for their family and fulfill their own dreams.

19. Your brand. Being known for something is awfully enjoyable.  People may start referring to you as the marketing guy, or the retail maven or the software guru.  Whatever it is you’re recognized as, it’s fun to build that brand and earn that recognition.

20. Your reason. I’ve given you a list of why I think you should get into business.  But all that really matters is your reason to start your own business.  So, what is it?  Tweet out this story and add your reason.  Comment below and share with us why you did it.  I know it will be a good one. 

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

Autopilot Launches CoPilot Sales Automation Tool

autopilot-copilot-email

Any startup worth its salt these days built a mailing list from before it even launched, but what do you do after that? How do you identify the best leads from all of those random people who signed up for your service? Fresh off its $10 million Series B funding round,marketing automation service Autopilot today announced the launch of its CoPilot email sales automation tool, which aims to make it easy for companies to find and engage their prospects with the help of automated email flows

While it uses much of the same technology as Autopilot, CoPilot is geared towards salespeople and not marketers, says CEO and co-founder Michael Sharkey, who founded the company together with his brothers Peter and Chris. He argues that the worlds of marketing and sales technologies are starting to converge. Right now, “in one corner marketing has marketing automation, in another corner sales has CRM,” he said. “But there is this third corner where sales development representatives live and that’s who CoPilot focuses on.”

The service aims to remove all of the manual tasks that sales development teams often spend much of their days on and automatically engages prospective clients through automated outbound campaigns. Ideally, thanks to automating most of the prospecting steps, the first time a sales person actually has a conversation with a potential client, it’ll be about getting a deal done, Sharkey tells me.

autopilot-copilot-stats

Those campaigns can be tweaked based on a client’s behavior, and CoPilot automates follow-ups based on the recipient’s actions. The service also provides sales teams with a real-time feed of a prospect’s actions from within the email.

Unsurprisingly, CoPilot is integrated with Autopilot’s Prospect Ace, which allows companies to verify their email lists using social profiles. The service also allows companies to import their existing lists using CSV files. The team tells me the service is also integrated with Salesforce Sync, and the plan is to add more solutions and data providers directly over time, so users won’t need to rely on CSV files.

CoPilot is now available for sign-up, with prices starting at $39 per month and seat, which allows a company to send up to 5,000 monthly emails.

Path Looks To Combine Commerce And Messaging With TalkTo Acquisition, Release Of New ‘Talk’ App

It’s been a rough year for private social networking app Path. The company has seen disappointing growth in many major markets, layoffs, and the departure of some key execs over the last 12 months. But while Path has largely remained quiet, the company has been working on a plan behind the scenes to switch up its business.

Today, Path is unveiling everything that it has been working on during that time — including the launch of a new standalone messaging app, its acquisition of business messaging service TalkTo, and what could be the start of a new revenue model for the company.

Path’s Messaging Ambitions

While downloads in some big markets have slowed, Path is still seeing users come back to its app. According to founder and CEO Dave Morin, the company is seeing about 4 million DAUs per day, versus around 1.5 million at the beginning of the year. Southeast Asia is now its biggest market, with the U.S. coming second, but Path is also seeing some user growth from the Middle East.

The main thing that keeps users coming back, that keeps driving engagement, is messaging. Since launching the feature a year ago, it’s been the fastest-growing feature of the app, according to Morin.

That growth comes despite the proliferation of messaging platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. It’s also despite the fact that Path’s messaging function was mostly hidden in a drawer off to one side of the app.

With the release of Path Talk, the company hopes to correct that by making an app based solely around one of its most popular features. The new messaging app takes advantage of features that the Path team has already built. For instance, users can connect with their existing Path login credentials.

Path Talk has ambient status updates that let friends know when you’re traveling, when you’re nearby, and when you have a low battery. But it only shows the most recent — and most interesting — updates to friends.

path talk 3

The app enables swipe-based quick replies to enable users to acknowledge messages, or question things that were sent to them. Users can also send stickers, just as they could in the old Path app. It also allows users to easily send links to media, like movies, music and books, as well as maps, locations, photos and videos through a single tap.

Path Talk also includes a few new features — like messages that disappear after 24 hours and the option of sending voice messages to other users — that it hopes will set it apart from existing messaging platforms.

But at its core, Path Talk was built as a way for users to quickly express themselves through a combination of text, media, and stickers that its existing users already love.

Updates To The Core Path App

While Path is introducing a whole new messaging app, the company is still keeping its core app available. In fact, it’s updated the app to simplify navigation and increase engagement.

Path 4.0 has moved all its core navigation to the bottom of the app, rather than hiding different features in drawers on either side of the main user interface. That enables users to access their notifications, friend list, and other features from any page within the app.

Since it released Path Talk, the company has done away with the messaging feature within its original app. Now clicking through the messaging tab will open up Path Talk if it’s installed.

If not, it will show how many messages users have accrued in the meantime. It’s clearly meant to nudge users to install the new app.

One surprising change to the app that’s flown under the radar: Path has removed its limit on the number of friends that users can connect to. While it previously held users to fewer than 150 friends, now they can add as many contacts as they want.

But the big thing here is that Path will continue to support and add new features to its core app, according to Morin.

TalkTo Acquisition Brings Text Messaging For Business

For Path, launching a standalone messaging app is only one part of the company’s future business plan. The other part comes through its acquisition of business messaging platform TalkTo.

The idea behind TalkTo was based on what co-founder Stuart Levinson saw as a fundamental shift in behavior, from communicating via voice to communicating via text.

Consumers have gotten used to sending short messages and getting a near-instantaneous response from each other. But phone conversations with businesses tend to take a lot longer — especially if someone gets passed around to different customer service departments before getting a response.

TalkTo founder Stuart Levinson

To enable TalkTo users to communicate with businesses via text, the company had a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, it worked with businesses to enable them to answer questions directly from existing and potential customers.

And for all those companies it didn’t have a business relationship with, TalkTo built out a distributed workforce that effectively worked like a call center to make calls for users, and then respond to their inquiries via text.

TalkTo, which was once a Startup Battlefield finalist, was picked up in a cash-and-stock deal, but otherwise terms weren’t disclosed.

Combining Commerce And Messaging

With the acquisition, Path is hoping to eventually embed that same capability into its messaging app. In fact, Morin said that Path Talk will add “Places” alongside “People” in the bottom navigation bar in its next release, slated for later this summer.

“We want to bring a differentiated and powerful new use case to our users,” Morin said. “We want to bring commerce and messaging together in a way that is user-first.”

Not only will that mean adding a new feature to its app — messaging businesses nearby — but it also has the potential to change Path’s business model going forward.

Since the release of its first “sticker packs” about 18 months ago, Path’s monetization has been driven through the sale of virtual goods. About six months after that, it added a yearly subscription offering to its à la carte sticker sales.

TalkTo’s revenues were also based on a “Premium” model, where users paid a small fee per month to have their messages “fast-tracked” and answered more quickly.

According to Levinson, about 75 percent of all questions posed on TalkTo are expressing an intent to purchase something. To some businesses, those requests might count as “highly qualified leads” — in other words, something they’d be willing to pay for. And that could give Path a new line of business that doesn’t rely on advertising or micro-transactions.

The Reinvention Of Path?

The big question is, ‘Will it work?’

Can Path give users a good reason to download yet another messaging app? And even if they do, can it prove that people want to text businesses the same way they want to message other people?

For its part, Path seems to believe that it’s created a compelling enough experience around messaging to warrant a whole new app. Through status updates, media sharing and the like, Path Talk combines a whole lot of features that will differentiate it from other messaging platforms that are already out there.

“We had this realization that messaging is the killer app of mobile,” Morin said. “There have been a lot of folks that have approached messaging on a one-to-one basis. But we wanted to take it further… What if it wasn’t just a messaging app but a messaging hub?”

As for texting businesses, TalkTo had users — it just didn’t have a business model that aligned the interests of consumers and businesses as well as each would like. But it seems like that will change as part of Path’s new messaging platform.

Regardless of whether or not this idea of mixing commerce and messaging actually takes off, it seems like that’s not the only thing Path has up its sleeve.

Rather than betting everything on a single user experience, the company is now pursuing a multi-app strategy, according to Morin. That means it could break out other features that had once been embedded in its original core app and let them stand on their own.

Of course, that could result in a lack of focus, as Path builds and maintains multiple different apps in tandem, but hey — maybe that’s a good thing.

Maybe, after being singularly focused on adding features to the core Path experience over the last three-and-a-half years, it’s time to experiment.

Maybe it’s time for Path to throw a little spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.