25 Startup Lessons I Wish I Would've Known

Honest, real advice from an overworked startup entrepreneur.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I'm back & would love to help you!

Readers! Friends!

I'm just now reviewing this blog again. Ah, life. She's a doozy. I've had so very much fun (and yes, tears, too) since launching TechInspire.Me in 2011.

What a ride. Also very grateful to have grown a lot since then in terms of my direction. So I'm glad to be sharing it right now with you.

Thanks for joining in!

So I'm definitely going to start to do video. I'm going to keep this space open for inspiration, motivation and all that science and technology enables. And I'd love for you to continue to join me. I'm going to be fixing things up here. You know, like those broken images.

Blogs that haven't been looked at in a while are horrible. I'm trying to get everything back in working order. So bare with me.


For now, the prototype is live. And! I'm in search of new, amazing clients to help and be helped by. Can we share an experience to become better leaders? Please get in touch, I really enjoy collaborating on projects I love.

Check out my new Hire Me page and let's connect.

Let's schedule a chat! Alternatively, TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn.

Warm regards,
Erica Grigg

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Product Management 101: 5 Ways to Creating an Awesome Website

Creating a product for non-technical co-founders is no simple task. It's something I've been struggling with over the past several weeks. On the private beta launch of our newest website, Passionly, we're in the midst of working on making an awesome product. That's why I'm breaking down the foundation for entrepreneurs and startups alike. Let's get straightforward with what tasks to do first.

I've chatted with others and this seems to be the mythical task. A mix of figuring out what UI to cover up your useful website. As an entrepreneur focused on a technical, product-focused project, I've been considering how I'm going to create a product our (Passionly closed beta) subscribers will like. So with transparency, I'm writing up recommendations here!

So let's get started. There are two parts. Strategy and implementation.

Strategy 

1. Understand your objectives

Just as any campaign--from business development to marketing--make sure you understand your goals. This is harder than you'd think. I've seen entire campaigns go awry without iterating the most important objectives. It can't be just re-tweets, Facebook shares or website clicks. What do you really want to do? How do you specifically want to help your customers? If you don't want to help your customers live easier/better lives, you should just step away from your computer right now. The internet of things is big enough. Don't waste our time.

How? Think back to your business model canvas value propositions. Ensure you're measuring how your customers are gaining from using your website.

Implementation 

2.  Eat your own dog food

Understanding the pressure points of your customer is best done when you use and abuse your own product. When you have a QA team in place, this isn't such a big deal. When you are your own best tester, get familiar with your objectives (see number 4 below). Does your site not meet those specific needs of your customers? Is it "difficult" to do the specific task your website was created for? You need to re-think your usability.

3. Build analytics into your product

There's no way to manage what you can't measure. Understanding bounce rates is one thing, but there's a whole world of analytics outside bounce rates. Considering the lean startup model (like I am), it's not necessary to measure every single action customers take on your site. However, for the most important tasks/actions you want them to take, make sure you're measuring those. And, of course, demographics of your most enthusiastic audience. Refining them will ensure you can advertise for that audience specifically.

How? This is easily assessed on the newest version of Google Analytics. If there are elements (which there always will be) use a mix of measurement and analytics tools to find the data you need to measure your (above) objectives.

4. When analytics fail, survey

Surveys are easy to create on tools like Surveymonkey. As my recommendation for beta launches, make sure you're measuring with surveys (in addition to other forms of tools). Surveymonkey is a great recommendation, and feedback to 100 respondents is completely free (the one down side: your branding won't be visible on your surveys).

5. Understand design & usability best practices

Websites are getting better and better. They're responding to the responsive nature of the web market place. This means for entrepreneurs and startups, it can be difficult to keep up. You don't need to use Ajax and fancy flash tools when you're first establishing your beta launch. But if you want to excel in your industry, finding the right mix of usability and good design will go far.

How? Smash Magazine has some great web design best practices and Mashable has been talking frequently about excellent design for responsive web design. What could be more important though, even more than a good looking website, is one that actually works. For this, consider usability best practices.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

25 Startup Lessons I Wish I Would've Known

Since starting what was then "GetLusty for Couples" last August (now Passionly), let's just say I have been busy. Like, spend your weekends working busy. Like not going to Christmas busy (sorry, mom!). I made mistakes that any entrepreneur would have made.

With all that distilled into several pieces, I'm going to divuldge what I have learned. The stupid (and not so stupid) mistakes that I just feel like I shouldnt've made (and neither should you). I’ve been writing my startup lessons for weeks (months?) now and I thought I’d share them with you. Why? Because like others, I feel like honesty kind of rocks.

We reserve honesty to a time when we absolutely no other choice. How about sharing some best practices. Because entrepreneurship and #startuplife are hard. Are you an entrepreneur? Want to quit your day job (or maybe not) and start a business? Take it from someone who’s spent some serious time doing it. This isn't my first business and likely won't be my last. Let's collectively get better as a community and reach out for help when we need it.

So let's get to it! 

#1 Let your goals guide you (whatever that means to you).

Wandering aimlessly is adventurous. However, most of the time it’s unfruitful. Think strategically (and incrementally) about what you want. Take 3 or 6 months in the future and ponder with your co-founders (those are handy). Then, turn those goals into real-life deliverables. What do you need to do by tomorrow? Then, go do it. Santa couldn't be wrong with his whole checklist thing.

Want to ensure your tasks meet the needs of your business. How about using something like LeanLaunchLab? While I haven't used it myself, the product itself sounds pretty interesting. Alternatively, SmartQ lets you visualize your tasks for the more visual/creative folks.

#2 Don’t waste time feeling frustrated about your mistakes.

Fix it, learn from your error and move on. Dwelling on the past only disables you to move on. It can feel so emotionally empowering (or so you think) to really consider where you went wrong, why, how and who brought you to that place. Well, 2 weeks pass and you realize you just missed some really important consideration because you're daydreaming about your mistake. Learn. Kvetch. Then move.

#3 Enjoy the moment.

This is a hard one for entrepreneurs. I know because I am one. Never satisfied. Feeling like there's no time for savoring the moment. "Yeah, I did that really well. I should thank myself." I'm not talking about a whole weekend off (God forbid). I'm talking about finding out what you really enjoy on the way there and treating yourself. Entrepreneurship should be fun. If it’s not, you need to re-energize.

#4 Don’t get burnt out.

This is similar to #3 but goes farther. Be conscientious about enjoying and being fruitful in where you are. When you enjoy the moment, you're less likely to burn out. What about noting the warning signs of burnout? Especially if your work feels like work—ie. It’s an activity you don’t enjoy doing. Sometimes it’s necessary and you simply have to do sales and you hate it. Well, you can only grow from that instance. But along the way, reward yourself for being such a good sport. What a good salesperson you were (for example)!

#5 Know what 'work smarter' means to you.

There’s a lie circulating that small business owners don’t work a lot. That’s a lie. Well, not exactly. In most business models, a certain number of hours per week is needed to sustain the growth of the company. Take the consultancy model. You create a list of high priced businesses and broker the time of subcontractors. While that's not as high-touch as say, a cafe or restaurant (which takes tons more time), your level of time commitement should match your personal needs.

Say what? You haven't considered your personal needs here? Mistake. If your goal is to be hands-off (and have more of a 4-hour work week for example), then do consider that during your own feasibility research. Testing and validating your business model is something you should be doing  constantly.

#6 Coffee, coffee, coffee. 

Whether you are or aren't a coffee drinker, you might want to consider it. More specifically, there are numerous health benefits to a caffeine kick. Coffee doesn’t only increase productivity, but it could also have some other unexpected health benefits. For example, according to a few media outlets siting scientific studies internationally, coffee appears to increase life expectancy for individuals with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, according to a large 2012 study. Drinking coffee could also decrease the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer's.

#7 Believe in yourself. 

You’ll have small battles with yourself or your project schedule (Will that marketing campaign work? What were we thinking with that activity?). Finding the courage to believe in your gut feeling and stop the self-doubt will move you to the next direction. Don’t fool yourself into thinking every other entrepreneur doesn’t doubt themselves, either.

#8 Take advice with a grain of salt. 

As someone who values’ others opinions, I’ve occasionally put myself in a position of self-doubt. Do others have the answers and I don’t? Maybe that investor was right and we should’ve done X. We should completely re-think our model. No. Re-think why you’re doing what you’re doing—and be defensible, of course. But don’t take all advice with the same weight. Just consider it. This sounds silly, but in the initial stages of a startup, the wrong advice can be deadly.

#9 Learn how to run an assembly line. Oops, I mean project management.

Keeping all the areas of your startup going at the same time is basically like an assembly line. Think about when Lucille Ball and her friend Ethel were working on a chocolate assembly line. They started falling behind and everything became a mess. Managing and monitoring your startup activities are the same way.
Considering the direction of your startup, the skill of project management is absolutely invaluable and similar to an assembly line. Sure, there’s PMI--where you could go and get an official certificate. But what's important is making lists of tasks, resources (even if that’s you) and budgetary constraints. There’s a whole variety of ways to reflect the tasks you need to do today and maybe you're not a 'list' person. Find what kind of project scheduling software or visual representations work for you and stick with them.

#10 Measure, measure, measure. 

If the Lean Startup (by Eric Ries) taught us anything, it’s that product matters. Your customers matter. And those are basically it. Measuring what’s happening as reflected by your project schedule will not only keep you on track. It will ensure your project and startup are on the right track. In the specific measurement that works for you and your startup.

#11 Make time for sex.

As someone who's in charge of a sex startup, it's been ironic that my sex faltered at one point. Somewhere between working on the weekends and forgetting about my personal health (think sitting a lot and eating too much), I realized health is important. It's one of GetLusty's 5 pillars of an amazing sexual relationship. It's hard to tell others how to have great sex if I never plan it for myself--duh! This goes not just for sex but things that you find fun and relaxing. Having great sex? Now that's the ultimate, awesome relaxation.

#12 Incubators don’t help. But they don’t hurt.

I've been a member of multiple co-working spaces. From London's Hub Islington (I miss you, London!) to VentureSHOT in Chicago. I've had interesting conversations, but one of the most important values of incubation is their access to resources. So consider wisely before investing time and money into incubation space without a clear goal. Are you looking for a board of advisers, advice or just an awesome view?

#13 Stay passionate.

Staying passionate is a highly personal lesson. For me, I realized multiple times throughout the process I'd lost my mojo. The startup metaphorically kicked my ass, and yours will kick your ass, too. The more you can hold onto your mission (for me: empowering women sexually) the more you can make the emotional decision to invest in your startup. Because beyond money and time, you're investing your spirit.

#14 Plan – it’s the best way you’re going to get ahead.

Planning is easy. It's not harder than you think. Surprisingly, it's not the planning but the implementation that will be the killer task. Make a clear plan to start off, you'll make the implementation phase a lot easier.

#15 Plan, plan, plan. But when your plans don’t go as planned—go to plan B. 

Your perfect little plan is beautiful. It's going to be important, but there will be tasks you'll have to ditch. Now what? Like a boxer in the ring, you need to roll with the punches. Although some might say, "Don't make a plan B, because you might leave room for Plan A to fail", I see it slightly differently.

If you've made a project plan, understand all your tasks likely will never--ever get done. Make room for your errors and know you're going to do a lot of improvising. Project planning is one of the hardest thing to do for entrepreneurs (think: knowing what's most important, when and how long to do it before moving onto priority number 2).

Even Scrum project schedules can't reflect the need for constant change in a startup environment. (Unless you have a scrum startup.) The bottom line: when your tasks don't get done, don't freak (or if you do, make sure it's good). Move onto plan be and be flexible. When things go sideways, think nimble and get creative. Like loosing your underwear before a big conversation with your investor. Solution: bring a clipboard. Life is for the living, anyway, right?

#16 Laugh a little.

Entrepreneurship can be a scary world. What makes you happy? Laughing can bring you closer to that thing called the "good life", which is ultimately... Happiness. Laughing can make you feel genuine happiness--not the material kind. Laughter can make you healthier by boosting your immune system, protecting your circulation and heart development among other benefits. Think about it. Make room in your life for happiness. If you don't constantly think about what makes you happy--you'll get sucked into your to do list.

#16 Publicize yourself.

Your personal brand is important and should be cultivated, too. Even as a marketer my entire career, I forgot about the blogging, or the opportunities I did have weren't topical or newsworthy. I missed out on quite a lot (from a marketing and PR perspective).

Every chance you have, write! Write about your startup, your experience and especially how your experience feeds into your startup. As a co-Founder or even a startup employee, you need to be shamelessly advertising (to your target audience). Further, if you move onto do something non-entrepreneurial, it'll help to have self promotion under your belt.

#17 Refine your pitch.

I was lucky enough to attend the Melissa Pierce's Pitch Refinery in 2012 during the nascent stages of GetLusty. Though I honestly made what I felt was the worst pitch, I was glad I'd told it to a crowd. Knowing your 'angle' is super important, and taking in into consideration for those (above identified) target audiences makes a big difference. Everyone resonates differently to your story, so have a few ideas on hand for relating to your audience (in my past venture, it'd be sustainability. Now it's dildos or dating. Similar, right?).

#18 Eat right & sleep. It’s going to help you later.

Having a healthy body and mind keeps you on your toes while also making you feel happier. Sleeping and happiness have been clearly linked together. In the same vein, a diet of junk food can actually make you angry. Some even argue unhealthy and junky foods could be linked with mental illness. So doing avoid eating right or being physically active just because you, "don't have time." Find the time for your health or find yourself sick (physically).

#18 Get along with your business partners.

One of the biggest problem startup Founders find are issues with their co-Founders. There are several considerations there. First off, make sure you choose your team carefully. There are even new services like Matchist to identify co-Founders. Secondly, work with your partners patiently and in a non-emotional/professional way. This is much easier said than done but keep your issues professional and compliment one another.

Personal note: I had a particularly difficult time being in a startup with my husband particularly because there's such a lack of information about couples and startups. Although there is one awesome book from Brad Feld called, "Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur"--I wish I would've known about that one!

#19 Find the right startup colleagues.

But know everyone isn't going to work with your startup. If not, do both of you a favor and move on. If you're a founder/co-founder hiring in a startup environment, please consider taking advice from a knowledgeable HR professional. In a startup, your colleagues are your life blood. Take that seriously or part ways. You should be able to tell within the first 4 hours whether someone will fit in or not. There is simply no time to make mistakes, so start with the interview process. If you have any hesitations, don't move forward.

#20 Attend networking events regularly.

Networking has many benefits--it could even make you smarter. Further, getting to know your community will simultaneously enrich your social life, give you valuable time to pitch and meet others dealing with the same startup mentality.


#21 Investors may call. 

In fact, there are some middle men that seem to think they'll find you an investor (whether that's series A, B, C or a buyer). Number 1, that doesn't encourage transparency. Why aren't you finding those folks? Number 2, middle men control the finances. I'm not alone in rejecting the middle man, Mark Suster agrees, too. It's hard enough to organizing your own financing. Let alone someone else mucking things up with their contacts. Plus, some of these VC finders want a fee. Really? If you're looking for funding, think strategically about where you're going to find it and how. Don't blindly accept help from someone who claims they'll give you $10,000+ of consulting time for free (unless you're in an incubator-style program).

#22 Don't forget content. 

Make a content strategy for your customer-facing bits. Content is now a core component to many startups and companies across the internet. Whether it's for SEO or to find customers (both B2B and B2C), having a solid foundation of content can be essential. What's the point, though? What do you want to be found for, anyway? Having clear goals and expectations with your social media and blogging strategy (among your other content - think: media, SEO, etc) will bring you far.

#23 Don't be afraid to delegate. 

You can't do everything. Delegating tasks to your co-founders or employees can help you do more. However, do consider if the task would be best to delegate -- because not all tasks should be delegated. There are even quizzes to know when you should delegate. Don't be stupid to think that you can do everything. Or do it in a silo. Communicating with your fellow startup colleagues is absolutely essential. Delegating and just, "getting shit done" is just as important as strategy.

#24 If you do delegate, follow up

Make sure that task gets done. Never be in the shadows of your fellow startup colleagues. Daily or weekly meetings are a great way to keep in touch on what's the plan. Although quarterly or even monthly project schedules might not work (as noted in Part 2 of my startup lessons), having an agile project methodology could work. As Steve Blank has noted, startups are really just a bunch of assumptions and hypotheses, so how about testing the best project management model that will suit your startup?

#25 Always know why.  

If you’re delegating someone else to do that task, ensure they know goals and a rough idea of why you need that task completed. Things can get confused along the way. If you're delegating tasks to others, provide reasons why that task is needed especially. Don't let others--or yourself--not be proactive as to whether you need to do that activity, or what it's purpose is. Think for a few seconds and potentially cross reference your project schedule. Is this task getting in the way of a bigger task? Don't stop others from proactively considering the purpose of different activities. Could you be more efficient? Then you should do it.

Well! That concludes my startup lessons. Have your own ideas that you'd like to share? Comment below!

Two Ways Marriage is Broken & How My Startup (Helped)

Get ready because I'm going to be blogging about love, sex, marriage and startups more frequently. The intersection between these four topics is never talked about. And frankly, busy, tech-savvy folks need to know they have help when they need it most.

* * *

Marriage, as love, is a loaded word. Its definition has a deeply cultural context. It’s a ritual, a recognized union or legal contract between spouses. It’s an agreement or contract establishes rights and obligations. But it’s principally an institution which intimate and sexual relationships are acknowledged.

Throughout the several marriage and renewal of vows ceremonies my husband and I have had, I had mixed reactions from participants and on-lookers. A majority of people who greeted us were congratulatory. Some were disillusioned with the idea of marriage. They’d gone through messy divorces. Hated their former spouses. Wished they’d never done it.

Since starting a site dedicated to the love and sex lives of couples in 2012, I’ve also heard this many times: “If I only had your site during my marriage, I think I would be together today.” Sustaining deeply fulfilling love and sex lives in long-term relationships is difficult if not nearly impossible some days. So it would seem there are two gaps in marriage. The premise and the actual marriage itself.

The premise of marriage

First, the premise of marriage is broken. Why couples believe is their purpose for getting married. Again, it’s cultural. (This means each one of us controls what it means to our marriage.) Of lately, what some argue is Instead of thinking of our long-term love as just that, western couples think about the short-term expense of the engagement ring and the wedding.

And I understand. I’ve had my own share of impatience for the difficult times in my long-term relationship. I’ve been asked by at least one family member when we’ll get ‘officially’ married. In front of God. Versus actually having a strong relationship--which is the harder part.

The one question we should be asking is, “Why are we getting married, anyway?” One article suggests maybe we should re-think the idea of marriage. In order to change and move forward the institution, let’s change the premise. The purpose. Marriage as an institution about love and sex. Because marriage is so deeply ingrained in culture, that means we have control over what it means to us and how we practice it.

I like Jill Filipovic’s definition, “It's a choice, entered into because two people are committing to build a unique social and legal relationship premised on mutual respect, love and a shared life vision.”

Sexy marriage in practice

But let’s not forget the sex. One of the top reasons for divorce, sex has been one of those taboo topics for too long. Something that’s just supposed to, “happen” on your wedding night (and throughout your marriage). But instead of happening, millions of couples live in sexless marriages. And when we do have sex, it’s pretty much always the same. According to the Kinsey Institute, 70% of couples admit the only position they do consistently is missionary. We’re a society of bored, unsexy married couples.

One quick thing which I can't even fully issue is the inequality issue. For example, for whom is the sex even for? We've heard we should have sex everyday for our husbands time and time again. We women supposed to put out to please our husbands. Again, according to Jill Filipovic, “The Douthat-approved model is marriage as a unit of transactional economics, where women get financial security from a male partner and a male partner gets sex and someone to take care of his home life.”

What we're doing at my new startup, Passionly, is invite both partners to think proactively about their love and sex lives in the context of marriage. Sure, less couples are getting married, but that doesn't that show us we need to be re-thinking marriage?!

Enter Passionly: the thinking couples hub for your sexiest marriage

Besides differences in our ideas of the purpose of marriage, the practice is other broken area of marriage. Even couples with the best of intentions have no clear direction. The problem is, as it stands, there are few tools to help keep marriage sexy. Sure, there are dozens of books to read about communication. And volumes of books are dedicated to sexual techniques, seduction and foreplay. But when it comes to finding the time. Creating schedules and sending each other loving and sexy texts, things fall flat. Other obligations get in the way.

What’s more, the women's perspective is so many times lost. Those ever-present, "please your man" ideas from "sexperts" that simply may not understand the context of today's modern relationship. From women-centric porn recommendations to communication balanced with sexual ideas, we’re excited to help couples just like you re-think your marriage. We have therapist and psychologist-driven one week to one-month long sex and love challenges, an archive of 300+ articles on everything from BDSM to pegging. Everything a couple could think of to re-think every aspect of their own marriage.

Our closed beta has garnered approval from numerous participants. For example, one beta subscriber said, "I love the progression of the challenges, and I like the whole tone of the website - it approachable, like a close friend made the site for you."

The world’s first love & sex dashboard

We count our calories. We measure our friends and social status. Isn't it time to measure and improve our love lives?

But our love and sex lives are far more complicated, so they can’t be counted. At Passionly, we don't think so. In fact, we think being able to communicate why and how you feel, you increase your emotional intelligence. We think you’ll have a happier, sexier and more healthy marriage when you actively think about what you want. That when you challenge yourself and your spouse to dig deeper sexually and emotionally--you’ll get more out of your relationship.

Join us in re-thinking marriage. We need beta participants!

Would you like to be part of the revolution that’s changing the way we think about sex and marriage? We need beta subscribers. Join us and change the face of marriage. Sign up on our Launchrock page here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

25 Startup Lessons I Wish I Would've Known (Part 5 of 5)

Since starting as what was known as "GetLusty for Couples" last August (now just GetLusty.com including GetLusty Couples and GetLusty Singles), let's just say I have been busy. Like, spend your weekends working busy. Like not going to Christmas busy (I'll never be forgiven--goodness that was a mistake). I made mistakes that any entrepreneur would have made considering and always taking into account the over 40+ conversations I had with entrepreneurs here around 1 year ago just before starting GetLusty.

With all that distilled into several pieces, I'm going to divulge what I have learned. The stupid (and not so stupid) mistakes that I just feel like I shouldnt've made (and neither should you). I’ve been writing my startup lessons for weeks (months?) now and I thought I’d share them with you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Want to quit your day job (or maybe not) and start a business? Take it from someone who’s spent some serious time doing it. This isn't my first business and likely won't be my last. How about learning lessons from our mistakes and collectively getting better? Let's continue.

#21 Investors may call. 

In fact, there are some middle men that seem to think they'll find you an investor (whether that's series A, B, C or a buyer). Number 1, that doesn't encourage transparency. Why aren't you finding those folks? Number 2, middle men control the finances.

I'm not alone in rejecting the middle man, Mark Suster agrees, too. It's hard enough to organizing your own financing. Let alone someone else mucking things up with their contacts. Plus, some of these VC finders want a fee. Really? If you're looking for funding, think strategically about where you're going to find it and how. Don't blindly accept help from someone who claims they'll give you $10,000+ of consulting time for free (unless you're in an incubator-style program).

#22 Don't forget content. 

Make a content strategy for your customer-facing bits. Content is now a core component to many startups and companies across the internet. Whether it's for SEO or to find customers (both B2B and B2C), having a solid foundation of content can be essential. What's the point, though? What do you want to be found for, anyway? Having clear goals and expectations with your social media and blogging strategy (among your other content - think: media, SEO, etc) will bring you far.

#23 Don't be afraid to delegate. 


You can't do everything. Delegating tasks to your co-founders or employees can help you do more. However, do consider if the task would be best to delegate -- because not all tasks should be delegated. There are even quizzes to know when you should delegate. Don't be stupid to think that you can do everything. Or do it in a silo. Communicating with your fellow startup colleagues is absolutely essential. Delegating and just, "getting shit done" is just as important as strategy.

#24 If you do delegate, follow up

Make sure that task gets done. Never be in the shadows of your fellow startup colleagues. Daily or weekly meetings are a great way to keep in touch on what's the plan. Although quarterly or even monthly project schedules might not work (as noted in Part 2 of my startup lessons), having an agile project methodology could work. As Steve Blank has noted, startups are really just a bunch of assumptions and hypotheses, so how about testing the best project management model that will suit your startup?

#25 Always know why.  

If you’re delegating someone else to do that task, ensure they know goals and a rough idea of why you need that task completed. Things can get confused along the way. If you're delegating tasks to others, provide reasons why that task is needed especially. Don't let others--or yourself--not be proactive as to whether you need to do that activity, or what it's purpose is. Think for a few seconds and potentially cross reference your project schedule. Is this task getting in the way of a bigger task? Don't stop others from proactively considering the purpose of different activities. Could you be more efficient? Then you should do it.

Well! That concludes my startup lessons. Join me here at TechInspireMe to continue the conversation on startups, marketing, digital and the future of inspiring technology.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

25 Startup Lessons I Wish I Would've Known (Part 4 of 5)

Since starting as what was known as "GetLusty for Couples" last August (now just GetLusty.com including GetLusty Couples and GetLusty Singles), let's just say I have been busy. Like, spend your weekends working busy. Like not going to Christmas busy (I'll never be forgiven--goodness that was a mistake). I made mistakes that any entrepreneur would have made considering and always taking into account the over 40+ conversations I had with entrepreneurs here around 1 year ago just before starting GetLusty.

With all that distilled into several pieces, I'm going to divulge what I have learned. The stupid (and not so stupid) mistakes that I just feel like I shouldnt've made (and neither should you). I’ve been writing my startup lessons for weeks (months?) now and I thought I’d share them with you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Want to quit your day job (or maybe not) and start a business? Take it from someone who’s spent some serious time doing it. This isn't my first business and likely won't be my last. How about learning lessons from our mistakes and collectively getting better? Let's continue.

#16 Publicize yourself.

Your personal brand is important and should be cultivated, too. Even as a marketer my entire career, I forgot about the blogging, or the opportunities I did have weren't topical or newsworthy. I missed out on quite a lot (from a marketing and PR perspective).

Every chance you have, write! Write about your startup, your experience and especially how your experience feeds into your startup. As a co-Founder or even a startup employee, you need to be shamelessly advertising (to your target audience). Further, if you move onto do something non-entrepreneurial, it'll help to have self promotion under your belt.

#17 Refine your pitch.

I was lucky enough to attend the Melissa Pierce's Pitch Refinery in 2012 during the nascent stages of GetLusty. Though I honestly made what I felt was the worst pitch, I was glad I'd told it to a crowd. Knowing your 'angle' is super important, and taking in into consideration for those (above identified) target audiences makes a big difference. Everyone resonates differently to your story, so have a few ideas on hand for relating to your audience (in my past venture, it'd be sustainability. Now it's dildos or dating. Similar, right?).

#18 Eat right & sleep. It’s going to help you later.

Having a healthy body and mind keeps you on your toes while also making you feel happier. Sleeping and happiness have been clearly linked together. In the same vein, a diet of junk food can actually make you angry. Some even argue unhealthy and junky foods could be linked with mental illness. So doing avoid eating right or being physically active just because you, "don't have time." Find the time for your health or find yourself sick (physically).

#18 Get along with your business partners.

One of the biggest problem startup Founders find are issues with their co-Founders. There are several considerations there. First off, make sure you choose your team carefully. There are even new services like Matchist to identify co-Founders. Secondly, work with your partners patiently and in a non-emotional/professional way. This is much easier said than done but keep your issues professional and compliment one another.

Personal note: I had a particularly difficult time being in a startup with my husband particularly because there's such a lack of information about couples and startups. Although there is one awesome book from Brad Feld called, "Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur"--I wish I would've known about that one!

#19 Find the right startup colleagues.

But know everyone isn't going to work with your startup. If not, do both of you a favor and move on. If you're a founder/co-founder hiring in a startup environment, please consider taking advice from a knowledgeable HR professional (and generally--why and how you should have a HR-friendly organization when you're in the growth process). In a startup, your colleagues are the life blood of your startup. Take that seriously or part ways. You should be able to tell within the first 4 hours whether someone will fit in or not. There is simply no time to make mistakes, so start with the interview process. If you have any hesitations, don't move forward.

#20 Attend networking events regularly.

Networking has many benefits--it could even make you smarter. Getting to know your community will simultaneously enrich your social life, give you valuable time to pitch and meet others dealing with the same startup mentality.

Monday, October 21, 2013

25 Startup Lessons I Wish I Would've Known (Part 3 of 5)

Since starting as what was known as "GetLusty for Couples" last August (now just GetLusty.com including GetLusty Couples and GetLusty Singles), let's just say I have been busy. Like, spend your weekends working busy. Like not going to Christmas busy (I'll never be forgiven--goodness that was a mistake). I made mistakes that any entrepreneur would have made considering and always taking into account the over 40+ conversations I had with entrepreneurs here around 1 year ago just before starting GetLusty.

With all that distilled into several pieces, I'm going to divulge what I have learned. The stupid (and not so stupid) mistakes that I just feel like I shouldnt've made (and neither should you). I’ve been writing my startup lessons for weeks (months?) now and I thought I’d share them with you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Want to quit your day job (or maybe not) and start a business? Take it from someone who’s spent some serious time doing it. This isn't my first business and likely won't be my last. How about learning lessons from our mistakes and collectively getting better? Let's continue.

#10 Make time for sex

As someone who's in charge of a sex startup, it's been ironic that my sex faltered at one point. Somewhere between working on the weekends and forgetting about my personal health (think sitting a lot and eating too much), I realized health is important. It's one of GetLusty's 5 pillars of an amazing sexual relationship. It's hard to tell others how to have great sex if I never plan it for myself--duh! This goes not just for sex but things that you find fun and relaxing. Having great sex? Now that's the ultimate, awesome relaxation.

#11 Incubators don’t help. But they don’t hurt.

I've been a member of multiple co-working spaces. From London's Hub Islington (I miss you, London!) to VentureSHOT in Chicago. I've had interesting conversations, but one of the most important values of incubation is their access to resources. So consider wisely before investing time and money into incubation space without a clear goal. Are you looking for a board of advisers, advice or just an awesome view?

#12 Stay passionate

Staying passionate is a highly personal lesson. For me, I realized multiple times throughout the process I'd lost my mojo. The startup metaphorically kicked my ass, and yours will kick your ass, too. The more you can hold onto your mission (for me: empowering women sexually) the more you can make the emotional decision to invest in your startup. Because beyond money and time, you're investing your spirit.

#13 Plan – it’s the best way you’re going to get ahead.

Planning is easy. It's not harder than you think. Surprisingly, it's not the planning but the implementation that will be the killer task. Make a clear plan to start off, you'll make the implementation phase a lot easier.

#14 Plan, plan, plan. But when your plans don’t go as planned—go to plan B. 

Your perfect little plan is beautiful. It's going to be important, but there will be tasks you'll have to ditch. Now what? Like a boxer in the ring, you need to roll with the punches. Even Scrum project schedules can't reflect the need for constant change in a startup environment. (Unless you have a scrum startup.) The bottom line: when your tasks don't get done, don't freak (or if you do, make sure it's good). Move onto plan be and be flexible. When things go sideways, think nimble and get creative. Like loosing your underwear before a big conversation with your investor. Solution: bring a clipboard. Life is for the living, anyway, right?

#15 Laugh a little

Entrepreneurship can be a scary world. What makes you happy? Laughing can bring you closer to that thing called the "good life", which is ultimately... Happiness. Laughing can make you feel genuine happiness--not the material kind. Laughter can make you healthier by boosting your immune system, protecting your circulation and heart development among other benefits. Think about it. Make room in your life for happiness. If you don't constantly think about what makes you happy--you'll get sucked into your to do list.

Picture #1 from here. Picture #2 from here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Killer Ideas & Tools for Beta/Launch Customer Feedback

Before finishing off my 25 things I wish I would've known about starting up (part 1 and part 2 done so far), I thought I'd detail some more issues I'm dealing with as a startup co-Founder. We're on the way to creating a beta feedback group for a new feature we're adding at my current startup. I wondered, "What works best for different situations in specific feedback programs?" Below is what I found.

The background 

Sometimes, as entrepreneurs and more as business people, we can occasionally feel as if we're in a bubble. We're going against the grain. Not in touch with the average Joe; we're making products that look months, if not years, in the future. We see the future. What's the problem?

We don't know what customers want today. What are they willing to pay for? How many folks from your audience are willing to pay for said product or service? Find out and you'll rule your own entrepreneurial world. Not sure? Fail miserably. That's why you and I should value feedback.

Who are you?

With that said, let's move on. Launch early and change often is an awesome mantra. And, ironically, I'm not even talking just about Beta feedback or testing. The point of this article is more to identify feedback during phases of new product development or alterations. I'm not even talking about how to release as a beta--I'm more talking about how to get customer feedback during the release. Whether it's a Beta or not doesn't matter at this point.
Ideas 

#1 It's all about the (small) group (1-50 participants) 

I have separated the smaller from the larger customer feedback community because there could be significant differences. First off, are you considering quantitative or qualitative feedback is most important for you? This depends on the direction of your product and the value of individual feedback. You may consider small-scale feedback communities if you're doing a very niche product (your customer base will be small either way).

During this process, you'll want to consider Google+ hangouts on an X number of week basis. You'll want to start the process off with a clear definition of how long they'll use the product or what you want them to do before they provide you feedback. (Ie. They should test this, this & this feature out and then we'll come together and talk about it during the Google+ hangout). Ensure customers clearly understand how to use Google+ hangouts so there's no confusion. Also get their feedback from another tool like SurveyMonkey.

Optional (free) tool: Gri.pe: According to them, "Gripe is a much better, Better Business Bureau for the Twitter-age. We use your online word-of-mouth power on social networks and review sites to help get your complaints in the real world heard and resolved!" While I've never used this program, I just signed up and I'm going to test it out.

Optional (paid) tool: IdeaScale. According to them, "IdeaScale is an easy-to-use, yet powerful solution for the collection of feedback and ideas." Prices are freemium with several options available. I just signed up for this product (the free version) and I look forward to using its' basic features (cash-strapped startup here).

#2 Let's beef up the jam with a bigger group of participants (50-100 participants+) 

More testers means more feedback. They'll provide a little more quantitative feedback--but not much depending. More and more businesses are leveraging their most active and excitable users with new products launched in beta. With larger groups, it's harder to schedule meetings and talk in-person, though you may want to select the most avid users and talk directly with them.

Case study alert! Larger businesses like Twitter and Snapchat, for example, have opened up beta feedback groups successfully. What they've done is had a Beta option available for download on their Google groups (like the Twitter Google group process also available here). Both of those cases are primarily getting feedback from their groups on Google.

Optional tool: UserEcho. Basically, the site creates an online space for your feedback community. In their words, "On the main page of the community users will see most popular ideas, popular questions, relevant questions and most recent thanks. Also main page contains fields for searching and adding requests. It's can be completely customized by community administrator."

#3 Integrate feedback into your site

Get feedback! I sometimes kick myself for not realizing during my first few startup projects how pivotal feedback is. With the introduction of "big data", adding more data points and feedback to your site and integrating feedback into all that you do should be a consideration. Feedback can come in many forms. Integrating feedback into your site for me comes in three forms.
  • First, consider your conversion rates for the most important areas of your site. Click through versus purchase clearly indicates customers judge of value for a certain product.
  • Second, what actions do customers perfer to do versus other actions? For my site, as of October 2013, we've been media-focused and therefore get hits on our articles. We've built into our backend a way to judge how many customers click through on our multiple kinds of content, though (ie. articles, merchants & events as we have).
  • Lastly, specific widgets for feedback and/or a feedback form. If your feedback form isn't visible enough, it won't get a reaction, though. 
#4 Survey early & often

One of the best ways to get feedback so far is the survey. Sending out a clear, concise, under 5 minute survey has been our method of choice to gauge specific interests. Are my customers interested in this? Will this upcoming product help them in this way specifically? Always offer an incentive for your customers to fill out the survey today.

Optional tools: We use the above mentioned SurveyMonkey, but Google forms also works for this too (if it's not too large -- they're visual tools also aren't great). Another one is SurveyGizmo which offers relatively the same product as SurveyMonkey (another freemium product). Lastly, another one that jumped out at me is Fluid Surveys. They're another survey tool which you might enjoy. Personally, I stick with SurveyMonkey.

#5 Solicit on social media

Social media is a customer service tool so use it as such. You won't get as much in-depth responses. Especially in my line of business (sex education) where folks are not excited about publicizing to their friends our product isn't helping them get the erection they thought they'd have. How difficult. Well, if you have a more general product/widget, you can get good feedback via social media tools (think: Facebook, Twitter).

Alternatively, I've amplified the success of surveys in the past through a combination of eNewsletters and social media publicity.

Optional tool: FiveSecondTest. According to them, "Learn how visitors will interact with your design before launching. Find out what they think, what they remember, and where they make mistakes."

Man gesturing come here motion came from here. Come here picture from here.

Any I'm missing? Comment below.

Monday, October 7, 2013

25 Startup Lessons I Wish I Would've Known (Part 2 of 5)

Since starting as what was known as "GetLusty for Couples" last August (now just GetLusty.com including GetLusty Couples and GetLusty Singles), let's just say I have been busy. Like, spend your weekends working busy. Like not going to Christmas busy (I'll never be forgiven--goodness that was a mistake). I made mistakes that any entrepreneur would have made considering and always taking into account the over 40+ conversations I had with entrepreneurs here around 1 year ago just before starting GetLusty.

With all that distilled into several pieces, I'm going to divulge what I have learned. The stupid (and not so stupid) mistakes that I just feel like I shouldnt've made (and neither should you). I’ve been writing my startup lessons for weeks (months?) now and I thought I’d share them with you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Want to quit your day job (or maybe not) and start a business? Take it from someone who’s spent some serious time doing it. This isn't my first business and likely won't be my last. How about learning lessons from our mistakes and collectively getting better? Let's continue.

#6 Coffee, coffee, coffee. 

Whether you are or aren't a coffee drinker, you might want to consider it. More specifically, there are numerous health benefits to a caffeine kick. Coffee doesn’t only increase productivity, but it could also have some other unexpected health benefits. For example, according to a few media outlets siting scientific studies internationally, coffee appears to increase life expectancy for individuals with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, according to a large 2012 study. Drinking coffee could also decrease the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer's.

#7 Believe in yourself. 

You’ll have small battles with yourself or your project schedule (Will that marketing campaign work? What were we thinking with that activity?). Finding the courage to believe in your gut feeling and stop the self-doubt will move you to the next direction. Don’t fool yourself into thinking every other entrepreneur doesn’t doubt themselves, either.

#8 Take advice with a grain of salt. 

As someone who values’ others opinions, I’ve occasionally put myself in a position of self-doubt. Do others have the answers and I don’t? Maybe that investor was right and we should’ve done X. We should completely re-think our model. No. Re-think why you’re doing what you’re doing—and be defensible, of course. But don’t take all advice with the same weight. Just consider it. This sounds silly, but in the initial stages of a startup, the wrong advice can be deadly.

#9 Learn how to run an assembly line. Oops, I mean project management.
Keeping all the areas of your startup going at the same time is basically like an assembly line. Think about when Lucille Ball and her friend Ethel were working on a chocolate assembly line. They started falling behind and everything became a mess. Managing and monitoring your startup activities are the same way.

Considering the direction of your startup, the skill of project management is absolutely invaluable and similar to an assembly line. Sure, there’s PMI--where you could go and get an official certificate. But what's important is making lists of tasks, resources (even if that’s you) and budgetary constraints. There’s a whole variety of ways to reflect the tasks you need to do today and maybe you're not a 'list' person. Find what kind of project scheduling software or visual representations work for you and stick with them.

#10 Measure, measure, measure. 

If the Lean Startup (by Eric Ries) taught us anything, it’s that product matters. Your customers matter. And those are basically it. Measuring what’s happening as reflected by your project schedule will not only keep you on track. It will ensure your project and startup are on the right track. In the specific measurement that works for you and your startup.

Did I miss something? Of course I did. Starting up a business is full of complications. Did you learn something we should consider here? Include it below or e-mail me erica(at)getlusty.com.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

25 Startup Lessons You Should Know (Part 1 of 5)

Since starting as what was known as "GetLusty for Couples" last August (now just GetLusty.com), let's just say I have been busy. Like, spend your weekends working busy. Like not going to Christmas busy (I'll never be forgiven--goodness that was a mistake). I made mistakes that any entrepreneur would have made considering and always taking into account the over 40+ conversations I had with entrepreneurs here around 1 year ago just before starting GetLusty.

With all that distilled into several pieces, I'm going to divulge what I have learned. The stupid (and not so stupid) mistakes that I just feel like I shouldnt've made (and neither should you). I’ve been writing my startup lessons for weeks (months?) now and I thought I’d share them with you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Want to quit your day job (or maybe not) and start a business? Take it from someone who’s spent some serious time doing it. This isn't my first business and likely won't be my last.

#1 Let your goals guide you.

Wandering aimlessly is adventurous. However, most of the time it’s unfruitful. Think strategically (and incrementally) about what you want. Take 3 or 6 months in the future and ponder with your co-founders (those are handy). Then, turn those goals into real-life deliverables. What do you need to do by tomorrow? Then, go do it. Santa couldn't be wrong with his whole checklist thing.

Want to ensure your tasks meet the needs of your business. How about using something like LeanLaunchLab? While I haven't used it myself, the product itself sounds pretty interesting. Alternatively, SmartQ lets you visualize your tasks for the more visual/creative folks.

#2 Don’t waste time feeling frustrated about your mistakes.

Fix it, learn from your error and move on. Dwelling on the past only disables you to move on. It can feel so emotionally empowering (or so you think) to really consider where you went wrong, why, how and who brought you to that place. Well, 2 weeks pass and you realize you just missed some really important consideration because you're daydreaming about your mistake. Learn. Kvetch. Then move.

#3 Enjoy the moment.

This is a hard one for entrepreneurs. I know because I am one. Never satisfied. Feeling like there's no time for savoring the moment. "Yeah, I did that really well. I should thank myself." I'm not talking about a whole weekend off (God forbid). I'm talking about finding out what you really enjoy on the way there and treating yourself. Entrepreneurship should be fun. If it’s not, you need to re-energize.

#4 Don’t get burnt out.

This is similar to #3 but goes farther. Be conscientious about enjoying and being fruitful in where you are. When you enjoy the moment, you're less likely to burn out. What about noting the warning signs of burnout? Especially if your work feels like work—ie. It’s an activity you don’t enjoy doing. Sometimes it’s necessary and you simply have to do sales and you hate it. Well, you can only grow from that instance. But along the way, reward yourself for being such a good sport. What a good salesperson you were (for example)!

#5 Know what 'work smarter' means to you.

There’s a lie circulating that small business owners don’t work a lot. That’s a lie. Well, not exactly. In most business models, a certain number of hours per week is needed to sustain the growth of the company. Take the consultancy model. You create a list of high priced businesses and broker the time of subcontractors. While that's not as high-touch as say, a cafe or restaurant (which takes tons more time), your level of time commitment should match your personal needs.

Say what? You haven't considered your personal needs here? Mistake. If your goal is to be hands-off (and have more of a 4-hour work week for example), then do consider that during your own feasibility research. Testing and validating your business model is something you should be doing  constantly.

This is also cross posted to the Built In Chicago blog here.

Well, now I'm at it again, I'm excited to continue the next part in my 5 part series. Till next time! Have your own ideas that you'd like to share? Comment below!

Friday, August 10, 2012

8 Interviews Away From 50!

Well, as you might've noticed--I didn't get to 50 tech startups in 50 days. I'm now only at 42! Why? Well, I founded GetLusty for Couples. It's a website dedicated to improving couples love & sex lives. So I've retired the podcast format and I'll be moving into another format. This will include blogging, e-mail interviews and occasional podcasts.

Are you a tech startup or VC/ angel investor who has advice for tech startups from across the spectrum? Please get in touch! E-mail me directly at erica@getlusty.com.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sex Tech Startup Podcast: Melissa White of Lucky Bloke

The fact of life is that STDs, diseases and unplanned pregnancies can be avoided through condom use. Condoms are an essential component to life in today's world, and should be treated as such.

 That's why I was excited to chat with Melissa White, Founder & CEO of Lucky Bloke.

They are a condom retailer that also does subscriptions. They're also running a really great campaign currently (Mission Great Sex) which needs your support!

What we chatted about: 

* How to determine your condom sizing
* How they are solving their biggest challenge (ie. that people hate condoms)
* Why they are running their current campaign: Mission Great Sex
* How you can get involved in safer sex
* What's next for them over the upcoming year
More about Melissa

Melissa was entrusted with the organization and direction of projects requiring extreme levels of diplomacy, finesse and sophisticated creativity.

She worked closely with international corporations, exclusive retail chains, executives of global organizations, the United States Secret Service and international embassies, among others.

This could be why she's super stealth with your condom information with Lucky Bloke! She also has a rich and multifaceted background in (and love of) marketing and selling diverse, high-end consumer goods. She has had great success in the retail, wholesale, e-commerce, and direct sales markets. Currently, she's working on creating Lucky Bloke into an internationally renowned retailer--and doing very well.

Connect with Melissa on Twitter @awaytofindme and subscribe on Facebook.

More about Lucky Bloke 

Their pitch: Find some of the largest, and least known brands of premium condoms online. Find one you like? Make it a subscription.

In their own words: 

We believe that life can and should be optimized for your convenience, comfort, and privacy. We believe in individuality, community, and accountability.

By shopping at LuckyBloke.com or contributing to the Mission: Great Sex! initiative, you are supporting a genuine, family business that is passionate about you, your safety, and your pleasure. A strong, tangible commitment to positive social change is at the core of everything we do.

That’s why it means so much to us that we're able to:
• bring you the very best condoms from around the world, 

• ship them to you world-wide (for just $2.50!), 

• and donate 10% of our sales to the charities & causes you select. 


• current causes include: charity: water, 
It Gets Better Project, and UNICEF.

We believe that quality, integrity, and transparent giving are essential to building a sustainable business, and that sustainable businesses are vital to local communities, helping to make this world a better place.



We also believe that you deserve a condom company that not only offers you the world's very best condoms, but also works tirelessly to provide the best customer service experience possible.

Find them on Twitter @theluckybloke and 'Like' them on Facebook, check them out on Tumblr, Pinterest and even find them on Google+.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Job Opportunity: Computer Instructor w/ Youth Technology Corps

Youth Technology Corps, NFP, is currently seeking an enthusiastic, energetic computer instructor who has a general knowledge of computer rebuilding, hardware and software applications with a special focus on teaching problem solving and critical thinking skills as well as team building to high school students.

The candidate will have a wide range of knowledge with the hardware/software, user support and trouble shooting factors related to PCs, especially Pentium 4s or better.

Our ideal candidate is honest, reliable, organized, can work without direct supervision and plan ahead, is consistently on time and wants to make a difference in young people's lives. Additional responsibilities include recruiting, managing computer inventory tracking computer donations, and documenting student performance as specified.

Equally important is being comfortable working with teens and the ability to keep them engaged by making learning fun. The position is two days per week for the duration of the school year. The instructor is expected to work 2 to 3 hours per day starting at 2:30PM at Morton East High School in Cicero.

This is a great part time position with potential growth. No phone calls please. Send resumes to marilyn.biasiello@ytcorps.org

Thank you!

Tech Startup Podcast: Moses Hohman of Human Practice

Finding a doctor--even when you have insurance--can be tough. Finding a great doctor can be even tougher, especially if you're dealing with a difficult diagnosis.

Here comes Human Practice. Connecting you with the best doctors within your network. I talked with Moses Hohman, co-Founder of Human Practice.

What we chatted about

  • The backstory behind Human Practice
  • What's up with the name? -- (hint: their technology brings in the human element)
  • Why doctors and nurses are far more likely to have better health contacts
  • How you, too, can have an amazing network of doctors, surgeons and beyond
  • What's coming up next for Human Practice (including their pitch at several events across the US)

  • More about Moses


    Moses is a twelve-year software veteran and technical founder with a broad base of biomedical software experience. Most recently he was VP of Development at Bay Area startup, Collaborative Drug Discovery, where he was responsible for the technical direction and team as well as much of day-to-day startup operations.

    He has been interested in health since he was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, when he led a student initiative to improve the student health insurance plan. He builds software because it can make the world a better place.

    He also deeply enjoys the multidisciplinary nature of building software products, and brings to bear his experience from a wide array of fields, from computational physics to agile software development. Moses has a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago, and an AB magna cum laude from Harvard University. Connect with Moses on LinkedIn.

    More about Human Practice

    Their pitch: Human Practice is a site designed to help patients find doctors through people they know and trust.

    In their own words: We help word-of-mouth healthcare recommendations flow online between people who know each other, bridging the gap between people who love their doctors and those who are searching.

    We all know people who can recommend great doctors, but we are either unaware, or when we ask, they never get around to giving it to us. As a result, this valuable information doesn’t flow as freely as it should.

    At Human Practice, we want everyone to have health care information from trusted friends and family available at their fingertips. We leverage the power of social networks (currently Facebook and email) to bring real word of mouth online.

    The personal connection between patient and doctor forms the basis of great healthcare. A good doctor-patient relationship is important. The doctor cares more about the little details, and the patient listens to and follows the doctor’s recommendations. We hope to help build and foster these human relationships.

    Connect with them on @humanpractice on Twitter and Facebook.

    Monday, July 30, 2012

    Tech Startup Podcast: Heidi Lubin of HEVT

    HEVT creates the technology that keeps the USA running with engines and motors. These are complicated machines but how do they impact the startup space? What if there was an amazingly smart person that could break down what she's going through in creating sustainable, smart advances in motor technology?

    That's why our chat was Heidi Lubin, CEO of Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies (HEVT), was so very useful and interesting.

    What we talked about:
    • Why they're at the apex of software & hardware
    • Why their cleantech motors are essential to the American economy
    • The importance they place on American manufacturing
    • How they're working between the science, cleantech and startup community in Chicago
    • What's in the pipeline for HEVT
    More about Heidi 

    Prior to joining HEVT, Heidi worked as an attorney at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP restructuring in excess of $10 billion in debt obligations for multinational public and private companies in varied industries, focusing especially on the automotive, oil and gas, and media sectors.

    Heidi previously worked on growth equity investment strategies at Thoma Cressey Bravo and Pacific Rim Partners. Earlier in her career, Heidi assisted Fortune 100 companies to create and implement growth-oriented, educational marketing strategies.

    She has also worked for a number of non-profits and legal aid projects on a range of issues including nuclear security, urban redevelopment, and public health and infectious disease.

    In her spare time, Heidi is an avid outdoor-lover and a certified yoga, kayaking and alpine skiing instructor. Heidi has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, a JD from Northwestern University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts with High Honors from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

    Connect with her on LinkedIn.

    More about HEVT 

    HEVT was originally founded in 2005 as an academic spin-off of the Power Electronics and Motor Drives Laboratory at the Illinois Institute of Technology. HEVT's mission is to provide the transportation industry with high performance, efficient and cost-effective components and integrated systems that will foster adoption of electrified transport.

    HEVT's component technologies seamlessly integrate to hybridize existing vehicle fleets and to provide the next generation of new hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains and powertrain components. Our unique multidisciplinary approach leverages HEVT's expertise in electro-mechanical design and system-level control and optimization and includes custom design capability. Our technologies provide customers with cost-efficient solutions that yield significant savings in fuel economy.

    HEVT's founder and Chief Technologist, Dr. Ali Emadi is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of power electronics and hybrid and electric vehicle design. In addition to his role at HEVT, Dr. Emadi is the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Hybrid Powertrain at McMaster University and the Director of MacAUTO.

    Sunday, July 29, 2012

    Tech Startup Podcast: Justin & Adam of TABAPP

    Everyone knows the annoyance of waiting for a table at a restaurant for what seems forever. On the other side of the equation, restaurants are choosing more online menu offering solutions. That's where TABAPP comes in.

    This interview features my conversation with Justin Cerone and Adam Cowie, co-founders of TABAPP.

    What we chatted about:
    • Why outsourcing didn't work for them
    • How they're excelling with technology currently
    • Why you should download their mobile iPhone app
    • The reasons they're excited for this upcoming year
    • Recent successes including expanding out their team
    More about Justin 

    Justin Cerone is an experienced digital marketing entrepreneur and a recent graduate of DePaul Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. He received a BA in English from DePaul University in 2010. He founded and currently leads a venture that specializes in digital and mobile marketing that develops proprietary consulting and innovation processes. He brings experience in customer service, business development, and digital marketing to this TABAPP venture. Connect with him on LinkedIn

    More on Adam

    Adam Cowie recently received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, concentrating in Entrepreneurship, from Babson College - US News and World Report’s #1 school for entrepreneurship over the past 15 years. Adam’s experience in the restaurant industry allows him to fully understand the restaurant business operationally as well as analytically. Connect with him on LinkedIn

    More about TABAPP

    Why you should download their mobile app: You'll never waste time waiting to get served. 

    TABAPP is a mobile application that allows users to order and pay for food and drink at participating bars and restaurants. On the other hand, they also provide smartphones to restaurants to streamline their ordering process. 

    They benefit restaurants:

    They create completely customizable mobile menus for each venue within their network. They increase restaurants unit sold volume on high margin beverages, drive repeat business, improve order efficiency and differentiate restaurants from their competitors – all resulting in a tremendous lift in overall sales and profitability.

    For retailers, they also offer ad space. 

    These mobile ads will be served through a digital platform that delivers custom, measureable and highly-targeted campaigns. Large brands can place their brand as large as possible inside the hands of their consumers at the exact point of ordering inside a venue. Follow them on Facebook. Find their iPhone app here.

    Technori Pitch on July 31

    Are you attending the Technori Pitch this Tuesday (ie. July 31st)? If not, you should. It comes highly recommended in the tech startup community in Chicago. It's great networking, learning and pitching central!

    Find out more about buying tickets here. Also, check out more via a video summary of one of their recent events [below].


    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Tech Startup Podcast: Eric Liu of Rocket Lease

    Leasing as a renter and owner can be extremely tough. Eric Liu's Rocket Lease simplifies that process. We caught up with Eric at VentureSHOT (a Chicago incubator-style office).

    What we chatted about:
    • The story of Rocket Lease
    • Why the rental industry needs Rocket Lease
    • How they define their target audience
    • The plan for Rocket Lease to stay relevant in their market (especially offering an amazing product) 
    • What's next for Rocket Lease

    More about Eric

    Eric Liu is a co-founder of Rocket Lease, a service providing online rental applications and credit checks (rocketlease.com).

    Before startups, Eric was an options trader at the Chicago Board of Trade and managed an algorithmic trading desk.

    He studied chemistry at UT Austin, is aggressively Texan, and obsesses over startups and crossfit.


    More about Rocket Lease

    Their pitch: Rocket Lease makes the apartment rental application process happen online. Instead of processing paper applications and faxes, landlords and property managers can send an online application link & manage the application process in a simple online interface.

    How it works: 

    Brokers and landlords give out a link to an online rental application for their vacancies. Prospective tenants fill out and submit applications online or on a mobile device.

    Rocket Lease runs and compiles tenant screening reports (credit, criminal, eviction) with the application information. Brokers and landlords can view the application online and accept or reject the applicant with one click.

    Rocket Lease saves 8-12 hours of time for each unit leased. Learn more on Twitter @rocketlease, Facebook and LinkedIn.

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Tech Startup Event: Tech Cocktail w/ Belly & Code Academy


    When: Aug 8, 6.30-8PM
    Where: Joe's, 940 W. Weed St.

    About

    From their Tech Cocktail events page. What’s the difference between someone with a dream and someone running a startup company? Action. The world is full of people with ideas and dreams, but many don’t know how to take the first steps to turn those ideas into reality.

    At this special inaugural Tech Cocktail Sessions Chicago event, you’ll hear from local entrepreneurs who were able to take their vision and turn it into companies.

    Sessions, Tech Cocktail’s new speaker series, brings the experiences of successful entrepreneurs to you so you can learn to succeed and learn lessons for your startup. Hear their stories in their own words and ask them your questions in an intimate setting. This month they’ll focus on startup inspiration and taking those important first steps to get started.

    Keynotes

    Logan LaHive, Founder & CEO of Belly

    As the Chief Big Belly, it is Logan’s responsibility to pay for company dinners and to motivate the team with inspirational quotes worthy enough to be printed on matching t-shirts. Previously, Logan was the Director of New Business at Redbox after successfully leading the company’s initiative to test and rollout video game rentals. Since then, Logan has spent the past 7 years in startups and he’s developed a passion for helping small businesses achieve their goals. Logan will have succeeded in his efforts when he finally owns the San Francisco 49ers. He admits to wanting to shave his barber’s beard; fortunately, he’s created a product, Belly, which allows him to do so.

    Neal Sales-Griffin, Founder & CEO of Code Academy

    Neal is currently the founder and CEO of Code Academy, a beginner web design and development school in Chicago. Neal has worked and consulted with numerous startups and not-for-profits across Chicago. He has had the privilege of working with OCA Ventures and Sandbox Industries, two prominent venture firms in Chicago. Neal also serves as a board member of the Chicago chapter of International Game Developers Association.

    Check out the event on Eventbrite.