Archive for the ‘Start-Ups’ Category

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A Great Message For Kiwi Companies

Are you an exporter or a global company? It’s a subtle but very important difference. NZ tech companies have been confused on this one for too long.

Brand NZ does little for the NZ technology enterprise, so trying to derive some advantage in our clean, green, pure image is a waste of time. If anything it reinforces distance, remoteness and high cost. That’s not to say those values don’t work for our dominant industries – like agriculture and vodka production.

Don’t get me wrong, there is lots to love about being a NZ company with a bunch of dedicated Kiwis powered by Kiwi values.  But that doesn’t mean you need to feature it.

At the end of the day, what we export in tech doesn’t weigh nearly as much – often it’s lighter than air. And more than often, while the IP is generated in NZ, the product is normally made in all the usual places. We in effect export ideas to people who make things for us and then export them to our customers who in term export the final product to their customer. You get them idea, if we are all exporters, why make the point?

Al Munroe of Next Window hits this on the head:

"It’s important that New Zealand start-ups see themselves as global companies, because it may sound good to be a leading high-tech exporter [in New Zealand] but to the rest of the world it sounds pretty naff," he said.

Monro said being a New Zealand exporter gave potential customers and investors overseas the impression that their focus and scale was at a low level.

"I rail against the term export," he said.

Asked how New Zealand start-ups could escape being categorised as lowly exporters, he said they needed to be careful how they positioned themselves.

"If you position yourself as an emerging global company, it sends a completely different message."

Next Window is poised to become to of NZ’s tech giants. (And they are a supplier to Dell.)

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The Perfect Pitch


Put the Perfect Pitch on your “Marketers Must Read” list. Whether you’re on the Agency or Client side, you’ll get a ton from Jon’s ideas on giving the Perfect Pitch. The run-down on how London won the Olympics is worth it alone.

There are weeks when I seem to motor from one set of PowerPoint to another. Not all of Jon’s ideas will work so well inside the large corporation where it is less about winning via the perfect pitch. But the principles still apply and could make those weeks more effective and enjoyable.

Here are a couple of complimentary thoughts directly at those people inside the business:

  1. Answer First: Get your answer out. Then support it. This is very different to, say, an agency pitch, where you might want to build to a crescendo for effect. Internally, Execs don’t have the time. Headline your point and hammer it home. To help do this, make every .ppt slide title a headline. Focus on your headlines and let them tell the story. Good summary of Answer First over here
  2. Ask in Advance: If big decisions are going to be made, get the asks in front of the decision maker in advance. I’ve sat through many a presentation to discover they want something I would have said “yes” – and in some cases “no” to over the phone.
  3. Control the room: The is the most common breakdown area. Folks will sit down, behind a laptop screen, and proceed to speak. It’s neither engaging or effective. Get out of your seat, command the room. Use a clicker (this is my weapon of choice). Ideally you want to position yourself at the front, in good proximity of the whiteboard. Tip – remove the pens and put them where you can get to them. When at Sun, we called this getting “whiteboarded” – you put all this effort into a presentation and some “expert” proceeds to redirect attention away from your goal to their graphic mastery on the whiteboard. I started timing meeting delays related to computer-to-projector issues. Here’s the reason – lack of preparation. Get the the room in advance and test the connection. And if you are relying on a customer’s kit, get the presentation to them in advance and have them run it from a system they know works.
  4. Demand that folks “be here now”. Tell them how long you need and why you need their attention. Keep the agenda, printed out, in front of them. If participants have sunk into Email or Blackberries, ask them to stop and focus. Or, ask them to leave. I reckon it’s a one in ten thousand chance that they are actually taking notes. I once sat in a keynote where a well known TV producer was speaking. he suddenly stopped mid flight and asked a lady in the front row if he was boring her – “should he leave?”he asked. “No”was the response – he then pointed out, very publically how rude she was being – that he had put a lot of effort into the presentation and being there. Damn right.
  5. Get away. Too often you get the sense folks have spent so much time on the presentation and data they haven’t put any time into their views and ideas of what to do about the problem or opportunity at hand. Allow enough time to get away from the data and reflect on what you want to say about it. Your biggest insights won’t happen while preparing slides. They’ll come when you take a walk around the campus to reflect on what you are doing. Or, when you hit the gymn. Get away from the slides and they’ll get better.
  6. Go raw. Most of the time you don’t need PowerPoint. Speak to your key points. Use Excel or whatever tool you pulled the data together. Think about other ways of bringing data to life: “PowerPoint presentations may improve 10% or 20% of all presentations by organizing inept, extremely disorganized speakers…” PowerPoint inflicts “detectable intellectual damage” on the remaining 80 to 80 percent. – Edward Tufte
  7. Information vs. Insights: Be clear on what you are communicating. Half the slides I see try to deliver insights but all they are doing is delivering information. Get information out in advance. Put it in back-up. Focus on the insights that support your case.
  8. Words Matter: Labor over the words. As Edward Tufte says, most .ppt presentations suffer from “over-generalizations, imprecise statements, slogans, lightweight evidence, abrupt and thinly veiled claims”.
  9. Manage Input: Jon gives a great example from a colleague of his’5/15/80 percent rule. Often you are bringing the 5 percent you know, learning the 15% you know you don’t know, and discovering (and hopefully, opening your mind) to the 80% you don’t know you don’t know. The more senior the executives, the more likely this is to be the case. So, how are you going to proactively manage input in the meeting?
  10. Be Clear on the Outcome: And be clear on how you plan to move the audience from A to B. “A presentation is much, much more than a message. What you a re seeking to communicate is just one of a number of factors that influence your ability to move an audience. What you say, and what they see and hear, should not be the same” – Jon Steel. In other words, make sure you aren’t reading the slides, you won’t get the outcome you desire.

I can’t recall who recommended the Perfect Pitch – it might have been Mitch – but thanks!

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Xero to $23m

Xero just raised $23.2m, again proving that great ideas secure great investors. What’s interesting is that they were able to attract the founder of traditional software maker in their space – MYOB – to invest. A massive endorsement of their strategy and product.

What is really amazing is that they have passed the 6000 customer number milestone, double the customer figure at December 2008. It also announced it had entered into a strategic partnership with Telstra in Australia.

I’m thrilled to be an advisor…

Press release here

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Chris has a great response to The Economist on free models. I’ve long argued that free often gets misread as literally free. (the comments are worth reading)

Every customer comes with a cost. Rather than pay to market to you and obtain revenue now, instead I choose little or no marketing or distribution cost, focusing instead on the belief that you will pay for the product later. These freemium models are all round us. Google is doing it with Picasa. Flickr with FlickrPro.

There are those that also believe that, if you believe, you will pay. CC Cleaner is a great example. Terrific free utility for Windows. You pay to support the product if you think it is worth it. And its worth it. They are essentially monetizing a percent of their customer base that has a conscience or real enthusiasm for what they are doing.

Also worth a read is this survey of free business models online. More links here….

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I’m really thrilled, and a little belated in announcing, that I’ve joined the advisory board of crack NZ start-up Xero. Put simply, Xero is the most exciting SaaS/Cloud native in the accounting space.

Why? Well, three reasons:

  1. Great team. Rod, Alastair, Phil and the crew are the best out there. I love the idea of working with great people, helping them, and growing in the process. They meet my first requirement for working with any start-up and that is, work with great, but nice people.
  2. Great product. I’ve started numerous businesses and been constantly frustrated by accounting packages. They are just too complex and too costly. The main costs have traditionally been in all the help you need to work and close the books. And, they are all “cloud immigrants”, migrating client apps to the cloud. This means they are slow, ugly, and browser/device dependent.
  3. Where the market is going. Xero is where all apps will go. So its a terrific opportunity to make that future a reality.

If you are in the US, you can start using Xero today. Let me know your thoughts.