SXSW Interactive – 2011
Mar 11 2011

It’s that time of year again.  The time in Austin, Texas where South by Southwest and Spring Break combine.  Thousands of people descend on Austin for SXSW Interactive, Film, & Music.  I think the attendees for Interactive surpassed that for music last year.

I’m approaching the experience in a more zen like fashion this year and seeing where the tides pull me.  I know I’ll be at the Entrepreneur’s Lounge, co-hosted by The Austin Technology Incubator (where I work) a few times this week and a few other events including Ignite Austin this evening thanks to the Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Central Texas.  I plan to attend some panels and meet up with people I haven’t seen since last year.

Some of you may remember that I coordinated a panel a couple of years ago called Building A Web Business After Hours.  My advice is don’t do it unless you have a clear path to get out of your day job, don’t have young kids, and aren’t going through personal turmoil.  So this year I’m going to float and see what happens.  I haven’t even uploaded my picture online for my badge so I’ll get an on site picture if I can find parking this afternoon.

Thankfully, the weather is gorgeous with high’s in the upper 70’s predicted for most of the week.  I hope to see some of you (my readers) during my floating around…

Author: | Filed under: austin, austin technology incubator, conferences, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, networking | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

High Tech Entrepreneur’s Raise Money for Haiti
Jan 18 2010

A short, but important, interruption to my blogging break for the benefit of the earthquake victims in Haiti.  The Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Central Texas is coordinating a fund raising effort among technology entrepreneur’s to raise money for the victims in Haiti. Even if you aren’t a technology entrepreneur or don’t work for a technology company, you can donate! :-)

The Austin Startup blog did a great post about this today is copied below.

Austin Tech Leaders Create Matching HelpHaiti Fund

“If you haven’t yet donated to help out the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, or even if you have and can offer a little bit more, Austin Ventures and the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas are providing a way to double your donation. They are calling upon Central Texas tech companies, their employees and friends to provide assistance to the rescue efforts in Haiti, and have established a $600,000 High-Tech HelpHaiti Fund to match donations.

You can donate at a website set up by the Entrepreneurs Foundation at http://www.GiveToAustin.org/HelpHaiti. The $600,000 contributed to match the contributions has been donated by Austin Ventures, Donna & Philip Berber, Dave & Isabel Welland, MFI Foundation, the Garber Family, Silicon Labs and the Entrepreneurs Foundation.

“The Austin entrepreneurial community is a tightly-knit group from which we all benefit. It is important that we use this great bond to mobilize and help others in time of need. The tragedy in Haiti is one of these times for us to step up,” said Phil Siegel of Austin Ventures, who is also chairing the committee to distribute the donations. Also serving on the committee are MFI Foundation’s Lynn Meredith, Glimmer of Hope Founder, Philip Berber, Silicon Labs founder Dave Welland and Eugene Sepulveda, CEO of the Entrepreneurs Foundation.

The committee has already wired $250,000 to two groups that are assisting directly with the efforts in Haiti, choosing to immediately donate what they could now rather than waiting to match the contributions of the Tech community. Austin Startup encourages all of Austin’s entrepreneurs and members of the tech community to give to the HelpHaiti fund in whatever amount you can.

Additional information is available at http://www.GiveToAustin.org/HelpHaiti and by emailing HelpHaiti@GiveToAustin.org.”

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Lessons on Sales Management
Aug 29 2009

Below is a post written by Laura Benold, ATI’s Marketing Associate about a recent Lunch & Learn we held at Austin Technology Incubator.  It was originally posted on our new ATI blog and called If You Don’t Close Sales, Your Company Won’t Survive.

sales-l&l-2ATI’s Lunch and Learn panel on sales management on August 12, 2009 began with a question: “Who in here sells?”  A roomful of arms stretched upward. Everyone sells.  Whether on a sales team, to prospective employers, or as the acting “every man” of a start-up business, the act of convincing others escapes no one.

While 40+ ATI member company CEOs and Founders, ATI staff, and TechBA company CEOs and Founders ate lunch in the Alamo Room of the WPRC Building on Braker Lane, the three panelists introduced themselves:

Michael Osborne (left) is the Senior Vice President of Sales for BazaarVoice: a company that makes word of mouth marketing work by enabling services and technology to gather, respond to and amplify content.

Janice (Jan) Ryan (middle) has worked in technology for 28 years and came to Austin to become the founding VP of Sales for Vignette, an early internet enterprise software company.  She is currently the CEO and Founder of Social Dynamix, a new company in the social media space.

Mitch Jacobson (right) has worked just about everywhere the last 29 years in sales from Tandy Corporation to Dell to Tech Data Corporation.  He started at A.B. Dick and says that, “if you can sell with a name like A.B. Dick behind you, you can sell.”  He founded Eyes of Texas, an angel investment firm, and is currently the co-director at the Clean Energy Incubator advising ATI’s clean start-up companies.

Over the course of the Lunch and Learn, panelists spread significant words of wisdom. Here’s what they said:

Jan:

Results-oriented selling.  Remember you’re not selling a product, you’re selling the results that a customer wants to achieve.  Slide to the other side of the table and look at the process from their viewpoint.

Paint a ‘zebra.’ Include all the stripes of an ideal customer in profiling who really needs your product (like  Morphine, not aspirin).  Understand exact needs that would cause him to write a check.  All else is secondary.

Hiring - Hire people who know why they’ve been successful.  They’ll be able to repeat that process in a new situation.  When you hire sales leadership, don’t assume the highest ‘pedigree’ translates to an early stage venture. Their hunger is more important.

Find the maverick.  In early stage sales, there’s always someone who wants to look good in the company.  Find the maverick in your sale that wants a personal win. Study what his win will be, and shape your strategy around it.  Help him succeed, and you will too.

Michael:

Sales should be enjoyable experiences. “Sure, there are contracts and money involved, but it’s an enjoyable experience,” and those have been the greatest sale cycles, he says.

Look for intelligence, passion, and an ability to communicate when you hire. Sales experience previous to the job doesn’t necessarily matter; but intelligent people can answer questions or find answers, passionate people are likeable, and good communicators can drive the deal forward.

All salespeople are motivated differently. There are trailblazers, road builders and truck drivers.  Trailblazers are motivated by ego, for example, and truck drivers by cash. Evolve your hiring process based on the current company needs.

Identify your target customer’s persona to increase sense of urgency. Innovators want to be first.  Those who are behind want to catch up.  Some work internally and think it’s about time for change. Others have a deadline.  Find the pain.

Mitch:

Be persistent. In the early 1980s Mitch sold copiers. One day, while on a pitch, the copier jammed.  “I was taught to say, ‘I’m glad this happened, so I can show you how easy it is to fix’, but it I couldn’t fix it,” Jacobson says.  Ultimately, he made the sale because he came back later that week to follow-up.

Spend a day in the life of your customer. Someone might really need what you’re selling, but they don’t know why and you don’t know why, because you haven’t walked in their shoes.

Although you have little money to spend at the early stage, you have resources to find knowledge.

Keep track of your wins and losses. Repeat what you’ve done well and learn from what hasn’t worked out.  Create and distribute ‘how the deal was done (or rejected)’ documents.

The Group:

Know when to draw the line. If you pick the wrong customer and get mired down in the details, it can kill you.  That’s worse than waiting a few more months to get the right deal. “When a sale becomes a negotiation and you feel like you’re buying a car, it’s a good time to walk away.  A lot of the time, they’ll come back at your price, not theirs,” says Mitch.

The pipeline is a set of stages. The stages must be easy to understand, such as “meeting scheduled, prospect, opportunity, will close” or “cold, warm, hot, closing”.  Evaluate the stages of a deal daily as an individual and weekly as a team.

A deal isn’t ever really closed. It closes on some level for you when the customer signs or gives you money and for the customer when your product is implemented and they’re paying.  However, good salespeople retain customers, so the cycle never really ends.

Social media creates connections that are not work-related. It allows you to “learn about the prospect and connect via a legitimate connection,” says Michael.

The session ended one and a half hours later with networking and knowledge sharing.  If you’re interested in learning more about Lunch and Learn events, or how you can sponsor one, please contact Aruni Gunasegaram, director of operations.

Lunch and Learn events are an exclusive offering for ATI, ATI member companies and ATI affiliates.  Speakers must be entrepreneurs and business people who can share their valuable experiences with ATI member company Founders and CEOs.

by Laura Benold, ATI Marketing Associate

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First Week Of School
Aug 23 2009

School starts next week for most kids here in Austin – public or private.  Many parents are in a flurry getting ready to get their kids back into a routine if they haven’t had one during the summer. For dual working parent families, like ours, who probably had our kids in summer camps it’s probably a shift back to more stricter bed times and potential looming home work days.

For us this is a very special first week of school because our kids will be attending the new Magellan International School (MIS) founded by their dad, Erin Defosse!   It is Austin’s FIRST multi-language (Spanish, English, Mandarin), International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme school (pre-K to 2nd) ever and has already set the record for enrollment numbers for a new private school with about 45 students on Day One!  Most private schools start with significantly fewer students.

They will be offering art, music and physical education as part of the standard education and will be teaching using the ‘units of inquiry’ model.  You’ll have to go to the site to learn more about how that model works.  As a person who is rediscovering her passion for singing, offering music is well ‘music to my ears!’

The kids have been involved in getting the school ready from helping to paint, potting plants, running errands, and assembling furniture.  It’s been a great experience for them to see how something that never existed before comes to life.  They might just get the entrepreneurial disease bug.  :-)

As an entrepreneur, it’s amazing to see how much has happened from vision to fruition.  In March 2007, we moved our son to the Austin International School (AIS), a wonderful school whose primary language is French.  Erin grew up in Mexico so he had a strong desire for the kids to be fluent in Spanish.   We really enjoyed the environment and teachers at AIS but given that neither of us knew French, Erin began searching for different alternatives and didn’t find anything suitable so in the Spring of 2008 just before I took the steady, day job, he decided to look into creating one.

Since that time, he along with someone he hired to help him get things off the ground by finding the right Head of School, not only found the perfect Head of School, Marisa Leon, from Colombia but also 3 great teachers – one from Spain, one from Colombia, and one from Chicago.  They all have very sweet personalities and awesome backgrounds.  I’m excited about the kids getting to work with their respective teachers.  It will be interesting to see how they all adapt to living in the United States in a city that’s had over 100 degree temperatures for quite some time now.

So 20 or so months ago, MIS was a vision in Erin’s mind and now it is reality.  I know it will positively effect thousands of kids who will surely go out and make a wonderful difference in this world in not only one language, not even two, but three languages.  As a writer, I have come to appreciate the power of language both written and oral in changing one’s own world and the world at large.  Oh to have such power in more than one language…what a gift to our kids.

So cool! 8)

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One Of The Reasons I Live in Austin, Texas
Jan 7 2009

Austin ranks 10th in the U.S. in job creation

Austin Business Journal

Here’s the full story: http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2009/01/05/daily17.html

The Austin area added 6,200 private-sector jobs in the 12-month period between November 2007 and November 2008—the 10th biggest gain in metro employment in the country—according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Texas is showing considerable resilience amid a crippled national economy. The two largest markets in the state—Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth—registered the nation’s biggest private-sector employment gains.

The Houston area added 42,400 jobs between November 2007 and November 2008, and Dallas-Fort Worth picked up 35,100. No other U.S. market gained more than 15,600 private-sector jobs during the 12-month period.

All four of Texas’ major metro areas ranked among the top 10 in job creation in the last year. San Antonio was No. 4 with 11,700 new jobs.

But the rest of the country isn’t faring nearly so well. Just one-fifth of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas managed to add any jobs at all. Seventy-eight suffered losses, 21 posted increases, and one was unchanged.

Detroit was hit with the biggest loss of private-sector jobs, 67,700 in 12 months. November 2008 brought the 38th straight monthly decline for Detroit.

Four other markets lost more than 50,000 private-sector jobs during the past year: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Phoenix.

The following are the 100 biggest labor markets in America, ranked according to raw change in private-sector employment between November 2007 and November 2008:
1. Houston, up 42,400 jobs
2. Dallas-Fort Worth, up 35,100 jobs
3. Washington, up 15,600 jobs
4. San Antonio, up 11,700 jobs
5. Seattle, up 9,900 jobs
6. Virginia Beach-Norfolk, up 9,100 jobs
7. Oklahoma City, up 8,100 jobs
8. New Orleans, up 7,200 jobs
9. McAllen-Edinburg, Texas, up 6,700 jobs
10. Austin, up 6,200 jobs

More…

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