SxSW Interactive Wrap-Up and Why Most Startups are DOA
Mar 18 2012

My 2012 SXSW Interactive experience this past week was very low key.  No badge.  A few days.  A few parties.  All productive.  Great networking for my consulting business where I’m focusing on operations and partner/client management projects.  I was home by a reasonable hour every evening.

I’ve had dozens of meetings scheduled since then, met people I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m helping organize a reunion for the B2C (business-to-consumer) and Web CEO groups I was a part of when I was working on Babble Soft.  Many of us are in transition times like I am, which is par for the proverbial entrepreneurial course.  I really enjoy networking and connecting people to each other.  I even made some almost random connections for the very cool 1 Semester Startup team I’m mentoring called beDJ.  If only I could charge big bucks to do that. :-)

I have seen so many start up companies with big dreams of launching at SXSW interactive.  Most of them make a big splash and then you don’t hear from them again.  I thought this post on TechCrunch the other day was very well timed: Why Entrepreneurs Fail And Most Startups Are DOA.  Entrepreneurship (especially in technology) is not for the feint of heart.  It’s mostly for the insane, stupid, independently wealthy, ones with extremely supportive spouses/pets/friends, ones who are calculated risk takers who can rebound quickly from mistakes and failure.

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, conferences, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Timing Is Everything – Babble Soft Update
Mar 7 2011

It’s taken me quite some time to write about this because of a crazy busy schedule and I wasn’t really sure how to write about it.  In addition to my day job, I’ve also taken on a side consulting job in order to learn about a different industry and to bring in some additional income.  The last 20+ months seem like a blur to me with all the changes I’ve had to absorb and process in my life personally and professionally.  A few months ago my partner at Babble Soft, Nicole Johnson, who has been running the company for over a year, told me she needed to put the company on hiatus so she could better manage her life.

Nicole also has a day job as well as another side job (baby sleep advice), and as I and a few others on the panel I coordinated called Building A Web Business After Hours at SXSW Interactive (starting here in Austin later this week) a couple of years ago have subsequently realized: it’s very hard to do.  We had to pass the baton to someone else who could spend more time on our respective companies.  Since I had been in her shoes juggling kids, family, day job, oh and just a handful of personal transitions not too long ago, I told her to do what she felt was best for her and her family.

They say timing is everything and it is so true and especially with businesses.  So many things have to go right for an endeavor to be successful.  There has to be the right balance of personal situation, market acceptance, technology working, right people, etc. that sometimes it’s a wonder any businesses survive!

So it was a bitter sweet transition that happened a few months ago and maybe someone will be interested in buying our intellectual property, the domain name, or Nicole will be able to reduce hours at one of her other jobs to re-launch fresh in a year or so!  A few months ago, we moved everything (including my blog) off of a dedicated Rackspace server to a much lower cost alternative.

So goes life.  If things aren’t working out, it’s better to recognize that something is about to break (whether it’s you or your business) to make changes earlier rather than later.  Sometimes things don’t work out as planned, and I’m so glad I live in the US where we can learn from every business success or failure and still be respected and get another job.  As an example, check out the interview by Fareed Zakaria, CNN news/TIME editor, did of the Foursquare founders.

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, success | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Your Online Image. Your Real Life Image.
Jun 27 2010

Human Statues on the Ramblas in Barcelona

Yesterday after I checked out facebook and updated my profile picture to one of my daughter wearing a flamenco dress that I bought her during my recent trip to Barcelona where I got to explore a little bit of my poetic side, I began thinking about people’s images.  I like facebook because I can see what is going on with friends & family who are all over the world.  I check it once every couple of weeks…sometimes once per week depending on the notifications I get.  I set all my privacy settings so that only the people in my network can see my pictures, comments, etc.  I used to use twitter almost daily but in the last year, my usage has decreased drastically.  Most of my tweets are just my automatic tweets when I publish a blog post.  Even the frequency of my blog posting has decreased mostly because of lack of time, I haven’t been inspired to write, and I’m writing more offline.   LinkedIn is another site that I’ve checked out periodically.

The reason I started using twitter was first because I had wanted everyone to know I had gone to a Duran Duran concert, and then more importantly to see what it could do for my business Babble Soft, that is now run by Nicole Johnson, who was my business partner and who thankfully was able to take over the company and run with it.  Twitter is a valuable tool to meet people and get the word out about your business.  Most of what I tweeted was pretty upbeat or business related.

As I was looking at some facebook pages (mine included), it’s clear that what we show online and often what we show people even in “real” life isn’t really what’s going on with us.  We often show a rosy picture with glamorous photos of us or our kids/family smiling, and we tweet about events or fun things.  There are a few crazies out there who let it all hang out, but soon they are ostracized even online.  Sometimes even those closest to us in real life don’t really know what’s going on with us because we’ve been told it’s not good to share too much of the hard, ‘real’ stuff.  So we stuff it inside or say to ourselves ‘who cares’ or ‘I’ll get over it.’  I agree in one sense that we should keep some stuff to ourselves if we can (but sometimes as crazy as it sounds we just can’t), but I’ve also discovered that not sharing at all, which is what I used to do, meant that people didn’t really know me and after I started sharing things like others shared with me, I realized how strange things sometimes sounded.   When I started talking and writing, I and others started to hear and see me differently.  Even the greatest writers of all time couldn’t tell us explicitly through their writing what they were processing because of social pressures, which is part of what makes their writing so provocative!

Social networks enabled millions of people to share things about themselves…their daily lives that in some ways validated the mundane lives we often live.  I used to share things about where I was going or notes on events, etc.  Thankfully not things like people joked about (i.e., going to the bathroom)!  But people shared, continue to share, and make connections to individuals they might not have otherwise in a mostly safe environment.  twitter is a fire hose, or as I like to describe it a river, of information sharing.

Social networks have given people a medium to be heard and you cannot argue with the fact that it has fundamentally changed the way many people interact with each other and think of each other.  Tools like twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn have brought customers, job seekers, stay-at-home parents, entrepreneurs, and companies closer together and it has shown a very large side of humanity that craves attention & connection that they apparently weren’t/aren’t getting in their real, offline lives.

I think we will see and are seeing an auto-correction on the use of these tools, but I believe these kinds of human connection tools are here to stay.  When you tap into an aspect of someone or a group of people that needs/wants to be heard, they can often overdo it, spin out of control and then just like in the financial and political markets there will eventually be an auto correction that when it happens seems huge and out of control in a different way.  Although markets are supposed to behave rationally, just like people who drive them, they often don’t.

I still remember this guy I knew at a Southern Baptist church I went to during junior high and high school.  He was older (i.e. in college), wiser, and I think he was one of our Sunday school teachers.  I looked up to him and adored him.  There was so much going on in my life that I wanted to share with him pieces of it and get his advice, yet I couldn’t because I felt if I did he would think differently of me.  Like most teenagers, I already felt I was different enough.  I remember sitting with him somewhere alone trying to tell him something that seemed so ominous at the time and now is just a fact of my life, and I think because he could sense my angst he said ‘some things are better off left unsaid.’  I suddenly felt relieved because it took off the pressure, and gave me a sense that he understood, but it still left me feeling the same, different person.

So, yes some things are better off left unsaid except for when they aren’t.  If by saying them online, offline, to people you trust, to people you don’t know if you can trust, you find a kindred soul, someone who can help you figure it out, or someone who changes you or your path for the better, or even realize that you really aren’t that different because there are other people out there kind of like you, then it’s better to say it and take the risk.  Unless of course you are saying & texting things like Tiger Woods. :-)  You certainly learn who you can and can’t trust when you are at your most vulnerable.

But when you consciously or unconsciously take that risk, it will have an affect on your online image and/or your real life image.  The type of affect (positive or negative) will depend on what’s going on around you and how you deal with the aftermath.  It’s important to manage your online and real life image/reputation but if you over manage it, no one really knows the real person like Bernie Madoff, who everyone thought was a great guy…until they didn’t.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, social media, social networks | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Once In A Blue Moon – It’s Complicated
Jan 1 2010

Last night, December 31, 2009, we had a blue moon.  Most years have 12 full moons but every 2 to 3 years we have an extra full moon and it’s called a blue moon.  We saw it coming back from the airport after a really nice visit with my cousin and her family.  On the way out, after getting up at 3:30 a.m. to make a flight that was 3 hours delayed, we ended up being almost 7 hours late getting to our final destination because of an issue we had leaving Austin having to do with de-icing our plane.  Just before they had us get off the plane to wait it out, my son said loudly “I knew we should have flown Southwest!” which caused all the people around us to laugh.  He doesn’t even have to try to be funny…this wonderful kid of mine. :-)   This was the first time I traveled by myself by plane with the kids, and they did really well.  I told them how happy I was with them because despite the delays, it was one of the least stressful times traveling with 2 kids that I’ve ever had.  We even had a 4 hour layover in Memphis, TN and by a stroke of luck some of my long time family friends who live there (who I hadn’t even told we were flying through Memphis because we were only supposed to be there for 45 minutes) interrupted their plans to come hang out with us for a couple of hours at the airport!   I was so happy to see them…kind of like seeing land when you’ve been lost at sea for a while.

My favorite aunt and uncle (we spent summers and other times with them growing up) were supposed to have left earlier in the day from my cousin’s place, but they waited for us before driving back to their city a couple of hours away.  I was so grateful that they waited…kind of felt like a pilgrim lost in a fog coming home.

So back to the blue moon.  It’s a rare event and thanks to Erin, who picked us up at the airport, it was probably the first time in my life that I was aware we were having one.  He had seen something about it on CNN, so I looked it up on my trusty iPhone.  The moon last night was uncharacteristically huge and bright and to me seemed full of hope and promise.   I started singing the song Blue Moon by Ella Fitzgerald (lyrics) and thought about the upcoming new year and new decade that was upon us.  Although I was invited to a friend’s New Year’s eve party, I was so tired I called it a night at 10:30 p.m.  Lame I know, but I figured it was best to start the new year rested so I could think about whether I should make some new year’s resolutions.

So today is the first day of the new year and last year I made non-resolutions:  “So my non-resolutions for 2009 are to sing more, laugh more, write more, make more funny faces at my kids, be less repressed, empower people, unashamedly love people, continue to take yoga, find a purple hat (any suggestions?), make some life changing decisions (I already got my hair cut short), and move the ball forward one day at a time on Babble Soft and at ATI.”  The funny thing is that I think I achieved all of those to varying degrees with various outcomes and some I didn’t even do consciously (a higher power at work).  I guess I should be careful what I non-resolute!

One of my friends, Julie Fergerson, who happens to be a leading expert in identity theft, got me a purple hat.  I transferred majority ownership in Babble Soft to my fabulous partner, Nicole Johnson, who I finally got to meet in person while visiting my cousin because she lives in the same city.  My cousin had met her before I did.  Nicole also runs the Baby Sleep Site and our online meeting has got to be a case study (GigaOm) in successful partnerships between two people who have never met in person.  It was like we were old friends catching up when we met with our kids at a nearby mall.  As far as writing more, I didn’t write more on the blog, but I wrote song lyrics and did a lot of personal journaling (I’m already on my second spiral notebook).  My daughter likes to hang out with me when I write in the mornings and, of course, add her personal touch to my pages. :-) Maybe she’s a budding writer despite not being able to even read yet…

So I think I’ll stick with most of the same non-resolutions for 2010 and maybe add something about making upward progress in my career and doing more cardio exercise.  I’m not planning to eat black eyed peas or kiribath (rice cooked in coconut milk – yummy), a Sri Lankan new year’s tradition for auspicious occasions, so I’m throwing caution to the superstitious winds and hoping for the best.

And in case you are wondering why the title of this post includes the words “It’s Complicated.”  Well it’s because I saw the movie today with my movie buddies Michelle Ewalt (a great business/life transitions coach) and Cindy S. (she’s an offline kind of gal).  We see a lot of movies together and our next one might be Sherlock Holmes.  It’s Complicated was hilarious and included fabulous actors and actresses including Meryl Streep, Steve Martin (so cute & funny), and Alec Baldwin.  It was much better than the Alvin and the Chipmunks – The Squeakquel movie my cousin and I suffered gladly sat through for the kids.  While watching “It’s Complicated,” I kept thinking, while laughing out loud, that although my life seems complicated, thank God it’s not as complicated as that!

Happy 2010 everyone…

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneurship, holiday, national holiday, random stuff | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Babble Soft Has Found A Home
Oct 12 2009

So back in late June, I announced that Babble Soft was looking for a new home, and I’m happy to report I found one and it’s really not that far from its current home.

I put some feelers out for interested parties and got some great leads and potential interest, but after a few weeks I realized I just didn’t have the time with a full time day job and kids to really do the sales effort well and even if a large company said they were interested it could be 6 to 9 months before they could actually do anything about it!  And frankly, I didn’t have it in me with the other things I’m juggling to play the waiting game for an unknown outcome.

So my partner, Nicole Johnson, and I discussed possibilities.  Nicole also runs Pick Nick’s Brain, a baby sleep consulting site.  And like a true angel, she decided she could take it over and run with it!  So a couple of weeks ago, we made it official!  She will be running Babble Soft going forward.  She’s an amazing individual who is also juggling many things, but she had maybe 2-3 less things on her plate to manage than I do right now, so the dream lives on!

I couldn’t think of a better person, who gets the vision (and who knows how to code!), to take our vision and grow it.  And to think I’ve never even met her in person.  I found her through a bunch of online connections and even wrote about finding a partner online for GigaOm.  I couldn’t have wished for a better business partner.  She adapted when the situation changed for me and for both of us.  I’m hoping I meet her in person sometime soon.

I’m still a part owner so I’ll be continuing to support Nicole and talking up Babble Soft when and where I can, and I hope that many of you readers will too!

Now, I must take some extended time to decompress, sort a few things out, and figure out what my next entrepreneurial endeavor might be…possibly creating a music CD or writing a book!  8-)

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About Writing
Sep 24 2009

I’m sure many of you have noticed that I’m not writing as frequently as I have in the past on my blog.  This is due to a variety of things being led by lack of time and inspiration as well as logistics.  I have also been doing some personal hand written journaling so some of my writing needs have been met through that avenue.  The thing about writing, at least for me, is that I often have to have a spark of inspiration to start something and then it usually flows.

When I started this blog over 2 years ago now, I felt like I was forced to write because I started it as a tool to promote and build awareness of my business, Babble Soft.  So I dutifully wrote.  Somewhere along the way, the duty wore off and I started to enjoy it.  The comments helped but even when the comments weren’t numerous, I knew hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people were reading (thanks to feedburner, google analytics, and wordpress stats tools), and I was getting something out of it too.

It has became a vehicle for me to sort through and share insights in business, parenting, and life in a somewhat thoughtful, crafted, connect the dots sort of way.  For some of my posts I take all the swirling raw thoughts and attempt to distill them down into something usually coherent and sometimes imbibed with meaning that only myself or those close to me can sometimes fully understand.  Yet hopefully most people take something away that helps them in business or life…or if not maybe it’s sometimes entertaining?

Since I’ve started blogging, I have come to better appreciate the nuances of writers whose works we analyzed in depth in high school or college English classes.  As much as we try to infer from their writing what they were experiencing or trying to convey, we will miss much of it.  We probably made up stuff that actually never crossed the writer’s mind at all and did not pay attention to certain words and phrases that were full of meaning to the writer herself, but to other than maybe a few people who shared her space in time would be summarily dismissed.  As a woman writer, I’m particularly aware of how women writer’s even 50+ years ago had to make sure their writing not only lived up to their image as the fairer, weaker, well mannered, and sublime sex but also didn’t offend those who could not fathom the depth of a woman’s knowledge, insight, and passion.

As a South Asian, naturalized American, woman writer writing on the topic of entrepreneurship, leadership, management, (the aforementioned still typically a man’s world) and parenting, whose family sometimes reads her blog, I choose my words as carefully as I can.  Outside the blog, the words sometimes come out a lot messier, less filtered, and a bit more humorous for some reason.  The constraints and richness those life experiences and labels give me have added greatly to what moderate success I have achieved as well as sometimes to my self imposed dramatic misery.  :-)

I have made two attempts to write a larger body of work to publish.  One was a fiction novel I started back in 2001 after leaving my first company about a devastatingly handsome, blue-eyed, Jewish male CEO, an Asian female CEO, their relationship, and their different experiences starting technology companies.  I created an outline, table of contents, and generated probably about 16 pages and then soon after got pregnant.  My first readers (my sister and cousin) seemed to like it, but because life with kids started I left it sitting idly in my computer. Fortunately I printed it out because in one of our upgrades, the soft copy disappeared.  I’ve since scanned it back in and one day hope to do something with it.

The second attempt was to write a book on the meaning of life which I discovered most people were uncomfortable talking about so I morphed it to the meaning of success.  I got many more people to speak with me but couldn’t really find the right way to pull it together or an interested publisher, so I morphed that project into the university alumni magazine articles on the Success Profiles page of this blog.  The great thing was that I actually got paid for those articles!

I sometimes get frustrated at not having the time or energy to finish that fiction novel, but I keep recalling something that one of the wives of the people I interviewed for the Meaning of Success book said.  She was a writer and interestingly she wrote about being a vegetarian and hating people who eat meat I think, but she said ‘let the writing marinate in the juices of your life.’   Which thinking about that statement right now is ironic considering you probably marinate meat more than you marinate vegetables.  But anyway, she said writing can’t be rushed and it will happen when the time is right.  Whenever I say this on my email club of college friends, my screen writer by night and document proofer friend by day, Robb Lanum, who lives in Los Angeles, gives me a hard time and tells me what he pictures when I say that.  A description of his vision is not suitable for this blog but it has something to do with the word ‘juices,’ and he’s a guy so you can probably infer the rest!

On an unrelated note, Robb finally finished a script based on a challenge I gave him two years ago to write a main stream script.  He completed it a few weeks ago and I, The Annoying Challenger, still have not had the time to read it and others on our email club have already read it.  It pains me actually.

So I keep wondering when all this marinating will be done and when the juices of life will be more manageable so I can write a book that might get published some day…

Oh and by the way, stay tuned for some interesting news about Babble Soft in the next few weeks! 8-)

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Nothing Much To Write About
Jul 23 2009

Well that’s not entirely true.  There is always many things to write about but it doesn’t always fit the topics of this blog which are business and parenting.  I’m meeting some great people on this path to finding a home for Babble Soft (I so enjoyed the comments from all of you on that post) but nothing I can write about yet.  It’s an interesting process to go through because we haven’t really set a price for the company but of course people want to know what the price is, and I say it depends on the buyer! :-)  Which it kind of does because we want to make sure it’s the right fit with the right marketing channels that will enable Babble Soft to live on.

I found it interesting that one of the professors at UT Austin did her dissertation/thesis to prove that entrepreneur’s don’t always sell their company to the highest bidder.  I could have told her that without all the research.  We look for the right fit, the right timing, the right exit, and for hopefully the place it will live on the longest and be paid the most attention to.  The hope is that the highest bidder fits all of those criteria!

The kids are doing great and enjoying summer camp.  My daughter has a little end of summer camp performance tomorrow and then she’ll be at the same place my son is at but it won’t really be camp for her like it is for him.  He goes bowling, swimming, skating, to the park, and on field trips constantly it seems like.  At the end of August they will start at their new school:  The Magellan School and soon they will be babbling in Spanish!

So yes, there’s loads to write about but writing about the trivia and minutia of daily life takes too much time and is boring to most and the high tragic/dark comedy drama…well we must leave that to reality TV shows, the movies, and to shows like Grey’s Anatomy.

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Documents And Other Such Things
Jul 4 2009

In between doing some laundry, making beds, painting my daughter’s fingernails, and making grilled ham & cheese sandwiches for the kids, I spent much of today getting things and documents together that people who might be interested in taking in Babble Soft will want to look at.  I just finished up the typical “one pager” that entrepreneurs use to gain interest from a potential investor or acquirer. I got some great feedback from a couple of my co-workers at the Austin Technology Incubator that I think enhanced it quite a bit.  That’s one of the pluses of having a day job where the Directors review such docs for other technology start-ups.

The one pager can be different depending on who you are sending it to.  It’s much harder to write a one pager than a novel sometimes because you have to really figure out the best words to put down in a limited amount of space.  It’s a cross between a product sales sheet and a company highlights document.  A ‘teaser’ document that will hopefully get someone to call you to discuss your company further.

Since tweeting about us finding a home for Babble Soft, I already have more leads than I expected.  That is the power of a strong social network…so many people reaching out to help others.  I’ve started following up on those leads and they are interestingly quite different.  I also sent messages to some of my LinkedIn contacts to see if they might have connections to appropriate partners.

I’m not as organized as I should be about this process as I’m pulling together information in real time.  I guess I’m following a “fire, ready, aim” route instead of the proper one but it’s the best I can do at this moment in life so may the winds of favor smile on us. :-)   Thank goodness for smiley emoticons.

On an unrelated note, in the background today I’ve been playing music.  For all of my life, I’ve loved music but I haven’t been able to have it playing in the background when I work.  I usually have to have almost complete silence when I read, study, type, etc.  But for some odd reason that wasn’t the case today.  I found myself listening to Jim Croce, James Taylor, ABBA, Simon & Garfunkel (Feelin’ Groovy), Michael Jackson, and of course Backyardigan’s while working at my computer.  Not sure if that bodes well or not to the final product, but it’s an interesting new experience for me.  I guess I’ve just enhanced my multi-tasking abilities or maybe I’ve killed those brain cells that tell me I can’t listen to music and concentrate at the same time.

Just finished listening to I Am A Rock - by Simon & Garfunkel “And a rock feels no pain and an island never cries

My husband is just getting back from taking the kids grocery shopping, and now we’re off to take the kids to see Ice Age – Dawn of the Dinosaurs at the theater.

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneurship | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Babble Soft Looking For A New Home
Jun 22 2009

This is a hard post for me to write, but there are times in life when the best way to handle hard things is to just deal with it head on.  I had some time and space to reflect during my recent beach vacation.

Babble Soft, an idea that I started tinkering around with after my first baby was born in 2003 (our first beta web app release was in 2007 and iPhone app in 2009), has reached a point where my partner, Nicole Johnson, and I can’t do it justice and build it to the company it could be.  We just don’t have the monetary and time resources that a consumer web and mobile (iPhone) based product Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese require to become a household name.  I’ve been working on Babble Soft part time while balancing kids, the house, etc. for most of the company’s life.  I spent a few months full time on it just before I took a day job about a year ago and now the time has come to find a new home for it.  Nicole has been working on this part time, after hours, as well.

We are both discovering that Building A Web Business After Hours is hard to do with two small kids around.  And doubly hard when two ventures are trying to get off the ground in one household: my husband is starting the pre-K to 2nd grade Magellan School that’s scheduled to open this Fall and our resources are also being tied up with that and our kids will be attending the school.

Nicole and I both believe in web applications to help make parents of newborn’s lives easier, and we want to find a good home for Babble Soft with someone who can take our vision to the next level.  We will continue to support our existing customers and any future customers so please don’t worry about that.  We have a high bar set for customer service!  We just can’t take it to the level (with all the exciting new applications we have planned) where we know it could be right now in our lives, but we know there is someone or some company who can.

If you know of someone who might be interested, please email me at blogger(at) babblesoft(dot)com to discuss further.  Please pass a link to this post to everyone you know!

Motherhood is not always peaches & cream and being a mom entrepreneur adds a little extra challenge to the process so sometimes it’s the hard calls that can make the difference in a company’s and person’s success.

Thanks to all of you readers for your continued support and sticking with me through my unusual parenting and entrepreneurial journeys!

Aruni Gunasegaram
President/Founder
(512) 961-6002

Nicole Johnson
VP Product Development
(512) 961-6002

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneurship | Tags: , , | 27 Comments »

Connecting The Dots
May 21 2009

purple-hat-photo1Sometimes the dots connect and sometimes they don’t.   Sometimes you connect them and a nice picture emerges.  Sometimes you connect them and a mess shows up.  Some seemingly random dots are showing up in my life right now and I’m not sure if and how I should connect them or if there is any connection at all.  Here they are:

I recently received the new & improved purple peacock hat I mentioned that I wanted in my New Year’s Resolutions post that my good friend Julie Fergerson, VP of Emerging Technology at Debix, got me for my birthday.  The one she got me was too big for my small head so I sent it back and the designer, Sharmon Hardin, created me a new one that fits great and even has peacock feathers!  She was so friendly and easy to communicate with. Every hat someone buys from her she makes another for St. Jude’s.  I think I’m going to submit Sharmon and her hat business for inclusion in Seth Godin’s new book.  Now I have to wear it to lunch with my friend one day!

My daughter made me a beautiful bracelet for Mother’s Day that I wore to work yesterday and got many compliments on.  Of course, I was shoving it in people’s face to look at it so they were forced to say how pretty it was whether they liked it or not. :-)   But it is quite lovely.  I’ve been noticing her personality starting to show more.  Sometimes when she says something, I’m taken aback at her sophistication and the signs that she’s growing up.  I smile at her confidence and beauty.  She’s starting to drop her baby words but I still tell her she needs to get her ‘swim soup’ when she’s going swimming.  She had so many cute words that will probably hang around in our family’s vocabulary forever.  I used to come up with words when I couldn’t say something properly and my mother still reminds me of those or says them in sentences when she’s talking to me.  I had words for elephant (my favorite animal), apple, sweet things, etc.

My son made me a wonderful card with a picture that he drew of himself on the front and he wrote “I love you mommy” in French inside the card.  I have it on my desk at work and several people have remarked how cute they thought it was.  The only word I remember that he used to say was ‘mimi’ for milk otherwise he seemed to pretty much learn a word and say it right.

Our roof was damaged in a recent hail storm and even with insurance coverage it will cost us $3 to $4K out of pocket.

My husband’s car was practically totaled by the hail storm with windows blown out and body damage that will also put us out of pocket some money.  The windows are fixed so he can drive it but he still has dents all over his car.  His car is jinxed because so many things have happened to it.

Interesting opportunities are presenting themselves for me and Babble Soft making me wonder how I should deal with them.

I’ve had a surge of creativity recently around writing song lyrics, singing, and writing in general but no consistent time and space to get it out.  It’s all bottled up and I feel sometimes like I’m literally going to explode.  I’ve never experienced this before, but it’s a form of torture (not water boarding).  I also don’t generally hang around people who get that or who I can share what I’ve been able to write, which makes me a little sad sometimes.  It helps that I work in weekly voice lessons over lunch.  We are working towards recording a few songs for demo purposes.  I tell my voice instructor that I consider our lessons therapy sessions!

I am tired from burning the candle at both ends as they say.  The whole Building A Web Business After Hours is taking it’s toll.  I’m home sick today just feeling worn out with a scratchy throat.  The upset tummy has disappeared for now.  I will hopefully be fine tomorrow.

The new school, The Magellan School, that my husband is founding is going really well and set to open this August 2009.  Many families have already signed up and donations are coming in.  The first years are always challenging so it’s going to be tight around here for a while.

There’s a bunch of other dots that I either can’t write about or I’ve forgotten but needless to say I am living in interesting times and it’s seems like it’s exactly where I’m meant to be to deal with what lies ahead…

How about your dots?

Author: | Filed under: parenting, random stuff | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

First Professional Babble Soft Newsletter with $450 In Prizes!
Jan 15 2009

bm-photocomp-200w-150hWe are finally using an email marketing tool versus my hodge podge attempts at emailing our customers and friends many moons ago.  It doesn’t look so professional when posting it here but I’m living life on the edge or ledge or whatever. And if you take our marketing survey, you will be entered to win up to $450 in prizes in the form of free Babble Soft subscriptions and Amazon gift certificates that you can buy your spouse, significant other, companion, child, co-worker, boss, employee, mother, brother, father, aunt, uncle, sister, mistress, masteress, lover, something lovely for Valentine’s Day!

Oh and did I tell you we just released an alpha version of our new iPhone application! The iPhone is so freaking cool!

****

Hello Babble Soft Friends and Customers –

Happy New Year! It’s been quite some time since we sent out an official newsletter so we thought now would be a good time to tell you what we’ve been up to. Here’s what’s in this newsletter:

A New Partner On Board – Baby Sleep Expert
Survey Opportunity – Giving away up to $450 in prizes
Babble Soft Going Mobile (iPhone)!
The Babble Soft Blog – NEW!
Special Discounts through February 15, 2009

A New Partner On Board – Baby Sleep Expert

The biggest Babble Soft news that will make all of our lives easier is that we brought on a new partner! Her name is Nicole Johnson and she is our new VP of Product Development. If you want to know how we found her, please see a recent article I wrote on GigaOm called 5 Tips for Vetting a Partner Online. Now when we have bug or feature requests, she will be able to figure out how to fix them much faster. Nicole is amazing and not only is she going to help improve our existing Babble Soft applications, she’s also going to help bring new applications and features to market with the first new mobile application being available already (see below)!

Nicole is also the founder of Pick Nick’s Brain, where she offers an ebook and advice on how to help your baby sleep better. You can keep track of your baby’s sleep patterns using Baby Insights, share your reports with her and she can impart her sage advice to you!

I am so excited to have her as part of the team! Please say hello and/or send her any feedback on the website and applications. You can reach her at nicole@babblesoft.com.

A Quick, Fabulous, and Lucrative Survey – Up to $450 in prizes

In order to provide you with quality service and understand your needs better, we have designed a quick 10 question survey to help us provide the best, most useful products and services for new parents.

Please take a few minutes to take the survey by clicking the link below and enter to win several prizes just in time for Valentine’s Day! Feel free to forward this survey to other new or expecting parents who might be interested in Babble Soft applications.

Click Here to take survey

We will pick the winners based on a random drawing after the survey is closed on January 30, 2008. If you want to be eligible for the prizes, please don’t forget to fill in your name and email address at the end of the survey.

1. First Prize: $100 gift certificate to Amazon and Two 6-Month Babble Soft email gift subscriptions (worth $29.95 each).
2. Second Prize: $50 gift certificate to Amazon and Two 6-Month Babble Soft email gift subscriptions (worth $29.95 each).
3. Third Prize: $25 gift certificate to Amazon and One 6-Month Babble Soft email gift subscriptions (worth $29.95 each).
4. Fourth Prize: Three lucky winners who weren’t selected to win any of the above prizes will get One 12-Month Babble Soft email gift subscriptions (worth $37.95 each) to use yourself or give to any expecting family members or friends.

Babble Soft Going Mobile (iPhone!)

Baby Insights 3.0 Alpha is now iPhone compatible! We have just released the Mom Pump & Feed and the Baby Bottle Feeding portions of the new application. We will be releasing sleep, diaper, and medicine tracking as soon as possible!

The application has been optimized (i.e., looks the prettiest) for the iPhone and we continue to work to make it look nice on the Blackberry browser and Opera Mini browser on the Blackberry. For those of you with an account, you can log in by going to http://m.babblesoft.com/ and enter your user name and password to get started.

Since this is an alpha release, if you find a bug let us know and we’ll add a month to your subscription or give a one month subscription in your honor to the person of your choosing! That’s a $9.95 value!

The Babble Soft Blog – NEW!

In addition to my blog, entrepreMusings, and Nicole’s blog at Pick Nick’s Brain, we just launched a blog on Babble Soft’s website located at www.babblesoft.com/blog where we will offer unique baby tips, advice, parent stories, etc. Sign up for FREE updates via e-mail or preferred RSS reader. Don’t miss even the first post!

We also welcome guest posts on your parenting experiences and will gladly link back to your sites and blogs. We look forward to you stopping by, subscribing, and/or sharing your comments with us on The Babble Soft Blog!

Special Discounts through February 15, 2009

In case your name doesn’t get pulled to win any of the free subscriptions from completing our survey, we are offering a New Year’s discount so you can still buy a Babble Soft subscription for yourself or your friends using coupon code: BABNOW15 for 15% off purchases from now until February 15, 2009.

Please also feel free to give the gift of sleep to yourself and your family members by using coupon code BABBSPEC for 15% off any baby sleep consulting services at Pick Nick’s Brain during the month of January 2009.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Happy New Year!

Thank you,

Aruni and Nicole


Author: | Filed under: babble soft | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Opportunity Knocked. I Opened The Door.
Jun 15 2008

You’ve probably seen those Nationwide insurance commercials that go something like “Life comes at you fast. That’s why there’s Nationwide.” And they show people whose car gets hit by a garage door, a leaf blower or some other random, humorous, or shocking thing.  Check out some of their video ads on their site.

Photo by Sandy Blanchard
Well in every entrepreneurial journey things can happen fast and often there appears a fork in the road.  I decided to pick one of the paths that will have quite an impact on my ability to spend time on Babble Soft.  The opportunity presented itself when I wasn’t looking and I had to take a cold, hard look at it.  The difference between success and failure can often come down to being open to opportunities that seem to randomly present themselves.

The decision on which path to take was not an easy one.  It was not made without much thought, stress, doubt, questions, frustration, etc., but I believe it is the right decision for me, my family, and yes even for Babble Soft.

I  worked part-time on Babble Soft for a while and started full time in late 2007.  As some of you know, I went out to raise funds in early February 2008.  By end of March and early April (because I’ve raised funds before and could see the writing on the wall) it became clear to me this was not going to happen right now for a variety of reasons including: 

  1. We are too early.  In other words, we don’t yet have enough users or market traction to make investors comfortable enough to take the bet given they have started losing money on many of their Web 2.0 companies that they invested in at the concept or early beta stage.  It’s become clearer to me that we are trying to “create a market” which is often quite painful and takes a long time.  Therefore, I cannot yet prove that the market is HUGE for what we were trying to do.  By the way, what you see on the site is just a fraction of what I envision as a site for new parents.  It also did not help that we continue to struggle to find a good SEO rhythm due to a variety of reasons including the fact we are, as I mentioned, for all intents and purposes making a market.
     
  2. I need a business partner.  It’s tough going it alone without someone to bounce ideas off of on a daily basis.  What I need is a strong technical co-founder and/or an expert consumer marketing partner.  I remember meeting with another Austin entrepreneur, Chris Justice of Sparksight, a while back and he shared with me a sound bite from one of his mentors: “People fund teams, not individuals.”  My husband helps me a lot, but he has a full time job and isn’t really into the business concept the same way I am.
     
  3. The economy is in flux.  Investors and consumers alike are concerned about the economy, high gas prices, home foreclosures, job losses, the presidential election, impending tax increases, etc. and their behavior and outlooks have changed.  I won’t freak you out with links to all the articles about the demise of Web 2.0/social networks and people losing their money and their jobs but suffice it to say there are many.  There’s also a lot of good stuff happening but uncertainty is definitely in the air.
     
  4. Other personal stuff I can’t blog about yet but which is probably the biggest driving force for choosing this path right now.

So, not being one to continue banging bang her head against a brick wall, I took a J-O-B (another form of insurance that I don’t think Nationwide or any other insurance company offers) to support my entrepreneurial addiction!

I wasn’t looking, but the opportunity arose for an interesting, most likely fun, hopefully low stress job working with people I like.   My boss (who has been a long time subscriber to my blog) is a very cool guy who I’m sure I’ll enjoy working with.  He knows I will continue working on Babble Soft and is very supportive of my doing so.  He also knows I’m a mom to two great kids and wife to a pretty good guy. ;-)

I’m excited about the potential of this job combined with what’s going on in the rest of my life.  Of course, I will have to become a guru in time management to make it all work.

The entrepreneurial lifestyle is not made up of beautifully paved, straight roads.  There are often detours and roundabouts.  Right now I’m crossing my fingers that this path I’ve chosen will lead to bigger and better things for me, my family, and my company.  A friend of mine, who is a screen writer trying to make it big in Los Angeles, CA (probably similar odds to building a successful company), wrote an excellent post about his decision four years ago to do the same thing I’m doing now when he took a job.  He reflects on how its been both a good and bad decision for his goal to become a recognized, well-paid screen writer.

I’ll continue to blog and will eventually tell you more about my new ‘day job’ so Sign up for free email updates so you can see a) how I make it work or b) a train wreck in action.  If you see a train wreck about to happen, please leave comments and maybe if I read enough of them, I can find a way to build another track or jump off the train beforehand!

Aruni

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, fundraising | Tags: , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Thanks for the Mentions!
May 29 2008

Trish and I were pleasantly surprised at the number of people who blogged and tweeted about our partnership with eMail Our Military that we announced just before Memorial Day weekend.  We are forever grateful for them in helping us spread the word about Babble Soft giving free subscriptions to Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese to active duty military with newborns who are members of eMail Our Military!  We’d like to thank each and every one of them! 

Please check out their posts and leave them a comment and let them know how great it is that they picked up a partnership created by two entrepreneurs who are trying hard to make a difference in the world.  :-D

If you’ve blogged or tweeted about it and we missed it, please let us know and we’ll add you to the list.  Even though it’s past Memorial Day, if you are only now finding out about our partnership, please continue to tell everyone about it because the partnership is ongoing and Father’s Day is just around the corner.  We will still link to your post!

Blog Posts

Fred Wilson at A VC – Memorial Day

Jeff Nolan at Venture Chronicles – Markets are Communities

Maryam Scoble at Maryamie – Memorial Day

Lauren Vargas at This Mommy Gig – Serving the Homefront

Robert Hacker at Sophisticated Finance – Memorial Day

Barbara Ling at – 77 Great Resources for Memorial Day (she links to www.eMailOurMilitary.com)

Jeremy Bencken at PR4 Pirates – Anatomy of an A-List Blog Mention

Omar Gallaga at Austin 360 – Post-Memorial Day Web catch-up

Ashlee Allen of Mama Speaks – Keeping in Touch State Wide

Nicole Johnson at Pick Nick’s Brain – Quick Tip – Logging Sleep

Tweets

Pistachio – Challenging: newborns. More challenging: while your partner’s on active duty. @emailourmilitary @aruni memday help http://tinyurl.com/5gmmrs

KeithBurtis – (aruni)Happy Memorial Day! Help us spread news of @MailOurMilitary (aka @Dayngr) and @babblesoft partnership http://tinyurl.com/5gmmrs...

MikeChapman – Two of my favorites! @MailOurMilitary and @babblesoft join forces post http://tinyurl.com/5gmmrs

TroyTurner – @aruni , @dayngr FYI – I just fwd’d your offer to some insiders at Walter Reed, Ctr for the Intrepid-BAMC, and Naval Med Ctr-San Diego.

MackCollier – Retweeting @aruni: @MackCollier @MailOurMilitary and I have positive news to share too re: Memorial Day http://tinyurl.com/5gmmrs :-)

NewMediaJim (we know he tweeted but can’t seem to find the tweet now)

Hametner – @aruni @mailourmilitary Glad to see the partnership between www.BabbleSoft.com and www.eMailOurMilitary.com, looks like a great fit!

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, baby, baby care, baby insights, baby say cheese, blogging, entrepreneurship, twitter | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Memorial Day – Babies and Our Military
May 23 2008

I met a gal on twitter who tweets by the name of @MailOurMilitary and @Dayngr.  Her real name is Trish.  We got to tweeting and emailing and then talking. 

Since Trish had gone through the hardship of being away from her husband when her first child was born, we both thought it would be a great idea to join forces to offer members of her non-profit organization, eMail Our Military free subscriptions to Babble Soft applications as well as access to a discount code for 20% off purchases for non-active military and friends.

So please let the military families you know about our offer and encourage them and others to sign up at eMail Our Military.  We know there is no way to make up for the lost time and touch of a parent who is away but now they have access to a free tool that can help bridge the unavoidable physical gap between two parents of a precious newborn.  We wanted to give people another reason, which is often overlooked (i.e., being away from their baby), to remember all those men and women who have put their lives at home on hold and/or laid down their lives to protect our freedom.

You can see the press release below, on our site, on PR Web, and on eMailOurMilitary’s blog.  Trish also wrote a more personal blog post called Baby Memories, Milestones, and Our Military where she mentions her experience as a new mom whose husband has to leave one week after her baby was born!

Happy Memorial Day everyone! 

Babble Soft and eMail our Military Join Forces to Offer Free Subscriptions to Babble Soft Applications for Active Duty Service Members with Newborns

Just in time for Memorial Day, Active Duty Service Members with Newborns now get free access to Babble Soft’s web and mobile applications through their membership at eMail Our Military.

eMail Our MilitaryAUSTIN, TX; MIAMI LAKES, FL – May 22, 2008 – Babble Soft and eMail our Military are partnering to offer free subscriptions to Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese for active duty service members with newborns. 

“We are very excited about the opportunity to partner with Babble Soft.” said Trish Forant, Founder and President of eMail our Military. “My husband was called into service only one week after our first child was born.  I had very few friends and family to turn to for support where we were stationed and it was difficult for me to convey to him what I was going through with our new baby.  I would have loved to have the online tools Babble Soft provides to communicate to him how often and when our baby was feeding, sleeping, etc. as well as important picture milestones!”

 “Our goal at Babble Soft is to help strengthen and enhance connections between family members during that wonderful, yet chaotic time after a baby is born.” said Aruni Gunasegaram, founder and president of Babble Soft. “We support our troops and know how important it is for new parents who have to be away from their newborns to feel connected to what is going on at home.  Partners can share experiences and photos with each other through Babble Soft’s unique web and mobile applications. As an added bonus, members of eMail our Military will have access to a discount code to purchase gift subscriptions for their other family members who may or may not have military ties.”

Baby Insights helps caregivers keep track of baby’s breast & bottle feeding, sleep periods, diaper changes, medicine doses, immunization records, as well as mom’s breastfeeding, pumping and medicine intake. Having important information stored in one location makes communication between parents, their nanny, babysitters, grandparents, or doctors seamless and reliable and gives new parents insight into their baby’s patterns to help with crucial baby care decisions.

Baby Say Cheese lets you create a wonderful online baby’s first year photo album with milestones such as ‘first crawl, first smile, first word’ and family tree that you can share with friends and family.  You can even send a fun, cute picture postcards of any of your baby’s milestones to anyone with an email address!

About eMail our Military, Inc.
eMail Our Military was created in 2001 as a response to the DoD’s cancellation of the “Any Service Member” and “Operation Dear Abby” mail programs. As a safe alternative, eMOM picked up where these programs left off. eMail Our Military is composed of volunteers from all walks of life who understand that regardless of our political views, our military service members deserve our respect, support & encouragement. Website visitors can join and take part in a number of support projects ranging from sending eMail on a one-on-one basis with a service member to year round support projects that are open to the public. For more information on eMail Our Military, please visit http://www.eMailOurMilitary.com

About Babble Soft, LLC
Babble Soft is based in Austin, Texas and creates products that help make the transition into parenthood babblesoft-babyeasier.  Whether you need breastfeeding support, are experiencing baby sleep issues, are expecting twins, or taking care of a premature (preemie) baby and would like to create your baby’s first year album, Babble Soft offers unique, easy-to-use Web and Mobile software solutions that improve communication between caregivers.  Babble Soft makes a great baby shower gift that you can easily send via Email to any new parent anywhere in the world!  To learn more and purchase Babble Soft applications, please visit http://www.babblesoft.com.

For more information, please contact:

Trish Forant
eMail our Military, Inc.
(786) 228-7096
Info(at)eMailOurMilitary(dot)com

Aruni Gunasegaram
Babble Soft, LLC
(512) 961-6002
aruni(at)babblesoft(dot)com                                                                                   

 

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, baby, baby insights, baby say cheese, baby sleep, breastfeeding, diversity, entrepreneurship, father, FYI, national holiday, parenting, twitter, working father, working mother | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

What They Don’t Tell You About SEO – Part 3
May 19 2008

Photo by Sandy Blanchard
We are about 5 months and thousands of dollars into our search engine optimization (SEO) campaign managed by SpryDev and before you read the rest, I suggest you check out my Part 1 and Part 2 posts.

Let’s just say I’m not yet ecstatic with the results.  On the plus side, Website Grader now shows our grade as 79 which is up from 67 when I ran it for my Part 2 post on March 3, 2008.  We are also just now starting to show up in the first and second page of Google for our current keywords of ‘breastfeeding support’ and ‘baby sleep.’  We are showing up in the top 30 for other important terms.  Interestingly enough, we are showing #1 for ‘baby care software,’  but I have no idea what the search volume is for that term!

On the not-so-great side, although our overall traffic is increasing at a pretty good percentage rate, we still aren’t seeing a huge jump in total number of visitors or more importantly a significant jump in trial sign-ups which have shown in the past a 7 to 10% conversion rate to purchase!  For instance, according to Google Analytics, in December 2007 we had 873 total visitors of which 626 were unique visitors.  In April 2008, we had 1,585 (82% increase) total visitors of which 1,162 (86% increase) were unique.  Page Views during that same time have gone from 2,364 to 4,898 (107% increase).  In the world of the Internet, the percentage increases are good, but the total numbers seem low to me especially when you see numbers like 1 million visitors per month thrown around often on Mashable and TechCrunch.

In February and March we saw an increase in percentage totals of people finding us using organic search engine terms but saw a drop in organic search and trial sign-ups in April.  The more trial sign-ups we have, the higher the conversion rate of customers purchasing our apps.  Direct and Referring site traffic is still greater than 70% of our traffic sources which means that’s a heck of a lot of my time emailing, blogging, twittering, as well as links from my friends and other interested parties.  My family does not blog or twitter so unfortunately I don’t get back links that way. :-D

I know that the SEO link team is submitting articles, press releases, and creating directory submissions on a monthly basis which seem to be getting accepted and picked up at a reasonable rate.  SpryDev gives me good weekly and monthly reports, and I check out our Google Analytics to see how things are going. So I know that they are sharing all the information they can with me.

We did have an account manager change back in early March when Rose, who I mentioned in a previous post, left for personal reasons and now our account manager is Erik.  We also had a keyword shift around that time from ‘pregnancy week by week’ to ‘baby sleep.’  I’m still not sure why we selected that keyword since we don’t have an offering for that keyword, but I think it was because it had a high search volume…needless to say it had a high bounce rate.  In other words, people who found our site using ‘pregnancy week by week’ didn’t stay long on the site. 

We have also made several website conversion changes based on recommendations by SpryDev via Brian Massey of Customer Chaos, who I also mentioned in one of my previous search engine optimization posts.  Some examples include:

a) Changing trial period from 30 to 15 days
b) Changing our trial follow up emails from same text emails X and 2X days from sign-up to different text emails on sign up, X days out, and Y days out.
c) Adding the Try It Free button on the Babble Soft home page and throughout the site.
d) Creating a new Contact form.

I can’t really opine on the conversion changes until we see a huge jump in trial sign ups. So honestly, I’m a little stumped and frustrated.  Maybe my expectations at the beginning were not correct?!  I had hoped we would see better results by now especially since I was tying some of our fundraising success to SEO.  I don’t know if I’m alone in this or if everyone just has stellar SEO experiences and all of a sudden trial sign-ups and sales go through the roof!  Anyone?

As I mentioned in my SEO, Here I Come post, I signed up with SpryDev because of their guarantee:

“By the end of your contract you will have at least as much additional business from your Web site as you spend on our services…  or we’ll work for FREE until you do.”

Since the contract is for 12 months, we have 7 more months to go and they are assuring me that around the 6 month mark is when their customers start to see the big results…although so far May hasn’t been proving to be a big trial sign-up month yet.  I’ve heard from others that they’ve seen big results in as little as 3 to 4 months from their SEO endeavors. 

So now I’m wondering what could we have done better and what could we do better?  Are we optimizing for the right keywords?  Do people know to even look for applications like ours?  Are people even interested in using applications like ours?  Do we need to do more marketing around the benefits of using these kinds of applications more than the parent stories I pull together when the opportunity arises?  Should I put the money that I would be putting into SEO into paid ads on parenting related sites, Google AdWords, etc. instead?

I have pretty much come to the conclusion that I will need to continue to bootstrap Babble Soft since fundraising has been challenging given this economic environment and because we have yet to demonstrate a compelling increase in the number of our users.  I would feel much better going out to raise funds with thousands or tens of thousands of customers.

I am beginning to think that I might just have to get a job to support my entrepreneurial addiction! 8-O

If you are interested in reading more about my SEO trials, tribulations, and hopefully victories think about subscribing to this blog.  If you know more about SEO than I do (which is likely), then leave a comment and share your advice with the rest of us!

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, baby sleep, breastfeeding, entrepreneurship, fundraising, sleep | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »