Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why YouTube Should Give Wistia a Try

At the recent MamaBear Tech Conference, there were a lot of interesting and inspiring things going on.

One was a talk by Ivana Kirkbride, Audience Development Strategy at YouTube entitled "Guess How Much I Love You(Tube)?: Distribution via Video."

It was full of great things about how important it is to engage an audience. Apparently, YouTube considers video to be a good way to do that :)

The talk was cruisin' along, and she's going to end up with an inspiration tale about Michelle Phan, and how she used videos to make a name for herself.

So, she tries to start the video . . .

. . . nothing happened . . .

So, just to clarify: A YOUTUBE talk, and the video doesn't work . . .

Are ya with me on that?

So, my first thought is that YouTube should be using Wistia. It's a great video hosting service for businesses.

Here's some stuff to know about Wistia:
  • It's Very Reliable
  • They are ├╝ber geeks when it comes to video stats
  • Like to help you understand how that data can IMPROVE existing video content
  • Rather than make lots of poorly engaging videos, they show how it's better to improve what you already have
  • Great webinars
  • Awesome ways to present content to site visitors
  • It's what businesses use when they want to take video seriously


You'd think I work for them or something. Nope, I don't. They've just won me over with a great service and even better customer support. Here's what really did it for me:

They offer a few different packages, so I paid for the smallest one. It allowed like three videos at the time. On my business site, we are planning to do short videos explaining how to do stuff. So, we would have needed a bigger, more expensive package :(

I emailed them and told them my situation. We simply needed lots of videos, not unlimited bandwidth. So, good 'ole Jeff over there emailed me back in about 25 minutes. I figured it would be an email saying "Deal with it" or "We'll look into it" . . . nope . . . I was amazed when I saw that he had already setup a custom account with unlimited videos, and was capped based on the bandwidth. I was stoked, that's exactly what I needed, and it was done with no hassle, right away.

Try getting anything like that to happen with your YouTube Account . . .

Also, here's a blog post they did on the The Cost of Free Video Hosting.

If you have a biz, and video means anything, Wistia is something you gotta check out. Ya, even if you are YouTube :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why MediaPiston Should Automate Less and Care More

I was emailed a while back about a cool sounding service from Joe Heitzeberg. I looked him up and saw that he had done some good stuff in the past. His Twitter profile says "MediaPiston chief, mentor for TechStars & 500 Startups, new father". So, it seemed legit.

UPDATE: Some of this is simply me venting about a bad experience I had with MediaPiston, so take it with a grain of salt. There is also information based on feedback from Joe Heitzeberg, so don't miss that below.

Here are the comments I left on oDesk when ending my miserable contract with them.

Keep in mind. I gave them many chances to make it right with me. I felt completely ignored. If your name is Joe, or you have a company, please use this as an anti pattern for customer service.

They have a way to go before I'll consider using them again. I did a few jobs with them, and the work was ok, but I didn't get anything that would have been useful without more work on my end.

The thing that really pissed me off is that I did an ebook job with them.

It took forever to even get a draft. There were about 5 writers who were assigned and then stopped.

Once I got a draft, there was a date I was shown as a deadline for my review period. WELL BEFORE the review period was over, they marked it as accepted and TOOK THE PAYMENT.

They give two revisions and say you WILL NEVER PAY FOR WORK YOU DON"T WANT, but when I asked about that after they took my payment, they said I needed to ask the author for revisions. WTF, that's the process they are supposed to be handling.

Total lame experience with this service. I'm sure they have their challenges they are trying to overcome, but you'd think they'd overcome that by a great customer service experience. Nope!

All along, I get spam emails from the owner asking me how it's going, and to submit more orders, etc. But, when I email him with feedback or questions, they are ignored.

They may improve at some point tech wise. I get it's complicated, but they have complete control over the customer service they provide.
Here is an overview of the emails between me and good 'ole AUTO JOE, and their useless customer service:


There's a point where automating your customer engagement just makes your company look stupid. I'm addressing a serious issue with them that, apparently, it's now my problem, not theirs. Meanwhile, the founder is sending me smiley face emails about more orders and referals . . . ignoring the issues I am raising in my responses.

Joe Heitzeberg is not listed on the 500 Startups Mentors Page anymore. I probably should not comment on why that might be. UPDATE: He said he is taking a break from mentoring right now to focus on MediaPiston, which is requiring all his attention at the moment.

Joe, this part really makes me laugh:

"Thank you for placing multiple orders and for being one of our best new customers!"

If this was true, I should have had a better experience, don't you think?


UPDATE:

Joe Heitzeberg contacted me about this.  He was very candid in his response.  He admits that they have been focusing mostly on the technology that runs MediaPiston, and not enough on customer service.  Obviously, making any decision about where to deploy your resources has consequences.  If he had chosen to focus on customer service, this post might be about how the tech needs a lotof work.  My opinion is that you can never go wrong when you focus on making customers happy.  It's a lot easier to understand that features simply haven't been implemented than to deal with slipping though the cracks in customer service.

This is good to know:
We have additional support staff being brought in now and redoubling efforts to improving the product in those specific cases where customers run into trouble (vs. just throwing people at it)


I wish them the best. I hope I have helped in some way.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What LeVar Burton Said About My "Questionable" Website

In a previous post, I wrote about How to Get Into an Exclusive 500 Startups Event as a VIP where I talked about my journey to get into the recent MamaBear Tech Conference created by 500 Startups.

So, I made the PuppyRapMobile website to win the contest, and some have said that it seems kinda racist. Obviously, I don't agree. However, since I heard that, it has been on my mind.

LeVar Burton was the keynote speaker at the conference, and was truly amazing and inspiring (I'll have to follow up with a post just about that talk). He talked about how his acting career started by playing Kunta Kinte on Roots, and its significant impact on American culture. Hmmm . . .

. . . I knew he was just the person to put my mind at ease. If the guy that played Kunta Kinte on Roots could not settle the issue, no one could.

At some point after his talk was over, I met up with him in the hall outside the main conference area.

He was nice enough to take a look with me, so I showed him around the site a bit.

I told him how some people said it was kinda racist.

He smiled, patted me on the back, and said "It's an homage!"

Thanks LeVar Burton, for clearing things up. I'm glad you liked the site!

Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Get Into an Exclusive 500 Startups Event as a VIP

When I first heard about the new MamaBear Tech Conference that 500 Startups was planning, I just had to get there. The ticket price was about $250. With TimeGears being an early stage startup, that's a lot of dough! Although it would be nice, it wasn't going to happen.
Since I've been stalking 500 Startups for a while, I stay up to date on what they are doing. When they announced a contest with MailChimp to get free tickets to the event, I saw a chance to get there.

The MailChimp Contest Page

I thought I'd give it a try. All I had to do was come up with a subtitle for a picture of a chimp, like with LOL cats. I put a few captions in there.

Well, apparently my version of funny didn't click with MailChimp. I didn't win that contest.

On to the next . . .

So, later, there was another contest. Nice! Another chance to score some MamaBear Tech tickets.

The Rackspace Contest Page

This time there was a funky, abstract looking picture of a cat (maybe). So, I put in some time thinking about it, and added some even awesome'r taglines this time. I was sure they would do the trick :)

Well, a pattern was emerging. RackSpace and MailChimp shared the same opinion of my work :(

As luck would have it, I had one more chance! What a relief, I still had a way to go see all the awesomeness 500 Startups had planned.

The .CO Contest Page

Those tricky folks at go.co had something different in mind. It was based on Dave McClure's Pitch Game. They wanted a tagline to go along with the .CO domain puppyrapmobile.co. I put in my tagline, and left it at that.

Then, I figured I could do a lot better . . .

So, I bought the puppyrapmobile.co domain, and built a website around the tagline "We be givin' ridez to 'dem doggiez, 'cuz it's hard out here for a pup!" The "business" was a puppy transportation service powered by old school rappers. I added a form to pick a car, a rapper, a posse, some other optional stuff, and a faux PayPal button to check out. There's also a video and a number to call for requesting a puppy pick-up (powered by Twilio).

When it was all done, I sent a tweet out to all the peeps: "Hey @davemcclure @paulsingh @dotco @500 We just finished the MVP for http://puppyrapmobile.co #500Strong #LeanStartup #MamaBearTech."

Then . . . all I could do was . . . wait . . .

About 25 minutes later, I got a DM from @dotco:

"Hi! We think your puppyrapmobile.co site is hilarious- we just have to give you a Mama Bear ticket! Please email xxxxxxx@go.co"

Sweet! Finally, a company with a GOOD sense of humor :)

I guess that just shows that being extra awesome will get it done extra often.

Wait until you find out who ended up going with me . . .

Friday, September 30, 2011

How to get great programmers for your startup


While working in Dane Maxwell's roundtable group, one of the topics that has come up is getting great talent, and knowing ahead of time rather than taking so many chances.

Dane Maxwell says to give them a task that should take a couple days, so you can get to know how they work before making a larger commitment.

Here's an example of how I am vetting talent for a health care startup. This particular idea is not the primary one for the startup, but it can be useful. Given that, I'm not worried about sharing it here. This is the content of the email I am using:

-------------------------------------------------

Hi Joe,

I've decided to try something fun and different to filter candidates
for the startup. I'll give you a programming task that is somewhat
involved. Upon acceptance, you let me know how long it took, we pay
you for it (let me know your standard rate), then we talk some more.

Here's the challenge:

Use public government data (I will provide links below), create a web
page which allows the visitor to enter a zip code.
1. On a google map, show the nursing homes for that zip code, using
the google API to add points on the map.
2. When a user clicks on one, show the following data in the google
info bubble.
a. Name, address, phone
b. The government 5 star rating value (from a dataset I'll
provide a link to)
c. A link that says "X Complaint Deficiencies". When the link is
clicked, show a table below the map with any deficiencies for that
facility and if/when that deficiency has been resolved.

Constraints:
1. Use Ruby on Rails for the front end, or create a Java based REST
service to make an ajax call in an html only page.
2. Import the data into a MySQL or Postgre database.
3. Keep it simple.

Here are links to the datasets needed for the challenge:

1. Nursing Home Complaint Deficiencies:
http://data.medicare.gov/dataset/Nursing-Home-Compare-Complaint-Deficiency/nsyy-ktee
2. Nursing Home Compare Provider Ratings:
http://data.medicare.gov/dataset/Nursing-Home-Compare-Provider-Ratings/mufm-vy8d
3. Nursing Home General Information:
http://data.medicare.gov/dataset/Nursing-Home-Compare-General-Information/dg6a-rxvx

Fields needed:

1. All data sets use a provider ID, so key on that for all the data.
2. In the Provider Ratings table, there are star ratings for Overall,
Health Inspections, Nurse Staffing, Quality Measures, and RN Only. Go
ahead and show all these above the deficiency table with other general
info.
3. For the deficiency data, use the Deficiency Category, the
Deficiency, Scope, and Level of Harm in the table

Not all facilities will have deficiencies.

If you need any guidance, just let me know. This will test how well
we can work together, as well as your proficiency level in some of the
programming areas we are looking for.

Thanks,

Chris Pritchard
-------------------------------------------------

Getting the developer excited about doing this task can involve different methods. The startup I am getting talent for has funding, so it's ok to spend some of that to make sure our people can handle the type of work we need to get done. Other startup ideas might simply use the idea itself and an offer of equity. I'm a great developer, so I have too many equity offers to count. Given that, your mileage may vary with those types of offers.

I'll add a post later that goes into the details of locating leads :)

Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Dane Maxwell Will Make Me (and you) Millions


Today, the Dane Maxwell Software Business Round-table started. It's a diverse group of about 30 people who will work at a current, or new software based business startup over the next six months. The goal is to have a site with ten paying customers by the end of that time. Using the concepts of the Lean Startup movement, we're going to contact people in our selected market and gather ideas from them, "three or four layers deep, where the gold is."

It started off with an email with a payment link to cover our end of the deal. Let me tell you, I have simply been waiting impatiently for this link since Dane started talking about it. From what I could tell from other members, there's a general consensus that it was the easiest $500 (per month) we have ever spent.

After that, we were invited to a private chat area where the fireworks started right away. These folks wasted no time. I've never been a big fan of chat rooms, but this one was full of synergistic buzz. Everyone was brainstorming ideas and offering assistance and resources. Dane has done well to setup a supportive group of people that are vested in each other's success.

It's just a fact, but the first month will whittle away the folks that don't perform. It's our job to get our market, solicit ideas and needs from potential customers and find that gold nugget idea lying deep in the details. It's kinda like pivoting a few times before you even get started. However, the bar will be high and we gotta perform to stay in the game.

So, our job for today:
  1. Know, and report our personality types (via https://www.enneagraminstitute.com). I am a 7/8 and proud of that :). It will help us work together as a team and let Dane know how to best work with us.
  2. We attended the first of our daily Q&A sessions with Dane in our chat room. It was also the first time I've seen 25 or so people try to add stuff to a google doc at one time, so that was worth the price of admission alone.
  3. We're reading chapter three of Breakthough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz. Dane says this book will make a few of us millionaires, so I'm reading it.
  4. We're posting our daily progress for all to see (even if we didn't have any). To keep track of our progress we answer these questions: 1. How many hours did you work. 2. What did you accomplish? 3. What problems did you encounter? 4. What questions do you have of me (Dane)?
  5. Dane urged us all to at least practice talking to some people in various markets, even if we have not selected one.
As it turned out, I found someone in my market for timegears.com right in the chat room. He's got a business that is very similar to our first paying customer. So, it was a great opportunity to practice my value proposition and get my mouth used to saying what we do in a very concise way. Thanks Luke!

By the way, the responses for my four Q's today:
1. 4 hours. 2. Personality test, chat/Q&A, talked with a lead from this very chat group. Read chapter 3 in Breakthrough Marketing, blogged about the roundtable kickoff at startupjerky.com. 3. It's hard to say goodbye to even more sleep, but it will be missed. 4. (insert obligatory wood chuck question here)

Well, I've still got work to do, so I'm done here. I'll have more soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Kung Fu of Dane Maxwell

As a fan of Mixergy, I am no stranger to Dane Maxwell. Just search his name there, and you will see a few awesome examples of his entrepreneur Kung Fu.

Although I have always liked his work, his last interview was ... well, here's what I wrote to Andrew, the founder of Mixergy:

Dane Maxwell's interview correlated one to one with what I have felt
our company has needed to do while developing software. He is very
inspiring, and his process is very repeatable.

This guy knows what he is doing. In his interview, he threw out a teaser of a "roundtable" for building a software product from scratch . . . the right way . . . like he's done a few times already. Here's what he said:

Maybe, just, I’m thinking about starting a software roundtable, to help people actually create a software product even if they don’t have any ideas or anything. So if you go to DaneMaxwell.com you can check out the application to see if you would like to learn how to build software with a group of like ten other people, all building software from scratch.
This was no accident. This really piqued my interest . . . just like he intended. He made the idea sound so fragile that it might just blow away in the wind. It caused me, and about 90 others, to circle around that idea and contact Dane right away, so that the "maybe" part was never an option. Which, in hindsight, I don't think it ever was. Ka-pow, Dane Maxwell pulls no punches.

The part I like, and what prompted me to finally start blogging, was that Dane had not produced anything yet. It was a Lean Startup in my face, aimed right at me. I had to get on board with this guy, no matter the cost. Ka-pow . . . that one snuck up on me.

I know he has not even built the system he's going to use to get his software business roundtable group from point A to B, but, that is the Kung Fu of Dane Maxwell. Yes, he'll be getting my money, and yes, Ka-pow, it's now a cage match!!

I don't know Dane yet (so, I really hope he likes my MS Paint skills), but he's already shown me a lot of things that will empower me to do what needs to be done. Take a look at this interview, and you will see what I mean. He uses his Kung Fu only for good.

See you in the ring.