General startups

Great companies are started in all markets


This is a great chart. Because it shows that no matter what, great companies can still be created, and still thrive.

I started my last company in the middle of 2002, and it was actually easier, since hiring developers was far less expensive than just a few years earlier. In 2007-2008, when the financial collapse occurred, we experienced our biggest growth by pivoting to target the SLED market (State, Local, Education), whose property-tax revenues had plummeted and budgets were slashed. Ironically, by leaning forward and going after a replacement strategy of the incumbent product, we were able to save these institutions a lot of money, while doing a massive landgrab of desktops.

Nothing beats a good idea, decent execution and persistence. No matter what the market.



The democratization of the MBA


Pstt… wanna a free MBA? You can get one at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Without putting up with the cold winters.

It’s a bit nuanced, but basically here how is how it works:

  • You sign up for the online MBA at Coursera.
  • If you want to be actually matriculated at the University, you pay the $20k fee for the MBA (you will have to go through the acceptance process).
  • But there’s a twist — you can just take the courses for free. You won’t get the level of classroom involvement, but you’ll get the core information.

If you go the free route, you can always apply later, building credits as you go along. But if you just want the information, then you can get it. And not pay through the nose (even though $20k is very reasonable for an MBA).

This is not a little thing — Urbana-Champaign is one of the top MBA schools.

General startups venture capital

Where the unicorns are

A328dc559e1fceca19c8787be41094cfUnicorns — private companies that have a valuation over a bill — are not just in the US (the whole unicorn phenomena is a new one, part of the bubblelicious experience.)

CB Insights has some interesting information on where the mythical unicorns actually are; Silk mada a nifty interactive chart.

Digging into the data, you would think that the Unicorn phenomena is relegated to the Silicon Valley/SF Bay area. Not so lad! While 62 are located in the U.S., there are 11 in China, 10 in Europe and 6 in India. There’s even a couple in Canada!

What we can see is the power shift from Silicon Valley to San Francisco. Out of the 62 companies in the list, I counted 25 in San Francisco. 21 are not in the SF bay area at all — there’s New York (WeWork, Vice, MongoDB, AppNexus, Oscar Health,  Warby Parker, Sprinklr, Gilt); SoCal (Snapchat,SpaceX, Legendary, JustFab, Razer); then a surprising number are in Utah (Domo, Qualtrics, Pluralsight, InsideSales); trailed by the Boston area (Moderna, Actifio and SimpliVity). Florida makes an honorable mention with the mysterious (and probably real unicorn), Magic Leap.

Just to have some fun, here are the SF based-unicorns:

Prosper Marketplace
Social Finance




10 ways to piss off David Ogilvy

David-ogilvyWarms my heart, this blog post by Demian Farnworth. If you know me, you know I’m a massive fan (earlier in my career, I would require all marketing employees who worked for me to read Ogilvy on Advertising).

Ogilvy was the first real data-driven marketer and that was the simplicity of his power: He knew what he was doing, because he had the data to back it.

So here are 10 ways to piss off David Ogilvy:

1. Be boring
2. Sling mud at competitors
3. Write copy that lacks charm
4. Break a promise
5. Use jargon
6. Be a weasel merchant
7. Feature self-justifying research
8. Write copy that fails to make the cash register ring
9. Demonstrate incompetence in the advertising business
10. Be an obstinate creative person


You can get a poster with these maxims here.

10 Ways to Piss Off David Ogilvy (Free Poster)



If mobile is a secondary concern, you will lose


On Tuesday, Google reported that in some parts of the world, mobile search has eclipsed the desktop. And we’re not talking about tablets — Google includes tablets in the definition of desktops.

This change has occurred in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.

And yet, even though this data is not surprising to many of us (Google has been warning about this for quite a while), I still find many of the companies I work with are still not mobile-friendly.

It’s not just the website. It’s email marketing, organic search strategy, product, and…everything.

To make matters worse for those who haven’t caught on, Google now optimizes its search algorithm for mobile-friendly sites.

Can anyone say wake up call?

Don’t get scared. Get excited! Those who are ahead of the curve on mobile marketing are killing it.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you need one on an urgent basis. By mobile-friendly, I don’t mean “yeah, we work on mobile”. I mean that people would actually enjoy using your site on a mobile device. Mobile is now an organic, intrinsic part of your marketing strategy. I’ve worked with companies that one would think “got it”, but their site is hard to use, with tiny fonts, difficult to read, difficult to navigate. Mobile hasn’t been a #1 priority.

It can’t just look good on a tablet or an iPhone 6+. It has to look good on an iPhone 5 and the other smaller devices.


For a quick diagnostic, you can use a free tool like Google speed insights to gain an understanding of where you may be lacking in mobile. While this tool is designed to test for speed, it will also point out how your site ranks on other usability aspects, such as viewport, a key metric. The viewport is what the person can see, and if you’re not using an optimized viewport, it makes the whole mobile browser experience just awful.

(Some experts recommend using the Google Mobile-Friendly test. That’s kind of like asking a triage doc at ER to do a diagnostic. It’s not as useful as what you’ll find in Google’s Speed Insights.)

Some tips:

Get responsive. A responsive site design will respond to different browsers and size factors, with one URL. This has a huge advantage with Google’s search algorithm, and it has a huge advantage in speed, since there are no redirects. Plus, you don’t have to maintain several different sites. It’s what Google recommends, so it’s what you should do.

Not responsive? Then fix the viewport. The viewport is what the customer sees on the page. Google can help, but there’s also common sense. Load your website on every mobile device you can get your hands on and see what it looks like. You may be humbled!

Get exposed. You may find that some parts of your site are hidden (especially if you’re using multiple sites for mobile and desktop). A quick check with Google’s Fetch as Google will insure that Google is seeing what you want it to see.

Make it work for mobile

As you can imagine, I don’t believe mobile is an “afterthought”. It should be organic to your efforts. So, that means making the site as mobile-friendly as possible. That means not requiring people to pinch and zoom to read your site.

Here’s some tips.

Fonts: Headlines should be 22 px and body copy 14 px. Otherwise, people will need to pinch and zoom and that sucks.

Fat: Make call to action buttons big and fat. 44 px by 44 px.

Use alt text. Sometimes images don’t load. The user needs to see what the image is supposed to have been.

Workflow. Look at how people actually use the site. This is really important — I’ve seen a massive change in an online retailer’s sales just in how they presented the products. You want the mobile shopping experience to be fairly binary — touch, touch, buy. Simple.

The ultimate in mobile workflow? Tinder. Think of that level of simplicity.

Other tools to consider and Origami — Great mobile prototyping tools.

ImageOptim — optimize images for mobile.

LiveView and Skala — both great tools to preview and optimize mobile sites.

Good luck!

(Hubspot has some other tips, here. Additional credits here and here.)