Growth5 Blog

Friday, January 29, 2010

Your Own iPhone App For $199

You can create your own iPhone app for as little as $199 with AppMaker. It will be a content distribution app to let the world know what you're doing, or to simply provide users with whatever content you would like them to digest.

All you have to do is provide AppMaker with the RSS feed for the content you want distributed and some imagery:
-320 x 480 pixel splash screen
-320 x 46 pixel header
-512 x 512 pixel icon for iTunes
AppMakr builds and submits your app to the iTunes App Store.

Sure, people can already subscribe to your RSS feed with various resources, but remember, this is a "medium" and "find me easier" play. It's how I think of Twitter. If you want to be found, go where the people are looking and allow them to find you and experience your brand via the medium of their choice. You're giving your new audience the option of interacting with you on their terms, a much more likely conversion than waiting/demanding that they meet you at the medium of your choice and on your terms.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

21 Things We're Learning to Live Without

I enjoyed this article from US News & World Report. "With jobs and money scarce, consumers are taking inventory and tossing lots of stuff once deemed important into a humongous discard pile. To safeguard the essentials—a safe home and supportive community, the kids' education, Internet connectivity, sustenance for a pet—Americans are giving up lots of other things."

US News "synthesized market research, business trends, economic data, and reports from hundreds of consumers into a list of things that many people seem to be significantly cutting back on, or living without completely." Click on the article link above to read more info on each item. Here are the 21 items we're learning to live without:
1. Monthly payments
2. Window shopping
3. Bells and whistles
4. Clutter
5. Cable TV
6. A home phone
7. Privacy
8. Prepared foods
9. Tupperware parties
10. Packaged cigarettes
11. Lattes
12. Guilt
13. Extra Calories
14. Newspapers and magazines
15. Healthcare
16. New gifts
17. New cars
18. Comfort
19. A daily commute
20. Fancy dates
21. Debt

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Google Voice App for the iPhone? Enter HTML5

Sean Carton posted this article on the idfive blog yesterday about how Google Voice is using HTML5 to get around Apple blocking the Google Voice app from being used on the iPhone.

Which is great news because now with my Verizon Wireless MiFi broadband and Google Voice via the browser on my iPhone, I can start using my iPhone for phone services again and not just as a cool mini-computer.

Sean also points out the fact that app usage in the Android market is growing rapidly. This type of competition is good for consumers and will push both Google and Apple to make better products. Developers will have two viable platforms to push their apps, more for us to choose from.

Now, if we can just get a Verizon Wireless iPhone...

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facebook Users Use It A LOT!

From the Silicon Alley Insider, the chart below displays monthly page views per visitors to social network sites.

The average Facebook visitor has 662 page views per month. They have 350+ million users interacting with the site at least once a month. I think we can stop with the, "but how will Facebook make money" nonsense.

What's a little surprising is the gap between Facebook and the rest of the pack. Nearly double 2nd place. Those Facebookers sure can click around, can't they?

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Five Things I Wish Were In Your Business Plan

We read a lot of business plans, executive summaries and listen to pitches on a regular basis. Putting a business plan together is not easy, kudos for getting that far. But since you asked, here are the five items I wish your business plan contained.

1. Specific Market Data
"There are, you know, billions of people on earth, so if we get a good chunk of them to buy, we should be all set." Showing how many people are on the planet and an actual % in place of "good chunk" would've helped.

I like data, preferably reliable data. Footnoted facts and figures. Get specific. What is the real market for your product or service? What are the stats on the various segments? What % of the market do you hope to capture? Yes, you are guessing, we all know that, but the more educated your guess is, the more educated our guess about your business will be. Show your work, sometimes the process of how you got there is more telling than the numbers that resulted.
2. Sales / Marketing Strategy
"Well, we created the revenue growth you see by taking the year before and multiplying it by 1.25 all the way across." Congrats on your excel superskills, but how do you plan to hit those numbers?

Be specific about how you intend to grow your business. What marketing initiatives do you plan to implement? Will you have a sales team? How much will it cost to acquire each user/sale?
3. Milestones
"We're too young to have any milestones yet." But you plan to have some eventually, right? What led you to seek an investment now? What has been accomplished, and more importantly, what are the key events that will show your progress, proof of concept, business model, etc...? At which of those points will you need further financing, why and how much?
4. Financing Plan
"We're going to use the funds to grow the company." That's a decent 800,000 foot plan, we probably should drill down a bit. What milestones will the current round of financing support? Why did you choose this amount? Will these funds get you to X users? Your next release? Cash flow positive? $X Revenue? We like to see the use of funds match the milestone strategy so we can assess...
5. Value: Now and When
"We want all our investors to make a lot of money." We do too. It's not easy valuing businesses, especially startups. What we need to see here is a plan for value creation. How do the milestones connect with the increasing value of the business? How long will it take to get to value worth investing in? When you hit the $X revenue milestone what will the business be worth according to industry metrics? We can compare that to how much financing is needed to make risk/reward assessments. You can too, and you should.

It doesn't have to be advanced mathematics, ballpark guessing can be really helpful. You might realize the market won't yield a long-term value that's worth the money needed to get there. And thus the mystery of the distant stares at your last three pitches, solved.
Don't forget to ask for feedback on your business plan or your pitch. It's the best way to know how to improve it. It's also a great way to filter the kind of VCs you want to work with.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

YouTube Music Discovery Project

YouTube's TestTube (like Google Labs) recently launched the YouTube Music Discovery Project or "Disco" for short.

"You type in the name of an artist or group in a search box. Then you hit the “Disco” button to find music. A playlist will appear as the search result."

This feature is similar in functionality to Pandora, Last.fm or "Genius" on iTunes.

I typed in "Pearl Jam" which returned a 40 video playlist of songs from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Screaming Trees, The Black Crowes and Soundgarden. It's actually a pretty decent playlist I've kept running in the background.

Normally, I would have clicked thru to these "related videos" in a click-by-click exploration. I appreciate YouTube doing some of that work for me with this feature.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coke's Happiness Campaign

Coke launched the "Happiness Machine" video (embedded below) via their YouTube channel about a week ago. It has received over 750k views so far.

The video was shot on the Queens campus of St. John's University after a specially-equipped vending machine was installed the night before.

Coke is targeting a younger audience with this video. "We were looking for a creative way to connect with teens outside of the typical TV commercial or online game," according to A.J. Brustein, Global Senior Brand Manager, Coca-Cola. "We wanted to give them something that would spread a bit of happiness and something they could pass on to their friends to keep the happiness flowing."

You have to admit, it's pretty hard to watch this video without smiling. Free stuff for college students, I think it's safe to say their happiness was both genuine and infectious.

Coke has figured out that it makes sense to a) place ads where people are looking and b) entertain them as opposed to disrupting and annoying the audience.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best Advice I Ever Got: Wilbur Ross

Fortune recently ran a piece titled, "The Best Advice I Ever Got" with Wilbur Ross, CEO of W.L. Ross & Co. Ross specializes in leveraged buyouts and distressed businesses. The advice that has made the most difference in his career:
1. "You're better off backing a mediocre idea that's brilliantly implemented than a brilliant idea that's badly executed."

2. "The biggest risk is the question you forget to ask, because the danger is always something you don't know."

3. "Set a walking-away price. Before I go into negotiations, I lay out what our real limit is - where we'll go on price and other key terms. You have to have that discipline, because auction fever is a lethal disease."

4. "Keep your cool. Remind yourself that no one deal is crucial. If you can't get reasonable terms, just let it go. There's always another one later."

5. "Study before you leap. We usually study an industry for a year before going in. First, we make a big list of everything that's wrong with the industry. Then we make a second list, asking, if we were in control, what would we do differently? When the two lists match, we're ready to get going."

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vintage Ad Browser

Seth Godin posted about a great resource for vintage ads last week. It's called the Vintage Ad Browser. They have over 100,000 vintage ads to explore. You can search by year, pre-chosen topic or type in a topic of your choice.

The following Coca-Cola ad is from 1937. It's titled, "The All-American Pause." The ad copy reads: "A note on the football season: All-American choice for time-out is the pause that refreshes with Coca-Cola."

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