Growth5 Blog

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Google Docs: Two New Powerful Functions


Yes, we are Google Docs fans at the Five Group. Why?

  • It's a great place to organize files that our internal and external teams have access to from anywhere they have an internet connection;
  • multiple people can view and work on these files at the same time in real-time; and
  • the functionality for each type of Google Doc is getting more powerful all the time.
Google has developed Docs really well.

We use a third party online app that helps us run our businesses day-to-day, but for almost everything else we use Google Docs. We probably get the most use out of the Spreadsheets, certainly with all of the financial docs for our service businesses and our portfolio companies. However, we probably use the Spreadsheets app equally for non-financial documents because it's excellent for organizing information (agendas for meetings with real-time notes, timelines, inventory tracking, etc...)

The "Microsoft Word-like" Google Doc app called Document is perfect for working on text with multiple people, especially if they can't be in the same room. Awhile back we were working (last minute of course) on a presentation one of our portfolio companies was giving in Switzerland that day. The COO of the portfolio company was in Switzerland at his hotel, I was racing down I-95 somewhere in NJ (connected to the web via my Mifi in the passenger's seat) and Grace was at the office in Baltimore – all of us on Google Docs watching Grace make edits to the changes we were talking through.

Google Docs eliminates the need for the every 30 seconds questions, "can you read it back again please? What did we say again?" We could see the presentation as the edits were being made. The Swiss heard a much better presentation than would have otherwise been given that day.

Google Docs has introduced two new functions/formulas you should know about:
1. IMPORTRANGE() can reference data from any of your Google Doc spreadsheets. We've covered the functionality of scraping the web for data you can pull into your Google Doc spreadsheet here and part 2 here. Technically, you could pull data from your other Google Doc spreadsheets using these original functions, but it was clunky. This new function makes it easier for you to pull information from any of your Google Docs spreadsheets to each other. Very helpful.

2. SPLIT() cleans up text in a cell by splitting it into multiple cells at any delimiter you choose. This function makes me smile because it is now my answer to this perpetual question... "I have 3,000 names in a list in Excel, their full names are in one cell each, how do I separate out the middle names without having to edit the cells manually?"

My answer used to be, "please don't ask me to explain how this works, but try using this formula by changing the A2 wherever it appears to the cell where your name list starts."

=TRIM(IF(ISERROR(FIND(",",A2,1)),A2,MID(A2,FIND(",",A2,1)+1,
IF(ISERROR(FIND(" ",A2,FIND(",",A2,1)+2)),LEN(A2),
FIND(" ",A2,FIND(",",A2,1)+2))-FIND(",",A2,1))))

Now my answer is, "just upload the excel file into Google Docs, and use SPLIT()."
Here's a quick and simple example of how you could use SPLIT().

You have a list of names that starts at cell A2 – the names are in one cell each and appear as follows:

Last Name, First Middle

You would put the formula =SPLIT(A2,",") into cell B2. A2 is the cell to consider, and the "," is the delimiter. As you can see in the screen capture below, the last name appears in cell B2, whatever is after the comma appears in cell C2.



If you would like to split the first and middle name in cell C2, you would enter the formula =SPLIT(C2," ") into cell D2. C2 is the cell to consider, the " " (space) is the delimiter. As a result, the first name appears in cell D2, the middle name in E2.



You still may have some clean up work to do after using SPLIT(), but it's simple and efficient and a great way to start a project like the name list described above.

If you have questions about either of these functions, comment below or click the "Contact Us" link at the top right of this page and we'll do our best to respond ASAP.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Managing a Growth-Stage Company

Software company Infusionsoft has delivered seven years of above average growth. Co-Founder and CEO, Clate Mask put together 5 Tips for Managing a Growth-Stage Company for VentureBeat's Entrepreneur Corner. The highlights:

1. Set your prices higher. This will allow you to have enough to share with marketing partners to fuel growth and will give you the extra cash flow to make it through the early/lean years.
-If your product is differentiable and delivers for your customers you can charge what it's actually worth as opposed to just pricing it slightly lower than what your competitive analysis research tells you.
2. Work relentlessly to establish the vision of your company. "Corporate vision guides everything – and it becomes clear through constant, iterative planning, execution and reflection... Once we got serious about it at the end of 2006, the magic in our business began to happen."
-We talked about the importance of your company's vision earlier this week.
3. You need more cash than you think. "Timing when raising venture capital is crucial, but many entrepreneurs resist or deny the need for capital because it frequently implies dilution. As a result, the venture grows slower than it could and sometimes a market opportunity is lost."
-It's the age old question: would you rather have 40% of a little or 10% of a lot. The fear of never making it to "a lot" paralyzes some entrepreneurs into NOT raising the cash needed to get their business to the next level. Do you think they told the original investors that the company's growth would be limited by how much the founders would have to be diluted? Probably not, but it happens all the time. If you're an Angel investor, this is the kind of topic you should be asking about during your due diligence process.
4. Your culture is your most valuable asset. "Your competitors can knock off your products, replicate your process and steal your customers. But they can’t swipe your culture. They can’t compete in the marketplace if your positioning is based on you and how you operate.

Your culture attracts the right people, ejects the wrong people and clearly guides your path. The trick is to stay true to it... the fact that we clearly communicated that (our culture) helped us attract the right VC partner and repel the wrong ones."
-Mask points out that the process of developing your company vision will be helpful in establishing the right culture. You certainly will have a culture whether you have a vision or not – the culture just might not be the right one for your business and might actually impede your growth.
5. A high growth rate will demand the heart and soul of you and your people. "The change is constant. The pace is blinding. The required “figuring it out” is taxing. You must be highly adaptive… and you must devote an incredible amount of energy and intensity to the venture.

... your heart better be in the venture. Because if it isn’t, you won’t find the balance; you’ll burn out.

...a lesson I learned early on: don’t hire mercenaries… and do your best to help your missionaries find some life balance so that they can keep fighting the crusade."

--

Growing a business quickly can be just as hard as running a business that's not growing at all. These are excellent tips to help you manage your growing company.

Grace: thanks for passing this article along, good find.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sean Carton: What to Do With Social Media

Sean Carton's most recent ClickZ article explores what we should do with social media marketing. Should we focus on brand recognition? Click-thru response? Both? Neither?

Here are the highlights:

1. A recent study reveals that 91 percent of marketers integrate social media. 65 percent are new to it in recent months.
-Marketing where your audience spends their time make sense. If you're part of the 65 percent, don't worry, the other 35 percent is still trying to figure this out too.
2. "A recent survey discovered that Facebook is the website most visited by people at work."
-Researching other businesses I'm sure.
3. "There are plenty of folks who tout the efficacy of Twitter and Facebook and other social media services as the way to market, but I think that we're at the stage now with social media where banner advertising was around 2000 or 2001."
-Sean explains this as the "response" vs. "brand" debate from ten years ago. When banner ads were splashed all over the web some argued that only the click-thrus mattered, others argued that having your brand out there in front of the audience was important whether the audience clicked or not. The same discussion is taking place with social media.
4. This joint study by Nielsen & Facebook "looks at Facebook advertising from a number of dimensions, the bottom line is this: Facebook advertising works to increase brand awareness regardless of response and gets even more effective when combined with social connections. Facebook ads can help build brand on their own, but if your friends are tied in, things really get good...and even better if they're tied in with mentions in your Facebook news feeds."
-Brand+; the further it's integrated within social connectivity.
5. "It's not "brand" vs. "response." It's both...and it's both in combination with how social connections are worked in. Complex stuff, to be sure, but that same complexity is what allows us to be creative with how we market. Don't sweat it if you haven't figured it all out yet: keep experimenting, keep learning, and, above all, avoid those who tell you that they have the answer. They don't. They didn't 10 years ago either."
Well put Dr. Carton.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

How's Your Vision?

Do you have a vision for your startup? Great post here to get you thinking about the kind of vision that will help "separate investors from their money." Some examples:
Facebook isn’t a social network. Facebook “gives people the power to share, making the world more open and connected.”

Plancast isn’t a place to share plans. It’s a “platform for all intent data.”

Sequoia isn’t a VC firm. They’re “the investor and business partner in companies that make up over 10% of NASDAQ’s value.”

Twitter isn’t [insert whatever Twitter is here]. They’re “the best way to share and discover what is happening right now.”

Google isn’t a search engine. They “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The key is to come up with a vision that will differentiate you from every other startup out there in your space. The post gives the following pointers for the creation of your vision:
1. Your vision isn't a replacement for traction and milestones.
2. Don't be too abstract, be concrete.
3. Your vision should be aspirational, not just where you are today.
4. Keep your vision crisp, short and articulate. Don't belabor it, consider mentioning it once at the beginning of your pitch and once at the end.
5. Remember that your vision is free. Unlike your product, team and traction, you can literally make it up.
The very first exercise we take on with the firms we engage with is a positioning facilitation to discover their differentiation by refining their vision. We have found it to be crucial in establishing the foundation for their marketing.

You might be surprised to find out how powerful it can be to have your whole organization (no matter how small) speaking the same language about your firms' vision – establishing your position and differentiation in the marketplace with everyone your team talks to: prospects, current clients, vendors, future employees, partners, potential investors...

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hire Someone: Save up to $2k

You probably saw the news about the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act that was signed into law last month.

We are looking to fill a couple positions this quarter so I looked at the HIRE Act more closely this week to see if it could help us. I think it can – potentially up to $2,000 per employee we hire between now and the end of 2Q, 2010.

There are more stipulations, but the basics are:
1. The new hire must have worked no more than a total of 40 hours over the 60 days prior to their hire date;
2. You can't hire them to replace the same position of someone you have laid off or fired without cause; and
3. The person being hired can't be a family member.
The $2,000 savings per employee would be over your 2010 and 2011 tax returns via the following two incentives:
a) the lesser of $1,000 or what is contributed to the new employee's OASDI (6.2%) between their hire date and December 31, 2010; and

b) the lesser of $1,000 or what is contributed to the new employee's OASDI (6.2%) on your 2011 return if they are still with the firm 52 weeks after they are hired.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Are You Using Mobile Marketing?

You should start thinking about utilizing mobile marketing. The simple reason is because it's where people are focusing a lot of their attention. The last movie I went to, it was hard not to notice that you had a better chance of reaching the theater-goers with an ad on their phone than with the ads that cycle on the screen prior to the previews. Probably close to half of the theater (including me) were staring at their phones and not the screen.

In a recent study by Unica, more than half of the businesses questioned reported that they were either already using mobile marketing or planned to in the next 12 months.
Apple is rolling out the iAd system which should improve how ads are delivered on Apple products.

Here are five items that we know need to be improved universally across all mobile marketing regardless of platform:
1. Focus more on the relationship between user and device.
Current mobile users feel like they completely own the device and what they see on it. Most ads so far are spam and objectionably intrusive to the user (more so than when on their desktop or laptop and are at least somewhat expecting it).
2. Embrace Permission - Based Ads
Permission-based ads are more targeted, and receive a much better response than when they are just uninvited interruptions.
3. Account for Mobile Behavior.
This is an opportunity to let your brand help the user with what they are trying to do... enhance their experience.
4. Make the Ads Easier to Buy
Mobile ads are already ahead of where web ads were in their commensurate evolution. As styles and options are standardized the purchase of the ads will be more efficient to implement and will be more widely used.
5. Push the Envelope
Get creative with how to present ads to mobile users.

"There are many creative ways to utilize the mobile platform such as B Codes/QR Codes, Bluetooth Interactivity, Location Based Targeting and Applications, says Renee Whittingstall, Director of Digital Media Strategy for TM Advertising. "When you combine the new technology and the engagement offered with an individual user, the mobile device is a great way for advertisers to extend the reach of their campaigns."

Mobile marketing has our attention

On the marketing side, our firm is working on getting our clients comfortable with mobile marketing and its benefits – on the vc side, we are looking for mobile marketing-related investments. Give us a call if you need help with the former or have a firm that is raising capital for the latter.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The New iPhone (maybe) - Free Publicity for Apple (definitely)

Was a prototype for the new iPhone left on a bar stool by accident? Is Apple brilliant at getting free publicity? Let's go with probably not and yes.

Supposedly an Apple engineer was having some drinks at a bar on his birthday and left the new iPhone behind. Eventually the new iPhone wound up in the hands of Gizmodo and Engadget. Perhaps this engineer was celebrating his birthday on two occasions. Forgetful Jones.

Nonetheless, Gizmodo reports (with lots of photos and video clips) 15 findings on the next generation iPhone:
1. Front-facing chat camera
2. Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
3. Camera flash
4. Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
5. Improved display. It's unclear if it's the 960x640 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the "Connect to iTunes" screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
6. What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
7. Split buttons for volume
8. Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic
9. The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through.
10. An aluminum border going completely around the outside
11. Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
12. Everything is more squared off
13. 3 grams heavier
14. 16% Larger battery
15. Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery
These are all great features. As marketers, we like to focus on the benefits... like, will this next generation iPhone have a deal with Verizon Wireless?

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Microsoft Courier

Over on the idfive blog, Andres put together a good post on the Microsoft Courier. Perhaps an alternative to Apple's iPad.

The first details on the Courier and its folding dual-screen design came out last year. The word now is that it might be out by early 2011.

From tabletpcreview.com: "According to information leaking out of Microsoft, the designers haven't yet decided what the target market for this product is going to be. The original plan had been to make a digital organizer for creative work, but engineers are now considering making it a more general-purpose computer."

The small computer is believed to be 5" x 7", less than an inch thick and weighs just over one pound. It will run on the same OS as Windows Phone 7 and under the latest plan will come with:

  • a web browser;
  • email software;
  • an address book;
  • a to do list;
  • a calendar;
  • e-book software;
  • a built-in camera; and
  • a headphone jack.
Check out the demo videos Andres embedded in his post. From watching those, it appears text will be entered by handwriting with a stylus.

Microsoft vs. Apple, the Courier vs. the iPad – the more the merrier. Maybe it's better/on purpose that the Courier might not be released until 2011. It will give Microsoft the chance to design the Courier to fill any gaps left by the iPad. However, if it takes them three years like it did with the Windows Phone 7 Series as the first real challenge to the iPhone, it might not matter. Think about where the iPad will be three years from now.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Most Essential Medium? Internet Wins Over TV

Check out Sean's post over on the idfive blog. The highlights:
1. It's time to retire the claim, "our customers don't use the Internet."

2. We've been told by some of our financial services customers that their High Net Worth investors aren't on the web. Ah, nope.

"This study from Ispos Mendelsohn shows that there's a positive correlation between affluence and web usage."

3. We've been told by clients that their clientele is older and not on the web. Wrong again.

4. This report from Arbitron and Edison Research finds that the Internet has now become the "most essential medium" for Americans:
When asked which they would choose if they must, never again watching television or never again accessing the internet, slightly more people chose TV as the medium they would eliminate. Forty-nine percent of respondents chose to eliminate TV, compared to just more than 48% who said they would get rid of the internet.
We've heard our whole careers that "the customer is always right." Well, not so much. I'm not saying "they're always wrong" – they sometimes just don't know what they don't know, and that's why we're here to help.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Scraping the Web with Google Docs Part II

Awhile back, we posted a tutorial on how you can pull data from external sites like finance.yahoo.com into your very own Google Doc and have it update as the site it's being pulled from updates. We use this functionality to track the fundamentals of comparable public companies to our portfolio companies within a single Google Doc and to pull exchange rates into our own docs so we can write formulas using the "scraped" data.

You can check out the original post here.

Since the original post, I have received a handful of emails from people asking how they can pull data from external web sites without having to "hard-code" the symbol into the formula. The example formula we used in the previous post to get US Dollars in Swiss Francs was:

=Index(ImportHTML("http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=USDCHF=X","table",1),8,2)

For this example, place "USDCHF" in cell A5. Then adjust the formula above to read as follows:

=Index(ImportHTML("http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s="&A5&"=X","table",1),8,2)

You're basically just replacing USDCHF with "&A5&" in the formula so the symbol portion of the url you're scraping from will foot to A5 to complete the "scraped" url.

Setting the formula up to refer to other cells will give you more flexibility in tracking symbols as you will be able to change them in your Google Doc without having to adjust your formula. You could do a whole list of symbols across 2o cells, and then cut/paste or drag your formula to foot to each of those symbol cells.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Greg on CNBC

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Greg Conderacci, was on CNBC last week talking about the "new retirement." Greg said, "I am very fortunate in that I do what I want to do and that I love to do every single day. And for me, that is retirement." When Greg isn't helping our clients find their differentiable position, some days he wants to do this (ride his bike 775 miles in four days).

You can check out Greg on CNBC here. The video is also embedded below. Here's Greg's take on the new retirement.
Fulfillment -- NOT Retirement -- Planning

How do you feel about retirement?

If you're like many Americans, the answer is simple: not good. Even if you are among the happy few who have been able to salt away a tidy sum for those golden years, there is the disquieting thought: "Is it enough?"

But there's a better, healthier and more powerful perspective. It's not about retirement planning, it's about fulfillment planning. Authors Tim Maurer and Jim Stovall outline fulfillment planning in their new book, The Financial Crossroads: The Intersection of MONEY and LIFE. "Retirement funds do not exist so you can afford to do nothing. Retirement funds exist so you can afford to do anything and everything you want to do with your life," they say.

Amen.

I've always believed that you are retired when you can do what you love to do every day. By that measure, I have been retired for years, although I am working just as many hours a week as I ever have. To make this point, Tim and I went on CNBC recently (video below).

In the process of helping companies discover and defend their identity, I am often working with leaders and teams who haven't yet truly figured out who they are. This shows up in their advertising -- and especially on the web, where lack of a differentiable brand is transparently clear. The same problem shows up when it comes time to retire -- or to sell products or services -- or even to sell the company.

If you know who you really are, you know what you should do.

Greg on CNBC.


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Saturday, April 3, 2010

iPad Released

You may have heard, the iPad was released today. Charlie Rose covered the device on last night's show, the episode is not up on Hulu yet, but when it is, you'll be able to see it here. You'll be looking for Season 18, Episode 65.

The highlights:
1. 0:00 - 12:00 Charlie shows us how to use the device.

No one will ask him to fill in for Steve Jobs at a product reveal, but he did pretty well.

2. 12:00 Some reviews.

  • Time: "The first true home computer." - Lev Grossman
  • WSJ: "The potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop." - Walter Mossberg
  • NYT: "It's not nearly as good for creating stuff... it's infinitely more convenient for consuming it... For most people, manipulating these digital materials directly by touching them is a completely new experience – and a deeply satisfying one." - David Pogue
3. 14:00 Interview with Walt Mossberg (WSJ) and David Carr (NYT).

Paraphrasing their thoughts:

WM: Multi-touch and gesture will have an impact on the laptop because the user interface on the iPad is so much better than the mouse-driven interface.

DC: will be a mouse-killer because it's interface is based on the instinct of your hands... You sit next to someone who has it, you want it.

WM: People will not want to carry the iPad, their iPhone and their laptop as well. Apple will have to get people to be ok with not bringing their laptop with them and using the iPad in its place, if not, they won't buy the iPad. However, I've been using it for a week and I've reduced my laptop usage to 20%, I wrote a part of today's column on the iPad.

A lot will depend on whether or not you're comfortable typing on glass.

DC: You want to answer a short email, great, but you will answer the longer one on your laptop.

CR: I had no problem typing on this device, I don't understand the issue here.

4. 23:00 Apps.

WM: two differences in iPhone apps and iPad apps.

a) The iPhone apps were designed for smaller screens, so they show up in the center of the iPad screen, but there is a 2x button that makes it larger.

b) Apps built for the iPad will have more features, will be larger and as a result will be better.

5. 26:00 Is the iPad a Kindle killer?

DC: I never liked the Kindle because it's only good for one thing. The book reader on the iPad is the best app on here.

WM: The iPad is a better reading experience device. But remember, Kindle is also a service which will probably have an app for the iPad so people can still use the Kindle service.

6. 29:00 Buy it now?

WM will wait for the 3G version to purchase as the current device is WiFi only. Even though he has WiFi in 80% of his life, he would miss the other 20%, so he's going to wait.

7. 39:00 The tablet. Bill Gates had this first.

WM: Yes, but Microsoft didn't go far enough. The iPad interface blows away the PC tablet.

CR: The difference is Steve Jobs. He understands products and how to sell them.

DC: Steve Jobs understands timing - he knows when will there be enough content and access to drive the market.

WM: I give credit to Jobs for being a risk-taker, but we don't know if this will be a big success yet. I bet it will be a success, I'm just not sure how big... Apple is successful because it's a great innovator that people copy.

8. 48:00 Is it fast?

WM: this processor is made by Apple, this is a very fast device. The screens move very fast... The processor has been made specifically for the iPad software, so even though it's not as powerful as others out there... it's just wicked fast.

DC: it's sick how fast it is.

9. 50:00 What do you wish it had that it doesn't?

WM: I wish it had a webcam. Why can't I use it to make video Skype calls... I wish it had multi-tasking for third party apps (it does multi-task within Apple software). I wish it played Flash.

DC: not having Flash is a problem because it interrupts the browsing experience.

WM: Sites are starting to put iPad compatible videos up in addition to Flash videos.

10. 53:00 Charlie likes the iPad.

CR: I think it will be hugely successful because of how it feels in your hands, how easy it is to use and the explosion that will happen with the apps... we don't even know yet how much the forthcoming apps will add, but if it's anything like the iPhone, we have a lot to look forward to. It's only 1.5 lbs, it has a remarkably clear picture. You should investigate the device for yourself.
I have no plans to purchase the iPad as of yet. I do use my iPhone a lot with Verizon's MiFi and am growing impatient with the slow browsing experience (the iPhone CPU, not the connection speed).

Walt Mossberg seems to think I won't be waiting with this device, the iPad is "wicked fast." I'm going to let Apple fix the bugs for a bit, come out with the 3G version and maybe pick one up then. I will let you know.

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