Is BYOD Leaving Your Company Wide Open to Security Breaches?

bring your own device

For most companies, the days of giving every employee a company BlackBerry are over. Nowadays, most people would rather work on a device of their choosing, usually an Android smartphone or an iPhone.

This new BYOD culture has its advantages. Namely, it saves the company money on tech (about $1,300 per mobile user), it saves time negotiating and managing bulk contracts, and in many cases, it means the company only pays for a portion of the user’s phone plan. Employees who bring their own devices to work also tend to be happier and more productive, saving about 81 minutes of time per week.

But with these advantages also come new security headaches. BYOD means you’re entrusting your company’s data to your employees and their devices. And with all the recent data breaches that have compromised millions of customers’ personal data, your company can’t afford to take any chances with its devices.

Say Goodbye to One-Size-Fits-All Data Security

BYOD doesn’t just apply to your employees’ phones. Many companies are also allowing their employees to use their own tablets and laptops for work. This means there’s a much broader range of devices and brands that IT has to worry about.

While Active Directory security will cover the majority of Windows laptops and BlackBerry Enterprise Servers will still be useful for a few tactile keyboard–loving phone users, these leave out other brands your employees might be using, most notably Apple.

The Big Apple Security Myth

There is a myth about Apple products that has persisted for over a decade: that Apple products are inherently more secure than Windows products. The typical argument is that, while Windows is fighting new viruses every day, Apple computers have seen almost no viruses since their inception.

While this is true, it’s not because Apple computers are more secure, but rather because Apple holds a smaller share of the PC market. Macs comprise only about 5 percent of the global market share of personal computers. Hackers usually go after the bigger target, which for years has been Windows.

What this means for companies is that employees who own Apple devices are just as vulnerable as everyone else and should be subject to similar security measures. It’s not just viruses that you need to worry about, though.

In 2011, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield potentially compromised the information of nearly 840,000 customers when two MacBook Pros were stolen. Phishing expeditions, device theft, and user error are just as likely to leave you vulnerable as a virus.

The Cost of Securing Employees’ Personal Devices

While the cost of purchasing devices may go down with a BYOD policy, it can be intimidating to consider the cost of securing all these new devices. For instance, Apple provides excellent encryption for individual computers with its FileVault 2, but managing it on a company-wide level is not as easy.

However, along with the increase in BYOD comes an uptick in cloud-based security management solutions. You no longer have to spend upwards of $30,000 deploying an in-house security solution. There are options that make it possible to manage data encryption for less than $100 per user per year.

Allowing employees to bring their own devices can still be a money saver, but your company needs to rethink how it’s handling data security. Big data breaches are constantly in the news these days, which means security is top of mind for your customers. Implementing an airtight business-wide security solution instills confidence in your customers when entrusting your company with their personal information. And when handled correctly, good security might actually make you money in the long run.

Tim Maliyil is the CEO and Data Security Architect for AlertBoot. AlertBoot protects customers from data breaches that damage their credibility, reputation, and business. The company’s managed full disk encryption, email encryption services, and mobile security services deploy within minutes to customers’ PCs, smartphones, and tablets, providing tremendous insight, visibility, and control.

When Giants Transform: 3 Lessons Mobile Startups Should Learn From Nokia

nokia

This is the story of a giant.

Despite a long history of growth, adaptation, and resilience, something changed: Nokia fell into the hands of Microsoft. With a $7.5 billion acquisition, Microsoft officially purchased Nokia Devices and Services in April.

This signaled the end of a mobile dynasty. But this dynasty is one that all mobile startups can learn from.

The Rise and Fall of a Mobile Giant

Nokia’s history dates back to 1865, when Fredrik Idestam set up a wood pulp mill in Finland. By the 1900s, the company grew into a major conglomerate with its hands in rubber, forestry, cable, power generation, and electronics.

Nokia began experimenting with mobile technology in the ’60s, and by 1982, the company had introduced its first car phone.

Fast forward to 2003’s introduction of the Nokia 1100 handset. It became the bestselling mobile phone and consumer electronic of all time, contributing to Nokia’s rise and leadership in the realm of mobile technology.

But Nokia’s fall from telecommunications dominance was as fast as its rise. In 2011, Nokia reported heavy revenue losses, and by 2012, the company was rapidly laying off staff. Its acquisition by Microsoft this year indicated Nokia’s official end as a mobile leader.

The real question is: What can mobile startups learn from this giant’s dynasty?

Lessons for Mobile Startups

For mobile startups, seeing this major shift in the mobile industry might be scary. But here are some lessons they can learn from Nokia’s transformation:

1. Transform to remain relevant.

In the world of constantly changing technology and innovative solutions, mobile tech companies are practically thrown into “Survivor.” They have to continually think ahead and adapt to changes within the mobile industry.

Initially, Nokia was a great example of adapting to changing industries as it transitioned from leading the rubber industry to the cable industry, from the cable industry to electronics, and from electronics to telecommunications. When mobile tech peaked with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, Nokia slowed down and fell behind.

2. Persistence and resilience are key.

This is not Nokia’s first time undergoing a major transformation. It was on the brink of bankruptcy in the 1910s as a rubber and cable manufacturer. To avoid failure,

Nokia merged with Finnish Cable Works to stay afloat. In 1967, the merger of Nokia, Finnish Rubber Works, and Finnish Cable Works formed an industrial conglomerate named Nokia Corporation. This merger eventually led to Nokia’s involvement in telecommunications. With each industry shift, Nokia managed to remain resilient until the mobile boom in 2007.

3. If you snooze, you lose.

Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from Nokia’s mobile saga is the importance of moving quickly and staying a step ahead of industry changes.

The iPhone changed the mobile movement, and after four years of trying to catch up, Nokia’s smartphone market share continued to plummet. In 2011, Nokia finally announced a strategic alliance with Microsoft. This partnership came a little too late, though. If Nokia had acted more quickly, it may have been able to continue as a major player in mobile tech.

Lessons to Learn From Nokia’s Biggest Competitors

Although Nokia’s lost the lead in the mobile tech game, several of its competitors have seen increasing success. Here’s what mobile startups can learn from them:

1. Apple: Nokia’s largest competitor was the one that got it right — and fast. Transitioning from personal computers to music players to smartphones, Apple paved the way for the mobile tech explosion. Rather than let the market lead it, Apple created the market. When you define the market, others have to play by your rules. This gives Apple a competitive advantage.

2. Google: Google was certainly intimidated by Apple’s rise, just like Nokia. A mobile world where consumers don’t always have access to a PC threatened Google’s desktop search dominance. To keep up, Google released Android in 2008. Android’s release was later than Apple’s iOS; by most accounts, it was still clunky and couldn’t compete. However, multiple updates later, Google proved it could keep up. Android is now the most popular operating system, and Google is leading the market in many areas of mobile UX.

3. Samsung: Samsung is an interesting case study — a company that didn’t just survive the feature phone-to-smartphone revolution, but thrived. In what has been coined by Businessweek as “The Samsung Way,” the company executes projects with “ferocious drive and speed.” Samsung is running with the digital appliances and television markets, in addition to its ever-changing smartphone endeavors. Samsung is driven by the concept of staying “at the forefront of core technologies” and mastering manufacturing. Although many tech companies have failed at this strategy, Samsung has demonstrated that fast, adaptable innovation is a winning strategy, with the right execution.

The biggest piece of advice mobile startups can take away from Nokia is this: You have to keep innovating. The world is changing, and it’s changing fast. Mobile startups must make sure their products, strategies, and company structures are just as agile and quick. In an industry that never sleeps, mobile startups must be a market maker wherever possible — not a market follower.

Ioannis Verdelis is the co-founder and COO of Fleksy, a revolutionary keyboard that makes typing on a touchscreen so easy you can type without even looking. Ioannis is a member of many entrepreneurial organizations, including the Young Entrepreneur Council, Empact Sphere, Startup America, and more. Connect with him on Twitter.

Turning Your Big Idea Into Reality

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When I hired a painter to revamp the exterior of my house, I anxiously anticipated the results. He and his crew got started on a Monday morning, but by Thursday, I had yet to see the beautiful new look I was hoping for. So I asked him about it.

“I’m not a painter,” he said. “I’m a prepper.” Oh. Well, that makes more sense. Apparently, when you’re painting a house, you have to lay the right foundation if you want the work to last.

Starting a company is the same way. Entrepreneurs are innately optimistic quick starters; rushing to launch is a constant risk.

But brands are about trust, not who gets there first. Look at Myspace and Facebook, Commodore and Apple, Nintendo and Xbox. Those who prepare correctly — who slow down to make sure their big idea will actually attract customers — will succeed.

Prepare Like the Pros

There’s no magic formula to help you prepare, but the successful startups I’ve observed over the years follow these steps:

  • They base their big idea on research. To determine whether your big idea is viable, you should answer four questions: Who are you? Who do your potential clients think you are? What do your potential clients want you to be? What are your competitors not?
  • They build a brand on the research results. The personality of your brand should come from your answers to those four questions.
  • They design customer pathways. Create a roadmap of how you’re going to attract clients in the beginning and how you’re going to retain them. If you know where you’re going and how you want to get there, you’re less likely to make a wrong turn.
  • They make sure they have the right team to pull it off. Your team can be comprised of partners, employees, and/or vendors. You don’t have to have the team to fulfill your five-year plan on day one, but you do need a team to get you to day two.
  • They identify must-haves. For example, eBay needed a website before it could get in front of potential clients. What do you absolutely need in order to attract clients?
  • They then identify the next lowest-cost, highest-ROI pathways. It was essential that Facebook had a website. Duh. But it also needed an email campaign to let the first batch of users know the platform was available. It could then spend money on digital ads and SEO.

Use Preparation to Avoid Backtracking

I once watched a friend remodel a house into a setting for retail stores. He wasn’t a professional builder — just an enthusiastic entrepreneur. Sure enough, he began pouring concrete for the foundation before he installed the plumbing. Everything had to be undone.

You can never be sure you’re taking the right step. It’s more about taking your best shot at the right direction and time. Guarantees are for kids. Those who navigate successfully through the early days:

  • Stay calm.
  • Move steadily forward.
  • Modulate passion with rational thought and planning as they lay the foundation (the brand, resources, team, and network).

Plan Ahead for Long-Term Success

I’ve had to learn about the importance of preparation the hard way. I got involved in a venture a few years ago that was at the starting line. We were impatient. We had the team, the research, and the brand. We just didn’t have the map to show us what to do first.

We would try this and that, but only succeeded in frustrating ourselves when those things didn’t work. So we took a step back, relaxed, and started laying out the best pathways for our target clients.

We selected the pathways we could afford to take and started implementing them. As our cash flow improved, we selected the next pathway on the list and moved forward. Because we were “planning the work and working the plan,” the company doubled the size of its average client revenue for four years and continues to enjoy success today.

You, too, can achieve that kind of success. You just have to be willing to put in the work in the beginning. If you plan ahead and prepare for what’s to come, you can develop a solid customer base, avoid backtracking, and experience growth year after year.

Joshua Conran is a senior partner at Deksia, a branding agency that has been successfully developing companies for the past decade. Joshua’s focus is on winning for the client while expanding Deksia into multiple markets by utilizing systems and processes.

 

Fotor Makes Photo Editing Fun–Not Overwhelming

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Photo editing platform Fotor is part of a crowded field of Photoshop competitors. The software, which has been around since 2012, is fun and easy-to-use. I edited that picture above of the awesome Nicole Glaros during her Everywhere Else keynote using the platform. It was super easy, even for  a novice like me.

Fotor has all the basic features of any editing software. They also just added a new feature called Social Media Cover Maker, which helps you easily create covers for all your major social media accounts.

Check out our Q&A with Fotor below and head over to try it out for yourself.

What is Fotor?

Fotor is a set of image processing tools that allows everyday users to edit photos in an easy and intuitive way.

Brand Story

Fotor was launched in May of 2012 and has from the very beginning brought powerful, easy to use photo editing tools into the hands of anyone and everyone with an internet connection. Utilizing cloud computing to provide a suite of image processing tools ranging from basic cropping to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing, Fotor has made professional-level photo editing accessible to everyday users through a clean, intuitive interface and workflow. Fotor strives to provide the highest quality tools in the most accessible manner and continues to pursue this goal with each new product and version release.

Mission

Make photo-editing tools accessible to everyday users through a fun and easy to use interface.

Words we like:

  • Easy-to-use
  • Multiplatform
  • Easy
  • Fast
  • Intuitive
  • Fun

Words we don’t like:

  • Complicated
  • Difficult
  • Overwhelming
  • Serious

Who are our users?

There are hundreds of thousands of Fotor users spread across the globe. To continue to grow we have to understand our current users and think about how to reach new ones. With the rapid spread of cellphone cameras worldwide and the desire to share experiences with friends and family, the number of people we could reach has grown exponentially. Always think about how we could help our users have a better experience and most importantly, how our users want to edit their photos.

Our users are non-professionals, they love taking photos and are creative but are intimidated by technical language and complicated software. They want a clean, visually welcoming and accessible website. They want easy to use and easy to understand tools while at the same time being open to new possibilities. They want happy, fun imagery. They might come to our site to create a collage but might stay and find stickers or our portrait editing tools. Our users want to share their creations with friends and family. Our users want to be inspired and make unique creations that represent who they are and who they aspire to be. We empower our users to rediscover their inner artist in a fun and engaging way.

How To Take Advantage Of A Custom Enterprise App Store

The App Store and Google Play Store revolutionized the process of installing applications on mobile devices. But these stores adopt a consumer-focused approach to creating apps, which creates challenges in business environments.

That is where an enterprise app store, which follows the consumer trend started by App Store and Google Play Store, is a logical initiative to carter the bring-your-own-device movement in the workplace. It’s what employees should access to find recommended and approved apps for work.

Custom enterprise app stores offer the same value in case of BYOD and company issued devices in terms of securely distributing mobile apps to employees and easing the burden of IT department to migrate apps to public app stores.

According to Gartner Research vice president Ian Finley, apps downloaded via public app stores create security problems, and cause disruption in security strategies. That is why companies are adopting enterprise app stores for greater control over apps and software expenditures, as well as greater negotiation leverage with vendors. The company says 25 percent of enterprises will have custom enterprise app stores by 2017 for managing apps on mobile devices and PCs.

Adopting an enterprise app store

The 2 main steps for adopting an enterprise app store for your company are:

1. Plan custom app types and access  

It’s important to access the apps to be delivered throughout the organization. While this list is complied, you should consider the type of app (Mobile app, windows based, etc.), and whether it will be distributed across the entire organization or among specific user groups.

App development services such as Kony mobile applications development will let you design, define, and quickly deliver multi-channel app experiences with cloud-based collaboration. You could even use such resources to share prototypes for approval/experiment between designers, developers, and users within your organization.

2. Define security policies

Organizations adopting the app store must be focused on their fiduciary responsibility to protecting sensitive company data, so it is important for IT teams to take key considerations such as the ownership of the device (is it owned by the organization, or the user) and access location (is the user request coming from within or outside the organization).

Based on these factors, you should create ‘trust levels’ for different access types and develop policies to determine specific actions to be taken with data and apps at trust levels.

More benefits

Some additional benefits of adopting an enterprise app store besides greater control over apps include:

  • No stringent restrictions
  • Where public app stores prevent many features from reaching the business environment, enterprise app stores come as an alternative. For developers, the sky is the limit when it comes to building, distributing, and updating apps more quickly.

 

  • Flexibility of devices
  • As BYOD movement continues an upswing, employees will not be keeping separate devices for personal use and work. Instead, there could be separate personal and work profiles for different users. Custom app store wound enable cross-platform flexibility regardless of whichever devices an employee decides to use.

 

  • Free up IT resources
  • According to the mobile app-management company Partnerpedia, 86 percent of enterprises desire a self-service model where employees download apps directly, which frees up IT resources for more important tasks. IT can also utilize these stores for procurement of licenses, and push out updates for different applications.

 

An iPad POS System Can Solve Two of the Biggest Challenges Small Businesses Face

imgA Forbes article listed eight biggest challenges faced by businesses and two of them are issues many small businesses deal with on a daily basis: increased selection and competition and marketing and customer loyalty.

Because it’s so easy to start a business these days, keeping up with the rest can be difficult. The competition is tougher and it’s hard to reach out to and retain customers. These issues can be easily resolved if business owners are willing to invest in a reliable POS system.

Mobile POS Systems Steadily Gaining Ground

Mobile point-of-sales (POS) systems are gaining ground especially with small to medium-sized businesses. A mobile POS system makes it easy to accept payments, check inventory, and track sales and customer behaviour. Tablet point-of-sales systems are starting to replace cash registers in many retail stores.

Business owners are now looking at investing in iPad POS system over the traditional machines that are often expensive to maintain. And there are several good reasons to do so. According to analyst Jordan McKee from the Yankee Group, a 2013 survey found that 51 percent of businesses that have been operating for 3 years (or less) are thinking of using mobile point-of-sale in the next 12 months. 34 percent of businesses with less than 20 employees already use mobile POS systems while 19 percent have plans to use one in the coming year. The survey also showed that 39 percent of bigger business (with 20 to 99 employees) already employs mobile POS while 30 percent have plans to use it in the future.

Similarly, another survey showed that 56 percent of businesses are considering using mobile technology for iPads.

Benefits of Using Tablet POS Systems

Businesses that prioritize inventory and time management should seriously consider POS systems for iPads because these can significantly enhance transactions and lead to more sales. Case in point: when Alabama State University first used a similar system on one of its vendors, it recorded 5,721 transactions in just a few hours.

  • Seamless transactions. Tablet POS systems do something traditional cash registers can’t: process payments AND check inventory at the same time. Think about the last time you walked into a retail store and bought a pair of shoes. It’s more likely that the staff had to check if they have stock before you can get your goods. For those who are in a hurry (or simply impatient) that can take too long.

Now, with a mobile POS the staff can tell you right away if they have it or not. That will only take a few seconds and you’ll have more time to wander around the store and look for something else.

  • Significant savings. Low cost is another major appeal of these systems. Traditional cash registers are expensive and if they break down, you must be ready to shell out a lot of cash for repairs§. Not to mention the time it will take to fix the device, which means you can also lose potential sales.

 

  • Improved customer service. Your employees don’t have to be chained to the register. Many times, customers will need to seek assistance or ask questions. It can be a problem if they’re at the other end of the store because they wouldn’t like to call out to you or walk to the counter. They can simply walk out and go somewhere else.

Having a mobile POS system allows your staff to be on the floor and interact with customers. They can quickly address any concern and, more importantly, take orders instantly. This is one very important advantage of mobile POS because you can minimize the risk of customers changing their minds after wandering inside your store.

  • Faster training time for employees. It’s also easier to train employees with an iPad. Let’s face it, cash registers can be intimidating. New staff can experience difficulties using them as compared to the iPad, which everyone knows too well. This will significantly reduce the time spent on training and get them on the floor as quickly as possible.
  • Unparalleled flexibility. POS systems for iPads offer flexibility, which is highly advantageous for those running both an online and brick and mortar shop. Your inventory, orders, and customer data are all synced and that makes it easy to monitor your business performance. There’s no need to track multiple inventories or utilize different payment systems. You can run your business from anywhere with ease.

The Answer to All Your Business Needs

Utilizing iPad point-of-sales systems is beneficial to your business. These allow you to save money on equipment acquisition and repair, integrate inventory control and payment processing, track sales to predict trends and create monthly reports, train staff quickly, and run both online and retail stores without difficulties.

With iPads foreseen to replace many cash registers in the future, a mobile POS system becomes indispensable not just because it makes your work easier but because it lets you spend more time establishing relationships with customers.

5 Tips to Make Your Conference a Success

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Everywhere Else Tennessee is a startup conference we host here in Memphis. This year featured a robust lineup of speakers, including Chris Lyons of Andreessen Horowitz and Josh Miller of Branch. The event also featured a “Startup Ave” pitch contest, where companies came together in events to pitch their products before moving on to the “finals” of pitch competition.

Hosting a successful event means more than just putting butts in seats. It has a lot to do with how these people interact, and what brought them there to begin with. Here are some ideas to give your event a networking jump-start.

Location

The first thing you should do is hammer out the location where you plan to host your event. Your gut instinct may be to rent a hall for your event, but those with a large office can sell the idea of working for your company by hosting the event from your office. You should also plan for designated “networking spaces” around the venue so people can mingle, and include a limited number of chairs in your floor plan to keep people moving too.

Think about ways you can use location to your advantage, like an after party or a “field trip” to some other relevant location that is close by. Time is also important. Thursday evenings seem to work well, but Wednesday mornings are also sometimes open.

Secure Sponsorship

Any good networking event relies on a lot of people and brands coming together to meet at your venue, so sponsorship is crucial. Give your sponsors plenty of booth space to exhibit their products on the floor, and then work on pushing foot traffic toward them. A conference app with a splash page can subtly remind users who is at the event, or you can just schedule demos as part of your conference agenda. The application is a nice bonus because it pushes those notifications to your attendees and tells them where to go.

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Plan Activities

Speaking of agendas, you should have activities planned for your gathering. Speeches and lectures are helpful, but you don’t want to over schedule these events. This forces your attendees to sit still and listen. Instead, use specific tactics to get people chatting about common interests. Get on the microphone and announce a gathering of a certain industry in the center of your venue, have attendees choose names or numbers from a hat and pair those people together by alphabetical order or industry, or just keep a large space open for guests to exhibit their services.

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Promote Your Event

Promotion is the only way to get people to come to your event, so it’s important that you allow yourself plenty of time to get the word out. It’s a good idea to give eight weeks advance notice and send formal invitations to everyone in your contact list. Set up some kind of RSVP list (apps can help here, or you can use a simple email signup form), and then email those attendees reminders as the event draws closer. Designate a social media hash tag ahead of time and make sure that your audience knows what it is. If possible, set up live streaming of your important talks and host it for those who cannot attend your event.

Follow Up

After the event, send a small follow up to the attendees that got the most benefit from your show. Thank you sponsors, give out door prizes to your audience, and provide pictures of the event on your Facebook page. This is also a good time to respond to Twitter messages you may have missed on the event’s hash tag. Record all of these interactions and use it to form a database for your next event by inviting those same people back to your venue.

9 Strategies For Becoming the Best CEO You Can Be

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Learning to be a better CEO is key for entrepreneurs who don’t set off to be managers and have fallen into the role by virtue of their own creation.

Below are the top nine lessons from my CEO experience at PeoplePerHour.

  1. Learn to ask what’s important. Learn to have three major priorities at any one time. Sure, you will always have a backlog of little things. But don’t become a victim of your to-do list. Develop daily amnesia — ask yourself what is most important every day.
  2. Focus on stakeholder value. It’s easy to get too absorbed in your deep passion for what you do and lose sight of what you are there to do as CEO: drive stakeholder value. Create value for your customers, value for your team and value for your shareholders.
  3. Tell stories. The best way to get your message across is through storytelling. Don’t use buzzwords, geek talk and heavy corporate language. Keep it human, light and humorous. You need to charm you team, your customers, your shareholders. People relate to stories, not buzzwords.
  4. Have a deep sense of purpose. Ask yourself: if your business disappeared tomorrow, would it really matter? To whom? And why? Make a difference to the world. At PeoplePerHour we have a solid sense of purpose we serve: Allowing people to live their dream of becoming their own boss and building their business from the ground up.
  5. Be the gatekeeper. Don’t confuse delegation with gatekeeping. You need to be the ultimate gatekeeper in your company — you are the one defining and setting the standard. People will push you to compromise your standards for the sake of moving faster or for more freedom. Don’t be tricked and stay true to yourself.
  6. Set high goals. Don’t start small. Your team members will often tell you to to “start small.” If you start small you stay small! Start big and set big bold goals. If you set the goalpost low, you will be good at best. Stretch staff beyond their limits. They may complain that you expect too much, but in the end they will thank you for it. There is no greater reward then helping your employees achieve what they thought was unachievable.
  7. Self-reflect and step up. Don’t confuse confidence with self-reflection. Great CEOs are very self-reflective and demanding of themselves. Don’t doubt yourself in front of your team. Doubt yourself when you go home and look in the mirror. Figure out what your team needs from you. If you’re not stepping up every day, you will remain stagnant.
  8. Serve others. Your job as a CEO is to serve others more than they serve you. Stop thinking about what you need from people and ask them what they need from you. Figure out what your customers need, what your team needs, and what your shareholders need. Then help them make it happen.
  9. Develop a thick skin. Being CEO of a business – especially if you are the founder – is an emotional roller coaster. You will have some very low moments. Don’t let the emotional pressure break you. People will read you better than you think, and if they smell vulnerability and weakness, you wield less power.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou is a passionate PPHer, avid blogger, lover of art, design, and all things quirky and minimal but words in particular; he’s also a fan of the uncommon and unconventional and a vintage fanatic who specialises in poking the fire and stirring things up, and suffers from an overly curious mind. Xenios is the accidental founder of, and now fully and truly wed to, PeoplePerHour.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Ludlow Venture’s Jonathon Triest Talks Passion & Startups

Jonathon Triest is the managing partner at Detroit based Ludlow Ventures, and earlier this year he appeared on our list of the 32 most influential investors of 2013 outside Silicon Valley.  This week, Jonathon joins Zach Abramowitz, CEO of NYC based startup ReplyAll for a week long conversation on entrepreneurship, startups and current investing trends Everywhere Else.  The conversation, which is creating with ReplyAll’s blogging tool, will develop live on Nibletz over the next few days so be sure to check back in as Zach and Jonathon continue their discussion.

Zach Abramowitz is CEO of ReplyAll, the first platform for conversations as content.  Follow ReplyAll on Twitter!

How to Be a CEO: The Sales Leader or the Chess Master

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There are many types of successful entrepreneurs that build and lead great companies. Most that I have seen have elements of what I refer to as the “Chessmaster” and those of a “Sales Leader.” Some amount of each skill set is required, but it is interesting to observe which is the dominant or “go to” skill set for an entrepreneur.

After more than 15 years in the venture business and over 40 venture investments, I have found that I prefer – and work more effectively with – entrepreneurs and CEOs where the Chessmaster is the more dominant skill set.

It’s a bit of a caricature, but the Chessmaster is someone who is data-driven, constantly trying to understand the landscape, formulate strategy, run experiments and learn quickly. The Sales Leader has a big vision, has high confidence that he (or she) is right, and is highly successful in getting others to see the world their way.

Most media represent entrepreneurs as the Grand Salesman. A fellow venture investor recently stated on a panel that the qualities she looked for the most in an entrepreneur were passion and storytelling. Steve Jobs, the subject of so much Silicon Valley hagiography, was an unbelievable Salesman and got much of the world to share his worldview – but this isn’t the only route to success.

I’ve been re-reading the Lean Start Up by Eric Ries. In my opinion, the entire book describes the Chessmaster approach to launching a new product- whether a start up or as part of a bigger company. The successful companies I’ve seen and been a part of have a dedication to learning quickly and cultures where people are trained to “speak with data.” Figuring out which metrics are truly meaningful for the business, building the instrumentation to understand them, and making data driven decisions to improve product market fit and business performance are actions of a great Chessmaster.

This post was provoked by a recent blog post, “The Post Mortem,” by Return Path CEO Matt Blumberg. His main argument is that successful endeavors need post-mortems as much as failures because companies often misattribute the reasons for their success and find it hard to sustain or replicate those successes.

Success has a hundred fathers – and that is just within the company. As Matt points out, some of those claimed reasons for success come from external dynamics, market phenomena or the failures of competition. And it can be damaging –or even fatal – for companies to have the wrong interpretation of successful history. The clear thinking and intellectual honesty of this argument is one of the reasons why I enjoy working with Matt and many of the other Costanoa portfolio CEOs.

It is the relationships with great entrepreneurs that make my role in the start up ecosystem so rewarding.

I appreciate: entrepreneurs who call when they have an issue and don’t quite have a solution but just want someone else thinking about it as well; CEOs who value questions about a product or its strategic context instigating an appropriate discussion rather than getting defensive because it assumes the team hasn’t done its job well; long, informal conversations that meander through various perspectives of the business and how to align all of its elements into a coherent strategy and execution plan; debating challenges that can go unresolved because all the information isn’t there, but a concerted effort is being made to address them; executives and team members who will say what they think and add a perspective to the comments of the CEO in a board meeting, but respectfully sign up to execute a plan agreed by the team. These are the signs of a high function company- and the kind that I love to work with.

Matt brought this kind of data-driven honesty and transparency to a whole new level last week by having his 360 degree review conducted with the Return Path management team and board together in one room. He applied the core lesson to himself – you can’t improve performance if you don’t have the data - and then he committed to getting the data about his own performance.

It takes a special kind of entrepreneur to lead like that. I’ve noticed several common traits: a sense of humility, knowing what they know but also what they don’t, comfort with uncertainty, and a data-driven orientation. These are the people that make my job great.

Greg Sands is the founder and managing partner of Costanoa Venture Capital, an early stage investor incloud-based services leveraging data and analytics to solve real problems for businesses and consumers. Follow him on Twitter @gsands and read his blog posts at http://costanoavc.wordpress.com/.

Heroes2U Connects Celebrities, Charity, and You

heroes2u

1. What’s your startup called?

Heroes2u and our tagline is Memorable Conversations, Meaningful Causes, based in Columbus, Ohio.

2. What’s your big idea?

Video chats for charity – we host group video chats with high profile people to raise money and awareness for a cause they care about! We want to create a platform for the next generation of givers, that’s why we use the technology we use and sell $5 dollar tickets. The way it works is simple – first we identify a Hero who is someone that is passionate about a cause, has a story to share, and has an online community. We set up a campaign with the Hero – they pick the date and time to do a half hour video chat from anywhere with an internet connection/webcam and also where the money goes (they pick the charity). We then sell $5 dollar tickets on our website with $4 out of every $5 going to the cause being uplifted throughout the campaign. At the end of the campaign 30-40 days we pick 8 people randomly out of all the tickets and they get to be face to face with the person of their dreams, while everyone else who purchased a ticket gets to watch live and submit questions to our moderator and follow along on Twitter! We record all these chats and send out clips to the winners and the charity so everyone has their 5 minutes of fame with their Hero!

3. What’s the story behind your idea?

The story started when we were working on our last startup which used video to train people with fitness goals, so that’s where video over the internet came from. One day we were sitting and going through ideas and we thought what if you could video chat with celebrity x and people were telling us they’d pay to do that. So we thought ok why would the celebrity care to get in front of their computer for a half hour and chat with fans, and we realized how meaningful it could be if they were raising money and awareness for a cause they care about. A lot of them have their own foundations and causes they support so it made sense and we went out and raised an investment of 175k last June (2013) from Tony Wells and his family Foundation to make our dream a reality!

4. Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

I am one of the founders – John Weiler – 25 and one of my best friends is the other founder – Jeremy Meizlish 25. Jeremy graduated from Capital and studied English, and I attended Ohio State and studied Economics. We both knew we wanted to be entrepreneurs from a young age and started our first LLC in school, then got involved in a health and fitness video training over the internet start up and then left that to start this about 2 yrs ago.

5. Where are you located, and what’s the startup scene like there?

Columbus, Ohio and it’s a growing community – we have had tremendous support from Ohio State and their Technology and Commercialization Center and have attended the local Startup Weekend, and actually spoke at the last one here a few weeks ago.

6. What milestones have you reached?

We raised our initial investment in June of last year and since then we built and tested our platform, we did a private alpha in Quarter 4 of last year and held chats for free with several TEDx speakers. Earlier this year we launched our public beta in February and started raising money for charities and working with names like Jack Hanna, Country Music star Phil Vassar and several NFL players! We’ve now raised over 10k for charity in small money donations and are just starting! Our last chat had viewers in 23 states and the 8 winners were in 7 different states (none from Ohio) and the cause being a local Ohio based charity A Kid Again, getting national exposure was a big achievement for us!

7. What are your next milestones?

Our next milestones are to start working with even bigger names and causes, we have seen traction and want to start growing our pipeline of Heroes we work with! We have a lot of ideas in the pipeline in terms of product evolution and different phases to build out for the non profit partners we work with as well as our fans, but for now we want to keep things simple and scale what we have!

8. Where can people find out more?

People can check out any of our website heroes2u.com or our social media accounts to stay up to date – twitter @meetheroes or our YouTube/meetheroes or our Facebook/heroes2u or Instagram/heroes2u and read our blog at blog.heroes2u.com

 

How a Mentor Can Help You Scale, Not Just Start

Charley Polachi. headshot2. 09.09Every morning when an entrepreneur wakes up, he or she must embrace the fact that as their startup ramps up, each day will be fraught with bigger decisions than the day before. Part of the job description is the ability to quickly process tough decisions as they could swiftly make or break a fledgling business. Many in the tech sector thrive in this type of environment as risk taking is embedded in their DNA.

And while part of the appeal of being an entrepreneur is autonomy, there are times when the most important tool a founder can utilize is a mentor who has already navigated the road of ramping up a startup.

As an entrepreneur and executive recruiter in the tech startup ecosystem, the best piece of advice I’ve heard repeated time and time again is to “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” The onus of leadership is always on a company’s chief executive.

However, part of a savvy leadership strategy is to lead with the counsel of a trusted advisor to flatten the learning curve for ramping up. The shortest route to success is to find influencers who are willing to give you truthful advice. A capable mentor will guide you past “founderitis” (an oft-dreaded, though inevitable condition among nascent leaders) and help you scale to the next level.

Well-Known Founders Who Have Faltered

There have been many high profile cases where a founder’s ego has increased to the point where they are convinced they are infallible. Steve Jobs is an example. His conflict with then-Apple CEO John Sculley over the Apple 2 and advertising strategy led to his demotion and eventual departure from Apple. This highly public time-out allowed Jobs to reflect upon his hubris and prepared him well for his return as a humbled, but much more effective leader. He made an excellent mentor after this experience.

Next, consider Yahoo’s co-founder and former-CEO Jerry Yang. Yang over-exaggerated the value of Yahoo and snubbed Microsoft’s $44.6 billion offer. As a result, he was shown the door. The Marissa Mayer era of Yahoo is in full swing now.

These founders were rock stars in getting their respective companies to a certain point, but they were removed for a reason. They couldn’t meet their businesses needs at critical junctures of development.

If a leader allows their ego to reign supreme, they run the risk of having a false sense of ability and security. It’s the rare executive who can go from the clubhouse to the penthouse without a detailed playbook. Seeking out a mentor that has your back and will call you out for shortsighted or self-absorbed behavior is crucial for staying level headed and humble.

Learn from the Best

The hottest tech leaders have the best mentors:

• Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs, Sean Parker and Don Graham, among others, for advice. Their collaborative guidance and counsel put Facebook on the map and transformed the social media landscape.

• Square’s CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey tapped philanthropist Ray Chambers for mentorship.

• Salesforce.com CEO, Mark Benioff also looked to Steve Jobs as a mentor and has spoken fondly of their business and personal relationship.

The takeaway from these successful founders is that no man/woman is an island.

Outside influence and feedback are required for successful ramp up.

Finding a Mentor

The case has been made for the value of a mentor but it begs the question – How do you find the right people?

• Take an honest look at where your startup is now and where you want it to be.

• Seek out the key influencers and decision makers who scaled a similar path

• Directly approach each influencer and candidly ask for guidance

• Once a mentor is in place, actively engage them in key decisions only – don’t inundate them for minor details or they will disengage

• Keep the relationship strong – follow the advice and give updates or candidly explain why you are going a different direction

• Accept the tough criticism; if your skill set is no longer a fit for the enterprise, consider your next move

• Add to your mentors as the enterprise scales and enters each new phase of growth

• Give back. If you are approached to act as a mentor, graciously accept the challenge and guide the next generation of leadership

The tech ecosystem evolves at an incredible rate and can be very chaotic, therefore the best strategy for smoother navigation in uncharted waters is to tap into the seasoned traveler for clear, unbiased, and effective direction.

Charley Polachi, managing partner at Polachi Access Executive Search, can provide a expert insight ion the importance of mentors, particularly for entrepreneurs in the tech industry. As an executive recruiter, he knows the importance of a mentor and their role in shaping the best executives and leaders. 

Listening to Employees Is Key for Startup Success

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Getting a startup off the ground and running is a rare feat. Startups are unlike traditional businesses because they are often in untested industries and run by untested leaders. In many instances startup founders are new to having any sort of team to manage. This lack of experience does NOT directly point to guaranteed failure; it does however point to a guaranteed need for fast assimilation toward understanding what it means to lead. While being a “leader” is a broad concept and can take many forms, there are many basic necesities to leading a successful team. The most important arguably being the ability to communicate effectively. This is not “bossing” others, it is communicating (ie. clearly giving direction, and more importantly, listening).

While their are papers, books, and thousands of articles to read on this subject, there are some simple areas and reasons where/why listening to your team members will immediately provide valuable returns.

Understanding Their Knowledge of Your Company

Your team is responsible for running your startup’s day to day operations, and as a result, they are the most familiar with the business. They can offer more insight to which systems in place are helpful and which ones are not. A good leader employs intelligent systems that help operations flow; a great leader designs (or simply approves) these systems based on employee testing and feedback.

This means that, if there is a problem, your goal as a leader should be to utilize your employees to get to the heart of the matter. Simply saying something is wrong and that it needs to be fixed is not enough. Talk with employees about what is wrong, listen to what they think needs to be done, and make an executive decision to move forward with their feedback in mind. Giving them accountability on how issues are solved within the company will also help them become more engaged and focused towards your startup’s accomplishments.

You Win When Your Employees Win

Any solid employer-employee relationship is a mutually beneficial one. You provide them with a great work environment and benefits, and in return they deliver results and loyalty to your company. When this partnership is operating on all cylinders the outcome of a great company is virtually inevitable. Your team’s productivity grows when your employees feel respected and valued. By running an ethical business, your team reciprocates and is ethical. Josephson Institute has a great outline on the responsibilities between an employer and an employer. Having these expectations mapped out for your employees ensures that they understand that their efforts are valued and respected, making them more susceptible to want your company to succeed.

It Limits Turnover

Turnover is one of the biggest ailments of a poorly ran startup. Taking additional time to train and retrain new employees is time consuming and a productivity waster. As a startup, time is not necessarily always on your side. If you do not have an employee satisfaction and retention process in place, you are putting yourself at risk. Combating this risk can be as simple as utilizing services like Inforsurv that can provide you with direct feedback regarding employee satisfaction. By taking the time to get their feedback on how well they like working for you, you can curb potential turnover. Employees are more loyal to employers that take the time to consider the needs of their employees.

Focusing on your startup’s idea and mission are important. Ensuring your management skills coincide with employee satisfaction is even more crucial. After all, you cannot run a startup if you do not have an efficient team behind you. Listen to your team when they offer their views. Think of your employees as a wealth of knowledge on your company. Engaging them in some decisions will only increase their level of commitment and dedication to your startup. Utilize your team, create an ethical workspace, and have a great management team to create a world class-working environment. Gather employee feedback from time to time to see if adjustments need to be made. Including your team in making your startup successful is not only ideal, but is a great way for you to heighten your abilities as an entrepreneur.

How to Have Success in Your Online Business

Learn to Have Success with Your Online Business
You wake up one morning and you have this brilliant idea. You want to start your own business.
You’ve seen other people have success, and you have the desire for the exact same thing. If you are passionate about the kinds of products you will sell to others, you can have a lot of success. While there are always obstacles throughout the journey, if you follow the right steps and take several tips and pointers from other online business owners, you can make a name for your business. A business that is successful as it is well planned and executed.
Why You Should Start an Online Business
In case you didn’t know, there are nearly 30 million online businesses across the globe. There is also a good reason that many businesses have taken the initiative to go online and start their business from there. One of the reasons is because of the exposure. If you have a business where you offer services or products to others, you can reach a huge audience. You are no longer just selling to the locals in your area. You can reach tons of unique demographics. Most importantly, you can sell to people worldwide. It is a major step forward from initially selling to a small group of people who live around the store.
How to Make The Most Of Your Business
One reason you get into creating an online business is to have success. Some of the most successful online businesses have used unique tactics to set themselves apart from the rest. Some of the tactics that you might want to consider include:
• Thinking outside of the box
• Offering something you know people will need or use
• Building your business through social media
There are a lot of original ideas that you can come up with. For example, if you’ve always been a fan of fashion and love messing around with different fabrics, you could ultimately create your own fashion line. You can start of small by making shirts with cool and funny phrases and sayings. Once you have somewhat of an idea on what you want to offer, you can get the opinion of potential customers, especially while using social media.
Social media is important to use because it is a way to keep you in the loop on what is now hot and trendy. It is also allows you to speak with people who are interested in the brand you are trying to make for your business. Discovering more about your business may entice them to want to make a purchase from your online store.
Deciding Which Social Media Platforms You Should Use
Some business owners question whether they are using the right social media platforms. There are plenty of options, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Some business owners have taken time to create videos of their products and services, develop discussion with their customers, and post those videos directly to their YouTube account. If you are selling homemade beauty products, tutorial videos could turn into a huge hit on YouTube, thus resulting in more visitors to your online store. Linking cool social media ideas with what you have to offer is one way to see a positive outcome from your social media interaction.
Because you can write short messages that relate to your business on Twitter, gaining followers and tweeting about current promotions and special with your online store could help you get more attention. Getting involved in any social media sites and keeping track of messages, comment, and other assorted feedback from people is simply important if you want to have success.
Avoid Giving Up On Your Goals
Set goals for yourself and stick with them. Work your best at trying to achieve them by the specific date that you gave yourself when you made the goal. There are times where you might feel frustrated. It’s always normal to feel a bit overwhelmed while doing something as huge as setting up an online store and running it as your primary business. However, the hard work and effort put into developing your business will turn into a great profit.
You can have a successful online business. Come up with ideas that you like and stick with them. It doesn’t matter what you want to offer to the public, whether you plan to create a clothing line of your own or develop apps that people can use on their smart phones. Bring your ideas to life and start selling them. Make sure to have a website where customers can shop so that the transactions are easier on them and yourself. Create social media profiles and keep them active, which means posting  up unique content and information on a nearly daily basis. Provide excellent customer service and  always remember to put the customers first.