Lately I have been getting a good amount of solicitations from founders asking if I will cofound / invest / advise / product manage / guide or whatever it is a startup needs. This is inevitable as we all learn and progress and teach the trade to those earlier on the learning curve though I wanted to point something out:
Founders, please don't bullshit me.
I was once you. I know more, have been through more and know what its like to make things connect. That said if you want me to cofound / invest / advise / product manage / guide or whatever it is a startup needs, start with being honest and just say what you need.
I help honest people who don't waste my time.
Below are some pictures of me when I had no idea what I was doing too...
4/1/2014 0 Comments
Every year there seems to be an incredible opportunity to shape and inspire budding entrepreneurs, especially women and especially in tech and this Spring I got the honor of all three in one event for Cornell's first annual Johnson Women in Technology Conference hosted by Citibank in New York City.
Back in 2012 I lectured at Yale's Entrepreneurial Institute in a program titled, "Putting a Price on Yourself" and in 2013 I joined Kristin Luck and several other amazing ladies on a panel at Barnard College discussing Miss Representation the documentary and what it means for women who are breaking barriers in various careers and industries.
What was most interesting to me about the JWIT program (Johnson Women in Technology) conference was that it was founded by female entrepreneurs in the Cornell MBA programs and focused specifically on technology. This was very cool as I met other amazing women working on technical projects at big firms like Sabre, EBay, Accenture, Adobe and more (My exact panels were Trends and Innovations in the Tech Industry and East Coast tech versus West Coast tech). The finer touches of the conferences were solid and the talent pool intimidating with who was there but it really got me thinking about the larger picture:
alhambra high school, march 2014
While I am "from" San Carlos, CA and spent most of my childhood hanging out with my father at his startup (at the time called eBiocare.com which was later acquired) and graduated from Carlmont High School, what most people don't know is I spent most of my high school hours on campus at Alhambra High School. I played four sports (Tennis, Basketball, Cross-Country and Track) and was active in many clubs. I had high hopes of attending an Ivy League school and was pretty set on Dartmouth (for the writing program and nature), Harvard (for the competition and access to resources) and Cornell (rigorous programs and in New York state proper) I wasn't able to go to any of these schools because when my father passed away my Junior year of high school my home life and school life was completely thrown on its head with court hearings, probate hearings and general chaos that ensures with the patriarch of a family is gone and money is involved.
[And which is also why later this year I am opening a foundation in my father's name to help grant scholarships to those affected by ill-parents. The program will be run through the Stogdell-Silverman Foundation and will start for the 2015 school year]
TOP CALIFORNIA GRADUATE
What's interesting to me is that I stayed in touch with my teachers, friends and have generally felt good energy towards Alhambra especially since this was the same high school of my father as well. Once I was forced to transfer high schools my senior year I had little interest in social or athletic activities: my only interest was graduating (quickly) and getting into a school where I could not only afford the tuition (while my college fund was tied up with lawyers) but also stay in the State in California for the sleuth of various hearings requiring my presence. It wasn't ideal but it shaped who I have become and allowed me to transfer some grants to Humboldt State University and get the education I needed, excel in my career in technology and eventually be awarded as one of their Distinguished Alumni and later awarded by the State of California as a top Science and Technology graduate of the California educational system (What an honor!) It has also made speaking at Yale, Barnard, and Cornell even more important as these were places I always dreamed of going and can leave my own little mark in a way as a guest lecturer. And despite all the fancy schools and companies and events I have spoke at, what has been on my radar for the last few years has been to "bring it back home" meaning take what I have learned and been through and inspire all the would-be Ellie's out there to reach for the stars and what better place to do that then an awkward, teenager filled room in the suburbs of the SF bay area like Alhambra? Challenge accepted.
teaching passion, one high schooler at a time
Sometime in high school I found myself attracted to computers, taking classes that involved excel or making widgets or what-have-you. I even took some c# and java classes as a teenager. Luckily growing up in the Bay Area we always had access to "cutting edge" technologies and at Alhambra I was able to take several classes with computers and the same technology teacher I had back then (which seems REALLY far away given that it was 15 years ago now, ouch) is still teaching so on a business trip through SF I made a commitment for "Tikkun Olam" or "To give back" or "to repair the world" and given a small presentation.
Despite all the world travels and fancy events, my highlights this year has been helping High School kids understand what it means to start a business, how to calculate ROI, track tasks and projects, scope a mobile app idea and leverage technology to further their career. I'm not sure all who I inspired that day but I hope that I planted the seeds of tomorrow innovation and moreover I will continue to do so until a field of minds come marching towards new tech. You will get tired of seeing my handwriting.
So, its now April 1st 2014 and I have helped launch a webinar series at Koombea helping educate future developers and founders, been featured by Adknowledge as on of Top 23 Global Marketers, created a scholarship, helped the FDA with community outreach, supported the launch of a first ever NY Fashion Tech Accelerator program, attended four tech conferences, talked to high schoolers, talked to MBAs, competed in a couple regattas, traveled over 40,000 miles and advised almost a dozen start-ups on product-market-fit and how to launch their apps and all just for this year. I mention this because the world is infinite and there is more information available online than ever before and cheaper (if not free) than it ever was. So while I work at Koombea and help scope and design and assist others with their amazing app ideas and solutions I have to ask: what have you done today to change the world? What will be your mark?
I wouldn't look at all the fancy news articles about tech millionaires or pay too much attention to all the negative energy in the world but if a scrappy gal from the suburbs of SF can accomplish so much in just a few months why can't you give that one idea a crack or find a way to make someone else's like more beautiful today?
"Yad B’yad" or "Hand in Hand" we are in this together.
After weeks of traveling (which is common for my new job) and unpredictable events, I ended up having to turn a well planned personal 1-on-1 dinner with a friend into a family event and I felt so guilty about it as he might not be interested in participating but I wanted to see him but also my family. On short notice I asked my friend if he didn't mind joining us for Shabbat dinner and he happily agreed and showed up with charm and flexibility, brought wine and made conversation with my aunt and cousins and other guests. I was feeling really grateful for his flexibility and at the end of the family night he and I got a few minutes alone at a wine bar where he told me the story of "DABs":
Friend: a "DAB" is a "Down Ass B*tch" basically a woman who is awesome and can roll under any set of circumstances. You can call them anytime and they are there.
Ellie: But isn't that a bit insulting, like the women is on standby or on the back burner?
Friend: No. its a huge compliment. I don't see it as insulting.
Ellie: Well I take offense to it. I feel like I have many amazing qualities but I'm not some "b*tch" that you can keep in a corner.
Friend: its a compliment! There's nothing wrong with it
Ellie: So let me get this right, a DAB is someone who can hang with family go to fancy events or chill parties and just roll with whatever?
Ellie:... and they are okay with last minute changes and still have a good time?
Friend. Yup, you got it.
Ellie: ... and they are the type of person you can have your parents meet and will be on time and bring wine or flowers or whatever it takes?
Friend: Exactly! They just show up and do what's needed.
Ellie: So say you had plans for a low key dinner together and at the last minute it got changed to a shabbat dinner with family a DAB wouldn't ask questions they would just show up with wine and make for a great evening?
Friend: Yes! Exactly, you finally got it!
Ellie: Then wouldn't that make YOU a DAB?
[Silence, my friends smile and face completely stopped]
Ellie: What's wrong? Isn't being a DAB a huge compliment?
Not all marketing needs to be "great" to get attention but even being interesting can be enough. Here are few items that caught my eye recently.
#Concept: Intro to campaigns around customization
Notes: This is really interesting as its a ramp up to their campaign around customization of cell phones and accessories. Very simple. Different but interesting background and simple branding. Well done.
Placement: Grocery Store
#Concept: Wine on the go
Notes: This is really interesting as there are not many products like it. Considering its illegal to have an open container in the U.S I wonder the purpose of a to-go cup of sorts of chardonnay. Really interesting.
Also the colors and label work well with looking clean and having contrast. Every the glittery label seal matches the colors of the wine and label.
Curious what this brand grows into...
MOST GENIUS PLACEMENT EVER:
While browsing CVS I saw the notable "Ghilardelli" holiday chocolate squares near the registers.
I'm not sure who at the chain was bribed but this doesn't appear to be a mistake as the Hershey bars resemble the branding of Ghilardelli, are price about double (and appear to be more than double in size). Also the Hershey bars are rather neat while the little squares are not and its almost impossible to see the brand of the square.
Total genius. Looks like Hersheys is finding a way to take the market share of Christmas back from Ghilardelli.
So much of marketing out there influences how we think and feel about product placement and buying. Periodically I will try to upload some examples.
Here's some examples of items that caught my eye and personal thoughts:
Product: Storage Units
Placement: Train / Public Transportation
#FAIL: Too political
Notes: Regardless of how you feel about the GOP, recent U.S Government Shutdown or what party you are associated with this add is not funny and here is why:
Product: TV Show (reruns)
Placement: Train / Public Transportation
#FAIL: Self Depreciating
Notes: Seinfeld is a known TV classic, reruns can often generate revenues as they can draw in new and old viewers. The problem here is that it highlights "nothing" and is confusing about the times:
Product: Corporate Campaign
Placement: Train / Public Transportation
#FAIL: Too wordy
Notes: The images and coloring schema of this Ad is fairly nice, however its in response to a corporate campaign and has too much explanation.
Product: Art of Shaving
Placement: Train / Public Transportation
Notes: The product is placed perfectly in the middle. Logo and branding could be more prominent however the Ad is sexist as it implies that men being taken over by their wives with a undertone enough to make men and women both uncomfortable
Most women I know found this ad to be sexist at worse, odd at best. A couple male friends of mine thought it was either odd or "okay." My suggestion would have been to phrase the ad something like "All the power you need for a real shave" or "Your weapon this holiday season."
The most popular suggestion:
"if the ad wanted to market to women they should have shown a man laying his head on a women's lap saying, "be ready" and a image of a shaving kit."
Well okay I'm not sure if I'm "exactly" employee number #102 but I do know that the company I am joining was founded by a good friend of mine six years ago, who I have worked with on several large and small projects, and has over hundred employees at this point.
I'm officially coming on board as an Advisor.
When you have to move on from something you loved (my former start-up baby of over three years) all you want to do is work and be part of something that you love even more. I thought about going to a large corporation to be an "intrapreneur" or perhaps get a cushy executive job or maybe even just write a book or go somewhere tropical to de-stress but ultimately I wanted to work with people that I admire, who can challenge me and become something even larger and bigger and successful than I've encountered before. While Koombea is no longer a "small" company by any definitions, I believe in their founder Jonathan Tarud and what the team is working on at Koombea. I want to be an important part of its future- my first startup never IPO'd and I would like to get as close of a feeling of what that might be like and now seems like the perfect time.
So for everyone that needs help or ideas around product design or marketing still ping me. Koombea is giving me lots of freedom to help others and contribute to the software and start-up communities and for those of you who don't know what Koombea does: they build amazing apps and web solutions for early stage startups and enterprises. They even work with some large corporations and can build very creative mobile apps. The way that I see it is that Koombea helps entrepreneurs and innovators get their product out the door with high quality. Koombea to me is the next 'Pivotal Labs' and I couldn't be more excited to join the team at this very stage in my personal life and professional life. Koombea has offices in San Francisco, New York, and Barranquila, Colombia.
More questions or information feel free to shoot me a note: e (dot) cachette (at) gmail.com or a tweet @ecachette.
Koombea is coding apps and taking names so I guess I am too!
Well not exactly today but the process is pretty far along and we will be done soon. It is sort of sad, passionless rouse that also makes sense: I am the most expensive asset to my startup, but my startup is becoming too expensive to be an asset.
I feel like I should make a Medium post-mortem detailing how I feel and go viral or be the top blog post for November but there's a week left in the month and I am so focused on the future that I barely have time for yesterday let alone for the past few years which are already gone. I thought about making a Slideshare with lessons learned in 'snackable' bites of information, but then realized those hours spent helping a startup or non-profit execute would be better spent. My energy cannot be contained. After pouring hours of blood and tears and airport layovers and tough decisions I can actually breathe for a minute and execute on other ideas and do it well. I owe a lot of people a lot of favors but its nice to know that I now have the time to do so. What a blessing.
So what's next? I don't know. There's a couple startups that interest me, there are a few positions on the VC side of things that have sparked my neurons. At the end of the day I can UX / UI wireframe like a beast and love overseeing integrations between old and new systems. I also have a much deeper understanding of markets than my previous successes could allude to. I also like to write and would like to dedicate more time to that.
Next year I have a slightly different set of priorities but I still plan on dedicating time to health and tech communities.
For some reason it feels good to make changes before holidays and before a "new year." Knowing me this makes sense as I always like to get a head start.
R.I.P ConsumerBell, it has been one wild but amazing time.
(Note: my blog posts always have typos. They are free and mostly open to the public for reference and learning.)
As companies build out and grow marketing becomes a more powerful component to user acquisition and branding. Just in the last week several startups have reached out to me about how to make their first marketing hire or how to come up with a marketing plan and ultimately the two main factors that come up the most are 1) how to hire the right person and 2) how to pick the right marketing plan. The most important influences are if a proper structure is in place and if the person or team that is executing it are a good fit. By “structure” I’m referring to an actual plan for press or marketing: do you want more users, more developers, more customers or more investors? What is your main story? What is it that you want to communicate to the world and what mediums should be used? For execution you need to know how you want to market: email or news or press or video. Knowing the channels and execution first can often help select the right person for execution versus the other way around. Picking a great marketer is key but great marketers often have specialties just as some engineers are better at building certain types of products.
When interviewing a potential PR or marketing person you should be able to answer these preliminary questions internally:
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER PRE-MARKETING
1) Why do you want marketing coverage and what do you plan to gain? (i.e users, traffic, brand)
2) How will you know when a marketing campaign is successful? (i.e how do you measure ROI or is online VS. offline more important?)
3) What is your budget? How much a year do you want to dedicate to marketing? (this will decide how many people or events or even if an outside agency or writing makes fiscal sense)
4) Is there someone that represents your brand that can be brought on as an Advisor? (Sometimes an Advisor and Equity situation can make more sense than a junior level PR manager and provide the structure needed)
WHILE FINDING THE RIGHT CANDIDATE
After answering the questions above you should be able to better understand if you are looking for someone junior, senior, outside (like an agency) or just a consultant for some tips for the existing marketing team. Here are some steps and questions when interviewing additional people to help with marketing to gauge an example of their skills:
1) What is your claim to fame? Meaning, what was one piece of media that you were most proud of coverage and why?
2) What’s the biggest PR disaster than you can think of?
3) What is the largest project or marketing budget that you have managed?
PICKING THE RIGHT MARKETING PLAN
Once you think you have the right candidate or couple candidates to help with marketing, try to find the plan and style that fits your company. Are you a SaaS company requiring coverage in technical outlets? Are you a consumer app and need the credibility of super-users? Are you trying to attract senior executives?
Here are some other things to think about:
- Company Roadmap and Content. Is there an existing schedule for content regarding blog and press in the works?
- TV / Video / News: What priority are outlets for the company and are there relevant materials to support them? (like headshots, new logo designs, existing footage)
- Conference lists and dates: what is the current schedule and activities already planned that will have a company presence? How does this tie into product launches and schedules?
- Social Media: what are the current efforts and who all has access to the mediums (like Twitter)
- How much support is there: Who can support content generation, design materials (like posters, fliers images)
- Are there any drop-dead deadlines: is there print coming out or a large conference that will be taking up a majority of resources and how does this affect the other items of
- What are the current items on file: templates, designs, assets, what can be re-used or repackaged? (new content and items pushed out don’t necessarily have to be “new”
- Is there a main document with all the previous press and mentions? If a journalist asks can you send other references and links quickly?
SETTING UP FOR MARKETING SUCCESS
Once the right candidate and marketing plan is in force or fully drafted figure out who the marketer knows and respects, this will often show you which media outlets will be easy to execute and other areas that might require consultants or more work. An example of this could be making sure the right “assets” or flyers are in place and if the website matches the branding which matches the type of marketing that needs to be done. If a marketer drives traffic to your website but it doesn’t explain the product in the right light or is incomplete then all marketing efforts are moot. Marketing is about taking logistics, product and sales efforts and getting them in harmony and on the same schedule. If product launches happen outside of marked dates or dates that marketing is aware about all other customer facing items can appear out of sync and affect the brand.
Some other items to consider:
- Information, FAQ and content: are there relevant links and materials that reflect the product and approved by marketing?
- What promotional items need to be ordered or created? Sunglasses, USBs, banners (likely not, but good to know) and what dates as to not spend on rush orders or overnight shipping
- What is the action item? A signup? A Facebook like? What is the ultimate goal
I hope this post was helping and if there’s something I missed or other questions I am more than happy to do a follow up post. After several similar requests in the same week and questions from founder friends I decided to map something out that could be printed and even help other start-ups find the right marketing situation and solution.
If you have any questions feel free to email me: e (dot) Cachette (at) gmail.com
There comes a time when every entrepreneur must face tough decisions but even the right and fruitful decisions can feel nerve-racking the same as when someone asks, "What's the price?" and the voice in your head says, "everything."
Sometimes its a moment of desperation or a moment of jubilation. The Goosebumps come, popping up on your arms and legs because as much as you can trick your mind you can't trick your body. Your body probably knows more about the future than you do. The way that animals can sense an earthquake.
While some founders try to burry their Goosebumps with long hours or medication I embrace them as signs of something new to come, something changing and if we weren't in it change things, if not everything then what's the point? No matter how calm the surface or hectic the Goosebumps come, as signals that you are alive and can make it. They are the a needed physiological symbol, a reminder of the strength hiding beneath the skin that cannot be controlled.
Just as the feeling of taking that very first customer payment, or first investor check, or the first time giving a grand speech. Its about saying and doing what you think is right and the Goosebumps know.
I like Goosebumps, they remind me I'm on the right track.
(Disclaimer: there’s going to be typos in this. I’m taking a brief break from working on a Sunday to clear some thoughts. This is my personal blog not a company website)
Recently at an unnamed CEO forum most of the founders discussed how to maintain control and their worries and concerns about VCs “not knowing what its like” or trying to steal control really bothers me that there is so much hatorade going around recently for VCs. I feel bad for them, in a world that is getting more and more competitive and capital less crucial as it used to be for starting a company it seems insane to me that founders would still be thinking that VCs are “evil” and here’s why:
· Most VCs would prefer you to run the company. Their job is to make money and protect it. If they wanted to be getting their hands dirty they’d have started their own company but to efficiently make money they cannot be dedicated to one idea
· VCs usually only want the amount of control that is warranted by their investment; ie they want as much as they need to feel comfortable for the risk. True some angels have ridiculous requests but its in their naivete and also in knowing their dilution of some kind is inevitable (again, a theme here in risk management)
· By definition if you are taking a VCs money then you need them, so try to also get ideas and worth from the situation not pretend as though they are valueless
Software. Sailing. Writing Stuff.