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How to prepare for MITX-UP

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in MITX-UP marketing hackathon at Critical Mass (pronounced “my-tex-up”).

The event was totally awesome and if you are a startup, you should particiapte next month, hands-down. The process is simple: you fill out a questionaire, get matched with 4-6 marketing experts, and spend 3 hours with them discussing your project. Awesome.

Since this was my first time at the event and I didn’t know what to expect I thought I’d jot down a few notes for entrepreneurs participating in the next one:

1. Give detailed context

The first 10 minutes or so should be spent on you pitching your startup. The mentors probably read a paragraph they were sent about you in advance, but they don’t know the stage you’re at, the nuances of your industry, or the details of your product.

2. Come with questions

Figure out your top 3 marketing/branding/bizdev challenges and state them clearly up front. Be as specific as you can. This way, the experts know exactly how they can help, and you have anchors to build much of the discussion against. The more diverse these points are, the more likely there is someone in the room who can help you on each one. (Alternatively, figure out which topic everyone is an expert on, and do a deep dive on it)

3. Talk about messaging.

It’s great if one of your questions is about branding and messaging. Mitxup experts are branding and messaging rockstars and they can probably help you a lot here regardless of your spccific industry. This point can be broad (“what image do we project”) or specifc (“how do I craft this biz dev email”).

4. Bring materials, even if they are raw.

A product demo, an email newsletter, advertising copy, logo ideas: anything you have, bring it and give it up for people to criticize. (Remember they’re here to help you).

5. Leave time for open discussion.

Your mentors will have some ideas you haven’t even thought of. Make sure you leave time to listen. Brainstorm ideas with them even if you don’t find all of their ideas immidiately applicable – you might discover something new in your own startup!

 

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Great week for office hours

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

This week, I’ve gone to two of the events under the new “office hours” movement: at Alphabet Arm Design and Fresh Tilled Soil. Both were free, had founder-level executives sitting down with visitors, and generous with their time.

Alphabet Arm is a Boston graphic design firm that made logos for popular Boston startups like BzzAgent and DailyGrommet among many others. I met with Aaron Belya, the firm’s owner who educated me on the process of working with a designer, the pros and cons of freelancers vs. agencies. vs crowdsourcing, and provided a couple of useful contacts to graphic designers he knows. One particularly interesting point he brought up was on crowdsourcing: the main disadvantage of it, in his opinion, is not that it allegedly devalues work of designers as some have stated, but that most designers who work though mass internet channels work from templates, which limits the uniqueness of your logo. Alphabet Arm’s official time allotments for office hours were 10 mins per person, but they were open to continuing the conversation beyond that as necessary.

Today morning, Fresh Tilled Soil, a Waltham web dev/SEO company with a very impressive roster of clients, also opened its doors for office hours. I met with CEO Richard Banfield and Biz Dev manager Matt Boynton. We spoke about the earliest-stage SEO efforts a startup can take, and the consensus was inbound link-building, mainly through interaction with bloggers and basic html optimization such as matching up the page title with the keywords of every particular page on your site. Having a lot of static content is of course a key to being indexed well, which is going to be a challenge for us at WaySavvy since our application is written mostly Flex (Google’s indexing of Flash files is just not as deep at this point). A cool idea Richard sounded was to build an entire website on the WordPress  platform – and take advantage of its automatic SEO benefits.

All in all, big thanks to both companies, and for those of you looking to get in on the office hours before the end of the year – Scott Kirsner will be holding his Coffee For No Reason hangout at Cosi in Kendall Sqaure on Dec 23.

Summary from MassInno9 and WebInno24

December 10, 2009 2 comments

November’s been a good  month for tech events, with everyone eager to get some last-minute buzz before the Holidays.

Two of this week’s best events: the last 2009 meetups of the Web Innovators Group, and Mass Innovation Nights. Both, as usual had some startups present their products in front of an audience, and others show table-top demos.

My favorite companies at WebInno were Blank Label, mass customizers of shirts and ThredUP – a used clothing Exchange Service.

Blank Label, which launched in October lets you “create your own label.” You go to their web site (no log in required) and create your own shirt from scratch including shape, colors, fabrics, stitching, etc…  The cost for each shirt ends ups being about the same as a typical shirt from Macy’s except there is nothing “typical” about it. For now, their offerings are targeted toward younger males, so if you’re a guy, they’re must-see, but if you’re not – I’d keep an eye out for them expanding into other segments. Or, ladies, check them out for a unique Holiday present for that special guy in your life.

ThredUP, or “Netflix for clothes” as they are sometimes referred to, is in the same market but a very different segment. Their premise is that a lot of people like to change their wardrobes very often. As a result, perfectly good pieces of clothing end up hanging in their closet indefinitely. So, with ThredUP ,you can get an envelope where you place your unworn 1-year-old  sweater and swap with someone who might have a cool shirt they don’t wear anymore. ThredUP simply charges you for the envelope (which is cheaper than most bargain-rack off-brand shirts). They ask that your clothes by laundered and in good condition, and while this isn’t easily enforced, if you don’t do it the reputation system will make it unlikely someone will ever swap with you.

At Mass Inno – the theme this time was mostly energy efficiency. I’m no energy buff, but HEET and New Generation Energy caught my eye because they are non-profits. HEET (Home Energy Efficieny Team) organizes volunteers to help people “weatherize” their homes. They host parties and get-togethers to educate folks on energy efficieny and related topics.

New Generation Energy is a non-profit investment fund (that’s right!) that lets socially conscious investors participate in renewable energy projects in exchange for fixed-rate returns. If you’d like to donate to a project they are sponsoring you can do that as well, but for those who want to make a difference yet are not ready to donate large amounts of money this could be the golden middle. High net worth isn’t a requirement to invest here – you only need $1000.

I’m looking forward to meeting cool new startups at WebInno and MassInno in 2010. For the rest of December, a cool event on my radar is the online travel panel atVilna Shul in Boston on December 16: details here.