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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Presenting at the August 2017 Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup

The Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup is an excellent community in the Lehigh Valley that meets monthly at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners incubator within the Lehigh University Mountaintop campus. The community around the meetup is excellent and the building is amazing*.

While the tail-end of my presentation walked through my experience building my first iOS app Summit, the majority of my presentation was focused on helping early stage companies think about their go to market strategies.

I’m currently advising several companies, a few of which are businesses built around mobile apps, and have heard about 11 other start-up pitches this year so far. And during that time I’ve noticed a trend. Entrepreneurs that are attempting to build a business around an app sometimes underestimate the amount of thought that should go into the marketing and sales strategy for the app. It is as if some feel that apps are less thought and work than products that you can touch. So during my presentation at LVTech I hoped to convey that the same “boring” (yet, tried and true) business practices that apply to products also apply to software.

A few questions I urged those thinking about building a business around an app were:

  • Does your idea service a large enough segment of the market? We hear the “scratch your own itch” mantra a lot. However, it won’t always lead to finding hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of customers.
  • How will you reach those customers?
  • Are there ways to expand your idea into other products or services that can be sold to the same segment?
  • How will you sell or package your idea?
  • What will the price be? (free, one-time payment, subscription, service contracts)
  • What channels can you leverage to sell your idea? (App Store, retail, online, conferences, distributorships, via a sales force)

By considering these, and may other questions, you can determine if your idea has enough layers to support an entire business or if you just have an app idea**.

I also briefly discussed three misconceptions I’ve been seeing over the last year dealing with very early stage start-ups. These misconceptions were:

  • Press-based launch strategies: some thing that by being covered by press will be enough to get them to profitability. They have no other strategy. On the contrary, getting press coverage early on will give you very muddy analytics which will make decision marking very difficult. Very seldom are the tech audience your real customers.
  • How long until profitablilty: More and more entrepreneurs begin with the plan of losing money for 3 or more years. I believe this stems from press coverage of other companies getting large rounds of funding. Most businesses should strive for profitability within the first quarter or year of business.
  • ”I’m not technical, I need a technical co-founder”: Don’t be this person. Anyone can learn to code. Geeks are not smarter than you. They’re just interested and relentless. Be the same.

We then did about 10 minutes or so of questions and answers. The questions I got were really great and I appreciate all those in attendance helping me with the answers to the questions I didn’t have much experience in.

Thanks to Tim Lytle for the invitation to speak and to Ben Franklin Technology Partners for the continued support.

* I worked in this same building for years while at Viddler. But when I worked there the back half of the building didn’t exist. In fact, Viddler started in Jordan Hall – the building just beside the new building. And now, they are extending it even further. The building is an amazing place to work and have a meetup of this kind. I’m jealous that our incubator in Scranton feels so dated when compared to this building. Especially comparing the meeting spaces.

** It it totally fine to “just have an app idea”. I do. And I’m loving working on it. But it is also good to have the proper perspective about your app idea.

Diversity vs. Inclusivity

Estelle Weyl:

Interviewing diverse candidates will not create a diverse environment. While the above organizations may have filled that diversity pipeline, that pipeline is full of leaks. Diversity recruiting is really only lip service. Work, school, community and conference environments need to be inclusive. Inclusivity in the sealant that prevents many pipeline leaks.

Many companies have seemingly made strides to create a more diverse environment and, of course, it started by striving to increase the number of diverse candidates that the company speaks with. But Weyl is right. That is just the beginning. Now these companies have to strive to create inclusive environments where anyone at all has a voice, is empowered, and feels like they are part of the team.

Outsourcing your online presence

Joe Cieplinski:

Look, I get that I’m the nut who doesn’t want to use Facebook. I’m not even saying don’t post your stuff to Facebook. But if Facebook is the only place you are posting something, know that you are shutting out people like me for no good reason. Go ahead and post to Facebook, but post it somewhere else, too. Especially if you’re running a business.

Facebook is an amazing platform for businesses. It is very easy to keep up-to-date. Your customers (that are on Facebook) can follow along and share your message. And you can use it to post text, photos, video, live video, photo albums, links, events, groups discussions, polls, etc. etc. It is an incredible tool.

However. As has been delicately noted by others Facebook does not play very nice on the Internet. While Facebook has 1B+ accounts… that does not add up to everyone. And, those 1B+ accounts aren’t all individual people. And some of those people may only open Facebook to see the latest photo of their grandchild. So if you’re business is only sharing on Facebook there is no doubt that you’re missing the entire audience. You’re getting some. But certainly not getting all. And, you’re missing out on searches through Google or Bing or Yahoo!.

Businesses should have their own site AND share through social networks where they think their customers are.

Attending Small Agency Idea Lab (SAIL) in Walt Disney World, Florida

Last week I attended SAIL, Second Wind’s Small Agency Idea Lab, at the Boardwalk Resort in Walt Disney World, Florida. This is the first marketing and advertising agency event that I’ve been to (usually attending technology or internet related events) and I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

SAIL is pitched as a lab and at times it really felt like one. The attendees were engaged, asked questions, provided answers, and steered the conversations and presentations as much as the presenters did.

Being that I was representing Condron Media for this event I did my best to jot down a myriad of notes and bring back what I thought was applicable for our business. I figured I’d take a moment during this week’s Homebrew Website Club to share a few of those notes so that perhaps you can benefit too.

  • “the only thing to continue will be the pace of change” – Brian Olson of inQuest said this during his presentation and it reverberated through the entirety of the two-day event. Most business sectors have already, or are in the process of, coming to grips with this fact already – change, or die. My boss, Phil Condron, laid that out great during our rebrand.
  • Profit sharing as a strategy – This is nothing new, in any industry, but the way Ross Toohey of 2e Creative and his CFO created a program that helps their team do their best work and service the customer better was inspiring.
  • workamajig – I’ve been online since 1994 and I had never heard of workamajig before I attended SAIL. I’ve used tons of project management software so I plan on looking into it and seeing if it may be right for our team or not.
  • Using IP to generate revenue – I tell this same concept to every single company I advise. I call it “sawdust”. Which I believe was inspired by Jason Fried in 2009. Turn your sawdust into revenue. Sharon Toerek ran a great presentation to show the myriad of ways that creative agencies can do this.

There were many other takeaways from SAIL that I plan on expounding on in future posts.

I get asked sometimes if the fees associated with these types of events are worth it. Yes. Without question. I am a strong advocate of attending as many events as you possible can. If you only come away with one tool, one contact, one new idea, one new process – nearly any price tag is worth it.

Plus, in this case, I managed to get a little bit of sun in March.

A guide for starting a business from Stripe

Patrick McKenzie, writing in the awesome Stripe Atlas Guide:

We put together this guide to cover many of the details you’ll need for your business in its first year.

New to business? Just starting out? Read this guide from Stripe.

Being on the “Ask the Web Marketing Experts” panel

Yesterday I was privileged to represent Condron & Cosgrove (more on this in January) at the NEPA Defense Transition Partnership panel discussion, through the Scranton Small Business Development Center, called Ask the Web Marketing Experts. I was flanked by other experts in the area including Jack Reager of Black Out Design, Gerard Durling of Coal Creative, and Ben Giordano of Freshy Sites.

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Left to right: Jack, Gerard, myself, Ben.

The panel discussion lasted a few hours and ranged topics from the elements of an effective web site to how to find your voice with social media for your business. It was a great discussion and it was recorded. If the video is made public I’ll be sure to share it.

There were a few overarching takeaways from the panel. Here’s mine; Don’t write-off a new social platform simply because you do not use it or understand it. Don’t get stuck using the same marketing techniques for your business year-after-year. Just because you did one thing one year, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying something different the next.

Every social network that we use today was, at one point, written off by those that didn’t think they’d ever make a difference. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest – all of these got their fair share of shrugged shoulders in the beginning. Don’t be that person. Be willing to move and adjust as the market does. You’ll be able to do better marketing for your business.

Wait, so Verizon is going to own Flickr? The Yahoo! weather and sports APIs? Yahoo! Mail (which I hear some like). Oh boy.

Is GoPro doomed?

Those that follow along here on my blog know that I love my GoPro. And I “only” have the HERO 3. See this, this, this, this, and this for examples of me playing around with my GoPro.

GoPro’s stock price and sales figures are plummeting. And as I sit here, going over everything they have, and comparing their strategy against other companies that had similar products and failed — I don’t know exactly what can save them. In fact, I rewrote this blog post three times as I’ve changed my mind about what might work.

But Matt Hackett of Beme writes that software can save them:

GoPro needs software in spades, far beyond just something to make editing easier. The company that created the first mass-market visceral experience broadcasting device ought to have a hand in every dimension of the current live revolution, not just be one of its few cameras. That requires software.

As my friend Gary Vaynerchuk recently said in Daily Vee #29… just as large broadcasters can turn their companies around by having a hit show, software and hardware companies can turn themselves around with features. It is an over simplification (Gary knows this) but he is right. If GoPro had a hit application (or was integrated fully into one) it would turn everything around for them, especially in the eyes of the public investor.

Obviously, they won’t save anything without selling hardware. Hardware is where they make all of their revenue and it always will be. And, as Matt points out in his piece, they already make great hardware. So perhaps great software would stem the tide for GoPro?

Matt’s proposition that GoPro build the next Periscope is intriguing. It had me thinking all last night of what that could look like and how it would be received. Rather than allowing Periscope or Meerkat to integrate into GoPro (and they already have), Matt proposes that GoPro itself build a platform for live streaming video that would allow input from GoPro cameras and other devices.

This would be a huge gamble for GoPro. Live streaming isn’t easy nor inexpensive. Matt knows this very well so I know he does not make this suggestion lightly. And, GoPro already has experience in live streaming (sort of) with Herocast. So I’m sure the thought of putting a platform behind that has crossed their minds. Perhaps they even built something in a lab. To get live streaming right they’d have to put some major resources behind such an endeavor and the Board would definitely see it as Nick’s (the CEO) last effort to turn it around.

I love GoPro. But I’m not as optimistic as Matt. I fear the Board will call for Nick’s head after another bad quarter. And I believe it will take several quarters, a few acquisitions, and the recruiting of a few key team members (all in design, software and platform) in order to turn GoPro around. If Nick goes the whole thing goes I say because once a founder is kicked out recruiting can be tough.

Will they go the way of Flip? I hope not. Let’s just hope the team at GoPro isn’t sleeping and is way, way smarter than I am and can figure it out.

 

The Loop Magazine closes

Jim Dalrymple:

I hate failure, and this was a failure for me. I will learn from it and focus my attention back on The Loop website, where it belongs. I’m sorry to the subscribers of the magazine, and hope you enjoy the upcoming issues I have prepared for you.

We’ve all failed. We have an idea, or an itch that needs scratched, or a vision for something and we use every fiber of our being to get it out into the world and it dies on the vine. Sometimes quickly, sometimes it is a long haul. Quitting something is incredibly difficult.

I’ve never met Jim. I’ve never shaken his hand or heard him play his guitar live. But, I’ve talked to him on the phone a few times, a few times over Skype, and email. And I can say he is easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever chatted with.

If you’re reading this, do me a favor and add The Loop (Jim’s blog) to your feed reader. And, if that isn’t your thing follow The Loop on Twitter. He’ll help keep you up-to-date on what is going on with Apple and you’ll help him be able to do what he loves best. If you really love what he does become a member of The Loop.

Jim tried to do something. And that is always worth applauding.

Well done Jim.