Sunday, July 01, 2018

Top 6 reasons why a start-up will succeed

David defeats Goliath 

I first started working at start-ups a few years after I got my MBA. I had worked as an analyst in financial services in 2007-2009, and I was getting fed up with it.

Since then I've worked at a few start-ups that have been phenomenally successful; from nothing to a $5 Billion valuation on the Nasdaq in ten years; another was founded in 2006 and was bought for $2 Billion by a large multi-national.

I've also seen failure; For example, a great company, with some brilliant, creative minds, mired in law-suits with tech giants that drained us of resources, sad!

I'm going to take a crack at this:

1) The product is great! I've heard experts say that the product no longer matters anymore; There's a lot of liquidity in the market and there is a scarcity of investment opportunities for that money to go to. But seriously!

For a company to take off, it's got to cater to a burning need of the customer. Usually, that will be disrupting an old, tired and inefficient way of doing things. I've worked in dynamic new businesses in Analytics, Marketing and Cybersecurity. Every time the prospect realised what our product could do for them, they got excited!

2) The founder has maturity. One of the successful start-ups I worked at, the founder is in his late 40's. The other, he is even older, 59. This goes against the media's portrayal in shows like silicon valley.  We all know that youthful founder stereotype by now. But this has been my experience. And the research backs up my own anecdotal evidence.  The average age of a successful founder is 45.

I was particularly impressed when I heard the backstory of one founder I worked for; raised in poverty in India, studied engineering, came to the US to get his MBA and then set up a string of successful companies.

3) The company is flexible. I read a fantastic book a few years ago, from one of my favourite business writers, Malcolm Gladwell. It's called 'David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants'.  In it, he explains that to battle giants, you need to use every resource available to you and not play according to their rules.

What if David had tried to battle it out in armed combat with the giant, Goliath? He would have lost, of course! One of your competitive edges as a start-up versus a Fortune 500, is that you can afford to bend 'corporate' rules.

So why then do some start-ups fail to deliver by trying to carry over the same corporate culture of long, unproductive hours at the desks and 'presenteeism' versus being purely results driven?

It makes no sense. If you are a startup, your employees not having to put up with pointless corporate exercises is a unique selling point for you. If you are 'David' don't go out to fight 'Goliath' weighed down by a lot of useless, restrictive, heavy armour.

4) The culture and the people are outstanding. One company I worked at had a great volunteer day. We spent the day helping out in food banks and at children's aid centres. It brought us together and helped us bond while doing something outside of the company's direct aim ('increasing shareholder value' according to my Finance Professors at B-school).

At another company, I got to go skiing for a day at the end of a 4-day event in Utah. I will never forget that experience! The best companies I've worked for, people wanted to help each other, and not just to look good or to get what they wanted in return. I made some great friends at some of these companies, that I stay in touch with years later, even though they are thousands of miles away now.

5) You set Realistic goals that do not change without good reason. My best work experiences were at companies where we worked out a plan and then stuck to it. Perhaps we would adjust that plan. But that would only happen with all stakeholders being in on that discussion.

My worst experiences were when we set goals, and then the goals were changed mid-stream, without a debate. Similarly, with stretch goals, aiming for 30% above what you think is possible, can be motivational (as long as you hit your goals sometimes).

Aiming for 300% of what you think is possible, is not and never will be, motivational. I've talked with a lot of professionals about this, and this includes psychologists and performance coaches and they all agree.

Founders are usually under tremendous pressure from investors for their companies to perform. But setting unrealistic, unachievable goals, is a ticking time bomb.

6) You embrace learning - if your company is so stretched that you cannot afford to let a good employee spend a couple of days doing training in a core skill that will increase his or her productivity, then you need to re-evaluate your organisation.

I love this quote: 'Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.' Abraham Lincoln. Don't send your employees out into the woods with blunt axes!

Friday, June 15, 2018

GDPR - LSE Lawyers round table discussion on Privacy and Data Protection

On the 25th of May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. A regulation that is changing not only how big digital players are processing data but the entire private sector, and forces organisations to get their registered information on individuals in check. With the challenges of implementing such regulation in organisations in mind, the Lawyers’ Alumni Group hosted a round-table Q&A and discussion of the newly introduced regulation and its impact.

Led by Steven Taylor (LLM 2012), a specialist in privacy law and data protection, the session brought together a small group of select alumni who have an interest and experience of the practical application of the new regulation.

Below, Steve Taylor, a specialist in privacy law & data protection, working for a US Private Equity group

Notable contributions were also made by Anita Bapat, Data Protection & Privacy Partner at Kemp Little LLP, who gained a first in Law at the LSE in 2005.

Since I've purchased annual subscriptions with several large data/Business intelligence companies like Zoominfo and Rainking, I wanted to see what the Law was on this and also, if there is some issue, whether it is the data company, my company, or both who are liable.

It's significant since the EEC has the right under GDPR to fine a company up to either 4% of annual revenue or 20 Million Euros.  There is a two-tier system of administrative fines, the first being up to 10 million Euros or 2% of annual global turnover.

Steve said that the responsibility lies with the data company (the data processor), not your company (the data controller). This confirmed what I had thought. However, he said that you must also check the contract, to ensure data company does not have some type of exclusion clause.

Steve told me earlier that he'd met and talked to Elizabeth Denham, the ICO commissioner, who is overseeing GDPR in the UK. Steve's understanding of this legislation is that, to use his analogy, it's rather like doing math's homework; as long as you are seen to be trying your best to comply, the ICO will not generally expect perfection.

However I did also find this quote from Elizabeth which puts her position across somewhat stronger: “If your organization can’t demonstrate that good data protection is a cornerstone of your business practices, you’re leaving your organization open to enforcement action that can damage both public reputation and bank balance”

In terms of data use, there are two ways to establish if you can use a person's data; Consent and Legitimate interest. The first is self-explanatory; the second is a little trickier to define. Most agree that it means that you have a good reason to hold and use that person's data.

Most important to remember is that if your company takes customer data in one way and uses it in another, you absolutely must have your customers express permission. This makes sense, since they only agreed to have their data held for purpose A, the original purpose, not purpose B, your new use of their data.

He also reassured us that if you are a start-up, you are much more likely to be fined 4% of annual revenue, which could actually be a fairly small amount, rather than 25 Million Euros; unless of course, you are flouting the law, for example, in the case I just mentioned above.

We had an outstanding discussion on Brexit, and how that will impact this European legislation. Here, Anita, really came into her own, as She knew all the details. I had thought that there was some room for data companies, to lobby, to have this legislation removed in the UK (when all EU legislation is enacted into UK law).

However, Anita told us that GDPR had already been enacted into UK Law on May 24th, one day prior to the European GDPR date. The Data Protection Act 2018 is thus both an extension of the 1998 UK Data Protection Act, as well as implementing the same regulations as European GDPR.

Our conversations were too detailed and wide-ranging to include all of them in this blog post. However, as I continue my training as a Data Protection Officer, I will write more posts on this subject. However, some points that Steve made, to remember;

Article 27
Requires a company to have a representative in Europe

Article 37
Requires the company to have a Data Protection Officer. This person must have an understanding of the Law and GDPR specifically and also must be an expert on handling data.

Article 72
This covers breach notifications. As soon as you are aware of a data breach, no matter how insignificant, you must notify the ICO, within 72 hours.

My chief takeaway from this discussion was how uncertain, even highly trained legal experts on the subject, are as to how these laws will actually be applied. To give an example, Steven said that if the EEC (or ICO) digs deep enough, it will be able to uncover breaches of the GDPR rules anywhere, even at tech giants like Facebook or Google.

Does that give them a right to do so just to generate more revenue? How are they going to determine the extent of their dig and who they dig for breaches with?

281 Billion emails are sent every day. How can the EEC monitor all of these? Will they concentrate on large companies? Or flagrant breaches of the legislation? Steve said that the latter is the most likely.

I rounded off the evening with dinner across the road at The Delaunay (yet again!) with my fellow LSE law alumni, Joanna Mcdwyer; We celebrated since She has just been offered the job of development director at Newnham College, Cambridge and will consequently also be made a fellow of that college.

Thanks to Sharon Park, LLM Student in Information Technology Law at the LSE, for checking and editing this post for me. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Becoming a powerful business disrupter

A wealthy businessman friend of mine says that to do well in business you need to be a disrupter. Certainly, for a start-up to make money, it needs to successfully disrupt its industry.

My take on this is, having worked in the USA for 10 years and come back,  is that we, in England, struggle with having to be seen as being respectful at all times. Even more so, we find it very hard not to conform, even when it's crucial that we do.

My favourite band is the Doors; I love Jim Morrison's erudite lyrics and smooth voice and yes, the dark shadow of rebellion that hangs over everything he does. The Doors had many great hits, from LA Woman to Light my fire.

Lead singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison (right of picture), who met Ray Manzarek (left of picture), The Doors Keyboard player, whilst they were both studying at UCLA Film School. Film director, Francis Ford Coppola, who made the classic 'Apocalypse Now' was Jim's friend and a student on the same course.

Without a doubt, The Doors most impactful song must be 'The End'; that dark Freudian anthem that weaves Greek mythology into themes of death and patricide; Coincidentally, it's featured at the beginning of one of my favourite films, Apocolapyse Now, which is based on one of my favorite books, 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad.

When The Doors first started out, they were the house band, playing at the top club in LA at the time, the Whisky A GoGo. One night, Jim went missing before his set. The Band finally found him at his Motel and got him to the gig.

That night Jim said He had a revelation about the song. He suddenly realised what the song was about and He added that famous extra stanza,  the one that delights and offends.

The owner of the club was so shocked that he fired The Doors the next day. That day,  a talent scout, who had also heard the same set the night before, signed them to Electra records. A few weeks later, they were recording that song. And that first album they made with Electra was a smash hit!

Below is a good guide to the way in which different countries handle confrontation/disruption.

Negotiating across cultures 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

5 things you should think about when moving country for work

A 'Husky' about to make the move back across the pond

The first big move I made for my career was in 2005 when I made a decision to take 2 years out of my career, to take a full-time MBA in the USA.

I hoped to work in the USA for a few years afterwards and get some good contacts and experience there. It also didn't hurt that it was $2 to the pound at the time and that I got a scholarship and a part-time job at Northeastern University

1. Other than the usual challenges of getting an MBA; Taking the GMAT, making the applications, writing the application essays, interviewing for the schools, finding the money to go; I'd say getting the Visa sorted out was the hardest part. It required a mountain of paperwork. Further down the road, when I finally got my US Permanent resident card ('Green Card'), it was even harder. There were so many hoops to jump through that I had to hire an Immigration lawyer at considerable expense.

Shit, where's my car gone? I need to get to work!

2. My second shock was rather more prosaic; I was just not prepared for the weather in Boston. In the winter, it gets down to -10 C and that's -20 C or more with windchill. You also have big snowstorms. For example, during the last winter, I was in Boston, in 2015, over 14 feet of snow fell in the city. In the summer, you NEED air conditioning in your apartment. It gets up to 40 degrees C and it's also humid in the city.

Returning from Boston to move back to London, 10 years later, was actually a much bigger and more complicated affair. I was now married, with a 6-year-old son, with disabilities and a 9-year-old daughter.

Let me back up here a little to explain. My wife, Catherine, had always wanted to live in the UK. She was running College recruiting at her company, Akamai, in 2015, when she was offered the chance to go to London, to run EMEA recruiting there; it was a huge promotion for her, from manager to director, from managing a team of 5 in Boston to managing a team of 20 recruiters, throughout the whole of Europe.

I said 'go for it' and promptly found a job, setting up Lead generation in the UK and Europe, for a little-known Cybersecurity start-up called Zscaler (it has since had an IPO and is now valued at $3.8 Billion on the Nasdaq). This brings me to the next point:

3. Corporate relocations have experienced a paradigm shift in the last 50 years. In the 20th century, the husband usually was working and wife, who did not work, would manage a lot of these challenges of moving. Today, more often than not, you are dealing with 2 parents, who both have to manage demanding jobs, throughout this corporate relocation.

ANYTHING that will save them time (above all time) and money (much less important), is an absolute necessity.  Make sure you employ all the help you can. For this, we used a corporate relocation company to manage our move for us, that my wife's company, Akamai, organised. We also used an army of staff.

my son, Jack, in our dining room in Boston, Massachusetts, USA 

4.  Make sure you employ technology to your advantage. We live in a digital world for a reason. It's fast and efficient. Everything from using DocuSign to sign all our documents (including the sale of our house in Boston) to Skype for all those foreign calls, to using video surveying tools to track where all our furniture was; particularly useful when you are moving from a standard 2,200 square foot house in the USA to a standard large garage sized house in London and you have to put half your furniture in storage.

5. The importance of having flexible work. There is no way We would have managed this move so effectively without remote working. I had 2 weeks training in Austen, Texas and I travelled back to Europe a number of times to run conferences there.

I had  a Sales kick-off in Las Vegas and numerous trips back and forth to London to orchestrate the move. Throughout this, Zscaler allowed me to work remotely for the UK office, from Boston, USA, for almost 4 months. Zscaler's and Akamai flexibility made a huge difference to Catherine and me and we really appreciated it! Full article on buzzsurvey blog here.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

London Salesforce Trailblazers Conference

Me with Salesforce's Einstein 

I've worked with many Marketing Email Marketing and CRM tools, from Microsoft Dynamics and Click Dimensions to Hubspot, and MailChimp, to Marketo. I've been very impressed with Salesforce, particularly in the quality of their support.

Ronan Twohig, Account executive, Salesforce, Emer Merriman, Marketing Specialist, Salesforce and Isabella Hernandez, Marketing Executive, Buzzmove

My colleague and I, Bella Hernandez, met up with our team at Pardot in the SMB arena at the excel centre in the Docklands. It was great to see Ronan Twohig again and meet Emer Merriman. Straight away we were deep into a conversation about how I could make some adjustments to better integrate Salesforce with Pardot. Then right away, I was like 'hey Emer, I want to get better insight into our Marketing ROI. How can I best accomplish that?'

B-2-B Marketing analytics - What we may be missing

Emer asked me about our product suite, and it turned out that we are missing one component that can achieve this, the B-2-B analytics suite. We fixed up a demo next week, so I can best understand this and then, hopefully, remedy the situation. But also We're going to talk through a couple of those questions I had about best practices in Salesforce/Pardot integration.

Ronan then asked me 'hey, Rudy, how is that rolling out and implementing Pardot coming along, the one you mentioned a couple of months ago when we were at the Shard?'

Bella asking the Salesforce trailblazer scout for directions 

I was happy to report to Emer and Ronan my first 2 months progress; I wrote my marketing plan, pitched it and had it was agreed by my CMO, in the first week. By the following week, I had implemented Pardot for all our campaigns.

Emer said 'wow, two weeks, that's amazing!'  But it's no big deal - Pardot is easy to use, and there's plenty of content and people to guide you if you get stuck. In fact, it's worked so well that I've even begun using it for larger B-2-C lists, of over 80,000 contacts. My job title is B-2-B Marketing Manager, so it's not actually my job; but hey, that's start-up world for you! You help out wherever you can.....

Why do I love these Salesforce headphones so very much? 
1. Is it the cute logo? 2. is it that they light up with a warm glow? 

Yes, all our contact data is now inside of Salesforce, we are fully integrated, and we are running a range of campaigns from LinkedIn inmail, to events, to Email. Not only that, but the data quality is far better and more actionable by the sales team than it was previously.

I have also set up lead scoring and Marketing automation, including nurture campaigns; we can roll this out for all other parts of our business too.

Ronan Twohig kindly suggested that I come and present what I've accomplished in Pardot at a Salesforce conference coming up, which sounded cool. Small businesses actually generate over 1/3 of Salesforce's total revenue.

The keynote was terrifically entertaining and informative; the CMO, Simon Mulcahy, is a natural presenter and he brought on some real powerhouses of digital and b-2-b marketing, from Ulster Bank (part of RBS) and Adidas, to run some live demos. The marketing feats they had accomplished using Salesforce were quite mind-blowing.

Simon Mulcahy, CMO, of Salesforce, hitting it out of the park with his keynote.

I was particularly taken with Simon's concept of 'trailblazers' - how it's people like 'us' - intrepid pioneers, innovators, game changers, who are doggedly trying to improve the organisations we work at; we are the ones who are driving growth in our companies. That was a powerful message.

Which CRM provider dominates?

Which Marketing platforms dominate now? Which will dominate in 2023?

Along the way, I ran into a few old colleagues and friends. Bella and I had a good chat with Pedro Jose, rockstar Sales engineer at Vlocity, a Salesforce company. I worked with him at Sigma. Pedro was pivotal in signing our biggest deal last year with Telstra, for $15 Million.

Pedro Jose, Senior Solution Consultant at Vlocity, a Salesforce Company

He worked like a maniac on Telstra, flying back and forth from his home in Portugal to Sydney, Australia, many times. He was 'all over it'! That deal was also important from a marketing perspective; since it was our first big account in the APAC region.

I'm glad to report that Pedro was thrilled at Vlocity, performing exceptionally well and being treated even better by Salesforce.

We rounded off the day with Bella rocking the floor of over 5000 salesforce event attendees with her killer tunes, breaks and massive bass*.

*full disclosure - Bella was not actually playing any music. We just took some photos of her in the DJ booth.

What I got out of the event

1. I learnt valuable information that will make me a more productive marketer and will enable me to carry out more effective marketing at my company

2. I connected with those who can help me in my journey; not least of all some of the salesforce team. This was sadly lacking when I ran global demand generation at my last company (with another CRM provider).

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Financial Management for start-ups

Most founders of start-ups want to end up in one of two places; Becoming a public company (by having it’s IPO) or being acquired by another company. Each of these scenarios has played out at 2 of the last three companies at which I’ve worked. If, as an entrepreneur, you want to reach either of these goals, someone in your organisation must have a good grasp of finance.

It's been about ten years since I completed my MBA. But all the lessons remain fresh in my memory. I majored in Finance, so I was fortunate to have studied with a lot of, primarily US (my business school was in the USA.), finance professionals from organisations like Blackrock, State Street, Fidelity and Bain Capital. I was even more fortunate to have completed an internship at a New York Investment Bank, Bryant Park Capital

During my internship and studies, I learnt a lot about - valuing companies, presenting financial data to investors, powerpoint (doh! I'm an MBA, of course!). Most importantly, I started to understand the special language that Finance professionals use; Market Cap, Fifo/Lifo, beta, default risk premium, arbitrage, hedging and so on..

Back at business school, I hit it off with one of my professors, Don Margotta, who is an expert on corporate governance and shareholder activism. I want to share a few of the ideas here, that ignited my passion for Finance.

Here are some of the books, that did the same; Liar's Poker, Barbarians at the Gate, and Black Swan (where Nassim Taleb proceeded to pull apart all the concepts I'd devoted hundreds of hours learning in my Statistics classes).

First off, Time value of Money. This one is crucial. A pound today is worth more than a pound you get tomorrow, which is worth more than a pound you make the next day and so on, like this. The interest rate drives this value.

If I said all Finance calculations stem from this one idea, I wouldn't be far wrong. For example, you could get a good read on the value of a company by using this method to calculate the present value of all it's future cash flows. 

Or if you thought the company had legs, you could use the perpetuity equation here:

PV of a Perpetuity = PMT/I

PMT = $1,000,000
Interest rate = 2.5%
Company Value = $40 Million

When they start negotiations, a lot of Investment Bankers will use earnings multiples to value a company; these vary for industries and countries, one may be x 4, some may be x 20. You will use the EBITDA figure for a company - Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, which is a standard measure of a company's operating performance. Here's a good example of one such valuation, using two parameters - High & Low:

At Bryant Park Capital, I began using Capital IQ, to find comparable public company data to estimate a Private Company's value. I also used Bloomberg, when I was at MFS Investments, for the same.

I hope I've given you some ideas about valuing your start-up. I have concentrated on Financial value in this article. However, it's important to remember that sometimes a large company will buy a startup because it has strategic value rather than financial.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Enterprise level marketing for your start-up, with Pardot

Tommie O'Brien (pictured, above, right) at Salesforce, kicked off the presentation at the Shangri La Hotel on the 34th floor of the Shard (pictured, above, left, view from the Shard). I was deeply impressed by the demo, which illustrated a relatively high level of sophistication for Small businesses. For example, when setting up workflows, they demonstrated a real-time and highly effective way to re-engage prospects that hadn't signed up for an email offer; by sending them targeted ads across Facebook, LinkedIn and AdWords.

Marketing Automation lies at the heart of most Start-up demand generation programs. In My own career, I have run Marketing Campaigns using a variety of tools, from Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot, Dynamics, and more. Last year I had to learn to use the Microsoft Dynamics with Clickdimensions whilst running global campaigns for a company of around 500 employees, Headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

Currently, I'm switching from using Microsoft Dynamics to Salesforce. I've never learned to run campaigns in Pardot, so I thought that this session would be particularly helpful. After just 3 weeks, I can tell the level of support on Pardot is streets ahead of Microsoft Dynamics. I had to learn to use Dynamics by reading manuals and watching videos online. Particularly challenging was trying to coordinate fixing several serious bugs in the system with our IT team that was based in Canada.

The Salesforce team initiated some useful discussions around lead generation forms - often these forms ask for too much information. I know I have been guilty of this. According to Salesforce, 3-5 questions maximum is the standard and really first name and email are enough. The part of the talk devoted to the automation workflow was fascinating and really got me thinking about the way I run campaigns.

And they had some great insights on Lead scoring; they talked about the usual ones of course, like Job title and company revenue. But there were some surprises. This slide shows that they can track your prospects sentiments about your company and products across social media, like this:

That can really give your sales and marketing team an edge over your competition. Pardot can also allow you to create buyer personas within Salesforce so that you can use these to gauge your ideal prospect, for even more accurate lead scoring. But what really blew me away was the analytics on the dashboard and Pardot's ability to measure marketing campaigns' effectiveness in a way that will appeal to CFO's and CEO's.

Not only can you demonstrate return on investment of entire programs, you can also dig in at the granular level, to show what specific leads generated what specific revenue. As a metric-driven marketer, with an MBA in Finance, this is what I'm aiming to accomplish.

Tommie told some great anecdotes, with his classic Irish wit; I couldn't help thinking Tommie would go down a storm in my old hometown, Boston, which is pretty much run by Irish Americans. And of course, they love anyone from the old country, particularly if he or she has a lot of drive and a good sense of humour.

One of Tommie's best stories was about him setting up a new internet provider in his new home. The provider was terrible and he was forced to contact them multiple times whilst suffering from flu and working from home. All this time he was receiving prospecting advertisements and emails from the company; which only exacerbated his annoyance with their poor service. Imagine how much money this company is throwing out the window!


At the end of the talk, Rory O'Neill, Data and Systems Manager at the Drum came to talk about his experience using Pardot. I know the Drum very well. When I was at Visual IQ (now part of Nielsen), we successfully exhibited at several of their events. I found out in the presentation that Rory is responsible for sending 35 Million emails a year. My last email contact list was 30,000 strong (B-2-B) and the largest I've worked with was 400,000 (B-2-C).

I was able to ask him a question in at the end, which was to ask his advice as to what first steps he would take if he was in my shoes, rolling out pardot at my company. He recommended that most important was that I consult with the sales team and get them on board with our plan. He also offered to give me some advice on that if I got in touch with him, which I definitely will.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Moonshot thinking to unleash innovation

Before you say, yeah, right, but moonshot thinking is by its very nature, hard to quantify and only useful in very remote instances, take a look at this slide below; though Moonshot thinking only gets 10% of Company budget, it is responsible for generating 70% of the revenue (This is taking a long-term view, over years, rather than over the short-term range of standard financial quarters):

It's worth trying to solve those crucial but seemingly impossible problems, especially ones that may only come to a head 5 or 10 years from now. You could transform your company or even yourself!

We played a great exercise where we were asked to count the number of red balls on this slide in 10 seconds. Quite a few got the correct answer - 10. However, when Dr Pablo Rodriguez asked us now to tell us how many green balls there were, no one got the answer right. There were fewer of them and they were larger.  

This demonstrates the danger of over-focus. By being so intent on solving one problem that you may completely miss solving a much greater, more significant and simple one! Over 50% of scientific discoveries were made by accident; so in effect, counting the green balls, when the exercise was to count the red.

Clearly, the problems Alpha has solved, whether for improving performance at Telefonica, radically changing health habits across the globe, or bringing power to regions that were greatly lacking, all required phenomenal, high-performing, cross-functional teams. 

I asked Pablo how he selected his teams; his answer surprised me. I thought he would say that He chose the most talented or educated individuals. But He said that He selected those who had an absolute passion for solving these problems. 

If you think you might be that person, Alpha is hiring right now. They are fully owned by Telefonica but, despite having Telefonica's CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete López, on their board, they are fully independent of it.

Pablo has worked as an entrepreneur, at various start-ups in Silicon Valley, as well as in Academia. He showed the curve of an idea, where at the very early stages, often Academia can do best in advancing innovation. In a later stage, it could be a start-up. Dr Rodriguez's projects sit in the middle of that, between academia and start-ups. 

He makes a great point that in the 20th Century, it was the government that primarily initiated innovation; The creation of the internet, the human genome project and yes, of course, NASA pioneering the first men to the moon, were all government-backed missions. 

But now, and in the future, most innovation is driven by corporations. This can come in many forms; Alpha, an innovative organisation owned by Telefonica; or a Start-up, like Cloudlock, founded by one of my colleagues at Northeastern University Business School, and bought last year by Cisco for $293 Million 

This was a brilliant lecture, as good as the one I attended on Venture Capital. I thoroughly commend Professor Milan Vojnovic and Dr Pablo Rodriguez.

If you are still sceptical about Moonshot thinking after reading this, I want to leave you with a great quote about it from one of the founders and CEO of Google:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Should Telcos be getting a bigger bite of the digital economy ‘Pie’?

The big issue in the Telecommunications industry right now is declining margins. The past several years have been tough for telcos. Their revenue and cash flows have dropped by an average of 6 percent a year since 2010.

These firms can address this issue, by improving the speed of delivery of new products, reducing order fall out and simplifying and improving their customer experience.
When redesigning their value proposition, go-to-market, and interaction model, operators find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between traditional drivers of customer choice. Instead, they have turned to customer experience as the key influencer. For example, Vodafone Germany has transformed their business to enable their path to digital transformation:
“It is the first time we have raised Vodafone’s organic EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization] guidance in recent history,” said Vittorio Colao, chief executive. Polo Tang, an analyst at UBS, said the company’s performance in the second quarter was ahead of expectations in almost every geography but notably in Germany and Spain.
Success lies in reimagining the end-to-end customer journey to create signature customer moments. Companies can accelerate the delivery of a new customer experience by implementing a seamless Omni channel experience, digitizing core business processes, deploying artificial-intelligence platforms to simplify customer interaction, and creating a more agile organization.
What can companies do to alleviate the squeeze on margins and create more value?
Major advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence, network equipment, and other technologies have rewritten the industry’s winning formula. With the newest software and hardware, along with digital-age management practices, mobile operators can achieve breakthrough cost savings and capital intensity while maintaining or even increasing their scale.
Many mobile operators have essential processes that are more complex and labor-intensive, and therefore costlier than they have to be. The Management consultants Mckinsey estimate that just 20 to 30 processes generate 45 percent of the average operator’s operating costs.
There are a lot of Telecommunications providers can do to improve businesses margins operationally. This can also be part of an even bigger over-arching strategy for CSPs to boost their bottom line. For example, increasingly, slow but stable growth Telcos (at Business School we called such businesses 'Cash Cows') are acquiring high growth and high margin content companies to increase their profits.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Adobe Global Marketing Conference

Having fun at the Adobe Marketing Conference, with the AMEX digital Marketing Team

Watching Vampire Weekend play at the Adobe event 

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas - me at the Money Show

In the last 10 years, I've gained vast amounts of experience attending and setting up a large variety of Conferences in multiple business sectors and diverse locations; I've got good at assessing which are effective and which aren't; using both hard metrics and softer skills - the art and science of conferences. In the past, I've had to justify the budget to my Managers or CEOs so I've had to nail this. However, I'm a bit of a geek and enjoy doing these calculations. Therefore I will do them for my own benefit regardless.

At the Financial Traders Conference at the Money Show at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, I got to stay in the same hotel that 'The Hangover' was filmed in, which was great. I also played Poker, which I learned in the US and Craps. We got plenty of good leads but it was also the kind of crazy testosterone fuelled event that you'd expect from a bunch of financial traders; think 'Wolf of Wall Street'.

The Economics forum in Washington DC was fascinating; Paul Volcker, the ex-Federal Reserve Chairman spoke. I liked the city a lot, although I do like JFK's quip that 'DC is a city with northern charm and southern efficiency'. We were marketing a new Business intelligence tool called Datazoa, to business Economists at Government agencies, Research organization’s and Universities amongst others; our efforts secured new clients from Universities, Banks, and State Treasuries.

I've been to numerous shows in New York City, including Trading Software and most recently the Digital Analytics Association. I was also in Chicago for the Internet retailers conference. I would have liked to explore the city but on that occasion, I was so busy I pretty much never got out of the area my hotel and the event was in.

My all-time Favorite Conference would have to have been the Adobe Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah: We Set up 11 meetings in 4 days, all with C level decision makers at Fortune 500 Companies; Several of which were turned to new logos by our sales team. I went to see Vampire Weekend play live and had to top it off had my best day's skiing in 8 or 9 years, in Park City with a guy from London who now lives in Toronto.

I also made some great contacts on the ski day that I wasn't expecting; for example, heads of business divisions at Bell Canada, American Express, Verizon Wireless and the Gartner Group. 

Photo was taken by a colleague I was skiing with at Park City, Utah - the final (4th) day of the Adobe Marketing Conference

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Creating Sales Growth at your start-up

Creating Growth at your start-up 

I have now been part of the Marketing teams of two start-ups that have grown extremely rapidly and achieved phenomenal success. Visual IQ, a Marketing Attribution Software provider (founded in 2006), was acquired by Nielsen last year, for $2 Billion. And Zscaler (founded in 2008), a Cyber Security Software company, just had its IPO, which took it's valuation up to $3.8 Billion. 

I think I have learned quite a bit from being part of these successful teams and also, previous experiences in the start-up ecosystem, including 4 years as Head of Marketing (Vice President) at a Start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

All across the globe, there is a dearth of Marketing talent, particularly in red-hot Software businesses like Fintech, Networking, Data intelligence and Cyber Security.

By Marketing talent I mean individuals with smarts, training, experience and drive who can take a business to 'the next level'; whether that means faster growth, more sustainable or greater revenue or higher profits. This goes for any start-up from first-round venture-backed to private equity invested all the way to IPO or Merger and beyond 

For this reason, Start-ups sometimes tolerate the types of personalities that the HR department of regular Fortune 500's would not accept. There are numerous examples of this in the media but I find the satirical comedy Silicon Valley is the best example. 

Here's my 7 point plan to create a good start-up Marketing Strategy and then to execute it:

1. E
nsure that you are on the same page as the person who has created your marketing Strategy or even better, create that Strategy yourself. So many problems occur when CMOs and CEOs or Investors do not agree on this. See 'Why CMOs never last

2. Data; explore this and find out what is going on. Don't just rely on the facts you see. Talk with people, try to establish whether the data you are seeing on paper matches what you are hearing. Countless times I have dealt with either no data at all or data that doesn't match reality. Don't be the fool that devotes inordinate hours and resources creating complex models using bad information. 

Even a fledgeling Start-up will inevitably have had many failures already and you can use this information to avoid making mistakes and model successful behavior. “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” —Michael Porter (See Porter's 5 Forces)

3. Targets, start thinking about what you are trying to accomplish. Is the problem that you have a weak brand? Is it that no one outside your core user group really understands your products? Are you simply preaching to the converted? Do your competitors have an iron-grip in certain Regions or markets? Is it that you have poor growth? Are you sinking resources into the same old Marketing investments getting diminishing returns? Are you properly measuring your Marketing investments even? Rarely have I seen this happen, actually, particularly with Company Events.

Establish what that core problem is and then ensure that all your efforts are geared towards driving solutions to that.

4. Create a plan around that. For example:

a. If the problem is that your sales team are not converting your good leads, then bring in added Business Intelligence. A remarkable tool for this is Rainking, which has a team of 600 researchers calling companies and finding out information that will enable you to identify opportunities quicker and more effectively.

Additionally, if you are not lead scoring already, then I would suggest you start doing this. The way this works is - your sales team will immediately get alerted automatically when a lead reaches a certain 'threshold' score. So let's say that score is 10, then a lead from a company with $1 Billion revenue that has requested we contact them would immediately be a 10. 

A Lead from a company that is on our target list would immediately be a 10. A Lead from a company that could be a target, would be a 5. When that lead has downloaded 3 key reports in the last week, then it becomes a 10, and so on. However, you have to ensure the algorithm that determines scoring is accurate. I've worked at companies were this is not the case and I'd say no scoring is better than bad lead scoring. 

b. If the problem is that you lack the numbers of leads needed to start with, then both Zoominfo, which I started using back in 2009 or Rainking, which I started using in 2015, are both effective for outbound activity. For inbound, I find Twitter to be remarkably effective, in addition to Google AdWords, and AdSense, of course.

I would also work with the Marketing team to create compelling content, ideally Gartner or Forrester or failing that, some other well-known research firm, like IDC. These are great because they are high-value pieces of content that your prospects will 'trade' their contact details with you to gain.

Also, Linkedin has also just developed a new Account-based Marketing - (I met with the Head of Linkedin's EMEA business in a previous blog post) tool called Lead generation forms.

One idea that We have done in the past very successfully is an 'Industry report' based on surveys we send out. Usually, I use SurveyMonkey, which I first got familiarized with at Business School back in 2006. Everyone is interested in what their colleagues are thinking about and sending these surveys out can also be a good way to reconnect with customers and prospects.

Another highly effective are of Marketing I've managed over the last 9 years has been events. I have had some great successes in this regard, from the Money Show at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, to the Adobe Marketing Conference in Salt Lake City, to the biggest Cyber Security event in Europe, Infosec. 

Not a lot of companies employe rigorous financial analysis to the results here, so I have created an edge in this way. I write more on this subject here. Suffice to say, we've had events that have generated thousands of leads, and business meetings that have gone on the create millions of pounds/dollars in sales. I particularly like using ZoomInfo to get contact details of attendees in conjunction with using Linkedin inmail (you can download the list of attendee companies into Linkedin and then run targeted adds to the job titles of those you think are going).

Content from blogs can be good. The only problem is that some companies want to 'vet' and control this content as though it was some kind of financial or legal document. The point of blogs is that they are quick and dirty; if the stories have been edited through several rounds of management review, they will rarely be fresh or dynamic anymore. I have developed Ebooks, infographics, Webcasts and slides, which can also be a good source of leads or simply creating additional awareness of your company.

5. Ensure that everyone is on board with it. If they are not, then discuss it, and get to the bottom of the problems. Time and time again I've seen marketing teams get on board with a big project that they had serious concerns about. In certain environments, only the courageous (or stupid!) will give their negative opinions. Once you are certain everyone is on board, then execute the plan relentlessly!

6. Analyse your results regularly, at least once every 3 months and if not effective, pivot. If it's truly disastrous, be honest about it and go back to the drawing board quickly. This is essentially the same idea that I learned in Product Marketing for innovation, the stage gate process 

When you do this look at Key financial metrics, like ROMI - Return on Marketing Investment (NPV, IRR, Payback period, etc..  Customer Lifetime Value, Cost per Click, Transaction conversion rate (For B-2-B, numbers of prospects who click on your links who go on to become Sales Qualified Leads).     

7. Finally, and most importantly, encourage criticism and make your entire company a safe place to share information and mistakes. You cannot take important calculated risks without making mistakes and you can't learn without them either. If you're not failing then you're not trying hard enough!