SxSW Highlights | Creating Genius Through Collaboration

‘Newspaper Artist’, Austin Kleon was a witty, entertaining, funny and stimulating keynote presenter at SxSW 2014.

In this vide, Suzi Dafnis and I talk about what we loved about his presentation, and what we loved about his encouragement to create genius through collaboration … And ‘showing your work’.



SxSW Highlights | The New Digital Age

Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman, and Jared Cohen, Director
Google Ideas provided a provocative discussion on the impact of digital technology on the world, particularly developing nations.

In this video Suzi Dafnis and I discuss their presentation and the key implications not only for the world in general, but us as consumers of the internet.


The Five Steps to Getting Acquired – Highlights from SxSW

I’m currently at SxSW, the worlds’s largest interactive media festival, in Austin, Texas. I will attempt to bring pertinent highlights from the week … I say ‘attempt’ because there is so much to see, consider, think about and absorb at Sx that really … I can make no promises about what I’ll be able to get out of my mind and on to a screen.

One of the streams that has taken my interest this year is start-ups, funding and acquisition. Makes sense really, given I’m running a start-up ;)

One of the sessions was ‘The 5 Secrets of Getting Acquired’, a panel discussion by Gabe Karp from Detroit Venture Partners and Matt Wise from Hello World.

Here are their 5 Steps to Acquired (or getting the funding you want)

1. Have an adult on your team

This was partially tongue in cheek, as yes, most of us are adults. But what Karp and Wise mean in this one is have someone with pedigree or experience that will impress and reassure investors. An ‘adult’ on your team should also show capability to deal with challenges both in the market place as well as in the funding process. Someone with enough life experience to have some commercial resilience.

2. Talk in sound bites

‘Make your business 9-year-old simple’ says Wise. Make sure your business can be described easily in a 30 second elevator pitch, in simple, digestible chunks.

When developing your elevator pitch, Wise recommended this formula:

Category – what category are you in? (HEARIS is in the software category in the social media space)

Differentiator – what makes your business different from the others in your category? (HEARIS specifically solves problem of multiple page management for franchise and other distributed retail networks)

Practical demonstration – give an example to have it all make sense. (… for example, Goodlife Gyms and Fitness First use HEARIS to enable their franchisees to build their local membership engagement while head office can monitor and respond to customer service conversations.)

3. Be appealing

Wise and Karp both emphasised that start ups often spend too long getting to ‘perfect’ before looking for funding, whereas most investors (in the US anyway) are far more interested in the potential of the business. So be appealing in terms of potential, in terms of ‘total addressable market size’ (TAMS), and have an attractive business that can scale profitably.

4. Get your shit together

In others words, know your shit. Have good financials based on sound assumptions (better to be conservative and exceed expectations that bullish and not meet them). Know your market, know your competitors and know how you’ll beat them. Understand your core competencies (yes, that MBA or business degree throes actually adds value here), and most importantly, don’t lie (or exaggerate, or inflate your credentials or school …).

5. Go make friends

Both Wise and Karp said it’s too late to start building your networks, or introducing yourself to investors, when you need the cash. Network, network, network and network they said to build relationships with acquisition targets, investors, influencers and advisors. And by build relationships, stay in touch, follow-up, keep them in the loop of your progress. “I’m not looking for funding right now but I’d like to stay in touch” was their suggested opening line.

Finally their tip was, you need to have an exit plan (investment, acquisition and by whom). Most start ups have a sales plan, technology plan, marketing plan, why not an exit plan?


What Happened to Fusion?

In the last few days a new Fusion event has been announced. As the creator of Fusion events, many people have contacted me to ask ‘what’s happening’ and ‘am I involved’? So, I wanted to explain, in full,

What happened to Fusion?

When I joined TwoCents in 2012, one of the things I incorporated into the TwoCents mix was my Fusion events for women. Started in 2008, these luncheon events were designed to bring like-minded dynamic, savvy, funky and entrepreneurial women together to ‘spark ideas and fuel connections.’ And spark ideas and fuel connections they did.

When I took my role as CEO of HEARIS in March 2013, I pondered what to do with Fusion. In the end I decided to ‘gift’ it to TwoCents. My role and focus had changed, and I felt the team at TwoCents would be much better equipped and resourced to run events to support women in small business. It was a tough decision – there was a lot (and I mean a LOT) of me in Fusion … but by the time I left TwoCents there was also a lot of other people in Fusion too. And I wanted to give due respect to that space that I had created, and the women within it, to take it to the next level.

When I gifted it to TwoCents I asked to still be involved as MC or host as appropriate. The format has changed however, and there’s no the space for me in that kind of role. And, to be frank, there’s not really the space in my life for that kind of role in that context.

It is a delicious full-circle moment that this new, re-formatted, ‘sans-Cat’ Fusion event features and profiles the gorgeously successful Dominic Rizzo. You see, the very first Fusion Businesswomen’s Luncheons, way back in 2008, were hosted at Mondo Organics Restaurant (as it was then known). And of course, that’s a massive part of Dominic’s trajectory to gustatory success and fame. That I’m sure is accidental … as the TwoCents team wouldn’t have known that, nor made the connection. Synchronicities like that make me smile.

For those who’ve been concerned – the TwoCents team have my full blessings on taking on the Fusion name, spirit and events. Yes, it will be different, and they always do great stuff. And they’re one of the best full-service marketing agency servicing the SME market I know.

I have a couple of ‘new’ ideas up my sleeve to revisit the juicy conversations that I loved about those early Fusion events … and I’m plotting and scheming a new series of provoCATions when it comes to sparking the conversations that matter. Stay tuned … all good things happen when the time is right. Perfect actually.



Business Start-Up 101 (as taught through website design)

I’ve just spent the morning helping a friend with his new website. Well, that was the original agenda. What we really did;

  • clarify the purpose of the business
  • refine the target market of the business
  • identify the voice and look of the business
  • determine the business model for the business (how it’s going to make money)
  • started identifying priorities
  • determined a realistic launch timeline
  • determined business brand, personal brand, product and service sub-brands
  • identified cross-promotion opportunities to his existing business & networks
  • mapped out his content strategy
  • established tasks for moving forward, staying accountable and getting this thing ‘shipped’, not just an idea
  • found stock imagery to illustrate the new site
  • established the skeleton of the website
  • learned how to ‘do stuff’ in the web platform he’s using (squarepsace, it’s my new fave)
  • identified desired domain name; registered the next best available

He was well along in his thinking about what he wanted to do. And I know him well enough to make some assumptions about his strengths … and what he wants to do. So we were able to do this in a casual three hours. And I think the business has now moved from idea to something very tangible, very real. As he said, ‘this shit’s getting real’.

It’s one of the reasons I love website design – not because I can design (I can’t), but because, when you decide to build a website you HAVE TO answer all those questions above. Well, you should. And those questions are far more about your actual business than they are about your website.

Business start-up 101 – taught through website design.