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Monthly Archives: September 2007

Disclaimer: I do not normally write posts like this, so please excuse me while I rant.

For those in the tech industry that do not work for AOL, the latest round of articles being published about their demise may seem comical to you, or perhaps you feel a bid sad for the company.

For those that do work for AOL (myself included), it is frustrating not only to read the articles, but to read the comments that are left on the articles. We have heard enough already, just leave it be and let the chips fall where they may. In the last 24 hours alone, there have been 7 articles published on what people “think” is happening or going to happen to AOL.

No need to kick a horse while it is down. Enough already, stop with the rumors and speculations, please.

END RANT

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The latest brilliant idea to come out of the VC world is brought to us by Bang Ventures in Boston. The idea is that they will hold a popularity contest of sorts for budding entrepreneurs to compete and the general public will pick the winner. They are applying the ever popular American Idol format to investing, and for those that are die hard Idol fans, we know what the outcome can be (some are home runs, think Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, and others are not in my opinion, Ruben Studdard or Taylor Hicks). Sorry for the digression into American Idol, back to subject at hand.

Bang Ventures will allow those budding entrepreneurs to submit their idea to an expert panel who will then decide which ones get put in front of the public to be voted on. The top 3 chosen will be given $15,000 in seed money and office space in the Boston area and incubation services (in other words, pitch refinement, product strategy guidance and a whole lot of introductions to other investors). For entrepreneurs looking to break in and get some funding, this seems like a viable option, not to dissimilar than applying to YCombinator or TechStars, and for Bang it is a very clever marketing and PR move.

Given the curious nature of our society, I would not doubt that this is going to gain a lot of attention. Whether or not the general public is any good at picking out good companies to invest in is another story. I would like to think that VCs in general have had years of practice at refining their craft and know typically what is worthy of investing in and what is not (well they do get it wrong sometimes and are even willing to admit it, like the firm that passed on investing in Facebook). Does the average person know these things, not sure. Perhaps the wisdom of crowds effect will be in play and the general public will actually pick a few winners. Only time will tell, I wish all the entrepreneurs that apply and the partners at Bang Ventures the best of luck.

How many times has it happened to you, you get one answer from one person (say a salesperson) and a completely different answer from another (say a customer service agent)? This is a classic example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing (or in this case, saying).

This is bad, bad, bad. For both the consumer and the company. For the consumer, it creates a very frustrating experience, they feel like they are being mislead, they got sold a bill of goods, call it what you want, but at the end of the day they are upset, frustrated and most likely spouting all sorts of profanities at the company. Most likely they will walk away from the experience with a bad taste in their mouth and they will think twice before ever using that company again (the offending company could only hope that they would even consider them again).

For the company, it is equally as bad. First and foremost, it makes them look disorganized, not serious about what they do, etc. I do not know a company out there that wants that sort of stigma associated with their name, but this sort of thing happens all the time. I often wonder if companies even care, but I have to believe that they do, it just seems like the message is not getting down to the people on the front line, those that are truly representing the company on a day to day basis. If the bad reputation is not bad enough, every time this happens, they are potentially loosing another customer. Some companies may just turn the other cheek and say “Oh Well” we have millions of other customers, what is the big deal if we loose one or two along the way. That is all fine and good, but over time, those one or two customers add up, then and only then might they pay attention to the problem and try to fix it. By that time, it may be too late.

Bottom line, if you have multiple interfaces to your customers, make sure that they are all telling the same story, whatever that may be.

You say it all the time, sometimes it is in response to a simple or complex problem, other times it is an acknowledgment when someone addresses you. Yes is a word that is used so frequently, sometimes we forget the meaning of it.

There are certain questions in life when answered with a yes, they have a long, impact full meaning on your life, even changing the course of it for the foreseeable future. Several things come to mind in my personal life where a simple “Yes” had a life long impact. One in particular was when I asked my wife to marry me, that simple yes set up on a course that we knew would be filled with a lot of joy and uncertainty, but she said “Yes” and here we are.

Yes is used all the time all the time in the working world too. Whether it is asking your boss for his/her approval on a product you have been developing, or when an investor says yes to your pitch and commits to providing you that needed funding to get your company launched (well, it would be more of them not saying “No”, but you get the picture). Nonetheless, there are times in your life where that simple “Yes” has such profound impact on your future that you will not forget it.

I was fortunate enough to have one of those moments recently where I asked someone a simple question and their answer was “Yes”. It definitely changed the course of things for the better and I just wanted to thank them for saying that simple, 3 letter word. Next time someone asks you a question and you say “Yes”, take a moment to think about your answer and how it may impact their life, you may be surprised.