JD Lasica – Socialmedia.biz http://socialmedia.biz Social media business strategies blog Mon, 12 Feb 2018 10:53:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://socialmedia.biz/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/cropped-favicon-socialmedia-512-32x32.png JD Lasica – Socialmedia.biz http://socialmedia.biz 32 32 Book review: ‘Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups’ http://socialmedia.biz/2017/07/19/book-review-angel-how-to-invest-in-technology-startups/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:10:39 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=29029 Continue reading ]]> angel

Title: “Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000″
Author: Jason Calacanis
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Release date: July 18, 2017 on Amazon (hardcover & Kindle), in bookstores and at angelthebook

JD LasicaWith Silicon Valley at the center of tech culture – and much of pop culture these days – you might be tempted to get in on the startup action. Not founding a startup but investing in one … or a dozen … or, as Jason Calacanis advises in his new book “Angel,” investing $1.5 million in 50 startups over a three-year span.

Now that’s a bold and provocative set of marching orders. Which is what we have come to expect from Calacanis, the Brooklyn-bred journalist turned entrepreneur turned podcast impresario—and one of the top five angel investors in the world.

“Angel,” Calacanis’ first book, went on sale Tuesday. It’s brash, candid and opinionated, much like the author, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the dry and oh-so-serious angel investing tomes that have preceded it.

More important, “Angel” is a fun, practical, accessible, rigorous and smart tutorial on how you, too, can become a gazillionaire—assuming you have the requisite stomach for startup flameouts, countless meetings and the likely downsizing of your bank account.

The formula for successful investing

As anyone who has spent serious time investing in startups knows, it’s often more art than science. If it were science, then algorithm-powered robots would make the best investors.

But that’s not how it works. So Calacanis provides the formula, you provide the gut, and in five to 10 years we’ll see how you do.

Your instructions begin with plunking down ten $1,000 investments as part of a follow-the-leader angel syndicate, followed by “making twenty $25,000 bets and quadrupling down on the winners with a $100,000 follow-on investment.” As a result, no investment in your portfolio is more than 1.25 to 2.5 percent of your net worth. Smart.

The author shares some hilarious spot-on anecdotes, as when he jabs ‘the precious little snowflakes from Y Combinator’

Jason—and he is one of those eponymous one-name wonders who’s a recognizable brand on just about every social platform: @Jason on Twitter, Jason on Instagram, etc.—warns readers that this is not an endeavor for the faint of heart. The regimen includes meeting with twenty-five founders per month at the outset—“thousands of meetings,” all told—in addition to regular meetings with fellow investors. New investors must learn to say “not yet”—investorspeak for “no.”

“Angel” covers all the major bases. Calacanis outlines cap table basics, deal memos, due diligence, the pros and cons of joining startup boards, how angel syndicates work, how to identify businesses that scale, the right questions to pose to founders, the importance of traction, how to determine a reasonable valuation, the value of information rights (monthly updates from the founding team) and the No. 1 rule: Invest in the founders, not in the idea.

Along the way, the author shares some hilarious spot-on anecdotes, as when he jabs “the precious little snowflakes from Y Combinator” who think they’re so special that the normal investment rules don’t apply to them.

Predicting the future

I always like to have a bit of fun with my fellow Bay Area tech enthusiasts’ predictions, as when I reviewed Robert Scoble’s book “The Fourth Transformation” in December. Scoble spoke at Calacanis’ Launch Scale gathering last November and predicted we’ll all be wearing mixed-reality headsets within 12 months. (Spoiler alert: We won’t.)

I give Jason credit for having the cojones to take these stabs at how the future will unfold. Here are four of Calacanis’ provocative prognostications in “Angel” and my reactions—go ahead, play along at home!

  • “The jobpocalypse is coming [and] it includes the elimination of most white-collar jobs we were told were careers, like being a lawyer, doctor, teacher, accountant, pilot, journalist, or—wait for it—a software engineer.” (No, no, no, possibly, unlikely, no and perhaps.)
  • “In another ten years, you will look into a retina scanner at checkout and carry no money or credit cards.” (Not a chance, if Jason means most of us and not just techies.)
  • “People don’t just want to give up car ownership, they never want to even be in possession of one!” (Not remotely true, outside of a handful of urban enclaves.)
  • “Instead of a Starbucks on every other corner in a city, there will be a [robotic] Cafe X machine in the lobby of every building on the block.” (Very unlikely. While Silicon Valley exalts automation and prizes productivity, most people will still crave interactions with other people rather than meekly accept the advent of our robot overlords.)

This is half the fun of reading “Angel.” You’re making bets on how to read cultural signposts and social megatrends. Angel investors will either go with the flow while sitting around the bargaining table (he calls it Groupthink, I call it Sheepthink) or you’ll go your own idiosyncratic way.

And in the end, whether you agree with how Calacanis reads the tea leaves or not, the bottom line is that he has an impressive track record as an investor. He has built a portfolio worth more than $150 million, much of it because he hit an inside straight with an early investment in Uber: He invested $25,000 in Uber when it was valued at $5 million, and it’s now worth somewhere between $50 billion and $70 billion.

I always include some feedback for the author in my book reviews, so here are two nitpicks: I would have liked to have seen “Angel” explain the shortcomings of some of the newfangled investment vehicles like equity crowdfunding that a lot of first-timers might naturally gravitate toward. And an old-fashioned index for the book wouldn’t hurt, either.

Four possible end-game scenarios

When all is said and done, if you read “Angel” and follow Calacanis’ prescriptions for successful angel investing, what will be the outcome for all your trouble? There are four possible scenarios, he writes (pages 269-272) if you’re really serious about this and not just taking a flyer on a diverting new hobby:

  • You get back less than you invested.
  • You break about even.
  • You get two to five times what you invested.
  • You score returns of 5x or more—perhaps even “200 or 300 or 400 times your money” because you placed your bet on a future “unicorn.” Congrats, you’ve hit the lottery, many times over!

So, who’s a good candidate for being a successful angel investor? Calacanis describes the ideal investors as those with assets of $5 million to $10 million who are willing to risk 10 to 20 percent of their net worth. (“If you lose it all or make back half, you’ll be fine,” he writes.)

Are there waves and waves of wannabe angels waiting in the wings?

Personally, I’m skeptical that there are waves and waves of wannabe angels waiting in the wings, as it were. Yes, there are lots of one-percenters out there, and yes, there are lots of rich folks who would love to get in the game. But how many of them will actually go through the rigors of a proverbial Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base camp that separates the wusses from the warriors? How many will have the patience for taking thousands of meetings? Perhaps I’m hanging out with the wrong group of rich people, but most millionaires I know are incredibly risk averse and already have the wherewithal to send their kids to the best colleges, leave them a trust fund and buy a big ol’ boat.

I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope there are thousands of people who buy “Angel,” take its lessons to heart and help launch the next wave of disruptive tech innovation.

Calacanis has provided a detailed roadmap. Now who will be brave and foolhardy enough to take up the quest?

Disclaimer: Jason and I are longtime friends and I shot the photo of him that appears on the book jacket of “Angel.” 

J.D. Lasica, an entrepreneur, author and former book editor at the Sacramento Bee (among many other things), releases his book reviews under a Creative Commons license; his reviews may be republished with attribution.


Book review: The Age of Context captures the pulse of new tech

JD Lasica’s book reviews

‘Fourth Transformation’ book: Brace for impact http://socialmedia.biz/2016/12/01/fourth-transformation-book-brace-for-impact/ Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:23:41 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28822 Continue reading ]]> 4thtr

Book review: A clear-eyed look at the mind-blowing changes in spatial computing dead ahead

Title: “The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence Change Everything”
Authors: Robert Scoble & Shel Israel
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Release date: December 7, 2016 on Amazon

JD LasicaAt the Launch Scale conference in San Francisco on Nov. 14, technologist-futurist Robert Scoble held forth for 20 minutes wearing a mixed reality headset, allowing him to interact with the attendees (startup founders, angels and techies) while projecting a presentation behind him. “Within two years,” he said at one point, “everybody in this room will be wearing a glass. And you might say ‘I’m never going to do that,’ but I’m telling you right now, you will.”

A few minutes later he insisted: “You all are going to have this in 12 months or less.”

It was classic Scoble: forward-looking, brash, boundlessly optimistic, a bit aggressive on the time line, and passionate about plunging headlong into a blossoming new era — the age of spatial computing — which he and co-author Shel Israel lay out so vividly in their new book, “The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence Change Everything,” which goes on sale on Amazon in the next week.

It’s easily their best, most accomplished and most important book. (I reviewed their last book, “The Age of Context,” here in 2013.) As the authors explain, following a terrific foreword by social marketing superstar Gary Vaynerchuk, the new computing age we’re about to enter follows the eras of the mainframe, the personal computer with its graphical point-and-click interface, and the mobile device era that kicked off with the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

They predict that by 2025 (holy crap! that’s only 8 years and 1 month away!), more people will be using mixed-reality smart glasses in their everyday lives than will be using their mobile devices — a heady claim, considering that there are more than 6 billion smartphones in circulation and nearly 2 billion smartphone users.

Robert Scoble, speaking at Launch Scale in San Francisco earlier this month, told attendees we'd all be wearing goggles one year from now.

Robert Scoble, speaking at Launch Scale in San Francisco earlier this month, told attendees we’ll all be wearing smart glasses a year or two from now (photo by JD Lasica).

A new era that will upend existing business models

As Scoble — who joined UploadVR as an entrepreneur in residence earlier this year — told those of us in the audience, “We’re at the beginning of a new age, a new user interface, that’s going to bring lots of opportunities to lots of you and change some of your businesses.”

He encouraged us to go out and try on a HoloLens, or Magic Leap glass (still in development), to get a sense of this new world, because just describing it doesn’t do it justice. It’s like trying to describe television to a caveman.

Back in 2013 I did try out Google Glass and came away greatly underwhelmed. For the record, in their last book, the authors predicted that Google would sell a minimum of 100 million units of Glass, at an average of $300 each, by 2016 to 2018. I wrote in late 2013 that it just wouldn’t happen, and Google decided to shelve Glass in January 2015. (It would be nice if the authors humbly acknowledged how some of their previous predictions didn’t pan out. Nor do they make more than a passing reference to privacy concerns, which helped doom Glass and remains one of the biggest obstacles to smart glasses’ widespread adoption.)

But while the “glass” we’ll be wearing in the new era owes its provenance to Google’s not-ready-for-prime-time Glass, the similarities stop there. Goldman Sachs predicts revenue from all forms of VR (as they call it) will reach $110 billion by 2020. Investors are pumping billions of dollars into the space. Apple has 600 developers working on this and plans a major release in late 2017 or beyond. And the first prototype devices are quickly evolving into mainstream units that you might be able to snag at Best Buy or Amazon two years from now.

‘Mixed reality’: Merging the real & virtual worlds

In their book, Scoble and Israel adroitly lay out a future where “mixed reality” basically displaces virtual reality with a form of hyper-powered, next-generation augmented reality: It all becomes one seamless, integrated experience where a layer of visual computing (yes, like in a Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick), including virtual characters and objects, is overlaid on top of the real world. Call it Pokemon Go times 100.

In their 138-page book (not counting the glossary, index and links), which flies by, the authors take us along for a tour of this new landscape. They look at the impact of mixed reality (or spatial computing) on gaming (where today’s games will soon seem as quaint as Pong or Asteroids), on mixed reality’s impact on business — including shopping, augmented workplaces, the health sector — and on education and society. Nicely done.

They offer an informed look at how software workplaces are evolving into software studios as the Visual Web moves to the fore. There are also extended sections that look at the rise of Eyefluence (bought by Google a few weeks ago), and its accompanying use of artificial intelligence, which uses sensors and laser technology that detects changes in the environment and acts on them.

Google Glass, a forerunner of tomorrow's mixed-reality glasses, at Startup Grind in February 2014 (photo by JD Lasica).

Google Glass, a forerunner of tomorrow’s mixed-reality glasses, at Startup Grind in February 2014. They were shelved 11 months later. (Photo by JD Lasica).

As you read along, you find yourself largely agreeing with the authors’ conclusions that entertainment, retail shopping and other sectors will soon be transformed in fundamental ways.

Live concerts will become amazing. Students will use the new technologies to expand their learning opportunities and push on-campus interactions in interesting new directions. In-take nurses and surgeons will soon be wearing mixed-reality eyepieces in the emergency room. Want to design the rooms in your new house? You’ll reach for your glass. Anyone working on car repairs or fixing a tractor would benefit from their use. Mixed reality will lead to new forms of journalism, photography and video. Uses for modern warfare? Oh yes.

Even some scenarios straight out of the universal translator in “Star Trek” now seem within reach: Glass gizmos will some day let you converse with artisans on the other side of the world who don’t speak English, but with whom you can barter before their glass grabs your shipping address.

Will we as consumers use them in our everyday lives? In some cases, yes. In less than a decade you should be able to walk into a mall wearing your glass (with a 3D sensor) and your smart glasses will point you to the merchandise you’re looking for — and perhaps to some items you didn’t know you absolutely needed.

“By 2025,” the authors write, “shoppers will be overwhelmingly in headsets; only the elderly will still be using phones.” That seems reasonable, if we’re talking about the U.S.

The Microsoft HoloLens virtual reality goggles: version 1.0 of a new era.

The Microsoft HoloLens virtual reality goggles: version 1.0 of a new era.

Prediction games: You vs. the authors

In other cases, it’s less clear how widespread consumer adoption will be, just as Google Glass didn’t pan out. The authors predict that mixed reality movies will displace today’s big screen Hollywood fare. “Over time the glassless theater will get smaller, then eventually disappear,” they write. “In the next five years … non-VR films will be relegated to minor categories like foreign language and documentary films.”

Well, I seriously doubt it, and I’ll wager that it won’t happen. We go to the movies to escape technology and to immerse ourselves in a collective storytelling experience. New media formats will flourish but won’t take over the cineplex.

The best part of the book? You get to pit your wits — your own sense of technology trends and their impact on society — against the authors.

I’m also not on board with other predictions. In the color-me-dubious department, I’m not sure anyone other than gamers will be interested in having aliens or zombies come crashing through our living room walls (except perhaps at parties). When the authors say they “could think of nothing that would not be done better on an eye-interactive headset than on a mobile or desktop device,” I doubt the next generation of great writers will do so with their eye sensors (even as it becomes indispensable to others, like the disabled).

But this is the absolute fun part of reading “The Fourth Transformation.” You get to pit your wits — your own sense of technology trends and their impact on society — against the authors, who admit that they write “not as objective observers but as tech optimists.” Think of it as a geeky drinking game that you can watch unfold over the next 10 years.

The authors predict self-driving cars will outnumber people-driven cars, or come close to it, by 2025. Once again, I think that won’t come close to happening — if it surpasses 10 percent of the cars on the road I’ll be surprised. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see bills in Congress to outlaw self-driving trucks, given that 3.5 million jobs would be put into jeopardy (including my next-door neighbor).

Sports will get into the action as fourth-transformation technologies roll out in the coming years and the NFL starts outfitting footballs and players with sensors. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the NFL Players Union will step in and say, no, you can’t broadcast Russell Wilson’s heart rate and pulse after each play to 80 million viewers.

Final words: A warning note

In a riveting and sobering chapter near the end, Scoble and Israel smartly discuss some of the possible downsides of spatial computing on sex and relationships, on potential abuses by the government and big business, even on the potential that people will put up virtual filters to filter out the ugliness in our lives. They offer some much-needed dark warnings about “the possible Orwellian isolation of individuals” in the future just ahead.

It’s fun and thought-provoking when Scoble proclaims on stage, “This is going to be the user interface for everything.” Well, no. But that’s OK. As I said, these are quibbles and part of the parlor game of predicting the future. If there is one immutable law of Silicon Valley, it is that futurists assume that the masses will adopt insanely cool new technologies much, much faster than they actually do. We’ve seen this with online commerce, where brick-and-mortar shopping still outpaces ecommerce (after 20 years) by $144 billion to $38 billion and 78 percent of consumers still prefer to shop in-store.

We’ll see the same growth curve in mixed reality technologies: an impressive early burst from the early adopters followed by a long time for mass adoption to kick in.

Just hang on for the wild ride, because we’ll get there.

Publishing platform

Robert and Shel (who are friends) have done well with their decision to self-publish their books with corporate underwriters, and “The Fourth Transformation” continues that pioneering trend with the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform — a wise choice, given how long a traditional publisher takes to get books to market and given how fast this space is exploding.

J.D. Lasica, an entrepreneur and former book editor at the Sacramento Bee (among many other things), releases his book reviews under a Creative Commons license; his reviews may be republished with attribution.


Book review: The Age of Context captures the pulse of new tech

JD Lasica’s book reviews

2 Google Demo Day award winners http://socialmedia.biz/2016/11/18/2-google-demo-day-award-winners/ Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:35:00 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28808 Continue reading ]]> BeerOrCoffee lets people who use a mobile app connect at a cafe (or elsewhere) in real time.

BeerOrCoffee lets people who use a mobile app connect at a cafe (or elsewhere) in real time.

Target audience: Startups, entrepreneurs, technologists, innovators, businesses, digital marketers, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaIhaven’t had time until now to write about Google Demo Day Women’s Edition, which drew hundreds of participants to Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters on Nov. 3. Two of the startups won the top awards and garnered special praise, and I got to interview one of the startup’s founders.

Beer or Coffee

Perhaps the day’s most straightforward concept, yet tough to pull off, BeerOrCoffee is a Brazil-based startup led by Roberta Vasconcellos, named a “30 Under 30” mover and shaker by Forbes.

BeerOrCoffee (tagline: “Meet people. Expand your network”) starts with the simple truth that it’s hard to meet interesting new people these days. BeerOrCoffee is a mobile app to instantly connect nearby people over beer or coffee who want to expand their network, to expand their knowledge or find new business opportunities.

Here’s how it works: Fire it up, see who’s around you who might share some of your specific interests, and suggest sitting down at a nearby public place such as a bar, cafe or hotel restaurant. The app shows your interests and photo and other basic info. Once someone agrees to meet, you buy them the first drink.

The app can even automatically suggest people around you that you might want to meet based on your profile. It can work as a social app, helping expand your network of friends, as well as a business app, helping you grow your professional connections at a conference or event.

CEO Roberta Vasconcellos at Google Demo Day. She says of her app BeerOrCoffee: ""It's like an Uber for meeting people. Just press a button and you'll meet people who share the same interests."

CEO Roberta Vasconcellos at Google Demo Day. She says of her app BeerOrCoffee: “It’s like an Uber for meeting people. Just press a button and you’ll meet people who share the same interests.” (Photo by JD Lasica)

The challenge, as with all similar apps, is to get it into the devices of hundreds of thousands and millions of people. It’s certainly one that I would use in a heartbeat. I’m often at large events and parties and, since it’s impossible to meet everyone in the room, I often leave with the feeling that I didn’t connect with folks that I should have.

“We need each other — to be happy, to create great things together — and BeerOrCoffee uses technology to connect people from online to offline and face to face,” she says. “It’s like an Uber for meeting people. Just press a button and you’ll meet people who share the same interests.”

BeerOrCoffee started out one year ago at Startup Chile and is currently based in Brazil and Chile but has plans to expand worldwide, has recently opened a San Francisco office and plans to the U.S. market early in 2017.

As far as safety concerns: BeerOrCoffee has a high-quality private community that grows by invitation only. People can either be invited by someone that is already on the app or receive an invitation from the communities that are part of BeerOrCoffee.

They’re growing 79 percent month over month, Vasconcellos says, and their expansion plans are based on who downloads the app and where. So download it now from the App Store (for Apple devices) or on Google Play (Android).

I just did.


Some of the top audio programs available on Castbox.

Some of the top audio programs available on Castbox.


The top prize at Google Demo Day went to the Beijing-based team at CastBox, an audio platform app offering more than 400,000 podcasts, radio channels and audiobooks providing localized content across 135 countries.

CastBox is also an easy way to stream media from your Android device to your TV. “Cast” videos, photos or music from your Android to the big screen. Cast photo albums and videos from your Facebook account in seconds.

Founded by a former Google employee with an app gene, Castbox has had 3 million installs within 10 months and has 500,000 people using the app daily for a mind-blowing average user time of 2 hours per day.

Download Castbox for your iOS device or for Android.

Takeaways from Launch Scale 2016 http://socialmedia.biz/2016/11/16/takeaways-from-launchscale-2016/ Wed, 16 Nov 2016 23:48:23 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28795 Continue reading ]]> Jason Calacanis & David Sacks

Launch founder Jason Calacanis chats with Zenefits CEO David Sacks at LaunchScale. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Solid advice for startup founders, from startup founders

Target audience: Startup founders and teams, entrepreneurs, angel investors, VCs, businesses, brands, digital marketers, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaAs regular readers of Socialmedia.biz know, I’ve attended every Launch conference and every TechCrunch Disrupt conference since the very first one back in 2007. And the past couple of years, I’ve attended Launch Scale, a free invitation-only event put on by Jason Calacanis to provide startup founders with insights from industry leaders and fellow founders. (I’m the co-founder and CEO of Cruiseable.)

This year’s event, held Monday and Tuesday at BeSpoke in Westfield Centre in San Francisco, drew a few hundred founders to hear speakers such as angels/VCs Christine Tsai, Josh Elman, Cyan Banister, Jonathon Triest, CEOs David Sacks of Zenefits, Glenn Kelman of Redfin, Stacey Ferreira of Forge, James Siminoff of Ring, Mei Siauw of LeadIQ, author/futurist Robert Scoble and others.

Here are a few highlights and takeaways that founders who weren’t able to attend should find useful.

cyan banister

Cyan Banister: “Don’t be afraid to change, but don’t change too drastically.” (Photo by JD Lasica)

Foundational advice for startup success

Cyan Banister of Founders Fund offered some basic foundational advice to startups: Establish milestones — it’s good to have “big hairy goals.”

Begin by understanding what you’re trying to accomplish. “What do you stand for? Write it down!”

It’s not all about the numbers — don’t forget to reward employees and your brand ambassadors, especially those who go above and beyond. Give people responsibility and ownership.

Be open to criticism from your team members. Take the feedback and try to become a better leader.
— Cyan Banister

Do weekly check-ins. Enable 360-degree feedback and make sure you listen to criticism from your team members. “Take the feedback and try to become a better leader,” she said.

Be stingy with titles, or be flat with your organizational hierarchy. “Don’t hand them out like candy. It hurts them when they move on and can’t get another job because they have a title they haven’t earned.”

Delegate. Trust others to help you drive success. “Too many (direct) reports equals death.” Once you get past a half dozen or two folks who report to you, it’s time to figure out how to spread out the responsibilities.

Study your competition. “Pick things from other companies that you love and put them into your own company,” she said. “But you can’t just copy and paste, because you’re not Tony Hsieh and Zappos.” Hsieh famously said, “Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes.”

Iterate. Don’t pivot wildly. “Don’t be afraid to change, but don’t change too drastically and rip everything up, which creates distrust.”

Don’t routinely discard employees who aren’t superstars. “If there’s a trap door beneath your chair, you’ll create a culture of fear. I don’t recommend making your employees scared.” On the other hand, if your employees are expecting a 9-to-5 culture, “they might as well go to IBM or Cisco.”

jason demant

Jason Demant of Bento discusses the company’s successful business model change. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Trump, Clinton and free speech

David Sacks, former founder of Yammer and now CEO of Zenefits, answered Jason’s question about Trump’s election this way: “The country is very polarized right now. The last thing you want to do is bring that polarization into your company.”

And while the speakers criticized those in Silicon Valley seeking to punish billionaire Peter Thiel for his support and financial backing of Donald Trump, their criticism (interestingly) drew no applause. Thiel has free speech rights, but so do the rest of us, and his being the valley’s top apologist for Trump was a disgrace. If companies want to distance themselves from Trump’s racism and misogyny by distancing themselves from Thiel, that’s their right. It is, however, a difficult issue that the valley is still working through.

Practical advice for gaining traction

Jason Demant, founder-CEO of Bento, gave an enlightening talk about the startup’s pivot from a consumer play to its new business model as a B2B2C. Bento was selling ready-made Bento boxes for $11 when it turned out that it cost $30 all told to produce and deliver. Demant ultimately had to run the numbers himself instead of relying on outside experts to do so, and so they pivoted so that they now provide instant meals for a number of already established brands like Zesty and Caviar.

I asked Demant if the change from a B2C to a B2B2C company affected Bento’s go to market strategy and he said absolutely, it’s completely different now, and in the short term you won’t be seeing Bento branding in their marketing.

“It’s hard to let go of your vision,” he said. “But after we made the pivot, the team began to speak a common language with clear goals. We can now talk about margins and have a scoreboard of how we’re doing. And the current investors  have more confidence in the company.”

Mei Siauw of Indonesia, co-founder and CEO of freemium software LeadIQ, had several suggestions on lead generation:

First impressions make a big difference, so try to personalize everything. Up your email game. “Happy users refer others,” she said. “Put a GIF inside your email to make it less boring.”

Be aggressive with your marketing. LeadIQ began asking for users’ phone numbers. Sign-ups dropped, but those who did register wound up converting at a 13 percent rate vs. 3.6 percent rate beforehand.

Edgar Blazona, founder and CEO of BenchMade Modern, said his startup learned not to send newcomers to their home page but to a “how it works” landing page that educates them about how they can order custom sofas online.

Craig Zingerline, CEO of Votion, said it’s critical to give new customers a frictionless onboarding process. “Give them more information about your company. Give them a quick start guide, with tips and tricks. We’ve created 5-minute videos and the click-through rates are very high. This has been a game changer for us.”

“Make it easy for them to get in touch with you,” he adds. Votion uses Intercom as their online chat service, and they capture 61% of the email addresses of people who reach out to them via chat.

And, critically, make sure you respond within 15 minutes of their initial query, even if it’s just to say, “I’ll get back to you every 30 minutes until we have an answer.” Zingerline says, “It really goes a long way. We try to establish this as part of our DNA.”


Robert Scoble during his talk on mixed reality. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Keeping it real: ‘Crush your competitors’

Matt Ocko, managing partner of dcvc, had some no-nonsense advice: “A well-run company has no irreplaceable parts. No one is indispensable.”

And: “VCs don’t own your life,” so keep things in perspective. “Don’t enter a ‘doom loop’ by making overly aggressive promises you can’t keep.”

Dr. Adir Shiffman, an Australian serial tech startup founder, investor and executive chairman of the global athlete analytics company Catapult Sports, also offered a take-no-prisoners call to arms: “If you want to become and remain the No. 1 brand in the world in your sector, crush your competitors.” Don’t play nice or try to forge strategic partnerships with them.

Use ruses, he said. Get your competitors to waste resources. Confuse them with misinformation. Outflank them — don’t take them head on.

Patents? “They’re a great shield but a terrible sword,” Shiffman said, “They may help you sell the company but they’re not going to help you win in the market.”

Robert Scoble, co-author of the new book The Fourth Transformation, also gave a fascinating talk about “mixed reality”: the intersection of augmented reality and virtual reality. I’ll be writing a review here soon so I’ll incorporate his talk into that review.

Lots to chew over. If there was one piece of feedback I’d offer to the program organizers for next year, it would be to get more actionable — to get over the fear of promoting for-profit companies, to foster more conversations on stage about how to reduce costs through outsourcing payroll, HR, accounting, PR, marketing surveys, etc., etc. to third parties. Even the chat with David Sacks gave no insights into why a startup might benefit from using Zenefits.

Meantime, keep an eye out for the next Launch Festival, the biggest, best and baddest startup conference in the world, coming in March 2017 (dates not yet announced).

Harambe Live: Secrets to blowing up your company’s social channels http://socialmedia.biz/2016/09/27/harambe-live-secrets-to-blowing-up-your-companys-social-channels/ Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:30:50 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28706 Continue reading ]]>

Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla that became the biggest Internet meme of 2016, is now the subject of a tribute and viral marketing event.

Kickstarter campaign aims to create world’s biggest ‘gorilla marketing’ event

This is the third of a series on modern viral marketing techniques extolled by Vincent Dignan of the United Kingdom. Also see:

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaViral marketer Vincent Dignan is on a 100-date world tour right now, teaching companies how to blow up their social channels.

A good start would be paying attention to — or, better yet, attending — a brilliantly weird, outlandish, one-of-a- kind event in London next month: “Harambe Live: The world’s biggest live tribute to the gorilla that captured the internet’s hearts.” It’s a meme-heavy presentation that combines the two things Vincent is passionate about: social media and Harambe the gorilla. (Register here.)

Whatever your thoughts on the unfortunate demise of Harambe, the western lowlands gorilla who was shot dead after a child fell into his enclosure in the Cincinnati Zoo, there’s no denying he’s the most talked-about internet phenomenon of 2016.

Kickstarter campaign to support workshop begins today

This event, which will be held in East London on Oct. 27 if the event meets its crowdfunding goal, will explore:

  • How the Harambe meme spread, and how you can use learnings for your own startup or business to reach key influencers
  • Memes and meme culture: How can something as throwaway and misunderstood have such a rabid following online?
  • Lessons of vitality that musicians, brands or anyone who runs their own startup can take to apply to their own viral marketing efforts
Vincent Dignan: "Anything Harambe gets major clicks and traffic from social media, so the honeypot is there for this to draw a lot of traffic."

Vincent Dignan: “Anything Harambe gets major clicks and traffic from social media, so the honeypot is there for this to draw a lot of traffic.”

Host Vincent Dignan promises “a breakthrough event validating the idea that memes are a cultural phenomenon that can no longer be ignored — and a trend that will only grow over time.”

See the Harambe Live Kickstarter campaign. (If the campaign’s goal isn’t reached, you’re not charged. But trust me, it will be.)

Don’t expect a traditional dull workshop. The event will showcase strategies and tips on how to make an idea go viral. Several tiers of tickets are for sale, from 15 pounds for general admission to VIP tickets, which include limited-edition T-shirts and unlimited banana daiquiri cocktails, rumored to be Harambe’s favorite, Vincent assures us.

Meme that refuses to die comes to London as a marketing workshop

Harambe caption

Harambe continues to be a hot topic online long after his death in May.

What possessed Dignan to host such a spectacle? He says London has become a hotbed for enterprising new tech startups. “However, the failure rate is still catastrophically high, mainly because businesses don’t get the initial traffic or customers to attract investors or revenue to break even.”

That’s where viral memes come in. It’s a tactic that “allows a company to reach a wide range of people at low cost,” he says. “This event utilises* the growth of the most famous meme of 2016 (Harambe) to show businesses how it’s done. It’s also somewhat quirky in the fact that it’s a Kickstarter campaign and shows the potential of the Kickstarter platform to fund ideas that wouldn’t have been possible not so long ago.”

He adds: “Anything Harambe gets major clicks and traffic from social media, so the honeypot is there for this to draw a lot of traffic. I’ll share the article across my 150k Twitter network and 200k network of Facebook groups.”

If you’re interested in covering the event for Socialmedia.biz, or even live-blogging it, let me know. (There won’t be any live video streams of the event.) If you’re interested in interviewing Vincent for your publication or blog, here’s his contact info:

Vincent Dignan
Twitter: @vincentdignan

* Vincent is a Brit so we’ll let him spell it this way.

Essential viral marketing tools http://socialmedia.biz/2016/09/26/essential-viral-marketing-tools/ Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:31:13 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28720 Continue reading ]]>

Hillary Clinton’s “Between 2 Ferns” interview got 9.2 million downloads in its first four days and is one of the top viral videos on Ruzzit.com this week.

This is the second in a series on modern viral marketing techniques extolled by Vincent Dignan of the United Kingdom. Also see:

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, PR pros, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaLast week I wrote about a 90-minute workshop on viral marketing put on by Vincent Dignan, a marketing consultant from the UK who seems especially plugged into modern Internet culture.

While that article mapped out 10 rules of branding for your startup or small business, today I’d like to share some of the nonproprietary tools that you can use to advance your campaign, enhance your brand or earn kudos from your client.

Here are a handful of the best ones Vincent mentioned, some of which I’ve used to good effect:

  • You know that timeliness — topicality — dramatically increases engagement on the Web, right? Welcome to the Internet is a Facebook page that scrapes the Web for brand memes, enhancing your likelihood of getting shares. With 2.6 million likes, it has a pretty good pulse on subjects that are top of mind to the digital generation, and while it hasn’t been updated since June 30, you can find similar meme pages throughout Facebook and elsewhere.
  • Here’s another topical resource, and perhaps a better one: Ruzzit.com, a site that aggregates viral content, whether it’s a video, image or text. It even had a video up about the death of Florida Marlins ace Marlins Jose Fernandez a few hours after his fatal boating accident this past weekend.


With Snip.ly you can add a call-to-action to every link you share, helping you drive conversions through content curation.
  • Snip.ly lets you add a popup, at the bottom left of the screen, to link back to your site when you’re sharing others’ content.
  • Later.com bills itself as “the simpler way to plan your visual content marketing” by letting you schedule and manage your Instagram posts. You can also schedule Instagram posts with Buffergram.
  • Websta.me/hot will help you find the day’s most widely used hashtags (yes, hashtags go viral, too).


TextCutie: Get creative with images and words on your smartphone.
  • Canva is a cool design program (go ahead, scrawl across the page with your mouse, it’s fun) and TextCutie is a mobile app that lets you add words to an image you want to share.
  • People, even strangers, are much more likely to interact with you one on one via email rather than by using social media. charlieapp.com, type in anyone’s email addy and find all of their social accounts. The trick is finding those email addresses. I use Clearbit. Vincent pointed to Email Hunter (150 email addresses in their database) and Norbert, which starts at $10/day.
  • Do you have an email list? kickbox.io will scan your list and help you “clean” your list by getting rid of broken email addresses. Cost: $10 to verify 1,000 email addresses.
  • Discover.ly helps you connect your social followings across platforms. See mutual Facebook friends on LinkedIn. See LinkedIn work information on Facebook. See Facebook and LinkedIn connections on Twitter. You get the idea.
  • Charlieapp combs through hundreds of sources and automatically sends you a one-page briefing on people you’re going to meet with — before you see them.
  • Heads up, journalists and bloggers: Typosaurus will scan your site and point out any spelling errors — for free. Alas, it will only tell you the results one page at a time.
  • Instagram: Are you using the ol’ “Double-tap if you agree!” trick?

Not all of these are free, but many of them are free or low-cost. There are lots, lots more tools and tips, but you’ll have to sign up for one of Vincent’s workshops.

What other viral marketing tools are in your bag of tricks?

10 rules of branding for your startup or small biz http://socialmedia.biz/2016/09/19/rules-of-branding-for-your-startup-or-small-biz/ Mon, 19 Sep 2016 07:08:50 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28689 Continue reading ]]> Vincent-at-preso

Vincent Dignan at his “Growth Hack Your Sales” workshop in San Francisco (photo by JD Lasica).

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, PR pros, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaLast month I attended one of the most eye-opening startup marketing/growth hacking talks I’ve seen in years, so I wanted to share some highlights for you in a short multi-part series. (I used to do this a lot more often before launching a startup!)

The event, called “Growth Hack Your Sales & Personal Branding!” and held at Galvanize in San Francisco’s SoMa, drew about 70 attendees. It was part of a multi-pronged series of presentations put on by digital marketing wunderkind Vincent Dignan, who proved his social chops by raising $95,516 on Indiegogo for the series of digital guides, “secret sauce” courses and client consultations he provides.

Vincent, who’s young enough to pass for a teenager (and may well be for all I know), is constantly online and his writings have garnered more than 150 million page views and 50 million visitors. The lad is British but has a serious case of Silicon Valley fever, so hopes to move to the U.S. next year. (He’s also available to speak at conferences, and I highly recommend him.)

This event promised “a step-by-step guide of growth hacking methods & tactics for getting users, traffic and revenue,” and who could resist that?

Vincent’s 148-slide presentation flew by too fast for the attendees to dive in too deeply, but he seemed to have his finger on the pulse of millennials and the next generation of post-mass media consumers. Here are some nuggets I thought you’d like especially valuable.

10 rules of personal branding

Vincent conveyed these 10 rules of “personal branding,” which is less about personal branding and more about building a brand for your startup, small business or client’s company:

  1. No one cares about you.
  2. People only care about what you give to them or do for them.
  3. Be everywhere but choose text, video, photos (or all three)
  4. Use influencers but don’t rely on them
  5. Building your brand is 10% content, 90% distribution
  6. 1 in 5 good posts is all you need for people to remember
  7. Copy until you develop your own style
  8. Never say no to public appearances
  9. Scale worldwide as soon as possible
  10. Be vulnerable: say what people are really feeling.

Vincent Dignan in San Francisco
Vincent at an earlier workshop in San Francisco.

The main takeaways here (and I’m extrapolating from what I remember of Vincent’s points) are that it’s easy to mistake personal storytelling and transparency for self-absorption. Don’t focus on the job you’re doing or how much you’re producing. Focus on your users or customers and how you’re going to improve their lives/save them time/help them meet their goals.

We live in a multimedia, multi-format, multi-screen world, so don’t just focus on writing a text-based blog. The next generation of users/customers (don’t call them consumers) are especially absorbed by rich visuals. Engage with people in their own (visual) language.

Influencers can help you spread your message. But a lot of campaigns that rely on social media influencers come up short because the A-listers don’t have sufficient and ongoing buy-in to your product, service or cause.

Don’t rely on the assumption, “If you create great content, they will come.” They may not. You have to work, work, work to get the word out across multiple distribution channels. Build your email list. Build a devoted following and show thought leadership on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Not every post you create has to be a home run. But don’t create one middling, muddled post after another on the theory that quantity is more important than quality. It’s not.

In a hat tip to Andy Warhol (to say nothing of Picasso and Steve Jobs), Vincent advised us to copy and steal at first. Your own voice and style will come in time.

You’re your brand’s best ambassador, so take advantage of opportunities to appear before relevant audiences. Be proactive and approach event and conference organizers six months or more before their next event in your sector.

I wouldn’t recommend this to every startup or business, especially if you haven’t achieved product-market fit yet, but Vincent’s advice is to try to scale globally sooner rather than later by using tools such as Twitter and Eventbrite.

And finally, I’ve been talking about the power of “being vulnerable” in my own public appearances for nearly a decade. Authenticity is the coin of the realm. Remove the mask, discard the filters, share what’s true and genuine.

Vincent Dignan in NYC
Vincent at a growth hacking/personal branding workshop in New York.

More growth hacking tips

You might also like Vincent’s presentation “How to Attract Humans” at Startup Britain in 2015.

And if you’re in the SF Bay Area, you should check out the outstanding talks available at Galvanize SF. I’ll be attending “How to Go from 0 to 4 Million Users in 1 Year” next Tuesday.

And Vincent will be speaking the same night at London Startup Marketing on “Let’s solve your startup marketing problems…50 Key Growth Hacks To Scale Your Business.”

Sharon Ryan, your newspaper group has a delivery problem http://socialmedia.biz/2016/05/09/sharon-ryan-your-newspaper-group-has-a-delivery-problem/ http://socialmedia.biz/2016/05/09/sharon-ryan-your-newspaper-group-has-a-delivery-problem/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 20:36:49 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28523 Continue reading ]]> Sharon Ryan was named president and publisher of the Bay Area News Group two years ago.

Sharon Ryan was named president and publisher of the Bay Area News Group two years ago.

JD LasicaIt’s been years since I’ve taken to my blog (which I began 15 years ago this week) to complain about a company or brand. But the San Jose Mercury News has left me little choice.

I’m an entrepreneur, as well as a former journalist, so the one thing I can’t afford is to fritter away time. But I’ve been on the phone almost nonstop with the San Jose Mercury News’ Circulation Department for the better part of two straight weeks.

As a young teenager growing up in North Jersey, my first job was as a newspaper “delivery boy,” as we were called then, and I made a point of knowing everybody on my route by heart, as I raced my bicycle to deliver the afternoon Bergen Record to everyone right after school. If I missed someone on my route, I would be horrified, and would rush out to get them a fresh paper.

Boy, are those days gone.

For the past two weeks, we’ve been subjected to the worst ongoing set of delivery problems of my lifetime. Of several lifetimes. And there appears to be no end in sight. Consider:

We did not receive our paper today, May 9.

We did not receive our paper on May 6.

We have not received our paper on May 5.

We did not receive our paper on May 4. We called and the customer service rep said they would have it redelivered. No one delivered the paper.

We did not receive a paper May 3.

We did not receive a paper Sunday May 2. We called and the person on the phone said the paper would be delivered later that day. It was not delivered.

The week before? The same thing.

No one is stealing our newspapers. For whatever reason, the contractors hired by the Merc are just not delivering the newspaper anymore. Which is pretty shocking, given that newspapers need to do everything they can to hang onto their existing readers to survive. (I get kidded by my friends about my habit of reading old media.)

I have stopped calling the Mercury News’ Circulation Dept. Every time I call, after “crediting” my account for a missed delivery, they swear up and down that the “Branch Manager” for our area would absolutely call me back the same day. He (or she) has never called. They won’t tell me his name, so we’re dealing with phantoms. They won’t tell me if there’s a circulation problem for this area.

No one at customercare@bayareanewsgroup.com has ever responded to our emails. And no one at the Merc has answered my complaint on Twitter. This is maddening.

So I’m going straight to the top, Ms.Sharon Ryan. Perhaps a little public shaming will get the attention of someone at your newspaper group so that they can do their job and see to it that the newspaper gets delivered. Because if all your fine journalists are continuing to put out a paper day after day, what’s the point if the readers don’t see it?

http://socialmedia.biz/2016/05/09/sharon-ryan-your-newspaper-group-has-a-delivery-problem/feed/ 1
Test driving the 2016 Chevy Volt http://socialmedia.biz/2016/05/07/test-driving-the-2016-chevy-volt/ Sun, 08 May 2016 01:33:02 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28511 Continue reading ]]> Chevy-volt
Here’s my iPhone photo of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt.

A green smart car to help save the planet & have fun, but be aware of the tradeoffs

JD LasicaMore and more of us, directly or indirectly, are turning into brand advocates for the companies and products we love or admire. So I had no hesitation in saying yes when Chevrolet contacted me as part of a marketing outreach to “social media thought leaders” in California.

Would you like to try out the 2016 Chevy Volt for a week? they asked.

Sure, I said.

We’re fans of electric and hybrid cars, and bought a Toyota Prius a few years back. All I knew about the Volt was that it was hybrid-electric car with the emphasis on the electric. Soon I learned it was named 2016 Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal (which isn’t on my coffeetable but sounds like a credible authority).

The timing is interesting. The 2016 Volt will have a shortened model year, making way for the 2017 Volt’s arrival this coming right around now, according to published reports.

The Chevy Volt in my driveway.

So I gave the Volt a test run this week and came away impressed. Fortunately, the 2016 model (mine was new, with only 600 miles on the odometer) and 2017 models are nearly identical, so this review applies to either model year.

The new Chevy Volt goes for a base price of $33,220 MSRP, but a federal tax credit up to $7,500 can bring down the price to as low as $25,720. You’ll have to do the math, depending on your add-ons and eligibility for the tax credit.

While the Volt may not have the sexy styling of a Tesla, it costs less and has another upside: There are enough of them to go around.

Some numbers to keep in mind:

  • A range of up to 53 pure electric miles on a single charge
  • A range of up to 420 miles with a full charge and full tank of gas
  • You average 1,000 miles between gas fill-ups
Here's how the plug looks.

Here’s how the charging handle looks.

I wondered if I’d have to drive to a special station to get a recharge or a battery swap-out. That’s not the way it works. You simply plug into a 120 or 240 V outlet to regularly recharge the battery. More information on the Chevrolet Volt can be found at this link.

So the Volt’s positioning basically comes down to this: “The vehicle offers all the benefits of EV (electric vehicle) driving while allaying fears of range-anxiety,” says Fred Ligouri, Chevrolet Electric Car Communications. Yes, you’ll be running on battery power after you recharge, but the Volt won’t leave you high and dry on longer trips.

Unlike the Prius, though, Chevrolet made the decision to require the owners to recharge the car — and it takes a while. I plugged it in overnight and, after 14 hours, it charged only 60 percent. So, patience is a virtue with the Volt.

Handling was responsive and smooth throughout my rides, and the difference between it running on electric power and gas was barely perceptible from the driver’s POV.

All the digital doodads you’d want in a car

A look at the electronic dashboard on the Volt.

A look at the electronic dashboard on the Volt.

The electronic dashboard is certainly impressive and easy to use. Some standout features include:

Real-time traffic information

Real-time traffic information

  • Navigation (on driver’s dashboard and central monitor) that includes real-time traffic updates — de rigueur in modern cars, though I didn’t pit it against Waze to see how it stacks up in recommending the optimal route.
  • Blind spot monitoring: An alert light on driver’s side and passenger’s side mirrors flashes to notify you when there’s a car in your blind spot.
  • A sensor in the front of the car, great for forward collision warnings and for keeping your distance from shopping mall curbs. The Volt also comes with low-speed pre-collision braking.
  • A lane tracker (“lane keep assist”) that will nudge you gently back into your lane on highways with multiple lanes if you tire and begin to wander into another lane by mistake.
Options on the central control panel

Options on the central control panel

All that, plus the usual phalanx of digital features, including two USB ports (for your smartphone), satellite radio, a rearview camera, a six-speaker audio system (ditch it in favor of your own, or perhaps the Bose upgrade), automatic climate control, remote start and an option to subscribe to Chevy’s OnStar telematics system, which offers a 4G LTE data connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot in addition to theft prevention and accident reports.

One snafu came at 5 am when I removed the charging plug without reading the damn manual. A moment later the car alarm came on at an incredibly high pitch, which I’m sure woke up some of the neighbors. I rushed inside, found the car keys, clicked unlock and the blare came to an end, but not before the Volt jolted my nerves.

The Volt is selling at a clip of about 2,000 per month, but it should sell more with the 2017 model. That’s another upside: You won’t see tons of them on the road, at least not yet. Exclusivity is still a perk.

Advice for startups: Focus on your super-fans http://socialmedia.biz/2016/03/04/advice-for-startups-focus-on-your-super-fans/ Fri, 04 Mar 2016 23:58:55 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28457 Continue reading ]]> taylor-swift
Taylor Swift brought fans to her house, baked them cookies and invited them to her concerts for free, said Jordan Stone, CEO of Huckle.

At Launch Festival, a top marketer discusses the importance of engaging your top brand advocates

Target audience: Startups, entrepreneurs, businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, SEO specialists, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaAt the 2016 Launch Festival, which is wrapping up today with an estimated 15,000 attendees, startup founders and teams got some solid, down-to-earth advice from Jordan Stone, the CEO of Huckle.

A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to please everyone. But you don’t really want to make all your customers happy. You want to focus on the 1 percent most engaged users of your product and make them ecstatic. And then you want to find another 100, 1,000, 10,000 users just like them. Otherwise, your product development will be all over the map before you get to product-market fit.

“Focus on the 1 percent,” Stone said on stage in the Cowell Theatre at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. “Take your customer base and go to the top 1 percent that’s obsessed with your product. Focus on the super users instead of the casuals.”

How to identify them? Find a tool that gives you access to granular customer metrics, he said. There are plenty in the market. Don’t just look at them as demographics. Drill down to see your top customers or users in the top cities using your product, then find out who those people are — and engage them.

Communicate with them through SMS, email, Twitter, FB, push notifications. “Make sure they hear personally from someone on your team,” Stone said.

Jordan Stone, CEO of Huckle, at the Launch Festival this week (Photo by JD Lasica).

Next, publicly identify, empower and reward a select few. One time-honored way to do so is with a points system or leaderboard. “Make those super-fans feel special, give them something to brag about,” he said. “Offer them rewards and experiences that money can’t buy.”

One extreme example he cited was his work with singer Taylor Swift, who has been known for the lengths to which she goes to make her fans happy. “We brought some of them to her house. She baked them cookies. She invited them to her concerts for free.”

Don’t do this in a vacuum. Let the other 99 percent know about it, he suggested. Stoke their FOMO (fear of missing out). Offer something exclusive to the top 100 contributors to your website each month.

Finally, while you should engage and participate in social media, Stone said, make sure you drive them to your site. “Have ownership over your entire community, Own the data. Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook or Twitter baskets.”

I asked Stone about the approach put forward by Rob Fuggetta in his book Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Force that you should leverage fans’ enthusiasm for your product — but don’t compensate them, or else you’ll tarnish their evangelism.

Stone said startups need to start small and reward their super-fans any way they can — with prizes, T-shirts, giveaways, tickets, access to events, etc. But that once you get to 100 or more super-fans, “then don’t pay them.” Because you’re on your way.