August 10, 2015

Great tech startups begin with a great development team

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Ela Goczyńska-Han, COO/Business Development Chief of Coders Mill, at the company’s table at the Launch Festival in San Francisco in March (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is part one of a five-part series on “Rise of a startup: Cruiseable.” Today’s installment looks at the decision to hire an overseas development team, Coders Mill.

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, angel investors, venture capitalists, developers, businesses, innovators, educators, students, journalists, travel analysts.

JD LasicaDuring the past 16 months, as longtime readers know (and this blog goes back a long way, to May 2001), I’ve gone full throttle into startup mode, working with my co-founder Giacomo Balli on a travel tech startup called Cruiseable. We’re out to make it much easier and more fun for people to discover, plan and book great cruise vacations.

Over that span, friends, colleagues and strangers have asked me to write about our journey. And while I don’t lay claim to unlocking major new business processes or media insights, I do think some of what we’re doing will be of interest to other entrepreneurs (current and aspiring), as well as journalists, innovators, analysts and anyone interested in how the travel tech and cruise worlds work.

Unlike most startups that come out of Greater Silicon Valley (which includes San Francisco, which now spawns more startups than the original Silicon Valley), we decided not to spin out a few prototypes, test them, iterate and move on to something else if things didn’t immediately click.

That approach doesn’t work if you’re setting your sites higher — and we’re out to bring some rockin’ new social and mobile innovation to the $38 billion cruise industry. So we spent the first few weeks not coding, but researching. Learning. Absorbing all kinds of reports about the connected traveler, millennial travelers and the next generation of collaborative and empowered travelers.
Continue reading

June 23, 2015

The recipe for success that earned Lynda.com a $1.5 billion payday

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Lynda Weinman at the Traction conference in Vancouver (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is the second of a two-part series on the Traction conference. Also see:
• Part 1: Traction: How to spur growth for your startup

Target audience: Startup teams, entrepreneurs, small businesses, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaYesterday I highlighted some takeaways from the cool new Traction conference that debuted last Wednesday and Thursday in Vancouver. The event drew roughly 800 entrepreneurs, startup team members, marketers and angel investors.

One of the inspiring keynotes of the event came from Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com, which LinkedIn purchased for $1.5 billion in April. (She mentioned that she’ll be leaving LinkedIn soon to pursue another entrepreneurial opportunity.)

Lynda recounted her journey from running in-person computer training courses to the dotcom crash of 2000-2001, which forced the company to pivot to online tutorials. That early mover advantage gave Lynda.com the ability to set the pace for all the e-learning sites that followed. Continue reading

June 22, 2015

Traction: How to spur growth for your startup

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Attendees at last week’s Traction conference in Vancouver (Photo by JD Lasica).

This is the first of a two-part series on the Traction conference.

Target audience: Startup teams, entrepreneurs, small businesses, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaI‘m just back from one of the best inaugural tech events on the West Coast: the two-day Traction conference, which drew some 800 entrepreneurs, startup team members, marketers and angels to Vancouver last week.

Speakers included marketing superstar Neil Patel, Lynda Weinman (whose Lynda.com was purchased by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion), Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez, SurveyMonkey president Selina Tobaccowala, Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, and a host of others.

Here’s my Flickr album of 23 photos taken at the conference.

Highlights of the Traction conference

I’ve been on Twitter for eight years, but I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I think a blog post summary will offer more long-term value than thousands of uncontextualized tweets, so here are some of the highlights I gleaned while attending the conference as both an entrepreneur and journalist:

• “In a world where 1,200 startups are launching every year, the hard thing is no longer, Can you build a product as a startup? The hard part is, Can you get traction? … Traction trumps everything.” — Justin Mares, co-author, “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers.” Continue reading

February 12, 2015

Startup Grind: ‘Find your golden purpose’

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Jeff Hoffman, who was part of the founding team at Priceline and now runs ColorJar.

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, businesses, anyone who cares about innovation.

JD LasicaI‘m back from Startup Grind 2015 in Silicon Valley’s Redwood City, an annual two-day affair that attracts thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world.

Here’s my Flickr photo set of 47 shots from the conference, which featured Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, Bill Maris of Google Ventures, Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison and Houzz co-founder Adi Tatarko, among many others.

But the talk I was most taken with was by Jeff Hoffman, a veteran entrepreneur and public speaker who was on Priceline’s founding team and now runs ColorJar. Jeff encouraged the assembled startup founders to “find your golden purpose.” Continue reading

August 11, 2014

Top takeaways from a growth hacking conference

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Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, speaking at the Weapons of Mass Distribution conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Make sure your content is unique, relevant and looks great

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaToday, it seems, just about all startups — and even more mature companies — want to wield the growth hacking buzzsaw. Growth hacking was the theme that drew several hundred marketers, entrepreneurs and business strategists to the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco on Thursday for the fancifully named Weapons of Mass Distribution conference put on by 500 Startups.

And while growth hacking may be hot hot hot right now — even marketing consultant Sean Ellis, who coined the term, was on hand — the impressive lineup of speakers made it clear that to succeed, a new enterprise can’t spin flax into gold. You’ve got to have some kick-ass idea to begin with, and you have to have a product team that knows how to execute. And then, yes, by all means, call in the growth hackers and marketers to run the numbers, size up your analytics, get feedback from customers, and create a virtuous product development loop that fast-tracks your company on to its inevitable trajectory of fame, riches and a guest spot on Jason Calacanis’s “This Week in Startups” podcast.

I captured some of the magic on stage and in the room in this Flickr photo set. (Ah, Flickr, you were on that fast track once!) Continue reading

December 11, 2013

Lean Startup: Highlights, photos & takeaways

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Steve Blank at yesterday’s Lean Startup conference. Blank developed the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Insights from founders, execs & Lean practitioners

Target audience: Startup teams, founders, innovators, product managers, business executives, social business strategists, educators, Web publishers.

JD LasicaOver the years I’ve attended or spoken at scores of conferences, across the country and on four continents. Lately I’ve been drawn to startup conferences like Launch (the next one is coming up Feb. 24-26) and TechCrunch Disrupt.

Monday and Tuesday I attended my first Lean Startup Conference, at San Francisco’s Masonic Center and Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. Here’s my festive Flickr set.

The Lean Startup movement, inspired by author and Stanford professor Steve Blank and popularized by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, is, in Wikipedia’s words, “a method for developing businesses and products [to help startups] shorten their product development cycles by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and what he [Ries] calls ‘validated learning.’ ” Continue reading