Remembering to be a Lovecat

I’m going to make a public confession about how I’ve been acting and thinking the last few months and a public recommitment to being a Tim Sanders Love-Is-The-Killer-App lovecat–one who shares knowledge freely, shares contacts freely, and treats everyone with love and respect.

So here is my story. For a couple of years I’ve been spending most of my time in learning, sharing, and networking. I found a lot of joy in life and business because I kept meeting new people, reading great books, sharing my knowledge and contacts freely with the intention of helping others solve their problems and find success.

I have taught entrepreneurship and internet marketing to hundreds of college students and others, and like I said, I found a lot of joy in it. I also love blogging and writing my column for Connect Magazine and giving lectures in lots of venues. Sharing knowledge was my primary focus.
But, in December I raised money for my web incubator Provo Labs and jumped back into starting and growing several companies. We hired a lot of great web 2.0 type employees and starting building a culture and company-building system that I really like. But the problem is that my own work time is now spent almost 100% on my own companies. I’ve stepped into an operational role, and like all business operators, don’t have much time at all anymore for reading and writing and networking and speaking — the things that really bring me the most satisfaction.

Then, last week, while helping with the judging for an entrepreneur competition, I read a bio on Amy Lewis, one of Utah’s top entrepreneurs, which said she her main focus in business is on helping everyone around her to succeed. That had a huge impact on me. It reminded me of how I want to be and how happy I was when I did that.
Amy and I are on the Kevin and Debra Rolling eBusiness Advisory Board which met today at BYU. We sat next to each other during the board meetings. (Kevin Rollins was there! and shared some ideas about the center and the student experience he hopes to provide there. I’ve now heard Kevin speak twice in the last month–both at BYU events. What a tremendous business leader he is.) I told Amy how much I appreciated her bio that is making me rethink my business focus.

She told me to buy “Seven Spiritual Laws to Success” by Deepak Chopra. She said it has some great principles in it. I told her about “Love is the Killer App.”

I also got an email this week from one of my great friends in the Provo Labs family and he said he wasn’t feeling a lot of “Provo Labs love” lately. He said he wanted more opportunities for learning and networking and that he felt that for Provo Labs to succeed we needed to do more teaching and networking. I couldn’t agree more.

So I am going to try to shift my focus back to being a lovecat both within the Provo Labs family and without — with the goal of helping others to succeed.

Today I shared some really valuable ideas with a friend of mine who runs a blogging network about how to increase his revenue. A week ago I might have withheld that information because it might have become a proprietary advantage, but with my recommitment to helping others I decided to share it because he actually will benefit more from the idea than I will because his blogging network is already quite large. I haven’t helped many entrepreneurs lately and it felt good.
My blog has become way too much about Provo Labs and not nearly enough about ideas and experiences and suggestions that will help internet entrepreneurs and internet marketers succeed. Even my Connect magazine column this month was all about Provo Labs — why I’m doing a web incubator.
In order to help me help others, I’m inviting all internet entrepreneurs or internet marketers to email me the questions you have. I will collect the questions and blog answers to them in the coming weeks.

In your subject line, please say “Please Blog About This” and then ask your question. I’d like my blog to become more interactive. I’ll do my best to scour the resources that I have (including my personal knowlege base of 150 MB of content from news clippings and notes from 1992-2006 and my large business library) and draw from my experiences and the experiences of hundreds of people that I have heard speak over the years (and taken extensive notes) to provide good answers.
Like Alan Hall, founder of Grow Utah Ventures — a brilliant and wonderful man who may be doing more to promote entrepreneurship than any other person I know — I hope that all the entrepreneurs in my network who find increased prosperity from things they learn from me (or from others who share freely) will in turn give back and do all they can in business and philanthropy to lift others.

I feel much better, now that I’ve learned my lesson and regained my focus. Let the lovecat fest begin!

Utah Company offers Free Online Backup

I wrote a Connect magazine article recently where I praised Josh Coates, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who moved to Utah a couple of years ago to build an exciting company that offers free remote backup for any computer user. You can back up all of your most important files at no cost!

This is a no-brainer! Check it out. It’s especially nice for backing up your laptop.
I am an advisor to Josh’s company, Berkeley Data Systems, and a very happy Mozy.com user. Congratulations on the PC Magazine recognition, Josh!

I love the Freemium business model they are following: offer something valuable and free and then upgrade some percentage of your users to a premium version — in this case, a lot more remote storage space for a very low annual fee.

Here is the latest newsletter they sent out today:

Hello Mozy user!

So the big news this week is that PC Magazine gave us 4 stars and awarded us the Editors’ Choice award for our beta service! You can read more about the review here:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1951151,00.asp

We appreciate PC Magazine for taking the time to do the review (authored by Neil J. Rubenking – who is one of the few reviewers that actually knows how to code) and of course, a special thanks to all our beta testers (that’s you!) for continuing to help us find and fix bugs in our system.

So Mozy isn’t perfect yet, but it’s pretty darn good, and getting better.

Mozy version 1.6.1.6 is out, with many improvements (including improved speed) and more bug fixes.

Download it here: http://mozy.com/downloads/mozy-1_6_1_6.exe

You can install it right over your current installation and your settings will be preserved. We strongly encourage you to upgrade – but a couple of upgrade notes:

– Norton firewall users – it’s likely that you will have reset your firewall settings for Mozy after an upgrade. (Norton isn’t the brightest of firewalls.)

– We’ve had reports of upgrades sometimes not actually upgrading all the way. If this happens, try manually downloading and installing the latest client over your current one. If that fails, check the support faq on how to get in there and clean your old mozy out to start again.

In other news, we’re growing fast! We’ve got over 40 million secure, encrypted files backed up for our users – and we’re having to add more servers to our data center. We’re also increasing the support staff as well. (Sorry about the delays in support emails everyone – don’t give up on us!)

So a lot of folks really love Mozy, and we frequently get inquiries about how they can help. Here are a few ways you can help us save the world:

* Give your friends an extra +256MB when they sign up with Mozy (oh, and you get an extra +256MB too!): http://mozy.com/account/refer

* Need even more storage? Mozy Premium is inexpensive at $19.95 per year (that’s only $1.67 per month!)

* If appropriate, write a review or comment about Mozy on a forum or mailing list. (Hey, genuine comments only – no astro-turfing allowed!)

As always, we appreciate your support.

Be safe.

-josh and the mozy team

Senator Bennett’s Rural Business Conference

Last Thursday I spoke in two sessions at Senator Bob Bennett’s fifth Rural Business conference. This year it was held in Vernal.

My first presentation was about blogging. Here is my blogging powerpoint. I discussed the reasons I love to blog. They are:

  1. Increases my business web presence
  2. I get to �Vote� for web pages (affect Google�s search engine rankings)
  3. Forces me to learn (stay sharp) and share
  4. I get to know other bloggers�they are influential!
  5. Get smarter from reader comments
  6. Make new connections
  7. Get writing/speaking opportunities
  8. Attract more visitors from search engines
  9. Make it easy for old friends/colleagues to find me
  10. Find great new employees

My second lecture was about the future of internet marketing (powerpoint).

I’m only posting this so the attendees can download these powerpoints. I don’t think they will be too meaningful to anyone else.

50 Keys to a Successful Online Business

What is the difference between failure and success in a startup company? Why do some companies develop a good product or service and use effective sales and marketing strategies to help customers and to generate revenue and profits and to grow a successful company while other companies fail somewhere along with way?

I think it has to do with the company “blueprint” that is in the mind of the founder or the management team.

A complete business blueprint has to address the design of every part of a business in order for a successful company to emerge.

But some companies are founded by engineers who know how to create great products but don’t know how to design a proper sales and marketing system.

Some companies are led by a sales oriented CEO who can land customer accounts, but without solid business processes in place, the company can run itself into the ground. As one of Phil Burn’s wall calendar’s says: it can take months to find good customers, but you can lose them in a second.

The weakest link in a company or its blind spot can kill it.

Companies that are led by a sales or marketing oriented CEO are far more likely to succeed. I recall one study of Inc 500 CEOs–I believe that 80% of them had a sales/marketing background.
I would like to see more startup companies succeed.

I think more new companies could succeed if the founders were able to follow a blueprint showing them all the aspects of a company that need to be well-designed, and show them actually examples of a good design.

I recently got a copy of the book “Blueprint to a Billion.” I haven’t read it yet, but it discusses 7 essentials to achieve exponential growth. I don’t love business books that generalize about why large companies succeeded. I much prefer individual entrepreneurial stories, biographies, or case studies, where a single person describes exactly what they did that led to their success.

In large companies there is so much complexity with people, products, and competition, that it is sometimes impossible to pinpoint the individual actions that created success.
But in small startups, a single entrepreneur can often point to an advertisement that the company ran in a single periodical that generated the first $20,000 in sales, or to the trade show that brought the company its first contract, or the telemarketing campaign that worked best, or to the search engine campaign (pinpointed down to the single keyword!) that brought in its best customers.
I think CEOs of brand new companies need a complete blueprint for building a successful company that addresses every aspect of a startup.

I’d like to build such a blueprint for online businesses, since all my Provo Labs companies are primarily online, and then to see it expanded to cover other types of businesses.

The Entrepreneur’s Manual, published in 1977, sold more than 250,000 copies and was extremely helpful in its time. But it is pretty out of date.
I will be working hard with one of my Provo Labs team members to identify the critical areas that online businesses need to address — we’re up to 45 already — and importantly, the correct way to address each one. In other words, the best practices, case studies, and entrepreneurial interviews (podcasts, vidcasts, articles) that best explain the right way to do things.

For example: purchasing the right domain can make a huge difference in the long-term success or failure of an online business. How do you find the right domain? How do you test a domain name with potential customers before paying a high price for it? Can you buy a domain with dashes between words or not? What about .com vs .net vs. .org vs. .biz or .tv? If the domain is owned by a squatter, what do you do? Do you use an escrow service when paying a large sum for a domain? Which one?

There are actually dozens of important questions that should be asked when looking at a domain name. Same with each step you take in an online business.

We will identify the questions entrepreneurs should ask and the best answers that have ever been published or recorded. We will also the top experts that we know to weigh in on the best practices and share personal experiences and case studies.

And we will do this for all aspects of web development, marketing and sales.

If we build a great blueprint, we believe that more Provo Labs companies will succeed and that we will be able to teach hundreds or thousands of other startup companies the most important things they can do to succeed as well.

The companies that join our Provo Labs incubator (coming to Provo in June!) will have weekly training on these best practices; but we also intend to podcast or vidcast our presentations as well and make them available to internet entrepreneurs worldwide.

Interviewing with Google

A new Utah business blogger Pete Abilia has a great post on his site about his 2 days of interviews with Google last year. He turned them down when they offered him a high-paying contract position but no stock and no benefits. Pete will be able to tell his grandchildren someday, “yeah, Google made me an offer, but I turned them down on the spot.” Cool.
Pete has one of the most ad-packed blogs I’ve seen lately, but he does have some great content, and Guy Kawasaki actually does link to his blog. Welcome to the Utah blogosphere, Pete!

Provo Labs: Business Incubator

I recently wrote an article for Connect Magazine about business incubators and Provo Labs in particular. It explains what we are trying to do at Provo Labs and why we think it will work.

One thing we have learned already since December is that our internal team needs to focus on one major project at a time and get it to completion, rather than having 5-10 simultaneous projects that are "on the brink" of completion but aren’t generating any value for customers.

For the last 2-3 weeks, most of our development team has been working on getting LDSMedia.com launched. It is the largest LDS search engine in the world. Our new version rolled live yesterday. I like the new author search and title search functionality. It makes it easy to find any article or book by any author. I especially like doing keyword searches in the title search box. (For example, do a title search for the word "debt" and find 142 articles or book chapters that contain the word debt. This feature will be invaluable to anyone wanting to do a quick survey of Mormon literature on any topic.)

Next the developers will be working on our PlugNSearch technology for the next few days. I described what PlugNSearch will enable in a post on March 24th. Phil Burns described how PlugNSearch fits into our web site management software framework on April 9th.

Shortly thereafter the developers will fix up our world history search engine and then we’ll likely put our entire Provo Labs team on our new genealogy search engine project. Both sites will be designed like LDSMedia.com — easy to browse and to search — and the major databases will be listed after any search along with the number of hits in each database. This makes it extremely easy to navigate through search results.

We’re hiring our first search engine marketing employee on May 1st and soon thereafter we will be bidding on tens of thousands of keywords on Google, Yahoo and MSN. (And of course we use web analytics software to track our results.)

The constant temptation in an incubator is to start more projects. But each one costs money and requires a ton of energy and attention. So we are trying to launch some of our projects without incurring any payroll costs. For example, we have a blog network project underway where 4 individuals own 20% of the company and Provo Labs owns 20% of the company, but besides an investment of some server space and startup costs, we won’t have any payroll expense. The ROI on this "investment" will be excellent.

As incubator projects mature, they attract dedicated full-time employees and then Provo Labs doesn’t have to nurture them so much anymore. This is when success really starts to happen: when a talented team focuses enough energy on reaching customers and solving real problems.
This happened last year when FundingUniverse.com, a company that helps entrepreneurs meet angel investors, attracted its management team and got new life. FundingUniverse was recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal online Startup Journal and got some good coverage of its new online video pitching service.
This is what is happening now with 10Speed Media, a company that we incubated that grew out of the Blastyx vidcasting vision of Phil Burns. It then merged with Big Idea Communications (a PR 2.0 company) and BusinessJive.com (a business podcasting company.) Under the leadership of Chris Knudsen and Judd Bagley, 10Speed Media is really starting to rock, landing clients in multiple states already. 10Speed Media can dispatch a vidcasting crew virtually anywhere to capture events or interviews that companies want to promote and then get online distribution for video clips.

Alan Meckler and Jason Calacanis Debate: Can Bloggers Make Money?

Here is a great Wall Street Journal article that captures an email debate/exchange between Alan Meckler, veteran publisher and internet entrepreneur, and Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs, Inc., a leading blogging network that was acquired by AOL for about $25 million.

I think both writers make great points. I tend to believe that the economic benefits from blogging are far greater than the measly AdSense revenue that one might make. Some few bloggers will make a living directly from ad revenue. But most bloggers will find that sharing their ideas freely in an honest voice will bring them new connections and generate trust which will lead to business opportunities galore.
Fortune magazine just reported that only 34 of the Fortune 500 have corporate blogs. I don’t even like the idea of a corporate blog — but I love the idea of CEO blogs. I want blogs from real people at huge companies.

According to “Naked Conversations,” an excellent book on blogging, Microsoft has more than 1,500 bloggers. The first brave Microsoft blogger was Joshua Allen in 2000. These bloggers are putting a human face on a great company that has been viewed by many as the evil empire. They are giving developers all over the world a reason to check out who is doing what at the most influential technology company in the world.

My view is this: every entrepreneur ought to blog, and so should every CEO. Blogging makes you smarter (if you enable comments) because you can start conversations every day with your blog posts and get feedback from insightful readers. Blogging lets your employees and stake holders know better what is going on. It helps you attract customers and communicate better with them.

Blogging is easy to do. The setup time is minimal and it takes just a little discipline and maybe an hour or two a week to run a good blog.
If you send a few dozen emails per day you obviously have decided that taking the time to write email messages is worth your time.

But writing an occasional blog post that can be read by thousands, and where your keywords will be indexed by major search engines bringing new people (and customers) into your world is usually a far better investment than sending an email message. The time required is about the same. But the ROI is significantly higher!

Get with the program: start a blog!

My New Blog Address

I have to admit I’ve been scared to death to switch my blog from www.infobaseventures.com/blog/ where I’ve been blogging for more than 2 years, to www.paulallen.net, a domain that a friend recently gave to me.

I’ve been afraid for many reasons. I thought I’d lose all my web site traffic. I’ve had an Alexa ranking in the 20,000-30,000 range, and I figured that when I turned on a new site somehow I would lose much of that traffic.

My Infobase Ventures web site ranked #5 in Google for the phrase “paul allen”, which means a lot to me, even though I am but Paul Allen the Lesser. “Paul Allen” is a popular search term thanks to the Microsoft Paul Allen, and I like the free web traffic I get from this.

I had a few other high keyword rankings as well (including #1 on “parallel entrepreneur”) and didn’t want to lose any of them.
My technical team assured me that using redirects that are Google friendly, that somehow I wouldn’t lose all my rankings or my web site traffic. I asked them to do more research on this. They keep reassuring me that it would be okay. I kept doubting them.
So a couple weeks ago they flipped the switch. I haven’t blogged since, till today, partly because I couldn’t find my new site login :) and partly because I’ve been way too busy with all the projects at Provo Labs and LDS Media.

But today I decided to check things out and guess what I found? My www.paulallen.net page now ranks #5 on Google for “paul allen” and my Alexa ranking for my new blog site is about as high as my old one used to be.

I think the redirects actually worked. I’d like the technical folks who pulled this off to blog about exactly how they did it and then comment on this post so that others can benefit from learning how to switch URLs correctly.

I don’t appear to have page rank yet on Google, but that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as if I had lost most of my traffic. I’ll let you know when the Page Rank shows up.

So I’m greatly relieved and plan to start blogging regularly once again. Thanks Blake, Mike, and Jordy!

Attention Utah Entrepreneurs

The Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum has a great lineup for this Thursday’s meeting. (Meeting will be April 13th at noon at the Novell Cafeteria.)

I will probably be out of town, but otherwise would love to be there. I know all four speakers — Adam Edmunds (Allegiance), Dave Bateman (PropertySolutions, DealElder.com), Brian Buetler (Alianza) and Gary Williams (BYU) — they are superb. I hope at least 6-8 Provo Labs people make it to this luncheon.