Almost ten years ago (actually I think it was nine) my friend Breck and I were featured in the News & Observer. It was a print version of the newspaper because, well, it was ten years ago. And the article was "back to school" theme. My favorite quote? "Breck Fisher and Jody Porowski were frugal but went over their budget."
Today the News & Observer published an article about Avelist. Did college pay off? I think so. And it was really fun. Check out today's article below...
Durham startup Avelist to add crowd-sourcing feature
Originally published in the News & Observer
Written by David Ranii
Durham startup Avelist is betting that a new crowd-sourcing feature it is introducing on its website will add up to significant gains in visitor traffic to its list-centric website.
That, in turn, would help the fledgling business reach its ambitious fund-raising goal: $1.2 million.
That money, said co-founder and CEO Jody Porowski, would be used to hire developers, build a mobile app “and also to put more marketing juice into the site.” Avelist previously raised $300,000 in funding in a friends-and-family round.
The Avelist website was launched last August as an online home for lists created by visitors to the site about anything and everything. A current sampling from the website: “Top 10 Questions for Deep Talks on the Beach”; “Best Quotes about Perseverance”; and “Best Books for a Ladies’ Book Club.”
But next week Avelist intends to launch new “community lists.” Instead of a list created by an individual, these lists will be crowd-sourced. After somebody initiates a list of, say, “Best Books to Tote to the Beach,” others will be able to add their own contributions.
When someone who contributes to the list posts it on Facebook, people will be able to link to the list on the Avelist website through the Facebook post.
“I think that’s actually going to take off,” said Armistead Sapp, senior vice president of research and development at business software giant SAS. “I think she has a good idea here.”
CLICK HERE to read the full article...
As the founder of an Internet Consumer website, I spent a great deal of time thinking about my users and the community that I’m building on Avelist. I think it’s easy to be distracted by the quest for big numbers. In fact, I think we’re often so distracted by the quest for many users that we forget how valuable each individual user is. On that note, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the power of one. One single user. How does one person hear about Avelist? Why did they join? How can I help them? How can I welcome them?
What if we thought about users as one person instead of lumping them into a crowd? Because one person who has an amazing experience is going to tell more people than 20 other people who had a mediocre experience. One person who has an amazing experience is going to come back more times than 100 people who had a “blah” experience.
So how can we make our products better for each individual user? If you’re able to answer each of these ten questions, you’re well on your way to creating a positive experience for one user… and ultimately for one million users.
1. How Do They Hear about Us?
Very few products create an immediate, viral sensation. So how do customers hear about you? Are you pitching the the media, are you active on social media, are you linking to your website every chance you can get, are you talking to individual people and companies, attending meet ups, and convincing your own friends to join?
2. What Do We Offer Them?
They need to gain something from your product. How do you make their life better? Hopefully you know what you offer them, but do they know? Make sure you tell them! If you don’t tell them (on promotional material, on the landing page of your website) they won’t know!
3. Why Do They Join/Sign Up? What’s their incentive?
This is linked to #2. Make sure you offer them something (an ego boost, access to information, a community they need, entertainment, opportunity to learn) and make sure you clearly tell them what it is you’re offering. Hint: It should be so clear that they can easily explain your mission to others. This is crucial for “word of mouth” marketing.
4. How Are They Welcomed?
Do they receive a welcome message after signing up or a welcome email? Signing up for a new product and receiving no acknowledgment from the company is similar to inviting a guest into your house and not greeting them when they get there. Don’t do it!!
5. How Are They Directed Once They Arrive?
How do you explain things to them? Your website might be super obvious to you, but to a first timer, websites and apps can be pretty confusing. Do you have a tutorial for new users? Does the welcome email contain instructions? Do you tell them how to use your product?
6. How Do We Make Them Feel Special and Important?
Is a new user just a number or are they a real, live, important, unique individual? Do you ask them about themselves and give them a unique experience based on their answers? Do you give them an opportunity to create their own identity and profile? Do you ask for their opinion and converse with them? Do they earn points for actions they complete?
In the iconic words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
7. How Do We Show Them They Belong?
Do you show them other users who are similar to them? Do you show them content that relates to their life and their interests? Does your style match their style?
Think about your target audience. Are you doing everything you possibly can to relate to them — think about your design, your content, your word choice, etc.
8. How Do We Connect them to the Existing Community?
As one of my favorite PR professionals always says: “Relationships make the world go round.” If someone forms a relationship on your product or because of your product, they gain tremendous value because of you. Are you fostering such relationships? Are you encouraging them and promoting them? Can people find their friends on your product or make new friends by mutual interests? Do you have an easy commenting system that encourages dialogue? Note: Your competitors might be able to copy your product but they cannot duplicate your community. Build it well. Treasure it. Foster it.
9. Why Would They Come Back?
Did they have a good experience on your product? Do they have a reason to come back? Will you provide a new experience and deliver more value the second time or will they have the exact same experience as they had before?
We all want repeat users but are you giving them a reason to use your product again? For them to come back again and again you have to deliver value again and again.
10. How Do We Remind Them to Come Back?
People are busy. Busy and distracted and forgetful. While they hopefully have such a fantastic first experience with your product that they are dying to return, sometimes they need a friendly reminder.
Are you letting them know when someone comments on their activity? Are you sending them juicy pieces of content that draw them back to your website? Did you ask them to follow you on Facebook and Twitter so they see your status updates? Do you email them to tell them that you miss them or to let them know about a cool new feature. It’s your job to keep them connected. It’s your job to build the relationship.
I originally published this article on Avelist
And then it was published in Women 2.0
And now I'm publishing it aqui on mi blog. Enjoy!
Starting a company is hard. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Here are six tips to help you win the psychological battle of entrepreneurship.
1. Celebrate the Small Wins
You’re going to fail a lot when you start a company. In fact, you will probably experience failure and rejection on a daily basis. This is why you need to celebrate the small wins along the way.
Do you know more today than you knew yesterday? Do you stress about different things now than you did in the beginning? Have you made more connections, been published in a magazine, raised any funding, found a good designer, finished your prototype? Did you gain a new customer or read an article that validates your vision? Any and all of these things are a win. Acknowledge your accomplishments.
2. Find Community
You might feel alone. And you know what? A lot of times you might really be alone because quite frankly that’s part of your job description. However, while you certainly are the only one who knows your exact situation, there are hundreds and thousands of other entrepreneurs in the world who are going through similar situations.
Find them. Read their blogs and their books. Connect with them on Twitter. Join them at meet ups. Whatever it takes, talk to people who are currently in your situation and people who have been in your situation before. It will help.
3. Help Others
When you’re swamped with your own busy schedule, it’s easy to focus solely on yourself. I’ve found that being kind to others helps me regain focus. I’m not talking about taking hours and hours out of your day. You don’t have much time to spare. But kindness can come in small doses and it makes you feel good.
Take a 10-minute phone call with an aspiring entrepreneur. Make time to smile at the grocery store cashier. Congratulate another business owner on an article you read about them. Kindness is a habit. Cultivate it.1 It will benefit you and those around you in ways you won’t even realize.
4. Stay Calm
One of my favorite quotes comes from Paul DeJoe in this Quora post. He says the following about being the CEO of a startup: “You start to respect the Duck. Paddle like hell under the water and be smooth and calm on top where everyone can see you. You learn the hard way that if you lose your cool you lose.”
This is so true! You are running around in circles and tasked with more things than you have hours to finish, yet you have to remain poised and confident because you’re the face of the company. Sometimes you will feel like freaking out. You will have moments of pure panic, sheer terror and possibly blind anger.
In these times, stay calm. Think rationally. Take a step back and think about how you SHOULD act in this situation. For the good of your company, do the right thing, make the right decision.
5. Remember the Facts
Here’s the deal: You started your company for a reason. You clearly believe in the vision. But along the startup journey you’re going to be rejected. You’ll have people tell you it’s a bad idea. You’ll have people say that the challenges are too great. You’ll have team members leave. You’ll have funding fall through. You’ll be ignored by journalists and the successful entrepreneur that you idolize.
Startups are hard. Duh! If they weren’t, a lot more people would be entrepreneurs. I highly suggest making a list of reasons why you believe in your company. Put it next to your bed, nail it to your wall, save it on your phone. Look back on this list when you’re discouraged. Because if you can’t believe in your company, who will? You need to be willing to fight for your idea when no one else will.
6. Picture a Successful Ending
I was talking to the tech lead of a very successful corporation and this is the advice he gave me: EXPECT SUCCESS. I love this concept! Sure, you need to prep for the worst but you need to plan on the best. You have to believe that you will win. You have to picture yourself coming out on the other side. Seriously. Dream about it. Fantasize about it. I’ve heard this is how POWs survive torture. They imagine their life after it’s over. They believe they will live to see a day of freedom — and ironically that belief is what gets them to that day.
Move fast and break things: The story of how a jet ski accident led me to a career of entrepreneurship
When I see something tall I want to climb it and when I get to the top I want to jump. I like excitement. I like a challenge. And I love a good story.
That mindset can lead to adventure, planned and unplanned. Like, for example, the time a few broken bones changed the course of my life. The day I realized my career would be anything but predictable. The moment I embarked on the path of entrepreneurship without even knowing it.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE...
When I tell people that I raised Avelist’s first round of funding from friends and family, I get one of two reactions: People either tell me that I’m lucky or that I’m crazy. And funny enough, I understand both of these reactions because I never thought I would raise money from friends and family.
First of all, I’m not one of those people who has a bunch of millionaire/billionaire friends running around her. And second of all, generally speaking, I like the thought of keeping my work and my personal life separate. However (and this is a big however), I decided to raise money from people that I knew because it was the best option for my company at the given time. It’s as simple as that.
Early stage investing is largely based on relationships and track record, so it’s a tough job for a first time entrepreneur. And that’s what I was when I started Avelist: a first-time entrepreneur with no pre-existing network in the entrepreneur/VC community. I was literally starting from scratch. My friends and family were the ones who knew my character, knew my work ethic and knew my personal track record, so it made sense to raise my first round from them. Here’s what I learned in the process.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE...
A Data Expose: Here's How We Increased Average Time on Site from 1:30 to 4:30
Originally published in The List @ Medium
When I started Avelist I knew nothing about building an Internet Consumer product. Actually maybe that’s not fair to say — I was working in the technology industry at the time with a focus on social media analytics, so I did know a lot about the market. I’d read a lot of articles, watched videos, and talked to other founders. I knew words like traction, stickiness, and organic growth. I knew what I needed to achieve, but the how was still a little murky.
So I did what all entrepreneurs do—I leapt into the unknown. Version 1.0 was ugly and buggy and embarrassing and exactly what we needed it to be. (Beta, baby.) We decided that “time on site” was a metric we wanted to focus on improving, using it as an indicator (among other things) as to whether people liked our site. And we were successful: In nine months we increased time on site from 1:30 to 4:30. How’d we do it? I’ll be the first to say that there definitely isn’t a magic formula to get people to use your website, but here are some things that worked for us:
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE...
It’s Friday the 13th. I, however, am traveling.
Lucky for me (heh), I booked a flight out of NYC tonight without noticing the the date. So I’m sitting here in the JFK airport, Terminal 5, surveying my brave fellow travelers, and wondering where the whole Friday the 13th superstition actually came from. Now might be a good time to figure it out…
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE.
I was recently interviewed by Sarah Kuziomko of Pretty Simple Ideas and it was honestly one of my most favorite interviews I've ever done. I think it's because Sarah's a good question asker. She digs deep.
We talked about my reasons for starting Avelist, what I knew before I started it (not much), and what I've learned in the process (a lot). She asked me what I loved about Avelist (funny fact: people don't usually ask me what I love about my company). And she also asked me about my personal faith and what role that has played in starting Avelist (a unique question, I thought, that was really fun to answer).
Check out the full interview HERE.