Archive for the ‘ Start-up ’ Category

Bruce Firestone Interview’s Openera CEO Peter Lalonde

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How Salesforce Admins Solved the Email Integration Problem.

This post is going to break a blogging rule. I’m going to cover 2 topics. Gasp. If you want to know “How did Salesforce Admins solve the email integration problem?” Here’s the short answer: They pointed out the technical underpinnings within our product and told us “that’s what we need!.” The longer answer requires some background and is my other topic which answers the question “Hey, how was Dreamforce?”

As a bootstrapped start-up, deciding to attend and exhibit at a major conference is not easy. I made the decision despite believing that big events are one of the least productive ways to fill a pipeline. Over my career, I’ve attended and exhibited at hundreds of big events, they simply are not the best lead generation tool. In order to make an event worthwhile, you must have multi-dimensional objectives.

The Banana is not with us!

Tiny Booth. Big Story. Openera exhibited at Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference in San Francisco  a month ago. Our objectives included:

  • validate market assumptions,
  • collect market intelligence,
  • solicit influential support,
  • access and quickly navigate the partner ecosystem,
  • and yes, meet potential customers and partners.

The question we keep asking ourselves is this: “was it worth it?” Immediately after exhibiting at an event like Dreamforce it is hard to tell if it was worth the time, money and effort. With a month of activity behind us since the event we know a lot more than we did when we wrapped up Dreamforce.

Measurable Results  With over 1500 leads, hundreds of sign-ups and roughly 5 solid, multi-user opportunities poised to close, we can say it was definitely worth it. I couldn’t have said that the day after the event. If I measured solely based on our pre-event objectives however, we failed.

Unrealized Goals or The Missing Execs

One of our unrealized goals was to meet with a good percentage of the 1/3 of the attendees that were supposedly Directors and VP’s of sales to validate our GutCheck offering. (GutCheck solves the “I don’t trust my sales reps forecast” problem.) The vast majority of attendees we spent time with were Salesforce admins or integrators. VP’s and Directors of Sales were not walking the floor of the exhibit hall, they were sitting comfortably in the executive lounges sipping espresso’s.  This was a major disappointment.

Of all the people we spoke to, only about 20 people actually ran sales teams. So, I am not comfortable making assumptions based on such a small sample audience. However, here’s what they had to say: of the sales leaders that we had an opportunity to explain the GutCheck value proposition, almost all agreed with the statement that “sales rep’s forecasts aren’t very reliable or trustworthy.” Roughly 80% of the sales leaders that didn’t trust their reps forecasts, would invest in a tool like GutCheck to validate forecast accuracy. A small percentage (ok, it was one vocal person) didn’t believe that we could do what we say we can do. (I love a challenge!)

Salesforce admins rock. They changed our minds and helped us focus.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of system administrators we spoke with considered forecast accuracy only  “a minor problem.” Even though they agreed with the statement that “forecasts aren’t reliable” and what sales reps enter into their forecasts don’t reflect reality.” 

Salesforce admins we spoke to care about the integrity/interoperability of the system, data quality/completeness and user adoption. Salesforce Admins & Integrators got excited when we explained how we GutCheck a forecast. The fact that we automate the ingestion of email conversations and content into Salesforce was of high value. They didn’t necessarily care about the GutCheck value proposition, they cared a lot about the underlying technology (SmartCloud) that enabled GutCheck.

Salesforce Admins Solved The Problem of Email Integration |  Because of this real world feedback, validated by our pipeline activity and follow-up conversations, Openera is adjusting/focusing our development. Although GutCheck relied on SmartCloud, we are focussing on SmartCloud for Salesforce to solve the email conversation and content problem first. We still believe that sales leaders responsible for forecasting want a solution to poor quality forecasts. For now, our focus is on SmartCloud. (Note: GutCheck will continue as a value-added, packaged service offering through our SmartCloud implementation partners and through the AppExchange relatively soon.) 

Build – Measure – Learn

With lessons learned from the lean start-up model, championed by Steve Blank, Eric Reis, Ash Mauria and others, but modified for the enterprise, we have consumed customer data and altered our development strategy. Was it a pivot? Not really. But the insight into our customers motivations informed our decision to focus our development efforts on the immediate, high value pain point of email conversation and content integration with Salesforce. I’ve estimated the amount of development time this decision has saved, and it far outweighs our investment. Coupled with our post-event research, we are able to make this decision based on data pulled from a great sample audience, not just our gut. That alone made Dreamforce worthwhile.

A VIDEO | I’ll leave you with this ‘work-in-progress’ video of what we did the first thing in the morning before Mark Benioff’s keynote. We wanted to wake the groggy, hungover masses up and get them to smile. In case you were wondering, Metallica was the headliner for the after party…reportedly paid $1.4M to play the event… so for this preview, I borrowed a track from them for this “work-in-progress” version of the video. Obviously, we’ll use royalty free music for the official version… when it’s ready for release. Enjoy.

Why I regret going to TechCrunch Disrupt

Several months ago I decided to bring my startup from Ottawa, Canada and exhibit in Startup Ally at TechCrunch Disrupt. What better place than Disrupt to absorb insight, meet visionaries and explore the highs and lows of startup culture, funding and innovation? I was going to consider entering the battlefield for Disrupt NY 2012 if I felt it was going to help propel my company forward. This was before Arringtongate and the drama over journalistic integrity, CrunchFund, conflict of interest, infighting and the rest of the crap that ultimately overshadowed Disrupt San Francisco 2011.

I regret the decision to spend my precious start-up cash exhibiting at Disrupt. It was a waste of time, money and being away from my family. It was a side show. A carnival.

My advice to other entrepreneurs? Save your cash, Disrupt is dead.

Here are the facts: Michael Arrington is not the victim. Arriana Huffington is not the vilain. TechCrunch is a blog. It’s a very influential site with a lot of opinionated and influential bloggers who think they know where technology is going. They aim to be the voice of technology startups. It is also a blog that is tightly associated with several angels, investors and venture firms. Some investors work(ed) for TechCrunch. There are conflicts of interest, be them disclosed or not. None of this matters. It’s all noise. Throughout the drama, there was very little discussion about the disruptive start-ups TechCrunch is there to cover. Most of the actual coverage felt like an afterthought. There couldn’t be any meaningful discussion. It was completely overshadowed by the self indulgence and central focus of the event: the dark cloud of Arringtongate. Entrepreneurs like me who paid to participate asked themselves and each other this question:

“Why did I spend money to be here?”

The silver lining? I spent time getting to know some truly disruptive start-ups. I wrote another, more positive blog about that experience. I met some great founders and validated my vision. (albeit, against a heavily B2C, social media & gaming biased crowd.)

I went into TechCrunch Disrupt with eyes wide open…

…I walked away shaking my head.

Don’t get me wrong, Disrupt is a great platform and I am certain one of the competing brands will readily fill the void. I don’t know how tight Arrington’s non-compete is, but if I were running one of the many similar start-up launch events, I’d hire Arrington in a heart beat. I bet you get Paul Carr to moderate too!

Did you go to Disrupt? What did you think? Would you recommend to another start-up to exhibit or attend?

Thanks for supporting the Openera pre-launch party and cancer fundraiser!

Thursday August 25th was a day to remember for us at Openera, and we want to thank YOU for making it such an awesome day. The Openera Launch Party and GutCheck for Cancer Fundraiser was a huge success – which is a major reflection of the kick ass startup community we have here in Ottawa.

We have a pretty lengthy list of people to thank for making the launch a night to remember… so here goes (queue the music…):

Bruce Firestone – Thank you for your inspirational words and being such a major supporter

of Ottawa startups/entrepreneurs.

– Dave Schellenburg from Live 88.5’s Morning Start Up – Thank you for attending the event and sharing a few words with the crowd, much appreciated!

– Devin and the Mill Street Brewery Team – Thank you for your sponsorship and for fueling our launch party.

RedBull – Thanks for sponsoring and giving our launch party “wings”.

– Scott Annan (Mercury Grove) – Thank you for letting us use the Mercury Grove HQ as the launch party venue and for being an awesome supporter of Ottawa startups.

– The NetGen Team – Thank you for your speedy delivery of our simple story video and working with us on our landing page and mobile site, you guys rock!

– Everyone who donated to our fundraising efforts for the Canadian Cancer Society. Cancer sucks and every little bit we can donate will make a BIG difference.

A special thank you to each and every one of you that has been an Openera cheerleader along the way and has worked with us to get us where we are today. We can’t thank you enough for all of your support throughout this journey. We have a phenominal group of supporters, friends and family.

We have a really exciting month ahead as we embark on our launch in San Francisco. We will keep you posted on our adventures and remember, if there’s anything we can do for you while we are in SF, please, please, please let us know!

LOL! Openera @Startupfest in Montreal

Yes we are!

“Hey, do you want to go to Montreal for a couple of days and hang with a bunch of start-ups?”

That was my intro to the idea of the first International Startup Festival in Montreal. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it definitely seemed like an event a bootstrapping startup should be at, if for no other reason than to connect with other startups and share ideas, pains, and opportunities.

Great Event.

Wow. What a fantastic event! StartupFest certainly didn’t disappoint.

Openera at Startup FestWe had the opportunity to hear from serial entrepreneurs who put us at ease that we’re not alone in this, and yes, startups are hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up (even if it did seem like they were encouraging us to run away as fast as we can!) We gained incredible insight into the The Lean Startup Model, validating that we’re on the right path, and approaching things the right way. We had the fortuity of learning what VC’s and angels are looking for, and what to do, or not do, when seeking funding.

Here are some highlights of Startup Fest.

Here are our highlights from Startup Fest!

Adam Daw is a Hack! Officially.

Adam Daw - Hacker. Winner.

Openera kicked off our activities at StartupFest with our hacker-in-residence, Adam Daw (@adamdaw), competing at Context.io‘s hackathon at Notman House, and wouldn’t you know you know it – he took first place!

Adam Daw, you are a Hacker! What better way to kick things off for us – congratulations Adam! (enjoy the iPad!)

We knew right away…

…this conference was F*@%!ng Different!

There was certainly no shortage of amazing presentation from some incredible speakers. While Dave McClure ( http://500startups.com) (King of the F-bombs!) may have had entrepreneurs and founders curled up in the fetal position crying for mommy with his in-your-face keynote “Why *NOT* do a Startup” (I especially love the term “Wantrepreneur”), thankfully it wasn’t enough to make us run away screaming. Here are just a handful of presentations we attended that had a huge impact on us, as well as links to the decks on SlideShare where available:

“Startups are hard, but don’t give up”

Sarah Prevette‘s awesome napkin slide presentation “Your first Startup” and Tara Hunt‘s “Lies, Damned Lies, and Startups” (The cake is a lie!) – were sharp, witty, and authentic… Definitely the stuff a bootstrapping startup needed to hear to stay motivated.

“Lean, Mean, Startup Machines”

Ash Maurya‘s “10 Steps to Product/Market Fit“, Dan Martell‘s “Understanding the lean model“, and Ed Roman‘s “Lean Startup Cases” provided invaluable insight into the Lean Startup Model, and helped validate for us that we’re on the right track, and are doing the right things.

“To fund or Not to Fund” and “Exit → This Way”

Jeff Clavier‘s “Startup by numbers“, Stephan Ouaknine‘s “It’s all about shareholder value” gave us a lot to think about with respect to funding, VC’s, and Angels. Anand Agarawala took us along BumpTop’s journey from startup to being acquired by Google last year and gave some great advice in “The Art of the Hustle“, and Jeremy Edberg walked us through “A brief history of Reddit, the first YCombinator success“. Both were inspiring and insightful.

Art of the Elevator pitch

Openera at Schwartz's

StartupFest did a terrific job providing entrepreneurs with various opportunities to pitch their ideas to VC’s, Angels, and potential partners and/or customers. This included, pitching to Grandmothers (your pitch/product should be so easy to understand, even your Grandma “gets it”.), delivering your elevator pitch … in an elevator (literally), and, for a handful of startups, the opportunity to pitch on stage to a full audience.

We couldn’t resist: Openera Pitches SmartCloud in an elevator.

We weren’t planning on pitching at this stage in our development, but who could resist doing an elevator pitch, in an elevator, to a couple of VC’s sitting on couches? It was awesome! The feedback was exactly what we needed to hear. Hearing a VC say:

“You’ve got a great idea, you’re going to make money, but you’re not thinking BIG enough!”

Well, that was pretty inspiring. Message received. Thinking bigger!

Startup Fest was about a lot more than just presentations.

Bowling with Hippos

Bowling with Hippos

Way more than just presentations. People. Smart people. Entrepreneurs willing to build something, take chances and help each other. There was a LOT of fun to be had as well. Besides the Montreal nightlife, cuisine and electric atmosphere on the Main…there was bowling with hippos! Feel free to ask Scott Annan from Network Hippo to clarify!

Huge thanks to Phil Telio and his team for spear-heading this fantastic event. We hope to see this event back in Montreal next year!

What did you learn from StartupFest? Do you think this will become an annual event?

Stop. Watch this video if you run a start-up.

Donna Novitzky, CEO of Big Tent

This is a quick video that sums up the basics of marketing a start-up. The key points:

  1. Don’t hire sales people if you can’t sell your own product or service.
  2. Understand your marketing strategy before blasting marketing messages.
  3. Get your first lead customer references
  4. Partner for mutual benefit

5 ways the cloud can be better for SMB companies

Gartner, Forrester and just about every other reputable analyst, technologist or CIO tend to agree. The Cloud is good for SMB companies.

The openera philosophy is simple. Believe in the open exchange of ideas and work with good people who are willing to work hard. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses with good partners. Succeed together.

Here are 5 ways The Cloud can help SMB Companies immediately:

  1. Manage Content (Documents, records, forms, media…)
  2. customer, partners contact management (CRM)
  3. Office essentials (Email, Calendar, Tasks…)
  4. Project Management (development, marketing, human resources…)
  5. Communication (VoiP, web presentations, im, chat & social.) 

We run our company on a combination of Google Apps (email, calendar, tasks & collaborative documents) Salesforce.com (CRM & Marketing Automation) Dropbox & Box.net for content management & back-up and Skype + DimDim for VoiP, Screen Sharing, and web presentations. For a few thousand dollars a year, we can run our entire organization better than well funded multi-national companies could 10 years ago. As a small business owner, that makes me smile.