What an honour to be featured in Women 2.0! Thie entrepreneurial journey has been a massive rollercoaster over the past 18 months and when I look back, it is truly incredible how far things have come. From frustration, to idea, to conception to now leading a dedicated team, I never could’ve imagined how challenging, invigorating and fun this experience would be! I got the inspiration for AskaTechie when I recognized that most people don’t know what they really need when it comes to technology, much like dating. AskaTechie is trying to address that in three steps: consulting on business technology needs, presenting technical talent for projects, and preparing the project plan – a one-stop Techie shop. We’re a new online matchmaking marketplace of vetted tech experts, which helps people and companies find qualified IT professional contractors. AskaTechie is positioning themselves to be the “eHarmony for finding tech experts”… Click HERE to read the full article. Women 2.0 is building a future where gender is no longer a factor. Founded in April 2006, it’s now the leading media brand for women in tech. The for-profit, for-good company takes an action-oriented approach that directly addresses the pipeline from all sides: hiring, founding, investing and leading.
This article originally appeared in Youngry.
Written by Aliya Amershi, Founder & CEO at AskaTechie.
As a new entrepreneur starting out, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to look for mentors who were already killing it, learn from their failures and model their successes.
Over the years I’ve collected numerous videos and interviews from virtual mentors to add to my own “inspire list” and today I’ve decided to share a few that influenced me the most as a beginner Entrepreneur. The amazing thing is that everyone can access these online thought leaders through video or audio, which allows you to always be learning no matter where you are or what you may be doing. Plus you get an alternative sensory engagement, that goes beyond just reading a book or article.
Gaining success in the Entrepreneurial world requires you to step up and learn how to be a great Leader. Each online influencer has their own style and shares their advice and stories of their mistakes. So if you’re just starting out, or even have been in business for a while, this is a great introduction to the vast array of free online content.
Simon Sinek Ted Talk Presentation – Know Your Why & Become A Great Leader https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-61764 Leading with passion and enthusiasm, Simon is a thought leader and modern day philosopher who believes that every company will excel if they can communicate WHY they do what they do. He believes that when you can crack this code, you can easily inspire your team, customers, and investors to follow you. Simon is someone that everyone seems to love and this was the Ted Talk that helped catapult him into the spotlight.
Patrick Bet-David Valutainment YouTube Channel – How to Become an Entrepreneur (Episode Aired Jan 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YV-tWENu9k Bringing a high energy and practical approach to entrepreneurship, Patrick explains with clarity the dedication it takes to get there. He offers a simplified 5 step process to becoming an entrepreneur, an alternative viewpoint on “traditional” ways of working, and ways in which we can think more creatively and strategically to get ahead. If you want to be given straightforward, raw entrepreneurship advice that is succinctly broken down, then Patrick is your guy!
Alex Blumberg Startup Podcast – How Not to Pitch a Billionaire (Season 1, Episode 1) https://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/all/season-1/page/2/ Alex’s story profiles a raw, very green, real-time account of what it’s like to start a business from zero – sharing all the mistakes, internal thoughts, and behind the scene conversations uncensored and fully exposed. This episode profiles how he pitched a major Silicon Valley angel investor, how badly he messed up, and then captures the lessons learned. I think everyone has had or experienced this nightmare, but the good thing is that your business can still go on, as this series documents the highs and lows of startup life, which has definitely captivated their audience.
Marie Forleo YouTube StarInterview – Building a Business from the Inside Out, Soulful Approach to Entrepreneurship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvu_UGzz2Bs Coming from the corporate world, Marie always felt she wanted more. Once she slowed down and learned to stop ignoring her inner voice, she was able to create businesses and success by continued self development and staying true to her own heart. Her approach and deep-rooted belief is that we all have unique gifts that the world needs, and when we can uncover this, good things happen. Entrepreneurship is a spiritual journey, and the faster you can embrace that, the better things will be. Marie has been featured on Oprah and is considered one of the new age thought leaders to follow.
Robin Sharma YouTube Star How to Video – 6 Big Lessons to Win at Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpiFVl1Pq1I&index=51&list=PLmqIZxMeCGZovrksUaGYyjntM_svtLXnx One of the world’s top Leadership Advisors, Robin has worked with CEOs from some of the top companies in the world. His first best-selling book titled The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari helped him on a path to critical acclaim. In this informative video, Robin teaches us the habits that set successful people apart from the rest and what we can do to achieve great heights, if we so choose. His leadership style is one of shifting paradigms and he believes that anyone within an organization can show leadership within their work and have influence and impact if they dare to be authentic and speak up.
Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee) YouTube Star Interview – Audit Who You Are and STOP Hoping https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv4HSYEp1bI Love him or hate him, Gary Vee’s advice is always valuable and this list could not be complete without his thoughts. In this interview with Tai Lopez, another Entrepreneur and YouTube Star, Gary states that one of the biggest mistakes people make is that we hope who we are, instead of really auditing who we are. Gary reminds people to be self-aware of what they’re good at, to figure out what their strengths are and focus on that. One of the most poignant and important things he notes is that ideas are nothing, it’s only execution that matters. Quoting Elon Musk, Tai points out that you get paid in proportion to the difficulty you solve. Gary’s approach to entrepreneurship is a no bullshit mentality, resulting in a mass following and unquestionable success in multiple businesses.
I love the idea of passing on valuable knowledge to other Entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, it just makes us all better, smarter and more successful. In the world of entrepreneurship, there really isn’t competition, everyone will create differing products – some will succeed and some will need to pivot, but there is room in the market for everyone who has something of value to offer. More importantly, there is always room for growth. As an Entrepreneur you should always be learning and online there is an abundance of access to knowledge and experts. So stop making excuses and start making something of yourself.
This article originally appeared in Youngry.
Written by Aliya Amershi, Founder & CEO at AskaTechie.
After working with hundreds of customers and colleagues over several years, I’m baffled by what so many of them are hiding. On the surface, they may possess a beautiful website or app, consider themselves quite tech savvy, or they could even be making millions of dollars…. but when I take a look at their technology behind the scenes, it is a total nightmare. By the way, this is beyond the technology stack for a website, app, or product – that is a completely separate discussion. What I’m referring to is the VERY basic business tech stack (aka productivity tech stack), consisting of common technology tools and services to increase productivity. It is mistakenly assumed most businesses have already got that all in order, but truth is, it’s really not the case (even tech-focused ones). Perhaps in the bubble of Silicon Valley, where people are on trend with tech, but we’re talking about the other millions of startups and businesses outside of the Valley.
Just imagine: excel spreadsheets that are being used to manage 100s or 1000s of customer accounts just doesn’t cut it – that’s a customer fiasco waiting to happen! Confidential company discussions that are taking place on Facebook groups – and bosses question why employees are distracted by Facebook during work hours. Data and documents that are stored on each person’s hard drive with no backup – fingers crossed no one spills coffee on their laptop. Team tasks that are being managed and tracked using Notepad, or even worse, pen and paper – gasp! I have seen this too frequently in startups, small-medium sized businesses, as well as enterprise corporations.
If you’re guilty of any of the above, I’m going to break the news to you; you need a tech intervention, especially if you’re an Entrepreneur.
Say you went to a lovely restaurant and they presented you with a succulent, gourmet meal, but then you visit the restroom and it’s a disgusting cockroach-ridden, backed-up sewer mess. My guess is you would never eat there again, no matter how tasty the food, or how ambient the dining room.
It’s the same thing with your business! People aren’t going to respect you as a tech savvy Entrepreneur if they find out you can’t really walk the walk. And top talent, whether they be Developers or Digital Marketers, will be horrified and may not work with you when they discover your antiquated technology practices – unless you’re hiring them to specifically get you digitally up to speed. Your business tech stack is a direct reflection of you as the Boss, whereas your market-facing technology is usually created by your CTO/ Tech Lead or a third-party developer. If you are indeed the CTO/ Tech Lead, what’s interesting is that many truly technologically advanced minds also need a little push when it comes to organizing simplified, practical technology for their business. Besides sheer embarrassment, not having a solid tech stack is costing you time, money and even business. Sooner or later the digital disorderly chaos will catch up with you.
To help you fast-track your digital transformation at the basic level, or if you’re a new startup to get your business tech stack started off right, I’ve compiled a list of the best basic productivity tools Entrepreneurs & Business Owners need to start using ASAP to stay digitally on track, digitally.
1) Team Communication
Move over Email, Skype, Facebook Groups, Whatsapp, and AOL/ MSN Messenger ( total throwback here). Slack is the new standard for real-time, company-owned team communication. There are a slew of benefits: it keeps all team communication in one place, you can create public channels for different topics or private discussion groups with select people, and even communicate and share files with just one person if you wish. So if you want be “with it”, get with Slack.
2) Cloud Drive
Recommendation: Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive – DOESN’T MATTER, JUST USE IT!
This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many people are not on the cloud – maybe their head is (chuckle), but not their business. Some benefits are: no more fear of crashing your laptop, leaving files on your other computer before a major meeting or needing to work in the cubicle from the office computer. With the cloud drive’s amazingly affordable prices for 1TB of data, you should be be able to backup everything, without having to pick and choose. No more fumbling with external hard drives, plus you always have access to your files from any computer or mobile device. To help you decide, here is your rule of thumb: Google Drive is best for Googlers, OneDrive is best for Microsoft users, and Dropbox is best for the rest.
3) Cloud Enterprise Suite
Recommendation: G Suite (aka Google Business Apps) or Microsoft Office 365
Either is fine, just as long as you are using the Cloud version which is key. Why? Because just like with your cloud drive, your documents are always backed up and available from any device. Plus it allows for easy sharing and live updates, eliminating the need to email back and forth attachments that always seem to get lost. The difference between the two is if you just need basic functions for document, spreadsheet, and slide creation, than G Suite is perfect. Plus any Microsoft document can easily be converted to a Google doc, and vice versa. However, if you need more advanced features and programs, then 365 is the better bet.
4) Organizational App
Wunderlist is great for getting your whole team’s Todo list in order. It’s the ultimate checklist that you can share, email, and print. Want to change a priority? It’s as easy as dragging dropping. So nix the Notepad and start “Wunderlisting”. I should note that once you have a larger a team, a more advanced project, or multiple projects, you’ll likely need to use additional tools and processes, but that’s a whole other topic.
5) Video Conferencing
Recommendation: Zoom or Google Hangout
I know you are thinking “but what about Skype”?! Truth is, Zoom is now the hottest player on the block, having mega startups as their customer, such as Uber, who prefer to Zoom. With a multitude of features such as your own custom business url, a direct dial-in number (with no password), HD recording capabilities, screen sharing, and remote desktop access, it’s worth it to dish out the few extra bucks a month for this service. That way you can always be connected with your virtual team and customers as if they were right next to you. Looking for a free tool? Google Hangout still does the job, all you need is a Google account.
6) Digital Signature Software
Recommendation: Adobe Sign or DocuSign
If you have a business, you’ll be continuously signing and sending documents to be signed. Don’t embarrass yourself by not using an e-signing tool and requiring others to print, sign, scan, and email (fax?!?) documents for signing. Seriously that’s like 4 annoying steps – why, oh why?! Make it simple by having your own digital signature software so that they can easily sign and send in seconds. Adobe is good if you are already subscribing to the Acrobat, but if you aren’t, then DocuSign is a solid choice. Plus their user interface is a lot more friendlier.
7) Calendar Booking System
Recommendation: MixMax or Calendly
Being an Entrepreneur is going to keep you busy and the last thing you want to do is play email tag! Most of us fall into this ongoing email trap, from weekly or daily meetings with team members, partners, customers, and investors. The solution is a handy smart calendar to help you book all your meetings, without you doing the work! Two options I like to recommend, and both operate a little differently, are MixMax and Calendly, all you have to do is choose based on your needs and style. MixMax is a chrome extension for Gmail, and one of their main features is their built-in scheduling tool, which connects directly with your calendar to select available time slots on the fly and will embed directly into your email. Calendly on the other hand is more of full-featured booking system that can integrate with your email, website, CRM and more. So if you don’t have Gmail and you want a more advanced off-the-shelf scheduling system, Calendly is a great option.
BONUS: CRM – Customer Relation Management System (Advanced)
There’s a lot to be said about using a CRM, but let me break it down in a couple of sentences. Your customers and their data is arguably the most valuable asset of your business. So do you really want to be managing that using a basic spreadsheet? A CRM allows you and your team to collaborate in keeping your 1000s, maybe millions, of contacts up to date, whether they are a hot lead or current customer. It’ll identify where they are in your sales funnel or when they were last contacted in your marketing campaign. In addition, generating custom dashboards and reports can be done in a snap. When people think CRM they think of the super expensive and complicated Salesforce, which has it’s merits. But if you’re starting out, or are a small-medium sized business, then Zoho is the perfectly simple and cost effective solution. Plus it can scale as your business grows, with it’s many business extensions and integrations.
Using the appropriate tools and processes from the start is basic business 101. Impress your future employees, customers, and even investors, as a tech savvy and digitally organized Entrepreneur by understanding and using the latest tools in tech. Having your basic business tech stack setup from the get go will do you wonders and allow for much more success to come your way.
Too busy to set up and learn these productivity tools yourself? Contact us at www.AskaTechie.com to get you up to speed fast so you can do what you do best.
Have more questions regarding your tech stack? Why Search, Just Ask?
These days, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, pitching their latest and greatest new idea, and looking for someone to give them money. Angel investors, like me, have long figured out that asking to see the prototype is a quick way to separate the ‘wannabes’ from serious players. Talk is cheap, but entrepreneurs who show you a working model of their idea know how to execute.
In reality, it doesn’t take a huge investment of money and time to build a prototype today. If it is hardware, look for one of the ‘makerspaces’ such as TechShop, with all the tools you need to make almost anything yourself. Software products and apps can be quickly wireframed with free tools like MockFlow, or even Microsoft Powerpoint to lay out the key screens.
Here are the key objectives that you can achieve by building a prototype, which are really the reasons that investors and partners will give you a whole new level of credibility as they evaluate your startup for potential funding:
Something you can touch and feel helps validate opportunity. When you wave your arms and describe your future product, everyone sees what they want to see, and it looks great. With a realistic prototype, you can get more accurate feedback from customers on their real need and what they might pay, before you invest millions on the final product.
Quantify the implementation challenges. Many ideas I hear sound great, but I have no idea if they can be implemented. Building a prototype at least allows both of us to ask the right questions. Visions and theory are notoriously hard to implement. A prototype has to be real enough to be convincing, without looking like science fiction.
Give yourself time to pivot without dire consequences. It doesn’t matter how certain you are of your solution, it’s probably not quite right. Every entrepreneur has to deal with the realities of constant change in today’s market, and it’s much easier to pivot the pre-production prototype than to dispose of unsellable inventory.
Show investors that you are committed, and past the idea stage. Without a prototype, most professional investors won’t take you seriously. In reality, the process of designing, building, and validating a prototype does dramatically reduce the risk, and allows everyone to hone in on the real costs of going into production.
Reduce the time to production and rollout. For both software and hardware technology, multiple iterations are usually required to achieve production quality and performance. Time is money, and may be your primary competitive advantage. Don’t spend your whole development budget, before finding that you need another iteration.
Support early negotiation with vendors and distribution channels. A three-dimensional prototype is always better than just a documented specification when negotiating contracts for manufacturing, support, and marketing. As a startup, you need all the leverage you can get.
If you are not comfortable or skilled enough to build a prototype yourself, it’s time to find and engage a co-Founder who has the interest and background to at least manage the work. You should never outsource the management of your core technology. At worst, maybe you can find a trusted friend to guide you, or a nearby university with expert professors and the proper tools. There is no magic formula for success while inventing. Proceed with your wits about you.
Overall, building a prototype is still a great way to bring your idea to life, for yourself, your team, investors, and future customers. Your target cost expectation should be one-tenth of the total commercialization cost, with the assumption that it will be throw-away. Even still, I can’t think of a better way to validate your solution early, and get credibility with the people who count.
Need help with building your prototype? Just AskaTechie!
Even the most experienced digital marketers occasionally have campaigns that don’t yield the desired results. But you can help ensure your next campaign doesn’t meet with failure by avoiding these 14 potentially costly digital marketing mistakes.
1. Not having clear campaign goals
One of the biggest mistakes digital marketers make is “not establishing analytics goals prior to the start of a campaign,” says Geoff Hoesch, principal, Dragonfly Digital Marketing. “In order to track the success of a digital marketing campaign, it’s necessary to define goals (sales, form completions, calls, sign ups, etc.) and ensure that analytics tracking is properly set up for these goals.”
“Without measurable objectives, it [is] challenging to measure ROI or net benefit of a campaign on product/service sales, sentiment or engagement,” says Justin Honaman, senior vice president, digital marketing solutions, Moxie, a global digital agency. That’s why “it is important to define and communicate objectives and to build insights from past campaigns into the planning process for future campaigns.”
2. Not targeting the right audience
“Even if a brand is creating fantastic content, they will miss a great deal of the opportunity if they don’t take the extra step to promote it to the right audience at the right time,” says Michelle Stinson Ross, content & outreach goddess, Authority Labs, a provider of SEO software. “Every digital communication channel is getting noisier, [and] it takes effort and investment to cut through the noise to get your content noticed.
“Define targeted audiences not just on personal descriptions but on behaviors,” she advises. “Make use of tracking pixels and cookies to reach out to people [who] have visited your site and/or joined your email list. Take your social targeting beyond age, gender, education and topic interest by layering on purchase intent and relevant life events.”
3. Not employing a customer-centric mindset
“Marketing plays a critical role in enticing, converting, engaging and retaining customers, and organizations slow to embrace a customer-centric mindset will be left behind,” says Penny Wilson, CMO,Hootsuite. “Through personalization, targeting, journey mapping and data analysis, brands are now able to deliver a customized brand experience that provides value to customers and keeps them coming back for more.”
4. Impersonal (or incorrect) personalization
“Be [it the wrong] name, gender, likes, etc., the list goes on,” says Jess Stephens, CMO, SmartFocus. “I see this every single day – my team compiles a ‘bad marketing folder’ where we store examples [of incorrectly personalized offers] we regularly receive. A particular bugbear of mine is when I shop for a present for a male member of my family [and] then get bombarded with male persona marketing. This can easily be avoided by using insights technology, which makes it easy for marketers to correctly identify the right products and offers to engage customers for their next purchase.”
5. Overlooking mobile
“Mobile is becoming the dominant digital platform consumers use, now accounting for 62 percent of all digital media time, [according to] comScore, [with] apps account for over 50 percent of that total,” says Martin Doettling, CMO, Swrve, which provides a platform for managing customer relationships with mobile apps. “With this in mind, it is important to get your mobile strategy in place.
“Start by considering how your users are already interacting with you on mobile and how you can better shape that experience,” he says. “If you have not yet developed your mobile strategy, consider whether an app would be a [good] platform for you to speak to your customers and then deliver timely, relevant and meaningful content that grows your customer relationships.”
Also, “make sure your website is compatible with all mobile devices,” says Jonathan Ceballos, marketing director, USB Memory Direct. “Then make sure sales and special offers are [tailored to] mobile sites.”
6. Writing off email marketing
“There is a lot of buzz surrounding marketing channels like mobile and social. However, neglecting email marketing is a costly mistake,” says Eric Stahl, senior vice president, product marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “As the lines between sales, service and marketing blur, email remains the customer journey’s connective tissue. A recent survey from MarketingSherpa found that 91 percent of U.S. adults say they like getting promotional emails from companies they do business with. Of those, 86 percent would like monthly emails and 61 percent would like them at least weekly. In addition, marketers can combine email with insights gained from customer data across channels and devices — for example, social media — to achieve the heightened level of personalization that today’s customer demands.”
7. Not doing A/B or split testing
“Use A/B testing to maximize effectiveness of your email,” says Adam Jwaskiewicz, director of interactive services at PHG, an advertising agency. “For example, distribute the same email to a test group, but use two different subject lines. When sending the actual email, use the subject line that performed best. Make decisions based on actual data, not your gut feeling.”