Ask Richard Branson: I need your help

The Branson Centre is hosting a Google Hangout with Richard Branson on Friday 16 November. Part of it is that you get to ask Richard Branson any question, the five with the most votes, will be answered by Richard Branson himself.

Here’s where I need your help, I asked a question this morning and would like you to vote it up to the Top 5. Click here to vote.

The question is:

“How do you build a fledgling startup, from day one, ‘the Virgin Way’? In a way that you get the kind of quality clients that enable your company to carve a niche and position itself as a market leader. Clients like Virgin.”

Follow this link to ask your question.

Image by: Jeanette Verster Photography

Small Business Stand Give Away: #Open4BizSA

What does it mean to be open for business? This is the question the Branson Centre Of Entrepreneurship asked and one of the solutions is to give entrepreneurs stalls, at 3 different venues. You get to hear about it here first and stand a chance to get a free stall in all 3 venues.

In a nutshell, Open For Business is an opportunity for small businesses to showcase their work to investors, mentors, customers and stand a chance to join the Branson Centre for kickass business training. Yes, if training and getting your business off the ground could be kickass – it would be what the Branson Centre Of Entrepreneurship offers. Not only was it founded by Richard Branson himself, they also expose you to the thinking and philosophies that make Virgin one of the world’s leading brands.

 

What’s in it for you?

 

Apart from joining other rockstars and showing off your stuff, which I know you love to do, you stand a chance to win a free stall for your business. There will be 3 different events, each with opportunities to network and sell.

 

Read on to find out how you can get yours free.

 

Dates and venues

 

Katlehong (08 August 2012)

 

Alexandra (06 October 2012)

 

Soweto (03 November 2012)

 

Here’s the deal

 

  1. Answer this question in the comments: what does it mean, in your business, to be open for business? The best answers win a stall and should you win, be prepared to go set up in Katlehong this Saturday. I’ll email you the details.
  2. Share this post on Twitter and use #Open4BizSA

 

If you would like to nominate a friend, let them know and invite them to participate.

 

Win a free ticket to the Tshwane Entrepreneurship Week #TNEW

I was invited to speak at the Tshwane Entrepreneurship Week, which happens from 27 to 31 August 2012. And of course, I wanted to spread the love.

 

Here’s the deal, I have one ticket to give away here and another one over at WordStart. There’ll be one more spot ticket given away on Twitter. Before we go any further, I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday 14 August. The tickets are valued at R750, per day.

If you win this one, you get to pick a day from Monday to Friday. The only day that’s excluded is Wednesday, 29 August.

The conference has an awesome line-up of speakers.

Here are some of the people you’ll hear from:

On Monday (27 August 2012)

Douglas Kruger, an author and four time Southern African Public Speaking Champion

Magdalene Moonsamy, COO of the NYDA (National Youth Development Agency)

Tuesday (28 August 2012)

Abbey Mokgwatsane, CEO of Ogilvy – South Africa and once

Brenda Roopai, CEO and Founder of City Of Choice Tours

Wednesday (29 August 2012) is free during the day, but Dr Trevor Manuel will be presenting in the evening and they have limited tickets on sale.

Thursday (30 August 2012)

Ndwakhulu Mukhufhi, GM for incubation at the Innovation Hub

Zadok Olinga, Engineer and Entrepreneur

Friday (31 August 2012)

Khaya Dlanga, whose talk is entitled ‘Social Media: The Next Generation’.

Olga Meshoe, Senior Consultant at Transcend Corporate Advisors. She was also the youngest and only black chairperson of a subcommittee of the South African Securitisation Forum.

And, of course I also speak on Friday. The talk is about how some of the world’s most successful, some small and unknown, startups defied the rules to make it big.

How to score a ticket:

  1.  Tell me why you, or someone you nominate deserves the ticket – as a comment below.
  2.  Share this post on Twitter and add a by @Mongezi just so I pick it up.
  3. If you nominate yourself, ask a friend to come post a comment supporting your self nomination.
  4. As part of your comment, also tell me which day you’d like to check out. The details and full conference are here.
  5. Check back on 14 August to see if you’ve won.

You can also check out WordStart, where we’ll give away one more ticket over the next few days. If you would like to know more about the Tshwane Entrepreneurship Week, check out their website here or their Tweets, and tell a friend about it.

Easy, right?

Run a startup, travel the world, defy convention: Q&A with Chris Guillebeau

[Here’s a Q&A I originally posted on Memeburn]

Building a startup on-the-go while you travel the world may seem unlikely. The status quo would have us believe it borders on the impossible. Thing is, Chris Guillebeau has done just that. Oh and he also writes books and evangelically spreads his unconventional ideas on entrepreneurship and startup communities.

The word “unconventional” is actually a pretty accurate description of Guillebeau. The American entrepreneur reckons you can build a startup for less than US$100 and even wrote a book explaining how. His popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, focuses on travel and personal development topics and meshes with his personal mission of helping people live life by their own rules using a “non-conformist” lifestyle.

We caught up with him during his travels and talked about his insights on building a startup, how he uses technology and where he thinks the next “big thing” in tech will come from.

MB: Building a startup while office-bound is hard enough, how do you build both a startup and a community as you travel the world?

CG: I’ve never separated travel from my work. For 10 years I’ve been actively travelling to 20+ countries a year, and for the same time I’ve been building online projects. I think it helps that I enjoy what I do. I don’t feel like I’m struggling because I’m motivated to keep working away.

MB: You are constantly building ‘Unconventional Products For World Domination’ and send blog updates, sometimes in airports, from the world. What are the top three things that go into building a new product?

CG:

  1. Understand what people really want. (It’s not always what they say they want.)
  2. Create a highly compelling offer. The offer is at least as important than the product or service itself, and most people save it for last. Don’t save it; design your whole structure around the offer.
  3. Ensure good follow-up and over-deliver whenever possible. Your customers will stay with you for life if you keep helping them.

MB: You recently released a book to help writers get their books published. What doesn’t the world know about self-publishing?

CG: The world doesn’t know that the break between self-publishing and traditional publishing is overstated. You can self-publish and traditionally publish. For me, I love both options.

MB: Can cheap, democratised technology overcome barriers in entrepreneurship?

CG: Sure, and we see that especially in Africa. In the future I think we’ll have more and more African entrepreneurs accessing a global marketplace instead of just buying and selling within Africa.

MB: In 2011, you embarked on your ‘Unconventional Book Tour’ which involved your blog readers. What three lessons can you share from that tour and rallying your audience as part of a cause for common interest?

CG: The book tour is continuing now and I hope to visit South Africa at some point. (I’ve been many times as a traveller, but never as an author on tour). Among other things, I learned that meeting readers is an excellent source of inspiration. After a meetup, I go away thinking about the people I heard from, many of whom are living remarkable lives of their own. It helps me to serve them better when I know who they are.

MB: What’s the most challenging tech situation you’ve ever found yourself in?

CG: I’m constantly searching for Wi-Fi access everywhere I go. Surprisingly, some poor countries have better access than some rich countries. It just depends on the country and even the specific area.

MB: What’s your latest book, The $100 Startup about?

CG: Two things. First, it’s the story of 70 “unexpected entrepreneurs” from all over the world who started businesses by using small amounts of money and the skills they already had. Second, it’s a blueprint for readers to do the same. The goal is to inspire a revolution of freedom, as more and more people choose self-employment over traditional jobs.

MB: What has changed for you since you built your first startup, which inspired you to write a book to educate entrepreneurs?

CG: I’ve learned to become more strategic. In the early days, I was primarily concerned with getting by and paying the bills. This was better than working a regular job, of course, but I wasn’t really building anything of real value. These days I feel focused on a clear goal, so it’s a lot easier.

MB: Where do you think the next big tech innovator will come from?

CG: I’m less interested in innovation and more interested in usefulness. Most of us aren’t going to make the next iPhone, but we can all make something that improves people’s lives. To me, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about.

The Kindle version of The $100 Startup is already available for sale.

 

How to Overcome Resistance: Do The Work

Do The Work – by Steven Pressfield – is short enough to finish in 2 sittings, so relevant that it gets you off your butt immediately. It is practical in a way that it changes the view of how you hold yourself back from starting. And finishing.

It is by far the most important 112 pages I’ve read in the longest time. Arguably, ever.

You will stop doing research, stop listening to your mind’s endless chattering and your family’s well-meaning distractions. You will simplify how you work, this is not a book you read and put down. Unless you are comfortable with where you are.

Yes, we all know we hold ourselves back. We know we are meant to work, but don’t. We have plans that are larger than life but procrastinate. We postpone these noble causes. That is resistance and it stops here.

This is not a book you read and go back to the proverbial “business as usual”. The resistance, also mentioned in Seth Godin’s Linchpin, will lose its hold on you. More importantly, you’ll know it for the force it truly is. One that aims to keep you chasing after mediocrity.

Speaking of Seth Godin, when a book starts with him saying “this is the author of the most important book you’ve never read”. Well….. you realize a tectonic shift occurred in the universe ‘as you know it’, the moment you made this purchase.

Steven Pressfield draws clear battle lines between where you were, and who you’ll be after your realize the  pitfalls you didn’t even know you allowed to hold you back.

WordStart is looking for a young sales rockstar

[Originally posted at WordStart]

WordStart is in search of a rockstar to join us, someone who can close deals and get large companies signing new campaigns. If Glengarry Glen Ross’s “coffee is for closers!” grabs you half as much as it does us, then you may be the person we are looking for.


About WordStart

We are a word of mouth startup, with a growing community of young upwardly mobile and savvy South Africans. We get cool brands and products talked about by influencers, through blogs and social media platforms. We also track and measure conversations for our clients.

We recently WordStarted Gareth Cliff’s book, which reached over 105 000 people through conversation and became a bestseller in 2011.

What we have

In the first year, we developed the business from an idea, to an early stage startup that is still at proof of concept. Now we are working on growth and that’s where you come in.

As part of our team you get:

  • Social media and campaign strategy.
  • Access to a network of early adopters and influencers.
  • Awesome internal campaigns that connect you with some of the coolest experiences ever.
  • Exposure through popular and industry specific platforms.
  • A constant flow of campaign ideas.

We are in search of a sales director who will be involved in early campaign ideation, setup our sales management and create new networks.

Stuff you need to know before taking the leap:

The first prize for us is the ability to learn and adapt rapidly.

  • You will facilitate access to networks, clients and agencies to collaborate with.
  • Sell campaign ideas and pitch for new business.
  • You need to think on your feet and be able to brainstorm campaign ideas.
  • Manage deal flow for new and existing campaigns.
  • You have basic social media knowledge.
  • Someone who can confidently ask for the dough.

Does this sound like sound like you, or someone you know? If so, make that call. Put that coffee down!

 

14 International Events and a Startup Exchange For Your Calendar

[Originally posted on Memeburn]

The last post I wrote featured seven, which later became nine, South African events worth attending to grow your startup. If you have started building a product or platform that you deem worthy of international exposure, which I’m sure it is, then you may want to attract the attention of investors, mentors and innovators worldwide.

Here is a list of 14 events and a startup exchange programme you may want to consider:

1. South by Southwest (SXSW)

One of the most talked about conferences is SXSW, whose focus is in music, independent films and emerging technologies. It is renowned for being one of the most viable launching pads for content that spreads and presents invaluable learning opportunities for startups.

It was held this year from March 9-18 in Austin, Texas. Register for the next one and stay informed.

2. The Next Web (TNW) Conference

The Next Web Conference brings together startups, investors, speakers, developers and even a hack battle to create an environment that puts you on an international playing field. Speakers this year include:

  • YouTube Co-founder and CEO of Delicious, Chad Hurley
  • Reddit Co-founder, Alexis Ohanian

The Next Web has 20 pre-selected startups that will launch at TNW2012: this could be you. The conference also has two Startup Rally presentation sessions, where startups get five minutes each to present.

It will be held in Amsterdam from 25-27 April and the organisers are offering discounted tickets if you book online.

3. Startup Conference

The Startup Conference provides a launching pad for startups and the first outdoor startup festival that will have a crowd of more than 2 000 entrepreneurs, investors and software developers. What could be better than launching in Silicon Valley?

If you are launching your startup, this conference also hosts a Demo Pit at its outdoor festival called Startup Village, which will have over 1 000 investors, entrepreneurs and journalists. If you are still working on your product and need to raise money, then you can enter the Elevator Pitch Competition where you stand a chance to pitch to a panel of investors.

The conference will be held on 2 May at Mountain View, California.

4. The Guardian Activate Summit

Some of the world’s most influential minds will convene in New York City on 3 May to discuss and examine the influence of web technologies. Their speakers include Executive Chairman of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman and Arianna Huffington, President and editor-in-chief at The Huffington Post.

5. TechCruch Disrupt

TechCruch Disrupt gathers some of the leading tech minds in New York, San Francisco, CA and Beijing who range from startups to coders.

This event kicks off with its popular Hackathon on Saturday 19 May running through to Sunday 20 May. May 21-23 sees this year’s first TechCrunch Disrupt New York, where the organisers also crowns the winner of the Startup Battlefield Competition.

DISRUPT San Francisco takes off from 8 to 12 September, where they host the Startup Battlefield and once again bring 500 coders to build something new.

6. Mashable Connect

Mashable connects its online community offline for the second year with its signature conference aptly called Mashable Connect. It has a wide array of speakers ranging from the Founder and CEO of Klout, Joe Fernandez to Hilary Mason the Chief Scientist of the URL shortening service Bit.ly and Mashable’s CEO & Founder, Pete Cashmore.

It will be held on May 3, 2012 – Saturday, May 5, 2012 at Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

7. TED Global

This year’s TED Global is titled “Radical Openness” and will address topics of increased openness ranging from open source to open science. TED conferences present learning and networking opportunities like none other.

The conference kicks off in Edinburgh, Scotland and runs from 25-29 June 2012.

8. 500 Startups

500 Startups is a fund for early-stage companies that provides funding from $10k to $250k through seed investment. It also has conferences throughout the year that bring together VCs, startups and advisers.

Its Demo Days stand out the most, from a startup’s perspective, and are invitation-only events. It has two coming up in July; the first in California on 17-18 July and the second in New York City on 23 July, 2012.

500 Startups is a fund for early-stage companies that provides funding from $10k to $250k through seed investment. It also has conferences throughout the year that bring together VCs, startups and advisers.

Its Demo Days stand out the most, from a startup’s perspective, and are invitation-only events. It has two coming up in July; the first in California on 17-18 July and the second in New York City on 23 July, 2012.

500 Startups is a fund for early-stage companies that provides funding from $10k to $250k through seed investment. It also has conferences throughout the year that bring together VCs, startups and advisers.

Its Demo Days stand out the most, from a startup’s perspective, and are invitation-only events. It has two coming up in July; the first in California on 17-18 July and the second in New York City on 23 July, 2012.

9. DEMO

Are you looking for a place to launch your product? DEMO is the conference you should attend, where you can also meet people who are likely to transform the tech scene as we know it. The popular CRM software Salesforce was also launched at DEMO. Will yours be next?

The next the DEMO in Silicon Valley takes place from 17-19 April followed by another from 1-3 October. It also hosts events in Asia, Brazil and China.

10. Seedcamp

Apart from being an early stage mentoring and investment program, Seedcamp also hosts events that bring together prominent entrepreneurs, investors and startups. Its events are held in New York, Berlin and Paris

Have a look at the Seedcamp calendar. Or apply to attend one by clicking on the event.

11. Wired Business Conference

Wired brings together some of the leading minds in business and tech to discuss some of the most disruptive business practices. Speakers range from Yancey Strickler, the Co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter — the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects; the New York Times bestselling author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries and Shantanu Nayarean, the CEO of Adobe.

This conference kicks off on 1 May, 2012 and offers discounted tickets until April 27. Have a look at the rest of their speakers and book your tickets.

12. Techweek Conference

The Techweek Conference takes entrepreneurs from Idea to Scale in a five day event that connects startups, VC’s, Angel Investors and has talks by some of the world’s most successful tech entrepreneurs. This conference takes place from 22-26 June in Chicago.

Within five days, you will learn how companies like Groupon, 37Signals and Threadless emerged from idea to scale. The CEO and founder of 37Signals, Jason Fried will give a keynote on new business and lean startup methods.

13. TechCity UK Entrepreneurs Festival

2011 saw the launch of the Entrepreneurs Festival in London, which was hosted during the Global Entrepreneurship week in November. It included mentorship, pitching and connected entrepreneurs with both VC’s and established business minds.

They haven’t updated their website with details for the next one yet, but keep an eye on the site and be the first to know.

14. The BarCamp Tour

 

BarCamps are community organised events where people post what they want to do a session about and attendees check what sessions they would like to participate in. The BarCamp Tour kicks off on 14 April in Florida.

If you would like to attend one, or host your own, go to this website for details and guidelines.

Startup Exchange

The Startup Exchange provides you with opportunities to test your ideas and concepts within an incubator, and gives you access to international mentors. The Startup Exchange doesn’t take any equity from your business, while giving you 2–3 months of incubation and mentorship in a foreign European country.

Visit the site for details and to apply.

What are your favourite tech conferences? Add them in the comments.

Top 5 Online Community Building Ideas For Your Small Business

Last week I wrote about 3 brands that get marketing in the age of rapid change, which got me thinking of what small businesses can do to build a tribe. Here are the Top 5 ideas that came to mind.

Create real relationships not just numbers

Having 10 000 likes on your small Facebook Page and another 10 000 followers on Twitter looks impressive, but at times that’s all it is. Only impressive.

A small engaged audience is better than a large uninterested one.

True fans

Kevin Kelly’s famous 1000 True Fans gives some great insights into how infinite niches have made it possible for creators, and in my view, what you think is your little startup to gain market breakthrough.

How many supporters, fans and truly interested supporters do you need to reach tipping point? It may be less than you think.

Be consistent

One of the pitfalls of many brands, both large and small, once they start building relationships and generating interest – they lack consistency. Create a plan of what you’ll talk about and engage your audience.

 No, it’s not all about selling and inundating your community with an endless daily pitch of why you’re awesome. They already think you are; they wouldn’t be listening if they didn’t think so.

What is your one thing? What is your product or service associated with that your audience are interested in? Lifestyle, travel and information are some ideas.

Be human

What your business does is definitely interesting, more so, to you. Would you still want to know about what you do; if you were someone else? If the answer is ‘no’, then you are more like to bore your would-be fans.

Have some personality and think about what your customers would want to talk about. You’ll very quickly find that it’s not about your business, but things that benefit them. Market your company in a way that positions you as the go to place.

Engage

If you are on Twitter, then you probably follow some of your favourite brands and some celebrities who never respond to you. Once you have created relationships, maintain them through engagement and being on the pulse of what your community wants.

What are your Top 5 audience engagement ideas?

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Image by: David Davies on Flickr

 

Avoid Crowds Altogether: Notes From Ignore Everybody

When we think of starting something, we are advised to “stand out” or “be different” but Hugh MacLeod suggests you should avoid crowds, instead of standing out from them. When Hugh MacLeod started his ‘Cartoons Drawn On The Back Of Business Cards’ project, the plan was to keep at it.

The publishing deal of Ignore Everybody followed long after he started, by then it was too late for competition to catch up. From not quitting your day job, as he didn’t, and following the dream as a side project. Hugh MacLeod gives all the ins and outs of doing your meaningful creative work and not squeezing every cent from it.

Worried about quality?

Like most of us, Hugh must have been concerned about meeting expected standards of quality and everything the new kid on the block is constantly worried about. Here is his solution for that:

A bit about culture

Whether you work in the creative industry or in accounting, there is an established culture, some unwritten laws to live by. Hugh MacLeod maintains that to get ahead of any culture, is to create it.

Ignore Everybody, released in 2009, tackles issues from suddenly being discovered to how to handle inspiration instead of for it. It’s a must-read for anyone working in the creative industry and everyone who wants to be more remarkable at they do.

How do you remain consistent at what you do and get better? Share your tips with us.

 

Inspiration is overrated: Be consistent

Many moons ago, when I started my first blog, the idea was to write about anything entrepreneurial I stumbled upon. That ranged from local innovative businesses, to starting a monthly business networking talk called the Netweb Event and later NetwebTV.

The idea behind these concepts was to work on every single one consistently whether I had earth-shattering ideas, or not. They were started as concepts that one could say were borne out of inspiration. They weren’t, in and of, themselves a guarantee that I would be inspired every week.

Simon says: Do It

Some of the top bloggers, authors, entrepreneurs, artists and speakers I follow have a simple formula and that is ‘Do It’. They all advise people to do it, and do it daily. Do it consistently.

So whether you are an entrepreneur, artist or a writer, the only way to summon more inspiration quicker is to stay on course. It seems we are all waiting for that one moment the clouds will part, and suddenly out nowhere we will take the world by storm.

Wikipedia describes inspiration as: Creative inspiration, sudden creativity when a new invention is created.

Enter consistency

The idea of doing something daily, or as often as possible, ensures that you (a) get better every time and (b) you get more innovative ideas to improve yourself at it. That enough to summon more inspiration, more often.

In my experience, you are more likely to get an earth shattering idea when you do something regularly. When I wrote daily, the ideas came more as and when I wrote more.

How do you summon inspiration? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Image by: photosteve101