bi-weekly column with timely,
relevant and possibly irreverent
insight into the BC technology
January 26th, 2007
Greenstone Venture Partners
Will You Get The Pass?
“Nobody give me trouble
‘Cause they know I got it made.
I'm bad, I'm nationwide” - ZZ Top, I’m Bad, I’m
This column’s date marks the 46th birthday of
Wayne Gretzky. For those of you Canadians looking for
another 3 day weekend in the winter, it could possibly
be a national holiday someday. Maybe we can start a web
site up and get a groundswell of support for Gretzky
Day, a long weekend in January where we celebrate all
things Wayne. The whole web thing is easy these days.
We get a little money to do an
Adwords campaign. We tag and bookmark and
religiously link to all hockey fan sites, Canadiana
blogs and search engines. Within a few weeks, we could
see thousands of visitors, get a petition signed and
voila, a late January vacation.
Hey, it almost worked for
Rory Fitzpatrick… until the NHL fixed the results of
the All-Star vote, but I digress.
Gretzky famously once said, or is alleged to have said,
“I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where
it’s going to be.” This quote has been latched onto by
many a business seminar or self-help pundit to
illustrate the need to find a unique place in the market
and/or be prepared for what will happen next. I’ll use
it today to help me illustrate where you should already
be in web marketing and brand building.
Getting a technology company started is hard. It used
to be harder. Before the Web, and even before Web 2.0,
it was extremely difficult to get your start-up noticed
in the gigantic screaming frenzy of a technology
market. Without spending many, many dollars on
semi-effective PR firms or (in extreme dotcom craziness)
on super bowl ads, your message was lost in a loud
buzzing mess. Good for you if you had only a few key
customers to reach and could target them effectively
without huge costs. But many start-ups find themselves
in the missionary position (hold on, I’ll explain…)
because of their unique product or service offering.
Educating the market is the missionary position and it
is brutally expensive… or at least it used to be.
When you have a new way of doing something, you have a
lot of explaining to do to convince customers to buy.
If you are ahead of the curve (say going to where the
puck will be), you likely have a customer base that
wants to understand how the product will help them
before they care about cost. So now we can do that a
lot cheaper. Thanks to the vastly more connected web,
we have wikis, podcasts, blogs and tagging to help
people find us and find out more about us. You have all
heard about this web 2.0 thing ad nauseum, but are you
actually applying any of it to your own business?
It seems that all things web related start out as a
consumer or individual phenomenon and then eventually
the corporations start to see how it works for them.
The first big web revelation for corporations was
selling stuff on-line. Around the same time the second
big revelation was intranets, the ability to find and
push information to your own staff and supply chain.
So, a good two years after trailblazers in the Internet
space started talking about Web 2.0, the corporate world
is catching on, slowly. As usual, the technology
companies are leading.
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have corporate blogs, but
you would expect that from the Internet related
companies. Microsoft had Richard Scoble as a very
popular blog host, but he became so popular, he left to
create his own company. I’m sure he was tired as he was
often an apologist for some of the things Microsoft was
doing or not doing. Locally, as I perused the 2007
Ready To Rocket List, I found only a few technology
companies with associated corporate blogs:
Elastic Path and of course
Sxip, with Vancouver’s own Dick Hardt. That is
surprisingly little among up and coming companies, but a
corporate blog is tough to do. It requires a lot of
time, commitment and someone that can actually write.
At a minimum, your company needs to monitor what is
being said out there in the blogosphere. While you
can’t usually get things removed, you can counter
opinions and try and get balance for potential viewers.
My favourite is employee blogs, which are much more
prevalent in technology. Watch out for what employees
are saying to the masses… it might not be all great.
Site like Alexa can tell you if the page views of a
given critical or downright libelous web site are
meaningful enough for you to respond. But remember,
even the most obscure sites can be found by searches.
Let’s get back to the effectiveness of the new web for
getting your message out there. Sxip and Elastic Path
are excellent examples of missionary work being done
using new techniques. Sxip has to educate the world
about identity management. Dick is doing his best
through innovative presentation formats and clever use
of links and tagging. It is a tough battle to win the
hearts and minds of the big Internet companies while at
the same time letting the consumer know what identity
management means to them. Today, Sxip can do this a
heck of a lot more cost effectively than even five years
ago. Elastic Path is not educating the world about
their product, per se, but is using the blog and
podcasts to educate the customer about getting more web
savvy and therefore require some of their products. By
getting retailers to adopt blogging basics, they are
indirectly looking to position their company as the
e-commerce 2.0 toolshop for their target market, the
There are some great resources out there to help you
adapt to the new web. Get your company noticed for less
money… it’s a simple value proposition and it is
Here’s some that I have noticed:
Beginner’s Guide to Digg
Make Your Content Delicious
Beginner’s Guide to Podcast Creation
13 Tips To Get Your Blog Noticed
With over 50,000 active blogs, millions of web sites and
no time for anyone to do anything, how can this way of
marketing and branding actually work? Is anyone really
reading/listening? I used to think we were creating
content for the very, very few with the explosion of
blogging and that information would coalesce around a
few mega bloggers, much the way the web 1.0 web sites
did. But the sheer volume of the crowds and the ability
to find things a lot easier than in 1999, an audience is
out there. So get going and get your customers engaged
and informed and try and be like Wayne, get to where the
puck is going.
What Do You Think? Talk Back To Brent Holliday
Something Ventured is a bi-weekly column designed
to supplement the T-Net British Columbia web site with
some timely, relevant and possibly irreverent insight
into the industry. I hope to share some of the
perspective and trends that I see in my role as a VC.
The column is always followed by feedback (if its
positive or constructive. I'll keep the flames to
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