Pinterest gets into the ad “Real Estate” Business

AdTech, CEO Succession, photography, PHP, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

Pinterest as we know it could be a thing of the past. Beginning January 1, 2015, Pinterest will start putting ads on its site. Real ads in the form of promoted pins. I have mixed feelings about this – I respect their right to do this and I’m happy for them to be able to get a piece of the enormous revenue stream that Google and Facebook dominate, but it will also take away the purity of Pinterest and lessen the experience a bit.

Overall, I say congratulations, you’ve earned it, Pinterest! They will now move up the food chain significantly as Fortune 500 companies can develop more formal relationships with them and build “serious” ad campaigns. All other ad industry professionals and component niches will also take a big step closer to Pinterest. This is like opening up a whole new giant beautiful piece of the web to advertisers.

But there is a cost to this for users. Pinterest is one of my favorite places to go on the Internet, one of my favorite apps. It’s an oasis in the ad strewn desert of social media. There are many indirect ads there already, especially clothing sold by affiliates, but not very intrusive to the experience.

Pinterest is a constant river of pictures, and mostly very high quality pictures, undistracted by ad text or flashing lights. It’s a respite from the rest of the web, with its rectangular boxes of advertising or the sidebar of Google ads – the high value real estate of the web that is rented to the highest bidder.

As a major fan of photography and imagery I like to go over to Pinterest to get away from all that. It’s almost like a relaxation lounge on the web. I’ve slowly built and curated my collection of pins over the past 3 years, with a bit of an eye towards social validation, but mostly to see cool photos. I’ve been pleasantly surprised thousands of times by images I’ve seen. How many products can claim that?

One of the best parts of Pinterest is that it’s participatory, a gamification of looking at photos (and memes and infographics). As you browse build and organize your collection and it shows running totals of several statistics. And there’s minimal social interaction, almost like a library where people tend to be quiet and leave each other alone. A relaxing experience. I even have a board called zen relaxation that I can go to for quiet inspiration.

Pinterest no doubt developed one of the most fascinating products of the last decade, almost as powerful as Google, facebook, and Twitter. It’s addictive, stimulating and makes you smile. Hopefully that won’t change but it could.

The best part of the product is its design. Pinterest pioneered a new type of web page, now referred by everyone as a “Pinterest style”. It’s hard to remember now, but 3 years ago it was revolutionary. That single innovation was more influential than almost anything prior on the web.

Pinterest will do this with a lot of style – use a native ad approach with the Promoted Pin, but it could change them if they’re not careful. They are playing with the big boys now. Giants corporations will have a more formal dedicated part of their ad budget and marketing team focused on Pinterest, like they do now with Google ads and Facebook. Giant corporations will want to “help” Pinterest figure out how to change. Giant corporations will want to acquire Pinterest.  Let’s hope they keep their independence as long as possible.

Billions of dollars will be diverted from other ad channels to Pinterest. It could easily tarnish the brand. The fact that they have waited this long to monetize in this way and have built such great brand equity is quite encouraging.

It will also be a great opportunity for advertisers of all sizes, even the little guys. Buying real estate on Pinterest? Awesome!

No matter what happens, I’ll always be a big Pinterest supporter (is there a name for that? Pinterevist?) I hope they don’t hire a thousand lawyers or get acquired, but I trust them to handle this change with the same style they apply to everything.

@tomnora

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Startup Workshops Update

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup CEO, Tom Nora

This group is 8 months old, 400+ members, gaining nice momentum every week. I see people connecting and getting things done and real relationships building. And I’ve met some amazing people. L.A. is a funny place but I love the startup scene here.

For 2013 I’m trying to figure out where to go next. One guiding premise of mine has been to spend minimal time on this; it’s just a meetup group, not a company.

However, it keeps growing growing on its own, and I am seeing more of what’s needed to make people in this group successful – sessions on SaaS/Cloud Computing, better software technologies, focused consulting, API training.

Thursday Night Meetup with Consulting giveaway – “How can SoCal Startups Leverage Silicon Valley success?” at ROFL. We’re giving away 2 consulting packages for 1 month. Cost is $10 plus food cost. Only a few spots left.

Next Year – Many possibilities – basic web design training, a 2 day conference in April, another 2 day conference in Hawaii in May. If you want to be involved in any of these please contact me. There’s no pay but many other benefits.

Venues – This is always a pain for organizing events. We discussed starting our own little venue company in this group. Anyone interested in this also please contact me. The critical piece, as always would be a full stack developer (see next topic).

Job Board – I come across jobseekers and jobs several times a week. Thinking about starting a very simple list of startup/tech jobs. any thoughts?

I’ll see some of you Thursday and Happy Holidays to everybody! tomnora2020 (at) gmail

 

To visit Startup Workshops, go here:
http://www.meetup.com/Startup-Workshops/

Is #NewYork the Next Startup Land of Oz?

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, photography, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

A few things have happened recently to cause me to look a little closer at NY for the next amazing companies in Internet technology. First, a friend announced that they were moving their startup geo-lo based company from L.A. to New York; Second, I caught the recent live stream of the Disrupt NYC Hackathon; Third, A New York Times article about how NYC’s “allure” is increasing.

I know, it’s a very expensive place to live and do business, lots of traffic, etc. I’ve done it before. But if a Tipping Point could be created there it could over come the costs. Here are some of the factors:

(1) Amazing Engineering Skills – Let’s just start with the big one. There is a highly under-known fact in the software engineering world – many of the best developers and architects are not in Silicon Valley, but in the New York metro area. Between AT&T, the Financial houses and all the great local engineering schools they’re not only the best but there are a lot of them. C++ and Object Oriented design were invented at AT&T, and there are many more examples. New York developers have less attitude, more performance. They’re expensive , but a very large and strong group.

(2) Long Term Scalability – See #4 below – Over time, s a comapny tries to get into a rhythm of continuous growth, they need to develop a reliable growth model. To do this you need human resources beyond techo-nerds – sales, marketing, strategy, bus dev. These people abound in New York. You also need infrastructure and friendly government. Again, New York blows California away here.

(3) Mentor Network – Retired Fortune 500 executives, Harvard/Princeton/Yale scholars, Financial Industry experts, many successful entrepreneurs.

(4) Respect for BUSINESS – Sales, Marketing, Advertising, Strategy were all practically invented in NYC.

(5) Diversified Portfolio of Industries – The best startups draw from several disparate industries around them to be able to grow and learn and diversify. New York is the Fashion, Financial, Art, … (fill in the blank) capital of the world.

(6) Spirit – Nobody has has the same type of spirit as New Yorkers; you know this if you’ve ever been there, especially if you’ve done business there. It has some kind of magic in the air.

(7) Night Life – Many budding high technology centers aren’t the best in terms of top cultural options and the best restaurants. Well, New York… no need to explain.

I could go on, but the combination above is plenty for a startup tipping point. Just watch the Disrupt videos, they’ll give you a glimpse. I’vealways loved New York and doing business there, even though I’m a born and bred Californian. Now they’re heading toward my niche, very exciting. Maybe Zuckerberg should’ve put Facebook there instead of Silicon Valley. Maybe FB stock would be going up instead of down right now.

[Facebook Stock Could Fall Twice as Far Before It Hits Bottom]

@tomnora

It’s The Profit and Growth, Stupid.

Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

I’m paraphrasing a Clinton/Carville line “It’s The Economy, Stupid” in the title above. They used this to win the 1996 election by rallying people who were tired of such a weak, debt ridden economy. Sound familiar?

The Bubble Begins To Pop

Today it was announced that Betterworks is shutting down after $10.5 million in investment and 18 months of operation. Incredible but not. Around town people have been saying that BetterWorks is one of the strongest startups in L.A. They actually threw a party a month ago “The Silicon Beach 500”, celebrating the amazing growth of local startups.

Betterworks is one of many companies these days that aren’t really companies, they’re an idea, good hype, the ability to trick the public while they’re trying to work it out (We’re doing Great, We’re killing it. We’re hiring.) and the arrogance to say we don’t need any help. I could name another 20 startup in L.A. alone that are in the same boat – they are failing and will shut down eventually, but right now are promoting the facade of success and growth when they’re not either. I won’t names names, but I see their ads on the web. “we’re growing”, “dog friendly workplace”” We Love Startups!”. What about REVENUE and GROWTH and PROFIT and PREDICTABILITY? These are the definitions of Scalability.

Currently early stage startups all want the Facebook model – L U C K. Mark Zuckerberg invented something by accident that grew so far beyond his wildest dreams that it could cover a thousand mistakes. He got funded while wearing jeans and a hoodie. But eventually Facebook had to make Revenue and Profit. Be Scalable.

Most companies aren’t like that. They require good decisions and actions DAILY for YEARS.

Betterworks actually has/had a great idea, they just didn’t quite know how to properly build a business for the long term, and refused to listen to advice. I know that’s harsh, but another few hundred companies are doing the same right now. These companies stifle innovation, not promote it and teach the wrong skils – they need to be called out.

The result will be thousands of pissed off, unemployed people sitting on the beach in Santa Monica wondering what the hell happened. After the 2000 crash Profit and Revenue came back into style, spawning and reinforcing real companies like Google and Salesforce.com which are Profitable and Grow. 2013 will repeat the cycle, so let’s all change our thinking, get back to basics, put the egos aside and respect the expertise available to us.  Contact me if you’re in this camp. @tomnora

TALK LESS! (or, the fine art of Sales)

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

The current massive movement of new startups is an awesome moment in our time. The power of the individual is unprecedented.

But one of the problems with the new would be all-functions entrepreneur is lack of training in some of the key areas of entrepreneurship – SALES skills. The technology has changed, but the art of selling and closing sales has not. Humans make decisions by being convinced by other humans, even if the convincing is implemented by automation, data mining, and semantics. Respect the human sales skills.

In most of the pitches I get from early stagers these days, they start talking and demoing and don’t know when to quit. They keep “selling” me. This one one of the most fundamental mistakes of selling. It’s much better to say as little as possible, then shut up and listen as much as possible. Pretend you’re interviewing the other person and you want them to talk. You’ll be amazed.

When I hear a pitch, I want to ask questions, probe, dig deeper into specific subjects. If someone talks too much I often forget or lose interest in my original questions. I also feel like they must be a bit desperate. The other night someone was trying to show me a demo of their mobile app in a loud bar. Since we couldn’t hear the audio, they were trying to scream the features to me. Very sad demo.

So don’t talk so much, listen more, you’ll close more sales.  @tomnora

The Art of Sales by Alec Baldwin :

http://j.mp/ILFWw3

Shout Out to Seth Levine, or the In-N-Out burger startup

Angel Investor, Business Development, early stage, Launch, photography, Revenue Growth, Scalability, Tom Nora, Uncategorized, venture

Shout Out to Seth Levine – Seth Levine’s VC Adventure – “I’m getting sick of the bull$%!^”

http://www.sethlevine.com/wp/

Seth Levine, a successful VC with the Foundry Group, wrote a great blog entry about all the hype going on currently in the startup world. Worth the read. His focus is on people bragging about how amazing they and their startup are when they usually have close to  n o t h i n g, which goes against the karma good business and screw it up for those really trying to build strong long lasting companies. If more people like Seth step up with their qualified voice, they could help save us from or lessen the big crash coming.

I’ve been harping about this a lot (too much?) for over a year:

http://j.mp/yyqNQc

http://wp.me/pKMex-1m

http://wp.me/pKMex-2e

Currently Los Angeles is in what could be a startup renaissance or an apocalypse, dependent on how long the hype goes on. Based on Seth’s article, I realize it must be happening everywhere. The signal to noise ratio continues to degrade, but it’s actually moving into the next phase. Investor groups are cutting out the management, bus dev, sales, and marketing professionals, trying to get raw, young engineering teams that have never negotiated a term sheet to give away their IP rights and equity for next to nothing.

Some of these projects will produce amazing companies. But most participants (young developers) will raise their hopes, fail and get spit back out into the cruel world within 2-3 months(!) and become a jaded unemployed 25 year old. Or realize down the road that they gave away a lot for a little. Many investors now advertise that want only developers, they will cover all business/marketing/etc. needs. Don’t put real business people on the actual team. To reuse an overused term – Wait what? They offer them zero to a few thousand dollars and office space. I call it harvesting youth.

Recently there was a developer only coding party where, in a few hours, you form a team, think of an idea, then design, develop, deploy a website. The compensation? All the alcohol you could drink and In-N-Out burgers. Now don’t get me wrong, I love In-N-Out burgers, some of the best in the world. My favorite is the Double Double animal style (see photo). But the sad thing here is that after that party many of the participants think they have a startup.

The word startup used to be about very unique technologies being deployed in very unique ways, creating new markets and capabilities in the world. Having knowledge and experience had value and a balanced team was required. Balance, humility, hard work. Facebook and Google had plenty of business people deeply involved. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg is a great salesman, and a pretty mediocre programmer. Now almost anything is a “startup”, and almost everyone is “doing” a startup. And bragging about it before it happens. We’re spreading resources over way too many businesses, knowing most have no change. I know it’s a risk game, I’ve been in it 25 years, but there should be some intelligence invested in the outset. One VC recently told me that his investors don’t care if he does no due diligence, as long as he “brings them another Facebook”.

Real startup successes are measured by growth, revenue, shareholder value, making something from nothing, ROI, longevity. Not just this weeks buzz or a $25,000 seed round. They devised with strategy, ingenuity, an ecosystem. Long term employment, new jobs.

The good news is that this hype period will end, probably soon. Then the remaining companies will be much easier to watch and enhance and benefit from.  @tomnora