Online Review Management – A Synopsis of my project with a review management startup.

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, Revenue Growth, SaaS, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

I recently completed a short term project with ReviewInc (RI), an online review management platform for businesses to mange and enhance their review process. RI is a small Los Angeles are company that’s been in business for about 3 years with a couple of major pivots under their belt.

My role was to analyze all aspects of the company and then find their unique opportunities to “take it to the next level”. It opened my eyes to the fascinating ( never thought I’d say that about reviews) details of this market segment and its ubiquity in all important Online Marketing.

RI primarily needs to accelerate revenue growth and market share in order to build new products, increase salaries to market rate and defend their position against a large number of competitors. I found several areas of excellence as well as several more that need enhancement. In the 90 period of my consulting they made many positive changes in a short time period with their minimal budget.

> The Larger Market:

The Online Review infrastructure industry is highly under exposed in the overall Internet marketing world. When most people think of reviews, they think of negative reviews people write when they’re unhappy about their service at a restaurant or tire dealership. Even expert Internet marketers are pretty unaware of the market and its details. Until recently I was fairly unaware of this market, more focused on social, dat analytics, seo, superior web development, content management and CMS design as my priorities for Online Marketing projects and conversion. But now I realize “the review piece” should be considered in any Online Marketing strategy and execution. It’s content, social, seo enhancing and is impacting a vast majority of online purchasing.

Yelp pioneered 2.0 of this industry over 10 years ago and should be given credit for that. Now the market is estimated at over $10 billion revenue per year, probably a lot more if you include all the sub-markets and service agencies using it for their business development and product lines. It’s a lot more than restaurant reviews.

Online review management systems are an established part of the web for both consumer and B2B. In the consumer markets, 86% of all customers rely on online reviews when they buy something, and 72% of all people say online reviews are their top reason for choosing a local business. For B2B, online reviews and testimonials and becoming a requirement in healthcare, automotive, government and other industries. And there’s a ton of overlap, making the line pretty fuzzy.

No matter the segment, reviews directly impact sales, market position and business health. Yelp is the giant in the industry at a $4 billion market cap, but there are over 1,000 other review companies in all segments of business and consumer markets.  Other heavy hitters are Trip Advisor, Glassdoor, Angie’s List, Edmunds.com, NewEgg.com, La Fourchette, Menu Pages, Doctor.com, Best Buy, Michelin, Cityvox Avvo, IMDB, Call a Plumber, Brad’s Deals, HotFrog Gayot.com, Rotten Tomatoes, Ripoff Report and Zagat.

It is a quickly evolving market that will continuously challenge current players, as Yelp has seen as it has lost almost 50% of its market value in the past 12 months.

> Market Segments:

Online Reviews, Review Management, Restaurant Reviews, Employer Reviews, Movie Reviews, Social Analytics, Reputation Management, Customer Service Feedback, Review Aggregation.

> Company Summary:

Saas Product launched, several Fortune 1000 customers, currently growing. Self funded to date, 10-20 employees.

> The Bottom Line:

ReviewInc. is doing a lot of things right in product innovation R&D efficiency and anticipating user needs. They will have to continue to innovate and adapt to the market and win big deals to grow to a sufficient size to be a factor in this market; they have many direct competitors. They need to be sufficiently afraid of this ruthless market and use it for motivation. As Andy Grove says “Only the paranoid survive.”

If RI wants to grow faster they will need to take the company through the chasm and make critical changes to their management team, product line and UX. Not all companies want this; they would prefer to fly under the radar, so 2015 will determine which path RI takes.

“Creativity takes courage.” Learning from Matisse

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

“Creativity takes courage.” –Henri Matisse

This is one of my favorite quotes about innovation, by an innovator who is still revered 100 years later; it’s the first thing you’ll see if you go to my personal website http://tomnora.com/ . Matisse was an amazing innovator, and his innovation and originality

Innovation, Originality, Creativity – why are these things so important in the tech startup world? And what do they have to do with art or painting?

I have the opportunity to visit many secondary and tertiary startup markets in my travels, meaning not Silicon Valley or New York, and one of the things that always strikes me is the lack of originality in almost every company pitch I see or hear.

I can see that the entrepreneurs I meet are sincere, have usually put a ton of work and pride ion their invention or product. Often they have put a fair amount of personal or family capital into the venture (these days that’s usually their parents money).

The major flaws in their planning process are denial and ego fortification – they don’t do enough homework to see how many are already doing something similar because they don’t really want to know; and they highly overrate themselves as amazing entrepreneurs.  This is a bad combination for success, but I see it daily.

I get it; I know it’s more difficult than ever to build a real career and easier than ever to start a company. But the very core of creating an interesting and new business should be the concept of originality. Some originality, enough to be different, unique, without being too weird.

Real originality comes from within, because it is inspired, comes from adrenaline and emotion, not from a spreadsheet or desire to merely make money. Finding the mid point between originality and capitalism is what I define as business innovation.

There’s nothing new under the sun, so you must critically modify, hack, or turn sideways existing systems with a truly new vision. Instead of just copying or slightly modifying something you see, try to take it a few steps further.

One of the quite innovative methods Matisse and his peers used was finding inspiration from other skills they already knew, leveraging their expertise as craftsmen. Matisse was a draftsman, a printmaker and a sculptor, and you can see these influences in his paintings.

Part of the magic of great business innovations is knowing which rules to break. Matisse broke some of the rules, but kept many intact. The rules about the way business processes flow are too often just accepted, but if you can analyze them, find an achilles heel, then innovate a better answer. Get rid of the obsolete rules without breaking the good ones, and great things will happen. It’s about where to hack and where not to.

I went to a pitch fest in one of those secondary markets the other day. Most of the presentations were weak delivery, boring, been done before and uninspiring. But there was one that was pretty amazing, by an 18 year old who had become deaf at 12. He has developed an exercise system for handicapped people; you tell by his excitement and thought process that he was inspired, and created true innovation. He wasn’t polluted by how corporations work or the rules of business – he was still in high school.

Another Matisse quote is There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Look carefully, take the extra time and find the uniqueness in any idea you want to realize – it’s there.  Find me on twitter at @tomnora

 

5Q03: Puneet Agarwal (True Ventures) on pitching investors, maker culture, and big trends he’s watching. — The Orchestrate.io Blog

Angel Investor, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, PHP, SaaS, Scalability, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

http://t.co/LkQ7kDluf0

via 5Q03: Puneet Agarwal (True Ventures) on pitching investors, maker culture, and big trends he\’s watching. — The Orchestrate.io Blog.

via 5Q03: Puneet Agarwal (True Ventures) on pitching investors, maker culture, and big trends he’s watching. — The Orchestrate.io Blog.

“Recommendation Swapping” on Linkedin

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

153411951-art-addiction-typewriter-center
This has organically happened a couple of times for me – someone I’ve worked with in the past asks me to write them a recommendation and then spontaneously returns the favor. It’s a very cool gesture and it reinforces the relationship for the future.

Below is an example for a startup entrepreneur I just went through a short mentoring process with, Greg Weinstein. Greg will do very well with his company, I could’ve written a lot more about his attributes.

I recommend (get it?) you try this – swap a recommendation with close present or past colleagues; it will enhance both of your social business circles and create new connections.

It’s hard to derive extra value on linkedin, rise above the fray – this will help you do it.

#networking #linkedin #social_marketing

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Gregory A Weinstein has recommended you on LinkedIn

Gregory A Weinstein
Gregory A Weinstein Founder and CEO, One Fulfilling Life
To: Tom Nora
Date: August 22, 2013
Gregory A Weinstein has recommended your work as Founder, Marketing, Community Development at Startup Workshops.

Dear Tom,
I’ve written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users.

Details of the Recommendation: “During the early and critical stages of the conception and start up of One Fulfilling Life, Tom provided us with thoughtful, wise and nurturing insight and guidance. He was our “Board of Directors” and the fit seemed very natural and intuitive.

It was an awesome opportunity and I relish the experience. His guidance saved us a lot of time and money and more importantly kept our momentum moving forward in the face of what could have been crippling obstacles. If your a tech start up and especially if this is your first business venture Tom’s your man. Catch him if you can!!!!!

Thanks Tom”
Service Category: Business Consultant
Year first hired: 2013
Top Qualities: Expert, Praxis High Integrity Systems

Recent Interview for Workbridge

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

After a recent speech I gave for startups, I was interviewed by Jennifer DesRosiers (love that name!) about tech startups. Here are my answers…

When did you first discover your love of technology?

>> When I was a 11 my brother built a homemade crystal radio. It was fascinating to see him assemble these inert parts and then hear sound come out. From then on I was hooked on technology and electronics.

What is your favorite part of your job?

>> The unknown factor, the challenge to create the future and make something grow from nothing.

What sparked the idea for NeoRay?

>> The original idea for me came from seeing people use their cellphones to buy from vending machines in Japan. Simultaneously Alessio watched his father create a PayPal competitor and he wanted to make something more futuristic for mobile payments; he then saw a WIRED article “Kill The Password!”. We compared notes and decided the timing was right for mobile payments without passwords leveraging advances in biometrics..

What in your opinion is the next big thing in technology?

>> The 15 Minute Website and Personal Website “Portfolios” – soon anyone will be able to build multiple personal sites with full e-commerce, payment systems, community, social networking, SEO, and big data analytics with no coding and very easy manipulation. Currently there is a barrier to this – you must know some coding to optimize this and it’s difficult to manage multiple sites. People and companies will have a portfolio of websites and not even think about it.. Most of the tools already exist but need a lot of refinement; it will take another 2-5 years.

What excites/interests you most about tech startups and what makes them successful?

>> The Scalability challenge. Much of my career has been dedicated to trying to create the alchemy of continuously growing a company. The progress of E-Commerce, HTML5, CSS3, PHP and Javascript have made it so any startup idea, tech or non-tech, can become reality with very little money or work. The difficult step has shifted from launch to revenues, scalability, growth.
This is exciting because it allows so many people to give it a try which equals more great ideas coming to light, but still requires a great idea and great execution to have larger success and growth. Pretty soon the most important people at startups will shift back from developers to those that can create and sustain growth.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself (If You’re Trying to Convince The World That You Have a Hot Startup)

Angel Investor, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Launch, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, Uncategorized

1. What are people doing now because your product doesn’t exist, what is the pain you will solve?

2. What is it that you know about your specific niche that other companies do not?

3. How and when does this make revenue and profits? What is the growth graph?

@tomnora

LinkedIn Recommendations and Endorsements

Angel Investor, Business Development, photography, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup CEO, Tom Nora

Yesterday I was checking my LinkedIn and ran across an old colleague/friends bio – Teo Yatman. It made me decide to spontaneously write an unsolicited recommendation for him (see below). I’ve only written recommendations on request in the past so this felt really fun, and a little strange to do.

I think the LinkedIn one-click endorsements are awesome, one of the best social media tools in a long time – they are so easy to do and eventually you crowd-vote someones list of skills, so it’s pretty accurate in most cases.

But the recommendations are still valuable – I recommend (no pun intended) that you try this – write a spontaneous recommendation for someone you’re linked to from your past. It will surprise them and cause good will.

Here’s the exchange between Teo and me…
LINKEDIN RECOMMENDATIONS
Tom Nora has recommended your work as Silicon Valley Sales and Sales Management at Mentor Graphics.

Dear Teo,
I’ve written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users.

Details of the Recommendation: “Teo and I worked together for a brief time in Silicon Valley in 1987-88 and I’ve told this story many times over the past 20+ years:

I was managing a few account managers at Mentor Graphics, a fast growing high flyer in the EDA/CAE industry, we were #1 against several tough competitors – Daisy, Valid, the brand new Cadence, etc.

The problem was that in Silicon Valley we were losing to local favorites. In the middle of all this, Teo was amazing to watch – he exceeded his quotas every month and could predict almost to the dollar how much he would sell every month. Nobody else, including me, could even come close, or would want to make that commitment. He would get in his car and drive away then come back with a p.o. time after time. I still don’t know how he did it.

I learned a lot watching his positive disposition and his confidence – he always had a big smile. I haven’t seen Teo in over 20 years, but I’ve thought of him often when I lose confidence about closing a deal – “What would Teo do?” And usually it works! Thanks, Teo.”

Response from TEO:
Hi Tom!
Thanks so much for an awesome recommendation! I was surprised and amazed when I saw this. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you in any way. I honestly enjoyed working with you back in the day. Hope you and your family are doing well. Do you live in SoCal? If I head down that way I’d love to connect with you – maybe a lunch in honor of the good ole days!
Heartfelt thanks!
Teo
@tomnora
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How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume Into A Cash Machine – Forbes

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

Great CEO Succession story.

Sales Driven company – finally!

 

How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume Into A Cash Machine – Forbes.

via How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume Into A Cash Machine – Forbes.

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