Or Not. But now that we have your attention…
In the middle of Mind Mapping, recalibrating 2011 plans for World Internet Marketing Domination, and taking stock of what we’ve got to work with here at HQ, we stumbled upon the remarks from a speech we gave in 2008.
We went there with two missions: (1) share valuable information (we were speaking at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization at their global conference) and (2) don’t use PowerPoint.
So we went up there with one page of information – and, believe it or not, we kept that page of information on the Internet for the past 2-plus years. We’re crazy like that.
Let’s dissect the notes, shall we?
Dave Van de Walle | President & CEO | uSphere.com
Web 2.0, the groundswell, and how you’re gonna make millions*
The asterisk was explained as “millions not guaranteed.” In fact, at the time, U Sphere was making a tiny amount of scratch, and we had started to focus all of our efforts on Area 224.
We had also JUST seen a joint venture with another company in our space — “eHarmony meets Lending Tree for college admissions” was where we operated — fall apart as only really bad breakups can.
used to be a corporate pr guy | didn’t really like pr | either get an MBA or build a business | spent time at Syracuse and Chicago State
Here was the setup: who was this guy and what qualified him to get up here and speak? Great question, and one that, IMHO, a lot of conference organizers get wrong.
[Not for the “social proof” thing; we could talk about that for hours, as I think it’s vital these days, especially with all the blow-hards out there.]
This is already telling me, within the first couple of minutes, that this guy’s story is, at the very least, interesting. Dare I say this is the “whipsaw effect” that a lot of people miss when planning their conference speaker roster.
The whipsaw effect. What would prompt a guy to leave a cushy PR job to go into college admissions? (Honestly: I’m much more interested in a counter-intuitive presentation, speech, speaker or whatever. See UnMarketing for an example. Market yourself by NOT marketing yourself. Sign me up!)
bootstrapped the business from its inception in 2005 | we’re still at it | cross between eHarmony and LendingTree and Facebook for college admissions | goal is student traffic, parent traffic, college admissions people traffic | the brand is out of your hands | be prepared to embrace that fact or get the heck out
Foreshadowing. Since I’m older and wiser now, I realized I was tipping my hand to my own future direction. First up, we had changed our own “brand promise” or “value proposition” or “tagline.” We were now “eHarmony and Lending tree and Facebook for college admissions.” We use the word “traffic” three times. AND, we started to beat the “brand is out of your hands” drum for the first time.
What we did right:
not collegesphere, it’s uSphere: international focus, not just USA | outsourced virtually everything | virtual business | ad networks | affiliate networks | dialogue is part of the brand | oh yeah we actually have a brand
Somewhat self-explanatory. While we didn’t make tons of dough at it, we do credit ourselves with making some noise.
What we didn’t do right:
kids don’t buy stuff, parents buy stuff | wasted too much time figuring out pricing of student stuff | didn’t go after parents early enough
We could write a book on this section. Proving the adage that you’ll learn much more from failure than success.
Advice, for what it’s worth:
think long and hard before raising money | if it smells bad, it’s bad | if it looks bad, it’s bad | if they won’t tell you what they’re up to, it’s bad | partner first | talk to everyone | “A Team & B Idea”
More book-worthy material. We had been through so many Investor Meetings and Investor Presentations and Bad Meetings With Shady Characters that we learned so so much from.
That last line comes, indirectly, from a gentleman who is a legend in Chicago Angel Investment circles. “I’d rather invest in an ‘A’ team with a ‘B’ idea than a ‘B’ team with an ‘A’ idea.”
(One guy does not an A team make.)
Terms Dave needs to teach you:
bootstrap | monetize | backchannel | NDA | Grade A | industrial strength
What’s missing? “Engagement.” “Social Strategy.”
(The last two? Let’s just say the first one precedes an NSFW-ish word that gets used an awful lot lately. The second one preceds an NSFW word that a certain book’s title tells you not to hire.)
About the groundswell:
read the book! | seriously, go buy it right now | go to groundswell.forrester.com and you can get all the info that you need about the groundswell | I cannot overstate the importance of getting this book | POST: people, objective, strategy, technology
You can tell I really liked the book. I still do like the book. POST is probably the number one acronym in all of social media campaign planning.
Sites I love, tools I use, people to Google:
Google | pandora | realclearpolitics | uSphere | techcrunch | crunchbase | churchrelevance | Edward Tufte | grubhub | sugar (open source CRM) | ning | elgg | Area 224 | UniversityCMO | twitter (usphere) | facebook | go read the 4-hour workweek
A couple notes here: Grubhub had suggested us to the organizers – but we had also used the service, too. And Edward Tufte is considered to be the “DaVinci of Data.”
you can contact me at dave @ usphere.com or connect with me on facebook
What did we learn?
Well, a few things. First of all, stick around afterwards. People love to talk to the speaker. We made some connections that stick with us now.
Also, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. In this case, this was us at possibly the most vulnerable moment: a company at a crossroads and a guy telling the audience, honestly, what went wrong.
Finally, and this is key: if you plan to speak from slides, what happens when they can’t get the laptop hooked up?
Here’s the speech, BTW: