Posts for Startup Advice Category

The Open Circles of Great Startup Communities

blog, Startup Advice - Monique Woodard

Innovation Month startup crawl at

People like Brad Feld have done a lot of writing on startup communities and what makes strong entrepreneurial ecosystems unique. Some of it is tangible — great engineering schools (Stanford), tech success stories (Google/Apple/Facebook), access to angel/venture capital (pick one) — but there are other factors that are much less obvious.

I’ve been to startup events in lots of different cities and when I’m in Silicon Valley, I notice something special that happens.

You’re standing in a circle at a party talking to a bunch of people, someone new approaches the edge of the circle, and we naturally opened up to let them join in. It doesn’t matter who the person is. They could be a software engineer, entrepreneur, or an accountant. It doesn’t matter if that person obviously has something they could give you or if you have absolutely nothing to gain from them. The circle always opens.

There are a few other entrepreneur communities that share this kind of openness. Boulder has it. Austin seems to have it.

I’ve been in other places where the circle didn’t open. I walked up to the edge and the circle stayed closed.

Every time it happens, I notice it and every time it doesn’t happen, I notice it too.

This kind of hyper-inclusiveness is one of the things that sets Silicon Valley apart from anywhere else. I write entrepreneur fan mail all the time and 90% of the time, those random emails to entrepreneurs I admire end up in coffee meetings, shared meals, and advice. That’s the power of Silicon Valley. It’s dumb easy to get smart people to talk to you.

Cities all over the world are working to build startup communities and thinking about how they can cultivate a vibrant startup culture in their region. Government initiatives and grassroots efforts have all converged to try to replicate what works in Silicon Valley.

Entrepreneur communities outside of Silicon Valley don’t need to mimic what’s happening here. You’ve got unique values of your own. But if there’s one thing you can learn from 50 years of Silicon Valley innovation cultivation, it is to make your circles as open as possible.

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What Happens When Your App Gets Featured on a National Morning Show…and it Doesn’t Work

blog, Startup Advice - Monique Woodard

Speak Chic video feature


Short answer: downloads will still go up.

Last week, Speak Chic was featured as the “App of the Week” on Sunrise on Channel 7. Sunrise is known as “Australia’s number one breakfast show” and the piece ran during Mercedes-Benz Australian Fashion Week.

This was also the first piece of live TV for the app, so it was kind of a big deal.

During the product demo, co-host Samantha Armytage forgot to un-mute the volume on her iPad…and hilarity ensued.

How do I know it was the volume? Because it’s the #1 customer support request that I answer from Speak Chic users.

The good part of is that her snafu made for really funny and engaging television. The bad part…it was at the expense of the app and potential users who might think that the app might not work properly.

But let’s look at the numbers:

Speak Chic was on screen for 2.5 minutes. That’s 2.5 minutes of free, uninterrupted coverage on a national television show.

The early morning weekend show drew ratings of about 319,000 viewers in real-time (source: TV Tonight) and the clip was also posted to Yahoo! 7 TV with an estimated 50K uniques per day. On that single day, the app was seen by 369,000 potential viewers, but having the clip archived online forever is going to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Yahoo!7 TV reach


  • 34% increase in new users from Australia
  • Australian users overtook users from other countries by about 15:1
  • More than 54% of Australian users had a session with the app within the last 7 days

I also saw a jump in the number of unsolicited media placements.
Do I wonder what the results would have been if the app had actually worked? Sure, but even with a major clusterf*ck on live TV, downloads remain strong and I’m continuing to see a significant number of new users come from Australia.

All press really is good press.

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Why Startup Founders Should Blog (Even if They Don’t Have the Time)

blog, Startup Advice - Monique Woodard

Why Startup Founders Should Blog

The life of a startup founder: a seemingly never ending cycle of testing, pivoting, presenting, and tapdancing for money.

In between all of that, how does a person find time for anything else? One of the things you should make time for is a blog. A founder’s blog can help streamline the thought process around your business and open the door for potential investments and opportunities.

So yeah, in addition to all the other stuff you’re doing, I’m telling you: you should totally blog, man. Here’s why:

You define who you are as an entrepreneur

Venture capital firms invest in people. The more VCs know about you and your point of view, the more attractive your startup starts to look.

Use your blog to expose the strengths of your team and develop thought leadership around the elements of the business you’re particularly good at. The more VCs become invested in your story, the easier the funding road will be.

It’s cheap PR for your startup

You should be thinking about PR even before it’s time for your write-up in TechCrunch or Mashable. Use your blog to talk about your startup, generate some early buzz, and position your brand.

As a founder, your blog is a launchpad for the types of conversations you want to see around your business. Let the “voice” of your startup brand trickle from the top down — from the founder blog to your website to your marketing and PR strategy.

It exposes you to new opportunities

Startup execs love to do things in secrecy. We’re all about stealth, super-stealth, private beta, and light launches. But at some point, you have to come out of the closet (queue Diana Ross).

Coming out of the closet in a very public forum can present a wealth of new relationships and opportunities. Mine those connections for joint venture deals, investment leads, and advice.

It lets your peers provide solutions

Blogging as a startup founder is a lot like a group therapy session (Hello, my name is Monique and I have issues with user adoption). Working through some of your problems in public allows you to benefit from the experience of the crowd.

Some of your readers will have enough experience and be far enough away from the problem to see it in a different light and give you some insight.

Yes, blogging is time intensive and as a startup founder, you’ve already got a full plate just trying to run your company. But start thinking of your blog as another tool to support your business. A founder’s blog is a PR tool, an investment driver, and an advisory board all in one.

If you’re ready to get started blogging, here are a few startup founders to follow: Neil Patel (KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg), Caterina Fake (Hunch, Flickr), Kevin Rose (Digg)

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Jay-Z and Warren Buffett on ‘Luck’

blog, Startup Advice - Monique Woodard

Warren Buffett and Jay-Z might seem like an unlikely duo, but the two sat down with Steve Forbes to talk about something they both have in common: success.

Billionaire Warren Buffett is unarguably the most savvy investor of all time and with a net worth of $450 million, Jay-Z has been called the greatest rapper of all time and most successful entertainer/entrepreneur of our day.

I particularly liked this part of the interview where they talk about ‘luck’. For Warren Buffett, his bit of luck was being born in the right place at the right time in history and in the case of Jay-Z, it was not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Finding success as an entrepreneur is often about luck: luck in meeting the person who gets you in front of the right VC who will eventually invest in your company, luck in having your product chosen for a feature on a national news program, even building the right team is equal parts luck and science.

I love both Warren Buffett and Jay-Z and for any entrepreneur or hustler, their entire 52-minute interview together is a must-see.

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