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Equity Crowdfunding: How The New Wave of Startup Funding Works

Reward crowdfunding has seen a dramatic rise in the last decade and now, equity crowdfunding is opening up to global ownership of companies around the world Crowdsourcing is by definition the way to raise awareness, donations, or any type of source that feeds the end goal and crowdfunding is a type of crowdsourcing where financing growth is involved. Thanks to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, crowdfunding has become wildly popular in the last 10 years. However, crowdfunding has been around for centuries and we now live in an exciting period where the next wave of crowdfunding is emerging: Equity crowdfunding (EFC). Before I delve deeper into EFC, I want to share with you the story of a few crowdfunding stories that are meaningful and considerably large in scale. Let’s start with the first and possibly the most important one. Raising the Statue of Liberty as a Show of Solidarity Source: White Label Crowdfunding One of the most striking stories of crowdfunding is the first official campaign to fund the pedestals of the Statue of Liberty. By the summer of 1885, the Statue of Liberty was in New York in pieces waiting for assembly. There was a lack of funds to fund the granite plinth of the status. New York governor Grover Cleveland rejected the use of city funds, Washington couldn’t agree on a suitable funding package, and other cities such as San Francisco and Philadelphia wanted to fund the assembly with the condition that it was placed in their cities. Source: Vox Finally, Joseph Pulitzer, the renowned publisher, decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign in his newspaper, The New York World. It was a massive success. The required $100,000 was raised from 120,000 donors. It was so meaningful that the Statue of Liberty was raised by the donations of people mostly paying less than a dollar each. The Most Fortunate Crowdfunding Campaign Source: Kickstarter Oculus was an instant hit as it launched its campaign on Kickstarter raising $2.4 million and hype was so high that only 2 years later, Mark Zuckerberg made one of his casual acquisitions for $2 billion and this time, it was Oculus. Again, a company raising $2 million was valued at $2 billion in under 2 years. That’s a 100 fold appreciation in value. Most probably, Mark Zuckerberg saw the high demand and thought that VR is the near future as he decided to focus on mobile when he saw mobile was the future. This reminds me of 1984 by George Orwell. Looks futuristic and funny at the same time. Source: Forbes Then, he realized that the product isn’t that intuitive and the technology isn’t ready yet. He also admitted that he could have developed the product with the in-house team instead of spending $2 billion. What’s really amazing is that if Oculus made equity crowdfunding giving its donors certain equity for the amount they invested, then, those investors would have a 100-fold return in 2 years. The Biggest & Most Unfortunate Crowdfunding Campaign Here is the Kickstarter tagline: The COOLEST is a portable party disguised as a cooler, bringing blended drinks, music and fun to any outdoor occasion. The product was seriously “cool”, just the ideal picnic item you would want when you hang out with your friends. Coolest Cooler raised over $13 million from 62,642 donors and it ultimately went bankrupt because of a major miscalculation, logistics of a large product. The company announced that they went bankrupt as of late 2019 saying that high tariffs on China were the main reason. Interestingly, they also added the product to Amazon before they fulfill the Kickstarter orders. My Own Kickstarter Campaign Experience Back in 2015, I launched my own Kickstarter campaign with Downtown Shoes, the shoe brand of New York. The campaign was successful and I raised a modest ~$11,000. It was my design and I worked on it part-time for 1.5 years with a dream of starting a global fashion brand from New York and have lines of shoes and apparel from a variety of cities like Milano, Paris, London, Tokyo, etc working with the fashion talents over there. Overall, the campaign taught me a lot. What I realized was I needed to focus on my pre-campaign marketing and collect thousands of targeted emails from the people who are already fans of the brand. Also, super backers were definitely a very important part of the success equation. Then, as they rush into pledging to buy the shoes in the first few days to receive the early bird price, it’d create a snowball effect for the rest of the campaign and then, the press would be interested. Now, let’s move onto the main topic, Equity Crowdfunding as the new wave for the democratization of owning a share of success. The Era of Equity Crowdfunding is at Its Infancy Signed in 2012, The JOBS Act promises democratization for investment. Source: Swathmore Phoenix The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) was the inception point for Equity Crowdfunding (ECF) in the US and basically, in the world. According to JOBS, any regular American is able to invest in companies through an ECF platform. The bill passed during the Obama period in 2012, on a 73–26 vote after amending it to tighten up for investment restrictions and requiring startups to disclose financial information to investors. Then, it wasn’t until May 2016 that ECF received the blessing of the Securities and Exchange Commission and that qualified companies to launch their ECF platforms. Yes, I hear you like asking why it took one presidential term to get SEC to allow the leeway for ECF. What happened in the course of those 4 years could be the topic of another story. The total amount that can be invested through unaccredited and accredited investors is $1 million in a 12-month period and ECF needs to be through a crowdfunding platform or a broker-dealer. The citizens earning less than $100k are able to invest up to $2,000 and become a shareholder in a company. Top 3 ECF Platforms The presentation of Indiegogo ECF venture. Source: Slideshare On the very first day that the JOBS bill passed the SEC front, more than 10 platforms applauded the move and registered with FINRA, which stands for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. There are a number of criteria that a company should go through to select the right ECF for its goals. The most important criteria would of course be the total amount raised in the platform. Source: Kingscrowd As you can see from the chart above, there is a significant rise in ECF in the last 3 years especially for the top 3 players, namely, WeFunder, StartEngine, and Republic. Let’s see what makes them different which would give a way for you to analyze the ecosystem by using key criteria. 1. WeFunder. Startup capital raised (2020): $70.9M Platform Fees: 7.5% of the amount raised (best price match offer) Other Fees: none (credit card fees of 3.5% paid by investors) Referral Discounts on Fees: Yes — 10% off fees and $0 upfront (this can be $8,000+ in discounts) — Extra Due Diligence / Deal Curation: No Primary Securities: SAFE, Equity, Revenue Share Registered Broker-Dealer: No 2. StartEngine. Startup capital raised (2020): $68.6M Platform Fees: 7–12% of the amount raised; $10k service fee. Other Fees: 0.5% escrow fee Referral Discounts on Fees: Yes — up to $1,000 Extra Due Diligence / Deal Curation: No Primary Securities: Equity (Common), Convertible Notes Registered Broker-Dealer: Yes Secondary Platform: launching in Q4 2020 3. Republic Startup capital raised (2020): $37.7M Platform Fees: 6% of the amount raised, 2% of securities sold Extra Due Diligence / Deal Curation: Yes Primary Securities: Crowd SAFE Registered Broker-Dealer: No Below are the top 10 criteria that I think are keys to selecting the right ECF platform. Number of active investors Types of investors (average check size, type of deals) Funding history (of the platform itself) Number of campaigns Types of companies (niche or local offerings vs. more broadly-appealing businesses) Platform fees Discounts on fees Due Diligence process Securities offered (e.g. SAFE, Equity, etc.) Funding history (of the platform itself) Who Should Think ECF as a Viable Alternative Top Equity Crowdfunding Platforms. Source: Lab 172 There are two sides to the coin and it is no different for ECF. An unaccredited investor can now own equity in a company. That corresponds to the majority of the US. However, unaccredited investors mostly consist of amateurs who are putting their faith in the company without having extensive experience investing in companies. Accredited investors are aware of the fundamentals of a business and the numbers that really matter. I always wonder what Warren Buffett checks when he reads the financials of a company for hours before investing. Therefore, ECF involves a high-risk factor for the unaccredited investors since investing as everything else is like going to the gym and you need practice and training to be one in reality. Thanks to due diligence requirements and regulations brought by SEC and FINRA such as the ability to invest up to $2,000 if the investor earns less than $100k, the level of risk is reduced significantly. If you come to think of it, even though it involves high risk with due diligence, an investment can ideally have a 100-fold return only in a few years, which occurred in the Oculus (reward) crowdfunding campaign. That would hardly be possible with any other investment alternative. From a company point of view, when a company raises funds via ECF, it is also a viable strategy when carefully managed and executed. Like reward crowdfunding (RCF), companies are able to raise funds and at the same time, raise awareness seeing it as an alternative to PR, marketing, and social proof. Also, equity crowdfunding can be seen as a pre-IPO for companies that have just started their growth journey. Companies can raise up to $1 million from a pool of such a big population, which did not exist before. That increases their chance of growth significantly. A possible disadvantage for companies would be the dilution of their shares and established VCs could have less interest in owning shares of the company in the later stages. Final Thoughts Reward crowdfunding (RCF) platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been big hits in the last 10 years, rightfully so. The reason why RCF worked so well is mainly that it is donation-based which stimulates the senses of becoming the first to own a new and exciting product and supporting an exciting startup. Most importantly, the risk is low and even if the products aren’t delivered, the loss is mostly around a few hundred dollars at most. Equity Crowdfunding (ECF) is a totally different ball game. The risk is higher since the reward isn’t a perk or the product of the company delivered right after the campaign. The reward is the equity, which is possibly a long-term investment in the company, believing in its fundamentals and product. The pool of investors is much larger with equity crowdfunding and it brings democracy to investment, which brings the chance to raise funds for any company from the majority of the population. All in all, ECF will surely grow substantially in the coming years around the world as we can see especially from the numbers of the last 3 years. Thanks to the internet, both companies and people will become smarter in their steps towards ECF by educating themselves in time. And as there will be few bright stars among the many companies, which use the ECF for early-stage success, the popularity of the concept will highly likely soar. I would definitely recommend moving forward with ECF while taking careful and small steps educating yourself with case studies, asking knowledgeable people, watching Youtube videos, and taking small actions in the beginning because what really teaches us any game is actually playing it. Then, you will have a much more aware interaction with ECF whether you are raising funds for your company or becoming a shareholder in one of the exciting startups.

Gamification is the Marketing Gem Most Startups Don’t Explore

As an essential segment of human-centered design, gamification is the key to stand out for creating experience marketing, often for free. Airbnb is a great example of a perfect personal gamification case study. Gamification is about using psychology to achieve extraordinary results for non-game environments. As a marketing professional and design enthusiast for life, I see human-centered design as one of the central pieces of marketing. Yet, it’s only used extensively by a handful of companies and the best among them is Airbnb, the company with the concept that was once seemed impossible by the most acclaimed investors. Gamification can play a major role to boost marketing as well as almost all departments of any business if human behavior is involved. Just to boost the conversions, a company can use progress bars, invitation-only scarcity, and many more methods. You need to know human psychology and create the game for it. Gamification is one of the best art forms in marketing for companies to learn and master. As you use gamification extensively, then, it becomes your advantage over the majority of your competition. Gamification is a term coined back in 2002 by Nick Pelling. The main purpose of gamification is to combine work with fun. Gamification is also called “Human-Centered Design” by some. Nick Pelling making a presentation at the Gamification World Congress in Barcelona. Top companies such as Linkedin, Google, Disney, and Airbnb use gamification throughout their many processes. Airbnb is by far the most exemplary company out there that uses gamification extensively. The reason is that the founders themselves are designers and they considered every little detail of the user experience and it could be perfected. I have been an avid and loyal user of Airbnb both as a host and a guest since 2012. How Airbnb Gamifies User Experiences I want to focus on Airbnb as I am also extremely familiar with how it works. I stayed in so many places using Airbnb around the world. I stayed in a castle with a big gate right by the river in Verona, Italy and I partied with the locals. I stayed in Maui, Hawaii with traditional decoration experiencing the culture. I was also a host for 5 years and I had the chance to meet so many great people from around the world. Hosts become entrepreneurs or partners of Airbnb as they are able to fully customize their solutions. Source: Design Studio Airbnb is the company that uses gamification most comprehensively. It was founded by designers or design thinkers, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia and it’s clearly seen from the web and mobile experience design for both the guests and the hosts. Interestingly, contrary to the perception, Airbnb has over 1500 engineers, which may sound odd at first since it doesn’t seem to be a high technology company, however, there is so much going on in the background that creates the beautiful experience design. The Octalysis Framework is the most extensive gamification analysis tool, which is straightforward and easy to apply by breaking down the 8 main ways to gamify the process. The Octalysis Framework for Airbnb. Source: Octalysis Group Let’s look into how Airbnb approaches each. Epic Meaning It would look near to impossible if they asked anyone whether they would stay at a stranger’s place and yet, Airbnb turned this seemingly disadvantage into an advantage by expressing that we are all interesting and helpful. I have hosted hundreds of people and I have been a guest maybe a hundred times and almost all I remember is good memories; meeting new and nice people from around the world and becoming instant friends because Airbnb is staying at one person’s house and that’s intimate. This may be one of the biggest strengths of the Airbnb platform. If you have ever used Airbnb, then, you would be familiar with “Belong Anywhere” or “Live There”. This simply makes the person want to go there and be a part of the experience. It’s such a strong statement that you can compare it with the “Just Do It” of Nike. Just two words change the whole meaning of staying or booking a place into a wholesome unique experience. It’s not a place, but a unique experience like a local. Source: Linkedin Apart from the main idea, the branding also revolves around supporting locals and underserved communities through the sharing economy. Also, living life to the fullest with experiences is a major part of Airbnb branding because who would want to stay at a regular hotel which is the same everywhere instead of staying at a local’s house and sharing experiences. Accomplishment Airbnb improved its gamification in time and one of the most important values they added was adding the badge of Super Host for the hosts who perform extraordinarily. A ranking model with a certain badge showing you have been exceptional is always a good motivator that hosts want to achieve. Here, gamification becomes the competition to become the best version of yourself to achieve an exceptional goal. This is automated quality control to reach new heights. Source: Octalysis Group What I like about the entire Airbnb is that it’s designed to automate the control of all types of human behaviors. Airbnb is a big data company checking all the parameters seeing the behaviors of all users and making sense of them. Creativity Creativity is an important part of being a home or experience host. If you are a host you know that design and unique touches sell as well as the amenities and additional services. In the last few years, Airbnb created contests that stimulate creativity for home design and people all over the world saw this as an opportunity to market their home designs. An Airbnb home. Source: Love Exploring If you are an Airbnb experience host, then, you know that offering creative and unique experiences that people want to tick on their checklist is an important part of acquiring new customers. Stimulating creativity by giving certain incentives can create a company that innovation comes from the users giving them the right incentives. Ownership Airbnb creates ownership of the business for its hosts by giving them the freedom to post their homes as a side income and edit their calendars and price points while having the ability to edit the photos and description for a totally custom profile. This way, Airbnb hosts have become hospitality entrepreneurs in the best design thinking way possible. Source: Travel Weekly Social Influence By most measures, Airbnb grew through an exponentially growing community. As a community-driven business, guests gradually became hosts and the word spread extraordinarily through incentives such as sharing with friends to receive free credits. Airbnb experience is personal and creates instant trust between strangers. Source: Loop Jamaica Also, both hosts and guests are happy to meet new people from around the world and share experiences. Unlike hotels, Airbnb brings the human-centered design to the experience and this brings a value that people love to share. People share the experiences they love and creating the human-centered detailed design was key to Airbnb’s incredible growth. Scarcity The feeling of scarcity creates a sense of urgency, which stimulates the senses to move fast. Airbnb uses this in two major ways. One is saying that only a certain % of homes are available for the days and the other is saying that normally the particular home is mostly unavailable showing that it’s highly demanded. Airbnb using scarcity to add urgency This basic approach is used by many e-commerce platforms and businesses around the world. If the discount is only available for today, which is the main business model of Groupon, then, people have an urge to buy the product to not lose the opportunity. Unpredictability & Curiosity When you book a hotel room, even if it’s a great brand hotel, you know what you will experience most of the time. While Airbnb creates quality service with its rating system, it’s a fairly open platform for new experiences. I once booked a room in Istanbul because one of its photos had a disco ball in the living room. Another time, I stayed at a photographer’s studio in Milano. Airbnb opens its arms wide open for creativity. Airbnb is also about personal connection. Even if the people aren’t extroverts, they tend to be more expressive and helpful than they would normally be because guests share their experiences in the reviews. In time, as people change with habits, hosts tend to become more familiar with strangers living in their apartments. Avoidance Airbnb has one of the most effective review and rating systems that create auto-control of 2 million listings and millions of guests. Both the guests and hosts review each other evaluating the key criteria, which are cleanliness, communication, accuracy, location, check-in, and value. If you don’t keep your rating over 4 stars for an extended period of time, then, your account can be suspended any time without notice. If this doesn’t motivate the host, what does? Conclusions Overall, gamification is a truly human-centered design process. Airbnb uses it from all kinds of dimensions whether it’s boosting engagement, conversions, or auto-controlling the quality. Every company can use these methods to gamify the business, marketing, quality control, or any department for that matter using the Octalysis method to bring fun to their relationship with their customers. You can simply create multiple versions for a certain goal and then, test them with your customers and see which one is the best choice. When you implement the right gamification steps, your customers embrace your culture and you are then able to boost your business using customer-generated value. Gamification oftentimes requires deep brainstorming because there are so many parameters at play in a business, however, when you write down notes, design simple flow charts, and discuss with your team, you will eventually reach the point where your company takes a big leap having thought over human behavior deeply. Gamification is a step up in marketing and so many companies can do a lot better thinking about how to implement it creatively.

Learn the Best and Easiest Way to Mine Cryptocurrency

The Helium Network technology is an incredible technology building the People’s Network of IoT and now, 5G. You can also make up to $10,000 a month passively. Read on! Helium Network hotspots Among all the cryptocurrency technologies, the Helium network system built to create the people’s network for the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G is one of the most meaningful and robust technologies while paving the way to generating significant passive income for its miners. The Helium system basically works with the Helium network created by individuals who buy and activate their Helium hotspots. The hotspots use LoRA (longfi) technology to create a network of connections among the hotspots and internet of things, and soon, the 5G network. Learn all about Helium mining in less than two hours reading the book I just published on Kindle. You can also see the complete table of contents at the end of this story. In return, the hotspot owners are rewarded Helium coins, which they can convert into cash using their wallets and apps. Founded by the Silicon Valley veterans such as Shawn Fanning, Founder of Napster, and backed by Google Ventures, Unique Square Ventures, and many more with an investment of over $53 million, the Helium network already has a strong foundation of 42,000 Helium hotspots around the world placed by individuals like you who are generating significant passive income, as much as $10,000, from one hotspot. Helium hotspots are just like routers. They make no noise, they consume almost no energy (<$5/mo), and generate significant income for you passively. Already there are over 150,000 hotspots connecting the IoT, and soon 5G around the world Apart from being a way of generating passive income, Helium mining is also one of the best ways to enter and make an earning from the new and upcoming crypto technology — for non-technical people. If you invest in main crypto coins or altcoins in any of the crypto exchanges, your account would be exposed to daily volatility and if you are day trading, you would need to spend so much time trading to buy low and sell high while experiencing the high-stress factor. Helium hotspot looks and feels like a router with no noise and negligible energy usage However, if you invest in generating income via mining Helium, then, you just spend a minimum amount to buy the Helium hotspot, about $500, for once only, and then, as you set up your Helium hotspot as explained in this book, you will gain significant income passively without even thinking about it, while possibly extending your Helium network by placing other Helium hotspots through your friends and family. Once you read this book and apply all the key information while understanding all the key concepts, you can confidently step into Helium mining by buying one or more Helium spots. I suggest you take your time to read and digest this book. Then, you can always come back and use it as a reference. Unboxing the Helium hotspot. It takes 10 minutes to set it up. If you are into what’s interesting, new, and useful, you can sign up to Innovation Party Weekly, AwayNear weekly newsletter to receive the innovations, technologies, and discounts on our radar at the moment. About the Book: Complete Guide to Helium Mining The book is concise and includes all topics and details needed to make the most of Helium mining so that you will be able to buy one or more Helium hotspots and build your network without losing time and energy. Below is the full list of Table of Contents. Hope you will be as excited as I am about the future of the Helium Network and what it can gain you and the world as you read the book using it also as a reference. The Helium Mining Book Table of Contents The Story Behind Technology. How LoRA Works How the Helium Network Works How It All Started. How Helium Coin Rewarding Works. PoC Challenger PoC Challengee Witnesses Consensus Group Network Data Transfer The Math Behind HNT Distribution. The Current Status and Near Future of The Helium Network Helium Coin Value Growth Which Helium Hotspots to Choose Other Upcoming Helium Hotspot Providers The Criteria to Generate the Most Revenue Hotspot Density Antenna View The Antenna DBI Minimizing Cable Loss How to Buy a Hotspot using USDT Buying Bobcat miner using (or How to Set Up Your Helium Hotspot Connecting the Helium Hotspot Placement of the Hotspot How to Estimate Your Hotspot Earnings? Data transfer rewards Witness rewards Consensus rewards Challenger rewards Challenger rewards Placement Antenna view Antenna How to Turn Your Helium Coins into Cash Anywhere in the World How to Create an Ideal Network of Helium Hotspots The Exchanges to Use to Invest in Helium Coins Helium Partnerships New: Helium People’s Network for 5G Distribution Conclusion Essential Source Links References Hope you enjoy mining Helium coins passively while helping to build the People’s Network of IoT and 5G soon!

Mastering the Content Game. Designing and Automating Content Marketing

Content creates your story, brand, and identity. It’s highly achievable to break down the path to success for becoming a true “content company”. Content is King. What a concisely beautiful concept. Source: Say Daily When Bill Gates wrote one of the most famous business articles, “Content is King”, in 1996, the internet was yet to be mainstream, it was rather in its infancy. It was before social media or even Google itself. Bill Gates probably already knew that content is the real brand and story behind a company or individual. Content creates the natural story of a brand. It creates a relation with its customers and a unique identity. Especially at the beginning of the startup journey, the story of a company and how it communicates with the target audience is extremely important because most startups don’t have a high budget for push marketing via paid ads or creating their own content frequently and consistently. The best part of content marketing is it creates organic growth once the strategies and execution plan are in place. To me, it’s always great to break down the processes. This way, a complex system can be much easier to understand and it’s the same way with content marketing. You need to make a plan and strategize before you take action. Source: Accounting Web Content marketing can be broken down into two parts. Creating the content and posting inspirational content throughout the web automatically and consistently. As in anything, consistency is key for content marketing. You need to set high standards for timing so that your audience trusts you in time expecting high-quality content each time. Let’s delve into how you can create inspirational content consistently. Creating User-Generated Content We all have limited time and content takes creativity and time. So, your strategy for a growing brand can never be creating your own content if your product itself isn’t content creation. You need time to improve your product and grow your business. Therefore, your content marketing should be built by your users mainly and then, by content creators. User-generated content is key to success in content marketing. Source: Social Media Week Once you have core users, then, you can contact them and give them certain incentives such as free products or credit for their next purchase. From a company perspective, content marketing should be defined as content created by users strategized by the company. The company sets the strategies and standards, opens the playground for the users so that users can add value to the company or product they love. Users don’t necessarily create content for companies for something in return. They do it because they love the product and they identify themselves with it. Therefore, creating a great product is what makes you stand out for content marketing. You need to focus on creating a lovable product by many and build the story around it and why you are different from all other products. Content Creators can be Your Biggest Window for Growth Content creation is deep into our global culture. Thanks to the amazing power of the internet, you don’t have to own a major media company to make yourself seen by millions. Some content creators have more following than major media companies. Being a content creator is a full-time job that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Source: Talking Influence What makes content creators even more special is they build personal relations with their followers. People follow them because they identify with them and they trust their insights about what they like. Therefore, when content creators post about your product, even if your product is hardly known by anyone, you become an instant brand. How to Start Collaboration with Content Creators I have always been a believer in the practicality and benefits of content marketing. As an entrepreneur with an engineering and business background, I started more than a few companies and collaborated with content creators extensively for one of the fashion companies of mine, BagPrime, a drop shipping company I built on Shopify with over 7,000 bags and worldwide shipping. Start with creating the list of content creators. There are two ways to create a list of the best content creators for your product. Finding them using the available content creator tools or hiring a content creator expert. The best content creator tools out there are Upfluence, Brandbassador, and CreatorIQ. They have tiers of membership and they give all the hard data necessary such as followers and engagement rate (ER) and most importantly, you can search by filtering the targeted audience and location. Upfluence is one of the content creator hubs that you can use to find influencers. Source: Source Forge The path that I tend to choose for content creators is different. I hire content creator experts who are solely dedicated to working in the space. I post a job on Upwork stating the exact requirements such as how many content creators I need (mostly 100) from each social media channel (Instagram, Youtube, Facebook mostly) or type of blog. A good way to clarify your job description is to state the range of the number of followers and the engagement rate. I mostly want to work with content creators who have 10k to 100k followers because they are more eager to work with startups that are willing to compensate with discounts or free products. Also, their followers are still more engaged than the content creators with millions of followers. In the meantime, I make sure that my social media accounts look good and promising. The reason is that when I contact the content creators on Instagram for example with a direct message, the first thing they look at is my profile and if the product and profile look promising, then, they are open to collaboration. If not, they would directly ask for compensation. They also think of their own content and if my content would inspire their followers. There are more than a few strategies you can use to start your collaboration with content creators. Referral marketing. As most people name it affiliate marketing, referral marketing is an extremely effective way to create natural buzz and sales for your product. Basically, you can give a discount of 10% to the followers and content creators can also get a 10% from the sales. The percentage can always change depending on your negotiation skills and your margin. It’s always best to have high-margin products so that you can grow your business. 50% margin is a good standard for high-growth companies. Referral marketing is a win-win for content creators, followers, and your company. Source: The Shelf Giveaway. People like free stuff, games, and worthwhile and doable challenges. Plan a contest such as giving away a certain number of your products when certain actions are executed. A great example can be reposting a certain post, following your account, inviting a certain number of friends on social media to a landing page of your contest, or posting content with a certain hashtag that you created for the giveaway campaign. Users may also create their own content using the hashtag. Companies Using Content Marketing Most Brilliantly Each content-marketing smart company embraces its own strategy and builds its content around it consistently. I find 3 companies, namely, Gymshark, Tesla, and Casper, very innovative and unique with regards to their strategies and consistent execution because they know branding requires consistency with actions. Gymshark, as a fitness apparel company, is the Fitness King of Instagram. The company was founded by a teenager, Ben Francis, back in 2012. From the very beginning, they embraced Instagram and content creators as their main marketing channel. Fitness ambassadors of Gymshark created a fitness kingdom of 60 million followers. Source: Gymshark Instagram is the right platform for fitness enthusiasts and Gymshark works with content creators in 131 countries to create visual buzz. They have over 5 million followers and with the sum of the followers of their ambassadors around the world, they are able to reach 60 million people. They also integrate this marketing with offers and paid ads on Instagram so that they strengthen their presence and differentiate themselves from other brands. Their complete focus on one social media channel and interesting posts with influential content creators who are fitness creators bring them an extraordinary advantage and loyal following by millions. Tesla focuses on creating a great product and innovation. As in most other ways, the way Tesla approaches marketing is extremely innovative. Jaden on a Tesla in the air. That definitely creates a buzz. Source: Drive Tribe Tesla doesn’t have a marketing budget. Instead, they create exceptional products and keep innovating so that content creators and Tesla owners create the natural buzz for them without paying a single penny. Elon Musk actually closed both his Instagram and Facebook when he had millions of followers. Instead, he is just using Twitter to dominate the news instantly. Tesla is an outlier both with regards to its product and its CEO. Therefore, the leader becomes the content creator while content becomes the product. The interesting and innovative Tesla content is loved by content creators. Casper, as a mattress company, in addition to creating foam mattresses that are foldable and easy to transport, created a fun and interesting story about a neglected part of our lives, sleeping. When you see a Casper story, you know it’s Casper instantly. Source: Pinterest Casper’s stories are fun answering the neglected questions or making the unexpected approaches about sleep. Informing people about our relation with sleep while entertaining them. The part where Casper mastered its content marketing is blogging. Pillow Talk and Van Winkle’s blogs are complete success stories. Casper basically created all its social media content revolving around its blogs to attract its customers to the blog. Casper Pillow Talk blog traffic sources. Source: Overthink Group If customers are interested in a humorous and informative sleeping blog, then, they would naturally be interested in a Casper mattress. This idea is brilliant because they are not selling mattresses to the customers, but they become the brand, which people consider when they think of sleeping or when they need a mattress. The Final Step. Automating Content Marketing. As you create your strategy of which content platform you will focus on and how you will create the buzz, the final step is to create a constant and consistent flow of top-quality organic content. You may consider 3 platforms, namely, Buffer, Loomly, and Missinglettr, which offer similar value propositions: making your content marketing smart and scheduling them to post consistently. Buffer is basically posting on social media and scheduling made easy. You integrate your social media accounts, invite team members if necessary, upload your posts and schedule them. Buffer is easy to use and you can also invite your team members to collaborate. Source: Buffer Buffer saves plenty of time so that you are not distracted daily to create and schedule new posts. You can periodically enter your posts, ideally once a week or even once a month and then, Buffer takes care of the rest. Loomly is a more advanced social media tool that creates a complete assistant for content creation. Loomly is a great all-around content marketing tool. Source: Capterra What makes Loomly unique is that it creates recommendations for possible posts using RSS feeds and trending topics on Twitter. It’s also a great tool to collaborate with your team members and interact with your audience. Loomly even helps for post and ad design. It’s a strong tool that you can manage all your social media accounts, customize your posts and see the results of each post to analyze accordingly. Missinglettr is a relatively new social media tool and what makes it unique is that it integrates AI for social media posts while suggesting texts, images, and tags. Missinglettr has a free trial option. Source: ShoutMeLoud You are able to integrate one of your social media channels such as Medium, enter the link of the post, and then, the system automatically generates the possible posts with the images, texts, and tags. It’s easy to edit all and once you are done editing, you can schedule them to post on Twitter and Facebook. Missinglettr also has a new feature, which is branded as “curate”. Curate lets you add your content into Missinglettr and then, content creators from around the world, 24,000 to be exact, share the content of each other, that they find interesting. Takeaways Content is King and always will be because humans live with stories. As a company in the 21st century, once you find your story, it’s much easier to share and find your target audience. You just need to create the right content marketing strategy for your brand and become great at execution by finding smart solutions. In this regard, content marketing is much like SEO. It takes a little while to build, however, once you have it flowing, it may become the prime source of business if you can strategize correctly, motivate your audience to tell your story, and use the tools for automation.

No-Code Movement: A Quiet Revolution for Non-Technical Founders

If you are a design thinker with an idea for your business, no-code gives you the opportunity for advanced development that most startups haven’t explored. No-code is already well-established and waiting for its new users to explore infinite possibilities. Firstly, I love no-code and what it’s capable of for the democratization of development especially when you are non-technical, however, the name just makes it look unqualified for complicated jobs, which is untrue. To make things clear for those of you who don’t know what no-code is, the name should have been visual development or programming because that’s exactly what no-code development is. I first ran into no-code about 2 years ago and since I am a technical person in-heart without programming skills and I’d like to think that I am a design thinker since I worked in mechanical, architectural, and fashion design (I know it’s a strange combo), I became extremely excited about the concept and started making searches and spent hundreds of hours learning the programs, tools, and details that build the realm of the no-code ecosystem. No-code or low-code adds incredible productivity for a developer’s work also. What makes no-code different from WordPress or Wix is that you still build a web interface, however, developing the design visually, the system also creates the clean code in the background, which you can then transfer to any platform or if desired, a developer can add any code into it. Also, no-code development is extremely flexible. You can build incredibly modern and responsive websites with interactions or animations while controlling the CSS perfectly, which contains the design features of the interface. Flexibility isn’t only about the design, but also what you can build with no-code. You can build next-generation e-commerce sites, Uber-like mobile apps, or almost any web app you can imagine. Webflow visual development interface. Here, I will delve into all the no-code programs and tools that I use often in the last 6 months. It’s an entirely new world especially for non-technical people because now you can possibly build an online business without a line of code yourself or for a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time, and that’s true empowerment. There are so many no-code platforms out there for UI/UX design, website development, and web/mobile app development, however, I will only focus on the ones that I love the most. Let’s start with UI/UX design, continue with website platforms, and end it with web and mobile app no-code platforms. Figma is the Google of UI/UX Figma is free, based on browser, and easy to share for feedback and editing, and great for creating ultra-high-fidelity prototypes. I believe that design is the soul of a company. It’s the first impression, brand message, and identity that reveals who you are in a few seconds. Searching for the best tool to realize what I have in mind easily and intuitively, I learned about Figma and it was love at first sight. It was easy to learn with a great user interface. It has all the design tools including prototyping and it’s so much fun to explore and test. You can download it and use it on your desktop or you can use it in the browser. When you want feedback from others, you can simply share the link of your design file for them to view and comment or you can share with your teammates and they can give feedback or edit the file if you give them permission. Also, it’s totally free. You can learn Figma through a Udemy course or Youtube tutorials. As with everything, things get easier as you go through the first few weeks. As you learn the basics, it’s best to practice by checking some designs from Dribbble and Behance. This way, you can see what the best designers of the world are doing and you can try to copy their style. So many great artists started by copying masters and then, develop their own designs. My second most favorite UI/UX design software is Sketch. It has a free trial version and it offers a very similar experience with Figma, however, I find prototyping and sharing with other people and team members easier on Figma. Affinity Designer works like magic for vector design You can build incredibly advanced vector designs using Affinity Designer. This design program isn’t a part of the no-code ecosystem, however, since I am telling you about my design experience, I think Affinity Designer is a great asset for your design work for any level of expertise and you can add great value to your visual development using Affinity Designer. Affinity Designer is the vector drawing design tool that has a similar, but in my opinion, better design interface than Adobe Photoshop. You can create illustrations, logos, or any vector design in great detail. The best part is that you pay a one-time low price of $49 and it’s all yours forever whereas Adobe Photoshop works with the subscription model, which is $21/month. Webflow is the master of dynamic no-code Webflow is the best no-code platform for animations and interactions. Like many inventions, Webflow is a product of a pain point. The founders, Vlad Magdalin and Bryant Chou, and Sergey Magdalin were designers and they were looking for a way to build a website developer that doesn’t need coding while having the ability to build extremely advanced features and clean code in the background. Therefore, they founded Webflow. Webflow isn’t the most intuitive website development platform and you would need to spend some time to get a hang of it, however, once you understand how CSS, sectional distribution, and responsiveness work, your website development can really start to flow. You can create any type of website with CMS or e-commerce features from scratch or you can choose one of the many templates they offer and edit them creating layers and using the inspector. You can use the Webflow University, Youtube tutorials, or Udemy courses to learn it and Webflow gives you two free sites to edit so that you can practice, then, you would need to create a monthly subscription. Webflow has many advantages and it’s the most advanced and popular no-code web development platform out there with 200k users and it has a strong financial backing so they will keep innovating and improving their features. What I like about Webflow most is that what you can do with it is simply unlimited when it comes to web development especially with animations and interactions. However, to reach that level, you need to work hard to also become a web artist as well as a visual thinker and get to know CSS deeply because, in the end, it still has a programming language behind it. EditorX is the dream product of no-code designers EditorX gives the freedom to create advanced web development with a practical interface. EditorX is relatively new compared to Webflow and it’s the response of Wix, the $16 billion large company for advanced no-code development, to advanced web development. It’s much more intuitive compared to Webflow and you can build an amazing and complicated web platform while using the advanced CSS, layers, and inspector features all intuitively. I think that it’s a great response to Webflow and since many pain points for the technical flow have been simplified on EditorX such as creating responsiveness, margins, flexbox, grids, master sections, and so on, it’s much easier to master and focus on your end-product rather than the technicalities. I have a feeling that they analyzed Webflow deeply and how they can offer the smoothest experience to the user so that they can create the best experience for their customers using intuitive tools. The only points where I see improvements can be made are animations and interactions. They are not unlimited as in Webflow, however, that doesn’t cause a major obstacle at all. You can create an unlimited number of sites without starting to make a payment, which gives you the opportunity to improve your skills and site. You can learn it using EditorX Academy, EditorX Unstoppable sites, and Youtube tutorials. Pricing ranges from $22 – 49/month. Even the basic subscription includes a free domain for one year, a free SSL certificate, and $300 ad vouchers. I think EditorX will become a highly growing platform in the near term. It’s already a great product and having the power of Wix as the mother company, they will work on perfecting every little detail. Shopify is the ultimate e-commerce no-code platform Shopify offers well-designed templates and great marketing possibilities for e-commerce. Shopify is in totally another league if your business is e-commerce. Within 10 minutes, you can open your store using a free template, adding your products, payment information, and integrating your domain. However, Shopify isn’t for you if you want to build a custom solution yourself and it may prove costly if you want to hire a Shopify partner or a developer. The design doesn’t really have a drag & drop feature and you may feel limited when it comes to customizing your design and features. The best part of Shopify is the apps of any type whether it’s marketing or SEO. Also, customer support is second to none. You can chat with an agent within a minute and they are always happy to help. With Shopify, you can start your business the same day from $29 and it’s simply the most advanced no-code platform when it comes to e-commerce. Bubble is where advanced web and mobile apps come to life Bubble is the most advanced and established no-code platform that offers a great number of plug-ins and API possibilities. Bubble is simply the most advanced and established no-code platform for building any no-code app whether it’s web or mobile. It has 700k users and it has well-established companies among its users with over $300M investment. The interface is easy to navigate, however, it’s best if you learn about database structure before you start. When you grasp the logic of how data interacts with the platform in general, then, you can create almost any platform. If you are up to the challenge, Bubble is so advanced that you can build a Medium clone using its visual editor. It's possible to clone the Medium platform While you are developing your app using the Bubble visual editor, you can use plug-ins for new features or you can use the API of a third party to integrate their feature into your app. You can use Bubble for free and if you want to transfer it to your own domain, you’d need to upgrade to a paid plan. The learning curve of Bubble would not typically be as fast as Figma or EditorX, however, once you get a grasp of how database structure works, then, things get a lot better and you can develop almost any app including web-based advanced mobile apps. Final Words Even half a decade ago, no-code development was mostly non-existent and now, an entrepreneur or established businesses can create advanced online businesses code-free using all the platforms I have explained above and more. We can expect to see so many startups using no-code platforms increasingly in the coming years seeing that visual development is the future we experience today. If you are an absolute beginner in the no-code space, I think it’s great to start with Figma so that you can learn how to design UI/UX and create ultra-high-fidelity prototypes, then, if you are building a website, my choice of platform is EditorX since it’s incredibly intuitive and even more friendly than Webflow when it comes to creating responsiveness and animations. Webflow would be a great choice if you want to add very advanced animations and interactions and if you have a CSS background so that you can easily grasp the logic behind it. Bubble is the no-code platform that you want to use if you are building any level of web and/or mobile apps. There are also other platforms that have specialized in mobile app development such as Adalo or Glide, but since we all have limited time, why focus on one that has limited offerings? As you spend more time with the no-code technology, I am sure you will feel freer each day about turning your ideas into reality.

OKR. Arguably the Best Performance Framework to Innovate Your Company and Personal Lives

Google, one of the most innovative companies in the world, started using OKR, Objectives, and Key Results when they were only 40 people. After 23 years, they are over 70,000 people and they still innovate as if they are a startup, using the best innovation management system. You can master it as well. Human capacity is limitless. What limits our capacity is how we create and manage our goals, how we execute them, and how we manage our time. If we learn how to set truly challenging, yet achievable goals, executing a plan around them, and building the discipline to check on them regularly, we can 10x our performance, and this is what this book is about. According to John Doerr, one of the key personalities for making OKRs a global phenomenon: “Ideas are easy, execution is everything.” When I turn my eyes onto how huge companies, such as Google, works, it always amazes me how they can innovate consistently for many years when I know that most people have a hard time managing their own lives for continuous growth. The story of OKRs and how it’s just getting started. How come a company with over 70,000 employees work and achieve goals as one living organism while keeping innovative as if they are a small startup? The answer is about defining What and How clearly for each bearing in mind the end goal or vision of the company created by the executive team and taking their own role to build the system for the company to achieve that goal. I have long been saying that if Google does it, I use it. Google’s culture of simplistic sophistication is clear as you use all their services starting from the search engine to its Google Drive, Gmail, and many more services. And behind all those giant businesses within the company, lies the OKR system’s incredibly effective performance framework that is as simple and effective as the Google search home page itself, which hardly changed since 1998. OKRs work with Objectives (What?), Key Results (How?), and Initiatives (Actions taken to achieve KRs) OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. Basically, for a company, the executive team's first objectives or top priorities, which correspond to the “What” of the company, and KRs, Key Results, work as “How” of the company. Today, hundreds of top companies from all fields adopted OKRs as their performance tool to achieve their goals as an organization. Some examples include Amazon, Spotify, Linkedin, Box, Salesforce, Netflix, Twitter, Vice Media, Uber, and many more. The OKR performance framework can be used for any size company and it can also be a very effective tool for individual use. OKR makes the goal-setting and metrics to achieve those goals simply to create, check and implement by creating the individual and team discipline around the top priorities. OKRs run annually led by the top management and objectives. According to Larry Page, the co-founder and former CEO of Google, “OKRs have helped us to 10x growth, many times over. They’ve helped make our crazily bold mission of organizing the world’s information perhaps even achievable. They’ve kept me and the rest of the company on time and track when it mattered the most. This book is to gain you an understanding of how OKR works concisely so that you can also use it to boost your company’s and your own performance by 10x as many top companies and individuals have done. You can read the sample and buy the book using this Amazon link. I wrote the book to share my experience, insight, and the knowledge you need to apply it to your company and personal lives. Table of Contents OKR Story MBOs SMART KPIs The Evolution of OKRs The Anatomy of OKRs How OKR Works and Why It Became a Global Management Performance Phenomenon Objectives Key Results (KRs) Initiatives OKR Benefits Focus Establishes Indicators for Measuring Progress Creates Organizational Discipline by Alignment Builds Community and Fulfilling Experience The 4 Principles of OKRs 1- Focus and Commit to Priorities 2. Align and Connect for Teamwork 3. Track for Accountability 4.Stretch Goals. Rethinking What’s Possible How Google Perfected OKRs The Google Chrome Story The Gmail Story The Youtube Story The Top Ideation Tools to Create OKRs 1. Brainwriting vs. Brainstorming Brainwriting Steps The Top Softwares for Brainwriting 2. Design Thinking The 5 Stages of Design Thinking 1. Empathize 2. Define (The Problem) 3. Ideate 4. Prototype 5. Test How to Implement Design Thinking into Your Organization 1. Focus on the Problem. 2. Encourage Design Thinking on Your Team. 3. Encourage Rapid Failure 4. Mind Mapping How Companies 10x Their Performance via OKRs Defining the Top Objectives The Hierarchy of OKRs Setting Company OKRs Setting Team and Individual OKRs Key Characteristics of Objectives Key Characteristics of Key Results Key Characteristics of Initiatives OKR CHECKLIST General Objectives Key Results Initiatives Timeline How Grading Works How to Create a Sustainable OKR Environment How to Become an OKR Expert Individual OKR Examples Business Family Personal How to Master OKR as a Company Consistency Ambitious Feedback Loop Open Culture Free Space How to Implement CFR for Continuous Performance Management Conversations Feedback Recognition The Best Free and Paid OKR Tools / Softwares Google Docs / Google Sheets Koan Coda Weekdone Plai OKRs vs Other Top Performance Systems OKRs vs KPIs KPI Examples OKRs vs SMART OKRs vs Balanced Scorecard Top Reads Top OKR Sources OKR and Performance Related Top Books Author’s Books