Who’s Behind the #ארץחדשה Online Campaign? A No-Nonsense Web Marketer, That’s Who.
If you’re an Israeli, the odds are very low you haven’t heard of #ארץחדשה. The question isn’t really whether you have, rather **why** you’ve heard of them.
See, it’s a very interesting case of a party that has taken upon itself to lay down the very gory details of how the citizens of Israel have been abused by the connection between wealth & governance.
No feather has been left unruffled.
For me, there are two interesting aspects to #ארץחדשה’s campaign:
The first, it seems to be full of truth. The fact that not a single libel lawsuit has been filed against the party, or its two leaders, is proof of that. That’s scary within itself.
The second, #ארץחדשה’s campaign signifies a watershed moment in Israeli politics. It’s the first campaign who’s core is online.
Sure, the videos #ארץחדשהhas put out have had a natural viral coefficient. But that’s not what I mean. The interesting story is that much like the Obama/Biden 2012 online campaign was run like an online business (must read), so has this campaign.
Instead of hipsters with funky beards, the #ארץחדשה campaign has been run by this guy.
Itay is quite the character, but more more importantly, has significant web marketing experience under his belt (performance, mailers, you name it). He delivers traction to startups that seek distribution. Read this as ‘he knows how to move traffic’.
And that’s the interesting story for me… You have a web marketer not pushing downloads, but a political party that is blacklisted from getting mainstream media exposure.
The real reason why you’ve been hearing more about #ארץחדשה these past two weeks is not associated to a ‘fluke’. There was deliberate, professional, online maneuvering behind it.
If you’re running a startup, you should been taking stock of this tale right about now… The odds are stacked against you, of that there is no question. What is however, is what web marketer is in your corner making all the right moves?
And now, back to out regularly scheduled programming.
Disrupt SF to Feature Both Israeli AND Brazilian Pavilions!
The upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco will not only feature the third Israeli Pavilion, it will also have an inaugural Brazilian Pavilion… This is fantastic news for the Brazilian startup community!
A bit of background: Back at Disrupt San Francisco in 2011 no less than 20 early-stage Israeli startups flew-in from Israel to demo and network themselves to the bone for three non-stop days in an area of the conference hall we called the ‘Israeli Pavilion’.
The inaugural Pavilion was such a success, we decided to have another one at the past Disrupt in NYC. Yet another 20 Israeli startups participated and it was a huge success.
Considering Initial Capital’s activity in Brazil I brought up the idea of having a Brazilian Pavilion at the next Disrupt and there was immediate support for it at TechCrunch.
What exactly are the Pavilions?
They’re basically extensions of the Startup Alley that include:
- A cocktail table for the entire duration of the event.
- Two tickets for the entire duration of the event.
You get all this for $1000. Killer, unbeatable price!
Note that only startups with less than $2M in funding and are less than two years old are eligible to participate. Also, Pavilion startups are not eligible to be voted for as the daily ‘Crowd Favorite’ (that goes up to present on the Battlefield stage).
If you are interested in sponsoring either Pavilion or have any questions about participation, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Israeli Pavilion at TechCrunch Disrupt is On!
Great news! The previous TechCrunch Disrupt featured an Israeli Pavilion. No less than twenty Israeli startups flew in to San Francisco to demo and network their asses off. And boy did they.
In fact, it was such a success, that we’re going to repeat it again for Disrupt NYC, taking place May 21-23.
Here are the details I was able to arrange for this special package:
- Cocktail table for the entire duration of the event.
- Two tickets for the entire duration of the event.
- Cost: $1000.
Considering Debuting at Disrupt? Talk To Me Pronto.
The most important event for Israeli startups is locked & loaded… TechCrunch Disrupt NYC has been officially announced to take place May 19-23!
As with every Disrupt, I’ll devote some of my time to help Israeli startups with tips and best-practices for making the best possible impression when applying for the Battlefield.
If you are considering applying, do yourself a favor and contact me at: email@example.com
Here’s to another Israeli Disrupt winner!
CodeBlue - The Israeli Hacker Academy
Hackers. The topic I have a conversation about at every industry event I attend. It’s always same conversation. And it’s been going on for at least three years. Hackers.
Or rather, the lack of hackers in the local market.
Put simply, our Startup Nation has been heading down a dangerous path for too long. There is just a crippling lack of hackers. By this I mean modern-day developers with not one, but an array of programming languages on their tool-belts. Developers that are versatile and capable of developing full-blown products on their couch, or at a bootstrap startup.
Nine months ago I grew tired of having the same old conversation, watching nodding agreement, and seeing nothing happen about it. So I started pushing a flake of snow down a hill. That flake snowballed.
Today I am ecstatic to announce the founding and launch of ‘CodeBlue’, a non-profit hacker academy where developers will be taught languages such as PHP, iOS, Android, Ruby, and more.
The idea is to teach classes upon classes of existing developers new skill-sets. Then we’re going to expand it to teenagers. Then we’re going to expand it to professional training from scratch.
CodeBlue was founded to be as frictionless as possible by having the courses be dirt-cheap. As in 750nis for 48-hour courses, making it a no-brainer to jump-in and enroll in them.
CodeBlue was not easy to get off the ground and some ‘thank you’s’ are in order:
First and foremost to Daniel Recanati was absolutely pivotal in the formation of CodeBlue. Not only was he instrumental in the structuring of CodeBlue as a non-profit, self-sufficient program, but his family’s philanthropic arm, the Yahel Foundation, provided the capital to get CodeBlue off the ground.
Second to thank is AppleSeeds, a fantastic and professionally run non-profit organization that embraced CodeBlue and will be managing its day-to-day operation. Eran Raviv played a key role in realizing CodeBlue and will be heading the program internally.
Third to thank is Zeev Suraski, one of the co-founders of PHP. With Zeev’s gracious help, CodeBlue was able to receive Zend’s official Education curriculum, completely free of charge.
Finally, special thanks to Yotam Troim for CodeBlue’s logo.
And now, let’s hack Israel.
I know Everything. Or Nothing. Good Luck.
One thing I should have stated when I re-booted my blog a couple of months ago is that I’m full of sh*t. Or not. Or both. Whichever, it’s your problem to figure out when applicable to your own personal situation. I’ll explain:
I’ve only been a professional investor for 7 months or so. The subjects I write about, as well as the tips and suggestions I make, are based on my own personal (limited) experience.
I try to write about matters I know will be of value to entrepreneurs and startup folks in general. While my experience may be limited in certain subject areas, I’m not exactly new to this industry and a fair share of early stage startups have come across my desk, particularly since I began writing for TechCrunch four and a half years ago.
Certainly the voice is my own, however, I can assure you that many investors share the same viewpoint as I on the subjects I write about. Of course, they can be wrong too.
As an entrepreneurs, it’s up to you to figure out what and how much applies to your own personal situations. Good luck with that. I mean that sincerely.
It’s NOT All About the UX. Except It’s ALL About the UX.
Recently one of my partners received an email from an entrepreneur saying he chose to reach out to him because, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘Roi puts too much emphasis on assessing companies based on the UX’.
So first off, that’s factually incorrect. Second off, that’s absolutely right. Allow me to explain:
At Initial Capital, the first paramater we look at in order to assess any venture that comes our way is whether it has a ‘concrete business model’.
We ask ourselves a few questions to figure this out: Is there a way to charge for the product or service? Can this be done simply? Can a compelling business be built on top of said model?
Good example: Offer a service » Charge a monthly subscription service.
Bad example: Anything that is more complicated than that.
But as I personally assess decks (which I prefer) and executive summaries (which I loathe and ask not be sent to me), I begin analyzing the user experience.
See, it’s all about user experience. From communication, to logos, to sites, to GUI, to t-shirts, to everything in between. If you think that UX refers to graphical design alone, you’re way, way off.
Any entrepreneur that doesn’t understand this can take this post as a rude wake-up call, because honestly speaking, they’re in deep dudu if not.
Code cannot come before UX. Design the experience before you code it. Art takes time and has to be at the core of your product/service. If you don’t have a designer as one of your first three team members, well, in my humble opinion, you’re already in trouble.
To illustrate… Here are some details I assess when **every** new venture comes my way: Email structure, word choice, the signature, the amount of deck slides, the weight of the presentation, whether the dollar sign is placed before or after the amount, the choice of stock photography, whether MS Clipart was used, the thickness of the business card, the choice of typography, even the entrepreneur’s choice of laptop and phone.
All of these go to the heart of our assessment the product/service, the team and the venture as a whole.
You must be thinking to yourself ‘this is true only for consumer plays, right?’ Wrong. Hella-wrong. We at Initial look at b2b plays more often than consumer ones and these don’t get any discounts when it comes to our UX assessment. If this doesn’t make sense to you, read the Facebook Imperative.
If you’re aiming lower than this, or think UX isn’t intrinsic to your venture as code is, it’s game-over before it was even game-on.
The Art of Meeting… Me
Entrepreneurs email me all the time requesting a meeting. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, it’s my job to meet entrepreneurs. Except that lately more and more are requesting these meetings while insisting not to share any information prior. And that is a problem.
There are two main variations to these emails… Either ‘I just need 10 minutes of your time,’ or ‘I could send you materials but they don’t really explain the true story of what we’re doing’.
So first off, there’s no such thing as a 10-minute meeting with me. It’s not like we’re going to meet and I’ll say ‘Your idea sucks. Buh-bye!’. Doesn’t work like that with me.
If I meet you, we’re going to spend anywhere between 60-90 minutes. If I like the idea I’m going to ask a bunch of questions and raise concerns. If I’m not too hot about your idea we’re going to spend the length our meeting brainstorming on how to tweak its weaknesses, whether its business model, UX, or go-to-market strategy. I’ll also rack my brain thinking who I can intro you to.
Point is, it’s not going to be a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of meeting.
Second, if your venture isn’t simple enough to be summarized in a single sentence, let alone a paragraph, let alone a 10-slide presentation, how exactly do you intend to market it? This is a point that seems to allude many entrepreneurs.
And please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t send an Executive Summary. I have never-ever-ever read an ES that I actually understood. They’re the worst.
I can only speak for myself, but I’m guessing most other investors would also appreciate it if you just send over a 10-slide presentation. All it needs to be is clear and concise.
And here’s another tip… It should be aesthetically conscious. Products and services are all about design and UX these days. Don’t use clipart or worn out stock images. Think about type choice and the dollar sign goes **infront** of the number, ie, $100, not 100$.
I begin assessing your sensitivity to aesthetics from the first communiqué. Emailing me in any other language than English doesn’t make the best first impression either by the way.
Now you also have to appreciate that I sadly can’t meet everyone. Time management is the biggest challenge I have these days. I have to balance multiple inboxes, a portfolio, meetings and occasionally a personal life. This means that I require information in advance so I can filter ventures that don’t fit Initial Capital’s investment focus, or my domain expertise.
That said, it’s not all that difficult setting-up a meeting with me (honest). Here are the two best ways to make that happen:
First, by way of introduction to someone that knows me well. I trust my friends and colleagues and if one of them thinks I should meet an entrepreneur, the distance to a meeting is very short.
Second, if you cold-email me, there’s no reason to be less than direct about your objectives. Just get some basic info infront of me and let me pop open your presentation.
Here’s the perfect wording for cold-emailing me:
My name is Mojo Rising. I’m looking for funding for my startup—MojoCorp. We provide a service for small businesses that allows them to up their mojo to 11. We’ll make money by charging them a monthly service.
I’ve attached a 10-slide presentation which should paint a good picture of what we’re up to. I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Thanks in advance,
Feel free to copy/paste. No, I insist you copy/paste it. Couldn’t be easier.
Looking forward to your investment decks at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On NDAs & Confidentiality
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that at least once a month I get asked by an entrepreneur to sign an NDA in order for him/her to share their venture with me.
I have a usual drill where I explain that I, along with other professional investors, don’t sign NDAs. I always include a link to a post by Brad Feld titled ‘Why Most VCs Don’t Sign NDAs’ that outlines the reasoning perfectly. I’ll sum-up the key points:
- We’re professional investors, not professional thieves.
- We see far too many similar ventures and cannot complicate ourselves legally.
- The process would entail involving lawyers and as much as we’re friends with some of them, we try to avoid paying for their kids’ orthodontist needlessly.
From my experience—and I’m basically at a 100% hit-rate with this—entrepreneurs that ask me to sign an NDA usually have rather weak, completely non-defendible ideas. From my same experience—and again, 100% on the following too—every killer startup that I’ve ever seen, that truly does have defensible IP, has never asked me to sign an NDA.
Along with NDA requests I also tend to be reminded when I pass on deals, that the information—mind you, completely indefensible and one I’ve seen in multiple, very similar variations—is confidential and cannot be shared.
I received such an email a few days ago and decided to scratch the scab.
First, I contacted Initial Capital’s lawyer, Joeri Kreisberg (who should name a wing in his house after me). Then I contacted investors, both angels and institutional. No one. Not a one, has ever heard of an instance where an entrepreneur sued an investor for breach of a formal or informal confidentiality agreement. They heard of investors being sued for a myriad of other reasons, but confidentiality is not one of them.
Let’s lay our cards on the table, shall we? No entrepreneur that I know has the funds to pursue such a case. I mean, if they had that kind of cash laying around, they wouldn’t be talking to investors in the first place.
To close the loop, I had asked the entrepreneur that reminded me about confidentiality why he did so. His main reason is that he doesn’t want info about his venture travelling among investors.
That, boys & girls, is bat-sh*t crazy.
Every entrepreneur should **wish** to have their investment deck travel among investors. It’s done for the benefit of the entrepreneur(!) Let me explain… Investors see lots of decks, most that don’t fit their investment strategy, focus, phase, etc. However, if the venture has merit, they’ll forward it to an investor they think may be a better fit.
To put it in simpler terms: If your deck isn’t shared, it sucks. (FWIW, no investor has ever shared a deck with me because of how bad it is.)
So to sum up… Investors trade upon their reputation. It’s what led the entrepreneur to the investor in the first place. Any mentions of NDAs and Confidentiality reflect poorly on the entrepreneur. In case of a ‘pass’ the best line you can end with is, ‘I’d appreciate you sharing the deck with investors you feel my venture would be a better fit for. Visca Barca! Visca Catalunya!’ (last part optional, but may impact liquidation preference in your favor).
* This post is confidential and cannot be shared with anyone. I mean it.
A New Beginning
I started blogging four years ago, writing on both TechCrunch and my own personal blog which I ran a custom WordPress install on.
Having been a big fan from afar for quite a while now, I decided the time was right to jump into the deep end and start fresh, this time running on Tumblr with a custom domain.
This new ‘fresh start’ means a couple of things…
First (and some may argue not a genius move), I’m ditching all my previous content. Gone. Poof. Well, in all honesty it’s backed-up, but I have no intention of importing it here.
Second, I intend to make more frequent posts about subjects that I feel compelled to share my thoughts on (I know, all we need is another opinion). These will be short posts revolving around startup investing as I see it from my side of the table. Topics will include trends I’m noticing or am interested in, and general best-practices/do’s-and-don’ts for entrepreneurs.
I’m no Fred Wilson, but I do see entrepreneurial behavior that should be commended, and some that ought to take person stock and tweak.
Alright, let’s kick it!