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Archives for: November 2013

There were 49 posts published in November 2013.

Anatomy of a Competitive Analysis

While a competitive analysis should be a core part of a business plan for any organization — big or small — it holds a particular significance to startups and small businesses. By obtaining this type of insight into the specific channels of opportunity in your market, you can ensure that you’re focusing your efforts in the most effective way when budgets are small and resources are limited.


If you haven’t performed a competitive analysis for your business yet, you’re likely missing out on a high potential marketing opportunity. Simple as that.


A competitive analysis should cover seven key topics – and possibly more, depending on your specific goals and market:


  1. Your company’s competitors
  2. Competitor product summaries
  3. Competitor strategies and objectives
  4. Competitor strengths and weaknesses
  5. Market outlook
  6. A SWOT analysis
  7. Future strategy recommendations

Let’s take a close look at these one-by-one.


1. Competitor List


The analysis begins with a list of your company’s competitors, and a quick overview. Pick 4 or 5 that are either comparable to you in stature or are leading brands in the industry.


Consider, also, that there should be an eclectic nature of this list. – These may be competitors from a revenue, brand popularity or online visibility position. Plus, there will, undoubtedly, be additions to this list as your research begins.


2. Competitor Product Summary


Assess your own and your competitor’s products and services in terms of features, value and targets. Customer feedback will be key and can be obtained through surveys, reviews and online research. Get on the phone and talk to your current customers or come up with a set list of questions to send out via email.


Be a prospective customer of your competitors and find out more about their sales process, their funnel and have a clear picture of their products and features.


Finally, find out how your competitor’s manufacturer distribute and market their products. This should give you a basic understanding of what they do differently in comparison to you and each other.


3. Competitor Strategies and Objectives


Observe how your competitors market themselves, and take a look at their public reports to see if you can garner insights into what their current goals and strategies are.


Sales personnel can help you get this sort of information, which is why playing the role as a prospective customer can be key. Former employees and customers may also be able to help.


4. Competitor Strengths and Weaknesses


Here’s where we can really find the opportunity. What’s working well for your competitors? What isn’t? Why not? Where is there room for improvement, and what are the market needs that are not currently being met?


Take a look at this from several angles – the product, the sales process, customer service and, most importantly, their marketing. Analyze their website, social channels and where they’re spending their marketing dollars. Use readily available tools to perform a thorough SEO, SEM and paid advertising analysis.


If one form of marketing simply isn’t working for your competitors, it’s likely that it probably won’t work for you either. Finding that out sooner rather than later will save you time and money. At the same time, with so many marketing channels available these days, there’s sure to be an opportunity that your competitors are all missing out on that could be a perfect location for you to gain traction.


5. Market Outlook


Take a bit of time to also weigh up the overall outlook of your market. All of your competitor research could be for nothing if your particular niche is about to tank, perhaps for socio-economic reasons outside of your control.


How does the market overall look? Is it growing? Is it struggling? How does the economy and consumer behavior look like it will impact the market in the future?


Discover key demographics in your space, and which marketing opportunities best allow you to reach this market. Is there a section of your target audience that offers high potential ROI, or is it a packed market that you’ll always be facing tough competition in?


6. SWOT Analysis


Using all the information you’ve gathered in the steps above, you’re now in a great position to perform your SWOT analysis. This is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for your business.


Where can you win, and where can’t you win? Which efforts should you capitalize on, and which should you sideline? What are potential future risks?


7. Future Strategy Recommendations


You might be an employee providing these recommendations to a manager or a consultant offering these to a client. Either way, this is where you take your research and turn it into a set of recommendations. These recommendations should then be used to create a formal strategy.


Writing a competitive analysis is both challenging and time-consuming, no doubt about it. But it’s incredibly valuable. You’ll learn a lot about your industry and your company, as well as your competitors, and such a report will become vital for your company in future strategy and planning.


How to Choose the Right Cloud Management Solution

The challenge:


A $500 million enterprise in India began adopting cloud a couple of years ago with the typical cloud journey: from virtualizing the hardware using VMware Hypervisors to setting up a private cloud with vCloud Director and, finally, signing up with AWS for a public cloud service. In addition to handling the typical workloads of development, testing, and production, there are software products that need to run on a SaaS model. This means that distribution of these enterprises’ products has to be moved from a dedicated installation process to a fully automated, on-demand creation of customer instances.


The IT managers in this enterprise then found themselves bogged down by the management and control requirements of these two clouds. After all, they had to manage about 500 VMs in their private cloud and little less in their AWS account! They have no means of knowing how many are really being used and effectively. VM sprawl and under-utilization remains the central challenge, but the customer installations of their SaaS enabled products also had to be continuously monitored, metered and billed! Realizing that they needed a management solution for their cloud services, they started evaluating different cloud management solutions. But how does one make the right choice?


The scenario:


The market today is filled with many multi-cloud solutions spanning from a “pure play management layer” to an “end-to-end cloud platform.” Adding to the complexity are solutions among them, offering variants that lean towards IaaS, SaaS or PaaS. Cloud brokerage solutions, and market place offerings do not make the choice any easier. The following infographic depicts the complexity of offerings available:



Every player in the infographic offers the basic tenets of a cloud management solution, like provisioning, self-service, governance, reports and automation, so there is no decision choice that would disqualify any of these players.


The choice:


Not only is it important, it is necessary to understand the strength and the focus of each player in the cloud landscape. For ease, they could be classified as cloud management solutions, end to end solutions and  brokerage solutions. This classification helps ease the choices in answering “Does the enterprise need all those features or only a few?”


  • Mature cloud management solutions like Rightscale, Kaavo & Scalr manage clouds well, but lean towards automation, migration and improving the efficiency & execution of IT development in enterprises.These solutions are application-centric.
  • New entrants in the same space, like Cognizant (Cloud 360) and Infosys (Cloud Hub), take an enterprise’s view into multi cloud management, governance being an important factor here.
  • VMware’s vCloud suite, Citrix cloud portal, Abiquo and vmUnify are typical end-to-end cloud platforms.These have a lot of inbuilt components like orchestrators & hypervisors. However, VMware & Citrix are centered on their own cloud components and vendor-neutral support is limited.
  • Cloud brokerage tools such as Jamcracker & Zimory are more suitable for a service provider with needs like reseller agreements & consolidated billing. These solutions have many “provider” features along with cloud management features which are needed by end-consumers.
  • Marketplaces are full of nothing but “cloud platform as a service,” where ISVs (re)package and price their products. Consumers “meet up” with them at the marketplaces and buy these products. The marketplace provider makes sure that provisioning, billing and availability of these products are satisfactory.
  • Pure play vendor neutral Cloud portals like MyCloudPortal and Enstratius are the ones which focus on enterprises’ need to control, monitor and manage their multiple clouds from a single dashboard. These lightweight portals combine product cataloguing, metering and billing features through which the same portal can be used as a sales portal for SaaS enablement.


Enterprise can customize and enhance the functionality of these pure play portals to include the organizations’ user realm, BPM engines, and communication systems so that the enterprises’ users will have the same governance, management and budget controls for their infrastructure needs regardless of whether or not they are on-premise hardware, private cloud or any public cloud.


This option seems to be even more attractive given the fact that all cloud platforms offer extensive APIs to communicate with them, aiding in rip-and-replace or plug-and-play functionality. Moreover, these portals are vendor neutral, which is an advantage to any enterprise trying to avoid lock-in.


CXOs have to think hard on what kind of self service solution is required for their specific cloud management needs. Here are few pointers for the decision makers:


  • If an enterprise is just beginning with the cloud journey, it is better to go with an end-to-end cloud solution.
  • If it is a big development house keen on developer productivity, a cloud management solution with lot of automation and migration features built-in would be a good choice.
  • Finally, if you know your way around cloud technologies, and need a lot of flexibility in the way you consume cloud services, you are better off sticking to a simple light weight cloud portal solution!

Businesses Should Adapt a Symbiotic Strategy

Symbiosis is a biological concept that is defined as a mutually beneficial partnership between two organisms. The process has allowed countless organisms to survive, grow and defend themselves for billions of years.


In a sense, every living organism is engaged in one form of symbiosis or another, from certain microbes using plant roots as a host in exchange for supplying essential nutrients and minerals, to bees helping with pollination.


I have learnt a lot over the past year from my business partner at iFunding about business relationships and structuring key partnerships. Just like in nature, a symbiotic relationship in entrepreneurship means creating a relationship between two businesses which is mutually beneficial for both parties.


Why Companies Fail in Adapting to this Strategy


Businesses struggle when it comes to prioritizing customers or “business-as-usual” by continuing to use self-focused strategies. One thing that entrepreneurs need to understand is that a business cannot create a symbiotic strategy, alone. Both parties involved need to be able to respect and understand the value of such an association for the partnership to be successful. Mentioned below are some guidelines that young entrepreneurs need to focus on.


Identify the Cost Benefits


A symbiotic partnership comes together because they solve a problem. Sometimes one half of the partnership benefits more, while the other half finds itself barely benefiting — but it does not matter as long as both sides can grow their business and get better results. Let’s face it, symbiosis has no intrinsic value. Animals don’t work together because it’s “cool” or to “diversify their assets,” they work together because it solves problems.  Likewise, businesses come together because they can both benefit from each other, whether marginally or immensely.


Love Thy Enemy


If history has taught us anything at all, it is that mutual symbiosis often occurs between the two most unlikely partners. For instance, after super-storm Sandy, President Obama (a Democrat) forgot election-year politics and teamed up with New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie (a Republican), to ensure a better flow of federal disaster aid to the affected area.

Make it Count


The most amazing thing about symbiotic partnerships is that the outcome can never be predicted by looking at two businesses separately. In other words, you can’t plan for serendipity, but you can at least create the needed space for the emergent properties for a symbiotic relationship to work for both parties. For instance, two companies in the same industry can create a point of coalescence for a symbiotic partnership. Consider for example two venture capital firms that keep each other updated on every new startup that they consider investing in. This helps with getting a second opinion on the opportunity and also helps with closing the funding round sooner.


Ending Note


Moving forward, the examples stated are just a few things that young entrepreneurs need to focus on in implementing symbiosis into their business strategy. Collaborating with others will allow you to extend your offerings and grow by actively sharing information, networking with the unfamiliar and creating something exceptional and unique that you could never do on your lonesome.


Limitations of Securing Email With PGP

PGP, (pretty good privacy) technology has been used to secure email communications since the early ‘90s.  Available both as freeware and commercially, PGP is the most widely used privacy-ensuring tool by both individuals and corporations.


The PGP design has not changed much since it was first introduced over twenty years ago, requiring each PGP user to have a publicly known encryption key and a private key known only to that user. Messages are encoded using a recipient’s public key, and then decoded using the recipient’s private key. This method, although highly, secure can have several limitations due to its design.


Here are 10 challenges that limit the effectiveness of PGP technology when deployed at enterprises:


1. PGP keys maintenance can be an administrative nightmare - each public and private key has its own expiration date that needs to be maintained.  In the event there is a technical failure resulting in a lost key, all the data that was encrypted with that key is lost forever. To maintain enterprise grade keys management, organizations are required to deploy a keys backup system requiring IT time and resources.


2. Organizations cannot secure large files using PGP - in most cases, email messages with file attachments that are larger than 10MB may double in size to 20MB after PGP encryption, exceeding the maximum allowed message size by the enterprise email gateway or the centralized PGP server.


3. Enterprises can share emails securely only with other organizations that use PGP -  if the recipient isn’t using PGP and does not have a public key, an encrypted message can’t be sent, therefore ad-hoc users cannot receive secure emails


4. No email receipt confirmation with PGP - the sender of a PGP based encrypted email does not receive a confirmation from the recipient that the email was successfully delivered and decrypted.


5. Cannot scan incoming PGP email with  anti-virus - in order for a message to be decoded it must go directly to the recipient without the email or the attachment being scanned by an anti-virus. To overcome this threat, organizations are required to deploy a decryption gateway server, which results in an additional costs and IT staff efforts.


6. Sensitive data stored in the DMZ - enterprises that choose to deploy a centralized decryption gateway server often deploy the server at the DMZ where emails and the attachments are decrypted before being sent to a data scanner tool. This creates an opportunity for attackers to gain access to sensitive data that is stored insecurely in the DMZ and is a significant blind spot in the organization’s data security.


7. Limits access to additional security tools - regardless of whether the PGP deployment is utilizing a centralized decryption gateway server, it cannot be integrated into a secure business workflow that makes use of additional tools such as DLP that can process/manipulate the emails and their attachments before sending them out of the organization.


8. Uncontrolled Access to email after delivery - the sender of a PGP encrypted email cannot set an expiration date for the message and its attachments, or limit the number of email views and limit the number of attachments downloads. This means that an organization’s sensitive data can be viewed insecurely by additional recipients in an uncontrolled manner.


9. Cost of maintaining client software -  cause by the fact that in most PGP based email implementations, the enterprise chooses to install a client for each one of its email users. Even if the enterprise deploys a centralized gateway server there are additional IT costs.


10. Maintenance costs of PGP based encrypted emails are high -  these costs include the cost of dedicated hardware, real estate, software licensing, service, support and user training.


By integrating a secure mail solution with a file synchronization and sharing solution, organizations can eliminate the need for complicated key maintenance and additional IT costs while benefiting from additional security features.


Once sent, the encrypted email and the attachments are stored in the virtual safe of the sending organization.  The recipient receives an email that contains only a link to the stored email at the sender’s organization, plus a one-time password. Emails can be secure after delivery including the ability to limit making the email view-only, limiting the number of attachments downloads and setting an expiry date for the email.


There is no need for systems to manage private and public keys, the sensitive data does not reside in the DMZ, and additional security measures such as DLP and data scanning and work uninterrupted.  As a result, the organizations’ sensitive data is more secure with lower maintenance and operations costs than comparable PGP solutions.


Auto Lending is the New Payday Lending

One of the biggest financial service disruptions in recent memory has been the inspiring transformation of the payday lending industry.


A new breed of technology companies has begun to displace traditional and expensive lenders by using data and technology to build scalable, profitable businesses that deliver meaningful change for borrowers. As a financial technology investor that believes social impact can be an economic multiplier, I am particularly excited about this same model migrating to other industries. I believe that the subprime auto market is that next great opportunity for entrepreneurs.


As a whole, auto lending is a massive and highly fragmented market composed of banks, “captive” lenders, finance companies and Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) lenders in which many consumers are unable to identify the best financing options available to them. For all but the best customers, the result is often a less-than exceptional buying experience made worse by high interest rates, unnecessary fees, and poor loan terms.


On top of this, a not-so-subtle market shift is underway towards servicing the growing subprime auto market. Lenders are drawn to this market because many buyers that sat out the recession are now shopping for cars in substantial numbers, and subprime loans offer attractive margins. Historically, this population is even more vulnerable because of a lack of compelling loan choices and misaligned financial products. However, much like the payday loan industry of five years ago, the prevalence of mobile phones and big data has the potential to dramatically reshape this trend and the larger auto industry by putting control back in the hands of the borrower.


Just as payday lending evolved to better meet the needs of the underbanked, so will auto lending change to meet the needs of subprime customers. Today’s subprime customers can pay as much as 10 times more to get a car loan, with BHPH lenders charging rates as high as 30% with no un st as payday lending evolved to better meet the needs of the underbanked, so will auto lending change to meet the needs of subprime customers. Today’s subprime customers can pay as much as 10 times more to get a car loan, with BHPH lenders charging rates as high as 30% with no underwriting. But the combination of new technologies and increasing government regulatory attention means that buyers can expect dramatically lower costs and much more efficient ways of buying a car in the very near future. At the same time, this change presents an enormous opportunity for current auto lenders and entrepreneurial thinkers as buyers search for the best deal in a newly transparent marketplace.


Over the next five years, I expect to see five new trends help completely transform this market in a way that significantly improves the borrower experience and delivers them a better deal.


First, new alternative risk scoring technologies and mobile underwriting tools will cut the cost of the highest subprime loan rates by 50%. The payday loan industry provides the clearest precedent here with companies like L2C and Zest Finance using Big Data and alternative scoring methods to significantly drop the price of borrowing. Some people (rightly so) may take issue with the structure of these loans, but no one can argue the impact on interest rate. I expect to see a similar impact when you consider the current, inflated auto lending rates and the high number of BHPH loan originations. Technologies such as big data, neural networks, and machine learning will put the tools in the hands of consumers to seriously undercut this legacy network.


Second, Internet sales and new retail channels will transform auto finance distribution, and Wal-Mart will be the nation’s biggest auto financier by 2018…with Costco and Sears close on its heels. We have only to look at cell phones, electronics, gas, or hundreds of other products to find examples of how this will upend the market dynamics in favor of consumers. Cellphones in particular have moved from a manufacturer-controlled network to a far-flung distributed sales channel that includes prepaid cellphones at corner stores. With Wal-Mart already successfully dipping its toe in the bank branch model, and as the largest check casher in US, auto finance is a natural extension. The end result will be more and lower cost loan choices for car buyers.


Third, improved loan servicing will reduce repossessions by 80%. One of the most disturbing elements of the payday industry isn’t always the front-end loan pricing, but rather the resulting debt treadmill that occurs with multiple renewals and fees. Similarly, in the auto industry, late payments and repossessions can become the larger and unexpected financial impact. New technologies that allow car owners to avoid repossessions through POS payments are already making a difference and additional education will help borrowers understand the long-term implications of non-payment. Eventually, cars will become like utilities that can be shut off for late payments. The net-net will be cheaper upfront borrowing costs because of reduced back-end risk for loan holders.


Fourth, collaborative consumption will influence loan terms for 10% of loans. The rise of transportation alternatives like ZipCar and Uber have some worried about the future of auto purchases. I believe that new, alternative lenders will see the silver lining here and leverage those opportunities to turn your car into a source of income by structuring lower cost loans tied to collaborative consumption trends. The greater ridership for your vehicle, the more reasonable your loan terms. It might sound counterintuitive to some, but it will encourage people to purchase vehicles as an economic opportunity.


Finally, the ubiquity of smartphones will inform a majority of auto purchasing behaviors and will change the point of interaction between customers, dealers, and lenders. By this, I mean that you will have better access to insider pricing information and will no longer be constrained by your physical location when securing an auto loan. Instead of having to divorce your purchase from your loan, or tie the two together by securing on-site financing – borrowers can close over their smartphone in a dealership, or even use their phone to find the best financing deals nearest them. Instead of information asymmetries where more than 10% of BHPH customers are prime and super-prime, we will find a better-aligned marketplace.


Overall, I think we are heading towards a golden age of subprime auto lending that will trickle up into the larger auto loan industry and bring us all compelling choices and benefits. While there will certainly be resistance by some of the entrenched players, we have already seen a willingness by more traditional finance institutions and newer alternative lenders to push the envelope. The result will be a changing and evolving industry – much like payday – that is better suited to the financial conditions of the consumer.


Call Centers can Offer Quality Customer Service

A Simple Hello


When was the last time you called a large company and had the phone answered by a real live person? A simple “Hello” is very difficult to find today. Instead, phones are often answered today by a computerized voice offering different numeric options. You may be offered a choice of which language you would like to hear, which department you would prefer to be transferred to, some companies even give an option of a call back when their representatives are not so busy.  This computerized phone system has become the norm today, leaving customers dealing with numbers and options, often wondering just how they might be able to get through to a real, live representative.


The Voice of Your Company


By automating this preliminary part of the phone system, manpower is freed up to service customer calls. This means that when a customer does find the right number to press for the correct department, they will be looking to speak to a representative who has excellent call center training. Nothing aggravates a customer more than braving the computerized part of a company phone system only to find a poorly trained representative on the other end of the line. Because they are the voice of your company, the call center employees will leave an impression on the customer, shaping their opinion about your company and determining if they will remain a customer.


Excellent Call Center Employees


Customer service training is essential for call center employees. With this type of training, representatives learn not only how you would like your company to be represented, but also some techniques that will help them wow the customer. The first thing taught in this type of training is that every call is important. Each phone call should be addressed with an open mind ready to assist. The second step in training is based on effective listening techniques. By learning how to listen, take notes, and verbalize concerns back to the customer, call center representatives will be able to truly understand what the customer needs instead of reading from a script and leaving the customer frustrated. The third critical lesson for a call center representative involves first call resolution. 93 percent of call center professionals surveyed said that being able to resolve the customer issue on the first phone call is critically important. Before taking their first call, representatives should know about each of the types of calls that may come through their phone, and be trained in how to resolve the issues. Call center employees who  work with customers and reach a resolution are much more effective than those who are simply trained to pass on the call to another representative. In the case that an issue cannot be resolved by the initial representative, clear lines of communication need to exist so the employee will know where they can turn for assistance with resolution.


Customer Service is Always Memorable


If your business depends on a call center for help with answering customer phone calls, it is critical that you work with one that has excellent customer service training. The representative on the other end of the phone is often the only contact your customer will have with the business, and will leave an impression, either good or bad. By working closely with representatives on training and skills, you can be sure your customers are always left with a positive memorable phone experience.


Four Questions (Answered!) About the Yahoo and Dropbox Partnership

Will cloud storage be tech’s next bubble? Dropbox, a cloud storage company, is seeking to raise $250 million in new funding, which would value the company at more than $8 billion, twice the valuation from its last round in 2011.


What has Dropbox done since 2011? One of its recent high profile achievements is integrating with Yahoo, putting Dropbox right inside your Yahoo Mail inbox. This allows you to move attachments directly from Yahoo Mail to Dropbox, without saving to your desktop. Want to share links to files in Dropbox? Skip the step of opening another tab; attach Dropbox file links as if you were sending regular attachments. This email to cloud integration streamlines the sharing and collaboration flow.


Why Yahoo, why Dropbox and why now? Understanding the Yahoo and Dropbox partnership enables us to better understand the direction of cloud collaboration, communication and the implication for productivity.


What does this mean for Yahoo, Dropbox and their users?


Just as Salesforce and members of its ecosystem have grown by working together, Dropbox and Yahoo are growing their respective businesses by working together. By working with Yahoo, Dropbox gets in front of users beyond its core “early adopter” base. By working with Dropbox, Yahoo gets associated with a “cool” Valley company and can provide a more comprehensive productivity suite than its previous offering. Given Gmail’s recent integration with Google Drive, Yahoo and Dropbox’s partnership help both remain competitive.


In the short and long run, users benefit from these integrations. If you’re using Gmail, you probably also use Google Drive, with 15GB of free storage. If you’re using Yahoo Mail, you can sign up for Dropbox and get 2GB of free storage (with an additional 14GB via referrals). By connecting their email with a cloud service, users can overcome some email limitations, such as the attachment size limit.


Google, Yahoo and Dropbox have validated the importance of connecting email inboxes (where you send and receive content) to cloud storage (where you save and sync files), as it simply makes sense. Over time, users will have more control of their email attachments and can save time with streamlined workflows.


What if you’re using other cloud storage services like Microsoft SkyDrive, Box, Bitcasa or SugarSync? You can connect these to your email inbox as well with Kloudless. With 23% of email market share, Outlook and users also have an option for email to cloud.


The additional flexibility to integrate multiple cloud storage devices means that users don’t have to pick a specific cloud service provider for email to cloud connectivity. Users can use the cloud services they want.


Why did Yahoo and Dropbox choose each other for this partnership?


For Yahoo, amidst their refocusing, working with Dropbox is a great opportunity to partner with a hot startup. Given some recent moves (including hiring Katie Couric, buying Tumblr and others), this partnership helps shed the tired, outdated brand image in exchange for an updated, hip brand. Unlike Google and Microsoft, Yahoo also does not have its own cloud storage offering. The Dropbox integration gives them instant credibility that rivals Google’s Gmail and Drive integration.


For Dropbox, this partnership is another example of how they are executing on their vision: “it just works” in the places that you’re used to working. They built a cloud service that connects with you via your desktop, a familiar place. Now they’re connecting with you in your email inbox.


Why didn’t this partnership happen sooner?


Several conditions needed to be met for Dropbox and Yahoo Mail to create this joint solution. First, Yahoo (and by extension, Yahoo Mail) needed to redefine itself to regain its former dominance. While the top seat saw quite a bit of turnover, it wasn’t until Marissa Mayer took the reins that Yahoo began to refocus on what was needed to create value for its users and shareholders.


Second, Dropbox and other cloud storage services were supposed to kill collaboration via email. Email attachments are painful — they have file size limits and the back-and-forth nature of the workflow kills productivity. However, we know people still collaborate via email. In fact, people now use email to pass links to their cloud files back and forth. By working together, Dropbox and Yahoo Mail were able to put together a service that benefits both of their user bases.


Third, some things are hard (or impossible) to kill off. Behaviors are hard to change, and sometimes people need to be in an already familiar context to be open to adopting new behavioral changes. Introducing cloud storage into email is such a step.


Are Yahoo or Dropbox signaling something with a deeper meaning to the cloud industry?


Several more companies will likely partner up like this. People use many different services in the cloud for productivity: email, storage, CRM, and others. It makes sense that companies want to give their customers the best cloud experience possible; sometimes this means playing nicely with others.


This partnering strategy isn’t unprecedented — Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) has a habit of partnering or purchasing Software-as-a-Service vendors whose offerings are complementary to its core product, a cloud CRM solution. Dreamforce, its ecosystem conference, is a testament to how Salesforce has grown by working smartly with partners, acquiring technologies that complement its own and ensuring its technologies help its customers grow.


The next several years will be interesting for the cloud industry. Technologies will advance to improve cloud communication, collaboration and productivity. Will you take advantage of connecting your email inbox to the cloud?


Moving from Corporate to Greener Pastures: The Startup World

Things getting a little stale in the cubicle world of your current job? If you’re sitting on an idea you’re sure everyone will love, it might be time to jump ship and start a new life as the founder of a startup.


Of course, every new venture comes with its fair share of ups and downs — the key is to not go in blind. Before you leave for what might be greener pastures, consider these tips and strategies that I learned as I made the move from corporate executive to entrepreneur.


1.  Make sure you’re moving toward something you are passionate about. Everyone says this – but it’s true. All of the issues, problems and roadblocks you run into become greater, and you need to keep reminding yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
2. Have enough savings. If you are headed out on your own, you better have enough money in the bank to support your lifestyle for a long time. Fundraising takes a lot of time, and is difficult. Sure, you hear stories of companies getting $50 million for this, or $10 million for that – but you don’t hear about the companies that get nothing, or that it takes them ten years to get to that point.
3. Learn to separate work and life. This is by far one of the larger challenges you’ll deal with. When I started to work out of my home, that division no longer existed. Therefore, you need to find other ways to set boundaries in order to make this clear distinction.

4. Build relationships while you are still in corporate America. You never know who will need to network through, or even bring on board, to help you get your product to the masses. Having these relationships will help if you in every facet.


5. There isn’t room for a backup plan. You can’t go into the start-up field thinking, “Well, if this doesn’t work out, I can always go back to my old job.” Of course you can. But you have to believe that this is all or nothing, and that failure isn’t an option. Backup plans pave the way to excuses to be made that can derail your mission.

There will be many times when it feels like you are the only one who cares, or that you are the only that believes in your product or service.  But if you are truly doing something that you believe in, you can persevere past the roadblocks – and there will be many — and onwards towards the green pastures of success.


Intellectual Property Deals Need a “Wingman”

Envision a world where workplace technology can serve as your “wingman.” What’s a workplace wingman you ask? It’s a super cool, digital assistant that’s always on – on the lookout to help you get your job done more efficiently, connect you to the most important people in your profession, or provides insights into topics that matter most.


In Intellectual Property (IP), the wingman can also be a matchmaker that seeks licensees or buyers for your intellectual property 24/7, or tees up the hottest news or trends that is associated to getting your IP deals done.


We all know that “humans don’t scale” – a term always bandied about in the tech world – but, with a digital wingman, you could have what feels like hundreds of helpers looking out for you. I have spent several years in the intellectual property space and observed several key issues endured in the workplace:


  • All IP professionals are overworked and have too many IP asset portfolios to manage
  • Current IP tools are geared only for research or IP is forever lost on a marketplace listing site
  • Not all IP professionals are comfortable connecting with deal stakeholders


These 3 issues all rely on the “human” factor, which does not scale. Priority of IP asset portfolio marketing is often performed as a “best guess” or simply given attention to those portfolios that are easily understood. IP should not be considered a “pet project.” It has a shelf life. Missed opportunities means lost revenue. Missed connections could lead to budget cuts in research and development. At worst, company innovation slowly dies.


Today, IP professionals are struggling to effectively and quickly reach the primary objective of IP licensing: “closing the license deal” (sometimes called tech transfer or commercialization). There are a myriad reasons as to why the final goal is not reached. Strategic processes may not be in play, from underutilized best practices to under incentivized employees. But a simple tool that is scalable and performs as a wingman can mitigate strategic issues, provide clearer market value, and add confidence by lowering the rejection level when implementing licensee outreach.


IP match technology should be used to objectively surface the portfolios that are “low hanging fruit” or closest to a deal. The matcher finds these portfolios by determining market viability – or verifying if there are actual licensees/buyers in the world that would be interested in the IP. The matcher, always on, assists where humans cannot scale:


  • It can incorporate an IP asset portfolio into the hundreds or thousands
  • It can find thousands of licensees – well beyond the IP professionals known “rolodex”


More importantly, the matcher solves these pain points automatically, without burdening the IP professional with additional tasks. The matcher operates by analyzing the portfolio’s content and intent, then translates that information into licensee business objectives. Once business objectives are understood, the matcher suggests potential licensing companies seeking or operating within those objectives, industry, or even within a cross-functional industry.


Those portfolios with the most licensing candidates, would surface as the top priority or potential to close the deal. Much like a match dating site, the licensor could instantly evaluate potential licensees, read their profiles, and determine who they want to communicate with (licensee outreach). If the licensee accepts the licensor’s outreach, then the licensee and licensor go on a date (meet and discuss deal terms). Now the licensor knows exactly when and with whom to start their research and due diligence, self-assured they are concentrating on the right deal. claims that their customers are 3 times more likely to enter into a relationship by using their technology than those who do not. The match concept for IP provides market information fast and efficiently, without interrupting the licensee or licensor’s current commercialization processes. If time kills deals then speed makes them successful. With similar odds and efficiency of a dating website, can the enterprise afford not having their wingman?


Marketing Hacks Using Google+

In this post, I am not going to discuss about the social networking aspects of Google+ at all, but I want to share how small and large businesses can gain immensely from Google+.


Google+ came to being with much fanfare and with speculations to kill Facebook, but it ended up becoming a big ghost town! Over time Google has looked into much deeper integrations of its current products with Google+ and this is a trend which is going to continue in future. It is this integration that you can leverage very strongly by simple use of Google+.


Get more from emails!


60% of people who own an email account have a Gmail account. In October 2012, Gmail surpassed Hotmail to become largest Email Service Provider. What’s more, 5 million businesses use Gmail for their official emails through Google Apps.


There are some neat ways that Google+ is integrated with Gmail, and now you can use it to your advantage.


I sent a test mail from my official id to my personal id, and see how it looks on web:




There are two specific ways you can benefit:


1. Your profile photo: Human photographs increase responses. You might have heard and read a lot about it from website designers and A/B testers – and it’s true for emails too! If you have a profile photo in your Google+ account, your photo would be displayed alongside the email. This gives the reader a sense of connect and familiarity with you.


2. Recent Updates: I see this as a free advertisement I get to place right next to the person reading my email. It is a great way to send additional information to users, something which might not have been suitable to include in the email. It could be the latest customer testimonial, your white paper, your discount offer etc. Try this consistently, and you will see results.


And here is how typically an updates folder looks at one of my client’s mobile, who gets emails from me and others:


Now which are the emails which would catch your attention if you are browsing through emails on mobile?




In short, if you are emailing your customers or clients, spend just 10 minutes a week to get the right post for the upcoming week on Google+!


Get more from Search!


I don’t think I need to convince you about the dominance of Google’s search engine and the importance of getting more clicks from search results.


Now see this search result, which story stands out?




Even though you might not have the first rank for a search term, you can still stand out and get more traffic from searches. The photo here is picked from your Google+ profile, and you need to “Verify Authorship” for this to happen. (Read how to do it here:


There is another way you can use search to standout from the rest. Your business page on Google+ is also shown alongside the search, and just like in emails, you get to showcase your recent posts here. See some examples below:




For this to work you need to complete your Business Page on Google+ and keep it updated. (Note: This is a Business page on Google+ and not Google Local Business Listing. Google Business Listings and Google+ is currently undergoing deeper integrations, and it may change in future). With a clever update you can gain a lot.


Lastly, add the +1 button to your page. It’s okay to be shameless and get your friends to click on it. The  +1 button sends social signals, which are embedded much more widely in the search results/ While I can’t pinpoint the exact effect, one thing that is sure is that it doesn’t hurt to get +1.



When I search, Google shows my other friends who +1 the website as well.


I hope you try these hacks and have a greater impact from your existing efforts of marketing. Do you have any inputs, comments, or questions? Do share in the comments below.