Pursue the Lemonade Stand

[Originally posted on The Wall Street Journal June 13th 2013]

I’ve had the unique experience of being an entrepreneur for the majority of my life, even before co-founding NativeX. I launched my first e-marketing site with my brothers when I was 16 and never looked back. A lot of the wisdom that helped get me where I am today came from my father and stepfather—both of whom have entrepreneurial backgrounds in some regard. As such, I’m honored to pass on some of those same lessons to my own kids.

Entrepreneurship is a viable career path. One of the first lessons in becoming a successful entrepreneur is recognizing that it’s actually possible. I’m shocked by the amount of talented and driven people going through life without considering entrepreneurship as a viable option. Uncertainty, fear, and high rates of failure end the journey for many before it’s even started.

In Minnesota, for instance, we’re lucky to have a wide array of Fortune 500 companies like 3M Co., General Mills Inc., and Target Corp. Most young people here are force-fed the notion that success means doing well in school before getting a job at one of these giants. My kids, on the other hand, will have lemonade stands as soon as they’re strong enough to squeeze the lemons. I will drive home the point that there are opportunities out there besides working for someone else. To accept this, there are a few more lessons they need to understand.

Embrace failure and fail upwards. My father’s greatest hobby is nature photography, but it was always unclear how he would convert that content into a business. He tried creating a website for his photos, but it soon ran aground; he was more into art for the sake of art. Yet having tested the waters of website-building for his photography, my father was then able to successfully build out a business using his professional skills as a safety engineer. A popular “safety blog” is now one of his primary sources of income. Similarly, my brother and I have had our share of failed initiatives pivot, over time, into successful businesses.

Anticipate potholes before you run them over. Growing up, my stepfather was another entrepreneurial influence in our household. He was a software developer, but early in his career ran an automotive repair business. He was often telling us about potentially critical things that could have put us out of business. I didn’t even think about paying my taxes when I was a teenage entrepreneur until my step-dad brought it up.

Provide encouragement. Once you know what to do, focus! Work toward being the best at that, and accept that you can’t do it all. You’ll need the help of a team or partners for the other challenges that might take up your time.

Additionally, entrepreneurs-in-training should be open to new ideas and fields of thought. As a kid, I wanted to grow up to become a computer scientist. Though that didn’t pan out, the heavy encouragement I received around math, science and technology wasn’t lost on me. That education shaped my thinking, allowing me to identify opportunities overlooked by others. To that end, I’m encouraging my kids to develop these logical skills. My seven-year old daughter loves dance and will be going to dance camp this summer, but I also have her signed up for a Web-development camp.

‘Podbuster’ Ads, Calculated To Make You Hit Pause

[Originally posted by Neda Ulaby on NPR January 12th,  2011]

Call it smart advertising — or bad boundaries. You may have noticed a spike in the number of TV commercials designed to look and feel like whatever show you’re watching. They’re called podbusters, DVR busters or interstitial ads, and they’re designed to remove viewers’ fingers from the fast-forward button during blocks — or “pods” — of ads.

The advent of TiVo and similar devices can be thanked for the rise of the podbusters. About 40 percent of households have DVRs — meaning 40 percent of households can easily zip past commercials. Think of podbusters as speed bumps for ads.

Media consultant Dan Portnoy got caught while watching one of his favorite shows — the AMC drama Mad Men. That evening, he was speeding through the commercials as usual when he saw guys in ’60s fashions in a familiar-looking office, and he thought the program had started again. So he stopped fast-forwarding. What he saw looked like Mad Men. It sounded like Mad Men. But it was an ad for shampoo.

Read more at: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/12/132838343/podbuster-ads-calculated-to-make-you-hit-pause

How Pay Per Download Programs Lower Costs for App Developers

Sponsored Post

Every market leading platform, including iPhone, Facebook, Windows, and even browser toolbars, has at least one vendor who will sell a consumer app developer installs on a pay per download or pay per install basis.

Most of the pay per download networks utilize some method of cross promotion to drive additional installs while users are installing or interacting with another app.

So, how do these pay per download programs, like NativeX for iOS apps, Windows apps and browser add-ons, compare in cost to other channels for app distribution such as search, display, affiliate, and OEM?

To answer this question, I had NativeX’s Media Buyers examine past campaign performance across these difference channels and tallied up our effective cost per download by channel. The following bar graph is based upon the actual campaign performance which was achieved.

As you can see from NativeX’s campaign results, pay per download programs can create a meaningful distribution channel while lowering an app developers costs by often as much as one third the cost of other alternatives!

Many app developers have tried search and affiliate programs to promote their app because they are more widely recognized tactics, but have failed to launch and optimize their apps for low cost pay per download networks.

Make sure you ask your pay per download program how they adhere to industry best practices, and what care they take in establishing a valued user experience. The engine that powers NativeX’s desktop application network, InstallIQ, has received the Truste Trusted Download certification and is white listed by Truste.

Whether you have an iPhone app, a Facebook game, a Windows application, or a browser toolbar, contact NativeX to learn how you can launch and optimize your app using NativeX’s pay per download program.

This article was written for app developers seeking downloads, however, if you have a website and would like to promote NativeX’s applications, visit NativeX’s affiliate site to learn more.

History of PPC with GoTo.com

[Originally posted by John Rampton on PPC.org November 20th,  2011]

So as it turns out, we get the question quite a bit about something that you may get surprised with.  That would be: “Where did PPC really start?”  Well, when I thought about it, I didn’t actually know for sure the best answer to that question, only a few points.  So we dug in the history books and came up with the History of PPC with GoTo.com, and how everything went from there on out, to evolve to the PPC world we now know.

Before getting started on the timeline, we better make sure we are all on the same page as far as what PPC actually is!  PPC or Search Engine Marketing is basically a process of gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. Basically, the three biggest network operators now are Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing, and Microsoft Ad Center.  Obviously, Google owns much of the market.  With that established, let’s explore how this all came about!

-1997: GoTo.com launches. GoTo.com was founded by ideaslabs.

Basically, GoTo.com was an Idealab Spin Off, and was the first kid on the block to provide Pay-for-Placement Search Service.

Read more at: http://ppc.org/history-of-ppc-with-goto-com/

How AirBnB Became a Billion Dollar Company

[Originally posted by Dave Gooden on davegooden.com May 31st,  2011]

Disclosure 1: I work in the vacation rental industry. While my company specializes in regional, recreational vacation homes, not metro rentals – there is an obvious conflict.

Disclosure 2: This is an opinion piece. This post is just my opinion along with some evidence to support it. Judge for yourself.

Yesterday AirBnB announced that they raised $100M at a $1B valuation. This is a huge, huge accomplishment – but a lot of entrepreneurs are probably asking how they did it. Was it their awesome design? Excellent idea? Was it their uncanny business acumen? Just dumb luck?

My Answer: Craigslist Spam!

I believe AirBnB used multiple gmail accounts to spam craigslist and grow their site to a one billion dollar valuation.

Read more at: http://davegooden.com/2011/05/how-airbnb-became-a-billion-dollar-company/


Letting Go of Your Baby: A Founder’s View on Bringing in a New CEO

[Originally posted on Wired.com April 10th 2013]

As both a father and an entrepreneur, I can say with confidence there’s a lot of parallels between raising a kid and starting a company. Both take a lot of time and dedication, you invest a lot of yourself in both, and for both you need to know when to let go of the reins.

Like with a child, you pour your blood, sweat and, tears into making sure it’s the best it can be. However, you need to realize you can’t do everything on your own. Just as when there’s a time you’ll need to drop your kid off at school, there may come a time in a startup when you need to bring in a new CEO to augment the company’s growth and help scale.

In 2007, it was becoming apparent that NativeX could benefit from a new CEO. Since forming in 2000, the company had grown to about 60 people but it was clear that our growth had begun to plateau. The majority of our employees were young guns- most being under 25 years old.

At this time, I had won an arm wrestling contest with my two other founders so I was acting CEO. However, most of the founding team had drifted from the center and were gravitating to other roles such as product engineering and customer relations. It was about that time I recommended to the founding team that we look to bring on a CEO- we hired Andy Johnson to fill the role that year.

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6 ways the Five Horsemen of Tech can build better app ecosystems

[Originally posted on VentureBeat March 9th 2013]

In the tech community, it’s becoming apparent that there are five powerhouses, or “horsemen,” that will shape the future of technology: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Samsung.

One common thread between these companies is that they’ve all cited the importance of mobile in their strategies. One of the most vital components of having a strong mobile strategy is creating a thriving developer ecosystem—no matter how great your platform is, if there are no good apps it’s probably not going to fare well.

That’s why it’s a little surprising these magnates of mobile are falling short in some areas where they could be helping developers to create a stronger app ecosystem. Here are six ways that the horsemen can help change that.

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Hangout with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on the Role of Government in Entrepreneurship

I don’t spend a lot of time as a founder thinking about the government’s role in creating a thriving entrepreneurial community. I had the opportunity yesterday to participate in a panel moderated by Steve Grove, in charge of Community Partnerships for Google+ along with the Mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak and two others to ask the Mayor questions and to share ideas on building stronger community support for entrepreneurship.

5 Common Pitfalls When Setting Up Mobile Game Analytics

My colleague Trevor McCalmont wrote a great post for game developers looking to improve their analytics-

“As a games analyst for W3i, I have the unique experience of going through a plethora of analytic instrumentations. I have witnessed nearly every analytics provider’s capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. More importantly, I have seen how many game developers choose to implement event tracking and common places where they go wrong.

1) Know What You Want from Your Analytics Provider

There are many analytics providers in the mobile space, and they all offer different products. There are free services with a limited tool set, and companies that charge monthly fees but provide a more robust product. Understand what each provider is capable of and take advantage of those features during implementation. For example, if you want the capability to A/B test elements of a game, you’re going to have to pay. On the flipside, A/B testing can provide tremendous revenue increases.

Let’s say Game A earns $30,000 in revenue per month. If you create two tests that generate 3% revenue increases, that service has already increased revenue a little over $1,800/month and that can be a permanent change for every month moving forward. The effect of A/B testing is theoretically cumulative, so a few positive tests each month increases your knowledge of what works in your game, and furthermore it could quickly snowball into huge revenue increases.”

Check out the post here.

Think Tracking DAUs Is Enough? Then You’re Not Getting Your Whole Mobile Story

[Originally posted on TechCrunch February 9th 2013]

In the mobile world, companies often live and die by metrics: “How are your monthly active users doing? What’s going on with your user retention? How many total downloads do you have?”

These kinds of metrics, which can have widely different implications, can make or break developers. Especially with the Silicon Valley mindset, driven by success stories like Instagram and Socialcam, that says “get users today, make money off them tomorrow.” With this mentality, user metrics often play a larger role than financial figures for some companies.

But what do they all mean? In mobile, daily active users (DAUs) is frequently the standard by which game and app developers are judged. However, the industry doesn’t really have a concrete definition of what a DAU is. Some analytics providers, such as Flurry, use a rolling average, where a user is considered active if they’ve opened the app at least once in the past seven days. Another part of the mobile market considers someone an active user if they’ve used the app on a particular day. To truly define success, the industry needs to settle on what an active user actually is.

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7 Predictions For The Mobile Gaming Market For 2013

[Originally posted on Forbes December 24th 2012]

Ever since the first angry bird destroyed the first pig’s castle, the world has been drawing parallels between mobile gaming and its console and PC forerunners.

While mobile gaming is often viewed as more accessible and easier to play, people are quick to point out that the games may not be as deep and involving as console and PC games. 2013 could be the year all that changes. In 2012, mobile gaming progressed by leaps and bounds. This is due in part to mobile hardware advances, but also due to greater smartphone adoption with many now carrying the equivalent of a gaming system around in their pockets. In 2013, we’ll see even greater maturation of mobile gaming as the industry continues to make more money and attract more serious attention from big-hitters like EA and Disney.

With this growth will come some important changes. At W3i we work with hundreds of developers and have already begun to see some of these trends occurring. Here are my seven predictions for the mobile gaming market in 2013.

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