How Douglas Coaches Startups on Using Social Media, among other things: Part 1

Interviewer’s Note:  Here’s a first for the Pluggio Blog: a two part interview!  I’ll run the first part today and the next part tomorrow.   The other week I had a fantastic call with Douglas Craver, who works with tech startups and helps them get running.  We spoke for well over an hour, and he had an abundance of great things to talk about and share.  There was so much we discussed and I learned tons from him about entrepreneurship, strategy, and planning.  Here is part 1 of the highlights of our conversation:

Good morning, Douglas! Thanks for talking to me.  Let’s start with hearing about what it is you do.

Right now Launchtribe is a culmination of 21 years of being an entrepreneur and 16 years of working with tech startups.  So I get involved in working with them in the first two years of their existence and getting up and running.  That’s my sweet spot.  At that point in time, when tech companies are getting up and running, they need to get operations going that facilitate their business.

Is there a certain type of client or company you look for?

A lot of times you’re offering an application that’s new and hopefully is a game changer.  And you need to help those individuals understand how to use the product and how to grow their business in conjunction with it. I also get involved in building learning communities, kind of in combination with tech startups.

So as I like to say, LaunchTribe gets involved in building Agile applications, whether it’s for a large organization or a few individuals who have an idea and wants to get it built and off the ground.

How do you find your clients?  Or do they find you?

Until the end of last year, it was word of mouth.  I was working on enough projects in an advisor role, and I decided to narrow down my focus.  So it’s word of mouth, it’s networking and positioning myself as an authority, via my blog.  And by providing valuable content to people about there.  Like you mentioned my blog post about “Street Cred.


Right.  I read that; very nice.

So I pride myself on being able to cut to the core issues of what it takes to get a startup off the ground.  The “Street Cred” post came out of that, which is a new project called “Startup Agile.”  I don’t know if you know anything about Agile?

No, what is that?  A computer language?

No, it’s a methodology in developing software.  Using 2 week sprints and iterations.  Iterations is an engineering concept to facilitate teamwork and velocity, which is at what speed things get done.  And story cards, to diagram how you see the site working; what steps the user takes.

It’s always bothered me that in start-ups, nobody has a methodology.  A lot of times you come into an environment where Monday’s staff meeting plans for a bunch of changes, and that goes out the window on Tuesday morning when the founder comes in.  It’s difficult to keep a pace of what needs to get done, because what you need to get done changes every day.

So what’s we’ve been doing is going after investors, because they need to know this methodology and it will make them more comfortable.  They can see how this is progressing and that it IS progressing.  If you look at every other kind of business, there’s methodologies for that but not so much for tech start-ups.

That’s interesting- it reminds me when I went to film school and we were always asking our teachers ‘How do we raise money for our films?’ and they’d always answer “However you can!” and tell us to find a rich dentist or something.  Whoever could help, that’s where you’d go.  We always wanted more of a tangible plan.  Sounds similar to this.

We think it will be a game-changer.  You know, there’s people out there who’ve developed their own methodology but they haven’t offered it because they’ve been too busy or want to keep it to themselves.  I think of it as an ‘open-source’ methodology.   So I’m very excited about it, stoked to be working on it; maybe 12 months from now we can do another chat and see where are then.

Sure, we could do a follow up.  Next question I have is about your blog entry on “Street Cred.”  My take was that entrepreneurs commonly won’t listen to people who they believe don’t have experience in their field, and will dismiss.  How do you approach or work with somebody like that?

Whether somebody is coachable?

Yeah.

I think it’s important, regardless of whether or not it’s a tech start up, you’ve got to seek out those services & people of advice.  Whether it’s an accountant or an attorney; you have to seek them out and make sure the services and knowledge that they bring are relevant to what your business is.  A lot of times we spend time trying to untether those bad relationships and help people get into the right relationships.

I just feel it’s important to bring up that a lot of these individuals feel turned off when they are told to go talk to certain people who just really can’t add value.  A startup is all about adding value- whether it’s adding capital or working with an outside advisor.  Once you bring people in that add value and understand, then the entrepreneur becomes coachable.  And that’s where the “Street Cred” comes in.

That’s a good point- when I read that article, it made me think about life coaches, which we have a zillion of in Los Angeles, and I’ve always wondered where they got the credentials to consider themselves on authority, especially since their work is usually career and business-related.  ‘Where does this experience come from if you’re going to mentor or coach somebody on how to solve their problems?’  I guess to put it in our terms- where is their street cred?

Right

Blogs seem very central to your strategy; can you talk about that?

I’m a big believer in using technology that’s easy to use.  The reason I like Posterous is because it allows you to post to a lot of different blog platforms.  What people need to understand is that each of these blogging communities have their own community.  They’ve gotten so large.  At some point, if you’re maximizing your search engine optimization and reaching communities of interest, you’re going to need a real strong and aggressive social media in all those platforms.  People so often get wrapped in the platform.  To me, the community is as important as the platform- more important, even.  Tumblr is perfect example- it’s used for a younger age group- 20’s to 30’s.  Artists, photographers, people that are very creative.  If you’re a photographer and want to start a blog, you better do it on Tumblr.

Hmm, that’s cool you say that.  I paint as well, and I started a little blog over on Tumblr and didn’t even know that about the communities.  I just went there because it was really simple to use.  I had no idea about the need to do due diligence, or the community that was tied to it.  How do you know which to use?

Where’s your audience?  Where are they hanging out?  Are they on Facebook?  What are they interested in?  In Twitter, what kind of people are they following?  What blogging platform are they using?  That’s the thing.  A lot of times, I get business owners who are like “I dunno about this social media stuff.  Why should I use it?”  Because your customers do!  You gotta find them!

That’s true and getting more so, especially with the millennial generation.  I’m 30 but I see a big difference already in how that generation uses the internet to research things, buy things, etc.  I don’t think it’s that trend is going away anytime soon.  It’s remarkably different.

One of the interesting things is that a lot of people who don’t see the value are very busy.  They tend to be in the prime of their professional careers- 30s, 40s, trying to raise a family.  They’re looking for things that are helping them to remove layers of complexity from their lives, and they think Twitter adds complexity: ‘one more thing I gotta do?’

I think the lines between professional relationships and personal ones is getting increasingly blurred too.

Most of my friends now – this is to me a benefit of social media: northeast Ohio is not a hotbed for technology, and I’ve actually used social media.  For the most part, most of my close friends right now were ones I met online.  And they’re all local.  And they’ve added so much value to my life, and I don’t know how I would have found them otherwise.

People say Twitter is positioned between emails and blog posts, and you probably learn more about people through Twitter because you find out what they’re doing through the day.  If they’re local, you’ll try to meet them, and I think that’s the power of Twitter.  It’s happening in the Middle East right now.  There’s this large community and it’s kind of hard to go to war with somebody when six months ago, you were reading their tweets about how they were raising their kids and making a garden.

It makes us connect in interesting ways and use it intelligently as an application.  For me, it’s not only a business tool, but one that’s improved the quality of my life and definitely the quality of my relationships.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the interview.

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