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No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

The 10 Best Startup Books Every Founder Should Read

Are you looking for guidance on getting your new startup off the ground? Maybe you and your co-founder need help to construct your business plan so you can pitch to potential investors?

Either way, you can never get enough knowledge and information on your course to see your startup succeed…what is one of the best ways of getting the education you need to build your business? Books, of course.

That’s why we here at Geekdom put together our list of the top 10 best startup books for any new founder.

Happy reading!

The 10 Best Books for Any Startup Founders or New Businesses

1. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish

The Rockefeller Habits or Scaling Up (as newer editions are called) are the set of guidelines, principles and systems that any business should implement for producing fast and effective growth.

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This book is the ultimate guide and reference book for setting up the “system” that is your business. Starting with Harnish’s “One Page Strategic Plan,” use the tools, resources and powerful case studies provided to begin structuring and setting up your business for optimal growth.

For me, as an entrepreneur, this is a book I keep on my bookshelf close by, as I’m constantly referencing back whenever I approach a new hurdle in my businesses.

Learn more about the book and start getting free resources at https://scalingup.com/.

2. The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

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Want to know the secrets of achieving more but by doing less? Yeah, sounds crazy right?

Well, through reading this epic book by Richard Koch and understanding what the 80/20 principle is all about, you and your team will be able to do more with less as you begin to identify which actions you are taking in your business are leading to the most positive outcomes.

Any successful startup founders need to learn how to do more with less. Learn about the imbalances and inequalities in cause and effects and start maximizing your output (and success).

 

3. The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Perhaps one of the best books on systems management and improvement, The Goal, is an essential read for any startup founder.

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See the world in a different way after this read, as your focus will drive to what is called the “bottleneck” in your business. The Goal provides a formula for continuous improvement so the business you are running, all the way from sales to delivery of your product/service gets better and better over time.

4. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

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Want to know how to create a product that is not only innovative but highly valuable in the market? In this book, you’ll learn how to find what the authors refer to as the “Blue Ocean” space of any market, the areas that customers still find a tremendous amount of value but where the competition is limited.

With step by step processes and tools, Chan Kim and Mauborgne use plenty of real-life case studies of businesses that have found the “Blue Ocean” and thrived, making this a must-read for any startup founders as the battle the product development sphere.

5. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

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The Lean Startup is an important book for any startup team. Essentially a step by step guide to creating a sustainable business in the leanest way possible, Reis gives you all you need to know to launch a successful enterprise.

Learn what business model you need to employ to hit the market fast, share in epiphany from customer feedback and adapt your products to be more valuable.

6. Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters9780804139298 p0 v4 s1200x630

A bold variant on the preachings of producing a “sustainable business” in Zero to One, Peter Thiel advises startup founders look to bring into existence what has never existed before.

Truly innovative (and ultimately profitable) companies Thiel believes, come from finding areas of the market where no solution existed…and now one does.

This book, originally a series of talks Thiel gave to Stanford students will surely inspire you and your startup team to wildly innovate on your course to creating a successful business.

7. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

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Ben’s book is an interesting take on the psychology of running a business. Throughout much of the book, Horowitz talks about the difficulties CEOs experience and how to overcome them.

Highly recommended for developing the mental toughness it requires to start and run a successful business. A business book for those looking to push their mental fortitudes.

8. Good to Great by Jim Collins

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Wondering what makes a small business great?  Good to Great, by Jim Collins is a classic business book that depicts greatness in not just business but as well in life and the roadmap to get there.

Take your business plan and turn it into an inspiring story of massive success as Collins will challenge you and your co-founder to ask not, “Why greatness?” but “What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness?”

9. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

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Does your business require you on a daily basis just to keep the lights on? The central concept of this classic by Michael Gerber is to focus on building a business that doesn’t need you to run on a daily basis. Otherwise, you are creating yourself a job. 🙂

Learn the difference, and learn how to ensure you are setting your business up in such a way that you aren’t needed to hold things together, but rather drive value, innovation and install the cultural values and story a new startup needs to thrive!

10. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande 71CwWiCJhuL

Curious about what drives many of the issues, errors and failures in medicine? Wonder why airlines are so efficient, safe and an extremely secure way of travel? Checklists!

And while the title of this book may give you the complete message, the thoughtful and valuable data-driven case studies Gawande shares help give you the real-world examples of implementing process and procedure into your day to day.

As a startup founder you need stop wasting your mental energy on repeatable tasks and focus your critical cognitive capacities on the creative thinking it requires to run your startup!

Conclusion: Read & Achieve

Which book will you start with? Are there any books that have really helped you in your business pursuits that need to be added to our list??

Let us know in the comments below!

Top 24 Tools & Resources for Successful Startups in 2018

If you want to find the best startup tools and resources for you and your team, you'll LOVE this list.

These are all tools we've used ourselves, or our community members have used and implemented into their day to day operations.

These tools will cover; project management, marketing tools, productivity and much more.

Let's check them out!

#1 Your Local Co-Working Spaces! Duh 🙂

Given who we are we just had to mention this tip somewhere...so we thought why not first? 😉

You’ve run the numbers, and there just isn’t enough money in the budget for private office space somewhere that's convenient for you and your co-founder. Working from your house, however, is out of the question, who can stay focused with all that food in the fridge?!?

In all seriousness, a co-working space is much more than the desk (and coffee) you are paying for. It's about community! With weekly events, mentorship programs and the opportunity to collaborate with other startup founders all the while using the super high-speed internet, how can you pass that up?

 

Get Started: Hop onto sites like sharedesk.net and coworker.com to find instant office spaces in your city and around the world, if you are in San Antonio, book a tour to see us!

co-working-space

#2 You Can Book Me for Easy “Calendar Juggling”

you-can-book-me-startup-tool

Do you ever find yourself spending too much time just trying to schedule a meeting? I know we have...

Put an end to calendar juggling and streamline meeting management with You Can Book Me. This tool integrates with your team’s Google and iCloud calendars so that you can take everyone’s availability into consideration when scheduling meetings. The platform also works great for service businesses that take appointments from customers.

Get Started: Try out the tool’s features by signing up for a free account at Youcanbook.me.

#3 MailChimp for Email List Building & Email Marketing

mailchimp-startup-tool

Use the email marketing tool MailChimp to stay in contact with your most engaged customers and clients. Use the free plan for a list up to 2,000 email subscribers. Their customer service is also excellent if you run into issues.

Get Started: Sign up for MailChimp’s free version to optimize your startup’s email marketing campaigns.

#4 Asana for Project Management

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Asana is a project management tool that offers a central location for your team’s requirements documents, budget data, and schedules. It’s perfect for both local and remote teams. It integrates with chat tools like Slack as well for some additional cool features.

Get Started: Visit Asana.com to see a demo of the product’s powerful features. I also like Trello and the capabilities of it's free version.

#5 Your Local Small Business Development Center!

Need access to capital or help understanding financial statements to grow your business? Your city’s Small Business Development Center has free tools, training, consulting, and informational resources to give your startup a boost.

Get Started:  Locate the nearest branch in your area, in San Antonio, go to https://sasbdc.org/.

#6 Canva for Quick, Easy & Professional Graphic Design

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Whether it's your first business card or a YouTube thumbnail to help increase the number of clicks to your company's latest video, Canva helps the non-designers "get by" with thousands of template design options. With Canva, you can get professional-looking graphics without using special photo editing skills.

Get Started: Explore Canva’s robust graphic design features for free by downloading the application at Canva.com

#7 Understand Your Website’s Performance Using Google Analytics

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How does your website traffic factor into your business plan? Seeing how your site is performing in search engines, or how users are engaging with your site is critical to seeing success online with your business.

Use detailed Google Analytics reports to develop advertising campaigns that improve lead generation, conversion rates, and sales.

Get Started: Sign up for a free Google Analytics account now and get it installed on your site ASAP! 

 

#8 Use Platforms Like Coursera to Learn New Skills & Train New Hires

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Coursera is an e-learning platform that delivers professional development and degree programs in a number of subjects. Courses are 100 percent online, and you can tailor them to match your team’s schedule. When it's hard to find the time to train employees, platforms like Coursera can be a huge difference maker in taking some of the training burden off of you.

Get Started: Register for classes at Coursera.org. You can audit a class for free, but you’ll need to pay for the course if you want credit.

#9 You Need A Budget for Managing Your Startup’s Finances (YouNeedaBudget.com)

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Many new businesses experience cash flow problems that impair growth. With the proper budget, your startup doesn’t have to be a statistic. Financial management startup tools such as You Need a Budget (YNAB) help you to create and execute a budget to meet your company’s financial goals. Of course,  more traditional bookkeeping software can be an option, Xero or Quickbooks however, YNAB is very simple, easy (and cheap) to get started with.

Just export your transactions at year end and send to your accountant to complete proper tax documents.

 

Get Started: Sign up for a free trial account with YNAB at YouNeedaBudget.com

#10 Read Business Books for Wisdom Beyond Your Years

What do you need to learn? Management? Strategy? Finance?

Whatever it is, you better believe there is a wealth a good resources on all those different subjects. Readers are leaders? Right?

Get Started: Check out the “Personal MBA” reading list by best-selling author Josh Kaufman.

#11 Use Clarity (Or Tap Your Network) for Mentors & Business Coaching

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Looking for advice for your startup?

If you don’t have the budget to retain a consultant on contract, you can get on-demand advice from seasoned experts in your field with Clarity. You can also find enthusiastic mentors and business coaches through trade associations.

Get Started: Find a Clarity expert in your field at https://clarity.fm, and start getting answers today.

#12 Use Meetup or Your Local Business Calendar for Networking Events!

While connecting on social media has its place, nothing beats face-to-face connection.  Meetup is a networking tool that brings like-minded people together for social and professional events all across the spectrum.

 Get Started: Visit Meetup.com to find out about upcoming events in your area, or if you are in San Antonio, checkout SAbusinesscalendar.com.

#13 Use Websites Like Upwork to Source Capable Freelancers

Don’t let a small team stop you from doing big things. Hiring freelancers is a way to quickly scale up when you need extra help and scale back when demand ebbs.

 Get Started: Find your next freelance team member at Upwork.com.

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#14 Use Boomerang for Gmail to Remember Sales Follow Up

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Get ahead of the game with email productivity tool Boomerang for Gmail. Use the tool to automatically send pre-scripted emails anytime in the future. Never forget to send a follow up email again!

Get Started: Get a free Boomerang for Gmail account at Boomeranggmail.com to try out the platform’s basic features. Upgrade to the tool’s professional version when you need it.

#15 Send Professional Invoices with PayPal

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Obviously we are all familiar with PayPal, but have we used PayPal’s business features? One of my favorites is invoicing. Easily create professional invoices using PayPal and send them off! PayPal charges a 2% payment processing fee. Similar to many others who offer this software service.

Get Started: Sign up for a free business PayPal account at PayPal.com.

#16 Find VIP’s Email Addresses with Hunter.io

Want the email address of the CEO who’s company needs to know about your innovative idea or product? Use Hunter.io to look them up and verify their email address. The free plan works great for people who don’t have to do too much email sourcing (up to 100 requests per month!).

Get Started: Try Hunter’s features for free by signing up for a basic account at Hunter.io.

#17 Edit Content & Copy Fast with Grammarly

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Don’t distract a new potential customer browsing your website with tipos (see what I did there?).  Automated grammar checker Grammarly proofreads your content for you, which saves you time and helps you figure out how to use a comma.

Get Started: Download the Grammarly application from Chrome here.

#18 Don’t Drop Your Video Call with Zoom

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Are you tired of Skype not working? Yes, I am too. And...I have been for years! Rant over...

For hassle-free collaboration, sales calls and teleconferencing with staff, you’ll want to use a video call platform you can count on. I love Zoom, and the free plan will get you pretty far.

Get Started: Go to Zoom.us to get a demo of the platform and to sign up for a free basic account.

#19 Use Sumo Tools to Collect More Email Addresses (FAST!)

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Sumo helps you build your website’s traffic into email list subscribers with their various strategic pop up forms and landing pages. Convert more of your traffic, now!

Get Started:The basic account for this tool is free. Visit Sumo.com to sign up and connect your website.

#20 Use Jing or Snagit to Send Screenshots & Videos

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Do you have a good tool to take screenshots or screencasts yet? Such an essential tool and a big part of clearing up communication with clients, vendors and team members.  Jing and Snagit are a couple of my favorites, and have great free options.

Get Started: Sign up with Jing or Snagit, here.

#21 Manage Your Social Media Effectively with Hootsuite or Buffer

Overwhelmed by all your social media platforms? Yes, I'm sure most people are too...but fear not! Tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer makes social media management amongst many platforms much easier. Schedule your posts a week or two ahead all at once. Anything from Twitter to LinkedIn!

Get Started: Sign up for a free account with Buffer or Hootsuite here.

#22 Build Awesome Forms & Onsite Surveys with Typeform

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A lack of feedback about your products or services can leave your business out of touch with your target customers. Typeform helps you to create conversational forms and surveys to improve the user experience.

Get Started: Learn about Typeform’s features at typeform.com, and sign up for a free basic account.

#23 Use a PageBuilder Like Divi to Build Engaging Pages ASAP

You don’t need to code to build engaging pages anymore. Great page building tools like Divi allow you to build highly engaging pages from scratch or by using templates. This is all done with the click and drags of your mouse!

Get Started: Download the Divi page builder plugin at Elegantthemes.com.

 

#24 Find Stock Photos That DON'T Suck with Unsplash

Can't get completely unique photos for your company's website or blog posts? Yeah, most people can't early on! But photos are a key to engaging and captivating your readers or audience as they work through your website.

Use Unsplash's awesome collection of beautiful photos, for free! Just show some respect to the community of photographers providing the photos!

 

Get Started: Sign up for a free account at unsplash.com

Final Thoughts

Be careful, in the world of startup tools and resources there can be certain overwhelm. While we hope our list is a helpful collection of tools and resources for you, it’s your job to filter through these and find the fewest possible set of tools to help you do your job and deliver for your customers in the best possible fashion.

But lastly...

Are there any new tools that you like that we didn't list here?

Let us know in the comments below!

7 SEO Tips for San Antonio Startups

As a startup, how valuable would it be to have 100s if not 1000s of targeted visitors coming to your site every single month, whether you paid for them or not?

Those are new leads, those are phone calls, those are future customers who will make your startup’s vision stay afloat.

That is the value of organic traffic. That is the value in doing SEO “right”.

But doing SEO incorrectly can be costly.

As I’ve seen since starting Grow Ensemble, achieving desirable rankings for your industry’s coveted search terms can take serious time and effort. It takes time for Google to read and recognize changes to your site, new content, and new mentions of your business online.

And in the startup world, it’s no secret that time is precious.

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A strong signal sent to Google one month can mean a positive rankings boost 10 weeks down the road (if not more).

And if you make mistakes with how you set your website up, how you produce content, or how your brand looks online...it can take months to reverse and recover.

This is why I put together this post of critical “SEO Tips” for y’all. Because I don’t want to see you waste your precious time, money and effort making mistakes with how you and your team approach SEO.

Take these tips to heart— reach out to me if you have any questions, and gain precious traffic and potential new customers coming to your business’ online storefront each and every day.

So, here are the things we are going to talk about:

  • Keyword Research
  • SERP Analysis
  • Quality of Content (vs. Quantity)
  • Click Through Rate
  • LSI Keywords
  • Site Load Speed
  • Content Promotion

1. Without Keyword Research, There is No “SEO”

Did you know that 91% of content produced online gets NO traffic from Google? That’s right, ZERO (Ahrefs Blog).

And one of the reasons why?

People aren’t creating content around topics that are getting any search volume.

Essentially, most people aren’t doing keyword research.

SEO begins and ends with keyword research. Creating content without assessing the potential search volume is risking a serious waste of time and investment. And creating quality content is a serious investment!

Taking that time to create something with no knowledge of whether or not people are searching for it is like shooting a free throw with your eyes closed (unless you are Lebron James).

Of course, keyword research isn’t easy. But I’ll introduce a few useful tools to get you started.

(Free) Keyword Research Tools

  • Google Keyword Planner - You will have to setup a Google Adwords account to use the keyword planner (but you don’t have to be running ads).
  • Google Search Console - If you haven’t setup Google Search Console (formally webmaster tools) for you site, then do so now! This is one of the greatest free tools to use in the SEO space. With this tool you can get an understanding for which keywords and phrases Google is starting to pick you up for.
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  • Google Trends - An excellent tool to check the popularity (rising or declining) of a keyword or phrase. Check out how searches in your industry are trending…
google-trends

Of course, if you are going to get serious about SEO, I would recommend investing in a keyword tool. A lower cost, but still highly effective tool I use is KWFinder.

2. Analyze the Search Result…

A great way to get a sense for what type of content you need to create, or what opportunity you have to create something more valuable than your competition is to see what Google is already ranking.

  • What type of domains are ranking for this term?
  • Is Google showing any special “features?”
  • How is top ranking content being presented?
  • What is not being written about that needs to be?

This also gives you a sense for search intent (i.e. what’s the desired result of the person searching for this term?).

Matching your content to the intent of the searcher is a key in creating content that will be engaged with and rank well. It seems self-evident, but this is something people constantly miss the mark on.

If someone is searching for “french presses,” are they looking to buy them? Or they wanting to know how to use them? Test a search yourself and see what type of content is showing up.

Likewise, as Google expands their use of knowledge graphs (see image below), you have to be careful and pay attention to whether the searcher is looking for a simple definition or a more detailed, in-depth article.

If you were to write a detailed article on “how many championships have the Spurs won?” you might be wasting your time because most searchers won’t go past this result here:

spurs-championships-knowledge-graph

Investigate the existing search results before you conceptualize what type of content you will be creating.

3. Create GREAT Content or Don’t Create Any At All...

This should be a no brainer...your content needs to be engaging!

We now know, page engagement is one of the top ranking factors Google evaluates. You can also hear it referred to as “RankBrain.”

Not only that, Google is starting to crack down on the level of “credibility” and “authority” the author of any particular article has (TheSEMPost). Google takes quality seriously.

I can’t take the time to teach you about quality content in this post (maybe you should go to a Content Clinic?), but you can get started with understanding which content of yours is already successful by tracking the following via Google Analytics:

  • Pages / Session (how many pages does the user click through in one visit to your website)
  • Avg. Session Duration (how long do users spend on average in one visit to your website?)

Bounce Rate % (the percentage of website visits where a user didn’t visit more than 1 page and did not interact with the page they visited at all)

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You can also look at this data by individual page, traffic source amongst many other options.

Begin to identify which of your pages are more engaged with vs. the others and see what lessons can be extracted there.

  • What about these pages may be most engaging to users?
  • How can I make adjustments to low performing pages or new pages I create in the future to increase engagement?

4. Remind Searchers WHY They Should Visit Your Site

If you take a look at a search result for the keyword you are targeting you know what you’ll see??

10 listings (maybe some paid ads) all biding for traffic!

How are you going to make sure you stand out? A really great place to start, is with being intentional about writing your titles tags and meta descriptions.

serp-analysis

With the title of your page or post and the meta description you have an opportunity to entice a searcher to client. We must take that opportunity!

Some quick tips to do so:

  • Look at Google Ads, these are written (sometimes professionally) to be highly enticing ad copy. What makes some ads stand out more than others?
  • Use numbers! Oddly enough, odd numbers see a higher CTR than even numbers...
  • Use brackets or parenthesis - again, another thing that helps catch the eye. Whatever we can do right?

Here’s a cool free tool to work on improving your headlines.

Also, you can use Google Search Console (set this up if you haven’t already!) to see for which keywords you are getting a low or high click-through-rate.

search-console-ctr

Just by adjusting the “copy” that users will see when searching for you and your competitors you can see a nice increase in clicks and traffic.

If you are on WordPress, make sure you’ve installed the Yoast SEO plugin (the free version). You’ll be able to edit your titles and meta descriptions here:

yoast-seo-plugin

5. Pay Attention to Google’s Cues...

Struggling for ideas of what to write about? Let Google tell you. 🙂

This is an awesome little hack that many folks miss out on. When conducting a “search result analysis” like I described in Tip #2, make sure to take note of the following:

  • Google Autosuggest
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  • Suggested Results
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  • And sometimes! People also ask…
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Google is telling you that these are closely related terms to the one you searched for and plan on writing about. In the SEO world, folks refer to these keywords and terms as “LSI Keywords,” or Latent Semantic Keywords.

One single post can rank for hundreds if not thousands of terms. This is because Google loves in-depth, comprehensive content. Gone are the days of writing posts about highly specific questions and topics.

Google would much prefer one high authority post that covers all related topics.

So, what they are telling you is...if you are writing about “french presses,” it may be in your best interest to as well cover some of the “suggested results” as topics in your write up.

Only add in topics that make sense for your post, but believe me, you’ll be rewarded!  

Want a free tool that will give you more of these closely related suggestions?

I love to use https://lsigraph.com/.

6. Make sure your site loads fast!

A huge part of finding success with SEO is making it as easy as possible for users to engage with your site.

One critical piece of this:

Site Load Speed

Load speed has been a Google ranking factor for sometime on desktop and has “officially” become a ranking factor on mobile July of this year (2018).

The slower your site loads, the less searchers will want to stick around to see what your site is all about. You can have the greatest piece of content in the world, but if you site takes too long to load, no one is going to hang around to see it!

As your load time goes from 1s to 3s, the probability of a bounce increases by 32%. As it goes from 1s to 5s the probability of a bounce increases by 90% (Neil Patel)!

So Google has told us this is a critical ranking factor, and the data shows we lose traffic tremendously, how do we diagnose our site?

PageSpeed Tools:

google-page-speed-insights

7. Are you putting your content in someone’s hands??

Publishing content without any consideration of promotion is like making a Thanksgiving feast for yourself! As good food is best shared, so is good content.

How was that metaphor? Anyways…

Google is ranking pages and sites based on engagement (remember I mentioned that a critical ranking factor earlier?).

If they (Google) has no data to pick up from your site, it’s going to be a long, slow and improbable road to improved rankings.

There are a million and one ways to promote your content, but don’t get overwhelmed trying to do too many at once. Get started by thinking:

  • What assets do we already have?
    • An email list?
    • A customer list?
    • A newsletter?
    • An engaged social media following?
    • Industry groups you are apart of?

I highly suggest starting with your already most engaged channel. If that’s your email list, start by writing and scheduling an email to send to your list everytime you post new content. If it’s an industry group that’s highly active on Facebook, check with a group administrator first and see if it’s okay to promote your content there (ideally with no sales pitch).

Pick one, create a system for it, and move onto the next method.  

To Close: What to focus on next?

Now I want to turn it over to you.

Which of these “tips” on you going to focus on implementing first?

Will you speed up your site? Or focus on re-writing some of those titles and descriptions to get more clicks…

Either way, let me know in the comments below!

Shifting into Drive: Geekdom Pre-Accelerator Announces the First Class

Last month, Geekdom announced the launch of its very own Pre-Accelerator program, designed to help organize, develop, and galvanize new startups into fully-developed business plans worthy of real investment.

Well, after a review of applications and idea presentations, today is a red-letter day for Geekdom as the pre-accelerator, in partnership with Alamo Angels, announce the first class of teams to enter the program!

“We had more than 20 San Antonio startups apply to the program,” said Luke Owen, Co-Director of the Pre-Accelerator program, “The quality of startups that applied demonstrate the demand for more programs like this to support our local tech ecosystem.”

If you want to know more about the program, click here to head over to the website and to find out more. Now, let’s meet the teams that the Pre-Accelerator is about to whip into shape:

Ryan Ward, Co-Founder

 

John West, Co-Founder

Partnering with retail software providers, Scraffic provides foot traffic counting solutions and valuable traffic data to retailers of all sizes. Looking to disrupt the traditional models of monitoring foot traffic patterns, Scraffic has created an affordable and easy to install solution to empower retailers with powerful new data.

 

Jonathan Perry, Founder

Using the latest video game engine technology on the market, Ractive develops interactive virtual reality experiences to accelerate test performance, reaction times, and decision making skills. Ractive is currently focused on developing training scenarios that teach skills for saving lives!

Alberto Pina, Founder

Devoted to making the process of buying a manufactured home faster, Braustin Docs allows a home buyer to navigate the home buying process from their mobile device. After the home is delivered, Docs allows a homeowner to generate a punch list with pictures needed to order parts and complete service all in a single trip.

Julia Bates, Founder

Posture has been one of the biggest burdens on the average working professional. Mello{be} is a more comfortable and versatile meditation cushion designed to improve balance, posture, leg strength, as well as encourage the mind-body connection.

Quentin Burke, Founder

Divvee is a corporate meal delivery service designed to make it easy for companies to order from top local restaurants using a new ordering platform. Crafted from a large variety of menus curated from dishes across the city, you’ll never have to settle for a sandwich-and-soup combo ever again.

Brett Davidoff, Co-Founder

 

Nicholas Ramos, Co-Founder

Clutche us a smartphone application that connects venue customers directly to the vendors. Using their application, user can order anything from food, drinks, and merchandise to be delivered directly to their seats! No line, no waiting, no problem.

 

Beginning April 19th and culminating in a demo day on May 31st, these six teams will meet and work with mentors and speakers to help guide them through the rigors of setting up a business structure while also developing their product for debut. At the end of the program, real investors will be able to select a winning team to invest $10,000 toward their product or service!

For more information and updates on the program, bookmark their website, and be sure to join us on May 31st to see their presentations and final products!

Calling All Entrepreneurs: 3DS is Here!

Google, Facebook, Uber, Favor—Where did they all begin? Before the money, before the TED talks, and before the success, every single major company, service, and smart app were all the same thing: An idea.

Ideas are the true genesis of innovation. But how do they evolve from just an idea to a business plan? From a business plan to a company? From a company to a movement?

It all starts somewhere. And here at Geekdom, we want our community to have every opportunity to take their ideas to the next level, and that’s where 3-Day Startup comes in.

3DS is one of our major programs dedicated to bringing in leading mentors and new workshops meant to help every member earn how to make the journey of turning your new age ideas into new age businesses, all in three rapid-fire days.

And here’s the kicker—It’s all FREE. All you have to do is apply!! Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Apply online right here (and quickly, spots are almost gone!)
  2. Come to the Geekdom Event Center on Friday, March 23rd at 5 pm for the kickoff
  3. Get hustling!

Over the next 54 hours, the program facilitator will lead everyone through dedicated brainstorming sessions, along with some pitch/feeback sessions and team selection (no great idea got its start going solo!).

Food, beverages, and a bottomless supply of coffee will be provided for the entire group throughout the weekend, so you won’t need to worry about dipping into your personal finances.

3DS isn’t meant to be a competition; its purpose is about learning, collaborating, and helping each other turn ideas into something real. If you’re still skeptical, here’s a healthy list of companies that were created as a direct result of participating in 3DS. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so why not make that first step count? See you there!

The Contagion of the SA Tech Community

Every now and then, Geekdom likes to reach out to some of our alumni and fellow alamo city techies to hear their thoughts on our burgeoning culture in the downtown area. Jessica Hernandez from Grok Interactive wanted to share her perspective on this “epidemic” that everyone should want to catch!

 

I am not talking about an infectious disease. I am talking about the infectious entrepreneurial spirit. The “let’s lift each other up” culture that has developed as a result of Geekdom’s efforts. If you are a part of this growing tech scene, you know the energy, the spirit and have grabbed on tightly to see how you can be a part of this vibrant ecosystem. For those not aware of our growing tech community, let me guide you through the web of knowledge happening in this city.

The tech industry’s growth in our city has helped with job creation. The highly coveted software developer job is most often discussed, but there are also opportunities in other key areas to include sales, marketing, and customer support. Remember that business degree you paid for and don’t know what to do with it? Well, tech companies need business minded individuals to help with day to day operations. Those skills are needed for strategic initiatives to help small tech companies grow.

Geekdom member and WordPress expert, Stefanie Young, from Grok Interactive gave a great example of her experience downtown. “I can walk down the street and ask any developer a question on any topic. Everyone is ready to help each other and provide support when we are looking for help.” Stefanie has also given back to the community by speaking at many engagements to share her knowledge with up and coming WordPress developers. She is a graduate from Codeup and is one of many Grok developers actively mentoring students. This is one small example of the open sourcing of information that is happening right now in our city.

If you are a current or former Rackspace employee, a short stroll down Houston street during a lunch hour will most likely lead you into a conversation with someone you used to work with and is now telling their story about their transition from a big tech company to a smaller start up environment reminiscent of Rackspace’s earlier years. For those not familiar with the Rackspace family and friends culture, you will be delighted to find many former Rackers who are willing to mentor and share their knowledge with others interested in this tech community.

Did I also mention that local downtown businesses are benefiting from the tech community’s growth? We are a group of hungry folks and we like to be fed good food. Pinch Boil House is an example of one of the eateries that will be opening due to demand and growth from this ecosystem.

Our collective community challenge in the coming years will be how will we allow this fostering of knowledge and information between each other to continue without allowing agencies to monopolize the community and make money off the values that we hold in high regard. You could be a Grok Interactive developer, a support team member of WPEngine, a database engineer at JungleDisk, a Codeup student, or working with one of the many startups at Geekdom, but our goals and aspirations are the same: continue to grow this thriving ecosystem and make it home to many of the tech companies of our time.

If you are not participating in the scene, you should be. Come downtown, grab lunch at Moshe’s, and get a membership at Geekdom. Find that energetic group of techies and ask them how to solve that business problem you have. Better yet, ask how you can contribute.

-Jessica

Company Spotlight: BILTT – Brick by Brick

Chalkboards & punk rock – that’s how projects begin to take shape at BILTT.

They are a design-first shop that specialize in helping startups and SaaS companies with logo and identity systems, marketing websites, and their digital products or applications.

BILTT was founded by Chris Welch and Josh Seltzer the beginning of 2014. Neither born and raised here, they originally met during the early days of Geekdom at the Weston Centre in March of 2012.

“It was pretty interesting meeting some rando dude in this city that matched my passion for quality work. Chris, although I don’t like to tell him, is an amazing designer and after a few quiet walks on the beach, it just seemed to make sense to work together”, said Josh Seltzer.

“Busted knuckles and broken backs are how we had food on the table every night.”

BILTT was born out of hard work and passion for delivering good design to good people. Even more impressive is the work ethic. This team is relentless at delivering something people can trust in and be proud of – and that kind of effort is home-grown.

Chris Welch puts it, “We come from blue collar families and backgrounds. Our fathers were both hammer-swinging carpenter types. Busted knuckles and broken backs is how we had food on the table every night. We wanted to build something that represented that work ethic.”

 

biltt-team-band-photo

“Aesthetics is a very small part of our job… design is about solving problems and delivering a message.”

In 2015, BILTT grew to add one more person, Claire Osburn. Prior to BILTT, Claire was working with SA2020, but took the first front-end development course that Codeup provided. It just so happened that Josh Seltzer was helping teach that course and BILTT hired her immediately.

“Claire is amazing. Her eye for detail and addiction to results is what keeps us moving forward some days. I can’t imagine a day without her around”, said Josh Seltzer. “The good thing about our team is that we overlap. We can move in and out of each others space. Claire can code and do Information Architecture, while I’m coding or working on UX, and Chris is working on UX or high-fidelity designs. I think we compliment each other and its awesome we can help each other out.”

Though small in team size, BILTT’s success and influence around these halls are bigger than you think. Between Techstars Cloud, Startup Weekend, Startup Next and even Geekdom (to name a few) they have been avid supporters of the local community.

biltt-team-3

“We consider our clients and partners to be friends. Working with people that we like, believe in and trust is huge for us. We like to say that as much as a client chooses to work with us, we choose to work with them. Getting to know the people and companies at Geekdom has played a major role in making that possible.”, said Chris Welch.

Stop by their office sometime, located on the 7th floor in the Mortal Kombat office. They may say hi or give you a “why are you bothering us look”, but truly do appreciate visitors even if they tell you to leave immediately – they’re probably just kidding – I think.

Otherwise you can find them at:
http://biltt.co
http://instagram.com/bilttco
http://twitter.com/bilttco

biltt-insta_1024

 

 

Company Spotlight: Digital Creative Institute

Graduation is as much an exciting ceremony as it is terrifying; while there’s always a lot of handshaking and picture taking and the like, there’s that subtle thought underlying everything that you can’t ignore anymore—you’re a grown-up now, time to “adult” with the rest of the world. And it can be a tough place, especially for the people who are just trying to get into it for the first time.
“I observed firsthand the challenges of finding your way as a newly minted grad,” explained Brad Voeller, founder of the Digital Creative Institute, “However, I also noticed that grads who overcame these odds and found early success had two common traits: A solid team of mentors behind them and hands-on experience in their chosen field. So I began to ask the question, why can’t we design a vibrant learning community around these two core elements?”

In order to achieve this, Brad and his team are taking the concept of apprenticeship—one with centuries of history behind many trades and industries—and digitizing it for the modern-day graduate.

“The word’s latin origin, ‘pretendere’ means to ‘grasp with the hand’. We’re re-interpreting this learning methodology for the digital age. Every skill is developed by building personally meaningful projects targeting real-world digital marketing challenges” Voeller said.

While the average graduate comes out of college with a basic understanding of marketing and advertising, most students rarely have the opportunity to get real experience with specific types of popular software or digital marketing tools that today’s companies are in demand for. At DCI, candidates will have both the time and the team to actually learn these highly sought-for skills and become adept at using them before becoming a full-blown employee.

“We work with program candidates seeking to enroll in the program to help them develop a basic understanding of analytics, PPC, and Inbound Marketing strategy,” Voeller described, “Once a candidate is successfully placed with a company and begins the apprenticeship experience, they collaborate with the other members of their cohort in strengthening the skills that are useful to all digital marketers regardless of their specific role.”

In a sense, DCI combines job training and job placement into a single entity where candidates receive guidance and the proper tools to learn what their future companies actually need from their marketing department and tailor the candidates to their strategies. So far, the results have been extremely positive and both the San Antonio and Austin markets are expanding.

“At scale, we should achieve a presence in 50+ markets with an average of 300 apprentices a year going through the program in each location!” said Voeller.

When it comes to succeeding in the professional world, you need all the help you can get, and the team at DCI is helping make that journey a lot smoother for the future of the San Antonio community. For more information or to sign up as a candidate, check out their website here!

Part II: Venture-backed to Bootstrapped

Do me a favor and ask ten random start-up folks if they think companies should be venture-backed or bootstrapped. On second thought, don’t do that. You’re guaranteed to get sucked into a dark world of debate filled with endless vitriol, judgment, and exaggerated eye-rolls…Yeah, I’ll take a large order of “no thank you,” please. (The short answer to that debate is, “It depends.”) The point of this post isn’t to debate which method is better. This post is simply about one (unbelievably good-looking, fantastic & super humble) person’s perspective on what it’s like to be in a venture-backed world vs. a bootstrapped world. On one hand, I’ve had the fortune to be an early employee at a successful NEA-backed company. On the other hand, I’ve also recently launched my own venture — insert plug, PINCH Crawfish Kitchen — using both bootstrapped funds and crowdfunded capital. Here are a couple of my observations:

 

  1. Mo’ Money — The most obvious observation comes down to $$$$$ (I’m going to exclude talks of equity, as that gets pretty hairy, pretty quickly). At a venture-backed company, you’re given money to make the decisions you presented to your investors. With a bootstrapped company, you’re hyper-aware about Every. Single. Penny. It’s important to note, however, that you can still be (and should be) mindful of your burn rate when you’re venture-backed. Too many companies burn through money at ridiculous rates and ultimately waste their funding. Don’t do that. Additionally, much of your company culture can be derived from how you/the company perceives money. The company I worked for developed many money-saving habits early on, and as a result, much of our culture was fixated on, “how can we save more money” — spanning from parties to how we set up our work stations.
  2. Mo’ Problems — With more money comes more temptation to lose focus and spend unwisely. Just a word of caution. In my bootstrapped company, we have a laser-like focus on making money — simply because this is how we get paid. When time is your most precious resource, we spend as much of it as possible trying to create value for our amazing customers. We want them to experience the best Southeast Asian Street Food they’ve ever had! Meanwhile, at a venture-backed company, many of our initiatives were directly influenced by how we thought investors would perceive it. We legitimately spent hours working on pitches, pitch decks, models, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it helps your company truly understand its mission, LTV, churn, and so on, but you do lose time enhancing product ideas and other market strategies. Some other awesome upsides from receiving funding included the ability to easily obtain talent and new technology. This allowed us to scale effectively and grow quickly. Conversely, bootstrapped growth is typically slow and steady.
  3. Blast off in my (Mentor)ship — When you’re living in a venture-backed world, mentorship is a click away. Investors typically have a wide network of unbelievably talented and smart individuals/advisors. And because your company is already vetted, you get automatic credibility. I can recall having several of the world’s top “thought leaders” of a certain industry in our corner. With a bootstrapped venture, finding mentorship is a daunting and grueling process. You’ve got to be a bit shameless in your relentless pursuit of a mentor who is willing to, first, believe in your vision, and second, willing to take you all the way.
  4. Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock — Currently, I have no formal deadlines when it comes to PINCH. It is up to me and my co-founder to accomplish things in a timely manner and to push ourselves to constantly do more. However, in a venture-backed company, you’ll have hard deadlines, timelines and goals that MUST be reached. Your investors are counting on it. You feel the fire underneath you at all times. To be honest, sometimes it’s nice having that fire — especially when you’ve stayed up extra late the night before binge-watching ‘Stranger Things’. (If you haven’t watched this show yet, you haven’t lived)
  5. Shoot for the Moon — In both cases, setting huge goals is par for the course. Just because you’re bootstrapped does not mean you should not be trying to reach the stars. However, venture-backed companies typically have loftier goals — such as a becoming the next FB or IPO — simply because it is more realistic to get millions of dollars in funding to help propel their own valuation into crazy large numbers. A bootstrapped company has one goal: to be profitable. Slow and steady growth does not afford the luxury of ever ‘being in the red’.

 

Regardless if you’re bootstrapping or trying to raise a round, having a great product and being able to execute are the most important things. Because at the end of the day, receiving money is just one aspect of your company — albeit an important one — but providing value, putting forth your best effort and fine-tuning your product are ultimately the things that will validate your company and get you the money you deserve. Speaking of having a solid product, have you heard of PINCH Crawfish Kitchen? I hear their food is amazing. 🙂

 

Part I: Two Year Startup Survival Merit Badge

When I started at Geekdom two years ago, I was two months out of college, and my list of startup relevant skills was one word long.  I came into the job (and our huge ecosystem of entrepreneurs) expecting that everyone knew what they were doing. I pictured the people who started companies as high-achieving geniuses who, unlike me, didn’t have any doubts. While that’s a super intimidating thought, I was incredibly excited to learn from everyone. The learning tons from everyone I met did turn out to be a real thing. Everything else I expected was totally off.

Surprisingly, people starting companies are normal human beings. Even more surprising, adults are also normal human beings. You don’t turn 22 and suddenly receive magical adult-y knowledge that prevents you from getting road rage and forgetting to put your laundry in the dryer. Within the first month at Geekdom, I realized no one knows what they’re doing. The people founding companies are still high-achieving genius humans. It’s just that they also have doubts about the best course of action, get stressed, procrastinate and have to do things totally outside their wheelhouse to achieve their goals.

The story you know is that in these past two years, Geekdom doubled in size, expanded to three floors + an event space, improved our customer satisfaction, etc. While I love the victories, what I remember viscerally were all the false starts, all the little failures that helped us figure out what success actually looks like. I started as a project manager, but then we needed an events person. We didn’t have anyone doing sales so we hired someone. People previously doing office manager stuff, billing, etc became the membership managers you know and love. There was never a playbook for what we were doing or how to do it. The whole concept of “guess and check” from math class was very applicable to daily life. And all of that was just the Geekdom team. There were also sorts of changes, risks taken, adventures embarked upon throughout the rest of the community as well.

Instead of thinking less highly of the people around me, I find myself more impressed. All of the success stories (both large and small) were not about super humans; these are average humans with crazy above average bravery. I could talk your ear off about everything I learned working with the most amazing team I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. The really important take away is that you can do anything if you assemble a solid team and aren’t afraid of making mistakes while you figure out what your success story is going to be.

Company Spotlight – Grok Interactive

To build an ecosystem, you need more than just successful companies. You need companies driven by a purpose and doing more than just chasing a buck. A real ecosystem needs companies that contribute, not just consume resources. This week, we want to showcase Grok Interactive, a company whose mission is creating software that matters. Grok is the epitome of a #GeekdomBuilt company led by long time Geekdom members, Jason Straughan CEO and Jason Ellis CTO. The Jasons joined Geekdom about four years ago after they left high paying jobs that had little impact on what they truly cared about. Both Jasons wanted help as many companies as they could while working as consultants, helping a company build an app or two then moving on to the next project.

And that’s what they did. However, the Geekdom community brought Grok Interactive more projects than two people could do, so Straughan and Ellis decided to expand. Before they knew it, they hired someone from the Geekdom community, then another and soon Grok Interactive became the go-to development house in the Geekdom ecosystem. That’s when they encountered a very interesting fork in the road; they could either focus on working with clients that would pad their bank accounts or pick customers who were also mission driven. When the Grok team sat down to evaluate the problem, they looked at their history and saw the answer in the past. Since day one, project after project they completed was for companies who desperately needed a developer to help spread their message and help build San Antonio.

While Grok is not located in Geekdom proper anymore (they’ve outgrown the space!), they are still as vital to this community as anyone. Whether they’re providing mentorship to our members, sponsoring events that support new developers or just taking the time to visit Geekdom during Fermented Friday, Grok is sure to never lose touch with the community that helped build them. No other company is better at contributing to the ecosystem than Grok, and we thank them for being a trailblazer in so many ways.

If you are looking for a company to help you build a web app, a mobile app, a WordPress site or even just someone to talk shop, you can find Grok Interactive in the 3rd floor of the Vogue building with Codeup and TurnerLogic.



Build it at Geekdom.