Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Power of a Single Word

The other day I was involved in an email thread about bulk mailing. While we on the thread generally agreed that bulk mailing was a bulk waste of time I had brought up a process I had used with some degree of success. This process involved sending out post-cards with only one word on them. My theory for doing this was that a post card with one word on it can not be denied, that someone can't pick the card up and not read the one word as they throw it into the trash. With this action I have gained brain-space, even if only for a fraction of a second, I got in through the noise, my "word" was in their brain.

"So what?" you might ask. What does this do for you?

Well consider that you do it a couple of times. That word becomes an accepted data-point. One way to look at it is brand recognition, you know that brand word. Maybe you don't know anything about it but you know the word, it is familiar and in that familiarity it becomes comfortable and perhaps non-threatening. But it comes with a question. What is it?

Remember the book/movie "The Manchurian Candidate"? A post hypnotic set of commands is activated with a single word. Perhaps this is the reverse, a post-hypnotic curiosity is activated by the word.

So you cold-call the individual you sent the cards to and say the "word" in the introduction, the first words you get out before they hang the phone up. Could this stop them from closing their mind? Could this keep the door open long enough to get a second or third word in? Could they be curious enough to ask what it all means? Could you have a dialog as a result? Could it lead to a sale?

One word. What word would you choose?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bootstrap Bootcamp on YouTube

In the Bootstrap Bootcamp I explain in further detail, the stages, actions and principles of bootstrap as outlined in the Bootstrap Map.

The map has been assembled over the last 5+ years of Bootstrap Austin. My first inklings of the stages came in conversations with Darius Mahdjoubi, who gave us the notion of the "Valley of Death." With this foundation, the map began to take on a life of its own. Hundreds of conversations with bootstrap members and speakers at Bootstrap informed its development. The Bootstrap Bookclub became a place to study the stories of master bootstrap entreprenuers like Richard Branson and Muhammad Yunus. Joseph Campbell's book, Hero of a Thousand Faces, showed the parallel of the hero's journey with the bootstrap journey: "Call to Adventure" = "youPlusU;" the "Road of Trials" = "Valley of Death;" etc. Thus an entirely new aspect revealed itself: the Inner Journey that goes along with the external journey of team, product, customer and organization.

I've appreciated the opportunity to continue to ask the question: what is bootstrap?
The map remains both a representation of my best current answer to that question and a reminder that it is an ever-moving and elusive target. For example, "you" and "youPlusU" used to be one stage: Preideation.

In this I am reminded of the Star Spangled Banner. Though not sung this way, it is simply a question: does the flag yet wave? We will continue to live in our question.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Prophet Bootstrapper

Years from now us Austin Entrepreneurs are going to tell our friends we personally know one of the stellar entrepreneurial philosophers of our generation. That we were part of his community and got to meet with him on a regular basis in small intimate groups as well as 1-on-1's. That we got to listen to this journeyman change agent expand on an endless array of topics & ideas while enjoying a libation at a local watering hole. What is really impressive about this is that there will literally be thousands of people that were part of these gatherings with him over the years because Bijoy Goswami took the time to share his journey with us spreading the wisdom and knowledge he has been soaking up over the years. As a producer/director of entrepreneurial content, I am fortunate to film hundreds of entrepreneurs for TV shows and videos for featuring business owners and start-up mavericks and I can share with you that Bijoy uniquely stands out in his intriguing message, diversified upbringing and journey of discovery that he is sharing with us as it happens.

This week we featured this wandering Bootstrapping Prophet & founder of the Bootstrap Network on our show On the Road with iV because we wanted to share Bijoy's story, wisdom and learnings with others outside of the 512. It was definitely quite the experience to film and hope you watch the 4 segments we captured featuring Ingrid Vanderveldt (host of the show) and Bijoy discuss everything from start-ups to Stanford to song writing to mystic cab rides to tapping into the universe. He touches on his book and the MRE theory and how the Valley of Death is a wonderful place that is really good for the soul. Bijoy then goes on to say that we can all get a deep perspective of the universe by using your own bootstraps and how his bi-polar upbringing has taught him the value of living in the present and some of the keys that to being successful in life.

My co-producer on the show, Chance Carpenter, had this to say about Bijoy:
- I was struck by the passion and spirit that Bijoy brings to the conversation about bootstrapping. One of the most consistent messages we have heard from the many entrepreneurs that iV has interviewed is that passion is a key ingredient for success in any entrepreneurial endeavor and especially when bootstrapping. While this might seem profoundly obvious, Bijoy really brings it home both how challenging it can be to stay in your joy and passion when the hurricane of a million tedious chores bares down on you AND how imperative and possible it is to continually claim and reclaim that passion when you invoke spirit into the mix.

iV had this to say:
- Not only am I proud to have Bijoy as a friend, I am inspired by him as a colleague. Part of what is so profound about Bijoy is that before Bootstrap, he had put himself in a position to do anything in life he dreamed. He was a fast moving, highly accomplished tech entrepreneur who could have chosen a number of paths to follow. In listening - but more importantly following his calling - Bijoy created Bootstrap which has brought so much value to others. In my travels across the country, I find that when people talk about Austin, TX, it is widely known that this is the home of Bootstrap Network and Bijoy. I admire the great work he does for the community and entrepreneurs alike as well as his continous desire to learn more and better himself.
Here are links to the Segments airing the CLUB E currently:

#1 - A Bootstrapping Journey Fueled by a Song & a Gingerman
#2 - Escaping the Valley of Death by Your Bootstraps
#3 - Living in the Question & Organizing the Community
#4 - A Lesson from Great Entrepreneurs - Be in the Present

There is much to be learned from and entertained by this purveyor of community gatherings and we look forward to soaking up more of Bijoy's Bootstrapping wisdom in the years to come.

Lyn Graft
Founder, CLUB E Network & LG Pictures

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Alternatives to the Ad-supported Business Model

Image courtesy CalCent via stock.xchng There are many businesses in Austin leveraging online services. Many of these might be classified as Web 2.0. These might be using the ubiquitous "Freemium" model, in which some level of service is given away, and more advanced features require you to subscribe. Others are targeting an ad-supported model. Still others are building "Honeypots" which draw people into a community, providing a business access to qualified patrons to which goods and services can be sold. Bootstrappers aren't shy about mixing models. I'm sure there are artists, film makers and chefs using some version of these business approaches.

I always struggle with how these models can be applied to make a growing, thriving profitable business. At the heart of these business models is that they are FREE, and often that is the value associates with them. It's hard to beat "free" even with a great premium offering.

So, I was delighted to discover Kevin Kelly's manifesto "Better Than Free" on Kelly lists eight "generatives," which he defines as "a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured."

How could these be applied to our Bootstrapping entrepreneurs?


In my post The Superstitions That Keep You From E-mail Success, I use the example of American Airlines, that sent me five emails in one day. Was this SPAM? No, these were telling me the status of my flights for the day. The information arrived just when I needed, and the frequent e-mail was welcome. What is timely about your business offering? How could you use e-mail or SMS to communicate immediate information to your customers? Would they pay for it? I will always check AA prices due to this feature, and maybe even pay a premium for a flight.


What does your business know about it's prospects and customers that would allow a customized information or service? Adding a name to an e-mail is not the kind of personalization Kelly is talking about. It's the conversations between your business and your customers that generates the value. In other words, part of the value is in the asking.


How can you expand on what a customer already knows? For example, if you had a record of a salesperson's expenses, what could you tell them about how they're spending money? Could you tell them which of their clients was most "expensive" to sell? Could you tell them which industry segments are "cheapest" to close?


People pay a premium for a brand, because they can make assumptions about quality and value based on their experience -- or others reported experience -- with the brand. Most small businesses don't have the marketing cash to build authenticity into brand. Kelly talks about a reverse watermark strategy for artists: Use a watermark to brand your image as "authentic" implying the highest quality. It's like the bumps of paint that make you know a painting is the original. How can you turn content "protection" schemes into content "authentication" schemes?


How can you give customers access to information when they need it and in the form they need it? Local company Dwellgo offers real estate investors access to properties that may not be available through the listing services, and buyers access to investors that real estate agents may not even consider. It's the access to the information that provides value.


How can you make what you offer more valuable based on its context? A movie downloaded from the Internet isn't going to have the same effect as one watched in a movie theater. When you add the context, you are essentially adding a body to your offering -- embodying it. I think this is why books continue to be successful ways to communicate. It provides content that could easily be digitized in a format that appeals to us at certain times in our day.

Molecular Thinking provides a context for something that could otherwise be easily copied and distributed for free: ideas.


Kelly states, "The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something." Letting your loyal customers get close to you or your business increases their value of ownership. Businesses have been using invitation-only events, customer conferences and "closed" parties to generate patronage value.

Read Kevin Kelly's manifesto and see what ideas come to mind for your business, especially if you generate content that is digital or can be digitized. You may find some interesting new approaches to marketing and designing profitable models.

Please share your insights in the comments.

Brian Massey is a long-time member of the Bootstrap Network and owner of Conversion Sciences. He blogs at The Conversion Scientist.

The New Era

I would like to offer some supporting thoughts as to the value of the bootstrap process, the wisdom of your choice to follow it, and the ultimate practicality of it today. First a couple of quotes:

Forbes this month (Jan 2009 ) "The venture capital industry is staring at the most vicious shakeout in its history . . . Returns are pathetic for most funds, [and] the public offering pipeline on which venture depends for its exit strategy is clamped shut.", "IPOs historically dry up at the end of a bear market and don't begin to recover for months after a rally as issuers and investors wait for signs of stability."

During the last quarter, 38 companies withdrew or postponed their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Bloomberg says "it may take until 2011 for the number of companies going public to return to their 2007 level, according to data compiled by the University of Florida. While the S&P 500 rose an average of 24 percent in the first year after a market plunge, the data show, it takes 34 months on average for underwriting to return to its rate at the start of a slowdown."

Companies pursuing the traditional VC or investor routes are running into brick walls or valuations that are ridiculous

Yet this is one of the best times to start a business.

We are in a world rich with new technologies, applications of those technologies, services that can be based on those technologies, and perceptions based on those technologies that open unimaginable doors.

Even better, established businesses whose inertia, that is inability to change and adapt, and whose debt or commitment (financial, political, or social) are now untenable are thus going on the rocks and leaving unsatisfied customers with unfulfilled appetites looking for solutions.

This is possibly one of the best times in recent history to apply the bootstrap techniques creating your fortune. I wish you well and in these stormy times expect to see good results for you on your journey down a good path, stick to it.

Happy New Year and New Era,

Barry Thornton

Friday, January 02, 2009

The wheel is broken, for now


It's the end of the year and everything is supposed to change, reset, fire-up, get going . . . you know, improve. Doesn't that happen every year? Like the Nile flooding and rejuvenating Egypt, rebirth!

It is funny how easy it is to imagine time as big circle (couldn't be something about planetary rotation could it?). Well, I typically think of a year as a big loop with repeated energy patterns around it. The 'Holidays" is one such pattern or block of time that we have all traditionaly thought of a 'slow' for everything but retrial. It is symbolically the End. . . and Start, of another turn on the helix, a continuing next loop through time

There is always the calm before the storm, things are going to take off right after the New Year and there we go. It was part of the cycle of life.

Well, the wheel hit a bump this year. While the clock may be advancing the cycle isn't. It's stuck, in fact it may be slipping backwards a bit in some places.

Fortunately a Bailout is going to get it going again (drum roll and high-hat hit). But guess what? That cycle can slip too (it's part of the cycle now because it exists in our minds, more about that some later blog).

How can you plan ahead to be safe? Can you foretell the future?

Well, yes . . . and then of course, no. The probability of this calamity happening was very high, so it did happen and in that it was predictable. Could you predict when and how? Only if you believe in Issac Asimov stories. Our whole system is so artificial that it floats by itself, but just every so often, because it is possible to do, it does a bit of a reality check. Welcome to that moment, it happened in your life-time, probability became reality.

Right now History isn't working too well as a guild to the future so you are just going to have to fake it.

Please, oh Please, remember this. The best, I mean the very best of the guys are supposed to, and claim to be able to, tell what will be going on tomorrow didn't have a clue when it happened. Don't feel bad or guilty about being in the same boat they are. We, collectively as a culture, were wrapped in the warm cocoon of that special fabric, Disillusion and Denial(TM) , loving it.

Now my friend is the time to move fast, maximize you agility, take action, and be cool

As Lord Byron said, "Adversity is the first path to truth."

You can't get on the path unless you engage the world.

Barry Thornton