Kill Section 926

If you read this blog, you don’t need to be reminded that I’m an entrepreneur, or that CitySquares has been funded by angel investors from eCoast Angel Network, to Jonathan Kraft, and Mark Cuban, among others. The bottom line is that CitySquares would not be here today if it were not for our angel investors, but more generally if it were not for Angel Investing as a whole. Most importantly though, angel investing is good for America, that simply cannot be disputed. So why is Senator Chris Dodd trying to make it harder for entrepreneurs and companies to raise angel financing, and why is he going to raise the minimum requirements to be an accredited investor, and on top of it all make the SEC review every angel deal before it can get done?

Is the Democrat from Connecticut out of his mind? What is he trying to achieve here, raising revenues for the federal government? I don’t get it – where’s the logic in this provision? Maybe someone smarter than me can help me understand, but in the meantime if you are for entrepreneurship, for innovation, for job creation, for small business, then go here and sign the petition to stop this nonsense.

More information can be found here on The Huffington Post, in a well penned piece from Robert Litan. A quote follows:

Various studies published or sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation have made it abundantly clear how dependent the U.S. economy has been and will continue to be on the formation and growth of new companies. Angel investors are important funders of new companies. There is no good time to make it more difficult for them to invest in startups, and now — when the economy is struggling to recover from what may be the deepest recession since the Great Depression — is the very worst possible time to discourage angel investment.

Sign the petition here.

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Ten Conference and Networking Tips

The Kelsey Group, or should I say BIA/Kelsey, held their annual Marketplaces conference this week in sunny San Diego. A heck of a show it was. So good that I probably was only able to sit in a handful of sessions. I say that because when I first started going to Kelsey shows in 2005 I was a newbie to the local scene, a newbie to local search conferences, and I probably sat in on 90% of the sessions, and soaked up information like a dry sponge. And that was the intent – to learn as much as possible, and then learn more. While my desire to learn at these shows hasn’t changed, my priorities have – it’s all about networking now and prospecting and establishing business relationships, of all types.

My colleague, Todd, and I had back-to-back-to-back meetings from even before the preconference started on Monday morning. By the time I left the hotel late Wednesday night, it wasn’t without three more impromptu meetings that kept me busy and well fed right up until I had to leave for the airport at 7pm. Here I am, 1:30 the next day, 60 minutes away from a follow-up meeting.

I wonder sometimes how some businesses in my industry (vertical? space?) are even able to stick around or grow without attending shows like these. These shows are sort of like annual or biannual checkpoints for many companies; are you still in it? are you thriving? surviving? ready to grow? growing? ready to do that deal you put-off last time around? changing models?

Since I started attending these shows almost five years ago now, I’ve seen many companies come and go. It’s exciting to grow alongside other companies, competitive or complementary or otherwise – it really is something to have those brothers and sisters to grow up with. It’s also sad and disheartening to see some of them vanish, never to be heard of again – to reminisce with others about those brands, faces, names, stories.

Perhaps the one point that really stands out for me though is how clear it is to me that these kinds of conferences and trade shows are so vital for me as an entrepreneur, and for CitySquares as a business. Some thoughts I’d like to share while they’re still fresh:

  1. Never judge a book by its cover. It’s so easy to dismiss a company because their slides may have seemed boring, or overly complicated, or the speaker wasn’t charismatic enough, or was even too charming. It’s easy to dismiss a company because their booth wasn’t fancy enough, or because someone was shy or anxious and didn’t have a drink at the mixer. I’ve been surprised so many times. Be bold, be brave – talk to everyone – but don’t be too aggressive about it. Just be there. Being there is the first step. Before you know it you’re deeply engrossed in a conversation and discovering common denominators.
  2. Don’t go to bed. I mean this. You didn’t spend your or your company’s money to go to bed when the best stuff happens. The best time to meet people, to learn, and to establish relationships and prospect for deals is during the hours following each day’s show. Whether in the bar, the restaurant, in the lobby, in the hallways, or outside the hotel at dinner and bar meetings – that’s when it happens. Simply put, be available. Don’t drink? No problem – but be there. You can make up the sleep on the plane or when you get back to your hometown. This way you’ll really be taking advantage of all the networking opportunities.
  3. Be real, be curious, be yourself. Don’t know about a topic being discussed, ask the panelists questions when the mic goes around. If the mic doesn’t make its way to you, stick around after the panel and track down the people you want to talk with. They’re at the show for the same reasons you are!
  4. Have business cards. I know it’s a no-brainer, but there is nothing worse then meeting someone and not getting their business card, or vice versa. Bring three times as many business cards as you think you’ll need. I can assure you that if you’re doing all of the above, you’ll use them. You may even need to run up to your hotel room to get more cards.
  5. Ask for time. If you meet someone you’d like to get to know better, or learn more about their business or talk about some ideas you have for working together, just ask them to meet with you. This is so easy – whether its an early breakfast meeting the following day, a chat in the hallway at a table, outside in the sun, at the bar that evening, over lunch or dinner, or even out in town – just ask them for their time. You’d be surprised. I’ve never been turned down. Sometimes you meet with someone and you find there’s just not a fit. OK – now you know! Time wasted? Absolutely not! More often than not though, there’s a synergy somewhere – but don’t force it either.
  6. Follow up. LinkedIn is the best way to follow-up. If you’re not on LinkedIn – get with the program! Really though. When you gather up all those cards every day, before you finally close your laptop at the end of the night, set them down, search LinkedIn for each person and write a personal message to them – remind them who you are and add some context to the message. A lot of names and faces get mixed up, business cards are just the reminder. Mention the topic you were discussing, be it business or even something casual that was discussed. It’s hard to remember who everyone is, but when you add context it jogs the memory and make it a lot easier for the recipient to accept your request. Follow up again a few days later with an email or a phone call.
  7. Go to the sponsored parties and events. Most evenings after the day’s events, there are company sponsored parties and gatherings. Go to them! If you find out its exclusive, and invitation only, just find out who’s doing the inviting and ask if you can attend – its rare that you’ll get turned down. Again, that’s what these events are for and the more people that show up, the better off that company looks – they want a good turnout! They want to be sold out and want people talking about it.
  8. Relax. This is especially important because no one wants to talk business 100% of the time. Be yourself, talk about where you’re from, learn about where others are from, talk sports, schools, family, hobbies. You’d be surprised when you do – often times you’ll find that you have a lot in common, and what was at first perhaps an awkward introduction turns into laughter, common interests or connections.
  9. Keep it simple. You’re wearing a name tag. People will look at it. After shaking someone’s hand and introductions the first question will be “so what does [your company name] do?” Don’t go into a 10-minute monologue about your special patent-pending technology that’s going to change the game and disrupt the whole business. First, no one likes to hear that their business is threatened by yours, and two, no one likes a bore. Be able to explain in less than 3-4 sentences what you’re business does – specifically what problem it’s working to solve. But don’t be secretive either. No one likes a spy or stealth company being sly.
  10. Know the right people. This is huge. Get to know a few people who run the conference, or who seem to know the right people, the folks at the booths, and others. If you see someone talking to someone you’d like to speak with, just ask for an introduction! They’ll be flattered you asked them. Knowing the right people does not mean shadowing people, tagging alongside them like a pet dog though either.

I hope these 10 points ring true for you, or inspire you to get out there more. And if you have any tips you’d like to add to this list, I’d love to hear from you, as would my readers.

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Speaking at Marketplaces 2010

The Kelsey Group is like the ESPN of the local search and advertising world. They’re the authority. They host about four major conferences every year, attracting industry insiders from around the globe. Their next one is next week in San Diego, called MARKETPLACES 2010: THE LOCAL VERTICAL OPPORTUNITY. It’s the who’s-who and that what’s-what of local and vertical solutions and advertising. I’ve attended numerous Kelsey shows and have come to know the Kelsey staff as warm and generous professionals, and many of the conference regulars. The Kelsey Group and their conferences have been absolutely critical for CitySquares. If it wasn’t for them and their shows, I don’t think we’d be a player on this big and competitive field.

I was asked to speak at the Marketplaces show alongside Colin Pape with ShopCity and David Vazdauskas of Local Thunder. The panel will be moderated by Steve Marshall, who I always enjoy. He doesnt pull punches and he adds a certain kind of intensity to the panels. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be at the show from Sunday through Wednesday with my colleague and VP National Sales Todd Salerno. We have a few meetings teed up but if you’d like to catch up with one of us just email me, tweet me or send smoke signals, whatever works for ya!

If anyone wants to go, but does not yet have tickets, please get in touch with me, I have a discount code for you to save a little.

Looking forward to seeing a whole lotta people! See you there!

“You stay classy San Diego” – Ron Burgundy

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Talk is Cheap, Move your Money (Repost)

This is a post originally posted at bensaren.com. Check out all the comments there and join the conversation about Moving Your Money!



My very first bank when I was a teenager was BayBank. A few years later BayBank merged with Bank of Boston, to form BankBoston. So then I was a BankBoston customer. Then came along Fleet Bank, who acquired BankBoston. Then I was a Fleet Bank customer. In 2005 Fleet was merged into Bank of America, and since then I’ve been with them. What started for me as a couple of nice local banks with roots in Boston going as far back as 1784, later became one of the banks that were and are, as it’s been so well put by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail.

The past 24 months has been a total nightmare for the every day American who trusts some of these Too Big to Fail banks with his/her hard earned income, who trust them with their home loans, who trust them with their 401(k), their mutual funds, their CDs, portfolios, wealth management, and on and on.

In late 2008 the US economy, along with most of the other economies across the globe, froze in time. Credit was frozen and we just saw the tip of the iceberg in what became the Global Financial Crisis. Along came the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which then resulted in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP as it’s more commonly known. Under this program the federal government literally had to step in and purchase assets and equity from these banking institutions to prop up our economy and avoid a total economic meltdown. Money was simply frozen in time – it wasn’t flowing for quite a while, as we all shudder to remember. And the only reason this happened is because of something that we all know of now as the Subprime Lending Crisis.

These massive, and I mean massive, financial institutions were bailed out by you, and your brother, your sister, your children, grandchildren, your mothers and fathers, your friends. How many of them are struggling to make ends meet? How many of them are working their asses off to pay for the home or tuitions? Unless they’re employed by one of these massive companies, I bet there’s a lot of them. It was your money, and their money, that bailed these companies out! Our tax dollars, instead of going to other causes like fixing our educational system, or fixing homelessness, disease, poverty, space exploration, fixing our nations highways and infrastructure, environmental causes, or any cause that you might feel passionate about, your tax dollars didn’t go there – they went to these massive institutions. Why? Because these banks are too big to fail? I call bullshit!

What all this boils down to for me and millions of other people like me, is that there is clearly something fundamentally wrong with our economic system, and this is just the beginning. I’m not a student of economics but I pay attention. I think I’m like a lot of people, whereas until something affects my wallet I tend to ignore it most of the time. But some politics and some economics just can’t be ignored anymore, some things have totally earned my outrage, my disgust, as opposed to my usual state of apathy. And I know I’m not alone.

This past Friday evening I was watching Bill Maher on HBO, as I often do late Friday nights (am I a liberal? gasp!). Arianna Huffington was on, and I really enjoy her. I learned about this new movement that she, and others, kicked off a little over 2 months ago called Move Your Money. Here, Arianna explains how it came about, and talks a bit more about the fundamentals behind it, but the idea is a simple one – move your money from the financial institutions that are “Too Big to Fail” to institutions that aren’t, and move your money to more fiscally, socially, environmentally responsible ones. Wow, what a notion huh? Not exactly rocket science is it? And the result is a website called Move Your Money. Move Your Money is about exactly that, moving your money from these institutions to a local community bank or credit union. Who’s too big to fail?

Most people are trying to avoid the six largest banks that engaged in casino-style financial practices (credit default swaps, derivatives trading, etc…) and that are largely to blame for the financial crisis — Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The banks and credit unions we encourage people to look at largely avoided these kind of financial tricks, and then did not reward their executives with massive bonuses.

Today, March 8, 2010, I made my pledge to move my money. And I started the process. I opened a bank account a very well respected, very socially responsible, community bank called Wainwright Bank. Look at these guys – look at what they do! And this isn’t something new, because it’s the popular thing to do, they’ve been at it for nearly twenty years. It’s banks like Wainwright that have earned my business, but only now that I’ve learned my lesson! It’s a bank like this that I can be proud to bank with! The effect on my bottom line? Zero effect. Sure, they’re online banking may not be as swanky as BofA, but I have Quicken and Mint and I know how to balance my checkbook and stick to a budget. Sure they may not have locations all over the nation, but I like that, and they’ll refund my ATM charges. The fact of the matter is, I just feel better by making this change. It’s better than sitting on the sidelines, shaking my head and saying “what a shame, what a shame” and wondering how we’re going to get out of this mess. Oh, and I’m not alone. According to HuffPost…

More people are reaching the same conclusion. A new poll found that 9 percent of Americans have already moved their money out of a big bank as a protest. And the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to require any bank doing business with the city to reinvest in the community. It’s about time citizens and local governments inject some much-needed competition into our increasingly oligarchic banking system.

Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, from Boston, once said, “All politics is local.” What he meant was that the problems and troubles within our towns and cities around the country have a major affect on the actions of their representatives and senators at the capitol.

Please join me and Ali as we move our money and take action! It’s easy. Start by finding your new bank, here, then follow these basic steps. When you’re done, spread the word on twitter, on Facebook, and even log it here!

Read about what people are saying at Timethe NationNewsweekSalon and all around the web.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Talk is Cheap, Move Your Money

My very first bank when I was a teenager was BayBank. A few years later BayBank merged with Bank of Boston, to form BankBoston. So then I was a BankBoston customer. Then came along Fleet Bank, who acquired BankBoston. Then I was a Fleet Bank customer. In 2005 Fleet was merged into Bank of America, and since then I’ve been with them. What started for me as a couple of nice local banks with roots in Boston going as far back as 1784, later became one of the banks that were and are, as it’s been so well put by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail.

The past 24 months has been a total nightmare for the every day American who trusts some of these Too Big to Fail banks with his/her hard earned income, who trust them with their home loans (otherwise people to for the services like ineedmoneytodayasap.com – need money for basic stuff even), who trust them with their 401(k), their mutual funds, their CDs, portfolios, wealth management, and on and on.

In late 2008 the US economy, along with most of the other economies across the globe, froze in time. Credit was frozen and we just saw the tip of the iceberg in what became the Global Financial Crisis. Along came the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which then resulted in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP as it’s more commonly known. Under this program the federal government literally had to step in and purchase assets and equity from these banking institutions to prop up our economy and avoid a total economic meltdown. Money was simply frozen in time – it wasn’t flowing for quite a while, as we all shudder to remember. And the only reason this happened is because of something that we all know of now as the Subprime Lending Crisis.

These massive, and I mean massive, financial institutions were bailed out by you, and your brother, your sister, your children, grandchildren, your mothers and fathers, your friends. How many of them are struggling to make ends meet? How many of them are working their asses off to pay for the home or tuitions? Unless they’re employed by one of these massive companies, I bet there’s a lot of them. It was your money, and their money, that bailed these companies out! Our tax dollars, instead of going to other causes like fixing our educational system, or fixing homelessness, disease, poverty, space exploration, fixing our nations highways and infrastructure, environmental causes, or any cause that you might feel passionate about, your tax dollars didn’t go there – they went to these massive institutions. Why? Because these banks are too big to fail? I call bullshit!

What all this boils down to for me and millions of other people like me, is that there is clearly something fundamentally wrong with our economic system, and this is just the beginning. I’m not a student of economics but I pay attention. I think I’m like a lot of people, whereas until something affects my wallet I tend to ignore it most of the time. But some politics and some economics just can’t be ignored anymore, some things have totally earned my outrage, my disgust, as opposed to my usual state of apathy. And I know I’m not alone.

This past Friday evening I was watching Bill Maher on HBO, as I often do late Friday nights (am I a liberal? gasp!). Arianna Huffington was on, and I really enjoy her. I learned about this new movement that she, and others, kicked off a little over 2 months ago called Move Your Money. Here, Arianna explains how it came about, and talks a bit more about the fundamentals behind it, but the idea is a simple one – move your money from the financial institutions that are “Too Big to Fail” to institutions that aren’t, and move your money to more fiscally, socially, environmentally responsible ones. Wow, what a notion huh? Not exactly rocket science is it? And the result is a website called Move Your Money. Move Your Money is about exactly that, moving your money from these institutions to a local community bank or credit union. Who’s too big to fail?

Most people are trying to avoid the six largest banks that engaged in casino-style financial practices (credit default swaps, derivatives trading, etc…) and that are largely to blame for the financial crisis — Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The banks and credit unions we encourage people to look at largely avoided these kind of financial tricks, and then did not reward their executives with massive bonuses.

Today, March 8, 2010, I made my pledge to move my money. And I started the process. I opened a bank account a very well respected, very socially responsible, community bank called Wainwright Bank. Look at these guys – look at what they do! And this isn’t something new, because it’s the popular thing to do, they’ve been at it for nearly twenty years. It’s banks like Wainwright that have earned my business, but only now that I’ve learned my lesson! It’s a bank like this that I can be proud to bank with! The effect on my bottom line? Zero effect. Sure, they’re online banking may not be as swanky as BofA, but I have Quicken and Mint and I know how to balance my checkbook and stick to a budget. Sure they may not have locations all over the nation, but I like that, and they’ll refund my ATM charges. The fact of the matter is, I just feel better by making this change. It’s better than sitting on the sidelines, shaking my head and saying “what a shame, what a shame” and wondering how we’re going to get out of this mess. Oh, and I’m not alone. According to HuffPost…

More people are reaching the same conclusion. A new poll found that 9 percent of Americans have already moved their money out of a big bank as a protest. And the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to require any bank doing business with the city to reinvest in the community. It’s about time citizens and local governments inject some much-needed competition into our increasingly oligarchic banking system.

Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, from Boston, once said, “All politics is local.” What he meant was that the problems and troubles within our towns and cities around the country have a major affect on the actions of their representatives and senators at the capitol.

Please join me and Ali as we move our money and take action! It’s easy. Start by finding your new bank, here, then follow these basic steps. When you’re done, spread the word on twitter, on Facebook, and even log it here!

Read about what people are saying at Timethe NationNewsweekSalon and all around the web.

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