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SAHIL SAPRU

SAHIL SAPRU

4 months ago

Growth tactics that grew businesses from 1 to 100

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Bradley Vangelder

Bradley Vangelder

3 months ago

How we started and then quickly sold our startup

From a simple landing where we tested our MVP to a platform that distributes 20,000 codes per month, we learned a lot.

Starting point

Kwotet was my first startup. Everyone might post book quotes online.

I wanted a change.

Kwotet lacked attention, thus I felt stuck. After experiencing the trials of starting Kwotet, I thought of developing a waitlist service, but I required a strong co-founder.

I knew Dries from school, but we weren't close. He was an entrepreneurial programmer who worked a lot outside school. I needed this.

We brainstormed throughout school hours. We developed features to put us first. We worked until 3 am to launch this product.

Putting in the hours is KEY when building a startup

The instant that we lost our spark

In Belgium, college seniors do their internship in their last semester.

As we both made the decision to pick a quite challenging company, little time was left for Lancero.

Eventually, we lost interest. We lost the spark…

The only logical choice was to find someone with the same spark we started with to acquire Lancero.

And we did @ MicroAcquire.

Sell before your product dies. Make sure to profit from all the gains.

What did we do following the sale?

Not far from selling Lancero I lost my dad. I was about to start a new company. It was focused on positivity. I got none left at the time.

We still didn’t let go of the dream of becoming full-time entrepreneurs. As Dries launched the amazing company Plunk, and I’m still in the discovering stages of my next journey!

Dream!

You’re an entrepreneur if:

  • You're imaginative.

  • You enjoy disassembling and reassembling things.

  • You're adept at making new friends.

  • YOU HAVE DREAMS.

You don’t need to believe me if I tell you “everything is possible”… I wouldn't believe it myself if anyone told me this 2 years ago.

Until I started doing, living my dreams.

Victoria Kurichenko

Victoria Kurichenko

5 months ago

Updates From Google For Content Producers What You Should Know Is This

People-first update.

Image credit: Shutterstock. Image edited in Canva

Every Google upgrade causes website owners to panic.

Some have just recovered from previous algorithm tweaks and resumed content development.

If you follow Google's Webmaster rules, you shouldn't fear its adjustments.

Everyone has a view of them. Miscommunication and confusion result.

Now, for some (hopefully) exciting news.

Google tweeted on August 18, 2022 about a fresh content update.

This change is another Google effort to remove low-quality, repetitive, and AI-generated content.

The algorithm generates and analyzes search results, not humans.

Google spends a lot to teach its algorithm what searchers want. Intent isn't always clear.

Google's content update aims to:

“… ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”

Isn't it a noble goal?

However, what does it mean for content creators and website owners?

How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful after the updates roll out?

Let's first define people-first content.

What does "people-first-content" mean?

If asked, I'd say information written to answer queries and solve problems.

Like others, I read it from the term.

Content creators and marketers disagree. They need more information to follow recommendations.

Google gives explicit instructions for creating people-first content.

According to Google, if you answer yes to the following questions, you have a people-first attitude.

  1. Do you have customers who might find your content useful if they contacted you directly?

  2. Does your content show the breadth of your knowledge?

  3. Do you have a niche or a focus for your website?

  4. After reading your content, will readers learn something new to aid them in achieving their goals?

  5. Are readers happy after reading your content?

  6. Have you been adhering to Google's fundamental updates and product reviews?

As an SEO writer, I'm not scared.

I’ve been following these rules consciously while creating content for my website. That’s why it’s been steadily growing despite me publishing just one or two stories a month.

If you avoid AI-generated text and redundant, shallow material, your website won't suffer.

If you use unscrupulous methods to boost your website's traffic, including link buying or keyword stuffing, stop. Google is getting smarter and will find and punish your site eventually.

For those who say, “SEO is no longer working,” I dedicated the whole paragraph below.

This does not imply that SEO is obsolete.

Google:

“People-first content creators focus on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.”

The official helpful content update page lists two people-first content components:

  • meeting user needs

  • best practices for SEO

Always read official guidelines, not unsolicited suggestions.

SEO will work till search engines die.

How to use the update

Google said the changes will arrive in August 2022.

They pledged to post updates on Google's search ranking updates page.

Google also tweets this info. If you haven't followed it already, I recommend it.

Ranking adjustments could take two weeks and will affect English searches internationally initially.

Google affirmed plans to extend to other languages.

If you own a website, monitor your rankings and traffic to see if it's affected.

Andy Raskin

Andy Raskin

5 months ago

I've Never Seen a Sales Deck This Good

Photo by Olu Eletu

It’s Zuora’s, and it’s brilliant. Here’s why.

My friend Tim got a sales position at a Series-C software company that garnered $60 million from A-list investors. He's one of the best salespeople I know, yet he emailed me after starting to struggle.

Tim has a few modest clients. “Big companies ignore my pitch”. Tim said.

I love helping teams write the strategic story that drives sales, marketing, and fundraising. Tim and I had lunch at Amber India on Market Street to evaluate his deck.

After a feast, I asked Tim when prospects tune out.

He said, “several slides in”.

Intent on maximizing dining ROI, Tim went back to the buffet for seconds. When he returned, I pulled out my laptop and launched into a Powerpoint presentation.

“What’s this?” Tim asked.

“This,” I said, “is the greatest sales deck I have ever seen.”

Five Essentials of a Great Sales Narrative

I showed Tim a sales slide from IPO-bound Zuora, which sells a SaaS platform for subscription billing. Zuora supports recurring payments (e.g. enterprise software).

Ex-Zuora salesman gave me the deck, saying it helped him close his largest business. (I don't know anyone who works at Zuora.) After reading this, a few Zuora employees contacted me.)

Tim abandoned his naan in a pool of goat curry and took notes while we discussed the Zuora deck.

We remarked how well the deck led prospects through five elements:

(The ex-Zuora salesperson begged me not to release the Zuora deck publicly.) All of the images below originate from Zuora's website and SlideShare channel.)

#1. Name a Significant Change in the World

Don't start a sales presentation with mentioning your product, headquarters, investors, clients, or yourself.

Name the world shift that raises enormous stakes and urgency for your prospect.

Every Zuora sales deck begins with this slide:

Zuora coined the term subscription economy to describe a new market where purchasers prefer regular service payments over outright purchases. Zuora then shows a slide with the change's history.

Most pitch recommendation advises starting with the problem. When you claim a problem, you put prospects on the defensive. They may be unaware of or uncomfortable admitting the situation.

When you highlight a global trend, prospects open up about how it affects them, worries them, and where they see opportunity. You capture their interest. Robert McKee says:

…what attracts human attention is change. …if the temperature around you changes, if the phone rings — that gets your attention. The way in which a story begins is a starting event that creates a moment of change.

#2. Show There’ll Be Winners and Losers

Loss aversion affects all prospects. They avoid a loss by sticking with the status quo rather than risking a gain by changing.

To fight loss aversion, show how the change will create winners and losers. You must show both

  1. that if the prospect can adjust to the modification you mentioned, the outcome will probably be quite favorable; and

  2. That failing to do so is likely to have an unacceptable negative impact on the prospect's future

Zuora shows a mass extinction among Fortune 500 firms.

…and then showing how the “winners” have shifted from product ownership to subscription services. Those include upstarts…

…as well as rejuvenated incumbents:

To illustrate, Zuora asks:

Winners utilize Zuora's subscription service models.

#3. Tease the Promised Land

It's tempting to get into product or service details now. Resist that urge.

Prospects won't understand why product/service details are crucial if you introduce them too soon, therefore they'll tune out.

Instead, providing a teaser image of the happily-ever-after your product/service will assist the prospect reach.

Your Promised Land should be appealing and hard to achieve without support. Otherwise, why does your company exist?

Zuora shows this Promised Land slide after explaining that the subscription economy will have winners and losers.

Not your product or service, but a new future state.

(I asked my friend Tim to describe his Promised Land, and he answered, "You’ll have the most innovative platform for ____." Nope: the Promised Land isn't possessing your technology, but living with it.)

Your Promised Land helps prospects market your solution to coworkers after your sales meeting. Your coworkers will wonder what you do without you. Your prospects are more likely to provide a persuasive answer with a captivating Promised Land.

#4. Present Features as “Mystic Gifts” for Overcoming Difficulties on the Road to the Promised Land

Successful sales decks follow the same format as epic films and fairy tales. Obi Wan gives Luke a lightsaber to help him destroy the Empire. You're Gandalf, helping Frodo destroy the ring. Your prospect is Cinderella, and you're her fairy godmother.

Position your product or service's skills as mystical gifts to aid your main character (prospect) achieve the Promised Land.

Zuora's client record slide is shown above. Without context, even the most technical prospect would be bored.

Positioned in the context of shifting from an “old” to a “new world”, it's the foundation for a compelling conversation with prospects—technical and otherwise—about why traditional solutions can't reach the Promised Land.

#5. Show Proof That You Can Make the Story True.

In this sense, you're promising possibilities that if they follow you, they'll reach the Promised Land.

The journey to the Promised Land is by definition rocky, so prospects are right to be cautious. The final part of the pitch is proof that you can make the story come true.

The most convincing proof is a success story about how you assisted someone comparable to the prospect. Zuora's sales people use a deck of customer success stories, but this one gets the essence.

I particularly appreciate this one from an NCR exec (a Zuora customer), which relates more strongly to Zuora's Promised Land:

Not enough successful customers? Product demos are the next best evidence, but features should always be presented in the context of helping a prospect achieve the Promised Land.

The best sales narrative is one that is told by everyone.

Success rarely comes from a fantastic deck alone. To be effective, salespeople need an organization-wide story about change, Promised Land, and Magic Gifts.

Zuora exemplifies this. If you hear a Zuora executive, including CEO Tien Tzuo, talk, you'll likely hear about the subscription economy and its winners and losers. This is the theme of the company's marketing communications, campaigns, and vision statement.

According to the ex-Zuora salesperson, company-wide story alignment made him successful.

The Zuora marketing folks ran campaigns and branding around this shift to the subscription economy, and [CEO] Tien [Tzuo] talked it up all the time. All of that was like air cover for my in-person sales ground attack. By the time I arrived, prospects were already convinced they had to act. It was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to sales nirvana.

The largest deal ever

Tim contacted me three weeks after our lunch to tell me that prospects at large organizations were responding well to his new deck, which we modeled on Zuora's framework. First, prospects revealed their obstacles more quickly. The new pitch engages CFOs and other top gatekeepers better, he said.

A week later, Tim emailed that he'd signed his company's biggest agreement.

Next week, we’re headed back to Amber India to celebrate.

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Boris Müller

Boris Müller

9 days ago

Why Do Websites Have the Same Design?

My kids redesigned the internet because it lacks inventiveness.

Internet today is bland. Everything is generic: fonts, layouts, pages, and visual language. Microtypography is messy.

Web design today seems dictated by technical and ideological constraints rather than creativity and ideas. Text and graphics are in containers on every page. All design is assumed.

Ironically, web technologies can design a lot. We can execute most designs. We make shocking, evocative websites. Experimental typography, generating graphics, and interactive experiences are possible.

Even designer websites use containers in containers. Dribbble and Behance, the two most popular creative websites, are boring. Lead image.

Dribbble versus Behance. Can you spot the difference? Thanks to David Rehman for pointing this out to me. All screenshots: Boris Müller

How did this happen?

Several reasons. WordPress and other blogging platforms use templates. These frameworks build web pages by combining graphics, headlines, body content, and videos. Not designs, templates. These rules combine related data types. These platforms don't let users customize pages beyond the template. You filled the template.

Templates are content-neutral. Thus, the issue.

Form should reflect and shape content, which is a design principle. Separating them produces content containers. Templates have no design value.

One of the fundamental principles of design is a deep and meaningful connection between form and content.

Web design lacks imagination for many reasons. Most are pragmatic and economic. Page design takes time. Large websites lack the resources to create a page from scratch due to the speed of internet news and the frequency of new items. HTML, JavaScript, and CSS continue to challenge web designers. Web design can't match desktop publishing's straightforward operations.

Designers may also be lazy. Mobile-first, generic, framework-driven development tends to ignore web page visual and contextual integrity.

How can we overcome this? How might expressive and avant-garde websites look today?

Rediscovering the past helps design the future.

'90s-era web design

At the University of the Arts Bremen's research and development group, I created my first website 23 years ago. Web design was trendy. Young web. Pages inspired me.

We struggled with HTML in the mid-1990s. Arial, Times, and Verdana were the only web-safe fonts. Anything exciting required table layouts, monospaced fonts, or GIFs. HTML was originally content-driven, thus we had to work against it to create a page.

Experimental typography was booming. Designers challenged the established quo from Jan Tschichold's Die Neue Typographie in the twenties to April Greiman's computer-driven layouts in the eighties. By the mid-1990s, an uncommon confluence of technological and cultural breakthroughs enabled radical graphic design. Irma Boom, David Carson, Paula Scher, Neville Brody, and others showed it.

Early web pages were dull compared to graphic design's aesthetic explosion. The Web Design Museum shows this.

Nobody knew how to conduct browser-based graphic design. Web page design was undefined. No standards. No CMS (nearly), CSS, JS, video, animation.

Now is as good a time as any to challenge the internet’s visual conformity.

In 2018, everything is browser-based. Massive layouts to micro-typography, animation, and video. How do we use these great possibilities? Containerized containers. JavaScript-contaminated mobile-first pages. Visually uniform templates. Web design 23 years later would disappoint my younger self.

Our imagination, not technology, restricts web design. We're too conformist to aesthetics, economics, and expectations.

Crisis generates opportunity. Challenge online visual conformity now. I'm too old and bourgeois to develop a radical, experimental, and cutting-edge website. I can ask my students.

I taught web design at the Potsdam Interface Design Programme in 2017. Each team has to redesign a website. Create expressive, inventive visual experiences on the browser. Create with contemporary web technologies. Avoid usability, readability, and flexibility concerns. Act. Ignore Erwartungskonformität.

The class outcome pleased me. This overview page shows all results. Four diverse projects address the challenge.

1. ZKM by Frederic Haase and Jonas Köpfer

ZKM’s redesign

Frederic and Jonas began their experiments on the ZKM website. The ZKM is Germany's leading media art exhibition location, but its website remains conventional. It's useful but not avant-garde like the shows' art.

Frederic and Jonas designed the ZKM site's concept, aesthetic language, and technical configuration to reflect the museum's progressive approach. A generative design engine generates new layouts for each page load.

ZKM redesign.

2. Streem by Daria Thies, Bela Kurek, and Lucas Vogel

Streem’s redesign

Street art magazine Streem. It promotes new artists and societal topics. Streem includes artwork, painting, photography, design, writing, and journalism. Daria, Bela, and Lucas used these influences to develop a conceptual metropolis. They designed four neighborhoods to reflect magazine sections for their prototype. For a legible city, they use powerful illustrative styles and spatial typography.

Streem makeover.

3. Medium by Amelie Kirchmeyer and Fabian Schultz

Medium’s redesign

Amelie and Fabian structured. Instead of developing a form for a tale, they dissolved a web page into semantic, syntactical, and statistical aspects. HTML's flexibility was their goal. They broke Medium posts into experimental typographic space.

Medium revamp.

4. Hacker News by Fabian Dinklage and Florian Zia

Hacker News redesign

Florian and Fabian made Hacker News interactive. The social networking site aggregates computer science and IT news. Its voting and debate features are extensive despite its simple style. Fabian and Florian transformed the structure into a typographic timeline and network area. News and comments sequence and connect the visuals. To read Hacker News, they connected their design to the API. Hacker News makeover.

Communication is not legibility, said Carson. Apply this to web design today. Modern websites must be legible, usable, responsive, and accessible. They shouldn't limit its visual palette. Visual and human-centered design are not stereotypes.

I want radical, generative, evocative, insightful, adequate, content-specific, and intelligent site design. I want to rediscover web design experimentation. More surprises please. I hope the web will appear different in 23 years.

Update: this essay has sparked a lively discussion! I wrote a brief response to the debate's most common points: Creativity vs. Usability

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway

1 month ago

Text-ure

While we played checkers, we thought billionaires played 3D chess. They're playing the same game on a fancier board.

Every medium has nuances and norms. Texting is authentic and casual. A smaller circle has access, creating intimacy and immediacy. Most people read all their texts, but not all their email and mail. Many of us no longer listen to our voicemails, and calling your kids ages you.

Live interviews and testimony under oath inspire real moments, rare in a world where communications departments sanitize everything powerful people say. When (some of) Elon's text messages became public in Twitter v. Musk, we got a glimpse into tech power. It's bowels.

These texts illuminate the tech community's upper caste.

Checkers, Not Chess

Elon texts with Larry Ellison, Joe Rogan, Sam Bankman-Fried, Satya Nadella, and Jack Dorsey. They reveal astounding logic, prose, and discourse. The world's richest man and his followers are unsophisticated, obtuse, and petty. Possibly. While we played checkers, we thought billionaires played 3D chess. They're playing the same game on a fancier board.

They fumble with their computers.

They lean on others to get jobs for their kids (no surprise).

No matter how rich, they always could use more (money).

Differences A social hierarchy exists. Among this circle, the currency of deference is... currency. Money increases sycophantry. Oculus and Elon's "friends'" texts induce nausea.

Autocorrect frustrates everyone.

Elon doesn't stand out to me in these texts; he comes off mostly OK in my view. It’s the people around him. It seems our idolatry of innovators has infected the uber-wealthy, giving them an uncontrollable urge to kill the cool kid for a seat at his cafeteria table. "I'd grenade for you." If someone says this and they're not fighting you, they're a fan, not a friend.

Many powerful people are undone by their fake friends. Facilitators, not well-wishers. When Elon-Twitter started, I wrote about power. Unchecked power is intoxicating. This is a scientific fact, not a thesis. Power causes us to downplay risk, magnify rewards, and act on instincts more quickly. You lose self-control and must rely on others.

You'd hope the world's richest person has advisers who push back when necessary (i.e., not yes men). Elon's reckless, childish behavior and these texts show there is no truth-teller. I found just one pushback in the 151-page document. It came from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who, in response to Elon’s unhelpful “Is Twitter dying?” tweet, let Elon know what he thought: It was unhelpful. Elon’s response? A childish, terse insult.

Scale

The texts are mostly unremarkable. There are some, however, that do remind us the (super-)rich are different. Specifically, the discussions of possible equity investments from crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried (“Does he have huge amounts of money?”) and this exchange with Larry Ellison:

Ellison, who co-founded $175 billion Oracle, is wealthy. Less clear is whether he can text a billion dollars. Who hasn't been texted $1 billion? Ellison offered 8,000 times the median American's net worth, enough to buy 3,000 Ferraris or the Chicago Blackhawks. It's a bedrock principle of capitalism to have incredibly successful people who are exponentially wealthier than the rest of us. It creates an incentive structure that inspires productivity and prosperity. When people offer billions over text to help a billionaire's vanity project in a country where 1 in 5 children are food insecure, isn't America messed up?

Elon's Morgan Stanley banker, Michael Grimes, tells him that Web3 ventures investor Bankman-Fried can invest $5 billion in the deal: “could do $5bn if everything vision lock... Believes in your mission." The message bothers Elon. In Elon's world, $5 billion doesn't warrant a worded response. $5 billion is more than many small nations' GDP, twice the SEC budget, and five times the NRC budget.

If income inequality worries you after reading this, trust your gut.

Billionaires aren't like the rich.

As an entrepreneur, academic, and investor, I've met modest-income people, rich people, and billionaires. Rich people seem different to me. They're smarter and harder working than most Americans. Monty Burns from The Simpsons is a cartoon about rich people. Rich people have character and know how to make friends. Success requires supporters.

I've never noticed a talent or intelligence gap between wealthy and ultra-wealthy people. Conflating talent and luck infects the tech elite. Timing is more important than incremental intelligence when going from millions to hundreds of millions or billions. Proof? Elon's texting. Any man who electrifies the auto industry and lands two rockets on barges is a genius. His mega-billions come from a well-regulated capital market, enforceable contracts, thousands of workers, and billions of dollars in government subsidies, including a $465 million DOE loan that allowed Tesla to produce the Model S. So, is Mr. Musk a genius or an impressive man in a unique time and place?

The Point

Elon's texts taught us more? He can't "fix" Twitter. For two weeks in April, he was all in on blockchain Twitter, brainstorming Dogecoin payments for tweets with his brother — i.e., paid speech — while telling Twitter's board he was going to make a hostile tender offer. Kimbal approved. By May, he was over crypto and "laborious blockchain debates." (Mood.)

Elon asked the Twitter CEO for "an update from the Twitter engineering team" No record shows if he got the meeting. It doesn't "fix" Twitter either. And this is Elon's problem. He's a grown-up child with all the toys and no boundaries. His yes-men encourage his most facile thoughts, and shitposts and errant behavior diminish his genius and ours.

Post-Apocalyptic

The universe's titans have a sense of humor.

Every day, we must ask: Who keeps me real? Who will disagree with me? Who will save me from my psychosis, which has brought down so many successful people? Elon Musk doesn't need anyone to jump on a grenade for him; he needs to stop throwing them because one will explode in his hand.

Jim Clyde Monge

Jim Clyde Monge

5 months ago

Can You Sell Images Created by AI?

Image by Author

Some AI-generated artworks sell for enormous sums of money.

But can you sell AI-Generated Artwork?

Simple answer: yes.

However, not all AI services enable allow usage and redistribution of images.

Let's check some of my favorite AI text-to-image generators:

Dall-E2 by OpenAI

The AI art generator Dall-E2 is powerful. Since it’s still in beta, you can join the waitlist here.

OpenAI DOES NOT allow the use and redistribution of any image for commercial purposes.

Here's the policy as of April 6, 2022.

OpenAI Content Policy

Here are some images from Dall-E2’s webpage to show its art quality.

Dall-E2 Homepage

Several Reddit users reported receiving pricing surveys from OpenAI.

This suggests the company may bring out a subscription-based tier and a commercial license to sell images soon.

MidJourney

I like Midjourney's art generator. It makes great AI images. Here are some samples:

Community feed from MidJourney

Standard Licenses are available for $10 per month.

Standard License allows you to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, and/or sell copies of the images, except for blockchain technologies.

If you utilize or distribute the Assets using blockchain technology, you must pay MidJourney 20% of revenue above $20,000 a month or engage in an alternative agreement.

Here's their copyright and trademark page.

MidJourney Copyright and Trademark

Dream by Wombo

Dream is one of the first public AI art generators.

This AI program is free, easy to use, and Wombo gives a royalty-free license to copy or share artworks.

Users own all artworks generated by the tool. Including all related copyrights or intellectual property rights.

Screenshot by Author

Here’s Wombos' intellectual property policy.

Wombo Terms of Service

Final Reflections

AI is creating a new sort of art that's selling well. It’s becoming popular and valued, despite some skepticism.

Now that you know MidJourney and Wombo let you sell AI-generated art, you need to locate buyers. There are several ways to achieve this, but that’s for another story.