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Mostly Legal Marketing: Justin Miller and WedPics
Second in a Series of Articles from My Panel at Internet Summit 2014
Blog
11.4.14

Note: Joe Procopio (ExitEvent founder and Automated Insights VP Product Engineering) has put together a dream team panel for Internet Summit 2014 called Mostly Legal Marketing -- with BoostSuite co-founder Aaron Houghton, WedPics co-founder Justin Miller, and RevBoss founder Eric Boggs. They will discuss exactly how aggressive you have to be to acquire customers and where to draw the line, if anywhere. The panel will be Wednesday, 11/12, at 2:50 p.m.

In this second in a series of articles with his panelmates, Joe sat down with WedPics co-founder Justin Miller.


I love the way Justin Miller does things. He does them big. For instance, soon into the lifespan of his first venture, the dejaMi venue-based media sharing app, he decided that the way to get his app noticed among the plethora of media sharing apps that had suddenly hit the market was to make his beta test very public. What resulted was the two-day, 26-band dejaFest back in 2011.

This was genius. This was old-school, dot-com era bravado in a region that was just at the dawn of rebuilding its startup population. What's more is that dejaFest wasn't just about the app, it was about revitalizing Raleigh and the Triangle and making it more than IBM, where Justin himself had come from, and maybe Red Hat, if people knew what that was.

And you know what happened?

It didn't work. It spectacularly didn't work.

Well, no. It worked for what it was intended to do. dejaFest went off with few hitches and rave reviews, bringing all kinds of new attention to dejaMi. But the onslaught in the app economy was just beginning and there was no escaping the gravity.

read the rest



Mostly Legal Marketing: Eric Boggs and RevBoss
The First in a Series of Articles from My Panel at Internet Summit 2014
Blog
10.30.14

Note: Joe Procopio (ExitEvent founder and Automated Insights VP Product Engineering) has put together a dream team panel for Internet Summit 2014 called Mostly Legal Marketing -- with BoostSuite co-founder Aaron Houghton, WedPics co-founder Justin Miller, and RevBoss founder Eric Boggs. They will discuss exactly how aggressive you have to be to acquire customers and where to draw the line, if anywhere. The panel will be Wednesday, 11/12, at 2:50 p.m.

In this first in a series of articles with his panelmates, Joe sat down with RevBoss founder Eric Boggs.


As an entrepreneur, Eric Boggs reminds me a lot of myself. He's not in it for the accolades or the press or to be like Elon Musk or any the rest of the bull that comes with the public perception of startup. Startup is just what he does.

Neither he nor I golf. We don't have man-caves. And we confirmed a couple days ago over beers at Tobacco Road (conveniently situated between our two offices) that we share one other trait in common -- our guitar collections are gathering dust more often than they're melting faces.

Startup is our rock band now. We both had youthful dreams of rock stardom, but as we got older, we both saw the short and sweet career of stardom as a trap, and we both found that same passion in building companies. This is where our free time goes. It also happens to be where the our work time goes. In that sense, it's one hell of a hobby. And in any sense, it's an amazing adventure.

We agree on this.

Where we differ is in what we do to make that adventure happen. I love to figure out how to build product and Eric loves to figure out how to sell product.

But the way Eric is evolving RevBoss, it turns out that it's really not that different at all.

read the rest



First Make it Work, Then Make it Pretty
The Original Artist's Thoughts on the ExitEvent Redesign
Blog
10.1.14

Back in the summer of 2012, shortly after I had launched the content side of ExitEvent, I had drinks with Jason Bradicich. Jason is three things. He's the founder of Adena Studios, a true disciple of excellent design, and a good friend who won't lie to me.

That last part is important.

Jason congratulated me on getting the news site launched and for the kudos it was currently receiving, then he said something like:

"It's great and everything but, dude, let me redesign it for you. I'll do it for free."

I laughed and thanked him for the offer -- he's not cheap but worth every penny -- then I shrugged and explained:

"Ugly is just how we roll."

And THAT memory was the first thing that popped into my head as an antithesis when the new ExitEvent website was unveiled. The new site is professionally and beautifully designed, clean, efficient, and -- even though every feature isn't live just yet -- functional.

I had seen several bits and iterations of the new site during the design and construction processes, starting with the logo and the color scheme, the layout, and then the adoption of the Pencil Blue content management system (a product for which I've been a supporter since the idea stage).

But seeing all the pieces come together in front of about 200 of the entrepreneurs and investors it was going to support, I realized how much of an evolutionary step the new website would be.

So ugly is no longer how ExitEvent rolls. But I'm still glad it took this long to put the new face on it.

read the rest



Why Tech Shouldn't Be the Only Startup Game in Town
A Look at Beer, Food, Gaming, and Retail
Blog
9.2.14

When I first decided to take ExitEvent seriously as a startup resource, the first person I called was Erik Myers who, in full disclosure, is a long-time friend of mine who happened to be gaining a ton of quiet traction getting Mystery Brewing out of his kitchen.

Erik, whom I've written about a couple times, is a former techie who had a greater passion for brewing beer, but also retained an entrepreneur's business acumen and lean startup drive. When I told him my idea for ExitEvent—which at that point was essentially getting all the smart entrepreneurs into the same room once a month and just letting them do their own thing—I honestly expected some pragmatism.

But he was all in. Not because of me (trust me on that one), but because he thought it was a good idea. He probably would have reached out to the local entrepreneurs and investors on his own at some point.

The Quest for Relevance

Last week, Bill Bing wrote this quality piece calling for the startup communities across the Triangle to start working together more closely. And while my view may not be as dour as his on the subject, he makes an extremely valid point towards the end:

"For all the progress that North Carolina has made, the fact remains we are still borderline irrelevant outside of the Southeast from an investor perspective."

Yeah. Ask any founder at one of our high-tech-high-growth startups. We're doing really good, wonderfully good, extremely satisfactory. But we could be doing better.

Now, ask any brewing startup founder, gaming startup founder, or retail startup founder the same question. Unless they're wearing carolina-blue-colored glasses or just aren't far enough along for it to matter, you'll likely get the same answer.

read the rest



Forget Business Networking, Build Personal Relationships
A Recap of the August ExitEvent Startup Social
Blog
8.22.14

I've seen a rash of thought-expert pieces lately on the art of networking. Some of them are quite smart, like this piece on double-opt-in email introductions that I begrudgingly loved, or this one on getting to the point from Startup Factory's Chris Heivly.

Others are straight garbage. Not naming names.

I say "begrudgingly loved" about the former because I'm not a huge fan of people telling other people how to behave, especially when it comes to etiquette in the entrepreneurial pursuits. We're a breed of "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission" -- yet we still get all huffed when someone wants to get on our calendars without having jumped through the proper hoops.

Yeah, I know there's etiquette to this game, and I know there's a fine line between aggressive and douchebag. I'm also aware of the fact that being on the receiving end of everyone's meeting request is a hassle. I get about two dozen cold business emails a day and another handful of cold networking type emails on top of that. Whatever. First world problems.

One of the reasons I started ExitEvent was to give all entrepreneurs, from beginner to serial, a chance to network amongst themselves unshackled from topic, cause, or sponsor, either online or in person via the Startup Social.

But the Social, the monthly agenda-free, entrepreneur-and-investor-only, free-beer-fueled event, was never about networking. In that I mean it was never about collecting business cards and writing awkward follow-up emails the next day.

It was and still is about relationships.

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Why We Need Triangle Startup Weekend: Women
Addressing the Root Cause of Lack of Women in Startup and Tech
Blog
8.13.14

The weekend of October 10th will see the first-ever Triangle Startup Weekend: Women. And it's about time.

Liz Tracy is one of the organizers. She's a friend of mine and someone I've gotten to know while she's helped build the HQ Raleigh startup hub, which also happens to be founded by Brooks Bell, who also happens to be the founder of Brooks Bell.

Liz put in the application this spring. Once it was accepted, she sent an email out to people she knew to ask if they were interested in helping.

"Immediately, I got a bunch of responses and a strong starting point to get this going," she said.

I've always been a big proponent of finding more ways to get women involved in startup and tech. At the first startup I ever founded, my first hire was a woman. At the startup I most recently founded, my first hire was a woman.

What's more is it just happened that way. But I know it rarely happens that way.

While I've been heartened by the progress, I've been disappointed at times with the approach. Calling out companies for the existing makeup of their workforce isn't the right thing to do. Sure, it creates headlines, which one would hope puts pressure on those companies to be more inclusive in their recruiting processes. But that only addresses the symptom, not the cause.

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A Rant Against Bad Startup Advice
Blog
7.24.14

Every so often, I find myself at odds with a particular bit of conventional startup advice. Usually, the advice starts out as an innocuous one-liner bequeathed to me that I've re-gifted to others and, at face value, it may make perfect sense.

But at a certain point, the advice gets so blown out of proportion that it loses context. Eventually, it becomes something less than helpful. In extreme cases, it can become harmful.

That's when I open my big mouth and get all contrarian.

The last time I went on such a rant was over advice concerning our startup community and the growing number of startup-related events that were popping up everywhere. Long story short -- conventional wisdom was that there were too many startup events and the advice was that we needed to stop having so many startup events and entrepreneurs should stop going to startup events and get back to work.

This was almost exactly two years ago, so my story needs some context of its own.

The ExitEvent Startup Social was one of the first (if not the first) in a new wave of startup-related events that sprung out of a revitalized startup community in Durham. Yeah, there were startup events and meetups and such, but ExitEvent was sparked the night I went to a startup event attended by 100+ people and wound up talking the whole time to the only other entrepreneur there.

I remember what that was like. I remember when there were exactly zero honest-to-goodness startup events in my startup community. And it sucked, way more than being a little bit annoyed by getting the umpteenth startup-related Evite in my inbox.

So when startup events started exploding shortly after ExitEvent exploded, including two events that spun out of an ExitEvent Startup Social on the same night, my response was rock on, go for it, make some noise.

And when there was a backlash, my contrarian response was: Good entrepreneurs will find the value in good startup events and both will persevere. Shitty entrepreneurs who do nothing but event-hop will gravitate toward the shitty, glitzy events, and both will fail.

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A Common Language for the Internet of Things
Blog
7.14.14

The Open Interconnect Consortium, a group of big tech companies including Intel, Samsung, and Dell, announced last week their intention to create and open-source a specification for connecting the billions of things that make up the Internet of Things. This is the sole purpose of this consortium, and they're starting with smart homes, smart offices, and smart cars.

Their mission is to define "the specification, certification, and branding to deliver reliable interoperability" between all wireless-enabled devices across all operating systems: Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and so on.

In other words, if your smart watch and your smart television can seamlessly talk to one another via this platform, they'll be certified and branded as such. Concepts like user identity, authentication, proximity, onboarding and provisioning, and of course communication, would be plug-and-play between any two certified devices.

As you can imagine, this announcement went out without a ton of fanfare. In comparison to March headlines touting a bot breaking the story of an earthquake, this was a blip.

I can see why. This isn't layperson news. This is rocket science, or rather, robot science. And unless you're talking about the Terminator or Robocop or some other machine putting a human out of a job (and/or eventually killing them), people tend to want to get back to enjoying their slow news day.

But this story has much bigger implications for automated content than the template-driven ramblings of an earthquake sensor.

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Time To Shelve the Turing Test
No, The Turing Test Wasn't Cracked, But It Wouldn't Matter Anyway
Blog
6.16.14

So the Internet collectively lost its mind last week on the story that machines had finally caught up to us cagey humans, and that a "supercomputer" called Eugene Goostman effectively passed the age-old Turing Test.

The Turing Test, as defined by British mathematician Alan Turing in 1950, portends that if a computer can fool enough humans into thinking that it itself is human, it can be considered to have the same level of intelligence as a human.

Then, as the dystopian among us would have you believe, they take over.

I had four thoughts on the subject:

1) Bullshit. That's just a chatbot.

As soon as the claim was made, it was challenged. Experts called into question everything from the low number of judges it convinced (10 out of 30) to the fact that the test was undertaken with stipulations on what kind of human this was supposed to be -- specifically, a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy who spoke English as a second language.

I mean, come on, then do the test in Ukrainian.

But the most obvious detraction is that Eugene is just a chatbot.

Human conversation is not a tennis match. It has stops and starts, it has people talking over one another, it builds on the ideas from the other participant. This chatbot, like all chatbots before it, immediately fell into a generation-old chatbot routine:

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It's Tough To Be an Angel (Investor)
There's Still a Lot Of Work To Do At the Seed Stage
Published at ExitEvent
5.23.14

A very odd thing happened at the ExitEvent Startup Social this past Monday night at Boylan Bridge Brewpub in downtown Raleigh.

As usual, we had a great turnout, over 100 entrepreneurs and investors came out for the amazing view of Raleigh's ever-changing skyline, a night out on the deck with perfect weather, great beer (their Scottish is fantastic), and a lot of new faces.

Blah blah blah.

But this time out, a disproportionate amount of these new faces were investors. Sure, we had quite a few regulars -- for example, it was awesome to see SouthCap/BullCity's Jason Caplain back after a couple months hiatus -- but several new Angels and VCs introduced themselves to me that night. I knew their names and their firms, but this was the first time I had met a few of them face to face.

That's always a cool thing, but not a very odd thing.

The very odd thing was that two of the new Angels, one each at two different times, interrupted the cordial conversation to let me know that they were actively looking for new investments, and anyone I could recommend would get a good look.

My reaction was as follows: 1) I've never gotten this request from Angels before and 2) I just got two.

So on one hand, I was intrigued that there was this new hunger for deal flow at the Angel level. But at the same time, it underscored the fact that seed stage investors are having a tougher and tougher time finding the right deal flow.

And I can't decide if that's a good thing (demand) or a bad thing (supply).

read the rest at: http://exitevent.com/its-tough-to-be-an-angel-investor-14523.asp



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