Startup Life

Entreprenueurship in Action

Radio Talk Show Hosts – The wrong market

In the early days of TalkShoe, as with many companies, we knew we had developed a unique and different product (live interactive voice communications using the Internet). What we didn’t know was exactly which application(s) would be the most effective targets. Whenever we talked to people about the service, we got an earful of suggestions for possible applications: book clubs, fan clubs, voice bulletin boards, voice chatting, podcasting, conference calls, talk shows, training, seminars, and a host of others. One thing we did know what that going after all these applications at once would be impossible and illadvised.

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October 10, 2007 Posted by | Company History, Marketing | 1 Comment

Off to PodCamps

As PodCamp Boston II approaches, it’s time to look back on PodCamps in general and their use as a marketing tool.

In August of 2006, I decided to attend the first PodCamp in Boston. This was the first in what has been a series of events given by podcasters for podcasters. Given that podcasting was our exact target market, I decided that it made sense for TalkShoe to attend, and we contributed $500 as a company. It was certainly a risk in terms of money spent, but I had a hunch that it was going to be worth our time, effort and money, given that I’ve been to many new conferences and trade shows that turned out to be a bust.

PodCamp Boston was billed as an “unconference” which meant that instead of having high-profile speakers and mostly companies speak, instead anyone, and everyone was allowed and encouraged to give a talk in one of the 4 breakout rooms and the large main room. For our sponsorship, TalkShow was sort of given a table to display our product, given out litterature and talk to PodCampers. Personally, I signed up for two speaking sessions.

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October 8, 2007 Posted by | Marketing, Trade Show & Events | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1-year Anniversary of Leo Laporte using TalkShoe

It’s our 1-year anniversary of Leo Laporte using TalkShoe, and time to reminisce…

It was back in October 2006 when Leo Laporte of TWiT-TV first told us that he was planning to use TalkShoe. Leo, for those of you who don’t know, is the #1 podcaster in the world by most measures. We had a couple of weeks to prepare, and we had no idea what kind of traffic Leo would generate, and what part of our system would break. At that time, we didn’t (we do now) for example have anyway to heavily load-test our system.

The BIG day came on November 5, 2006 when Leo and Amber (MacArthur) first went live with their net @ nite ( Talkcast (previously called Inside the Net). The whole company (all 10 of us) came into the office on that Sunday night, as we prepared for the 9:00 pm live Talkcast. We all popped open some beer, and as the time approached, we could see from our traffic reports that TalkShoe’s system was “heating up.” Web traffic jumped starting about 15 minutes before the show, along with telephone traffic.

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October 3, 2007 Posted by | Company History, General Stuff | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Looking for a Top-Notch Public Relations firm

We’ve recently begun our search for a top-notch public relations firm to aid us in generating online, print, TV, etc. buzz about TalkShoe and its podcasting business, and new foree into social networking. (Lots more to come on this subject)

If you know of a good agency with both traditional and online PR experience, as well as experience working with hot tech startup companies, email me at — Thanks.

October 3, 2007 Posted by | Daily Chores, General Stuff, Marketing, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Podcast & New Media Expo trade show

We just finished our 1st trade show where TalkShoe exhibited – Podcast & New Media Expo. It went well. The highlight for me was our <$1,000 booth (compared with $5-$10K) average for a 10×10 booth. It was filled with cubbies and shoes — lots of shoes of all types, and a large screen with a projector showing a live continuous Talkcast. Over 100 different people joined the Talkcast from somewhere out there on the Internet. The live Talkcast really got the idea of our product across to those coming by the booth. Overall, the trade show cost us $6000 + $3800 for travel expenses = $9,800 which is the least amount I’ve ever spent to exhibit at a show. Basically trade shows aren’t cheap. In addition to the booth, there’s travel, shipping, electricity, badge readers, t-shirts, booth space ($3K), etc.

The other hit for us was having iJustine (an extremely popular social networker) in our booth. She knows just about everyone, and her exuberance about TalkShoe’s project shines through. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also quite easy on the eyes. At one point she was LifeCasting (a running video of her life), talking on a live TalkShoe call, Twittering what she was doing, and roving around the trade show wearing her TalkShoe polo shirt. As she put it, she was “buzzing”.

October 1, 2007 Posted by | Marketing, Trade Show & Events | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back in the Old Days

This post relates to junior employees taking direction from senior employees. Back in the old-old days, work life was pretty straightforward in terms of decision making. Senior employees (managers) made decisions, and junior employees carried them out. This was a very efficient system, although junior employees didn’t always buy into decisions. If a junior employee didn’t listen, it was considered insubordination.

In the old days (my generation), senior employees weighted advice from both senior and junior employees. Senior employees ultimately made the decisions, and they were carried out by junior employees. But junior employees had the right to disagree, but in the end everyone still realized who was boss. If a junior employee didn’t obey the decision, it wasn’t considered insubordination, but it wasn’t a good thing over the long term.

Today, things have changed again. It seems that senior and junior employees negotiate equally and openly. Junior employees are generally not afraid to speak their mind. In particular, at TalkShoe, since we’re focusing on social networking, junior/younger employees still  have a say. Now we must reach consensus. If a junior employee doesn’t carry out the decisions made by the senior employee, it’s more the senior employee’s job to once again try and reach consensus. This can be very inefficient if decisions have to continually be revisited; however, ultimately it’s great when concensus is reached, and all employees feel ownership of the decision.

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Daily Chores, Environment, General Stuff, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How is the Internet like a T-bone Steak?

Last Saturday night, my wife and I went out to dinner with some old and new friends to a great new restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh (The Capital Grille). I ordered the porcini mushroom crusted steak, a house specialty, medium rare, and we all drank a considerable amount of California red meritage wine. When I got the bill, which was split 4 ways with a stack of our credit cards, my mind immediately wandered to Internet Pricing.


Internet Pricing? After a fabulous meal? What gives? I thought, how is it that I — and many others — are willing to pay $30+ for a steak, which gives us pleasure for maybe 3 hours, and people are not willing to pay $30/year for a great Internet service. Continue reading

September 22, 2007 Posted by | Marketing, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Carnegie Mellon student project

TalkShoe has just begun doing a project with students from Carnegie Mellon University MISM program which is a joint technology-business masters degree. The students will be looking at methods and best practices for marketing into social networks, especially MySpace, Facebook and Ning. This is part of TalkShoe’s new thrust into getting social networkers to use Talkcasts for discussions, conversations, and of course live podcasts.

Check out the students’ blog where they’ll be making their findings public and soliciting feedback.

September 21, 2007 Posted by | General Stuff, Marketing, Teaching at CMU, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poor experience with RacePoint PR Firm

I had a very disturbing call with a representative from RacePoint public relations firm today. It seems that all they want to talk about is money — meaning how much I will pay them  — before they even told me what they could do for me. Here’s the email I sent them today.

I am extremely insulted by a recent call I got from one of your representatives. The only issue he wanted to discuss was money. I had sent a Request for Proposal (RFP) with our desired needs, and what came back to me was that it would cost $15K minimum. Not who would be on the account. Not questions about the RFP. Not what you could do for TalkShoe, but only money.

Frankly, I’d be happy to pay you $20,000/month+ if your firm can produce results. I just resent the very first call only being about money, and not about your capabilities.

The RFP I sent you was very broad, so that you could give me an overall sense of your capabilties. When I asked what could be taken out of the RFP to get the price more in the $10,000 range, the answer was sorry, there’s nothing we can do. That makes no sense. Clearly if you spend less hours (for example by eliminating PR with national press), it would cost less than going after national press, right?

I feel like I am being treated like an idiot. I know the PR process and have been a VP of Marketing for 15 years. I am also a professor at a major US university and in fact teach marketing, PR, advertising, etc. I know that retainer pricing is ultimately about price/hour, and PR firms estimate the approximate number of hours it would take to service a given customer. What ever happened to “earning the customer’s business”? Surely a better approach would have been to tell me all the great things you can do for TalkShoe and then talk price. Or asking me to clarify the RFP, or something.

September 20, 2007 Posted by | Daily Chores, Marketing, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Premium Wine and Beer in a Bottle

One of the greatest things about working in a start-up, especially an Internet startup, is the casual and relaxed environment. Our office is a large open area with 4 people in cubes, plus two offices that each house 4 employees. Needless to say, we’re a close-knit group. In the open area is a crappy old pool table with the pockets falling out, and a well warped slate/felt (home field advantage). Next to it is a pinball machine, although I’ll admit that I suck at pinball. There’s also a new putting machine and golf balls around the office, and a ball dart-board hanging on the door.

Best of all is the small refrigerator in our tiny kitchen, which often doubles as a 2-3 person conference room (standing room only!). So what’s the big deal about a refrigerator? Every company has a fridge, right. Wrong! While there is some diet soda, our fridge is stocked primarily beer. Premium bottled beer. As you might has guessed, I’m drinking one right now — Circus Boy Hefeweizen from the Magic Hat Brewing Co. (excellent beer by the way)  We’ve also got a cadre of other microbrews, and a few old favorites like Sam Adams, and of course, our company favorite Guinness (Brilliant!). I remember last St. Patty’s Day drinking Guinness, and I do remember we did a lot of creative thinking that day.

What’s the real value of this to the company, you might ask? It’s comeraderie, it’s a relaxed atmosphere, it’s treating people like responsible citizens, it’s CULTURE. And it does make a difference. It’s letting people wind down from the stresses of a startup. We do a lot of good team building standing around playing 9-ball and having a beer.

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September 19, 2007 Posted by | Environment, General Stuff, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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