3 Community Management Tools That We Use at CoInvent

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Many organizers asked me how we built an engaging startup community at CoInvent. The answer can always be simplified and broken down to two parts – people (team) and technology. In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter part – technology – a.k.a. social platforms or content management tools. If you have attended a CoInvent event in the past, you either registered on Meetup or Eventbrite. In addition, Mailchimp is our choice for sending newsletter and group email messages. So I will focus on the pros and cons of each of these platforms below.

 

1. What is Meetup?

According to Meetup.com, Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.

Use case at CoInvent

The CoInvent concept was practically founded as a small Meetup group in May, 2009. Over the past 6 years, we were able to build one of the largest startup/entrepreneur Meetup groups in the world.

Pros

Meetup.com is one of the original event management software tools. It revolutionized the way people organize events. It enables organizers to create groups and host events based on specific interests and hobbies. Every group on Meetup is closely connected to each other. Members can join as many groups as they wish. If people talk about your events positively, your Meetup group can grow real fast. Meetup’s ecosystem is well developed in big cities and metropolitan areas.

Cons

1). Meetup.com doesn’t disclose members’ email info to group organizers even though they belong to their groups. And there is no way for organizers to collect that info either

2). Meetup groups are good for organizing local events as in one particular region or area. If you have a New York group but want to hold an event in Boston, you have no choice but have to start another Meetup group

3). Meetup can also be considered as a ticketing platform. Sadly, it doesn’t let organizers add multiple tickets with different tiers of pricing

4). Although Meetup has been around for more than 10 years, it’s not uncommon for you to see the “fail-whale” sign from time to time. I vividly remember that Meetup suffered a DDoS attack on March 2nd, 2013, and had a hard time staying up for an entire week. For organizers who solely rely on the Meetup platform to host events, it’s really bad news if one of their events experiences these downtimes too

5). There isn’t a way to turn off the “comment” feature for Meetup events. When someone posts a comment, it automatically gets delivered to every attendee’s email inbox. I think Meetup should make the “comment” feature optional in the future so organizers can turn it off for the group if they deem it necessary. Personally, I’d much prefer to have a conversation with our group members on Twitter or our Facebook page

 

2. What is Eventbrite?

Eventbrite is a global marketplace for live experiences that allows people to find and create events.

Use case at CoInvent

We integrate the Eventbrite platform to the CoInvent website. It’s considered the official registration tool for our non-Meetup crowd.

Pros

Eventbrite seems to be the perfect choice for event organizers these days. It seems to understand the business it’s in and doesn’t have a lot of distractions other than its ticketing features. For me, what makes Eventbrite unique and useful is its ability to integrate with our own website and the fact that event hosts can put out several types of tickets at the same time.

Cons

Compared to Meetup.com, Eventbrite doesn’t have the community aspect. But you can also consider that as a pro if you prefer its simplicity. Also at this moment, it seems that Eventbrite is very heavy on business and tech events. Not many sports and concert events can be found there.

 

3. What is Mailchimp?

MailChimp is an email marketing service for users to send email newsletters, manage subscriber lists, and track campaign performance.

Use case at CoInvent

We use Mailchimp to send our newsletter, local event alerts, and special announcements almost every week. All our non-Meetup contacts are stored in our Mailchimp database. Without Mailchimp, we wouldn’t be able to communicate with our subscribers and most of our members.

Pros

1). Mailchimp has clear guidelines on how to conduct email marketing. Make sure all your contacts are opt-in emails. Otherwise, your newsletters or messages can be easily flagged as spam. This killer feature leaves no room for spammers

2). The data analytics tool that Mailchimp provides gives marketers all types of real-time metrics – open rates, click rates, subscriber demographics, click map, bounce rates, opt-out rates, etc. This in turn helps campaigners get a better understanding of their audience

3). Mailchimp lets you add an opt-in form to your website or link it to an url. This is a great branding feature. For example, CoInvent’s newsletter subscription link is www.GetCoInvent.com

Cons

1). Mailchimp can get pretty expensive once you reach a critical mass for your subscribers – usually start with 30,000 subscribers. You can view its pricing here

2). Certain email servers flag Mailchimp emails as spam (even though it’s legit). An example is qq emails. I’ve contacted Mailchimp about this as we have some readers in China, but it doesn’t seem that Mailchimp has a solution for this at this moment

 

Needless to say, different combinations of different social networking platforms will generate different results for growing your business. There are other content management tools to help you build a personal/consumer brand, such as WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Mightybell. No matter what tools to choose, it’s imperative to keep it simple. No organizations have the resources to do them all. So choose cautiously. And only choose those you understand. Also keep in mind that building an audience takes time. Patience is a virtue.

Being a Better Enabler in The Startup Ecosystem

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Life is short. I believe if you can stick to something for more than 5 years in a row, you might have found something that you’re truly passionate about. In today’s day and age, being able to find your passion and make a living in the same time is a rare luxury. 2015 is my 6th year at CoInvent. I honestly believe that 2015 is an inflection point where CoInvent will have much bigger breakthroughs.

What is CoInvent? I got asked this a lot by other folks that I meet. Honestly, I don’t try to ask myself the same question or define CoInvent on a day-to-day basis. When you’re set out to accomplish something, you must do it with a vision. Once that vision is locked in, you just go for it, whatever it takes! Trying to repeatedly define your vision or mission doesn’t help you get there faster. Our vision at CoInvent is to enable startups and entrepreneurs to succeed with the resources at our disposal, be it events or content. Here are a few principles we must adhere to while striving to achieve our goals:

 

1). Maximization

Great brands know how to maximize its product usage. To do this, Google makes its search product basically free for average users like you and me while only charging for advertisers. Facebook and Twitter have adopted similar business models. Hulu and Spotify have both free and paid versions for their products that suit for customers with different price sensitivities. At CoInvent, we intend to make our base product free of charge as well for as long as it takes – i.e. this newsletter, and our Happy Hour event series are both the by-products of this principle. When practiced right, this model can be used for the greater good of the startup ecosystem and all its components.

2). Customization

The ability to constantly provide free resources won’t do a brand any good if the brand doesn’t figure out a way to monetize soon. Great companies with freemium business models must know how and when to charge for its premium content which is customized for its high end customers. At CoInvent, we are obviously implementing this “customization” strategy because we know, in order to be relevant for the years and decades to come, we must figure out a way to stay relevant in the long term.  And a good revenue model can help us do that! That means the ability to serve our high end customers well and find out what they really need, in addition to the commoditized product that we have for everyone. We hosted a startup conference last December, which was the first step for our realization of the “customization” model. We will continue to tirelessly execute this model to design a better niche product. Moreover, stay tuned for more exciting news to come soon!

3). Breadth vs Depth

As an event/content platform, it’s inevitable for us to be based in multi-cities. NY, SF, and LA are three top booming cities in global tech ecosystem. We are happy that CoInvent has taken a deep root in all these markets thus far. We are not going to expand to more areas in 2015, as I believe it’s time to further expand our influence in each of our existing markets. I look forward to announcing a slew of new exciting initiatives in the months to come!

 

With enough time, I can probably further elaborate on each of the above operating principles at CoInvent. But I’ll stop here as I believe the best way to explain them is by real examples. Anyhow, it feels good to get this one out of the way at beginning of the year.  These principles will make a lot more sense as you come back to revisit this post later during the year. In the meantime, BELIEVE that we have your best interest and we will work hard to help you succeed!

Enter Media 2.0

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If you read my newsletters, you know that I’m a huge media fan. I love browsing news via my Pocket app or binge-viewing the latest Newsroom episodes on HBO GO.  I simply feel blessed being alive in this day and age when innovation blossoms in the media space.

Media 2.o is just my way to describe a new wave of innovation in the media space. In the past decade, we’ve been through transitions from MySpace to Facebook, from print media to digital media, and from DVD rentals to content streaming. Last week, I read a blog post by Fred Wilson on Business Insider intentionally distorting his original blog post to get more page views. I think modern media has evolved a lot. I’d love to share some of my thoughts and opinions on where we are headed in the “media 2.0″ age.

 

1. News Media

News media has evolved dramatically from print to digital. Now we are accustomed to reading news from a smartphone or tablet. News has also become predominantly free. Content behind a paywall simply can’t compete with sites with a freemium model, which is also the reason why so many tech blogs entering the event business – i.e. TechCrunch, Re/Code, etc. Bottom line is that advertising and events play well with a freemium news business model.

2. Video

Video, as a form of media, has changed a lot with the advent of YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc. These days, TV is one of the ways to consume video content but not the ONLY way. Even HBO is adapting to its customers’ needs by unbundling its cable content with HBO GO. We also see more and more interesting original shows from content distributors such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. 4K ultra HD is the latest trend in consuming video content. With CES right in the corner, I bet there is going to be a ton of 4K TVs being showcased at the show.

3. Music

Steaming services have become more relevant and dominant in the music industry. Many people don’t understand why streaming is greater than download. Answer is simple – it’s more convenient to consumers. Steve Jobs used to say iPod and iTunes let us fit 1000 songs in our pocket. But now we can fit hundreds of thousands of songs in our pocket with just our Spotify or Pandora app.

4. Social Media

Social media is a great distribution platform for other forms of media – news, video, and music. It has also evolved a ton from Friendster to MySpace to today’s Facebook and Twitter. It’s hard to predict what’s coming next in social media innovation. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds in 2015.

 

There are certainly many other forms of media. The above mentioned ones are simply on the top of my priority watch-list. Media is a very interesting space. At the intersection of technology and media, there is bound to be tons of innovation coming up in coming years and decades. For those who are curious about the future of media, it will, no doubt, be a roller-coaster ride as we continue our journey on the Media 2.0 highway.

 

Note: We are now accepting speaker applications for this year’s CoInvent Media Summit in New York, submit your application here.

My Top 10 Tech Predictions in 2015

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Since this is the last week in 2014, I thought it’ll be useful to share my thoughts on some biggest trends in 2014 and where I think they’ll be headed in 2015. These are my 10 biggest tech predictions in 2015:

 

1. On Uber

There will be more and more Uber copycats springing up in domestic and international markets. Uber will continue to face two of its biggest challenges: regulatory issues & its internal culture issue which affects its relationships with both drivers and even journalists.

2. On Apple

Apple will continue to dominate domestically and expand internationally, especially in Asia. Apple Pay would prove profitable and useful to consumers. iPhone will remain as a cash cow for Apple. But Apple Watch might only turn out to be a mediocre success. But don’t bet against Apple.

3. On Venture Capital

There will be more seed funds available to early stage entrepreneurs. However, venture capital is a very “cut-throat” industry as David Pakman claims. And entrepreneurs are more likely to partner with VCs who have a better track record and are more reputable and entrepreneur-friendly.

4. On Crowdfunding

With the introduction of JOBS Act Title III, expect to see more less known crowdfunding platforms popping up here and there. This means more competition among those crowdfunding platforms and more funding choices for entrepreneurs.

5. On Twitter

Twitter still remains a useful tool for me. But I worry about its future. It seems that its growth has slowed over time. And you can’t blame Wall Street for losing confidence in the product. Recently, some people even labelled Twitter as a niche product.

6. On Amazon

It’s hard to predict what Jeff Bezos will do next. Set-top box, game console, one-hour Prime delivery…. What’s next? Ironically, Wall Street never seems to downvote the Amazon stock no matter how unprofitable the company is. Amazon remains to be one of my favorite tech companies today.

7. On Media

News reporting will continue to innovate in a highly competitive industry. You will see fewer paywall models and more freemium models. You are more likely to hear about breaking news from Twitter or your Circa app than your TV or print newspaper. Expect to see more amazing original content like House of Cards produced by Internet companies such as Netflix, and traditional media companies (HBO) will continue to unbundle in favor of the cord cutters.

8. On Outside of Silicon Valley

Are there other silicon valleys outside of the silicon valley? You bet. Expect to see more multi-billion dollar companies coming out of Asia and Europe – Alibaba, JD, Xiaomi, Rocket Internet, etc. Investors must figure out an efficient way to fund foreign startups and fuel future innovations despite the culture differences or language barriers.

9. On CoInvent

We are an event and content company. We will never cease to build an ever-growing community that works diligently to benefit its core components – entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. Disruption is in our DNA. Many great things coming up in 2015. Stay tuned!

10. On Everything Else

There are many other exciting things, which is hard to cover exhaustively through one list. But there are less exciting areas I’m not so optimistic about as well – i.e. Microsoft is trying really hard to build its own ecosystem on mobile, but I’m not sure it’s happening. How well can Yahoo do in 2015? Big question mark! On drones and self-driving cars, I think we are still in premature phases.

My Interview with David Pakman at CoInvent Startup Summit [Video]

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I loved interviewing David Pakman at CoInvent Startup Summit on Dec. 23rd. We talked about media, investing, crowdfunding platforms, Uber, Apple, wearable, music steaming, and much more. Enjoy the video below!

Media Hype, Innovation, and Imitation

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Recently, there has been a lot of Uber talks. It seems that everywhere I go, I hear the sound of Uber. As a tech entrepreneur, this could be good and bad. A unicorn startup can serve as an inspiration to many startups and entrepreneurs. But it can also be the culprit of too much unnecessary imitations, because the misleading signal suggests that there is an abundance of resources/capital in a single industry.

We all remember what happened to the daily deals industry, which attracted everyone’s attention in the tech circuit in 2012 when Google offered $6bn trying to buy Groupon. But now it’s all smoke and mirrors. Will the same thing happen to on-demand ridesharing industry in the future? Is there too much media hype about Uber these days? What are the consequences? I share my perspective in this week’s CoInvent newsletter. Here is what I wrote:

 

Silicon Valley has long represented something positive and innovative. When we discuss Silicon Valley, we think about Google, Facebook, or Apple. However, what goes up must come down. I believe with the good things, there are many problems existing with today’s Silicon Valley. Hype is one of them!

Last week’s big news came on Friday when Financial Times reported that Uber is out trying to raise $1 billion more with a higher-than-$17B valuation. The media went nuts! Actually, I don’t recall to hear anything else but Uber in media headliners theses days. Here are just a few from last week:

Uber, Uber, Uber… When we get too obsessive with one particular startup, this country’s innovation rate goes down. We all know how many daily deals sites sprang up when Google offered $6 billion to buy Groupon back in mid 2012. Fast forward to today, we all know how group buying startups are doing. For example, LivingSocial just laid off 20% of their employees last week. What we need in Silicon Valley is objective reporting, less hype, and more work. What we should do is innovate in new industries, not trying to do another Facebook, Uber, or Yelp clone. Too much media hype can cause excessive imitation, which can be detrimental to innovation.

 

I could be wrong. But only time will tell whether the media frenzy will speed up or slow down Uber’s future growth.

How Technology is “Eating Up” Traditional Industries

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For millennials, we are the lucky few because no one else before our time could have witnessed such a spectacular technological shift that almost impacts everything we do in our daily life. Because of technology, we now can consume hours of streaming content on our plasma TVs or tablets. Because of technology, we get to enjoy the convenience and freedom that ridesharing startups create? How is technology “eating up” the world? And how much are we exposed to it? Here is a sneak peak of some of the issues we will address at the upcoming CoInvent Startup Summit.

The goal of the summit is to address the disruptive roles that technology plays in traditional industries such as marketplace, education, payment, finance, media, funding, social, and fashion. Here are some select areas we will cover with the summit.

 

Marketplace

Marketplace is the epicenter of the “Software Eating The World” movement because online shopping sites like Amazon.com are actually changing consumers’ buying behaviors. Five years ago, you might enjoy buying a book at Borders or Barnes and Nobles, where do you buy your books today? I do it directly on my Kindle. It takes a minute to complete the purchase and get it downloaded to my Kindle device. How about grocery delivery startups such as Instacart or Freshdirect? The fact is, traditional brick and mortar commerce model has been disrupted and will continue to be. It’s an exciting time if you enjoy the convenience of online shopping.

Education

Education is one of those areas that have not been completely disrupted by technology yet. We all know the problems that come with traditional school-based education system. The fact is many entrepreneurs realized they needed to find solutions to make education more affordable and convenient with technology, and they are trying. Enter education 2.0, which introduces an array of exciting education startups – language learning with Duolingo, taking a programming or design class with General Assembly, getting a verified college certificate from Coursera, or learning pretty much everything for free on Khan Academy. Even with all these startups, the education system in the world has not been democratized enough. For that to happen, we need more entrepreneurs, startups and ideas to work on more education-related problems.

Media

The traditional print media industry has been utterly “destroyed” by technology. The latest victim is Macworld Magazine, which, after 30 years, is no longer a magazine. And it laid off most of its staff. As an entrepreneur, I get all my breaking news on Twitter, Techmeme, or Cir.ca these days. Getting Wall Street Journal delivered to my doorsteps was so 2009. On the other hand, streaming media play a larger and more crucial role now than ever before. Recently, HBO finally revised its business model and planned to introduce a standalone HBO Go subscription service for its cord-cutter demographics. The service is said to be live early next year. Media and entertainment industry will continue to evolve. As an entrepreneur myself, I feel blessed to be in the middle of seismic and powerful shift. The new media tools will open doors for much better lifestyles – exciting and efficient ways to consume media content. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku are all competing for a piece of this market. This is the beginning of a new era!

Payment

Along with Airbnb and Dropbox, Stripe is one of YC’s most successful startups ever. Stripe is one of those unicorns that investor wish they could have invested in. It’s making payment industry more efficient and better. Same can be said about Bitcoin, although this topic can be controversial. Payment tech is here to stay. Apple’s foray into the payment industry – advent of Apple Pay – further legitimized this prediction. Now the fight in payment tech is among the big boys – PayPal, Google Wallet, Stripe, Square, and Alipay – just to name a few. It remains unclear who will be the ultimate winner or they will continue to co-exist. But one thing is clear – when big companies compete, small business owners win! The result is lower rates and less fees.

 

Next week, I will cover the remaining four topics – finance, funding, social, and fashion – part of what the Dec. 16th CoInvent Startup Summit will address. A partial list of the conference speakers has been released – including CEOs and senior VPs from Wix, Seedinvest, Betterment, Cover, Plated, Zipmark, Triberr, etc. We will have more speakers to add in the coming days. Subscribe here for free updates.

My First Tweet Storm

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It’s not hard to guess that my first tweetstorm actually has something to do with media & entertainment. When I grew up in China in the 80’s and 90’s, video cassette and DVD were the equivalent of what we call today the “home entertainment theater”. Then the Internet came. And there was an influx of pirated content (movies + music + games). For the millennials, I suspect that we all used BitTorrent to download free movies at one point or another.

Today, we are all used to the notion of streaming Netflix or Hulu content directly to our big-ass screen TVs, but people outside of United States – including those in China – may not have the luxury to enjoy authentic copyrighted content like we do. That’s why when I read that Alibaba is trying to strike a deal with Hollywood, some ideas immediately entered my mind. That’s when I had the impulse to compose my first tweetstorm below:

 

1/6 – The Alibaba/Liongate deal certainly sounds interesting. Actually, could be a game changer for China http://goo.gl/u7VCZg

2/6 – Alibaba could be one of those co’s that eventually right the Chinese media industry, w/ less and less pirated content year after year

3/6 – Whatever happens in China today, think of it as if it was the US market 5 years ago, i.e. pirated content, entrepreneurship, education

4/6 – But China has been accelerating to catch up to US, the innovation pace is speeding up, and distance is shortening

5/6 – In that sense, it’s just a matter of time before you see the next Chinese Netflix or Hulu hit the consumer tech market

6/6 – Alibaba will, no doubt, play a pivotal role in shaping that market via its partnership or internal corporate innovations

 

 

Zero to One

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zero to one

Reading Peter Thiel’s new book Zero to One right now. I’m almost through the book. It’s a great book to read if you are an early adopter, entrepreneur, or technologist. When asked what the title “Zero to One” actually means by NPR, this is Peter’s answer:

The basic idea is if you sort of think about innovations where there’s someone who builds a first airplane or first home computer or first smartphone that works like the Apple iPhone, these are what I call zero to one innovations. And I think technology involves intensive, vertical, zero to one progress. Globalization involves horizontal, copying, one to end progress. And we’ll need both of these in the 21st century. China is sort of the epitome of globalization. What China does is copy things that work. And it has a very straightforward 20-year plan which is to make itself look more like the U.S. and Western Europe. For the developed world – Japan, Western Europe, the United States – progress is a much trickier thing in 21st-century because to take our civilization to the next level, we need to actually do new things. And so I think the question of how do we develop the developed world is a question that’s not often asked but is worth for us to look about a lot more.

 

 

In the following conversation between Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel, you can learn more about the context of this book.

 

Open Message to CoInvent NY Meetup Group

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Earlier today, I sent this message out to the CoInvent NY Meetup group regarding the upcoming CoInvent Startup Summit:

Good morning,

At CoInvent, we are always looking for better ways to make things more efficient, scalable, and impactful. This morning, I would like to introduce our debut startup conference – CoInvent Startup Summit. We plan to roll it out in our New York market first in 2014 and then nationwide in 2015. With the launch of this conference, our goals/priorities remain the same. They are:

  • help founders/startups/businesses connect with potential customers/users, partners, investors
  • help founders/startups/businesses extend their runway via opportunities to raise more funds or create more revenues
  • help founders/startups/businesses make better hires by connecting them with passionate and like-minded individuals
  • help founders/startups/businesses find a better product/market fit and get advice from industry insiders

I think those four goals are pretty inclusive and applicable to most early- to growth-stage startups and companies. The Dec. 16 conference focuses on addressing the “Software Eating The World” theme – the disruptive roles that technology plays in our daily lives. All talks and panels feature industry experts and insiders. With this announcement, I have both good news and bad news. Bad news is that we only have a few hundred tickets, which are likely to be gone soon. But the good news is, you can start ordering tickets now at www.coinvent.co/events/cssny14­, which is the ONLY event registration site. We have introduced 20% – 30% of the speakers thus far. They are:

  • Ryan Feit – CEO and Co-Founder @ Seedinvest
  • Ari Rabban – CEO and Co-Founder @ Phone.com, Inc.
  • Mark Wachen – Managing Director @ DreamIt Ventures
  • Charlie Kemper – Co-Founder and Managing Director @ Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator
  • Dino Dogan – Founder and CEO @ Triberr
  • Nick Taranto – Co-Founder and Co-CEO @ Plated
  • Miranda Tan – CEO and Founder @ MyPRGenie, Inc.
  • Nihal Mehta – Founding General Partner @ ENIAC Ventures
  • Mallory Blair – Co-Founder @ Small Girls PR
  • Jonathon Ende – Founder and CEO @ SeamlessDocs

For more speakers, check out www.coinvent.co/events/cssny14­

When: 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM,  Tuesday, Dec. 16th
Where:
Anchin Block & Anchin LLP
1375 Broadway #23, New York, NY 10018

For new speaker updates, subscribe to our newsletter at www.GetCoInvent.com.­ For conf sponsorship opportunities, shoot us a note at www.coinvent.co/sponsors­.

Cheers,

-andrew (@andyrwong)

The original message can be found at www.meetup.com/coinvent/messages/boards/thread/47677432.