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Born Global or Die Local – Building a Regional Startup Playbook

Steve Blank

Entrepreneurship is everywhere, but everywhere isn’t a level playing field. What’s the playbook for your region or country to make it so?



Scalable startups are on a trajectory for a billion dollar market cap. They grow into companies that define an industry and create jobs.  Not all start ups want to go in that direction – some will opt instead to become a small business. There’s nothing wrong with a business that supports you and perhaps an extended family. But if you want to build a scalable startup you need to be asking how you can you get enough customers/users/payers to build a business that can grow revenues past several $100M/year.

With 317 million people the U.S. has a large enough market that most U.S. startups ignore the rest of the world until they scale in their own country. Outside the U.S. a rough rule of thumb for scale is…

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Future Implications

Technology is constantly changing. At no other time in history has innovation been so prevalent in society. What is new and cool today can be– as the cool kids like to say—so last year, tomorrow. Creative destruction will continue. Technology is going to constantly reinvent itself. These are all things we can be certain about in the coming future. However, the debate that has been raging for years now is whether or not Social Media will still be relevant as the years go by. It is a fair question, but at this point we already KNOW what social media is, the real question is where it will evolve into?

As of right now, any large brand or company can justify social media simply as an extension for customer service. The savings a company can achieve by pushing customers to use social media instead of their call lines can be clearly and justifiably shown. For that reason alone, social media will be around in the business ecosystem. However there are shifts going on that companies need to be aware of in the future in regards to their social media strategy.


   The first one is that the relationships matter more than the technology. Never before have people been able to and have a need to voice their opinions. That won’t change. Whether it will be on Facebook today or the brand new social network of the future, the freedom that social networks offer people to voice their thoughts will continue. As one of my favorite authors that talks about social media, Charlene Li says in her groundbreaking book, Groundswell, “it’s not the technology that matters, but the relationship that the technology allows” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 19). That is something that every company needs to understand, social media has given people an outlet to share their opinions. So regardless of which social network will be relevant in the future, companies must craft their social media strategy in a way that will continue to foster this kind of two way communication.


   The second thing that companies need to watch out for is the emergence of smart phones. I know that people have been saying it is the year of mobile for a few years now, but the truth is that facts don’t lie. In a 2013 study conducted by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, KPCB Internet Trends 2013, states that mobile use of the internet will take over land use of the internet by next year. Other take a ways from the reports are that usage in Vine is also increasing, combine with the fact that Instagram reached 100 million users in just 26 months, nearly a year faster than it took Facebook, it is easy to see why companies have to start strategizing their social media to target and convert users on their mobile phone. Whether it is clothing companies creating 6 second clips of new outfits using Vine or companies using Instagram for hashtag contests, companies must figure out how to properly engage these users.  As smart phones continue to advance, there may come a day when everyone’s computer may just be there cell phone.

Let me know if you agree or disagree below!

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social

            technologies. Forrester Research Inc.

Viral Marketing Initiatives

Since the day Viral Marketing was coined, many a marketers have lost countless hours of sleep pondering how they too can make a campaign go viral. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson defined viral marketing as, “any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence”. Used correctly it could make a company rich and famous. However, as many people who have tried to harness this power have realized, it’s not easy. Below are five characteristics of viral campaigns that one must understand in order to achieve that elusive virus.


This one is geared towards larger companies who want to help put a face on a brand. IBM did so with their “Art of the Sale” video series where they created a mockumentary style video of their sales lessons. This was unexpected because IBM is viewed by many as stoic corporate juggernaut. However, with these videos they were able to show their personality and let the world know that there are actual genuine real people working there. As of this date the video has been watched on Youtube over 350,000 times!



In 2006 Office Max launched the “Elf Yourself” Campaign which allowed people to upload their faces onto the elves as they danced around.  The initiative was simple (you just had to upload a pic of yourself) and fun (who doesn’t like to see themselves dressed up like a little elf dancing around on computer?). Note that Elves have nothing to do with Office Max, but that’s beauty of viral marketing—if it’s fun, people will share regardless of who is behind it. The initiative was so successful that more that 470 million people uploaded pics since its launch in 2006. Now that’s market awareness!

Call to Action:

Regardless of what you think of the creator of the video, the Kony 2012 blazed through the internet like nothing before. The video was emotional, captivating and most importantly, after it had you emotionally invested, gave a simple call to action. The video has over 97 million views on YouTube.

Connect with the Right People:

You may ask, “Isn’t the point of a viral video to be picked up spontaneously through the internet?” Yes, a viral campaign does happen naturally, but there are ways to cheat the system. If you’re making a campaign targeted for a specific industry, wouldn’t it be better to get the influencers in that industry on board? Take a look at what Universal Orlando Resort did with their Harry Potter themed rides. Did they go and pay millions of dollars for billboards and commercials? No. They targeted seven influencers of Harry Potter blogs and shared with them via webcast about the rides. Then those seven people shared with their communities. From there the “viral” aspect became alive. As was said in The New Rules of Viral Marketing: How Word of Mouse Spreads Your Ideas for Free by David Meerman Scott, the campaign reached over 350 million people, with no money spent on advertising!




This is probably the most important characteristic of any viral video and one that each of the four examples above used. You need to make sure that the content you create can be easily shared. It can be as simple as a social share widget that allows people to immediately share it with their friends via their social network sites. The easier you make it for the audience to share the faster your campaign reaches the mass audiences.

Remember, there is no guarantee or formula to make a campaign go viral. Sometimes it just takes dumb luck. However, though these characteristics are not the end all and be all, a viral campaign should have one of them.

Finally, I shall leave you with a quote from the movie Prometheus, “All big things have small beginnings”.  So go out and start brainstorming!

Feel free to agree or disagree below.


Food Blogging 101

Food by nature is judged by how visually appealing it as and how pleasing it is to the palate. Of course every dish is best viewed in person, unfortunately that is not always possible. Enter food blogs. I would find it hard-pressed, with all the specialized food blogs out there, that one would not find a blog that is appetizing. The blogs range from healthy cooking, international dishes, to the most innovative dishes you can imagine. However, this blog is about the best practices of blogging and how the most superlative blogs use them.

Be Visual:


   Before I go into detail, I want to first define what a blog is. In the book, Groundswell, the authors state that “a blog is a personal journal or entries containing written thoughts, links, and often pictures” (Li & Bernoff , 2011, p. 19). For food blogs the emphasis should be on pictures! As I stated earlier, food can be a spectacle for the eyes. So why wouldn’t a food blog have high quality and visually attractive images of the food? The Seven Spoons blog does just that. With a simple, yet elegant layout, blogger Tara O’Brady depicts the dishes she creates with beautifully captured shots. This adds more enjoyment for the viewer while reading her food stories. However, she doesn’t stop there. She tweets her blog from her twitter account @Taraobrady. By having a personal twitter account, instead of a Seven Spoons account, she creates an intimate feeling as people are talking to a real person, instead of a website. To top it off, she posts high value images of dishes frequently that are not on her blog.

Remember, the images you use MUST be of high quality! Otherwise don’t waste your time.

Be Fun:


   Yes, food can be told in an entertaining way. One example of that can be seen on the Appetude food blog, DishDigest. Full disclosure, this is a totally selfish promotion of the food blog of which I was the managing editor of! Mind you, there were many things we did wrong, including the one rule I extol for food blogging: quality pictures. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow us to always have those kinds of pictures…

Anyway, the one thing that was a source of pride for the blog was the writing. Our site only had restaurants in the downtown area of NY and considering that we were a dish ordering website, we only did review of dishes from our restaurants. We made it a point to make sure that in our review– not only did we describe the dish– but we interwove it within a story. What does that mean? Describing food can be fun, but too much food terminology can leave you bored. So each blogger created a back story as to why they were going to the restaurant and then incorporated the dish within the story. It was short, light, informational and most importantly entertaining.


Be Different:


   This is for those wishing to take a bite out of the niche markets. With so many food blogs out there, it becomes hard to stand out. One solution is to create a food blog that tackles unique dishes. The blog Spoonforkbacon does just that. Creating inventive dishes that could boggle the mind! Chocolate Chip Bacon and Orange Kissed Pancakes anyone? By inventing these unique dishes, Spoonforkbacon becomes a great go to source for foodies wanting to try uncommon dishes. This makes the blog stick out from all the thousands of food blogs that exist on the web.

These are three best practice ideas that food bloggers should keep in mind. Of course there other ways to make an outstanding blog, but following these three rules should help you catch the eye of food readers.

If you have any thoughts or other ideas, please feel free to post.


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Forrester Research, Inc.

The Risks of Being “Social”

We can all agree that social media can add immense value to a company’s brand. A great social media presence helps people discover your product or service, and if done right, can even be a great source for generating sales leads. However, what happens when good intentions go wrong? There is an inherent risk that individuals take when they post online—comments can come back to haunt them personally. The same goes for big businesses. Below are examples of the risks associated with being “social” in today’s world.

 Burger King:


   Sometimes is not even the brands fault, per se. No company has been in the news for all the wrong reasons because of their Twitter account than Burger King has. On February 18th hackers were able to gain control of Burger Kings Twitter account. They changed the logo to Burger Kings main rival, McDonalds, as well as posted inappropriate and offensive tweets for approximately two hours.

Image   Before you begin to feel sorry for BK (if you even do), consider that it may not have been the worst thing that could have happened. Maybe, if I dare say– a good thing. Taking a look at it by the numbers, Burger King after being hacked gained 30 thousand new followers on the first day, as well as over 450 thousand tweets about them all over the world! Before the hack, BK had roughly 80 thousand followers. Today is has a little over 111 thousand. Now, if you subscribe to the old adage that all publicity is good publicity, then you can warrant an argument that BK being hacked was great for their brand recognition and most importantly for them—their bottom line. The challenge now for Burger King will be to leverage this new found popularity on social media to a more permanent state.


Image   Now let’s take an example of a company who is actually at fault for their own social media disaster. In January 2012, McDonald’s embarked on an ambitious, yet foolish promoted trend campaign known as #McDStories. What was supposed to be an attempt for followers to share their happy stories about the brand to build rapport became a total Twitter nightmare. In fact, less than 2 hours after implementing it, McDonalds took down the hash tag. Why? Because heartwarming stories were not what was tweeted! McDonalds created a space where people could share their most disparaging stories about the McDonalds brand– and they did. To make things even worse, McDonald’s Twitter team didn’t tackle the problem head on. They simply tried to delete it and hope that it would go away. But like everything else on the web, once it’s there, it stays there.

As we can see, being social on the web carries risks and challenges that any business wanting to participate in social media has to deal with it. These are just a couple of the countless examples of companies dealing with mistakes and obstacles caused through social media. At the end of the day, anything you post on a social network, regardless of how insignificant you think it is, can rear its ugly head back at you. If it happens to Billion dollar companies, it can happen to anyone.

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share!

One Food App to Rule Them All

As any consummate foodie knows, love of food is not only exclusive to a desktop. When you want to share what you ate or want to browse the next dish that is going to be devoured, all you have to do is take out your smart phone. With the plethora of options available in app stores, it is easy to be overwhelmed. However, this article will hopefully ease your worries by giving you the only app you will ever need to use to get your hands on another great dish.

Food Spotting:


   Created in 2009, Foodspotting is a geo-locating app that shows images of dishes from restaurants in your area. With over three million downloads and over two million photos, Foodspotting is a favorite of food capturing enthusiasts. The app, whose design is sleek and clean, allows users to either discover dishes in their area or search images of dishes of a specific restaurant. This is useful for the eater that loves to see how the dish looks like. Also, if you’re one that cares what your friends eat, Foodspotting allows you log in with Facebook, so you can see what your friends have recommended.

The app is also great for driving business to restaurants. It is advertisement for a restaurants best dishes. Food is naturally judged by how appealing it is to the eye as well as our taste buds. Foodspotting having reviews of the dishes as well as images allows users to know which restaurant would be best to eat at. And if you ever browsed through the images, you know that there is something for everyone!


   If that wasn’t enough to have you racing to the app store, I have even better news. As of January 2013, Foodspotting was purchased by Open Table – the online reservation behemoth. Purchased for 10 million, the two companies plan to integrate with each other. So what does that mean for you? Well, as stated in Gourmet Marketing’s website, “the most basic is that customers are able to place reservations through Foodspotting”. However, when making the reservation, you will be sent to Open Table. The two do hope to make it so that you can seamlessly make the reservation on the Foodspotting app. This is great news for Open Table because their user interface is extremely lacking design.

For those of you who are too lazy (you know who you are) to go the restaurants, Foodspotting has solved that issue as well. As of 2012, Foodspotting has partnered with Grubhub for ordering dishes. To be fair though, the options are limited to only restaurants that already use Grubhub.

On a final note, I should mention that Foodspotting is mostly concentrated in major cities, but with the help of their billion dollar partner (Open Table) Foodspotting should be making a presence in more cities soon.

So there you have it, this is in my opinion the only app you will need if you’re a foodie. The combination of aesthetics and usability in this app is matched by none. If you disagree or want to praise another food app, please feel free to comment below!