Alexandra SkeyCofounder at Ella
Bio

Voted one of the Top 8 Female Founders To Watch In Vancouver. Serial Entrepreneur. Eretail Author. Award-Winning Presenter. Obsessed with tea, horses + customer experiences. Love kiteboarding.



Recent Answers


This is such a vague question.

I would say passive technologies and AI, so our homes and offices become smarter. It's a natural progress of where we're going.

The challenge will be adoption beyond the early techies, especially as more of our life moves onto the grid.

Are you looking for a project start? Or just brainstorming?


Hi!

First of all, keep going.

There will always be dark days, no matter how well funded you are. In fact, once you accept growth capital for equity, you bring on a whole new set of expectations and challenges.

Running a startup, as you know, is never easy and it's never as smooth as people make it seem.

Trust me. Some days are really brutal. The number of times I wanted to just throw in the towel is more than I care to share.

But I don't. And that's why persistence in the face of adversity is crucial for entrepreneurs.

Those are also the days when it's so valuable to have a co-founder, so you have someone to pick you up and help you remember your vision of how you're going to make the world a better place.

This brings me to the most important question.

Do you really believe in what you're doing? And above all, are you and your co-founder a great team?

Be honest.

Ideas come and go, but if you and your co-founder work well together, you're hungry, tenacious and bold, you'll make something happen.

I know it's harder in communities where there isn't as much local support. This is why resources like Clarity are changing the face of entrepreneurship across the globe - giving teams like yourself access to the the support you need and otherwise might not be able to find.

The best thing you can do is surround yourself with great people. In this case, it sounds like you'd benefit from a great mentor.

I can't help in the email marketing space, but I know someone who's pioneering a successful startup in the space and I'd be happy to put you in touch.

Here's my VIP url: https://clarity.fm/alexandraskey/onbeingremarkable

Please call me for a free 15 minute chat, anytime.

I'd also encourage you to analyze the runway of your company. How much time do you have before you need to generate an income for at least you and your business partner?

There is nothing wrong with taking contract work on the side to keep the lights on. In fact, if you're worried about paying the bills, it will be hard to fully invest your energy in your startup, making it even harder for you to realize your goal and fulfill your potential.

One more thing to think about.

How you get your first 5, 10 or 100 customers doesn't need to be scalable. So if you're not keen on doing a sideproject to increase short-term cashflow, look at ways to bring on new customers faster, even if they're not something you will do in 3 months time.

Day by day my friend, day by day.

Have courage, and be bold.

A

p.s. I'd also actively check your local community, as there might be more happening than you realize. You can start by researching online, reaching out on Twitter or visiting a community center.

For example, I found some organizations by doing a simple Google search, so I'd encourage you do to your homework.

http://macedonia.startupcup.com/

http://eleven.bg/

http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-pages/197266283722139-eleven-startup-accelerator/last-month

http://www.startup.mk/


Areriel,

Choose the top brands, companies and entrepreneurs you love, then work like hell to get on their radar for an internship. If they don't offer one, make one up for them.

Be persistent.

Most people give up too early. Keep calling and sending follow up emails until you get the answer you want.

Get experience.

Even if it means delaying or dropping out of university to accept a position. If you want to be in marketing (I agree with John Ramey re branding vs exec), having experience working in real companies on real challenges with fantastic mentors will be a far better teacher than textbooks and a significant capital investment in a degree.

Finally, leverage your biggest asset: your inexperience. People love someone who is young, full of energy and curious to learn.

Don't wait till you graduate. Start now.

Be bold. Do something unconventional. And I promise you Areriel, you will find what you're looking for.


I'm sure you'll get all the conventional startup books on this list, so I'll share some of my favourites that might not come up.

I'm a huge fan of the following:

1. How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Yes, this one is old. Yes, it's a thick read. And yes, the principles are more applicable today than ever before. Especially if you want to learn how to work with people and get them to do what you want (the honest and fast way) to get remarkable results.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0671723650

2. Sho-Gun and The Noble House by James Clavell

These are 2 amazing books that explore everything you'll experience as a pioneer. The beauty of them is that they're grand adventure stories, which makes for a fun and gripping read. (Because let's face it, sometimes you just need to relax but you still want to expand your mind. This is the perfect book for that mood.)

FYI: There are actually 6 in this saga, but these are the top 2 I'd recommend for anyone who wants to start a business.

http://www.amazon.com/Shogun-James-Clavell/dp/0440178002

3. Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt

If you're confused about marketing, read this. It's short (it was actually an HBR article that was turned into a mini-book).

http://hbr.org/2004/07/marketing-myopia/

4. The Corporation by Joel Bakan

If you're an idealist, read this. It explores the dark side of starting a venture, and the real purpose of a business entity. A scary read.

FYI: It excludes the modern "people, planet, profits" concept, which I'm a huge fan of.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Corporation-Pathological-Pursuit-Profit/dp/0743247469

5. ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

This one will probably come up, but I want to make sure it does. It provides a great framework to understand what you actually need to do to move the needle. Every page I turned I kept thinking, "Yes!"

Good read, especially if you're coming from a more corporate background. Plus, it's a glorified picture book (you'll see).

http://www.amazon.com/Rework-Jason-Fried/dp/0307463745

6. Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

One of the first "entrepreneur" books I read. Love the stories Dan & Chip showcase, plus they give you a great framework to create sticky ideas.

http://www.amazon.com/Made-Stick-Ideas-Survive-Others/dp/1400064287

7. The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt & Jared Cohen

This is new in 2013 and a *MUST READ* for anyone doing anything digital.

http://www.amazon.com/New-Digital-Age-Reshaping-Business/dp/1480542288

Best of luck!
A


Why do you ask?

Are you trying to understand if you need/should seek startup capital for your venture?

Or are you trying to understand how companies are leveraging the cloud to dramatically reduce startup costs?

If it's the second, you're right re the capital requirements are lower. It's easier to start a business today than it has ever been. We have more access to resources and mentors than we've ever had, plus the costs to start a business keep falling due to cloud and crowdsourced technology.

Just look at the price of 1 GB of storage – 30 years ago it was $300,000, the year Facebook started it was $1 and today it’s <10 cents.

If it's the first, that's something only you and your team can decide.

There are *a lot* of opinions on when/if/how much, and a lot of resources and people you can chat with to help you come to the best decision. You can use these articles as a starting point:

Venture Capital, Angels or Bootstrap? via Gigaom
[http://gigaom.com/2008/06/15/venture-capital-angels-or-bootstrap/]

Should You Bootstrap Or Raise Money For Your Startup? via Forbes
[http://www.forbes.com/sites/stellafayman/2013/07/01/should-you-bootstrap-or-raise-money-for-your-startup/]

Why Bootstrapping Is Just As Over-Rated As Raising Venture Capital via TechCrunch
[http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/07/why-bootstrapping-over-rated/]

Why You Shouldn't Raise VC Money via Inc
[http://www.inc.com/mark-peter-davis/why-you-should-not-raise-venture-capital-money.html]

The amount of money a startup raises shouldn’t be the only metric of respect via Pando Daily [http://pandodaily.com/2013/05/30/the-amount-of-money-a-startup-raises-shouldnt-be-the-metric-of-respect/]

Best of luck!


I think you should be asking a different question.

Why would a popular marketing blog want you to do a guest blog for them?

(To clarify, I'm assuming you're not a popular marketing/business/tech guest blogger, otherwise you wouldn't be asking this, because the other top bloggers would know who you are and a simple email or call would be all it takes to initial a guest authorship opportunity.)

Guest blogging is about networking.

1. First, do your homework to discover which blogs have more traffic and active readers than you do. Google will give you blogs to start researching, then you can look at their Alexa traffic rank, how many social shares they get and how many comments they get, among other things, to determine how popular your blog is.

Focus on blogs that have higher engagement and traffic than yours.

Keep in mind that you're actually looking for readers (who I imagine you'll nurture to become customers or use to negotiate ad rates), so don't focus on just tech blogs.

Also, be willing to expand your topic - the goal is to get readers, not share your opinion on app marketing tips.

2. Connect these influencers using the social web. An easy way to start is to pick 10 blogs that you want to write for, and focus on getting on their radar. Respond to their tweets. Share their posts. Comment on their blog. And if possible, purposely bump into them at networking events (you can tell which ones they'll be at from their social profiles).

3. Eventually you'll get to a point when they'll notice you. And you can strike up a conversation.

The most important thing is to give before you ask. Otherwise you'll get nothing.

(Examples of giving: Share their post. Highlight a post of theirs in your blog post and send them an email thanking them for writing the article, without sending them the link and asking for a share. Mention them on Twitter. Etc...)

Relationships take time to build, and they're worth it. I would focus on building a network with other bloggers, the guest blogging will come naturally.

Best of luck.


I promise you there is a way.

I don't know how far along you are, or how good your solution is, but there is a huge opportunity for ecommerce solutions in the areas of curation and discovery.

Amazon and eBay trump the "one stop shop" for products you know you want to buy. And follow up recommendations based on those products. You can't beat them.

And companies like StoreEnvy, Etsy and Shopify give you ways to sell goods online and connect with customers - all are big and rapidly gaining market share. Which means you'll need to offer more than the ability for businesses to add a storefront to their site or share on social to reach explosive growth.

How your service curates and focuses on delivering relevant and curated collections – so I see what I want to see and you see what you want to see – even though we’re visiting the same online store will ultimately be the test of your success. If you choose to enter the curation game.

And if you do, check out Wanelo - their goal is to organize all of the world's shopping. They just launched a mobile store and they're focused on curation en masse (it will give you an idea of who's already curating what). Also ThreadFlip. And Wantering (who are tapping into the giant stream of online data around fashion trends and matching it with your social profile to curate personalized shopping collections).

If you want to be an ecommerce platform, think about the gap that exists for companies to connect with their customers, and how you can solve it better than anyone else.

One more thing.

Retail is now about delivering an omnichannel experience - a seamless way for customers to shop from any store on any device from any location at any time. Can you provide technology to help solve this problem? Maybe an ecommerce platform isn't the ultimate goal?

The old retail model was about exchanging money for products. The new retail model is still about exchanging resources, but it's about exchanging money, assets and r time for money, assets and or time.

Imagine yourself not as an ecommerce platform, but a resource exchange center. How can you help businesses and customers exchanged their resources better than anyone else on the market?

Best of luck.



Great q.

You'll get a lot of answers if you Google your question, so I'll provide you with some other food for thought.

How much time a day do you spend reading, as opposed to doing?

When I was working on my first tech startup, I was young (still am) and thought it was important for me to be "informed on what was going on" so that I "wouldn't look like an idiot" in any conversation I had with a colleague or potential investor or customer.

So I read industry magazines, papers and blogs, all with different views on what was happening in our industry and the rest of the world. In fact, I spent about 1.5 hours a day reading.

1.5 hours.

And by the time I went to bed, I found I could barely recite one thing. One thing! Facts and stats blurred together. And it was it hard to go in depth on any given thing, because I was trying to absorb so much.

Now I take a different approach.

When I'm solving a problem, I'll Google it. (And often will call or email a teammate/colleague/mentor). The advice is relevant and useful, and I can act on it, so it's always worth my time.

It's a weird concept, but if you think about your brain as a garden, everything you ingest (aka content) affects it's performance. And if you spend 1.5 hours reading interesting but irrelevant and ultimately useless content, you waste time you could be doing other things to improve your ability to grow as an entrepreneur.

You won't miss out.

If there's a global situation or crisis in your industry, chances are it will come up in your Twitter feed (so you won't miss it) or at an event, and you can ask people about it (I also find it more enjoyable to learn in conversation).

I also learned it's okay not to know everything. Even Jim Collins in his book Good To Great acknowledges that the companies that are great don't have access to more information - aka information is not what sets them apart - but how they use that information to make decisions.

Hope that gives you something to think about!


Access.

To mentors.

And to money.

Both are increasing.

Briefly....

1. The accelerator craze is generating more opportunities for people to test ideas. There were 12 incubators in the USA in the 80's, now there are 1,250 in North America and over 7,000 worldwide. So, despite concerns around the startup bubble these accelerators might cause, we’re hungry for entrepreneurs and we’re investing in environments for them to build companies at an alarming rate.

2. It’s easier than it’s ever been for anyone to connect with entrepreneurs. On Twitter and LinkedIn. In co-working spaces. At coffee shops. Events. And of course, on Clarity!

So you can get advice from those who have done it before, which will increase your odds of success. Or at least help you fail faster so you can learn faster and build your next venture to faster to try and succeed faster. It's all about scale.

This hyperconnection also builds relationships around the globe, fueling even more access to mentors and resources.

3. More startup capital. Both from VCs, angels as well as newer, more nimble models, like microfinancing (74+ million entrepreneurs are involved in microfinancing with $23+ billion worth of capital) and crowdfunding.

4. On top of that, business costs keep falling due to cloud and crowdsourced technology. And access to mentorship is expediting the ability for anyone to create the next big thing.

We are at the beginning of an entrepreneurial revival. I speak a lot about this in my book, but it's not on shelves yet.

However, if you want to chat about it, give me a shout.

Best of luck!


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