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slack logo

Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, pointed to an article today about a company called Slack that just got another round of funding, this time for $160M.  Slack is an office instant messenger, Drop Box sharing, productivity app. I’m sure there is more to it, but it does sound familiar. Anyway, Slack will take this money, bank it, then go out and buy a number of Aeron chairs, a distressed oak conference table, and 6 interactive flat screen video panels. Also lots of servers and next year’s head ware. (Last year was the fedora, this year the knit cap.) What they won’t put on their shopping list is a brand strategy.

They already have nice videos and graphics. A good logo and copy, but the most fundamental strategic document they can own, won’t even be on their radar: a brand strategy. Business plan – check. Mission statement –check. Founder’s vision – check. Cultural manifesto – check. But unless one of the founders has a brand planner as a friend, there will be no check next to brand strategy. Their VCs should know better but they don’t.

This is not meant to pick on Slack. I worked at a start-up (Zude.com) that Robert Scoble and TechCrunch loved. We failed and had a brand plan. This is not me as a furniture salesman saying every company needs new furniture. This is me as a house builder saying every house needs a design and a plan.

Good luck Slack. Get yourself a brand strategy, approve it, and stick to it. (BTW, it’s not a marketing plan.) Peace.

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lulu

An ex-CFO colleague of mine just joined a web startup called Lulu. It’s a mobile app for girls and, smartly, anyone who wants to be.  Check out the video to see what it’s all about. It’s kind of sexually charged and hook-up focused.  

I often write about the branding Is-Does — what a brand is and what a brand does. The ability for start-ups to articulate the Is-Does is often a deal breaker – especially for VCs. You may be a great technologist but if your packaging and marketing acumen are lacking, it’s hard to get traction.

The reason videos are so prevalent in web marketing today is they’re a good way to stuff 10 lbs. of shizz in a 5 lb. bag. Back in the day, the montage was the art form of choice: We do this, this, this and this.

It’s a rarity that a tagline can capture the Is-Does in one line. “The power of girl talk” is just that line. (If not Lulu’s tag, it should be.) So good job on the app and the Is-Does Lulu!

One of my joke lines as a kid was that I always wanted to experience real girl talk. I said, as a kid. Girl talk is a thing.  And Lulu, it’s developers and biz people get it.

Lulu is going to be big.  Peace!  

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Brand planners like to write and talk about “context.”  For Robert Scoble, a mentor of mine, context online and in technology is a driver of the next big thing. Well I’m here to tell you context sometimes can be a deterrent.  Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers is a really small VC company. They made gazillions investing early on in technology – them daringly decided to focus on things that will help save and make more sustainable our planet and went into green tech/clean tech

Along came a number of big technology plays Kleiner missed out on and all of a sudden they become more famous for the money they didn’t make and a couple of big green technology investment busts. (We are in the infancy people, relax.) Also, one problem was context.  Sustainable energy isn’t just solar panels and electric cars, it’s about ways to build planet-sustaining renewable energy. It ain’t just code. Contextually, Kleiner Perkins needed sector people looking into geothermal and algae and stuff we’ve never thought bout – stuff we can’t say.  Yet they were hoping the sector would be more like tech – hence the words clean tech and green tech.  Me thinks they should have been looking closer to the green and clean side of the house. That’s where the big payouts will be.

When a small grade school in Copenhagen, NY can heat and cool itself using geothermal technology, that’s a green clue. Could we have done the same for the Freedom Tower?  Who’s asking?  Kleiner Perkins should be. Peace

 

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There was an article yesterday in The Wall Street Journal suggesting that until recently, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufiled & Byers took a siesta on investing in tech companies while placing bets on clean tech.  So post-nap, after having missed a number of cool tech start-ups, they hired Mary Meeker a great mind, data organizer and trend reported to help them earn some new stripes in the VC area which they kind of invented.  Kleiner is still interested in clean tech but The Journal reports they’re refocusing on the tech sector in a hearty way.

If clean tech was easy it wouldn’t be worth investing in.  Please, please John Doerr, give “clean” your best.  Find exciting new energy engineers. Find algae chemists. Optical engineers. And biologists with the vision to help us plot the way.  We’ve only got a million more years on this planet and your investments in clean energy will make a difference.  Making money is cyclical, history is not.  Stay the course my Kleiner brothers and sisters!  Clean us up. Peace!

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Here’s a marketing challenge:  How do we get the smartest of the smart thinking about renewable energy sources? Michelle Obama has us focused on childhood obesity and is doing a good job. The rest of the government is focused on war and debt and the crisis of financial confidence.  For good measure you can throw in a little healthcare. Sellers of consumer and business goods are “all up” in the digital world trying to leverage Facebook, Twitter and mobile geo services.  Kids are still loving sex, fun and music.

So who is looking out for the planet?  Who is focusing on the fact that we’re literally draining and burning the core of the earth — denuding it of fossil
fuels.  Where’s the water coming from in 5 thousand years?

Pop Quiz.  Name one person in the U.S. that cares the most about the planet? Al Gore is probably the answer. Sad.  Much sad. (God bless him, by the way, but he needs some help.)

Here’s what we need: A VC firm with eyes on the planet prize. Might it be Fred Wilson? John Doerr? Paul Oliver?  Who?  Until that hero emerges, and until the pages of the Wall Street Journal, FT and New York Times start writing about him/her with the alacrity that they use to cover digital tech, we’re screwed. As Thomas Friedman says oil is a destabilizer.  Who is going to step up?  Who dat? Peace!

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