A big tip shared loud and clear by venture capitalists at the Clean Energy 2011 Conference in Boston in October was there’s enough late-stage capital right now, but too little at the early stage. Among the startup and trend presentations on supplying the grid, greening transportation and managing energy efficiency, venture capitalists and local cleantech enthusiasts focused on project funding and advice for startups and emerging companies.
Venture capitalists emphasized that this is an opportunity for unconventional investors like family offices and corporate and angel investors to step up and invest in early-stage companies, since cleantech venture capital is performing as well as venture capital overall.
Ernst & Young recently confirmed the general availability of capital in this market. The firm released the results of its analysis of U.S. venture capital investment in cleantech during the third quarter of 2011. Even with a non-ideal investment market, Q3 investments in cleantech grew 73 percent to $1.1 billion compared to Q3 2010.
The takeaway: The overall investment in the cleantech market is there, but the breakdown of which stage companies get that capital is not always clear. Cleantech is the wave of the future. We work with companies in industries from solar power to technology deployed in electric vehicles and wind pitch systems because advancing these technologies is not just good business; it’s essential to our future and our planet. VC’s obviously agree, as well.
There were 50 new cleantech ventures funded nationally last year. Ten of them were in New England. Boston is in the center of this effort with alumni and professors at MIT and entrepreneurial graduate programs at other surrounding universities establishing cleantech efforts. We’ll be watching which ventures get funded during the next year as we continue our work with clients that are manufacturing breakthrough technology in the space.
Which recently funded cleantech company is your favorite?
So. You say your business doesn’t need a blog? We say you should reconsider.
So do a lot of other folks. Below are some of our favorite blogs on why blogging matters and how to do it better:
Recently, a blog on Ragan.com got my attention. The 10 worst nightmares for a PR professional was written by Jennifer Nichols, the founder of the FlackList, a service that connects media and PR “flacks.” The service seems cool, and I want to check it out, so the blog worked from a sales perspective. What didn’t work was Nichols’ number-one nightmare for PR pros:
1. You mail merge a pitch to the wrong media list.
If you are working with a PR firm that mail merges anything, then you’re screwed.
Any PR firm that is mail merging a “pitch” doesn’t care about your business, your bottom line objectives or your vision. It cares about getting coverage hits and focusing on quantity over quality. This short-term approach usually shortchanges everyone.
If your PR firm is not carefully vetting and researching each and every target, then you aren’t getting your money’s worth. And chances are, the journalists with whom you are paying that firm to connect hate those flacks -- and your pitch.
Now, I’m all for automating processes. There are definitely times where sending out the same information to a number of reporters is fine, but this is usually when a client is announcing a product upgrade or a general news item or something as an FYI. And it should only happen if your PR team has already established a channel with these reporters.
In today’s social media world, where customer and industry voices are amplified, it’s so easy for PR teams to find new angles, research trends and give reporters want they want and need to be successful. Mass mailing generic pitches was never good PR practice. In this environment in particular, it’s toxic.
Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg was recently asked at a Stanford University forum, “What would you do differently if you could start Facebook again?” Mark responded, “Honestly, if I were starting now, I would have just stayed in Boston.’’
The battle between Silicon Valley and Boston has been around for a long time, and it remains vicious. Bostonian entrepreneurs are frequently told they are slow to change and ignore collaboration, while the Valley is known for its free-thinking spirit and over abundance of venture capital. According to Zuckerberg, “Silicon Valley offered the resources I needed at the time when I didn’t know what I was doing.”
You want resources? Well, Jason Evanish is here to help. Jason, a recent Northeastern University grad, founded Greenhorn Connect, which connects startups with valuable resources, networking events and venture capital firms in Boston.
Jason came up with the idea of Greenhorn Connect when he first entered the Boston startup scene. He discovered a big disconnect between the people with the ideas and the ones with the money. He was also discouraged by the lack of resources Boston provides its young entrepreneurs. So now, with the help of the Greenhorn Connect team, Jason provides entrepreneurs and venture capitalist with the introductions that no one else was giving them before. Greenhorn Connect has become a go-to resource for those Bostonians entering the startup world.
Now, rewind to 2004 in Zuckerberg’s dorm room on Harvard’s campus. Let’s just say for a minute that an organization like Greenhorn Connect existed at the time. Is it possible Zuckerberg would have stayed in Boston if he had access to these resources? Could Greenhorn Connect have helped keep Facebook in Boston? We'd like to think so.
A few months ago, the storage community lost a technological genius who took his own life. Many industry colleagues and friends of ReiJane Huai, FalconStor Software’s former CEO and founder, gathered online and offline to mourn their loss and share stories and experiences of working with Huai. However, there was one story by veteran Editor Joe Kovar at CRN that will always stand out in many of our minds -- and hearts.
Unfortunately, not all the coverage of Huai’s death was as informed. Huai’s life at FalconStor technically ended a year before he ended his own life at his Long Island home in September 2011. He resigned in September 2010 while under pressure for alleged insider trading.
Beyond all the speculation and rumors, CRN’s Kovar focused on Huai’s accomplishments, without detailing the negative news that preceded his death. Not only was he the first reporter to contact us about the news (as per usual), but without any direction or much comment from us, Kovar took his time and wrote a thoughtful, well-stated and fully researched, story about Huai’s legacy in the backup market. The article reported the facts with quotes from resellers and former colleagues who had worked with Huai in the past, confirming how he changed the storage industry.
The state of the journalism industry has obviously changed through the evolution of receiving information in real time. News received via a Tweet is not always nuanced or fair. This story, which delved far deeper than one could in 140 characters, showed how true that really is.
Sidenote: I helped manage Huai’s public relations program for two years while he was the CEO and president at FalconStor Software. My colleagues and I spoke with him every Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. to discuss company successes, market trends, key priorities and upcoming news for the company and its products. Like many of his former colleagues who have written blogs since Huai’s death, I can wholeheartedly say that how he pushed and challenged us to strive to do our best will never be forgotten. Thank you, Rei.
In the digital era, readers are presented with more content than they can possibly consume. Forget about reading a five-page summary of the results of a new study; people simply don’t have the time. They want the most important facts, presented quickly and simply. Well, here come infographics to the rescue. Infographics, or informational graphics, combine statistical data with images to create an eye-catching display that delivers a lot of information, fast. They are all the rage in the PR world.
There are infographics created on every subject – from the Emmys to the Internet in 2015 to resumes.
Ivan Kash even created an infographic of infographics to show the top trends in data visualization:
By inserting collected data into a visually pleasing design, companies automatically have an advantage in getting their content read and remembered. Studies have shown that about 83 percent of human learning occurs visually.
With tools such as Visual.ly, StatPlanet, and Google’s Public Data, creating your own infographic can be a simple process. As with all PR campaigns, it is important to remember who your targets are and the most important information you need them to see. Also important is making your infographic of high-enough quality. A few common mistakes include poor design or lack of visual data representation, an overly self-promotional focus, wrong length, a Flash requirement and a lack of data citations. Overcome these issues, and you’ll increase the likelihood editors and readers will take note.
Measurement metrics for press releases and PR campaigns have shifted due to an increased focus on online media. In order to measure what truly matters, Katie Paine, PR measurement specialist, suggests several steps to successfully apply these new metrics. In a webinar last month, Paine advised that to best measure your results, you first must define exactly what you are measuring. This varies for paid, owned, shared and earned media. Then, follow these steps:
Step 1: Define the “R” in your ROI.
Define a problem that when solved, will add value to the organization. Set measurable goals for marketing, sales, leads, messaging, etc.
Step 2: Define how your press release will impact the mission.
Step 3: Establish benchmarks.
Work with management to set realistic expectations about how you will define success.
Step 4: Define key performance indicators (KPIs).
Remember that the perfect KPI achieves corporate goals, is actionable, continuously improves processes, and is available as needed.
Step 5: Based on KPIs, pick the right measurement tools.
What do you need to measure – traffic? sales? sentiment? You often don’t need to pay for measurement tools, as a tool like Google Analytics is sufficient. For example, if you are measuring sentiment in content, you can read content and analyze this yourself.
Before looking for success, instead identify failures. Then, analyze what the competition is doing. Finally, you can then look for successful results from your campaign. Remember that it is more important to seek relationships, not eyeballs or “likes,” and that metrics should be used to inspire, not justify results.
Social media is part of our everyday lives. We check our personal Facebook accounts daily, share through Twitter and LinkedIn, YouTube and TwitPic. There is no limit to how we can socialize now. Yet, the way we communicate via social media creates a permanent record that affects our reputations within our industries.
When you communicate over social media, your thoughts are broadcast to millions of people around the world. Your words reflect on you and on those with whom you are affiliated -- most importantly, your employer. Thus, the old adage comes to mind: think before you speak (or in this case, before you post). How will your communication be viewed? How will this shape how your colleagues, employers and others within your industry view you?
Now some of you are thinking: “So what? It is my personal account. I have freedom of speech.” That’s true. You do. There is no social media police force that will show up on your doorstep if you comment rashly on sensitive topics. However, your posts will follow you and the blogosphere and social media commentary could backfire on you if you post something you would later regret.
How will your negative comments against individuals or firms be viewed within your industry? How will unconstructive comments about current events affect your personal brand? You may post a comment on Twitter while in an emotional state that you later regret or wish you had kept confined to verbal discussions with colleagues.
Social media is fun and engaging. It is a good way to build networks, stay in touch with friends and conduct business. However, think through exactly what you post and how it will reflect on you professionally. Prospective customers and partners may be following you. What you say is permanent. There are no recalls in social media.