The History of Starbucks

For the past few years, I have had a love-hate relationship with Starbucks. I love their coffee – LOVE. I hate how expensive and addictive it is. Nonetheless, I find myself repeatedly going back for my venti iced vanilla latte after brief stints of swearing it off. Starbucks has a $50 Billion market cap, did $13 billion in sales in 2012, has over 149,000 employees, over 4 million followers on Twitter and over 34 million likes on Facebook. I have been amazed by what they have been able to accomplish, so I decided to take a brief look at their history and their prospects for the future.


Starbucks was founded in 1971 by three business partners that had met during college. From 1971 to 1976, the company had one location in Seattle. At first, they specialized in whole bean coffees, but later moved to espresso drinks and other beverages. By 1986, the company had expanded to six locations in the Seattle area. In 1987, the three founders sold the company to Howard Schultz, a former employee who remains at the helm today (though there were some other CEOs over the years). The company also opened its first stores outside Seattle in 1987, with the 11 locations initially selling only coffee by the pound. By 1989 there were 46 stores across the Northwest and Midwest in 1989 and Starbucks was roasting over 2,000,000 pounds of coffee a year. The first Starbucks location outside North America opened in Tokyo, Japan, in 1996.

Over the last 40 years, the company has expanded to over 20,000 stores in 62 countries around the globe – that is an average of two store openings per day… astonishing.


There is a reason why Starbucks is the largest coffee house chain in the world. The main attraction is the addictive whole-bean coffees – lets be honest, they sell a drug… albeit a legal one. But Starbucks is more than coffee; customers can grab a sandwich, a glass of tea or a fruity summer beverage when they stop by. I am personally a fan of their spinach feta wrap and their protein bistro box. Starbucks also wants to be the “Second Place” for their guests; the first place they choose to go beyond their home. They were starbucks_stockamong the first chains to offer free WiFi and power outlets to their customers, something others have tried to replicate. The company is also dedicated to several philanthropic causes, donating funds to help causes near to the company’s heart. Starbucks provides premium benefits to their employees, which they call “partners.” Full-time and part-time employees are eligible for health insurance benefits, stock purchasing and 401K plans, as well as free coffee and discounts on merchandise.


The future of Starbucks is bright and the stock has been on a tear for 5 years (this chart compares Starbucks to McDonalds). The company recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with Howard Schultz leading the way. Starbucks is currently transitioning and creating a new image, starting with the recent release of a new company logo. Business analysts predict even higher profits and strong growth for the company. While sales in the specialty coffee market are decreasing, Starbucks is increasing sales and profits. Over the last quarter, the company increased sales by at least 6% across the board in both the United States and international sales figures.

DARPA Atlas : The Robots are Coming

For more than fifty years the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been quietly developing new technologies for military defense. As an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, DARPA has remained (mostly) under the radar for those interested in robotics, but that recently changed when DARPA announced the creation of Atlas, a six-foot humanoid robot.

Atlas is very mobile, designed to navigate through rough outdoor terrain. The bipedal robot can walk, leaving the “arms” free to manipulate its environment. Reminiscent of “The Terminator” without his skin, Atlas has hands that are articulated and sensitive enough to use human tools with sufficient strength and coordination to climb. Currently Atlas requires access to a power supply to remain functional. A flexible tether is used to keep the robot plugged in to run the components which include a laser range finder and stereo cameras for “eyes”.


Despite its alarming appearance, the primary purpose of Atlas is to test situations that would be considered too dangerous for humans to navigate (at least for now). Several copies of the robot have been provided to finalists in the DARPA Robotics Challenge which is designed to help create and evolve machines that can cope with disasters and conditions that are hazardous such as nuclear plant accidents. The seven teams that have made it to this point have been given the task of programming Atlas to be able to accomplish activities such as drive a vehicle, break through a flat surface or open and close a valve.

Atlas was developed by Boston Dynamics, an engineering company specializing in robotics and software that emulates human activity. The company has released several fascinating robots included one that climbs vertical surfaces and a chemical robot that changes shape, allowing it to move through tight spaces. Other products simulate human movement and are used to train law enforcement or evaluate equipment such as body armor.

Robots are just one small part of what DARPA is developing. One of their projects is to create a “fighting network” to improve the effectiveness and adaptability of the military. The Strategic Technology Office is also actively pursuing communications networks, electronic warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies.

Skynet, anyone?

My Father, Hyperloop & Execution

The pursuit of faster travel has always been at the forefront of human desire. From horse to car, train to plane – anything that can reliably get us from point A to point B in less time has the potential to dramatically impact our world. Faster travel increases global commerce, reduces economic friction and engenders richer lives for all of us by exposing us to new ideas and cultures.

Last week the Internet was abuzz about Elon Musk and his forthcoming Hyperloop concept. When I saw it my jaw dropped.

H-O-L-Y Shit.

I was stunned. Why? Because it is something I have been hearing about this idea since I was a little kid. My father envisioned a train that would “float on air” and travel hundreds of miles per hour between distant locations. I have the image on the below left as well as the image at top hanging in my home office on the wall. These images, hand painted in the 1960s, are a constant reminder of my father’s creativity and vision. They are one of my most prized possessions. For more on that read this post from a few years ago.


What my dad understood way back then was that in order for a train to reach maximum speed the entire thing would need to be enclosed in a frictionless tube. He also told me that the “cars” could either be connected or independent, since the entire thing would be powered by thousands of linear motors, rather than a single engine.

I have seen many train designs that have made me think of my father over the years, but when I read about Hyperloop I choked up a bit. I said to myself out-loud “H-O-L-Y Shit. Elon is going to build it and I am going to take my dad for a ride!”

tom_murphyVision vs. Execution

Many visionaries have ideas, but we often don’t have the resources necessary to execute the master plan. The successful visionaries figure that out. My father wound up scaling down his idea and eventually selling the company for a nice win – knowing he was missing the big opportunity. He knew he could see the future, but he also knew that it wasn’t going to be attainable any time soon. His challenge was three fold :

  1. He wouldn’t be able to raise the capital needed to build out the infrastructure.
  2. The technology available made the solution too expensive (or didn’t exist).
  3. There wasn’t a perceived value or need.

Fifty years later, Musk is in a totally different situation.

  1. He has the track record required to raise huge amounts of money.
  2. The technology to build out the infrastructure exists and is relatively inexpensive.
  3. Most importantly – Our world now needs a solution like this in order to survive long term.

The global population has doubled from 3 to 6 billion people since the 1960s and will be at 8 billion by 2020. Our airspace and roads are increasingly congested and inefficient. The pollution we are generating is not sustainable for our planet. We need a reliable, high speed transportation that is eco-friendly and inexpensive enough for the masses. Hyperloop could very well be the answer.

Timing is Everything

elon_muskOne of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make is that they are often too early for the market (something I have been guilty of a few times myself). The financial, technological and consumer components that are required for ultimate success aren’t all in place. I believe Musk innately understands this concept and is able to time his entrepreneurial endeavors perfectly. He is always an early pioneer, but not so early that he needs to wait decades for things to fall into place.

He did it with PayPal, then Tesla and SpaceX. None of those companies were the first at what they do, but they timed the market right and did it better than their competitors.

Does Musk have it right again? If I had to place a bet I would say yes. Hyperloop is a long time coming – I just hope it is done fast enough for me to take my father for a ride.

Native Advertising Was Born in 2006

Screen shot 2013-07-18 at 1.10.07 PMThere has been an incredible amount of buzz around “native advertising” as of late. Many agencies, brands and social networks are touting their concepts for sponsored posts as something new and disruptive. The reality is that the mainstream is just now starting to join a revolution that began with the launch of PayPerPost some seven years ago. That development team (now IZEA) and it’s network of bloggers were the real disruptors. They were the pioneers, the futurists… the visionaries. I want to also thank the people and the brands that took the leap of faith in the early years (even if most of them never wanted to go on record with the press).

I am elated that native advertising is becoming more mainstream everyday, but lets be clear…

Before Forbes was being praised (2013) for their adoption of sponsored blog posts they skewered me personally (2006) for creating the first marketplace that did the same thing. Forbes was not alone. I was attacked by Shel Israel, Jason Calcanis, Robert Scoble and a host of publications from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal and WIRED. I was “the devil” for monetizing the content stream and called “the most evil person in the room” by Mike Arrington during a keynote at MESH.

ap-samsung-sponsored-tweetNearly seven years after the launch of PayPerPost and four years after the launch of SponsoredTweets the Associated Press launched their very first sponsored tweet. Advertisers can now buy sponsored stories on Facebook and sponsored posts on the biggest blogs on the web including Gawker (who also attacked), and Buzzfeed to name a few. Is this new thinking? Hardly. Does it still have the opportunity to be disruptive as hell? You bet your ass it does.

We are still in the nascency of native advertising. The past seven years were all about evangelism, education and acceptance among brands, influencers and mainstream publishers. I consider 2006-2012 to be my warmup mile in a long marathon. It is time to increase the pace and lengthen my stride.

The Two Flavors of Native Advertising

Native advertising comes in many forms, some of them questionable as to being anything different than a display ad. There are two flavors of native advertising, each with their own advantages and disadvantages  The common thread between the two is their placement within the content, be that in a blog, a Twitter feed or YouTube video.

Promoted Content
This form of native advertising injects an advertiser crafted message directly into your stream. Think of this as the promoted tweet you may have seen from a major brand on Twitter. You may or may not follow the advertiser, but you see their tweet anyway. This is very simliar to what Facebook does with their promoted stories.

Sponsored Influence
This form of native advertising also appears in the content stream, but it is created by an individual publisher or influencer on behalf of the brand. The Influencer lends their voice and their personal relationship with their audience to the ad placement. One is only privy to the sponsored content if they follow the influencer who has partnered with the brand.


What Native is Missing

Both sides of the native grid have huge potential, but the big money is ultimately in Sponsored Influence. Why? Because Influencers (or publishers) can charge a premium for the creation of custom content and integrating a branded message directly into their stream. Promoted content is priced largely based on CPMs or CPCs which will continue to be a race to the bottom.

The problem is that everyone is scratching their heads trying to figure out how to achieve scale, including AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. It is a very, very complex issue that few companies can tackle because they live in a world of banner ads and CPMs. Getting out of that mindset isn’t easy which is why it has taken so long for agencies and media companies to realize that there is any opportunity here to begin with.

The Next Disruptor

IZEA was born in the world of native advertising – dare I say, we created it. We have watched as the advertising and media worlds have slowly adapted to our way of thinking. There is now an abundance of opportunity in this space, but most people don’t understand how to capture it. They haven’t done what we have done. They are focused on replicating what they have seen, rather than creating something that is a new approach altogether.

In the backrooms of the IZEA offices, amid piles of schematics and scribbles, a new product has been slowly coming to life since October of last year. It is the most ambitious undertaking I have ever been a part of and it will once again cause shockwaves of disruption in our industry.

Game on.

The Rules for Raising Money Have Changed

greenberg_traurig_logoOn July 10, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted rule amendments that eliminate the 80-year old prohibition on general solicitation and general advertising in Rule 506 and Rule 144A transactions under the Securities Act of 193. This announcement has created a huge ripple in the investment community and will lead to a wealth of new opportunities for startups seeking capital. The short story – you will soon be able to advertise the fact that you are raising money.

spencer_feldmanI pinged IZEA‘s corporate counsel, Spencer Feldman of Greenberg Traurig about the change in policy. Spencer concentrates his practice in the areas of initial public offerings, follow-on offerings, shelf takedowns, confidentially marketed offerings, registered directs, PIPEs and other private financings. He is a leading mind in finance law and has been selected for inclusion in the 2012 New York Metro edition of Super Lawyers, Securities & Corporate Finance section. Our interview below:

Does this mean that anyone can openly advertise that they are raising money for their company?

First, let me tell you that these new SEC rules represent a significant evolution of the longstanding principle of the SEC’s Securities Act that a sale of common stock or any other security has to be made either to the general public through a registered public offering or to selected “accredited investors” through a private placement. Under the new rules, a private unregistered offering can soon include general solicitation and advertising so long as the actual sale of the stock is restricted only to “accredited investors” under new Rule 506(c) (whom the company has reasonably verified).

As to your question, yes, anyone can openly advertise that they are raising money for their company, but no company will be able to rely on Rule 506 if any of its executive officers, directors, promoters, placement agents or any principal stockholder is a felon or “bad actor.” This term is defined in the new rules.

What type of marketing activities are permitted? Can I put an ad in the paper that says I am raising $10M, call me if you want to invest?

Permitted marketing activities would include solicitation of potential investors and advertising through websites, social media, newspapers, television and radio. Yes, while the ad you suggest covers the gist of the new rules, companies need to be mindful that the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws still apply to misleading advertising and the SEC has announced stepped-up monitoring in this new area (they have created a Microcap Fraud Task Force). There are also proposed new rules to require disclaimers in sale materials, submission of offering materials to the SEC and enhanced Form D disclosures.

 Can anyone invest in these offerings?

As I mentioned before, the actual investors in the private placement must be “accredited investors” under new Rule 506(c). It is the company’s responsibility to reasonably verify through a number of acceptable methods that the investors, in fact, reach this so-called sophistication level. However, to be clear, merely offering stock to someone who is not accredited will not negatively affect the exemption.

Are there different rules for public and private companies?

No – the rules relate to private placements by both publicly-traded and privately-held companies.

I have seen many blog posts talking about this as if the rules are already in effect. Is that true?

Actually, the rules are NOT in effect yet. The new rules take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which could be as early as this week. I would expect the rules to be effective in September sometime.

In your opinion is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I think there is no question that the new rules should facilitate much broader access to the capital markets for a wide variety of companies, both public and private, but especially for small-caps. Also, remember, elimination of the ban on general solicitation and advertising opens the door for the growth of the crowdfunding industry, which is the SEC’s next rulemaking initiative.

The opinions expressed in this blog post are his own and should not be relied upon by companies or their potential investors without consultation with appropriate counsel.

Orlando’s Own Lean Domain Search Acquired by Automattic

automattic-logoOrlando based Lean Domain Search, a domain search platform, has been acquired by Automattic, the parent company of Founder Matt Mazur launched the service on Hacker News in January 2012. At Automattic, Mazur will help the team to make it “even easier for users to find and register great domain names for their websites and blogs.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The site will continue to run and now be offered completely free.

Congratulations to Matt! I love seeing Orlando entrepreneurs succeed!

1.5 Billion Photos Taken Every Day

The Growth of Digital Photography

Over the past two decades, owning a digital camera has shifted from being a rare luxury to an essential commodity for most Americans. Whether you are using a point and shoot, SLR or simply a camera phone chances are you take at least one photo per day on average.

cameraAn engineer for Kodak, Steven Sasson, actually invented the first digital camera back in 1975. Despite being far more basic than the digital cameras today, it was much too expensive to be made available on the commercial market. The first Kodak digital cameras did not reach the market until 1990, and they still held a price tag of about $13,000.

Within a few years, other companies released their digital cameras, often boasting that they could hold 5-10 photos at one time. At this point, they were still much too expensive for most Americans. Digital cameras that were considered “cheap” were still priced upwards of $600 and produced very low quality images. During the last half of the 1990s, digital photography gained technological momentum, and competing companies gradually lowered their prices.

My First Digital Camera

I purchased my first digital camera in 1999. It was a Nikon Coolpix E950, it had a retail price of $899 and took 1.9 megapixel photos. I had a 8 megabyte compact flash card, which allowed me to store about 21 photos in JPEG mode (less than a roll of film) or one (yes, 1) photo as a TIFF. Below is one of the first photos I took with my E950, compared to a photo I took with my Canon Rebel T3i a few months ago.

1999_photo 2013_photo

The Death of Film

As a child I remember developing film in a dark room with my father. He always had a fascination with all things related to photography and motion pictures. At the same time, he was also an early adopter and bread that same spirit into me. Once I took my first digital photo I knew there was no going back.

As digital camera technology advanced and prices dropped, people like me bought fewer traditional film cameras. Photo enthusiasts were drawn to the ease and convenience of snapping several photographs without needing to buy and develop additional rolls of film. Early in the new millenium, digital camera sales finally overtook film camera sales for the first time. Nowadays, digital photography is the standard and photography classes are teaching technology that focuses on enhancing digital photos.

While the United States is still a top consumer of digital cameras, Western Europe and Japan are also large consumers gaining momentum. Warren Struhl, founder of Polaroid Fotobar, claims that roughly 1.5 billion digital photographs are taken every day. Over 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook everyday alone.

Most Popular Cameras in the Flickr Community


Camera Brands used in the Flickr Community


A Missed Opportunity

While Kodak was an early pioneer in digital photography technology their dependence on the sale of film and film cameras caused them to lose the arms race in the digital era. Kodak is no longer the dominant camera company and had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2012. During the new millennium, Canon cameras experienced a rapid increase in popularity, producing several of the world’s best-selling digital cameras (including the one I carry every day). Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic are also producing excellent SLRs. Even the little camera in your iPhone is capable of producing some pretty amazing shots.

Thinking back on the amazing advances over the past 20 years, one can only imagine what digital photography will be like in the next 20 years. My hope is that 3D photography advances at the same rate as digital photography has.


4 Ways to Fund Your Business

For many people, small business ownership is the American Dream. The ability to be your own boss (the business is the real boss), set your own hours (as long you work at least 80 hours a week) and build your own success (over a long period of time) can be appealing (if you are crazy enough). Money is one major barrier to entry for would-be entrepreneurs, however, and it can stop many people from following through with their business plans.

Unless you have a reliable method of funding your new business, you won’t be able to get it off the ground or keep it going. Fortunately, there are many types of funding options available. I have been fortunate enough to experience each of these funding paths at various stages of my carrier. They each serve a purpose, depending on the size and stage of the company and ultimate opportunity.

Credit Cards

In 1995 I maxed out my personal credit card to start a graphic design firm with a partner. Credit cards are one of the easiest types of credit to qualify for and as you establish your business you may be able to qualify for a business credit card (I love my AMEX). Many business cards come with special perks that make them appealing to entrepreneurs. When used wisely, credit cards can be a good way to set get through a cash crunch (I have used my credit card to creatively finance a payroll on more than one occasion). Unfortunately, they can also damage the owner’s credit if allowed to get out of control, and high interest rates make them a poor choice for businesses without immediate returns.


  • Relatively easy to qualify for
  • Convenient to use
  • Rewards programs offer valuable incentives


  • High interest rates
  • Easy to spend inappropriately
  • May not offer high enough limits to be valuable

Friends and Family

Asking friends and family for loans toward starting a business is an obvious choice, but may not always be the best idea. Money from family members often comes with strings attached, and your family’s expectations can have a detrimental effect on your business. Financial transactions between friends or family members can also lead to resentment if you default. If you do choose this route, be sure to write and abide by legal loan terms.


  • Capital can sometimes be given for free rather than loaned
  • Low or non-existent interest rates on loans
  • Money is available even to borrowers with poor or no credit


  • Friends or family may feel they have a say in your business plays due to their investment
  • Relationships can be strained by financial arrangements
  • You may not be able to get enough money to cover your expenses

Angel Investors

Angel investors are people who offer to provide start-up money to a business in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt. These investors may work in groups or networks, and most angel investors are themselves retired entrepreneurs. While most people think Angel investors are strictly for startups, they can also be very helpful in recapitalization situations or buyouts.


  • Terms are more favorable than most other lenders
  • One-time and on-going investments may be available
  • Many investors are sympathetic and understanding due to their own entrepreneurial backgrounds


  • It can be hard to find an angel investor
  • You share equity in your business with the investor
  • Details vary between investors so research is required to ensure a fair dea

Venture Capital

Venture capital investors provide money in the early stages of promising new businesses. In return, investors reap the rewards of equity, often with a liquidation preference. Most venture capitalists (VCs) are investing the money of clients, not their own money. VCs look for big ideas with big potential for returns. They are not going to invest in your local coffee shop or small online store.


  • Large amounts of money are available if you can land a VC investment
  • You don’t take on any debt (though there can be a “coupon” on the money invested)
  • The backing of a venture capitalist can help give your business some legitimacy


  • You must share equity and often management via board seats in your business
  • Very few businesses qualify for venture capital investments
  • Deal structures are often detrimental to entrepreneurs unless you knock it out of the park.

Ultimately, there is no one right method for funding your business. Whether you choose one of these, or you decide to try something like KickStarter – it’s up to you as an entrepreneur to review your options and make the best choice for your individual needs. By understanding your choices, you can pick the funding that will serve your business best.

The one thing I can share is that the source of the money does matter. If you decide to take money from friends, family, angels or VCs make sure you know who you are getting in bed with.

Orlando’s Voxeo Acquired for $150 Million

VoxeoCorpLogo-300Today, Aspect Software acquired Orlando-based Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and customer service software company Voxeo in a $150 million deal. Aspect currently offers integrated customer interaction management and workforce optimization solutions, but made the deal to accelerate their delivery of cloud, hybrid and premise-based deployments.

As the market leader in robust cloud, on-premise and hybrid self-service platforms, Voxeo works with 250,000 developers, 45,000 companies and half of the Fortune 100 from their Orlando, Beijing, Cologne and London headquarters. Earlier this week the company spun off Voxeo Labs (now Tropo), which specializes in real-time communication APIs.

Since its founding in 1999 (the year I moved to Orlando), Voxeo has helped nurture growth within Orlando’s tech and startup community of about 60,000 professionals. As the city moves forward with plans for the much-anticipated Creative Village, Voxeo has lent a hand, fostering a “co-working” atmosphere, wherein it shares its 60,000 square-foot office with 10 other tech companies.

This mentality has cultivated a hotbed of creativity and innovation that sets the tone for the city’s future and promises for a lot more innovative tech disruption. Voxeo’s acquisition comes on the heels of Google’s $125 million acquisition of Channel Intelligence to boost product referrals and e-commerce with users. Orlando is heating up as a technology hub, and these two acquisitions demonstrate that would-be entrepreneurs can build successful tech companies here.

jonathan_taylorI pinged Jonathan Taylor, Founder and Chairman of Voxeo to get his thoughts about the acquisition (photo from our discussion at Trucks & Tech)

Why was Aspect Software a good fit to acquire Voxeo?

Because of the growth synergy between the two companies. This deal is a Reese’s peanut butter cup of ass-kicking awesomeness. Aspect’s the chocolate, and Voxeo is the peanut butter. They just go great together.

Honestly, if I was an Aspect competitor I’d be crying myself to sleep tonight.

This was a 14 year long journey for you. What was the hardest part?

When we started Voxeo the dot-com era was in full effect. I told all the founders we’d put in two or three years and sell. That’s what everyone did then. Instead we went through a first phase of dot-com economic excess, a second phase of post dot-com economic recess, and a third phase of business-growth stress.

The first phase was hard. It was like 100 tons of work. The second phase was 1,000 tons of work; and the growth phase was 10,000 tons.

I wasn’t expecting that.

In retrospect, I realize everyone can do the easy things. Solutions to easy problems aren’t all that valuable. Solutions to hard problems are extremely valuable. If things aren’t getting harder, you’re probably not pushing your growth enough.

How does this effect the team here in Orlando? Will the company be changing names or location?

I don’t know if the name will change or not. I personally doubt that the company will change locations. Orlando offers great opportunities at a great price.

An acquisition like this is a big win for the Orlando tech community. What would you tell other Orlando entrepreneurs they need to do to replicate Voxeo’s success?

a) consider lots of ideas, b) research your ideas to find great (i.e., large) market opportunities, c) have an exit strategy, d) be tenacious, e) always remember that the most valuable thing you can do is make your customers love you, your products, and your support.

Specific to Orlando – I’ve told this before, but I think it bears repeating: I once heard a story about how Silicon Valley works. In Silicon Valley an entrepreneur creates a great business idea, walks up to a tree, and shakes it. A venture capital investor falls out of the tree, reviews the entrepreneurs plan, and invests. At some point the entrepreneur sells his or her company, gets a new idea, and goes and shakes a tree again, repeating the cycle. After repeating this a few times, the entrepreneur climbs up into a tree and waits for someone to shake it.

Their are many entrepreneurs shaking and climbing up trees in Central Florida right now. It make take a year, or two years, or five years – but I believe we will see Central Florida become a top location for technology startups.

What is next for you personally?

Last year Voxeo spun our Voxeo Labs division out into a separate company, which we recently renamed Tropo, Inc. Tropo was not part of the Aspect acquisition, and I’ll be spending a good deal of my time helping Tropo as its Chairman. Voxeo’s prior CFO and I also launched a new startup, Sighthound, which will exit stealth-mode in the next few months. Tropo and Sighthound will be my primary focus, however, I’m also looking for other companies to help with or invest in.

A huge congratulations to the entire Voxeo team!

5 Questions with Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan’s accomplishments are as varied as they are numerous. He is not only an author and a journalist, but also a marketing consultant and speaker with an incredible stage presence. I first met Chris in the early days of PayPerPost and over the years (and a gazillion trade shows) we have become friends. I often consult with Chris when I have new ideas that I want to bounce off someone I trust.

the_imapct_equationBrogan started his career as a writer for Entrepreneur magazine; 13 years later his blog is one of the Top 3 of the Advertising Age Power 150. He is an author well known for several books, most notably Trust Agents. He was also the coauthor of The Impact Equation, along with Julien Smith, which was a New York Times and a Wall Street Journal bestseller. He is currently the CEO of Human Business Works.

human_business_works_logoHis success has garnered attention from all sorts of sources: from news articles in Forbes Magazine and The Boston Globe to television appearances on The Dr. Phil Show. He notes, ironically, that many people seem more impressed with his TV appearance than they do with his being a New York Times Bestselling author.

Brogan has landed speaking gigs from the big boys including Google, Coca-Cola, Dell, GM, Microsoft, Pepsico and of course IZEA. He speaks to people from all walks of life, from book publishers to government agencies to students, he prides himself on his personable speaking style and his ability to relate to all audiences.

I had the opportunity to ask Chris a couple questions:

1. So many businesses are cash constrained and have little to invest in marketing right now. What are three low cost ways to gain exposure and grow your sales?

Depending on your product, a free webinar can be a great way to get people to come and pay attention. I use webinars to build my newsletter list, and this, in turn, builds my sales funnel, as a lot of my sales are via email. You can edit this process such that the webinar leads people to whatever gets your funnel moving.

Two other ways are co-op marketing (marketing with some other brand where it’s mutually beneficial) and content marketing (creating really useful ebooks or apps that promote a potential lead).

2. Today you are hugely successful, but I know there were bumps along the way. What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as an entrepreneur?

I’ll accept moderately successful. My biggest challenge was learning how to say no and to focus more. I used to say yes to whatever possibility showed up, and that caused me to lose a lot of time and spend a lot of money and resources shifting gears. Now, I focus on the community I have the pleasure to serve, and that’s it.

3. You are widely known as a proponent of content marketing, but many small businesses are challenged to find inspiration on an ongoing basis. What do you do to keep the juices flowing?

I answer the same question over and over again: what would make my buyer’s experience much better? What would a prospective buyer need to know whether or not he or she buys my product? I approach this like a magazine, and as if I have the privilege of being the voice that covers that space. I never run out of content to create. Never.

4. Social media has changed the business world dramatically, but some fundamentals remain the same. What is the one thing business owners should never lose sight of?

Respond to your customer. Respond, reply, connect. Customers are asking for attention all the time. Sure it takes time and work. That’s all they want. We are all six year old kids tugging on a parent’s shirt hem asking them to look at our thing.

5. Many business owners struggle to balance work and their personal life. You have recently been on a health kick, what drove you to get in shape and how is it coming along?

I’m 43 years old and the realization was that I really needed to choose now to set my body up to be in the shape I want it to be for the next 60 years, if all goes well. Further, I started thinking of how much of why I’m not especially healthy is a bunch of excuses I wouldn’t accept as a business professional. That’s what got me moving. It doesn’t hurt to have a very attractive girlfriend who’s training to compete in professional figure model competitions (bodybuilding stuff), as I don’t want to be the schlub standing beside her. 🙂