Coming up this week, I’m teaching a crowdfunding class at General Assembly. It’s Thursday 29 May from 7:30-9PM. If you’re curious about crowdfunding and want to see what it’s all about, this is the class for you.

I’ll be covering:

Is your project crowdfundable?
Who will want to give you money?
Why are campaigns successful?
Why is a crowdfunding video important?

The class will be at General Assembly, at the hub of the startup community in Los Angeles. (It shares offices with Startup LA.)  If you’re looking for seed money for your startup, why not think about crowdfunding to get you there?

Here are the takeaways you’ll get from the class:

Learn how to create an online culture to support your campaign
Find out the six rules for crowdfunding success
Know how to avoid the top crowdfunding fails
Go deep in analysis of successful Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns

We’ll do some fun brainstorming in class and I’ll have a workbook for you to help you get to the next steps. Here’s a sign up link:

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The post Startup in Los Angeles? Try Crowdfunding appeared first on Red Cup Agency.

You’re building something great. You have a landing page to attract attention.  You’re collecting emails.

What are you doing with all those emails?

Just … collecting them? If you have ten or 10,000 they are a treasure trove of potential customer  feedback.  They are an audience waiting to be educated and engaged about what you do. Let’s break that down into two parts. The interview part, and the education part.

Every startup does customer interviews.  This is the way you learn more about what you’re building. It’s the way you allow the work to teach you. It’s deep stuff, and Justin Wilcox is pretty much making a science of the customer interview over at Customer Development Labs.  He will tell you how to interview customers to get the most information, and even more importantly, learn how they are feeling.

Getting into a productive interview with a prospective customer is an art. So is reaching out to them. Some recommend cold calling/cold emailing. I don’t know about that. I get a lot of emails like that, and I ignore them, even if I am on somebody’s list.  To me cold=unwelcome. Don’t want that.

Create a curriculum.

Because I am teaching so much these days I think in terms of curriculum. I think about long story arcs that draw readers and students in over time, educating them about the product as we go. If you frame this well, people welcome it, simply because it’s helpful.  Example?  I have a six-part mini course on crowdfunding  that people are signing up for in droves. They get a scheduled series of Six Crowdfunding Principles, one per week, to their inbox. It’s deliberately slow, because that’s how I’ve learned that people absorb information. If you’re giving them big stuff, they need to think about it a little. So why not a little each week? Try it. At the end of the series I invite a conversation with them. If they have questions, I’ll answer them.

Why this works.

I’m using Emma to set up the autoresponders, but MailChimp, SendGrid, SendLoop, AWeber, and Vertical Response will work just as well. If you find the right opt-in people and give them information they need, they can become loyalists. If they talk to each other about you, well, there’s an uptick in your user adoption curve right there. If you can get into a dialogue with them about what you’re working on, they can educate you about it.


The post How Startups Build Loyalty and Connection appeared first on Red Cup Agency.

Every movie  I ever worked on was a startup. We just didn’t call it that. We assembled a development crew. We pitched our idea to a network or group of investors. We got money. We put it into production, sending crews into the field, rewriting scripts, getting it into post, getting music composed and graphics made. Then we would hand the finished project off to the network that paid for it. We let them take care of promoting it. Guess what? Often, that didn’t go well.

Wait a minute. A network? Failing at promotion? <snicker>

You know what happened? With their network resources, their vast reach, they failed to build a culture around the movie. Most often, networks discover cultures by accident, which is lucky. Or by design, by continually commissioning the same project over and over about Las Vegas/Jesus/WW2/the Bible/UFOs/blowing stuff up. (Or chef/cake competitions. Or Real [People] of [Location.] Mixing those elements in the same recipe over and over meant they did not need to build a culture for each new project. They already had one waiting for them. The project would connect with a pre-existing audience.

This is why so many movies you see seem the same. And TV, too.

The people who make them have discovered demographically-driven cultures ready to get pinged, willing to jump in, able to accept the movie or tv show into their world. Bada-bing. Getting cultural connection is easier when the culture already exists.

Startups face this challenge all the time, but they don’t call it culture-building.

But that’s what it is. If I made a documentary about Harrison Ford millions of people would watch it. An existing culture interested in movie stars easily found the project. If I made a documentary about UFOs we got a vast audience. The cultures existed. The delivery system existed. All that remained was to make a half-decent connection.

When I made a documentary about Harley-Davidson I realized that we were really speaking first to people who went to motorcycle rallies, and people who had weekend motorcycle clubs.Sub-groups. Smaller cultures.  If we could draw them in, they’d participate in the film, granting us an interview. They’d watch it when it came out.  When I made a documentary about Route 66 we gave everyone we met from California to Chicago a t-shirt with our production company URL on the back. This was in 2000, so we felt pretty advanced.  People started to communicate with us about the film on the website, even before it was released.  Mind=blown.

The lesson I learned was that each film we made had to go out and talk to a culture. If there wasn’t an existing culture, we had to build one, which was harder. If we didn’t do the culture-building step, the film when released dropped like a rock to the bottom of the ocean.

When building your startup, are you also building a culture to support it?


The post Every Movie I Ever Worked on Was a Startup appeared first on Red Cup Agency.

1. Names are hard. When naming your startup or company you have to consider what you would normally do, and then do the opposite. Seth Godin, marketing guru, says ‘the less your name has to do with the category of your business, the better.’ Starbucks is a minor character in the novel “Moby Dick,” Nike is the goddess of victory and Apple is a fruit. These have all become powerful names because they are unique and yes, have little to do with what the brand ‘does’ – but express a lot about what the brand stands for.

2. Names should express what you stand for, even if it takes a little explaining. Red Cup Agency got its name because my mother was an artist, and every time she started a new project, she drank out of a red coffee cup. It’s my origin story and signals that I respect creativity.

3. Names should be easy to spell and pronounce. Here’s a little story about that. I named my first documentary production company Conspiracy Theory Productions. It was an inside joke. Way, way inside. People would ask me ‘what’s the conspiracy?’ and I wouldn’t have a good answer because we made documentaries that had nothing to do with conspiracies. Then on 9/11, I answered the phone at the production office and the name of the company would not come out of my mouth. Literally. I couldn’t talk about conspiracies on that day, and so at that moment, I changed the name to DocuCinema, which was a domain I had on reserve. I thought it worked. Documentary Cinema, right? It didn’t work. Nobody could spell it. People would ask me over the phone, ‘Did you say Doctor Cinema?’ Google Voice translated it as Donkey Cinnamon, which was worth a laugh. Not great for our corporate identity, though. You can see why I like Red Cup better.

4. Most of the time made up names are bad. I know Altria is an important company, but the name tells me nothing about what they stand for. (And what they stand for isn’t so great if you care about health.) Prius is a bad name. Blackwater is good – is scares you, and that’s a scary company. They changed it to Xe. Now I don’t know what they do, which is probably best. Vonage? You be the judge.

5. People might hate your name at first. That’s ok. If you like it, stick with it. There’s an expression worth remembering: If everybody likes your idea, it’s too late.

6. Your name should convey what you want people to feel about your company. Digital Fundraising School is descriptive and functional, but not all that emotional. Startup Office Hours Guru is better, as is StartUp Superteam. TechStars – good. Instagram – good. You may know nothing about Seth Godin’s new venture, HugDug, but the name makes you feel good. Just thinking about Mallomars makes me hungry.

6 and a half. If your name isn’t distinct, you will have trouble establishing authority for it online. Better to pick something unique and even a little strange than getting into a keyword battle with all your competitors. Search (Google, Bing, etc) has changed the way we find each other online, so Ikea works, and so does Intelligentsia Coffee.

The post Six and a Half Tips for Naming Your Startup appeared first on Red Cup Agency.