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Friday, July 22, 2016

6 Key Tips to Taking Your Business Global

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/22/2016

If your business has seen successful growth in the US, it most likely will see success in other ...



If your business has seen successful growth in the US, it most likely will see success in other countries as well.  And, you may want to lock up those markets, before some other company does.  I recently met a startup that had successfully tripled its revenues, largely from the results of a successful international expansion effort, and I wanted to share those learnings with all of you.

Read the rest of this post in The Next Web, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chicago Family Investment Offices

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/20/2016

One of the growing trends in the venture scene is the addition of family offices to the mix of p...



One of the growing trends in the venture scene is the addition of family offices to the mix of prospective investors.  It used to be family offices would just invest in professionally managed venture funds, but many are now building in-house teams and starting to make direct investments.  Most family offices like to keep a low profile, and are hard to find, so I did my best here.  I also included some venture funds that have outside money, as well, if the lion's share of the fund is the personal investment vehicle for one family.

Here are some of the bigger family offices I am aware of here in Chicago, including the key family investor in parentheses:

Abundant Venture Partners (Eric Langshur & Andrew Swinand)

Ashland Capital (a collection of families)

Breslow Forsythe Group (confidential)

Caretta (Eric Becker)

Chaifetz Group (Richard Chaifetz)

Corazon Capital (Sam Yagan)

Diversified Capital (Larry Levy)

DRW Venture Capital (Don Wilson)

Duchossois Capital Management (Craig Duchossois)

Equity Group Investments (Sam Zell)

G2T3V (Howard Tullman)

Huizenga Capital Management (Wayne Huizenga)

Incisent Labs (Pat Ryan)

Jump Capital (Paul Gurinas & Bill Disomma)

Jumpstart Ventures (Rishi Shah & Shradha Agarwal)

Lead Lap LLC (David Zucker)

LEO Capital (Randy Rissman)

Lightbank (Brad Keywell & Eric Lefkofsky)

Longview Asset Management (Lester Crown)

KB Partners (Keith Bank)

Kenex Holdings (a collection of families)

Keystone Capital (the partners of Keystone's personal money)

KGC Capital (Dick Kiphart)

Mansueto Ventures (Joe Mansueto)

Matthew Pritzker Company (Matthew Pritzker)

Merrick Ventures (Michael Ferro)

McNally Capital (a collection of families)

OCA Ventures (Jim Dugan, John Dugan & Peter Ianello)

Old Town Capital (Jamie Crouthamel)

Origin Ventures (Steve Miller)

OS Fund (Bryan Johnson)

PFG Group (a collection of families)

Pritzker Group Venture Capital (J.B. Pritzker & Tony Pritzker)

Promus Ventures (Andy Code)

PSP Capital Partners (Penny Pritzker)

Reyes Holdings (Christopher Reyes & Jude Reyes)

Romar Partners (Scott Wald & George Colis)

Sawdust Investment Management (Michael Krasny)

Skydeck LLC (Michael Polsky)

TCS Group (Ted Schwartz)

Be sure to research their website to ensure your industry and the stage of your business qualifies for their investment criteria, as many of these prefer private equity stage to venture capital stage businesses.  If you are aware of other big ones I am missing, please add them to the comments field.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

[NEWS] @georgedeeb Presents Recruiting Tips for Startups on the @StrongSuitHires Podcast

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/19/2016

This week, Red Rocket's George Deeb had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jeff Hyman, the...



This week, Red Rocket's George Deeb had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jeff Hyman, the Chief Talent Officer at Strong Suit, a small business playbook for early-stage recruiting.  In this 20 minute podcast, George talks about the five things to look for when recruiting startup executives and how best to compensate and incentivize them.  Happy listening!!  Thanks, Jeff, for including us in your podcast series.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC.



Monday, July 18, 2016

What Exactly is Venture Capital?

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/18/2016

I have been writing about how to raise venture capital for years.  But, I got a very unexpected...



I have been writing about how to raise venture capital for years.  But, I got a very unexpected question the other day: what exactly is venture capital?  I just assumed everyone understood what venture capital actually was.  But, for those of you who are new to the startup or fund raising scene, this post is for you!!

Read the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


Lesson #240: Document Your Processes, Before They Walk Out the Door!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/18/2016

Let’s face it, most entrepreneurs are really busy people. They are focused on launching their...



Let’s face it, most entrepreneurs are really busy people. They are focused on launching their new products, raising capital or a multitude of other things.  And, with the limited number of hours in a day, who could fault them if they let documenting their business processes slip down their priority list.  That is, until one of their key employees quits with all that institutional knowledge undocumented in their head, and you are screwed, scrambling to pick up the pieces with no roadmap to help you.

This is a common problem that most entrepreneurs simply don’t think about until they have been burned by a departing key employee.  So, before you fall into this camp, be warned: documenting your business processes as you go is mission critical from day one.  You never know when someone is going to be hit by a bus, and all your systems’ login information and passwords are lost forever, as an example. 

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DOCUMENTED?

Take a pause and think about all the areas of your business that needs to be documented.  Where do all my customer contacts reside?  What was the last conversation my sales team had with my contacts?  What is our desired layout for all marketing pieces and brand messaging?  What techniques or phone scripts do we use to convert leads into sales?  What should we be upselling to clients?  What is our handoff procedure from sales to operations?  What is your policy for handling customer complaints?  Who has access to our bank accounts and accounting systems?  How should we be collecting unpaid accounts receivables?  What rules do we follow in building our technology code?  And, the list goes on and on.

THE TRAINING BENEFITS FROM DOCUMENTATION

Yes, it is a daunting task . . . the first time.  But, once it is done, it can be easily maintained and updated from there.  And, most importantly, it serves as a really good tool to train new employees with.  So, not only is it a way to protect yourself from losing institutional learnings locked away only in the heads of your employees, it is a great way to come across as professional to new employees, to help them better understand the processes needed for their jobs.  And, the faster a new employee is onboarded, the faster they are producing valuable results for your company.

HOW THE DOCUMENTATION SHOULD BE STORED

Make sure these processes are centrally stored on your internal drives and are accessible to all employees that need to have access to such files.  Perhaps segmenting your procedures by key department (e.g, sales vs. operations), and by level of role with your organization (e.g., Vice Presidents have access to more than Managers).  You don’t want 100% of employees having access to 100% of your sensitive files for security reasons.  So, make sure only the people that need to have access to those files, get access to those files.

EMPHASIZING THE IMPORTANCE WITH YOUR TEAM . . .

Make sure the importance of having these processes documented is ingrained into the DNA of your company.  Let them know it is part of their job, to make sure these processes are documented, learned and followed by their teams.  And, most importantly, updated as they may be changed over time.  Most processes are typically not set in stone, they are fluid with the needs of the business or its customers.  So, keeping the processes updated is critical to make sure new employees are learning the most current procedures.

. . . WITHOUT OVER-PROCESSING YOUR COMPANY

That said, you don’t want to suffocate the life out of your business by having too many procedures.  You want your organization to remain as flexible and nimble as the market demands require.  So, it is much less about have a “process tsar” enforcing all your processes and making a militant environment for your staff (where they will most likely quit), and much more about letting your employees know the importance here, and having them tackle it in digestible pieces as they have time.  But, they do have to make time.


So, I know it is a pain in the butt, but get your processes written down while you can, before you actually need it.  You certainly don’t want your chief engineer leaving for another company before he clearly has documented all the “patches” only he knows exist in the millions of lines of code in your technology.  And, for those of you that ignore this warning, prepare for a rude awakening when you need it most.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb


Monday, July 11, 2016

Customer Service Case Study: My Wacky Website Weekend!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/11/2016

What a stressful weekend I had.  The Red Rocket website went down on Friday morning.  I didn&#...




What a stressful weekend I had.  The Red Rocket website went down on Friday morning.  I didn't know if it was a temporary server outage from my hosting provider, or not.  I tried emailing and calling the emergency support team, with no response.  I said I would give it a day or two, before panicking.  But, with the site still down on Sunday morning, I assumed the worse, that my vendor Site2You may have gone out of business (which apparently they didn't), and I scrambled to get a new site up and running, which proved a daunting challenge on a last minute basis, to say the least.  I wanted to share some customer experience and customer service learnings with you, so you don't make the same mistakes with your business.

Site2You:  Grade F

I had been working with Site2You since I first launched our website in 2010.  Back then, they actually had a good selection of website templates, a good user experience with their content management system and a support team on call in case anything ever went wrong.  But, over time, it was clear they were not maintaining their systems (e.g., it only could be accessed through an outdated Firefox browser), and they even tried to get me to switch over to WordPress.  But, I was busy, the site was functioning fine for my needs, and I stuck with them.

But, when the site went down this weekend, with no warning or response from Site2You after three days of outage, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  It didn't matter that I had been happily working with them for over six years.  What mattered was my site was down, despite their 99.9% uptime guarantee, and there was no way for inbound visitors to find my site, including the lost advertising spend with Google Adwords landing on a dead website.

So, the key lesson here: it is only the most recent experience that matters most with your customers, as you can lose them at any time with unexpected slip-ups.  And, it is important to keep your product improving over time, with open communications with your customers when stuff is going wrong. They actually got their service back up and running on Monday, but by then, the damage was already done.

Google:  Grade A

I never really felt the need to have to backup my website content, in case the site ever went down. That was Site2You's job, which they had been successfully backing up the site data every 24 hours, over time.  That was until Site2You itself goes down, and there is no way to track them down.  That's when the panic sets in.

The good news was, I knew Google indexes all websites.  And, even if the Red Rocket site is down, Google will have a cached copy of the indexed web pages on their servers.  So, I searched for Red Rocket in Google, found my links, and pulled up the cached copy from their search results.  Thank goodness, as it saved me a ton of time of having to rewrite all the website copy from scratch.  Thank you, Google!

GoDaddy:  Grade C

I use GoDaddy for my domain name registration service.  So, I figured I would go there to see what website development options they had.  They actually had two options: I could license WordPress through them, or they had their own competing system they wanted to sell you.  I was able to review sample templates of their system, which weren't all that great, but at least it was supported by a human support team in case I ran into any problems.  But, there was a reason 25% of the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress, which is where I was leaning.  And, GoDaddy couldn't show me any of the premium WordPress templates, and the GoDaddy support team wouldn't support the WordPress platform if I had any customization needs.

So, the key lesson here:  make sure your product is competitive with other perceived leaders in the market, and if you are going to sell a product, you should support it, even if it is a competitor's product.  I got scared aware by no technical support on the system I really wanted.

WordPress:  Grade C

Well, if GoDaddy can't meet my WordPress needs, surely WordPress can.  WRONG!  WordPress only supports their couple hundred website templates they have built, which weren't all that fresh for this generation of web design.  And, if I wanted to purchase a custom template elsewhere, they would not host it on their servers, they pointed me in the direction of a third party website hosting company they had partnered with.  And, worse yet, there was zero human support offered for their templates, if I had any minor customization needed.  Which means, I would have to engage expensive WordPress developers to make the customization changes for me.

I am sort of scratching my head to how WordPress has built up a dominant market share position with this type of strategy.  They must be biasing web development agencies as their primary customers, as their consumer direct solutions were not all that great.  To me, it doesn't feel like allowing third party templates to be hosted on the WordPress servers and providing access to a support team for minor changes needed would be that hard of a thing to offer, even if I had to pay more for that solution.

Word Press Developer Agency:  Grade C

I had a WordPress development agency do good work for one of my clients in the past.  So, I outreached to them, to see if they could help.  He said it would cost a minimum of $2,500 to do the work, assuming I could find an off-the-shelf template I liked.  My website is so basic and simple with a few pages, that I thought there was only a few hours of work needed, and the quoted price felt too expensive, so I moved on.  So, make sure your prices are in line with what is reasonably to be expected for the work being provided.

Wix:  Grade A

Which brings me to Wix, the vendor I chose to build the new website platform.  They "had me at hello".  Their website just lured you right into the template creation process, without having to charge my credit card ahead of time (as both GoDaddy and WordPress required).  And, once I started working with their system, it was so unbelievably simple and easy to use.  It was closer to working with Word or Powerpoint, than it was a complicated web development platform, like WordPress.  So, any non-technical person can easily make the changes needed, without the need of expensive developer time, including a fool-proof step-by-step tutorial to revise my DNS settings with GoDaddy.  Which explains why over 80MM customers have chosen Wix as their website solution.  And, to top it off, the new website looks materially fresher and better than the old website did, so my stressful weekend turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  All for the price of $12.99 a month, plus a few hours of my personal time setting up the site.

So, the key lesson here is:  don't create friction between your customers and the sale.  Give them free access to your tools, so they can play with it first, and then ask for the sale after they are hooked.  And, user experience is everything, so the easier and better you make it, the higher your sales will go.

Hope you found this post useful, both for your customer service and experience strategies, and for your website development needs.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


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